Category Archives: Tourist Information

Palácio de Mateus Reflections

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is all about reflections.

Palacio de Mateus2

Palacio de Mateus

Palacio de Mateus

One of the least memorable trips on our Douro river cruise was a visit to Palácio de Mateus, near Vila Real. Please don’t ask why but I was expecting to visit a vineyard for the Mateus Rose wine. Yep, the devil is always in the detail and I failed to connect the dots.

I am not a student of architecture so the building while providing an impressive photo oppotunity on our arrival failed to stir much interest within. Even Wiki only has a page stub.

The official website is www.casademateus.com

Statue Infante D. Henrique and the Mercado de Escravos – (Slave Market) in Lagos

Infante D. Henrique

Infante D. Henrique

The statue of Infante D. Henrique (Henry the Navigator), sits pride of place in the Praça do Infante Dom Henrique within a few metres of the “Slave Market”. Born March 4th, 1394 Henry was an important figure in the Portuguese Age of Discovery and sponsored exploration voyages in search of new trade routes down the coast of Africa. In 1434 Gil Eanes set sail from the Port of Lagos in the Western Algarve. Although his voyage was initially a voyage of exploration, the ships returned with slaves, spices,  gold dust, kola nuts, ivory, chilli pepper and birds.

The “Slave Market” (Mercado de Escravos), and the first in Europe was built in 1444,  now opens its doors as a Museum.

Mercado de Escravos – (Slave Market)

Slave Market Museum, Lagos

Slave Market Museum, Lagos – Portugal

I’ve passed this innocuous looking building on many occasions without a second glance. But it’s only now that I’ve researched its dark history (no pun intended) I discover it was the first gateway to the slave trade in Europe. Incredible!

Other great explorers of this era include Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama and James Cook.

References: Wiki – Lagos, Portugal and Infante D. Henrique.

This post was inspired by the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge.

Beach Activities – Stone Art

Imagine the scenario: you’ve taken the children/teenagers on holiday to a beach only to discover there are no touristy beach activities such as banana rides, pedalos and beach trampolines etc to keep them amused. They survey the location in horror as they realise there’s nothing but sand, shells, stones and sea. Help! The family are about to have a 21st Century boredom meltdown because it’s back to basics and worse still – there’s not even a mobile phone signal! They have to use their imagination to create their own entertainment and you’re looking for inspiration. Okay, this may be a little tongue-in-cheek but observing some families on the beach they seem lost without all the 21st century trappings.

How about…

How to keep children occupied on the beach

How to keep children occupied on the beach

Imagine the hours of peace and quiet as they work together in harmony…

Stone Art on the Beach

And if the family holiday budget is not what it was, even better this activity is free!

This post was inspired by Jake’s Photo Challenge as this week’s theme is Arrangement. Hunting through my photo archives I discovered these photographs which my husband took last year at Praia do Monte Clérigo in the Western Algarve. Hopefully when our family visit this summer they will be also be inspired to create “Stone Art” on one of the beautiful unspoilt beaches the Algarve has to offer.

Please share your ideas for keeping the family amused on the beach – perhaps you’ve tried them or have just been a curious observer as we were.

Beyond the historic castle walls of Aljezur

From the ancient castle walls to the historic town of Aljezur, and to the mountain of Monchique beyond.

From the ancient castle walls to the historic town of Aljezur, and to the mountain of Monchique beyond.

This photograph was taken from the walls of the 10th Century Moorish castle of Aljezur in the Western Algarve. The castle, set high on the hill, has panoramic views across the rolling countyside, the historic town of Aljezur and to Monchique mountain beyond.

This post is inspired by the WordPress Weekly Photo challenge. This week’s theme is “Beyond”.

My Algarve Insider Tips

So step back in time with me, drive west and explore the unspoilt countryside and beaches of the Western Algarve and the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vincentina.

Discover the natural beauty of the Western Algarve

Discover the natural beauty of the Western Algarve

Discover for yourself the stunning beaches in an area of outstanding natural beauty popular with those who want to chill in a more relaxed and natural environment. There are many activities available including surfing, canoeing, fishing, golfing, walking, horse riding and birdwatching. Even if you are not avid birdwatchers look out for the magnificent white storks soaring overhead or nesting in outcrops of rocks in the sea.

White storks nesting on an outcrop of rocks

White storks nesting on an outcrop of rocks

Many people visiting the Algarve are unaware of the Western Algarve, and although I’m tempted to wax lyrical for pages on end, I will confine myself to recommending my three favourite beaches.

These are my tips for tourists visiting the Algarve

PRAIA DA AMOREIRA

Praia da Amoreira – the Algarves best kept secret!

Praia da Amoreira – the Algarves best kept secret!

Praia da Amoreira is located about 7km just outside the historic town of Aljezur. There is ample parking and a rustic restaurant bar called Paraiso do Mar which serves reasonably priced meals and refreshments.

View from Restaurante Paraiso do Mar, Praia da Amoreira

View from Restaurante Paraiso do Mar, Praia da Amoreira

There are no concession areas providing sun loungers and parasols so remember to bring your own if required. However, don’t panic because supermarkets sell reasonably priced sun parasols and small beach chairs during the summer season which will prove a good investment if you plan to visit the more rural beaches.

