Portugal 2003  

This was Mike's first visit to Linda's parents' timeshare in Alvor but he was confident enough that he would enjoy it that even before we left home we'd already booked our second trip - for four days after our return from the first one! This might seem a strange arrangement but Linda only had a few days of holiday remaining from work and November is a difficult time for Mike to leave the business for an extended period so a compromise was reached.

Our first visit was for a full week and some site seeing was in order. Our first outing was a drive up to the top of the Monchique mountains to admire the view, unfortunately the weather was a bit hazy so the view wasn't all that spectacular. On the way back down we stopped at the town of Monchique and took a walk to the old 17th century monastery where a friendly portuguese gentleman offered to give us a tour. However since the tour seemed to be of his rather ramshackle home rather than the monastery (which was also extremely neglected) we politely declined and made our escape back down the hill.

On leaving Monchique we headed west across country taking a circular route home to see some of the countryside.  The first several miles were rather bleak since the area had been hit by some severe fires earlier in the year and many of the olive groves and fields were completely burnt out.

Another day saw us in Lagos where we visited the local museum with it's interesting collection of traditional artifacts, archeological finds and two-headed cats. The museum is connected to the church of San Antonio which is richly decorated with gilded carvings. Since it was raining we then retreated to a restaurant to pass some time before spending some time wandering around the shops in search of items for our "stash".

Although Linda has been visiting the Algarve for many years she has tended to stay close to her sun bed and so had never been out to the western end of the region. That was our agenda for another day out and we headed off to Sagres where we stopped to visit the 15th century fortress at Ponta de Sagres. We then went on to visit the lighthouse at Cabo de São Vicente. The rugged coastline of this area is quite spectacular and definitely worth a visit.

Another trip to Lagos found us searching for a Cataplana to bring home. This is a traditional portuguese clam like cooking pot, usually made of copper that is clamped shut for preparing a variety of steamed and braised dishes. We managed to find both copper and aluminium versions and, satisfied with our success, headed to a restaurant to celebrate with a little lunch. The afternoon was occupied with a visit to the beautiful grotto at Ponta da Piedade.

We flew home after a week but returned to Alvor the following thursday evening for a long weekend. This visit was spent revisiting some of our favourite restaurants and adding a few items, such as Port and Piri-Piri sauce, to our "stash".

Some of our favourite restaurants include:

Vagabondo - situated in a restored townhouse, has wonderful cook-your-own sausages (perfect for the pyromaniac in the family, and, not typically portuguese but tasty, racks of ribs with an orange barbeque sauce.

Pôr do Sol - a mixture of european and portuguese dishes. Great fish soup, perfectly cooked chateaubriand and an entertaining selection of flambeed desserts.

Barrote - situated in Praia da Rocha, this is the only restaurant we have to drive to but it's worth it for the delicious kebabs which are served on long metal skewers which dangle from a support above your plate.

Harbour fish restaurants - any of these are great for lunch, sit in the sun and watch the freshly caught sardines being cooked on charcoal grills, then enjoy the fruits of other peoples labours with boiled potatoes, salad and a glass of beer, perfect holiday food.

O Capacho - a typical family run restaurant serving local cuisine, if you're lucky they might have Linda's favourite dessert on the menu. Pudim Molotov is a cross between meringue and creme caramel and is extremely sweet though surprisingly light.

Adega d'Alvor - typical Algarvean dishes including chicken piri-piri and lots of fresh fish.