i am a portu-gal

I have always considered getting on a plane in pursuit of a little winter sun to be a little bit soft. I am often to be found proclaiming that England is beautiful in every season and there is something of value whatever the weather. The bleak, spare, winter landscape reveals a purist beauty that sustains the truly discerning nature-lover...

I have been irritating people with this point of view for many years now, but all that is in the past because this year I have discovered... the Algarve!

Now I am a Grandma* my bones are beginning to feel the cold, and so we counted up our airmiles and worked out how far south we could fly without having to resort to eating our own skin out of boredom. The answer was - is - Faro...

Knowing nothing about southern Portugal, I had no idea what to expect, but what we found exceeded anything we had imagined. This is what we discovered:

A landscape nursed by sunlight, low-lying near the coast, with sand-spit lagoons protecting acres of saltmarshes filled with birds and inlets and little boats and ricketty houses and the smell of the sea.

Further along there are miles of nearly deserted sandy beaches, clean and warm with the sparkling turquoise waters of the Atlantic rushing and tugging at your feet. Fishing towns with wonderfully distressed houses and paintwork and Moorish castles and little cobbled streets.

Inland, there is a pinky white froth of almond blossom, carob and olive orchards, endless groves of oranges and lemons in their plump citrussy beauty, black-and-white storks nesting high in the chimneys of abandoned sardine factories, and exquisite Arabic influenced architecture. Further away are the hazy mountains with twisting roads leading to little white villages surrounded by wild mimosa, cork forests and row upon row of tiny umbrella pines grown for their pine nuts.

I am a total convert. Yes, there are expensive yachts and manicured golf-courses and big ugly concrete hotels and conversely an awful lot of rural poverty and sad little dogs outside deserted farmhouses and other things you might rather not see. But somehow these things make it more real, and I like that. It is a really lovely place.

This is a cork oak which has been stripped for its bark- the number 0 on the trunk shows that it was done last year. Seven years have to go by before the cork can be harvested again.

If you are tempted to go I cannot recommend highly enough the wonderful Quinta da Cebola Vermelha which is run by a lovely Dutch family in the countryside near Boliquieme. Everything is exquisitely tasteful, the food is delicious, the rooms are scrupulously clean, there is a pool and an olive grove and cypress trees and a log fire for cold evenings and a sweet little rescue dog called Jojo.

There are some more photos on Flickr including lots of the gorgeous, delicate, beautifully coloured, tangled fishing nets.

PS On the menu below, what would you have chosen...?

* This is a wonderful excuse for all kinds of previously scorned-upon behaviour

22 comments:

marigold jam said...

When can I go?!! Looks wonderful and like you I am not keen on long distance travel but it looks as though that place would be a million miles away from dull grey England in January/February though to be truthful it is lovely here today and the skies are blue, sun is shining and daffodils in bloom everywhere.

Thanks for taking me on a brief trip to somewhere I had never been.

Jane

Gina said...

It sounds blissful.

Chrissie said...

OK now I want to go and I'm not even a grandma! It certainly sounds more successful than your last little jaunt away - hooray!

Mag said...

So very delightful! What a wonderful tonic!

Your lovely descriptions evoked two little memories from more than 30 years ago: mimosa, and oranges (of some kind) on trees in January or February. I was unaccustomed to seeing either so there was quite a wow factor.

rachel said...

I think there are flights from Newcastle too.... I'm not a grandma, but I could pretend......

Magic Cochin said...

Beautiful photos! So much nicer than the travel brochures!

I not a grandma, my bones don't yet creak and I even find English winters quite inspiring - but a little dose of winter sun is a great pick-me-up when life gets a bit over-the-edge. I've not been to the Algarve - but the vineyards of North Portugal are lovely in Autumn ;-)

I feel a sunshine break calling me... so may just be flying south soon myself.

Celia
x

caireen said...

just the tonic for february - and of course a wee glass of bear :) Cx

Gigibird said...

You should become a travel writer...I think after the winter we've had we all deserve a bit of sunshine.

InĂªs said...

I'm happy you've enjoyed visiting Portugal! We're tucked all the way in the corner of Europe, but our beaches and countryside are just terrific.

Vintage Tea Time said...

Yes, Portugal's fab, isn't it? Love Faro and around. Great photos! The Ile de Tavira used to be lovely, don't know if it's been built on much in recent years. re the menu - Mine's a half of bear please! Are you going at 1/2 term? Enjoy if you are. x

christine said...

Well, you've very nearly tempted me - I admit we never think of the Algarve but have been told several times we should...perhaps we will now. And yes, being a grandma has it's definite advantages!!!

alice c said...

What a wonderful place to go and soak up some winter sun. I am a total convert to the beneficial effect of Mediterranean sunshine in January and I am so glad that you had the same experience.

sea-blue-sky & abstracts said...

Glad that you had such a lovely holiday Sue - Faro and surrounding area looks wonderful. Portugal looks an inviting destination.

Gilly said...

Those are fantastic photos! You capture the spirit of the place so well by seeing the little things

And Grandmas's are allowed to go south for warmth. Its in the contract! ;)

Sue said...

I feel like I've been on holiday just looking at those gorgeous photos! Hope you came back feeling refreshed and invigorated and ready to do battle with the rest of the British winter.

A still small voice said...

I am very jealous, I shall be lucky if I make it to Salts mill this week, I need to hiberate before the big event...hope you have a lovely time...H

Jackie said...

Beautifully described. There will be a rush now.

rossichka said...

What a lovely escape in pursuit of some sunshine and warmth! You've discovered a truly nice place, with its own "taste and smell". I've never travelled to Portugal, but I've heard lovely words about being there from friends of ours - musicians, who have been there on a tour. Lovely photos - such vivid colours in a contrast with the abandoned places!... Reading about citrus trees, cork forests and mimosa seems so exotic to me!... I'm sure you feel refreshed now and your soul is delighted! Thanks for sharing!:)

Monica said...

Portugal? Never been... but you're putting up a very very good argument in its favour!!!

JP said...

so glad you are enjoying all your different breaks - we have had a love of the Algarve and its people for the last 15 years!!!!!!!!

annekata said...

Oh, your images stir up so many memories. I lived at the Algarve in the 90's for almost a year and remember well the mix you describe of big ugly things and quiet beauty. The beach of Monte Clerigo on the west coast (a bit of a drive) remains one of my favorites beaches and I remember spending time in Loule.
Have a lovely lovely stay!

elizabethm said...

Now that is not fair! I definitely commented on this and it has disappeared! Looks fab was the gist.