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All La-gos from the Algarve

Having made my first ever trip to Portugal, to Lisbon, in 2014, I had been rather taken with it, so vowed to go again.  I was also intreested for future travel/living ideas as Portugal is deemed to be the cheapest country in Western Europe.

This trip was a 5 day holiday, in late spring, to the Western Algarve.  We were staying in the town of Lagos (my mother was slightly alarmed, thinking we were off to Nigeria). Lagos is about an hours drive from Faro airport and the Western Algarve is known to be slightly less touristy than the Eastern Algarve resorts.

Lagos town itself is a quaint, very walkable, easy town to stay in. I’m glad we decided to stay in town rather than out at a resort type place. Being an older town, there is some lovely buildings and of course being Portugese, lots of tiles, which I love!

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Outside of the town, at the various beaches and cliffs, it is simply gorgeous. I was actually shocked by how ridiculously pretty it was. The cliffs and rocks are incredible and reminded me of the Jurassic coast off Dorset in the UK, but of course sunnier.

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Home from home

The place we were staying, in the words of Anna, the lady who checked us in, is ‘the countryside in the middle of town’. It really was. A family run business. They have the hotel next door  (with a pool we could use) and a bunch of holiday homes next door. We had a little house with 2 bedrooms, kitchen, living room with stones stairs up to a reading mezzanine and table and chairs and loungers outside to sit in the sun and enjoy the setting. It really was gorgeous.  They have a great taste and created a special kind of homeliness you don’t often see in holiday places in sunny locations.

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Great price too. And of course, I found through airbnb, here. Because of having the hotel next day, they were on hand 24 hours, not that we needed for anything.

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 Food

Always a priority for me. We started by stocking up on some stuff at the local supermarket. I simply love going to supermarkets abroad. They tell you so much about a place and you’re always likely to find things you’ve never seen or heard of before. Great value for money as usual and here we were interested to see the big stocks of salt cod.

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And not visit to Portugal is complete without those amazing Pastel De Nata.

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There’s some lovely places in town. The menus can be quite samey but we did mainly hang out in the major touristy bit. Makes life easier on short trips.

We started with evening drinks most nights in the Taberna de Lagos. Strangely we were attracted (or Mark was ) because the snooker was on. I hate sports in bars, but it was up on the big screen, with no sound and didn’t detract from the lovely vibe the place had. They were super friendly and they played the best music ever. Some really unsual but cool stuff. We ate there one night as well and the food was really good.

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Another great place we ate at was Dom Vinho. Old skool,  great food and super friendly, with us having descended on them quite late. Another worthy mention goes to Mulligans. Sounds like a cheesy irish bar but it’s a nice restaurant in a gorgeous, rustic old building.

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Beaches

Locally, the most famous beach was closed due to them doing work to secure the crumbling cliff. It was a bit of an odd area. There was a hotel on the edge and surrounded by lots of holiday apartments. A bit of a sterile place. It did show signs of the area not being as well off as before the financial crisis. There was some graffiti down on the beach itself, which I found curiously beautiful but am sure is not appreciated by the tourists.

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De Luz

We visited Praia de Luz which, although very touristy, is incredibly pretty and the rock formations on the beach are lovely. As a Brit, it’s hard go here without thinking of it’s history and I’m sure it’s been affected tourism wise, but it is very lovely and is very family friendly.

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Sapres

We made a trip out to Sapres which because of being out on a point in the ocean, is popular with surfers.

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Fun

Scoot Portgual

This was great fun and the people hiring out the scooter were really nice too.

I was a bit nervous as I’m useless at riding just a bike, but got the hang out of it and it was quite easy to ride, especially along the river side which is pretty wide. You do get some odd looks though. Most probably, because you look odd!

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Grotto trip

Our grotto trip was an interesting experience. It should have been beautiful with the sunshining through the holes in the cave roofs. But no. It rained and was choppy so we had to turn back as it got a bit scary. Not being a great lover of boats anyhow, I should have hated it but I actually found it quite funny when the little boat started bouncing around like crazy. Bit of an adrenalin rush I guess.

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Quirks

There was some urban crochet going on on the trees in the centre of town which as cute.

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It was also a weekend of celebration and there was lots of medieval goings on in the town which was quite interesting. There’s only so much lute you can take!

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Cork is a big thing in Portugal. Who knew you could make so much out of it – shoes, clothes, accessories. It’s actually really soft to touch and bend.

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This fella was outside a toy shop in town. And no it’s not human. At night he gets put back in the shop. Properly creepy!!

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Tips:

The ATMs aren’t refilled at weekends and if it’s a busy weekend, or particularly on a public holiday, as we were therefore, they can run out of money. You can usually find ATMs further out of town that will still have money, like we did after being given directions by a helpful local.

All in all

It’s a chilled out, slow paced, rustic old town. Definitely worth spending time in.

