we stayed over night in a hotel in Portimao instead of heading back to Faro so that we could catch an hour long train journey to Lagos. The main reason we wanted to venture here was for the cliff side walk which makes this part of Portugal famous. The coastlines here are breathtaking and another destination to put on your bucket list.
Lagos is probably our favourite place during our stay and we both said we could live here, although we have no idea what the high season is like however it did appear less commercialized than Portimao.
Lagos town has quaint shops and your usual souvenir stores alongside cobbled streets and beautiful architecture, it had a sleepier aura than the high rise resort complexes of Portimao. First we ventured to a local fish market to see the locals doing what they do best. The Portuguese are renowned fishermen throughout history, hence the reason why so much of their murals depict sea goddesses and mermaids on stone walls and I am pretty sure they have their fair share of pirate tales too!
Lagos is a harbour town so there are all kinds of fish on the menus of all restaurants, we stepped into a local fish market and found it intriguing because there was an array of fish, squid, crab and octopus plus this is their livelihood and it’s good to be involved in another culture somehow, it was also great for Jon’s photography, capturing a small glimpse into how people live in a different culture.
To have a whole day in Portimao (during winter with less hours of sun) we were up very early to catch the first morning train. I think we were up at 6am to be at the station by 6:30am and on the train at 6:45am. We decided to book an overnight stay in an apartment in Portimao since we planned to visit Lagos for our last day and so it saved us from going back to Faro only to board an even longer train journey to Lagos. Getting on a train in Portugal is very easy, much like the UK, you just turn up and buy a ticket.
We arrived in Portimao at about 9am which is perfect timing since all the businesses were getting ready for the day. We opted to find our hotel first in order to leave some of our things in our room. We were a little bit disappointed with the weather because rain was to be expected and I forgot to bring my rain coat. From sunrise until 11am I was cold and felt a bit damp but I didn’t let it bother me too much since how many people have opportunities like this, to travel and enjoy another culture? The weather was expected to clear up later in the day and Jon bought me a breakfast burger to cheer me up!
We very nearly didn’t go here because even though it had rave reviews, Jon took one look at the site via google results and thought “why would I want to just see this building and there isn’t much to see in the local village either.” On the second day of Faro we knew we were to spend our third day in Portimao and our fourth day in Lagos but couldn’t really think of anything to do in the present moment. After doing a bit of shopping in Faro for his mum’s birthday present we decided to venture to the Pink Palace in Estoi as something to do and to pass the time. It did not disappoint and in fact surprised us. It is actually a very interesting place to visit and is now one of my top attractions I recommend you see when traveling. The photos on the internet do not do it justice, it’s a really unusual palace now turned hotel and if you are a lover of that Greco-roman mythology and style, then you’ll fall in love with this place because it is swimming in statues of mermaids, goddess depictions and mosaics, it even houses a shrine dedicated to Venus (goddess of love) and Diana (goddess of the moon and hunting). The hotel has one grand room and main garden open to the public, the rest of it’s quarters are private unless you want to pay a fee to stay there.
So just before Christmas Jon surprised me with a mini break to the Algarve, Portugal. It has been a place I have been pestering him to go to (as well as Andalusia in Spain) because it is a culture I dearly love and I have just discovered it is part of my DNA, even though my DNA results show I am largely British (Irish & Scottish not English) and Western European (French, Italian, Hungarian and Norwegian) we found out I am also Iberian. The Iberians form a group of people whose culture is mixed, don’t consider themselves Spanish or Portuguese and have a South American heritage mixed with Moroccan. The Iberian Peninsula sits at the bottom of Spain and parts of Portugal (The Algarve) and has had an interesting history of both Christian and Moorish rule-hence their devote Catholic lifestyle surrounded by Moroccan decor and architecture. Knowing what I know now about my genetic ancestry has filled a hole in my personality that felt isolated and “different”. I feel more complete and I understand aspects to me that were once confusing. Like why so many people believed me to be Spanish or half Arab, why I am so drawn to Latin music and darbuka drum as though those sounds stir my blood and why I have jet black curly hair, strong facial features and almond shaped eyes. But more on this in another blog post!
I was so happy when he surprised me because I had just found out I was contracted to work all the Christmas holidays (except Christmas day) and I was feeling super glum. This mini break was an early Christmas present that lifted my spirits!
So, we visited for four days and were primarily situated in Faro. With its international airport, Faro is the main city people fly into to go on holiday in the Algarve. We went in December meaning costs were low and there were little or no tourists about (peace on earth!). We usually prefer to travel during the shoulder or off season to avoid that touristy vibe, trashy merchandise and bratty children. The weather in the Algarve was still very pleasant, with lovely temperatures from 11am until 4:30pm every day, however early mornings and by 5pm temperatures do drop so I’d advise taking a winter coat, scarves and tote socks for the evenings, I carried a woolly jumper with me during the day in case the sea breeze was a bit chilly, however most often than not, I’d have to take it off because it did get quite hot during Mid day!
We stayed in Story Guesthouse which offers free wifi, breakfast included in the price, shared kitchen and small courtyard and communal bathrooms on every floor, the showers have super hot water and simple rooms with balconies. This is a great accommodation for backpackers.