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Algarve (Portugal)

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      08.08.2012 15:35
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      A great place with something for all ages

      The algarve is the name for a large area covering the south of Portugal. It covers over 200,000 square miles so it would be impossible to write a review on the whole area so I am going to focus on the Albufeira area and a couple of other areas I have visited. The airport which covers the region is Faro airport, flights go here from most UK airports including Gatwick, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Glasgow. Many low cost airlines now offer Faro as a destination and the flight time is around 2 and a half hours. The main tourist spots of the Algarve include Albufeira, Vilamoura, Lagos, Monchique, Alvor and Tavira. The Algarve is a popular destination for golfers with over 30 stunning courses and golf resort hotels. Most of the courses in the Algarve allow visitors so you do not need to be a member to play. For the less energetic of us the beaches go on for miles and miles lining the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. One thing to be careful of is going into the sea. I find on a lot of beaches when you go to the sea it seems to go from knee depth up to your shoulders in only a few steps, the waves get quite choppy too so be careful if you are not a strong swimmer and keep a close eye on children and of course hold on to your shorts! For the water babies there are plenty of watersports on offer, with most beaches offering surfing, kite boarding, jet skis, diving and banana boats. You see a lot of those parachute things on the back of a boat too but I'm way too wimpy to try that one out. There are are a number of water parks all over the Algarve, splash and slide is a good one but my favourite has to be the Zoomarine, this is in Guia which is just outside Albufeira. Here there is a range of activities, you can watch a dolphin show, go on water slides, a big wheel, pirate ship, diving show and bird show. It is like a little bit of a water park, theme park and animal park all in the one place I loved it. Parque Aventura is one I have wanted to see for a while but never managed to squeeze in. This is in Albufeira where you spend most of your time up trees doing various assault courses and zip lines, over 4s can join in too it looks like great fun. Krazy world is an animal themed amusements park which is great for kids, it was very busy when we visited so it's best to get there early and avoid the Portugese school holidays. They have snakes, alligators, turtles, pony rides and many more animals. There is an indoor soft play area and ball pool, more climbing up trees and mini kart racing. It can be a bit pricey, it was around 10 euros for adults and 6 euros for children which wasn't too much but once we got in we found that some of the activities like the pony rides were charged seperately and the food and drinks were quite a bit more than everywhere else. Definitely worth a trip for kids though. Shoppers There are plenty of souvenirs and local crafts in shops in most Algarve resorts, there are a few clothes shops too but if you're a serious shopper you need to get to Forum. It is just as you are approaching Faro and is well signposted and has every kind of shop you could wish for from clothes, childrens shops, household stores, supermarkets, handbags and jewellry to food outlets and a cinema. It is open until midnight and looks lovely at night and as it's open air you won't be too hot and crowded. Sightseeing There are numerous beautiful churches and monuments dotted all over Portugal and the Algarve has many of them. There are castles, you can go to the most south western part in Europe, in Monichque there are hot springs and spa below the city, there are mountains, roman remains and fortresses. So much to see you could never be bored but I personally think the best way to see some of the sights is with the jeep safaris up the mountains and the boat trips showing you caves and cliffs. Unfortunately I don't drive, but if I did I would go for a fortnight and hire a car for a few days to see all the things I haven't yet got to see. I could go on all day about the things to do but I shall move on to Albufeira and the town itself which is seperated into two areas, the strip and the old town. The strip used to be known as the drinking area it was where the parties and nightclubs were, the tacky sports bars and the 18-30s groups but it has completely changed over the years. It is now extremely family friendly, the bars and restaurants are good and inexpensive. I've never had a bad meal or drink in Portugal and although I'm not a seafood fan the fresh fish is fantastic. Most bars and restaurants have free drinks for children, some may have children eat free. There are pool tables, playstations, xbox, internet and other activities to keep them occupied all free of charge. From the strip you can take this little bus which looks like a train to the old town. The train is around 2 euros return or 3 euros for a day ticket. We got a day ticket one day to go to the old town to have a look around. It takes about 15 minutes on the train/bus. The old town is so pretty, lovely little clothes shops, souvenirs and you couldn't even count the bars and restaurants. The beach is clean and beautiful though it gets very busy. There is now a lift from the beach up to the top of the steps where a lot of the apartments and hotels are situated free of charge. There is so much to see and do, there was a man doing sand sculptures in the town that we were fascinated by and lots of street entertainment. We went back to the old town again on the evening and it seems this place transforms it is the place to be. The countless bars are all lit up, have outdoor seating areas and all you can see is people, sparkly cocktails, street performers and you just don't know where to look. We found it a little bit too busy in August and unfortunately one of my friends was pick pocketed so this put us off going back another night but I'd love to go again perhaps in May or September when it wouldn't be as busy. The Marina in the Algarve actually took a lot of finding it is quite a long walk from the old town but it is worth it. There are fantastic apartments painted in bright colours it reminds me of something from a disney film. There are lots of different boat trips leaving from here if you'd like to go on one. We just went to see it and have lunch and the prices were still cheap for food and drink and lovely upper end bars and restaurants. Albufeira is the perfect place to stay if you want to be close to everything, all of the excursions are close by so there is no baking in coaches for hours. There are lots of shops selling the day trips and excursions so it is worth shopping around before buying them from a rep where they are usually more expensive. I can't complain about anything there and can't wait to go back. I could have done with more than a week though there was too much to see and do and not enough time to relax. Tavira For those wanting something a bit more on the quiet side Tavira is stunning. It's a small fishing town in the south east of the Algarve. It is one of the oldest cities and the architecture is beautiful. There are plenty of beaches but my favourite is the beach in Cabanas which is actually in the middle of the sea and somebody takes you over in a small boat to the beach which is really funny, it is clean and the waters are clear and beautiful. Anchor cemetry in Tavira is a load of anchors in the ground to remember the tuna fishing days in Tavira. Tavira has been built up a little bit more in the last few years but is still peaceful quiet and charming. There are enough bars and restaurants to keep anyone happy but there is not a lot to do. It is perfect for a relaxing holiday if you're happy just to wander up the pretty, cobbled streets but if you will have to travel if you want exciting daytime activity. Praia da Rocha Unfortunately this place is more famous for the disappearance of Madeline McCann than for the place itself which is a shame as it's lovely. I didn't stay here, just visited for the day it was nice, again quieter than Albufeira but with enough to do. My parents had a week here before and said it'd make a lovely family destination. It has more high rise buildings and hotels than a lot of the Algarve but it is still a beautiful place. The Algarve is a cheap place to go the most we ever paid between two for a meal with drinks was still under 20 euros. The food is nice and the people are helpful and friendly. Some of the amusement parks can be a bit expensive for families but by shopping around and booking in advance there are good deals to be got. The weather in the Algarve is fantastic, unfortunately the first time I went I got heat stroke and the last time I went was far too hot in the middle of August. I would go back to any part of the Algarve again but I think I would go earlier or later in the year, a great family destination with lovely people and lots to do for everyone!

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        08.03.2011 15:13
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        A lovely holiday

        What a beautiful place. There is simply no other way of describing the Algarve. I have been holidaying in the Algarve for about the past five years or so and have loved it every single time and I know there is a lot more I could do there but I am comfortable just going to the beach, sunbathing by the pool, swimming and just generally have a relaxed week. The Algarve can serve up everybody a really nice holiday and there is great variety to be found in this world-class holiday destination as well. There is budget accommodation to be found as well as luxury five star hotels. I have been lucky enough to stay in them for a night or two every now and again and they are truly amazing. I stayed at Villa Vita - a very long time ago and I can't remember the name of the other hotel I stayed it but it was also absolutely superb. When I go with family though we usually stay in a place called Quinta Do Lago which is beautiful. We stay in the Four Seasons Fairways there which is also beautiful. The Algarve The Algarve is situated in the very South of Portugal and whilst it is considered amongst one of the poorest regions generally as a tourist you could easily be fooled by the fine tourist towns and resorts which can be found, namely Vale Do Lobo and Quinta Do Lago, and there may be more that I haven't come across which are just as nice. The Algarve has literally dozens of golf courses stretching right along the course, although they are most dense within the short drive from Faro. Faro airport is only about a two and a half hour flight from London airports and the terminal itself is easy to navigate as it is well designed and more importantly the signs have many languages including English on them. The Portuguese have definitely invested in this region and you would if you didn't scratch too deeply, as I don't think that this was a fairly prosperous place. The infrastructure is good and the tourist experience as a result is very good. Despite the lack of wealth I have experienced no crime here, unlike in Barcelona and Madrid. For me the Algarve is a very safe place to go. The workers in the tourist areas all speak English which makes the stay for me much more enjoyable although I think that they do appreciate the use of simple Portuguese words which can easily be found in a handbook. Amongst some of the main attractions to the Algarve are as already mentioned the fine golf courses and the golden sand beaches. Besides this though the Algarve also offers much more, such as, watersports (there is an enclosed lake by the Quinta do Lago beach which hires out peddalos which can have trampoline type things attached on the back, sailboats, kayaks etc), also there are lots of waterparks and there is also an aquarium and zoo. Boat trips along the coast are offered from some of the towns I remember doing one some time ago and it was amazing because we went under stunning arches and into the entrance to large caves. The sun glistened off the sparkly clean blue water. When we go to the Algarve in May, usually, the temperature rarely drops below about twenty degrees Celsius and more often than not is usually above twenty five degrees C. Refreshingly however I don't remember it really sustaining itself much higher than thirty degrees C so it is a comfortable heat especially if you want to visit the many towns in the area - preferably with your t-shirt on. There are many towns in the Algarve and I cannot remember them all and anyway I usually stick to Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo as they are both beautiful places and my parents pay. Lucky me. The website Algarve Uncovered.com suggests though that if you are looking for an accessible family stay then you should stick between Quarteira and Lagos. If one the other hand you are looking for more of a party atmosphere it would seem like the best place to go is Albufeira , Praia de Rocha or Lagos and finally we have the very nice triangle of Almancil, Quinta Da Lago and Vale do Lobo which contain some great restaurants, beaches, kids activities, hotels, golf courses and even tennis academies. Just a little more on Quinta Do Lago Quinta Do Lago contains numerous hotels of which and villas. Four Seasons fairways is a timeshare village of villas and many of the villas have there own swimming pool. Also there is a sort of hub area where there is a mini supermarket, bar and restaurant, gym and pool table. The resort is surrounded by the golf clubs Quinta North and Quinta South both of which I have been told are highly impressive by my dad who has played both. The beach is easily accessible on foot from all hotels in Quinta Do Lago and it is a very beautiful beach indeed. It has golden sand and stretches for miles and miles. It has lifeguards and it is an easy walk, if the beach becomes too boring, to the lake which does the watersports which I mentioned earlier. Also in Quinta Do Lago there is a sort of all-in-one centre which has a supermarket, restaurants, estate agents, Irish pub and shops that sell beach equipment like spades, bodyboards and such like. I personally could not do justice to how beautiful this place is. I thoroughly recommend it, especially in May.

