Algarve, Portugal – Sun and Sea

Posted in Blog, Europe, Featured, Portugal

Portugal’s southern coast, known as the Algarve, is famous for its 100 miles of Atlantic Ocean beaches and 300 days a year of sunshine. It has long drawn Europeans, and it’s true that some of the coastal development is dense and unattractive. Yet the region remains mostly unspoiled, and especially in the western Algarve you find quiet towns and villages, dramatic cliffs and rock formations, beautiful coves and grottos, intimate beaches.

I took an early bus from Seville to Lagos, the westernmost of the coastal towns. I had bought a ticket on a “directo” bus, which I thought meant nonstop. I was clearly mistaken, as the bus stopped at town after town, especially once over the border in Portugal. By the time we reached my destination and the end of the line, Lagos, I was the last passenger on the bus. My friendly Portuguese bus driver helped me drag my suitcase to the taxi stand–the first of many kindnesses shown to me in Portugal.

The taxi driver delivered me to the driveway of Vivendas Johanna, a complex of apartments and guest houses set in a lush garden overlooking the ocean. The lovely Johanna herself welcomed me, showed me my comfortable apartment and pointed out the path that lead to a pair of gorgeous beaches just below. I put on something light and settled on the chaise lounge on my private terrace, to relax and absorb the sun on my skin, the sparkling ocean below, seagulls and bees and butterflies amid a profusion of agave and succulents, palms and spring flowers … I was already falling under the spell of this place that I would call home for the next three weeks. In a little while I was sleeping deeply.

My friend Sieta Bel arrived on a budget flight from Amsterdam on a night of high winds. Winds are characteristic of this area, along with its mild Mediterranean climate, sunshine, and scant rain. On a brilliant morning, we hiked the trails that followed along the top of the dramatic coastline to a lighthouse and a famous landmark, the Ponte de Piedade. This is a breathtaking area of golden yellow limestone and sandstone cliffs slashed by crevices and caves, sheltered little beaches of fine sand, emerald green water and wild offshore formations, white surf and deep blue cloudless sky. At Ponte de Piedade we boarded a skiff to see the same area from the other perspective–from the sea–and to get inside the caves and grottos. At the trailhead to our favorite beach, we spoke to a young and handsome spear fisherman on his way to hunt for sea bounty. He promised to spear us something good which he would then sell to our nearby beach restaurant, where we could enjoy it for dinner that night.

 

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