Praia da Amoreira, Western Algarve

Praia da Amoreira, Western Algarve

Praia da Amoreira is also popular with local surfers and fishermen. and att low tide you may even see the locals searching for mussels and octopus in the rockpools.

Read more about Praia da Amoreira. Why not make a day of it and stop off in the historic town of Aljezur and visit the moorish castle?

PRAIA DO ZAVIAL

The blue flag beach of Praia do Zavial is “off the beaten track” at Raposiera just before the rustic town of Vila do Bispo on the N125.
There is plenty of parking although in the height of the summer season early arrival at the beach is advised. Access to the beach is via a wooden walkway.

Although there is a small concession area on the beach where sunbeds and parasols are available the beach remains unspoilt by the ravages of mass tourism. You will not find tourist shops only peace and tranquility.

There is a great little café/bar overlooking the beach where you can sample Portuguese cuisine (including the usual burger and chips) served by friendly staff.

Praia do Zavial - view from Zavial Café/Restaurant

Praia do Zavial – view from Zavial Café/Restaurant

Why not take a break from the beach and building sand castles, drop in for an ice-cold beer and enjoy the view?

Read more about Praia do Zavial. It’s well worth a visit!

MEIA PRAIA and LAGOS

The blue flag beach of Meia Praia, flanked by the Marina and the old town of Lagos, has something for everyone. In fact, a day out in Lagos is one of my favourite excursions!

This glorious soft sandy beach is over 5km long, stretching from the old fort in the west…

View across to Meia Praia from the old fort

View across to Meia Praia from the old fort

…to Alvor in the east.

View from Meia Praia towards Alvor

View from Meia Praia towards Alvor

There are several activities for children near the Marina end of the beach, during the summer season. And for those looking for some peace and quiet, walk eastwards along the beach a few 100 metres towards Alvor. There really is something for everyone – even walkers who I’ve observed striding along the shoreline. Or people like myself, who amble along and then pause to collect shells and admire the distant views.

There are several rustic beach bars and restaurants on Meia Praia but my favourite to date is São Roque with its stunning views overlooking the sea and the fisherman’s’ harbour. The staff are welcoming and the food is delicious!

View towards Lagos

View towards Lagos

After a lazy day on the beach why not pause for a sundowner or ice cream sundae in the Amuras Bar at Lagos Marina before you leave. Or wander round the historic town of Lagos itself just a short walk away.

Lagos Marina at sunset

Lagos Marina at sunset

English is spoken in most of the Western Algarve, but why not take your phrase book have fun and practise the lingo?

**************

I hope you’ve enjoyed my “Insider Tips” but any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me by email, leave a note in the comments section below or sign up to receive regular Algarve updates by email!.

Read more of my beach reviews here

Silves Medieval Fair 2012 – Feira Medieval Silves

The Medieval Fair held in the historic town of Silves is our favourite event of the year. In fact, we enjoy it so much it’s always the first social event flagged, in advance, on our Calender. If you live in the Algarve and have never been to the Silves Medieval fair you must go once, to at least savour the experience. And if you are on holiday it’s definitely worth a visit. Our family members from the UK book their annual holiday in August to coincide with the fair so they can enjoy the ambience and festivities.

The steep cobbled streets in Silves are lined with a great variety of stalls selling amazing handcrafted jewellery, wooden toys, wooden masks, unusual clothes and costumes, dried fruit and nuts, armour, candles and liquors to list just a few of the items on offer. There is also a host of street entertainment throughout the evening.

We arrived about 18.00, so we were in good time to see the opening procession.

After the procession we took a leisurely wander round the stalls armed with mugs of Sangria, purchased en route! You are charged for the pottery mug so hang on to it as there are several stalls selling Sangria and you then only buy refils. The rustic terracotta mugs also make a great keepsake – I now have several in my collection.

As you can see from the photographs the best time to look round the stalls is before the crowds arrive. Later, sharp elbows are needed to edge your way through the throng to see the stalls! There are plenty of bargains to be had, so take courage and haggle on price. You may not always be successful, but our son saved over €10 on his purchases.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Several Sangrias later we walked down to the arena to watch the jousting. It was not jousting as we know it in the UK, but was fun nevertheless. The horsemanship was amazing! Here is a short video.

And my favourite photograph!

Jousting at Silves Medieval Fair, Algarve - Portugal

Jousting at Silves Medieval Fair Feira Medieval Silves, Algarve – Portugal

Hungry after the jousting we walked back up the hill to buy something to eat from one of the food stalls. I personally wanted the comfort of a restaurant rather than sitting on spikey straw bales. However, Mr. Piglet and son wanted hog roast and a more “rustic” ambience. Hmmm nice, not! Next year I choose!

Tip: Never mind dainty fashion shoes, the streets are steep and the calçada (cobbled stone) is like black ice and extremely slippery – wear something flat and practical with a non-slip sole.