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          27.06.2010 00:34
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          Educational

          When an Elephant puts his trunk on his head, It's because he wants to be fed another mango that you've been sold by the cunning local, and he knows you'll have to buy more as you didn't learn the Elephant phrase for "all gone" When an Orang-utan turns his back to the crowd of tourists, it's because he wants to eat his banana in peace, and disappointed Russian people will leave. When a Chinese stranger approaches you in Beijing and offers to show you his art, he is not speaking metaphorically, it's because he has done some art and wants to show it to you. I like to learn new things, and have new experiences. My most recent journey ended up being no different, even if I hadn't been expecting so much before I left for our week in a Villa in Tavira, on Portugal's Algarve. When a 3 month old baby pulls a funny face, and his legs go all stiff and straight, it's because he's having a poo, and a smelly nappy change will ensue. Clearly, we weren't alone in our 4 bedroom private residence - occupying the other rooms were my wife's parents, sister, her husband and their 2 young children. The proverbial in-laws. Fortunately, I'm a modern man, and our relationship is a good one, so there'll be no Les Dawson impressions from me, Duck. Tavira is a 45 minute journey from Faro Airport along the recently built A22 motorway, at 120kph, with no traffic and the satisfaction that you have chosen the quickest route from the airport, and the holiday can begin. You could also choose to pootle along the N125 - a sort of A-Road through the local coastal towns, and have much more interesting stuff to look at, at a more reasonable speed. In a boost for the people who paid for the new motorway, it also takes only 45 minutes to drive this way. Bypass the Bypass, if you will. I'd had precisely zero involvement in the booking and arranging of the holiday from the start to end, I had little in the way of expectations, and so I was neither surprised nor disappointed when we arrived at the villa. I think my 3 year old nephew must have been expecting a tent on a slope, and not a 3 storey house with it's own pool, because he was really, really excited by just about everything, but nothing more that the villa's very own putting green. Sportingly, there's a small golf bit for the golf people to practice their golfing on when they're not on one of the dozens of golf courses that have engulfed the Algarve, and seemingly most of Portugolf. The villa's owner provided club and balls, and we were playing a somewhat bastardized version of the game before I'd even seen the upstairs of our new home. The town of Tavira has grown around the banks of a river, and is typically old portuguese with a small Church in a leafy square that gets used as a car park, and a larger square with coffee houses, cafe's and shops to mooch around in, or alternatively there's ice cream to eat and a road train to ride on for only Euro6 each. On the outskirts of Tavira there's a new shopping mall, although there is also an Aldi and a Lidl to cater for the self-caterers. Portuguese Aldi is just as tidy as the English Aldi, and merchandised just as thoughtfully. When a Three year old says he want to go to the beach, it means you are all going to go to the beach. Tavira isn't exactly on the beach, but it does have a rather magnificent beach that is reached by first driving through the industrious salt plains, parking in lay by, before catching a small boat for a 5 minute journey over to the Isla de Tavira - the mild inaccessibility adding to the fun of the day at the beach eating sand. This beach wasn't the sort for trying to build an expansive sand boat or burying Grandad's shoes - for that type of sand you'd have to go down the road for ten minutes to the beach at Monte Gordo - the Isla Tavira beach is the sort where they charge Euro11 for a sunbed, and you're relegated to collecting shells as the sand is the white soft stuff that brochures love and kids find puzzling. If you feel like holidaying nearly completely cut off from life, there was a camp site on the island, but why have a tent when you can have a house with Peppa Pig on the Sky TV? Time for another feed. We spent a lazy Sunday afternoon wandering around Faro harbour front, and the streets behind that appear to have been completely abandoned for unclear reasons - there are whole streets of postcard-inspiring traditional buildings that are lying empty - like all those houses that line the edge of the North Circular in London, only quieter, sunnier and closer to the port. It was either a real shame, or a massive opportunity for a developer, depending on your point of view. When we were driving into Faro, we were held up by a pointy-shouty local policeman doing the traffic dance, who allowed seemingly half of Portugals Armed Forces, travelling in buses all driven by Tom Cruise from an Officer and a Gentleman, to stream through. There was either an event going on, or the Portuguese had suddenly decided to declare war with Spain. Luckily for the neighbours, it was the former - a recruitment drive where they employed a tactic of parking Helicopters, Tanks, Fighter Jets and Fire-Engines in the middle of Faro to attract the kids into wanting to join the army - we guessed that when they set foot in the sign up tent, they were immediately placed onto a coach and driven off into the distance whilst the parents are told that they would handle the truth very well. Up and down the N125 there were lots of little villages and towns to wander about in, mostly unspoilt by over development, the border town of Vila Real de Santo Antonio - positioned only a mile from the Spanish, which for me was close enough for me not to feel too bad by speaking Spanish when ordering drinks. Santo Antonio has both tourist pleasing shops selling towels and a somewhat under populated promenade, and town square with obligatory Moorish Church, alongside a proper indoor market where fruit and veg of wildly varying quality was sold. When you take the nappy off a baby, he is going to have a freestyle-wee, so choose your positioning carefully, and have the reactions of a cat. Tavira is a great location to explore this area of the Algarve, and even into Andalucia as the fabulousness of Seville and all it's Star Wars location glory is only about a 90 minute jaunt down the motorway - too far for the nappy wearing amongst the party, and so Seville was replaced with a trip to a market in the town of Altura, where my mother in law lost a pair of glasses, followed by a Menu del Dia at a tapas bar in Monte Gordo, Euro9 for four courses, so the day came out as a fair swap as far as entertainment goes. Having travelled to from Faro to Albufiera and Cadiz to Seville on past trips, I'm pleased to have filled in the gap in between, as it's another tick in a box for places to have seen. I got to do everything I'd intended to do whilst on this holiday; read books and lie down a lot, I also got to do the things I hadn't banked on; Pretending to be a shark for almost 3 hours, with never diminished hilarity. Portugal seemed under-populated when we were there - lots of quiet towns and villages to explore, and uncrowded beaches to use - which made for a pleasant family holiday without much extra expense outside of ice cream and Merry-Go-Rounds.

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            01.05.2010 01:22
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            Come on holiday, You wont regret it.!

            Sun, Sea and the Beach are the main attractions that the Algarve is commonly known for. Whether you come here on a quick holiday to get away from your daily lifetime routine or whether you stay for a long time, I can surely say that the Algarve will cater for your individual needs. This Mediterranean Paradise is incredibly diverse in the things and leisurely activities you can undergo. Just a short flight out of most destinations in Europe, this location is easily accessible. I often stay in my second home in the Algarve, located in the "Golden Triangle" near regional capital Faro and resorts Vale de Lobo and Quinta de Lago. This is the region where most tourists generally stay or spend most of their holiday at. This gives me a good/valid view on how tourists can spend their time. Weather The weather of this part of the Algarve is incredibly warm in the summer with temperatures ranging from around 25 ºC to 37+/- ºC. In the time after and leading up to the summer, the weather can be extremely diverse and unexpected. For example, 2 weeks ago, on a Thursday is was extremely warm and I was able to sunbathe in the blazing heat. The following day we had one of the largest rainfalls that I have personally seen in a long time. This is just one example of the diversity the Algarve's weather delivers in the "off season". Restaurants and Night Life The Algarve is known for it's excellent quality fish, and it's traditional cuisine, which I must add is a personal favourite of mine. Chicken is also very popular amongst tourists with the local restaurant "Sr. Frango" (Mr. Chicken) being the default place to go. It doesn't stop there, there are literally hundreds of places to visit with different International cuisines that will surely appeal to everyone's unique taste. Night life in Portugal is adequate with many different places to visit. In Vale de Lobo, you have Monty's bar where you can enjoy some drinks whilst also listening people going crazy on the karaoke available. If this isn't for you and you prefer a place where you can just sit and have a drink with some mates, why not try the Quinta Shopping's bars, Cubo, Melting Pot, or de Barra. Perhaps you like to go barhopping?? Well then Vilamoura or Albufeira are definitely your places to go. Gecko's, BlackJack's, Kadoc and Trigonometry are definitely the places to visit if you like loud music and to dance your heart out. The clubs here are fairly expensive with a beer or drink costing from 5-6 euros. Finally, I personally consider the Algarve as being a fairly safe place to go out. Things to do There are loads of things to do here. In the summer you can visit the nearest water park "Aqaushow" to cool down and enjoy a day in the water. Obviously, the beaches are a popular location for tourists. Any can be visited along the kilometres wide stretch. Owing to the sheer amount of beaches, they do not become too congested with people and so you still retain some sort of privacy rather than being squashed together near hundreds of other tourists. At lunch, you can simply leave your towels on the beach and move up to the beach bars and restaurants that are located on every major beach. Fancy something more adventurous?? An adventure camp located in the hills behind Loulé, will cater for your needs. Quad biking treks are also available along with paint ball games at the same site. Movies can be watched and shopping can be done at the Forum Algarve in Faro and Algarve Shopping located in Guia. Inside Almancil, you can find "Karting"; the only place to race carts this side of the Algarve. Perhaps you prefer to see a more cultural, historical side to the Algarve. If this is the case, then you can head west or north further from the coast and visit the small Portuguese towns and hamlets that dot the landscape. Culture shines from these locations. Conclusion You definitely will not be disappointed if you pay for a holiday down to the sunny Algarve. The lovely landscapes, stunning beaches and the multitude of things to do, will definitely get you your value for money. You should definitely not miss out on an opportunity to visit this spectacular place.

