Algarve Villa Vacation -
viewpoint by John Clarke
As ever, I'm delighted to share with you the experiences
and thoughts of an Algarve visitor and Algarve Beach Life reader.
time it's John Clarke from Cambridge in UK, who sent me his 'Castelo,
Albufeira, Portugal: A report' recently.
John thought, and I'll warn you now, he waxes lyrical
sometimes about what he enjoyed... but is even-handedly
scathing about what disappointed him.
"As promised, here's a round-up of our holiday:
The sheltered bay shimmered in the brilliant sunshine. The
golden sand called out and I obeyed. As I sank into its
warm caress I felt a displacement in my soul. Begone, hard
labour, for now is the summer of my content. Mmmmm...
Yep, it was good on that little beach, Praia do
Whisper the words in case others may hear and
spoil the perfection. The sea was cool and the sun was
scorching. The miniscule pebbled sand-stones were
abrasive, but not in a bad way. The waves gently pushed me
inland before slapping me like wet seaweed against the
shore. It was awesome.
Our monstrous villa (pictured at top of
page) was a wonderful excess. Sleeps
eight but housed just us four for the week. And its
shining glory, besides the private pool, was the barbeque.
Every day was barbeque day. Steaks, piri piri-marinated
chicken, red Portuguese sausages and of course the humble
burger. All accompanied with copious amounts of Super Bock
and Sagres beer.
Sagres stout - comes
with John's seal of approval
So, the beaches and the villa kept us happy. Then there
was the rest. Well, nothing much was open, despite the
blazing sun and the fact that the place was teeming with
tourists. Some of the waterparks and zoos were open but we
just never got the time to try them out. Another week
might have done it. We did make visits to Loule, Oura,
Albufeira, Silves and Portimao, however.
Whilst searching for Albufeira centre we happened upon
this little place and parked up. It was getting dark and
the pubs and clubs were buzzing - mostly with the humble
English tourist. We partook of the atmosphere and the beer
in a few pubs (one had a live band playing English/US pop 'covers') before being dragged down a
side alley by a local to a wonderful little bar. Free
shots were set up and the night settled into a mix of good
conversation, drinks and DJ'd musicology. We were
occasionally interrupted by the odd chav(1) on a bender but
mostly it was incredibly pleasant.
(1) chav: an
idiomatic English noun used to denote a rather vacuous
person devoted to all that's superficial about life
(source: Algarve Beach Life Lexicon of Idiom, © 2007)
A short drive down to this bustling city whereupon we
were spotted by a local chancer who helpfully showed us a
parking spot and then demanded compensation for his
efforts. This happened in several places and we eventually
grew tired of it and soon saw through the charade. We
worked out if you parked away from the centre and fled the
car they couldn't come begging for euros.
In Portimao we
were greatly disappointed to find no evidence of boat
trips and so settled upon combing the sweeping beach
(Praia da Rocha) for a
good spot to bathe and paddle. After a good soaking we
headed for the port itself and a further attempt to locate
some trips up the river or along the coast but there
really wasn't anything - as we'd been led to believe. The
charter boat office was shut up and there were no
departure times anywhere to be seen.
We visited on market day. We got there about 11:30
and made a quick sweep through the throng but there was so
much to choose from we decided we'd shop just before
leaving, so made our way into the centre where we found a
very pretty fountain.
There wasn't much else about so it
was back to the market and lo and behold they were all but
packed up! The market was shutting at MIDDAY! There were
no signs to warn of such an early closure. We quickly went
round the stalls but left disappointed again after spying
a few fish and the odd bit of veg not worth haggling over.
The hypermarkets would have to feed us for the week!
It really is a pretty place. The slow walk up to the
castle took us up some lovely avenues and the castle
itself was a very attractive sandstone terracotta. An
accordion-player lulled us round the battlements and many
photos were taken. We had a quick lunch in the nearby cafe
before heading back.
Simply the most godforsaken place on the planet. It's
worse than Reading at festival-time. Hundreds of English
tourists touting you tickets for things you don't even
understand. They just shout at you "Are you
British?" "Want to buy a ticket?"
"Come and eat in my restaurant". It's downright
scary. Even the beach was being refurbished and the only
sign of any watersports was a banana boat lying unused in
a shed. We braved a cafe and an open part of the beach but
decided our villa with its pool and barbeque was a much
better place to enjoy the sunshine.
So, all in all, great company, great villa, great
selection of beaches. Other beaches we enjoyed were Praia
da Gale, Praia da Sao Rafael and Praia da Coelho. Gale in
particular was very picturesque with a split beach; one
side was sheltered and the other was wide and open.
I'll leave you with the best night
of them all...
Restaurant Por do Sol (in Castelo). Steak On A Stone.
Sea Bass. Bottle of cheeky white. A lot of Aguadente
(Firewater). And Liverpool squeezing past Chelsea in the
Champions League semi-final. Magic.
So, there you go, another satisfied customer enjoys an
Algarve villa rental vacation.
Shame about the lack of diversions available (as per
Portimao), but some businesses do shut up shop until the
season really starts. I guess they work on that 80/20
principle and think there's little return for putting in the
effort until there are throngs of visitors to make it
And I should remind you that inland towns, whether or not
they host fixed markets, tend to keep 'Algarve time' rather
than 'visitor time'. That means they enjoy a long break
in the middle of the day. It may not happen so much in
seaside tourist areas, but inland is a different story.
Towns like Loulé are best enjoyed first thing, topped off
with a relaxed meal in a local restaurant, or else visited
mid-afternoon after you've hit the beach and had some lunch
Then, you can enjoy some of that laid-back Algarve buzz
as the day cools down and the locals start stirring again.
As John points out, Albufeira (in parts) does tend to offer a
more 'frenetic' vacation experience. I talk to many
people who love the place, however, and we certainly enjoyed
our 2004 stay in an aparthotel on a hill above the Old Town, when we'd decided to look for an
Algarve property of our own.
However, as you can see
from John's communiqué, an Algarve vacation offers lots of
choice for things to enjoy, whatever your tastes and
interests. Check out the 'What's On' page to see what you could
enjoy this month in Algarve. Meantime...
... Keep those 'Algarve
Best' experiences coming. The more the merrier, and
we'll all learn more about where to go and what to do.
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