 

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Lisbon and on and on

Still being all about working and saving, we weren’t going to be having a ‘holiday’ as such, but we thought we could stretch to a weekend away to get a bit of a travel kick and hopefully of course some better weather.

Neither of us had ever been to Portugal so we thought it would be nice to try somewhere totally new to us. Other things going for it was that it was a short flight and compared to other european cities, constantly popped up as one of the cheapest to visit. I’d also been curious since going to Macau, the Portuguese’s version of Hong Kong.

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The look and feel of the city really does live up to the romantic pinterest style images. Great architecture, tiles, the old trams, fountains and great people watching. I hadn’t expected so much colour. Mix in the sunshine and this is a really cheerful city to explore.


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There’s some nice touches of deco and retro stylings in many of the buildings. You really get the feeling that places are as they were and have been looked after just the same, with care for years.

 

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A birthday treat for me from the lovely Mark was a segwaying tour. We adore segwaying but haven’t had a chance to do it for a while as it’s usually quite pricey and so when we were on the road it wasn’t something we could really justify the cost of. So this was such a treat. And unlike other trips we’d done in Copenhagen, Bahamas, San Diego Zoo and in the English woods, this was a self guided tour. They let you go off with these expensive pieces of equipment. I know there’s a GPS tracker on them and you pay a deposit, but that would never, ever happen in London.

We used Red Tours and can highly recommend them. They were super friendly, helpful and the whole setup worked really well. You follow the route as per the GPS all the way from the city out to the famous Belem and back. Following the river the whole journey, because you’re under your own steam, you can stop, take a seat and admire the scenery whenever you want. And the start point as well as Belem are great for scooting around and having some segway fun.

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Shopping 

Among the things Lisbon is famous for are cork and tinned fish.  The latter is something that make for great shop window displays.

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Although a modern city, with great eating and drinking, there is something very old skool about Libsbon. There are quite a few shops which have some very interesting attire, which you would have expected to see in the 80s.

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Bars

We found some really interesting bars, some we seeked out, others we stumbled upon.  A mixture of modern, arty, interesting and un-pretentious.

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Pensão Amor

One of the bars that is a great visit, is the brothel bar. This is set in a former brothel and has very interesting decor and ambience over several floors.  You can access this from the side which is a main street, but it’s more fun to access it from the lower alley where it’s unmarked and you walk up the ‘interestingly’ illustrated back stairs, wondering what on earth it is you are walking into. The building breathes history and not in the usual style. I could lose many happy hours in this place.

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Chinese Pavillion

I don’t really know why this is called the Chinese Pavaillion, I sought this bar out but even upon locating it we weren’t sure from the outside if it was actually a bar. But somewhere worth seeking out it is. There are 3 huge rooms full of class cabinets full of collections of weird and most definitely wonderful things. Outside the cabinets, things hang from ceilings, chandeliers. There’s an area just for old action man figures. There’s pottery collections. figurines, knick-knacks. It really could be a museum without the bar, but with a warm, luxurious feel, it’s a great place to have sit and have a drink. Not so great for conversation though as you’ll be staring over your companion’s shoulder the whole time. A real mixture of clientele from families, tourists, locals, even a well behaved stag do – just to add to the atmosphere. The only downside is that it’s table service and it’s friendly but really slow.

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Pastel de nata

I don’t much like pastry, I don’t like custard, but I LOVE Portuguese custard tarts. They are amazing.

They are a simple thing of joy and I can’t believe I waited so long in my life to try them. Don’t make the same mistake that I did. Book a flight to Lisbon now. Go sit in a cafe. Order a tart. You won’t regret it.

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Chestnuts

Another thing that I will always think of when I think of Lisbon is the smoke from hot chestnut carts.

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We tried them. They are ok. Probably won’t try them again.

Tiles

Portugal is, of course, famous for tiles. I was surprised though quite how ever-present they are. A plethora of designs, styles, colours and ages. I never got sick of seeing them, be they new and shiny or crumbling and chipped.

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The other thing, I now realise is quintessentially Lisbonese, are the mosaic tiles on the ground. They are all over the city and are obviously a nightmare to maintain, judging by the many piles of dislodged ones we found.

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Toilet tourism

A very odd tourist attraction, if you can call it that, is off the main square, where you can spend a few pennies to spend a penny. It is an amazingly designed public toilet, I believe, created by a toilet paper manufacturer. They have a display of their unique coloured toilet paper, like art on the walls.  It’s not going to be the most amazing experience of your life, but if you need to use the facilities, why not cough up a little bit of money to enjoy it in comfort 😉

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The return

Despite it being so close, I’d never gone to Portugal before and now that I have, in just those few days, I have been charmed. There’s a slightly more reserved, less latin, feel to the Portuguese. It’s historic, yet modern. Laid back, but has a buzz. In fact, I liked it so much that I’ve already planned a trip back and a very interesting to see if come up in the lists of the cheapest places to live in Europe which is something to think about for future roaming.

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