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              29.04.2010 12:20
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              A fantastic holiday spot!

              This fantastic coastline of Portugal is an excellent place to spend a holiday, and for many ex-pats, to live! There´s tons to do, and tons to see for all age groups! Location Portugal is ideally located in Western Europe and is a short 2.5 hour flight away from the UK. Almsot all of the major UK airports have daily, direct flights to Faro and offer very low prices too! Scenery The scenery of the Algarve is beautiful and extremely varied from one end to the other. In some areas, you have extremely flat, long fields whereas just a few kilometres inland, you have very high, beautiful mountain ranges. (Monchique is a wonderful example of this!) Things to Do There is plenty to do in the Algarve for all age groups. Whether you want a splash in a water park (Aquashow in Quarteira, Central Algarve), a day go-karting (Almancil Karting, Central Algarve), a quick drama lesson (Aquashow) or just a look round a zoo (Lagos Zoo, West Algarve), you certainly won´t be bored! Nightlife There are plenty of clubs in the Algarve, but in my area (Central) there are 3 main ones. Gecko Club in Vale Do Lobo, T Clube in Quinta Do Lago and Kadoc near Vilamoura. All 3 are very expensive and will empty your wallets after a few drinks. I consider the algarve a very safe place to holiday, and although it does have it´s fair share of danger, compared to england - you are VERY safe here. Overall Try out a holiday in the Algarve. It´s peaceful, fun and adventurous if you want it to be. Well worth a visit!!

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                15.07.2009 14:12
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                a relaxing pituresque place to spend time

                Well the Algarve is a great place for a holiday with its honey sands and hideaway bays , great striding rocks. With the great sea from the atlantic waves. Well that was my intro my main reason of holidaying in the Algarve was the climate. So say goodbye to goosebumps on the beach. Most of the Algarves rainfall falls during November and April. The tempeture falls to a minimum 8 degrees. However in the summer it rises to around thirty degrees. If you like to toast on a sheltered beach and have fun you should choose a resort in the East for the reason if you travel West the breeze picks up a bit. The place is lovely and a has a great scenery to it especially its wonderful rock formations. It is breathtaking with inlets and caves and great rock arches. There is also four large waterparks on the Algarve Aqualand and Slide and Splash also aqua show and atlantic park. With hours of fun playing or sliding down kamikazee slides. The aqua show has a rollercoaster in its park great fun especially for the kids. Atlantic park all the same is better for the kids with gentle water rides quad bikes and bouncy castles. There is also a zoomarine it is a popular atttraction funfair and waterpark a two in one trip. This is brillant as you can watch jumping dolphins and preforming parrots and seals doing there bit also. A great way to spend the day. A must see. That is the main attractions you do have all the beeches and a national park and some castles. Also great towns for shopping eating out and socialising too. It is a great holiday tolet your hair down and relax.

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                  16.06.2009 21:42
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                  A once attractive area that has been spoilt by tourists

                  The Algarve; Having been unimpressed with our accommodation (Albufiera Jardim 1) and stayed in for an appointment with our representative from Resort Point Services or Resort Promotions ( another long tale of woe) we decided that we were not going to be put off the area by this and decided we would explore. ALBUFIRA: On Sunday after our abortive meeting we walked in to Albufiera. Well I have to say this walk into the Old town area of Albufiera did nothing to lift my spirits and put my husband into a very bad mood. Although the physical area is still narrow and cobbled the place has been ruined by pizza restaurants, Irish bars, all day breakfast places and shops selling blow up water toys. There is one nice church but that is about it. The Square area is surrounded by restaurants which could have been charming but had taken the other route and catered to the 'Benidorm' tourist. We did stop in one restaurant and ordered cataplana which was indeed very tasty but we were the ONLY people eating anything local at all. Cataplana is pork on the bone and other seafood cooked with mussels, potatoes, onion, white wine and tomatoes in a special copper cooking utensil called a cataplana dish. It is a dish shaped like a big clam and locks when closed to seal in the flavours. It was during the day and we didn't see any anti social behaviour but it was like a British seaside place with all the usual tat. Any fishing village charm had been lost a long time ago. Okay so Albufiera was a total loss we need to explore further afield. We had hired a car so we thought we would use that and then also book a day trip to Lisbon for Tuesday which was done with little fuss by our resort reception staff. PONTA DE PIEDADE and CABO DE SAO VICENTE: Monday we chose to go westwards from Abufiera towards Lagos and Ponta da Piedade. I was a little worried that this might prove disappointing as by this time my husband was greatly under whelmed by our holiday so far however it proved to be a wonderful spot. We drove out along the A22 westwards until Lagos and then brown signs took us to the Ponta da Piedade with help from our trusty Satnav. It was beautiful, amazing rocky coast with weathered outcrops and caves. The sea was a wonderfully clear blue/green, the sky blue and then a perfect little sailing boat bobbed about on the sea. It was a truly picture postcard view and there were very few other people to spoil our photos or view. We walked all round the area in the sunshine enjoying the sea air and view before we headed for the little cafe near the car park. I know a cafe near the car park does not sound terribly exciting but it was clean and in a pleasant spot so as we were starving we decided to have something to eat. The menu offered a good selection of local fish and seafood so I chose swordfish and my husband had a squid kebab which also had 4 huge prawns, capsicum and tomatoes as well as the squid and was served with a fresh salad and chips. My swordfish came with lovely fresh vegetables, carrots, runner beans, broccoli and cauliflower as well as boiled potatoes. It was a delicious fresh meal served by a delightful waitress in the fresh air with a nice outlook. What more could you ask for? By this time my husband was starting to calm down a bit and even enjoy himself. After our delicious lunch we drove on to Cabo de Sao Vicente which we understood to be the most westerly point in Europe. This required our trusty Satnav again and we arrived at the point along with 4 buses of tourists, mainly German and one full of Japanese. Despite the crowds of people and the strong winds we were able to walk to the various view points and enjoy the cobwebs being blown off by the brisk Atlantic breeze before returning to our car for the drive back to our 'home' in Albufiera. THE EASTERN ALGARVE; We decided we would like to explore the Cork producing area of the Algarve and went to see if we could find out when the factories were and if we could get to visit one. We had discovered that the town of Sao Bras de Alportel was a likely possibility so we headed for there. We set off towards Faro and then inland from there to find a delightful small town with a tourist information place so in we went. The lady told us that to see the cork factories you had to do a tour and she handed us local maps and pointed us in the direction of the place where they organised the tours. It seemed to be a one man operation and he offered various tours of the cork route lasting a full day or one shorter 3 hour tour which began in the museum down the road and cost 12 Euros. We did not really want to wait for 2 hours to go on a 3 hour tour so we headed for the museum in Sao Bras de Alportel and paid 2 Euros each to go in. One half of the museum was about the French time in the area with costumes and history which was quite interesting but the other half was about Cork production and the history of cork in the area. There was a short and very informative visual film (I emphasize the visual element as there were no subtitles or translation and it was all in Portuguese but it was quite easy to grasp the idea. After the film the lights came on and we wandered around the exhibit which had captions and displays explaining the history and the growth and decline of cork and its changes in production and use over the years. It was excellent. There were other displays of carriages and farming implements but we really came to find out about the cork history so just looked briefly at the rest of the museum. We thought we might need a little sustenance so we found a small cafe where we enjoyed coffee and local pastries, I loved all the almond pastries and my husband had his choice of pasteis de nata , a sort of custard pie with our coffees . Feeling a little refreshed and having been thus inspired we studied the map of where the tour was going to go and drove off ourselves. We managed to find cork oaks with the cork harvested. Apparently cork oaks cannot be harvested until they are about fifteen years old and then they cannot be cut again for another 10 years so as the cork is cut they put the date on the tree - this year's cut trees will have a 9 and last years' had 8. When the cork is first cut the tree underneath is an orange colour which gradually changes over the years to brown then the bark gets greyer and rougher and thicker until it is harvested again when it is rough and thick cork. We found harvested cork oak trees with numbers, piles of harvested cork as well as neatly baled cork. It was really a lovely drive following the cork route from Sao Bras de Alportel to Parizes and back again through the hills of the Eastern Algarve. We stopped in Sao Bras de Alportel and went to the supermarket as the prices there were a lot cheaper than we had paid for things in Albufiera or Lisbon. SILVES, MONCHIQUE AND FOIA; Our visit to Silves was a little tense as we drove up to the castle and then were not sure how to get out as there are only tiny narrow cobbled almost vertical roads leading off from there. We went down one and back around and up another even narrower alley scraping the wing mirror on a wall but managed to get out otherwise unscathed. There are no directions at all and lots of no entries but it really does NOT make it clear how tight it is down the alleys or give your directions as to which are the wider more accessible roads but having safely escaped out of the scary area we parked just below the castle and walked back up. It was a lovely old Moorish castle built in dark red sandstone on the top of the hill in the town (2 Euros entrance) which dates back to the times when Silves was the capital of the Algarve. There was also an old church or Cathedral with a very fine Manueline doorway which was very attractive and typical of the region. You could go in (1 Euro) but it was rather dark and the outside looked more interesting and neither of us is mad on church interiors unless there is something special to see. We chose to enjoy a coffee and pastry in a cafe looking at the church exterior instead. Thus fortified by our coffee and local pastries we set of for the mountains of Monchique and the spa town of Monchique. The drive was a steady climb along twisty through tree lined roads passing through olive groves and citrus trees. Most of these trees are mimosa which must look lovely when they flower but we were too late for this although we did see a huge variety of colourful wild flowers. Unfortunately the day we drove up was not that clear but if I am honest the views were not that stunning anyway. We drove through Monchique and up to Foia which is the highest point in this mountain range and is 902m above sea level. We had read that the views were stunning but we were very disappointed. The top was a mess of telecommunication towers and a radar station and was really quite ugly. The view looked over Portamao and to the sea but quite honestly it was quite ordinary. This was not the stunning view we were lead to expect and so after taking a few photos of the wild flowers we headed down again. We had planned to eat lunch up in this area at a local mountain restaurant where chicken piri piri, local kid or wild boar are specialities but the restaurants we passed either had a couple of tourist coaches parked outside or looked completely empty and rather uninteresting so we changed our mind and decided to head towards the coast to enjoy another fish or seafood meal. We headed for Carvoeiro which is within the Lagoa district where they produce red, white, rose and fortified wines. It is possible to visit local vineyards and sample the produce but wine in the middle of the day tends to give me a bad head and make me very sleepy and my other half does not drink wine especially when driving so we did not venture to the vineyards. We did however find a very pleasant restaurant where we enjoyed a cataplana even tastier than the one we tried in Albufiera in that it was a creamier sauce and the pork was not on the bone or fatty so we were happy with our choice. I also tried a Limoncello (I read a review on Dooyoo about this and was keen to sample it) and was most impressed. It was refreshing, lemony and light and I will definitely have a go at making some when I get back home. SUMMARY: I'm not sure that I would come back to the Algarve; it was nice to enjoy sunshine and some of the beaches and coast line areas are lovely but I felt the whole area lacked something; It might be that we were put off by our awful accommodation and initial impression of Albufiera on the Sunday. Having said that, everyone we have met and had any contact with while we were in the area was delightful, helpful, and pleasant and the standard of English put us to shame. I think that it is the rather tasteless touristy areas with all day breakfasts, Irish bars and souvenir shops which make some areas look like Skegness or Blackpool that put us off and once that hit then it required a huge effort to get beyond that and discover little gems like Sao Bras de Alportel and Silves. I know that a lot of people love this area and i leave you to make up your own mind while sharing my opinion of the area with you. Thank you for reading and I trust I have not caused any offence; this is my view of the area as I experienced it in May/June 2009.

