Planning a trip to Portugal?
Read about my short break to discover things to do in the Algarve and Lisbon.
I try to get away at least once every couple of months. If I don’t do that I’ll go insane. No really, I’ll literally go mad.
This time I had my heart set on Portugal and have done for a long time. Mainly because I’ve somehow managed to teach myself Portuguese and I’ve been desperate to get to a country where I can put it to use.
My friends that have been before all tell me to goto Porto as they know I’m a fan of beautiful ancient architecture and winding cobbled streets. But I left the booking of this holiday down to my friend Vix. She told me that she had booked the cheapest apartment in the world and that we would be staying in Vilamoura in the Algarve.
Much time passed until I chose to actually look this place up. Much to my dismay I saw that the Algarve is basically the South Coast of Portugal, hundreds of miles away from Porto which is located in the North. (I’m sure that everybody already knows this, but if like me your working knowledge of Geography is similar to that of a 5 year old then hopefully I’ve taught you something new). Either way I knew I would have a great time as I was travelling with my two buddies.
We chose to fly at stupid o’clock in the morning and reached our resort way before check in time. We sat down in our local restaurant for a dirty English fry-up and a pint first thing which was strongly encouraged by our very English waitress.
Now I must say that I am strongly against English speaking resorts or doing anything remotely English whilst I’m in a foreign country. I’m so against it in fact that I have written an entire post on it.
We then checked into our apartment at the Oasis Village for which we had paid just £100 for 5 nights! What we got for the price was absolutely incredible. I was expecting some seriously dirty digs for the price and we were all shocked when we walked in and found a spacious lounge with an open plan kitchen, separate bathroom and patio area. It was pretty damn amazing and probably one of the best places I’ve stayed in for a while (Despite being haunted by a phantom ticking radiator). I actually think they must have given us the wrong room but we won’t dwell on that…
Our first evening was spent at the Marina which is the main hub of activity in Vilamoura. I was dubious at first due to the choir of karaoke caterwauling coming from the many Irish bars. It was like I hadn’t left the UK. But after spending sometime at the Marina we came across some amazing bars and restaurants including the Atlantic Piano bar where we were serenaded by one of the best acoustic performers I’ve heard anywhere.
The Marina is lined with some really impressive bars, all with outdoor seating areas by the water. A lot of them have white, sleek furniture and have a very sophisticated la-de-dah appearance. We couldn’t help but notice the €1000 price tag on some of the bottles of champagne. It's a very stark contrast to the €2 pints on offer in the Irish bars. Obviously we chose to drink in the more upmarket bars as we are oh so classy.
I would recommend Deck 21 with it’s slouchy giant bean bag seats and extensive cocktail menu. A DJ was playing a minimal house set which set a very ‘Ibiza beach holiday’ mood. I also enjoyed the best brunch of the holiday at News Restaurant Bar which is much of the same with it’s elegant decking area.
Surprisingly we didn’t get trollied during this trip, mainly as the prime time for dining seems to be around 10pm – as is the case in most European cities. And once our stomaches were not only lined but completely full there wasn’t much room for boozing.
During the day there are plenty of excursions to take including diving, horse riding, quad biking, boat trips, booze trips. You name it they do it. We decided to take a 3 hour, 15 Euro boat trip to some “nearby” coves. Bare in mind you really do get what you pay for. For this we endured a one hour trip to a cliff face where we were thrown into a dingy and zoomed around at top speed leaving me clinging on for dear life and taking rubbish/blurred photos whilst preying my iPhone wouldn’t end up on the ocean floor. The whole way back I watched Nisha gagging into a paper bag and Vix near having a panic attack due to there being no toilet on board.
The local beach is Praia da Falesia. If you like large stretches of white sand, white plastic beds under thatched umbrellas and guys that hassle you to buy a load of old toot then this is the place for you. On the plus side if you can tolerate the waves, the sea here is better than anywhere else we found on the coast. *To whoever stole my £1 Primark sunglasses – You suck*
On day two we stumbled across Vilamoura Old Village. THIS is what I imagine when I think of The Algarve – White stone Mediterranean style houses with wooden shutters and wrought iron balconies. Funnily enough there is nothing ‘Old’ about it. The whole place looks polished and untouched. However this doesn’t steal the beauty from it. We sat down in a cute little cafe named Acasa Largo where we were served by our Scouse waitress (You better believe I was rolling my eyes). No matter how authentic The Old Town appears, you won’t find the Portuguese here either.
The resort town of Vilamoura is a lovely place to be. It’s like a pristine bubble which for me doesn’t really seem to bare any resemblance to the rest of Portugal. But Portugal is the country I had come to see so a day trip to Lisbon was most definitely in order.
We were picked up at 6am and sat on a coach for 4 hours. I fell in love with the driver when he courageously took on the winged beast terrorising everybody on board (Hornet). In Lisbon we were shown the Jeronimos Monastery and I got to lay eyes on Belem Tower a Unesco World Heritage Site: If you read travel blogs it’s pretty big deal. For everybody else it’s just a cool looking building.
Lisbon is yet another European city steeped in history with grand architecture, winding cobbled streets and alley-ways so narrow even Naomi Campbell would have a tough time. Basically it has everything I love.
Rather than shiny new buses the best method of transport in the city are the old trams. Line 28 and line 12 were actually recommended to us a cheaper alternative to a paid tour. The city is quite hilly in parts so to explore on foot can become pretty brutal. I didn’t feel like it was teeming with tourists, it all felt very cultural and here is where I used my Portugeae the most
There are many quirky ways to explore including Segways, mini motor cars or even Tuk Tuk! Of course we opted for Tuk Tuk and I was more than excited as I was a Total Tuk virgin. It’s all we needed for the limited time we had and the things he told us I preferred to all the usual “In 1658 blah blah boring”. Marco, our driver, even took us to the best view points and snapped away with our cameras like a pro. Definitely my sort of tour.
If we had more time I would have liked to of spent the night in Lisbon as we only saw a small portion of a city that deserves a day or more.
Travel Tip Shared by The Lost Londoner