This summer my parents decided to take my sister and I on a little family trip. The last time we did this was last year when they came to visit me in China, and that wasn’t quite the relaxing trip my Dad had in mind, so this time we decided to go somewhere totally chilled, with few people, a place where we could laze away the days, with just each other’s company for entertainment. Yeah, we were wrong. Hello EVERYONE from Europe on their summer holiday…The Algarve, Portugal, at the height of summer apparently…
Despite the fact that we had to share the beach with ALL of Europe, it was actually beautiful. This was my second time to Portugal and I’d never realised just how pretty it is. As soon as you get away from the rows upon rows of colourful umbrellas and beach bodies, you’re in for quite the treat. We were staying in a little resort in Armacao de Pera, and the old town and back streets of this part of the coast were brimming-full of beauty.
The first day of this trip was spent reading on the beach with occasional dips in the ocean, as well as lots of ice cream and laughter. On the second day we decided to ditch the crowds of sun-lovers and head for a bit more culture. We rented a car and headed for some tiny little villages to get a taste of local life. Our first stop was Alte, the cutest village I’ve ever been to (apart from my own- Strathkinness- of course). It was exactly as I envisioned it to be; sleepy, white-washed walls, with littles cafes filled with exquisite home baked treats-made from secret recipes from generations before. I tasted the local almond bake and it was amazing. Mostly though, I just loved meandering along the cobbled streets filled with snoozing locals on a siesta. In these little Portugese villages it’s tradition to paint around your door and windows with a bright, uplifting colour. I think I took a photo of every pastel pink, mint green and sunny yellow I saw. I felt so relaxed and happy to be given the chance to explore this little piece of Portugese life. I love getting a peek at how people live their lives when I’m traveling. I can’t fathom that some people might never leave their beloved sun-lounger.
There was even a local Chinese shop. They really are everywhere!
This photo above is the name of the most delicious cafe in Alte. If you ever visit, I recommend going here and sitting on their balcony overlooking the hills, while enjoying an almond cake or two. Below, is another goodie.
Our second stop that day was Silves, the former capital of the Algarve. It had a big castle and was very cute, but we didn’t spend too long there as it was ridiculously boiling and built on a hill. My Mum and I did a bit of exploring before moving on to the next stop.
We then found ourselves in Lagos (Portgual Lagos, not Nigeria Lagos- just incase you were wondering…). I wish we’d had more time here as it was filled with amazing street-art and boutiques and cafes that I’d have loved to crawl all day. It looked like it had a pretty happening night scene too. Lagos is right on the coast and the ocean is just a step away. There were a lot of beautiful boats nestled in the harbour and I had such an urge to just jump on one and set sail.
We went to Salena beach at the end of the day to catch the sunset and throw ourselves into the crisp, cool ocean. It was a hot hot day.
The next day we rented a car again. It was too much fun exploring the first day to resort back to lying on the beach again. Some people will indeed think we’re crazy. We go away to completely relax and yet, somehow we actually end up driving around, laughing hysterically as we get lost (this is even with a tom-tom) and tiring ourselves out more than we are back home in Scotland. However, I wouldn’t change it for the world. We had so much fun. This day was definitely the best one. We drove high into the mountains to Monchique, the highest point in the Algarve. It was like entering a dream town. I could live there, no, but seriously. It was like coming home. Again, it was built on very hilly-cobbled streets and filled with candy-coloured houses and shops. There was an old monastery high on the hill which I dragged my family up to. It was destroyed in the 17th century in a big earthquake that devastated the area. Despite this, it was still beautiful. I love the way flowers interweave with ruins and give it a magical, other-worldy glaze. This town was filled with old people gossiping on street corners and relaxing in the shade with an ice-cool coffee. It was sleepy and perfect.
Mum decided we should go check out the beach from the first time we went to Portugal, back in 1991. Back then it was like our own private beach, completely deserted. Just us, the wide expanse of ocean and the red rock background. Now, however, it’s a different story…hello rest of Europe. It’s still absolutely stunning though. It’s called Falesia beach and it’s close to Albufeira. I recommend it just for the dramatic red rocks.
It was truly a magical little getaway. I don’t think it matters that the rest of Europe decided to join us because we had such a special time. We were originally going to go to Italy, but decided we’d do that next year instead. Portugal is gorgeous. It’s a pastel palette of cute, quaint little houses and old locals snoozing in the shade of their little shops. I’d definitely go back and next time I’d be sure to make a trip to Lisbon-the capital city, to check out more of Portugal’s history and culture.