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                    09.05.2008 10:02
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                    A great place to travel to if alone and a great holiday for all family members. Go now!

                    After living in the western Algarve for over 10 years it is still one of my favourite places to return to. It is very popular with Brits, Germans and Dutch. Why? Because of the wonderful climate - sunny days for nearly 10 months of the year. Relaxed atmosphere, some of the best beaches in Europe, good food and friendly if a bit querky, people. Of all the towns in the Algarve Lagos is my favourite. I lived there for one year in a Portuguese area call Atalia in an apartment. It was quite noisy and bustly but interesting and very easy to walk into town or to the beach. The beaches around Lagos are some of the most beautiful of the Algarve, busy in Summer but in the Winter can be isolated and sometimes you can be the only person walking on the beach. My favourite beaches are: Praia de Dona Ana, which is a 25 minute walk from the center of the town, Praia do Camilo, a bit further on, and Meia Praia, whose sands stretch for 4 km east of Lagos. However, it is the promontory named Ponta da Piedade which is most admired by visitors, with its caves, rocks and wonderfully transparent waters. Now Lagos is a very busy and bustling town but once it was a quiet fishing village which thrived under the Arabs, which built several fortifications. It turned into an important naval center in the age of the Discoveries, and became the capital of the Algarve from 1576 to 1756. The town was greatly damaged by the earthquake of 1755; thus its beautiful buildings. Some have been restored and now a brand new marina has been built to welcome boats, yachts from all over the world. As far as accomodation goes in the town there is quite a lot to choose from. Hotels range from quite old fashioned to very modern. My favourite Hotel is at the end of the Avenida facing the Marina. Marina Rio is a small but compact hotel, very clean and reaxing. The staff are very welcoming and will help you in any way they can. They are fluent in languages such as German, English and French. Also it isn't very expensive. Price 1 year ago were 56.50 euros per night, per room and that is a twin room including breakfast. Other forms of accomodation are rented rooms. Property owners usually tout at the bus/train stations. There is a very popular hostel in the centre of town which is always packed out in high season with travellers from all over the world. Places to visit from Lagos are as follows: Portimao - a working Algarvian town with a good selection of restaurants and shops. Some very pretty churches to view and a great walkway at the front of the harbour where the Peruvians usually play their live music. At the end of the walkway is an area designated to sardine restaurants. I recommend a visit as fresh sardines with salad and potatoes is a treat! Portimao can be reached by bus or train from Lagos. Both run quite frequently. Monchique is a beautuful old town to visit also. You would possibly need a car as going by bus is a bit long winded. This town is in the hills and still has the old Portuguese way of life. Lots of good chicken piri-piri restaurants in this area. My recommendation is A Rampa. Cheap and plentiful. You go through the town up the hill to Foia and it is on the right. Going west you can visit Salema which can be reached by bus from Lagos. This is a small fishing village which has been built up but it still retains it's old world charm. In the Winter it is avery relaxing place to visit and walk along the shore collecting pebbles. There are numerous little coffe bars and shops on the cobbled streets selling postcards and souveniers. The main restaurant is on the front but gets really busy in the summer months. You must try the grilled bream here. Delicious. Praia da Luz was my home town in the Algarve for many a year and my son spent his younger years here. It has changed a lot over the years even since I lived there and of course it has been in the media for the last year quite a lot but for me it is still special. It as one of the best views of a sheltered bay I have ever seen drivng on the road from Budens. In Summer the beach is packed and the town is always bustling. A lot of Brits live here so the supermarket Baptista sells all British delicacies . You can buy your marmite from here as well as your brown sauce to put on your chips. Lots of restaurants to choose from in Luz. I even worked as a chef in one - the Cavaleiro which is right next to the church. I think the restaurants are all very similar as they all cater for the tourists so I won't recommend one - I will leave it up to you to try a few and then perhaps you will write a reveiw. If you fancy a walk up to the top of the hill then take your camera as there are some good views. You can actually walk all along the coast from Luz into Lagos. It is very picturesque but please be careful and don't walk too near the edge as the rocks are crumbling away. If you are a golfer then there are two golf courses to choose from. Palmares: The course is a showpiece for the imagination of Frank Pennink, one of the most prolific golf course designers in Portugal. The reputation of the course - a Par 71 - derives from its skilful use of two different kinds of landscape, as well as its excellent level of maintenance. Boavista: This course is situated in a beautiful location in the Western Algarve on a headland between Lagos and Praia da Luz. You can take int views of the bay of Lagos, and the distance hills of Monchique. I am not a golfer myself but over the years I have heard people say that although the courses are very good in the Algarve they are also quite expensive compared to Spain. Well what more can I say? I could write a book on the place. As you can tell from my reveiw I love Lagos and the Algarve. I thouroughly recommend it as a destination. I am sure if you go you will be hooked for ever. Happy travelling and don't forget the piri-piri at A Rampa.

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                      14.09.2005 17:00
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                      Still one of the nicest holiday destinations in Europe!!

                      My good old top-10 Algarve: Beaches: 1) Praia de Alvor: very long and wide, beautiful, white sand beach with a few rocks at the eastern end (take the IC4, exit in Alvor, drive through the small village to the beach) 2) Praia do Garrao / Praia da Quinta do Lago: (N125 to Almancil (between Faro and Quarteira), from there to Quinta do Lago or Vale do Lobo) 3) Praia dos Salgados: another long and wide beach (enter to the big parking lot from the street Albufeira-Armacao de Pera) Beach-Bars / Beach-Restaurants: 1) Restinga, Praia de Alvor 2) Restaurante Salgados, Praia dos Salgados, on the street Albufeira-Pera 3) Gigi’s, Praia da Quinta do Lago (Quinta do Lago beach, near Hotel Quinta Do Lago) (beach restaurants are not cheap in Portugal; of these three Restinga is probably the best value for money) Restaurants: 1) Teodósio* ("O Rei dos Frangos"), Estrada de Algoz, Guia, Tel 289561301 (in the centre of Guia, take the turn off the N125 in the direction of Algoz) one and only dish: Frango Piri-Piri com batatas e salada (chargrilled chicken, spicy (“piri piri sauce”) with French fries and tomato salad) 2) Sueste, Rua da Ribeira 91, Ferragudo (near Portiamo) 3) Ababuja, Rua da Ribeira 11, Alvor, Tel 282458999 4) Camané, Praia de Faro, 8000 Faro, Tel 289817539 5) Ruina, R. Cais Herculano, 8200-061 Albufeira, Tel 289512094 Sightseeing: 1) Albufeira, typical beach city, on a rock, with a tunnel to the beach 2) Monchique Mountains (hills would be the more matching expression), visit the MountainsFoia, highest mountain near the Algarve 3) There are quite a few of the nice, typical beaches with rocks around them; check in any guide for recommendations Clubs: 1) Casa do Castelo, Albufeira (great club on the beach; I always forget how to get there; somewhere near Albufeira; ask a few locals) 2) Trigonometria/T-Clube, Quinta do Lago 3) Capitulo Quinto, Albufeira … and thousand others…