Related posts:
Silves Medieval Fair: 9th – 15th August, 2011
Silves Medieval Fair 2010

Weekly Photo Challenge: Journey – Trams in Lisbon

Trams in Lisbon

Trams in Lisbon

The electric tram network (Rede de eléctricos de Lisboa) is an easy way to see historic Lisbon. Tram No. 28 is the most famous as the journey takes you through the steep winding streets of the old town.

We were advised by a seasoned tourist to catch a tram at the bottom of the hill up to the castle and then walk down through the old quarter. Easier on the legs – they were right!

I was so absorbed looking out of the window at the old buildings, imagining life years ago before this area became “trendy” with tourists I failed to notice my hubby, daughter and son-in-law had got off the tram until it had pulled away. Luckily, I persuaded the driver to stop before the next stop to let me off. The idea of getting separated and ultimately lost in Lisbon was not a happy one.

If you are visiting Lisbon here is a useful website which you may find of interest. www.lisbonweekendguild.com/Lisbon-information/Lisbon_tram_route.html

The WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge this week is Journey

If you can recommend other tourist websites in Lisbon or for other areas of Portugal, please leave details, urls etc in comments below. Please don’t be shy!

Piglet is Spitting Feathers!

A year or so ago we went to a brilliant Italian restaurant in a seaside town near Portimão, in the Algarve. The staff were efficient and friendly, the pasta was perfect, the sauce delicious and the desserts outstanding! Even the decor and ambience were welcoming, so we vowed to return next time we were in the area.

We returned today, as promised, and the restaurant was empty. Strange, because many of the other places we’d passed on the way were busy. I should have gone with my gut instinct and kept on walking. However, as we hovered on the threshold of indecision a friendly waitress spotted us peering in the door, and came to welcome us. We smiled, walked in and chose a table.

We confirmed the dishes were homemade and not mass-produced frozen plastic food, asked several other questions about our choice from the menu and placed our food order along with a request for two glasses of wine. The waitress assured us at €1.25 a glass this was cheaper than buying a half bottle of wine.

We waited.

Mr. Piglet’s lasagna arrived, smothered in a cream sauce and it looked sort of OK. However, when he cut through the pasta his “lasagna” was a solid lump of about 10 sheets of congealed lasagna sheets with no Bolognese meat sauce between. I wanted to complain, but he was hungry so ate it. How I’d wished in hindsight I’d photographed his meal for the complaints book (Livro de Reclamações).

My pasta dish was no better. It was meant to be salmon with penne pasta in a creamy sauce. I confirmed all this with the waitress. When it arrived it was spaghetti not penne, instead of the white creamy sauce I was expecting the sauce was a tasteless clear watery liquid. To my cook’s eye it looked like they’d opened up a tin of chopped tomatoes, added some finely chopped onions added some cubes of salmon tossed in spaghetti and decorated with a sprinkling of parsley. I groaned when I saw the spaghetti and said the menu stated penne. The waitress disagreed, but took the food away to be re served with penne. (We secretly checked the menu again – it stated penne in three languages)

Mr Piglet and I looked at each other in disbelief.

By the time Mr Piglet had finished his offering my meal arrived, with penne pasta. Oh my goodness it tasted as disgusting as it looked. Sorry no photograph. Hungry, I picked out the salmon and some of the chewy undercooked pasta – I know “al dente” is fashionable but this was like chewing on elastic bands. (Not that I’m in the habit of chewing on elastic bands you understand) However, I felt I couldn’t complain again otherwise the waitress would have me wearing the meal, not eating it!

I smiled and tried to see the funny side of the situation as I thanked God I’d not organised the girls’ lunch at this restaurant next month. Can you imagine I would be the focus of fourteen angry ladies like a swarm of angry wasps trapped in a coffee jar.

The work shift changed and a new waitress came over and smiled.

“Is everything OK with your meal?” She asked politely.

“No, actually this is the worst pasta dish I’ve ever had and it’s nothing more than a pile of tasteless slop!” I replied tersely.

I think she was quite taken aback as I then launched into a further tirade about how we’d been there before and we’d had a beautiful meal and this was…blah blah de blah blah blah etc, and my husband’s meal was also dire and the chef should be ashamed of himself!

The chef should be sacked!

Lucky for her I was not accompanied by 13 fellow wasps because Mr. Piglet sat there as shocked as she was by my response.

Well, what was I meant to do, smile sweetly through gritted teeth? Sometimes you have to take a stand on such matters.

The waitress disappeared (ran for cover) but returned a few minutes later with the news I would not be charged for my meal. This sounded good in theory, but when I checked the bill she’d doubled the price of the wine, and the price of the green side salad which consisted of a few lettuce leaves, half of tomato and a couple of slices of red cabbage, was exorbitant! She claimed that was the price and that was that! We were not in a position to argue the point as the previous waitress had left.

I wanted to stand my ground, but sometimes you lose the will to live and just vote with your feet.

“Hope to see you again soon?” She said as we were leaving.

“I don’t think so” Mr Piglet and I replied in unison

On the way home I kicked myself for not filling in the complaints book and checking the pricing of the wine and salad against the menu. I hate being ripped off.

OK, Piglet rant over! As Nancy says “Ah… that’s better!”