Exploring the Western Algarve

End of January, 2015

The last couple of days I have been busy organizing my trip to Spain in February. As there is no opportunity for a house sit in Andalusia, I decided to rent a place in Nerja. It would have been better to get a place centrally located in Andalusia, as I would like to discover places like Granada, Jaen, Cordoba, Ronda and Malaga, but it seems that it can be very cold inland, so I better choose a place closer to the sea. I rent an apartment for two weeks in Nerja and make sure that there is heating, as I have been very cold for the last two months! Also, I got connected with a Dutch lady, who lives close to Denia in the countryside. She offered me to join her for a week or two, in her beautiful house. She has three dogs and one is half paralyzed. I can help her out with the dogs, while experiencing her daily life in Spain.  Now everything is arranged for the next month.

For my two-day trip “out West”, I arrange a night in a simple hotel in Lagos, right in between some area’s I want to explore. My first stop is at Faro airport, where I sign a renewal of my contract for the car rental and confirm that everything is settled for my trip to Spain. They inform me that in Portugal I had free unlimited km’s driving, but in Spain it is different. I have 1500 km free; above that, it will cost 10 ct for one km. It is still worth it, even if I drive over the 2000 km. Other companies charge way more for the rent of a car and I also compared prices, in case you want to deliver the car in another place in Spain. I was shocked about the rental price. It can go up until 1500 euro’s or even more! Now I drive a car for 165 Euro a month, even in Spain and the only condition is, that I have to deliver the car back in Faro. From Faro I can fly cheap with Air Transat to Toronto one way, non stop. I can’t fly direct from any other place in Spain to Toronto for that price! So finally it turns out that all my “homework” hasn’t been for nothing…….DSC00868 DSC00864 DSC00871

Now I am off from Faro airport to Monchique, in the mountains. Again it is a gorgeous day; good for pictures! My first stop is at Caldas de Monchique, now a desolated place, but probably in the season and weekends full of visitors. There are some apartments, a hotel, a wine shop and gift store (both open), but nowhere a place where they offer coffee! I visit the Spa hotel, which will open up again end of February and with nice packages of 113 euro, which includes a weekend for one person, including the spa, the use of a swimming pool, two overnight stays, a dinner, drinks etc. Not bad at all! I walk down the hill and see the water factory, but I can’t find the “Caldas”…..DSC00882 DSC00877 DSC00876 DSC00875

Monchique itself is a nice, busy little town, probably the last bigger place, before you go deeper into the back country. Definitely, prepared for visitors, with lots of touristic stores and local artists venues. I buy a thick lambs wool cardigan for 25 euro’s. That one will keep me warm for the rest of my stay in Portugal and Spain! I stroll up and down the small streets, have a coffee end finally drive the car all the way up the hill, where there are several restaurants, all with a gorgeous view over the mountains. One of the restaurants has a secluded terrace and looks very inviting, so I decide the have my lunch there. A lot of Portuguese people there, which is a good sign. The white wine is tasty and light sparkly, the pork cheeks with chestnuts  (an old-time favorite of mine in Spain) are delicious. More expensive than my local dining place, but well worth it! After lunch, I skip my plan to go to Aljezur, as I prefer to arrive on time in Lagos. That way, I still can stroll around in town before dark will set in.DSC00889 DSC00893 DSC00900 DSC00901

Lagos is an easy drive, once you are on the highway again. I only get lost once, which is amazing for me, but on purpose I choose a hotel, close to the main road. Also, I got this last-minute hotel for the price of 22 euro, including breakfast!!! It is perfect for one night, the bed is good and I always bring earplugs…….The parking garage is a challenge though and I am so happy I have a small Fiat Punto. There is an enormous sharp curve to get into the garage and obviously, it has been hit on various occasions, as the black stripes on the white paint prove…….I drop my stuff in the hotel room and get my camera to shoot some last pictures with day light. By now it is after 5.00 p.m. and the Fortress is closing down already. Some fishing boats quickly enter the harbor and in downtown, people are coming out to go for a coffee, some shopping or a bit to eat. The center is nice, definitely focused on foreigners, but with a good laid back atmosphere. I just stroll around and have something small to eat. Tomorrow a busy and long day, so I call it an early night.

DSC00922 DSC00902The next day I visit Sagres; nothing special, but the Fortaleza de Sagres is at the far end of the most Southern-Western point of Europe. From there, it is an easy drive to Cabo de Sao Vicente, the end of the world……. An impressive 60 meters high rock formation, with views along the coast. From there I drive back to Vila do Bispo and a bit further I take the left inner road to Bensafrim. Once in Bensafrim, it is easy to join on the A22, direction Faro.

DSC00945 DSC00938 DSC00956 I decide to go for lunch in Alvor. What a good decision, as the old part of Alvor is still a very nice place to visit, with a small harbour, where fisherman are busy with repairing the nets and painting their boats etc. I decide the have lunch at the restaurant Ze Morgadinho, close to the Laguna. In the center of the outside terrace is an enormous BBQ, where the smell of Sardines is very inviting!

An accordionist is playing favorite Fado tunes, but later it turns out that he also can play typical Parisian music. I finally stay here nearly 3 hours……The food is simple, but very tasty. The wine is great and the atmosphere too. I get to chat with the accordionist and buy a c.d. from him, on which he performs with people from Mozambique; nice! After, I go for a stroll along the Laguna, have a coffee at a plaza in front of a church, even find my car back, although I have it parked in a tiny street (parking is a big problem here in Alvor). It is getting late and I want to be back in Cacela Velha before dark. Once you are on the highway again, it drives very fast, as there is barely anyone else on the road. With a lot of new impressions and a load of new pictures, I arrive just on time back “home”.