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                      15.08.2002 22:04
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                      I'd been to the Algarve before, four years ago, staying just to the west of the famous town of Albufeira, which was as good an introduction to the southern Portuguese coast as any, although the 'Strip' of clubs, bars and Irish Pubs in the centre of Albufeira did tend to make you wonder whether you hadn't stumbled through a rip in the space/time continuum, and come out with the date intact, but the location shifted to Southend or Blackpool during a heatwave! Anyway, we were encouraged by the fact that we didn't HAVE to go anywhere near this part of town, and by the general friendliness of the area. Eating out is good value in Portugal - why, we even managed to dine at the next table to 'Richard and Judy', much to my wife's angst, since she appreciates that kind of thing but was facing the wrong way! (Yes, she does look a lot older than him!) On our first trip, we did apply the G.O.Y.A. principle quite often and ventured almost to both ends of the Algarve, from Tavira in the east (not far from Spain) to Lagos (pronounced Laaa-goosh, not like the capital of Nigeria) in the west. We never did quite make it to Cape St Vincent, mainland Europe's most south-westerly point, but filed this away, as a 'do some other time'. Having been lucky enough to find an affordable villa for two with its own pool last time, we quite fancied keeping up the trend, but with no luck this year. However, tack on a couple of friends who've never been on holiday with us before (funny, all of our friends fall into that category, or at least, they don't seem to do it twice!), and we're in business. So this year's main holiday took us to a villa a few k's west of Lagos. This puts it a rather a long haul from Faro airport, but that's the price of getting away from the hordes of sun-worshippers, night-clubbers (and those environmental rapists, a.k.a. golfers). Anyway, we'd taken the p recaution of hiring cars with A/C this time (last time we were treated to what the manager called his best car, a lovely shiny BLACK one with no A/C - just what you need....not!). Since our friends are keen bird-watchers (so am I, just not that kind), we hired two small cars rather than one large one, to allow us the flexibility to do as we please when we please, rather than argue over whose turn it is to take the car. THE VILLA This was booked through Simply Portugal, and was called Horta da Avózinha, which I am reliably informed, means Grannie's Garden. Situated a little way inland from Praia de Luz, it wasn't exactly stand-alone as it abutted the owner's bungalow, and one other villa on site, but we all had our own privacy, and more importantly, a pool. At a pinch, the villa could have slept 7, but only by turning the sofa into a bed every night. The kitchen was well appointed, and we had use of the owner's washing machines in a separate outhouse. Since I am an early riser, it became my 'job' every morning to go into the neighbouring orchard to pick oranges for our morning juice, grabbing a dozen or so fresh figs as I went (thinks - I must be careful how many of those I eat!). Now jobs like that I can handle! Why we even had lemons and limes for the G&T's! THE AREA The Algarve contains the entire southern and some of the south-western coast of Portugal. Having been under Moorish rule like much of southern Iberia, it gets its name from the Moorish 'Al Gharb' (I think) meaning The West - west of what? West of 'Al Andalus', of course. Despite the feel of the place, it is not on the Mediterranean, but on the Atlantic as it all lies west of Gibraltar. To the immediate north of the Algarve lies Portugal's Alentejo region, supplier of much of the world's 'real' bottling cork, which is harvested from special oaks on a rotational basis. THE CLIMA TE To my mind, this is where the Algarve scores in summer. The sunshine is just as strong as in Spain's southern provinces, but with the prospect of at least a gentle breeze, and sometimes something stronger, the heat is always tempered with air movement. This can lead some into assuming that it's OK to spend longer in the sun - beware! At the western end, you are literally only a few k's from the Atlantic in two directions, so the breeze is even more in evidence. In the two weeks that we were there this time, we saw one cloudy morning, which then redeemed itself by clearing up at lunchtime. Windy nights (from outside the villa, I mean) did also keep the mosquitos at bay, and I picked up one bite in the whole fortnight. THE BEACHES These are truly superb, and even in summer it's not too difficult to find a sparsely populated one particularly on the west coast, which is popular with surfers (the real ones). Beware of the undertow though, as many of these beaches have no safety procedures at all. Northern Cornwall in a heat wave comes to mind! THE PEOPLE The Portuguese strike me as very nice easy-going people but perhaps slightly less flamboyant than their Italian or Spanish 'latin' cousins. They are very polite, always use their 'pleases' and 'thank yous' and are generally used to foreigners, especially since a good many of us actually live there! I don't know whether it's just me, but I sensed that the Portuguese prefer their northern European visitors to their land-locked neighbours, the Spanish, who seem to be forever moaning about how 'they can read it but can't understand a word of it when they hear it'. THE LANGUAGE In theory, and on paper, it looks a lot like Spanish, but on hearing it, you begin to wonder whether you haven't landed somewhere in eastern Europe by mistake. Listening to the Nostalgia FM radio station (pronounc ed No oshtalgeeah Effy Em) was like that BBC Fast Show sketch of a TV station in a 'mock-latin' language, and I swear I heard 'Fallay-hallay, fallay-hallah, Chrees Waddle' in there somewhere! Actually, 'falo' does mean 'I speak' so perhaps that's where they got the idea from. There are one or two things you can learn which will help you through the written version at least, especially if you have knowledge of Spanish. One is the way in which L becomes R. Hence beaches are Praia, not Playa, squares are Praça, not Plaza, white, (as in wine) is Branco, not Blanco, and even the Portuguese way of saying 'Thank You Very Much', i.e. Muito Obrigado, means 'very obliged'. Incidentally, this becomes Obrigada if you are female, but don't worry, it seems to get shortened to 'muit'obrigad' anyway. An N in Spanish frequently manifests itself as an M in Portuguese, e.g. Bom Dia for Good Day and Bem Venido for Welcome. It would be nice to learn more, but it might just prove too confusing, like learning Spanish and Italian together. Who knows, I collect the languages of wine-growing nations. Maybe my next evening class should be Portuguese! UPDATE: I did join an evening class, and at least I can now answer the question "Você fala Português?" with a guarded and monosyllabic "Sim" but be fair, at time of writing, I'd only had one lesson! p.s. I was right about that Grannie's Garden thing. "Uma avô" is a Grandmother, so "uma avózinha" is an affectionate dimunitive, i.e. a Grannie WINING AND DINING This is one of our main reasons for travel. Fish-lovers will adore Portugal - it's not all sardines y'know. Forget 'Med-sized' fish, these boys are from the Atlantic. Great cross-cut steaks from Sea Bass or Salmon abound and at reasonable prices too. Most restaurants operate a variable cover charge, depending on how many of the pre-meal snacks you eat. This tends to include sardine pâté, bread, butter, local cheese, pickled carrots in garlic and the Portuguese version of Chorizo. One place we went to in Lagos served the latter flamed in the local fire-water, 'madronho'. Boy, was that the best gravy I've ever had! Once we had clued into this "cover charge" principle, we never really felt the need for a separate starter. Other specialities feature the 'Cataplana', a copper steamer dish a bit like a small pressure cooker full of varied ingredients. We had the seafood cataplana for our last lunch there. It consisted of a very generous helping of clams, prawns, chunks of monkfish and god-knows what else, all in a delicious if slightly sloppy sauce. No sign of rice though - that would have made it a bit too much like paella, I suppose. Coming from the London area, I felt that eating out was a bargain, and we began to get quite sniffy if the bill including service came to more than £12/head. Portuguese wine is possibly their best-kept secret. I can only assume that since they are not 'volume-producers' that they keep all the best stuff for themselves. All we tend to see at home are Mateus Rosé, one or two brands of Vinho Verde, the young 'green' wine, the red Dão and of course any amount of red port. White port also abounds here - I'm told that the French buy most of it for export, which is why we seldom see it. GETTING AROUND Firstly, the Algarve is not exactly riddled with train lines. The line from the Spanish border at Vila Real goes past Faro before splitting off to go to Lisbon via the centre of the country, whilst the coastal spur terminates at Lagos, making this the 'the end of Europe's line'. Many back-packers can be seen getting off here and it's equally amusing to watch all the old ladies offering accommodation actually fighting over an innocent young tourist - OOOOOH ,YOUNG MAN!!!!! Driving - now this is where I take issue with Portugal. I had been told that driving in Portugal was a risky affair because of the standard of driving. In my experience of two two-week holidays, I've never really had any problems with the drivers. It's the white-lining of roads that really worries me. By mid-summer most of it has worn away, (they o nly seem to use domestic white paint) leaving you to guess where Stop lines are, or worse still, the middle of the road. The danger of this is heightened at night and by the fact that some roundabouts are the normal 'priority from the left' affair, whilst others seem to be the opposite. The locals know which is which, but without white lines you are sunk, and it leads to a good deal of being honked at by normally well-tempered Portuguese drivers! Yes, they will let you join the flow of traffic from a side street, although they do tend to come rather close when overtaking. Also, get yourself a PROPER map. We were silly enough to trust the tour company's and the car hire company's maps. One had villages which appeared to have no road through them, and the other had roads, but no sign of the villages. Then of course, there were the roads that weren't on either map! Minor villages are only signposted AT the actual junction, which leads to much grinding to a halt and back-tracking. Portugal has a lot of new roads, thanks to EEC funding, some not quite finished, although this doesn't actually stop them being OPEN, as we found the hard and stony way! As in Greece, your hire car insurance does not cover the tyres or the exhaust - you've been warned. Typical, the two things most likely to get broken, what a surprise! Buses seem pretty good, and there is a 'Littoral' bus, or 'Coastliner' dropping off at all principal towns. THINGS TO DO, PLACES TO SEE < br>Apart from the obvious like getting plastered every night and sleeping it off by the pool or on the beach, the Algarve has many other attractions. Firstly bird-watchers will love the salt marshes that stretch from the Spanish border west past Faro. Despite not being an expert, in the space of 30 minutes, I saw an Osprey, Great Flamingos both in flight and wading, Stilts and all kinds of sea birds - as they say, 'One Goo d Tern Deserves Another'. These marshes have their own beauty, being extremely quiet and moody - unless you stand under the glide path to Faro airport that is! Cabo São Vicente (Cape St Vincent) is worth a look. Here stands Europe's most powerful lighthouse on Europe's most south-westerly point. If you like the feel of places like Land's End and John O'Groats, then you'll like this place. They do seem to share a similar barren yet appealing atmosphere, and people come from miles around to watch the sunset over the Atlantic. You can really see how ancient man thought the sea was on fire. Anyhow, once you get tired of being blown inside out, it's only about 4 minutes drive back to Sagres, where some superb seafood awaits! Silves is another lovely place to visit with a high town and a low town. The high town contains a Moorish Castle overlooking the surrounding area and the lower sits next to a moody slow river, complete with 20' reeds on the other bank and a Roman built bridge. When escaping the coast and heading for the hills, the Monchique area is a logical place to head. Not only is the drive quite spectacular in places, but the spa town of Caldas de Monchique and Monchique itself are well worth a visit if only to go somewhere a bit cooler for a while. You can always pick a different route back, but don't do what we did, i.e. come back on a road that doesn't seem to be there on any map! Either that or take GPS with you! Then of course, there's always the  9;G' word, but I can't bring myself to express what I think "the Scottish Game" is doing to Spain and Portugal. CONCLUSION Fabulous summer climate, great beaches and great accommodation. Terrific seafood, good wine, and gol.., no it's no good, I can't say it! Two hours from London

