For some reason it has taken me some time to go continue about this holiday. Well, after having gone in the direction of commercial locations in Portugal, such as Albufeira and Lagos, we went east to Tavera.
If you go east from Faro, you’ll find the other Algarve, as I’d like to put it. Obviously, you’ll find plenty of tourists in this direction as well. The sunny town of Tavera has plenty strolling around. What you don’t see however are English pubs, fast food chains and tons and tons of little tourist shops. It’s a bit more the direction you go for the locals.
Tavera has an amazing harbor, which is around this channel, with tiny coffee shops, nice little restaurants and people will always be out here to walk around. It’s a pleasant spot to sit down for a moment and wait for a ferry to take you to the beach. The beaches to the east of Faro are all located on islands of the coast. No biggie in the sunny season, because there’s going to be plenty of ferries to carry you across.
The beach island is 11 kilometres long and varies in the other dimension. One part is covered with a patch of forest, which is stuffed with restaurants, places to get a drink and some other forms of entertainment. Yeah, there it is… Well, you’d find that on any beach. In fact, this is better than the abandoned island restaurant with its monopoly and high prizes. It’s a busy place and an attraction for tourists.
It’s a bit windy, but you know…
I think this is all I wanted to say about Portugal actually. Again, Tavera is easy to reach by public transport and it’s a gorgeous town to have a walk through, it’s sunny, friendly and open. If you take the train from Faro to this town, you’ll find plenty other places to get of and go to the beach.
If you visit the Algarve, you should visit more of it than one place. There’s a beauty to this region and a strange emptiness when you go just before the season. Some options I explored here.
Faro is an interesting town on its own, but there’s much more to see in the Algarve. One would say that public transport is a bit chaotic, messy or untrustworthy, but it’s not that bad at all. Sure, you need to have a certain amount of patience but that’s public transport itself. everywhere.
It’s not like there’s a dense network of public transport options. There are busses, mainly travelling to and from the hubs, and there’s the train, which basicly has one track going east and one to the west. There’s also the track from Faro all the way north to Lisbon. This line really ends in Faro. The train is a bit more expensive compared to busses and the track to the west ends at Lagos. From there on you need a bus.
Sure, you can rent a car, which greatly widens the range of options for touristy visits of cool places, beaches and whatnot. There’s no airco that can beat the heat though and the travel times are quite long, so just being able to sit back for a few hours is really well worth it.
One of those places is the town called Lagos. It’s a 2,5 hour train ride from Faro through a stunning landscape (even when you’re in a wagon full of screaming children) and at the end of the railroad track. For me, that’s always going to be strange feeling, to be at the end of the railroad.
If you walk into the town from the station, you immediately enter the Marinara, the harbor and when you cross the bridge you’ll find the bus station and the center. African sellers are lining up their bags and belts on the sidewalks, while smoking some cigarettes and vendors try to sell you a trip out onto the sea.
The town was important during the seafaring days, when it also was the capital of the Algarve untill it was destroyed by a earthquake. Walking down the promenade, it feels very clean and open, which might have to do with how it was rebuild. The streets are beautiful and even in early pre-season swarming with people. We found a great place to have a simple, hearty Portugese meal and walked around through the town, enjoying its architecture and vibrant atmosphere.
Downside: Lagos is a haven for Brittish sun seekers, which means you’ll find little authenticity when it comes to bars, restaurants and such, specially around the Marinara. Lobster red elderly Brits are looking for shade in one of the ‘happy hour’ bars and watch the horse races. Home away from home I suppose.
It takes an hour or so by bus to get to our destiantion, which feels like literally reaching the corner of Europe and staring out onto the atlantic. Sagres is a sleepy little town around noon, for which the sweltering heat is one great explanation. The high cliffs offer a wonderful sight onto the sea and the gorgeous beaches, which are hidden from view unless you reach the edges.
Main attraction is the old fortress, which has served as an academy (allegedly) and looks over a beautiful bay. The town has been linked to prehistorical religious practise and throughout the ancient era as well by the Romans, Phoenicians and others. That always gives a peculiar aura to an area, specially this strange plateau on which the school/fort was supposed to have been. You can walk around there and picture yourself the folly that gripped man’s mind in the early age of Portugese discovery. Sailing out into the unknown. An age long lost it seems.
