Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Algarve

Hank and I opted for a beach holiday this time, and we got some great recommendations about the Algarve area of Portugal (the very southern part of the country from the coast all the way to Spain). We've been doing so much city touring that having some time to just sit and read books (or play our entirely-too-addictive new PSP game) was such a treat!

We stayed in a beach town called Armacao de Pera, and the hotel was right in front of a long, busy beach section. Mostly we hung out at the pool-side area nearby steps that led down the the beach. (It was happily convenient to the pool-side bar area... imagine that!) We also had 6 solid days of perfectly sunny weather - something I haven't seen in London since May (... mutter, grumble). I'm doing my best now to savor having my skin color be something besides translucent for once. Hank, usually the king of first-day sunburns, managed to stave off getting fairly pink until our last day - hurray!

The hotel was a bit of the "cheap & cheerful" variety, but we had a killer room setup with a huge living room area and two windows both looking out over the beach. My afternoon naps were to the sounds of the waves less than 100 yards away... (man, I could use one of those now). The pool/beach area was really nice, however, and since that's where most of our time was, the rest of the hotel didn't matter a whole lot. The city of A. de Pera was definitely not tourist-gentrified, but still had lots of good restaurants and cafes. There was even a "circus" in town (with really freaky clown posters up all week... yes, Julie, I thought about you!) on the last night of our stay... we walked down to where the carnival area was going on, and they had the usual rigged games and questionably-safe rides. We opted instead for some churros freshly-made and rolled in cinnamon-sugar (not those nasty frozen ones most fairs get now) and continued our wander around town.

Portugal is very popular with British tourists... we were never without an English menu or someone to help take our order in English (although "sangria" doesn't really need too much translation). There's also the other European factor I hadn't considered when opting for a beach holiday, which was the prevalence of older gents in speedos. I'll not apologize for saying that unless you're a speedo MODEL, just don't go there.

In the evenings we picked a few of the nearby cities to visit, the largest one being Albuferia. There was a crappy, tourist trap area of that city that we mistakenly showed up at, and then a cooler, old-town area down the hill by the beach that we hiked down to. We even went back on our last day there to look around when the shops were open before heading off to catch our plane home. We ate a delicious dinner at a restaurant called A Ruina (The Ruin, located in what I'm guessing is a restored bit of old building) where you ordered by going up to the fish counter and pointing out the fish you wanted to eat. The calamari was so unbelievably tender and un-chewy - I never really knew squid came anything but rubber-bandy!! No sauce, just lemon... I'd go back in an instant just for that dish.

Ooh, and for the shocker of all shocks, on our first evening in Portugal, Hank said he had an announcement... HE NOW EATS FISH!! And he did, too - like every night! We shared some really delicious fish dishes like prawns in spicy piri piri sauce, some red snapper, and on his first night of eating FLESH in >16 years, he ate most of two swordfish steaks. Now really, is it *that* far a leap to starting to eat bacon?? ;)


Molly said...

Like I said, bacon-wrapped scallops! We'll get him yet ;)

Masque said...

Puzzle Quest, eh? I'll let you know that Caroline got to level 50 this week :)