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                        09.08.2002 01:03
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                        When I first went to the Algarve it was the early 1980's and the biggest draw about the area was that it was like Spain (Costa Brava / Costa Blanca) before it was destroyed by the British package tourist. I am sad to say that, in the ten or so times that I have been there since, the fading of the Algarve's beauty has been steady and shocking. Take for example "Praia d'Oura" or "Golden Beach", which used to be a quiet crossroads with a number of pleasant restaurants, useful shops and a road leading down to a small unspoilt beach, from where the area gained its name. Now the whole area has frankly been wrecked with a succession of English pubs, Irish pubs, Welsh pubs, Dutch pubs and Scottish pubs, all glowing with neon signs, serving variations of the full English fry-up breakfast and beaming English football by satellite into the Algarve. Surround this with tourist tatt shops and succession of overpriced, low quality restaurants and the demolition job is complete. The Algarve still has one big draw though, and this is it's golf courses. Towns like Vilamoura have over four courses, which are beautifully maintained with wide green fairways lined by fir and olive trays, often with marvellous sea views. To get onto the best of these, though, you will need to bring your handicap certificate and a healthy credit card. Other very good courses are at Quinta da Lago, Val de Lobo and Penina Hotel. If you are going on a golfing holiday, I would strongly recommend hiring a villa near the courses, rather than risking the indifferent hotels. Even some of the "exclusive" hotels down by Vilamoura marina will leave most travellers feeling that they have been overcharged. Self-catering in the villa should not be a great issue as local supermarkets are good. If you are keen on seafood, make the effort to get out of bed ear ly and head down to the fish market at Quarteira. There are also some better restaurants out in the countryside - well away from the beachside traps ! Otherwise the Algarve might make a passable out of season jaunt, somewhere to get a bit of sun in April/September away from the package tourist invasion.But, I would only recommend it if it is the cheapest place in the travel agency ! If you are in the country and heading down south, then go the the castle at Silves, the springs at Monchique and the market at Loule. However, stop there and head back north ! Wine recommendations : Vinho Verde is cheap, light and very drinkable