If you are a surfer, Sagres is definitely the place to be I’ve heard, so check it out.
We did skip visiting Albufeira, due to the long travelling time, but we lingered in Lagos a bit. Albureira is possibly the most touristic location on the southern Algarve and has some amazing parts to show, where millionaires build there houses and such. If you have the time, it’s definitely a place to either stay or visit at in the Algarve. Portimão is together with Faro one of the biggest towns and therefor a hub for the economy of the Algarve (during the off-season). Like Faro, it looks to the sea for a large portion of its income.
Going more inland is an option if you have your own transport, but it is very lowly populated. That might be your reason for going into it ofcourse. I guess bringing plenty of water is the best advice there. From Sagres on, going up north seems like a great drive as well, though some preparation might be useful too.
If you are not in Faro for very long, you can still see a ton of places. Make sure you bring a good book, always have a bottle of water and enjoy the train rides. You can also go east ofcourse, towards a more tempered climate and if you have the time even to see 3 countries.
So I totally had forgotten about my trip to Faro, Portugal (it was cool), by which I mean that I never wrote about my stay in Faro. Due to some issues in our personal lives, me and the misses decided to go on a quick trip to the most southern point of Europe this far for us.
Sometimes the motivation to go somewhere is very simple: money and time. We didnt have the time we wanted to go see what we wanted, so we just wished to get away for a short spell. Five days of Faro was a cheap option so we took it. Originally we hoped to also see Porto, but well. I guess that makes the motivation bigger than the budget in this case.
We stayed in the New Faro Hostel, which is a small, quiet hostel with one of the most helpful and friendly (and chaotic) owners I’ve ever met. The building was across the street from the train station and had the air of an old house, of which kind you see many in the transit town Faro. For travelling its a hub, it connects the whole Algarve to the north and has its own airport. It may seem small and a bit run down, but Faro has a charm of its own, holding a university and some beautiful beaches.
There’s a clear flavor of history to the town, though it probably never was as significant. It’s the surrounding nature that holds the most interest, specially the Ria Formosa, a wetlands region, which is also a protected nature reservate. It feels like you are in the Mississipi delta (I haven’t been there, don’t judge me), when you go through it on a pond to the ‘Illa Deserta’ to lie on the almost empty beach. The zone is a joy to watch and teaming with life. Only this makes it worth to stay in Faro for one day. On the island itself, you can walk around it to end up on the beach. You can see the town from there and a wide view, with many birds nestling on the island.
The town itself offers plenty of locations where the thirsty or hungy traveller can indulge his or her wishes. The hidden Academic restaurant is one well worth visiting for no-nonsense local food, fresh from the ocean. Sardines will always be a struggle, but life is a bit like that. You make do, whatever way you can. Make sure to try the local fish cuisine if you ever end up there. You can smell the ocean, so you better be sure to taste it there, specially made in a Cataplana. This is a copper, shell-shaped pan that betrays the Arabic origins of many of the traditions in these regions.
Enjoy a glass of wine or a craft beer in the lovely little bar next to the harbor and just enjoy Faro. That’s what I did atleast.
There’ s a tiny chapel of bones in Faro too. Here’s a picture:
Sometimes there’s nothing better to do in life, than sitting in the sun and reading Hemmingway. I guess that time has come for me this holiday. I feel very much like not doing that much. While we are mere hundreds of meters away from the sea, the moskitos are piercing my skin without much resistance, much like the ideas that set my mind tumbling about.
What to do , what to pick? Will I be able to do this or to do that? Today I met a buyer of shoes from Scotland, he told me that shoes from Portugal are pretty much the most awesome thing you can get if you want shoes. I didn’t know that,. I don’t know what the thing is that I know and others don’t. That would be the thing that should be making me some money.
I do know one thing and that is to buy shoes in Portugal. I should be able to get a superb pair of leather shoes for 65 euros tops here I heard. That is all the knowledge I have to offer, gained in the only craft beer bar in Faro, the once brimming haven of Portugal’s magnificent south.
Today I ate some sardines, fried and well. You know, like from the grill, the way they eat it here. After a severe struggle I managed to eat two and a slice of salmon. I asked the waitress what the trick was, when she questioned us on the succes of our meal. She said: “The only way is with patience…” So, Sardines, life is kinda like that. Not just in the Algarve.