Portugal - I love this little country, the westernmost country of continental Europe stretched along the Atlantic Ocean. Portugal has so much to offer with its beautiful major cities Lisbon and Porto, the historic villages and castles, the wine regions, the rough west coast, ideal for surfing, and the milder southern coast of the Algarve. The Algarve is mostly known and visited for its sandy coves framed by golden cliffs, but the area I am attracted to since many years is the less known eastern part of southern Portugal between Faro and the Spanish boarder.
The East Algarve is a paradise for nature lovers (and water birds) with its Ria Formosa lagoon Natural Reserve. Life in the small villages here like Fuzeta and Santa Luzia is calm and dominated by the sea and fishing. The villages are not made pittoresque for tourists, their charme is still real and honest. You can find beauty in the weathered paints of the old houses and fishing boats, the cobblestoned alleys, the turquoise blue lagoon landscape and the green hinterland with its old cork and olive trees - and in the restrained friendliness of the people. (By the way, no one would ever order a coffee to go here. ;-)
Tavira is a beautiful, historic town, nestled along the Gilão River with whitewashed buildings, Moorish style doors and rooftops, an impressive Roman bridge and 37 churches! It also has a vivid art-scene and you can find good yoga classes here. Where to eat? I would say, you´ll find plenty of restaurants serving excellent regional dishes: grilled fish with salad and potatoes or portuguese seafood rice, simply perfect! We like A Barquinha, a small portugeuese restaurant at the quay behind the market hall. Or, if you want something else than the traditional dishes, try Aquasul, a pretty and mosaic filled restaurant run by a dutch mother and daughter and serving good international meals.
Souvenirs? In the Mercearia Conserveira we found delicious organic olive oil and fleur de sel from the region to take home. The beautiful old shop and friendly owner is definitely worth a visit. You´ll also find pretty handcrafted gifts at Casa das Portas.
We spent our Saturday mornings on the market in Olhão. Olhão is actually the largest fishing port in the Algarve and has many 'faces' - if you approach from the fishing port side it looks industrial and not very attractive. However, it is full of character with Moorish-style houses and there is a long, very pleasant, paved promenade along the waterfront which leads you to the 2 beautifully restored market halls. One for fish and one for fruit and vegetables. The market halls are open every morning but on Saturdays there are also the local farmers building up their stands along the waterfront. You not only find all kinds of locally-grown fruits and vegetables, olives, honey, flowers but also birds and hens and rabbits. (It was not easy to convince Milla that she can´t take one of the little rabbits home.)
The house we stayed in, Vivenda Utspan, is a small, private vacation home with a beautiful saltwater-pool and big garden with old Alfarroba trees and agave plants. It is only rented via personal recommendation. If you are interested, send me an email.
Vivenda Utspan is located in the hills of Moncarapacho, a 20 minute drive from the beautiful beaches of Ria Formosa - which I will show you in my next post!
I hope you enjoyed my very first travel tip for Over The Ocean. B
PS: Milla wearing dresses from buho, tocoto vintage and april showers by polder as well as Bobo Choses top and pants - all from Over The Ocean. All photos by Birgit Sfat.