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                          28.11.2001 06:28
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                          Where do I start? We are just back from our first ever holiday abroad. For this holiday we chose a package to the Algarve in Portugal. I started this op basically telling you what we found to do but then I changed it to be a more general impression, now having discovered that you can't actually write more than one op in the same category I have had to make this op even longer (sorry!!) and add all the attraction info back in as well. As we had never been abroad or in a plane before we were really apprehensive about flying/driving on wrong side/speaking another language/coping with different money etc and we couldn’t find any good advice anywhere for stupid wee things like that, which is why I have added info on this at the end of the op - hope it is helpful. **************************************** ATTRACTIONS --------------------- We didn’t really go into the main towns so I can’t comment on those, but something we did notice (and I had the suspicion before we left home too) was that the main things to do seemed to be visiting churches – fine if you like that sort of thing! Most towns have a municipal museum with general historical stuff but as my boyfriend moans and gets bored in museums we didn’t really go to any except the Archaeological Museum in Silves (see below). We also couldn’t be bothered to drive the long distances from the west side of Algarve to some of the attractions half of the time so we missed quite a few things out that would have been nice if we were staying a bit closer. ZOOMARINE Zoomarine is a visitor attraction just outside Albufeira that houses dolphins, seals, swans, parrots, an aquarium, crocodiles etc. We didn’t realise it was going to be so big and that each thing was at certain times so we only got there about 3pm. Turns out that all we got to see were the outside things like parrots and swans and we caught a sealion show and the mai n dolphin show. We didn’t see the aquarium or the parrot show and we couldn’t find the crocodiles for some reason (maybe the swans ate them!). Within the park there is a couple of coffee shop places as well as a mini fairground with a nice little rollercoaster, they have a really nice gift shop and a photo lab. The dolphin show is obviously their main attraction and it was well worth the price of entry which was about £8 or £9. If you are so inclined there is a chance to swim with the dolphins for an extra charge (I didn’t enquire as to the price –sorry!!). It may be of interest to you to know that one of the dolphins which reside in the park is 43 years old, the second oldest dolphin in the world!! If you are going with children make sure that you sit in the middle and near the front as in both of the shows we saw there is a little bit of audience participation. Seal lions come into audience and go about kissing everyone and with the dolphins they flick beach balls into the audience with their tails – the children who catch the balls get to keep them. LAGOS ZOO This is a really small zoo just north of Lagos. It’s main features are monkeys/gorillas and such, and birds. The monkeys we brilliant – some of them were totally showing off for us and we got a load of great photos of them. They all looked really happy to be there – lying in the sun in the trees. There were all sorts of birds – parrots/vultures/eagles/storks/pheasants etc etc – I can’t even remember what half of them were called. They were really beautiful. The zoo is really small as I said and it doesn’t take too long to go around. There is a gift shop and coffee shop on site and a small farm for kids. All over the zoo they have these really big sculptures of various animals, which is what you see when you first arrive - before you even see any signs, you notice this massive gorilla stan ding at the side of the road!! (If you have played the game Monkey Island then you will feel like you recognise it from somewhere!) SAGRES We took a drive out to Sagres which is the most South Westerly tip of the European mainland. It is really barren when you are driving along but I think it is worth it – it is only about 20 miles from Lagos. For about £2 per person you can go into the Moorish fort which is out on the peninsula. The fort itself is not quite as exciting as it looks on the pictures but it is nice. There is a nice exhibition and a little chapel as well as the usual gift shop and coffee shop. The best bit I thought was the 2km walk round the peninsula – the views off the cliffside are amazing (if you like views of endless sea and sky that is!) and you can go up to the lighthouse there. It was such a nice day when we were there that a leisurely stroll in the sun seemed just the right thing to do. It doesn’t sound that strange until you see it but there are always a few people fishing off the cliff – which must be at least 50 foot high!!! Sagres village is just as typical little village where you have to queue for twenty minutes in the post office to buy a stamp because the post office lady is too busy gossiping with the locals!!! There are a couple of nice pavement cafes there which were nice for lunch although it was quite windy when we there and we had to keep catching everything to stop them from blowing away! WATERPARKS As our holiday was in November, all the waterparks were closed (far too cold!!) so unfortunately we couldn’t go to any of those. From their website and what you see from the road they look like fun though. The main ones are The Big One, Slide & Splash and KrazyWorld; which also has loads of other stuff in it but it was closed for the month so we couldn’t go their either :0( GOLF Obviously the Algarve is known for golf and I personally do not see the fun in golf. There are plenty of golf courses though for those that are interested. In Villamoura there is a mini golf which is all set to the backdrops of ancient Rome. Seemed like good fun but it was only open for two hours per day and we kept missing it. SILVES Silves is a really nice village in the hills to the north of Albufeira. We went there to see the castle but the whole village was nice. Typically for Portuguese towns and villages, the roads were really narrow and cobbled in the town centre. There were a couple of pedestrianised streets (which is just as well as I don’t think you would be able to squeeze past a car if it was parked there!!) and if you walk up the hill slightly you get to the Archaeological Museum. The main feature of the museum is a huge well which is about 40 feet deep if I remember correctly. When they were excavating to build some council offices in the town they came across this well, which was in such good condition that they decided to build the museum around it. Being a modern museum there is lots of space and it is really airy. The only bad thing is that none of the displays were translated into English (most places in Algarve are bi-lingual), although you got the general idea when looking at the displays of pottery etc as to where they came from and from which period. Just a bit further up the hill you come to the castle – this castle is the best kept one in the Algarve region. It was about £2 to go in and I didn’t realise at the time but if you paid an extra £3 there was an exhibition you could visit about life in Moorish times. Once inside the castle you notice that they are still excavating parts of it – which is quite interesting to look at. The castle has really nice kept trees and shrubs and makes a perfect place to sit and relax. You can explore the walls and climb up to the ramparts (I think that is what they were called anyway) where the views over Silves and the orange groves are lovely. You can see for miles from up there – the only thing spoiling the view was the building site below! Also in Silves is an old cork factory and visitor centre (Fabrica do Ingles) which was given a European gold award for industrial visitor centres. Unfortunately we spent so much time at the castle that we missed the visitor centre. (story of my holiday really!!) SHOPPING CENTRES Everything you read about shopping tells you about the little pottery shops (and there are millions of those) and generally gives you the impression that there are no ‘normal’ shops. This is not the case. Just outside of Albufeira beside the main road there is a great shopping centre with nine cinemas and lovely restaurants and fast food places. It is funny, as half of the centre does not have a roof – when you are on the escalators you are in the open air ….. made me wonder what they do when it rains!! Faro also has a really similar shopping centre with all the same shops and restaurants in it. OTHER THINGS WE MISSED From Lagos you could take boat trips out to the beautiful caves (called grottoes) but unfortunately (again) there weren’t any going in the winter….. :0( Other things to do included the Science Alive centre in Faro which is a centre introducing you to the sun and how is works for us as well as other things of a scientific nature. Sounded good actually but we didn’t leave enough time to do it. The one thing that I regret not having visited was the moorish copper mine, Cova dos Mouros, which is north east of Faro. The park includes the mine shaft, reconstruction of a catholitic fort, roman crane and various leisure things including natural swimming pools, donkey rides and wildlife. It looks really great in the brochure. Maybe another time!! I went the wrong way at one point (well more than one point really) when we were trying to get to Monichique. Monchique is the highest hill in Algarve and apparently it is really beautiful and smells of eucalyptus. Needless to say, this is yet another thing we didn’t do!! ************************** CLIMATE Don’t let people tell you that it is hot in the Algarve in the winter. Fair enough it is warmer than at home. There is always an exception of course, we left Glasgow at 13 degrees and got to Algarve where it was 14 degrees!!! Before we went everyone was telling us how hot it would be and to take loads of shorts and we packed so much sun tan lotions and after-sun lotions. Over the course of the fortnight we hit 20 degrees on a couple of days but it was mainly around 18 – we got a slight tan but that was it (If you knew how white I usually was you would notice but if not then you would think I looked normal!). It was however, nice and sunny & bright. T-shirt & jeans weather for most of the day and jumpers from about half past four onwards. Don’t bother to pack swimming gear if you go in the winter though as all the pools seem to be outdoor and they are all far too cold – I stuck my leg in the pool at the villa and my circulation instantly stopped! SMOKING Well, my boyfriend thought he had died and gone to heaven. Practically everything in Portugal is geared up for smokers. The first thing we though was funny was the smokers table in a petrol station….. not much chance of getting that here is there!! Everywhere you go in Portugal is a smoking area. Even the toilet cubicles have ashtrays in them, which I thought was hilarious. When you go to KFC and Burger King and places like that all the tables have ashtrays. Usually my boyfriend is the one who feels awkward when we go looking for a place he can smoke but not in Portugal – it was me who was different. Practically every shop has a cigarette machine (not sure of the proper name for them but you know what I mean don’ ;t you.), even those that you wouldn’t expect to buy cigarettes in. The cinemas stop for a smoke break in the middle of the film and nearly the whole audience piles out to the foyer for a smoke. Nearly everyone smokes out there, which is hardly surprising considering they are practically giving cigarettes away. One pack costs just over £1 and for a carton of 200 it worked out about £12/14 (here it is about £40). So if you are a smoker then look no further than Portugal for an ideal holiday! MONEY Portugal changes from Escudos to the Euro in January so there is not much point in telling you much about the Escudo. Except that in shops things have prices like 15.000$00 meaning fifteen thousand escudos, the dot is not what we would use it for (a decimal place) and I kept forgetting and getting confused (easily done!!). It is also a bit weird with prices of things if they come to something like 2507$00 as there are no coins smaller than 5 Esc. So your change has to be rounded up or down…. Why have prices that do not end with a five or zero if you don’t have the coins to match?? LANGUAGE Obviously in Portugal the main language is Portuguese but English is really widely spoken, especially around the Algarve region. I took a phrasebook with me but we hardly ever had to use it as nearly everyone we spoke to was able to speak English. I would like to point out here though that we did try to learn things, tried not to act like the stereotypical tourist!! FOOD Bread is really expensive out there – well loaves are anyway – it was nearly a pound for a tiny wee loaf. We actually in general didn’t find a great big difference to home when we went to supermarkets – just a far better selection of stuff. Restaurants were quite cheap (not that we went to anything too fancy though!). For two courses and a couple of glasses of Pepsi each it usually came to ten or twelve pounds in total. Chicken Pir i-Piri is a speciality out there and most restaurants have it, it is really nice. Nearly everywhere in the Algarve has a big fish menu but as we both hate seafood we never tried it – friends tell me that it is all nice though if that is any help!! Sardines are a speciality out there but they are not the same as the John West ones you get in tins here – they come with their heads and tails still on – yuck! When you go into a supermarket you will instantly notice the smell of fish. They have huge counters with all the fresh fish lying there – whole squids and everything… can’t tell you anymore as the smell was making me feel sick so I didn’t really look! GENERAL PRICES Another disappointment we had (as well as packing mainly shorts and not getting the weather for it) was that things were not really cheap compared to home. Most people tell you that CD’s and DVD’s are so cheap and that electronic gear is practically given away but this is not the case. I don’t know what it is like in Spain and I wondered if people were getting mixed up. Portugal has a tax system like our VAT and we found that things were about the same. The CD’s that we bought were all about £12 (give or take depending on the exchange rate we get from the credit card company!) and DVD’s seemed to be about £18/£20 which is no different from home. My boyfriend had been planning buying a MiniDisc player for ages and I made him wait to buy it in Portugal – the one we got (or should I say “the one we could afford”) worked out at about £130/£135 depending again on what exchange rate we get on the credit card and when I looked when we came home, Currys have it for £149 and my mum saw it in Glasgow in the Sony shop for £112 (just my luck!!!). DRIVING Well – I am not sure what to say about driving in Portugal. I was a bit apprehensive about driving on the wrong side, a car was inclu ded with our holiday as the villa was at the other side of the Algarve from the airport so I didn’t really have a choice. It is about a one hour drive although being a typical tourist it took me two and a half hours to reach the villa!! Portuguese drivers are crazy – it is up to you to keep an eye out for mental overtakers….. they do not seem to care that there is traffic coming towards them, they just go anyway and you have to swerve onto the hard shoulder to let them past (they have a hard shoulder on most roads thankfully!!!). They are also not happy with you on dual carriageways if you have not pulled over the instant that you are past a vehicle for overtaking – they ram up behind you flashing their lights until you move over. Once you get used to looking in a different direction for mirrors and using your right hand to change gears driving on the other side is actually not too bad. The only problem I had was when we went to Lisbon for the day (two and half hours drive according to rep – took me four hours!!) and while being forced up a twisty narrow street in a flow of traffic I misjudged the width of the car and scraped the hire car along the back of a jeep – oops!! INSURANCE That leads me nicely onto insurance (see, a little bit of planning does go into my ops even if it is not easily recognisable!!). When I took the hire car at the airport the man explained to me that there was a £300 (approx) excess on the car – fine I thought, I am not planning to have an accident anyway! Then he offered me this insurance for about £55 – I had no idea what it was for as I couldn’t really understand him. My mum is a true believer in insurance and she always goes on at me to make sure I am insured for practically everything, so hearing her voice inside me head (is that normal???) I said I would take it…… Just as well I did. Turns out that this is an excess waver insurance so if you have an accident, you don’t pay anything at all…… phew! I had a really stressful couple of days phoning home to the bank and begging them to up my credit card limit so I could pay the excess and it was all for nothing, I went to see the car hire company and they were not at all bothered. Just told me to fill in the accident form and hand it in when I bring the car back. So my advice to everyone hiring a car is TAKE THE INSURANCE!!!!! FLYING Flying was fine. We flew from Glasgow to Faro which takes about three hours. It was Britannia Airlines that we were with and the whole experience was really nice. The staff were nice and the food was a million times better than everyone told me it would be! There really isn’t anything to be scared about when taking your first flight – when you compare to other public transport like taking a bus, it is much comfier and you get food/drinks/tv programmes. It is a little scary when you hit some turbulence the first time as you automatically think the worse (well I did anyway!) but when you realise that no one else on the plane is panicking but you, you calm down again! Going through customs was fine. You know that on TV you see people going through the metal detector and they have to take off their belts, watches etc and put their money in a tray well it is not like that at all. We though it would be and my boyfriend kept trying to hand the security guy his cash from his pocket, who kept shaking his head and refusing it but my boyfriend couldn’t understand why and kept doing it – looked like we were trying to bribe them or something!! It was hilarious watching him (okay so you had to be there!!) CONCLUSION My overall opinion of the Algarve was that is was nice but I don’t think I would go back there. Don’t get me wrong – we had a nice holiday (apart from the car accident) and the people and scenery were really nice – but I think I was expecting it to be more exciting. It is a really lazy way of life out there which I would have thought would have suited me but it just wasn’t for me. Please don’t let me put you off going though – read other ops before making your mind up. And if you have any specific questions that you think I might know the answer too please drop me a line – I know what it was like trying to find answers to stupid questions!!

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                            21.07.2001 00:07
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                            Its over a year now since a spent an idyllic fortnight in the Algarve, Portugal. Alongside myself, 7 friends - we were all in couples booked a villa through an excellent company known as Something Special (www.somethingspecial.co.uk check it out for yourself). Flight times to the Algarve were excellent arriving at our destination before lunch; we collected our Fiat Puntos and headed off into the unknown. I hadn’t travelled to Portugal before and because of its close proximity to Spain l assumed that it was going to be a similar country. Well yes and no. Outward appearances would suggest you were in Southern Europe - you know dusty and sunny! Whilst the people were gentler, and the area was not over run with mad British/Irish holiday makers - a lot less frenetic and tacky. After making it to our luxurious villa (it really seem like an imitation of South Fork!) we were able to relax. Vilamoura itself was a purpose built resort and surround (so lm told l personally wouldn’t know nor care!) excellent golf courses - apparently some of them are world class! There are loads of cafe bars and restaurants surrounding the marine - some of the ships and boats are huge!! There is only one real nightclub, which is attached to the casino in the resort, and although it is on until 6 am a lot of locals frequent it. Also it seems the resort of choice for the sporting celebrity (again l wouldn’t know from Adam but) - on our trip members of the Portuguese football team, Alan Shearer and Lee Westwood were to be seen. Another tip about casino nite club - on entry you are given a bar card on which you charge drinks - at the end of your evening you must pay this bill - so depending on how worse for wear you get you could be presented with a hefty bill. I must be honest most of our days were spent lazing around our pool or at the beach. There is a soothing breeze, which gently laps against the Algarve making lying in the sun much more comfortable. Also the Algarve is not on the Med. but the Atlantic so the water is slightly cooler. The surrounding districts and villages of Almancil, Quarteria and Val de Lobe all house magnificent private villas - it really is something you would expect to see in OK magazine or the like. There are aqua parks and the one facility we did visit was that of ZooMarine - go see the dancing and roller skating parrots, the dolphins, seals and seal-lions. After all that take a dip in the onsite pool. Children love it. Now for what l enjoyed most - the restaurants - as we were mobile we were able to get out and visit the numerous eateries surrounding Vilamoura and indeed Albuferia. The cuisine was world class - we spent on average 3 to 4 hours a night soaking up the atmosphere, food and alcohol too needless to say! The Algarve was great for us, perhaps if you are looking for a more lively holiday this is the area for you but as we were in such a large group this was not an issue for us. Its great for couples older people and families. If you were in two minds l hope l have convinced you to give the Algarve a whirl!

