Portugal - The Algarve Region - 120 miles of beaches
Note from the author: An article similar to this was published in the Dana Point Times, San Clemente Times, and The Capistrano Dispatch, papers which are owned by Picket Fence Media in south Orange County, California. I am a columnist for them. I have also added more photos to this Finding Love After 50 website blog post.
When tourists travel, they often try to see too many sites in the limited time they have. Hence, they might overlook interesting items in the area where they are staying. Such is the case in the Algarve, the southernmost region of Portugal, where my partner Greta and I are spending the first two weeks of May.
Normally, we like to travel between European cities by train, but in the Algarve, trains are limited, although some Algarve beach cities are connected by rail. So, we rented a car, out of necessity--to reach the private home where we are staying, and to visit the beach cities of the Algarve, which has 120 miles of coastline.
The home, called Casa Sams, is remotely located in the hills above the town of Estoi, five miles from Faro, the main city and capital of the Algarve.
Casa Sams had a salt water pool
To reach the home, there are left turns, right turns, hairpin turns, a pack of friendly but wild dogs, and a myriad of unmarked single lane unpaved roads.
We stayed at Casa Sams for two weeks, April 30, 2017, to May 14, 2017. The first 10 attempts to reach the house we got lost, usually making at least one wrong turn. But, the view is panoramic of the ocean and the property is on five acres of orange trees and olive trees.
View from Casa Sams - the Atlantic Ocean in the far distance
It is an incredible house, very well stocked and obviously a proud spot for the owners. We stayed there via a Home Exchange.com transaction. The owners stayed at our home in San Clemente, California, the month before.
There are so many beautiful beach cities within 30 miles to the east and west that we immediately started exploring them.
On May 1, Labor Day, we drove to Tavira, a fishing village; it’s sidewalk cafes were packed. We thought we’d give Portuguese food a try and ordered sardines. I ate two of the five on my plate and that was enough for me.
Tavira Marina beer sign with a little humor
Driving to the next port city, Olhao, we saw all kinds of stuffed mannequins along the side of the road, with people stopping their cars to admire them. Strangest thing we’ve ever seen. We learned via the Internet later that those stuffed mannequins were to honor International Workers Day, and were unique pretty much to only that portion of the road we were on, in all of Portugal. It was like we hit it big, just by coincidence—right time, right day, right road.
We returned to Olhao on the day before we left to return to Madrid. This was to visit the incredible outdoor flea market along the beach promenade and the fish market, which is housed inside one of the buildings next to the flea market area.
Olhao - home of the Saturday fish market in this building
Had a great lunch in Olhao as well:
Lunch at this restaurant, O Bote, in Olhao, Portugal
One of our favorite beach cities was Vilamoura. It has a horseshoe-shaped marina with hundreds of fancy yachts in the center. We estimate there are at least 70 upscale restaurants—including three Irish pubs–-facing the yachts.
Even more restaurants are on the beach boardwalk with access from the marina. We had lunch at Buzios Beach Café.
In the city of Portimao, the beach had more than 200 volleyball courts and nets set up on the sand. A tournament was taking place featuring women’s and men’s doubles. We watched the action while having lunch at a beach café there.
Portimao from above the beach where the old fort is located
On the way home, we visited another beach city, Albuferia. It is well known for cakes made with almonds. These are so tasty it’s mind-boggling. On our first visit there, we stopped by the Marina, unaware that just a cove or two away was the bustling town square that is a huge tourist attraction.
A week later, Greta and I went there for lunch and a stroll on the beach.