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                              18.07.2001 23:48
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                              • "Watch out for the rogue nutty driver."

                              Anyone with very small children will know that the first couple of times you take your little family away on holiday, can be pretty hair raising and potentially stressfull. By the time you've packed everything you imagine you could possibly ever need, from factor 50 suntan lotion, swim nappies, and travel cots, to foriegn currency, passports and tickets, and something to keep the kids amused during the flight, you find yourself wondering if you can even be bothered to leave the house, never mind make the journey. As you drive to the airport, your car dangerously sagging under the weight of your luggage and baby 'must have's', you worry that even if the airline allows you to take all your over weight baggage with you, will the plane possibly make it off the ground anyway? What you need more than ever when travelling with little ones, is to know that when you finally reach your destination, you can unpack all that stuff, quickly assemble the travel cots, puts the kids to bed, change into a pair of shorts and a T-shirt, get an ice cold beer, then kick back and chill out. Sound like a good idea? Then perhaps Portugal, and more precisely Almancil near Vale do Lobo, the place we have taken holiday the last couple of years, could be for you. So why the Algarve? Well the flights around two and a half hours long, and with small kids(ours were 8 months and 2 years), thats long enough for me. If you have kids, or like most people, have had the 'pleasure' of travelling in a seat next to a toddler with ear ache on a flight, you'll probably agree. I would suggest taking a lunchtime flight however, this gives you time for last minute preparations before leaving, without having to get the kids up early, as well as arriving at a decent hour at the other end. Finding your resort in day light saves a lot of hastle, and gives you time to get a meal when you arrive. We stayed in a place called Almancil, just next to Vale Do Lobo, j ust one of the well known golf resorts along the coast, therefore we flew into Faro airport. On arrival, there's not much hastle, our cases made an appearance on the carousel pretty quickly, and then we were out through the doors and greeted by out car hire company, the dubiously named 'Zit' car hire. We arranged car hire on the internet before we went, and had no problems with our VW Sharon. Almancil is less than half an hour from the airport, and relatively easy to find. We are lucky enough to have a friend whose mother owns a villa on her large piece of property. It's spacious and private, and has a wonderful pool which is graduated so that my two year old was able to paddle in the shallow end. The pool and indeed the villa are surrounded by wonderful landscaped gardens, there is even a small lake with Koi Carp and water Lilly. Having a villa is great when you have little ones. During the day we were able to let the kids have a long siesta, while we enjoyed sunbathing round the pool, reading, and sipping cool drinks. You have the choice to eat out or stay in. We did a mixture of both. Eating out in the evenings with the kids was no trouble at all. The Portugese love children, and taking them out in the evenings is a way of life. We got into the habit of letting the kids sleep as long as possible in the afternoons so that they would be awake and enjoy the evenings. The resturants in the area are plentiful and varied, from Indian and Italian to the more traditional. You can eat traditional fayre very cheaply, and of course the wine is dead cheap too. Fish is always good, although a cliche, I love the salty taste of their grilled Sardines, and the clams are also delicious. All traditional resturants serve Piri Piri chicken, and some are hotter than others. This usually comes with salad and chips, and is yummy. 'Senoir Frango' is particularly good, although don't expect to get great fat chicken breasts, most chi cken served in the Algarve is a little on the lean side. Our favourite resturant is 'Casa do Campo, situated just outside of Almancil centre(Campcasa, Lda- Sitio dos Barros - 8135, Almancil). This is a little more pricey than your average resturant, but well worth it. If you go, be sure to book a table outside where you will sit beneath a huge and very beautiful Fig tree, illuminated by little lights. Ripe figs regularly drip onto the table, and the ever so nice Maitre D will come along with a device and pick the offending article. The English proprietor will bring you a plate of the catch of the day for you to take your pick. As well as sea food, there's steak, lamb, chicken, and for desert, and wonderfully tangy Crepe Suzette. When not eating out, having your own kitchen means you have everything you need to hand, including yoghurts and juice for the kids, and beer and wine for the grown ups! We enjoy cooking, so it's not a chore to pop to the local 'supermicado', and buy local produce, including delicious tomatoes, new potatoes that are worth writing home about, cold meats, interesting cheeses(of which the local goats cheese is brill), and warm freshly baked bread. We tended to eat lunch by the villa, and eat out at night. However, we also had a few 'BBQ's', where my husband was able to try out his own Piri Piri chicken, blowing our heads off in the process. What of places to go with the kids? Vale do Lobo has lovely beaches, and early in the morning they're deserted. This is a great time to take the kids for a walk, have a paddle and play with the bucket and spade. Its warm already, but cool enough not to overheat the kids. If they are going to wake you up at 7 every morning, you may as well make the most of it and wear the little tikes out! Situated in Vale do Lobo resort itself, are plenty of resturants and little shops. We took the kids down for a special treat, chocolate crepes for breakfast(we also ate out in the evening here at one of the resturants although it was not so good). There's a mini golf course which is always fun, although make sure you 'Slip Slop Slap' as they say, for although partially shaded, it gets hot and I managed to burn my shoulders. The Meridien hotel here runs a creche, but you can also pay to use it by the hour if you are not staying here. If you stay at Barringtons, a classy and expensive sports club/hotel, you can also use the creche at a discount. We used the creche twice, just for a hour. There are plenty of staff, a paddling pool, a climbing frame, plus loads of little vehicles and a bouncy castle. Around half an hour away at Albufeira, is 'Zoomarine', a theme park mascarading as a marine park. The park is well known for it's opportunities for the public to 'swim with the Dolphins'. I'm not sure how you feel about this, but we didn't partake. The Dolphin display was exciting, but I felt a little uneasy and didn't know whether to laugh or cry. The Dolphins are massively intelligent and appear willing, with reward, but I would have prefered to have seen them in the ocean. You can also see Seals, Sea Lions and Parrots, as well as take advantage of various rides designed for little ones, a small rollercoaster, numerous resturants that became hopelessly over crowded around lunch time, and extensive swimming pools. We had a fairly good day, but I couldn't help feeling that the animals were merely amusements, and their presence had little to do with conservation. Certainly their enclosures were dull, small, and lacking imagination. What about shopping? An early morning trip to the market in Loul'e is worth a mention. The Gypsy market in particular offers linens and leather products. If you are good at bartering you'll get some real bargains. We brought back some leather sandels for my son and a huge white embossed bed spread last year. This year we gave the market a miss however, because we had a smaller baby as well. If you want to go, go early before it gets crowded, and be prepared to haggle, personally, the whole haggling thing makes me feel uncomfortable. There are several potteries in the area. Some of the stuff is a little too like OTT, but other stuff is lovely. I have a collection of blue and white earthen wear which goes from oven to table. Beware, it's heavy, and may be tricky to get home. All in all, we have really enjoyed our trips to the Algarve. June is perfect. It's hot, but not as hot as it gets. Its relaxing, yes, even with small children, cheap to eat, and great if you love Mateus Rose(which is ridiculously cheap to buy). The people are friendly, and you find yourself getting that layed back holiday feeling in no time at all. Why not consider it?

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                                08.07.2001 21:14
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                                The ultimate holiday has to be the Algarve...a place which is suitable for anyone and everyone! If you are a couple with no family..then a romantic break to Portugal is a good choice. Where else is better to walk along the long, whie asndy beaches in total calm at night.. However, for families it is bliss too. All the childrens clubs are an option, available from travel operators, or the many hotels and appartments with tremendous facilities..pools and the likes..I know you get this in many places but Portugal for me has the edge. I love going to the Algarve, the food I ate last time I went was great. There was a lovely Italian restaurant called, Bélle Roché, and the quanity of food was great, taste supreme and excellent value for money. That particular restaurant is located in Praiá dé Roché at the end of the Main Street..of course if it is still there but I would look out for it!! If you love beaches then you would love the Algrave..for miles stretch long sandy beaches which are busy during the day..and calm at night! Weatherwise Potrugal is again a good option. The sun is always shining and if you are unlucky then you might have an odd shower one day..but pretty much the weather is what the United Kingdom needs..WARM! Portugal also has an excellent water park..similar to wet n wild ( read my opinion on that ) but not as big in comparison with a few less rides. T-Shirts though are strongly advised to be worn most of the time as the sun can be and is very strong. Finally, I would like to say..if you are going to the Algarve then I'm positive you will havre a great time, if you have been before then I'm sure you can agree with what I have said and if you have never been then try and visit the Algrave...it's out of this world!

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                                "The Algarve (from the Arabic الغرب — Al-Gharb, "the West") is the southernmost region of mainland Portugal, incorporating, amongst others, the cities of Faro, Albufeira, Lagos, Olhão, Tavira, Portimão and Silves. The Algarve is one of the Regions of Portugal according to NUTS II subdivisions. The region's administrative centre is the city of Faro, which has its own international airport (Faro Airport) and public university (University of the Algarve)."