Saturday, July 9, 2016

Weekend Adventure {Algarve Region, Portugal}

Over the long 4th of July weekend, we decided last minute to take a trip to southern Portugal.  We had heard wonderful things about the Algarve region on Portugal -- it's about a four hour drive so a perfect weekend getaway spot.

Oh man -- this area is simply gorgeous.  How has it taken me this long to get my behind to Portugal?!  Trevor and I were both shocked how different Spain and Portugal were despite being right next to each other.  Obviously the language is different, Portugal is in a different time zone (again with the time zone issue -- refresh your memory here), only public businesses are closed on Sundays -- other stores, grocery stores, restaurants are all open, the food and flavorings are amazing....  Even more shocking was the amount of English (mostly British or Australian English) we heard.  Southern Portugal is a huge vacation spot for many Europeans and it was obvious -- everyone spoke English, it was bustling with people and there are many hotels, resorts and more catering to all the tourists.

We stayed at a hotel in Lagos -- I loved Lagos but would pick a different hotel.  And not because it was a bad hotel, we would just pick one that is slightly more child friendly.  While they did have a crib we could use for Serafina and a kid's pool, we never saw any other kids at the hotel and when we did take Serafina to the pool, it was dead silent despite being packed with people sunbathing.  So if you are going to Lagos without kids -- then stay at the Tivoli Lagos!  Otherwise, I will gladly take suggestions for places to stay that are actually child friendly.

Lagos is a beach and tourist town through and through (along with the majority of towns in the Algarve region).  There are massive amounts of water sport activities to do, as well as shopping and sunbathing, but very few tourist attractions that don't involve the beach/water!  We did take Serafina to the pool one afternoon, but it was difficult to find activities for toddlers.  Don't let this discourage you from going -- just be forewarned.  If you have older children there seemed to be plenty of activities to chose from -- ZoomarineAqualand, full-day boat trips and more.

But with all that said, we still had a wonderful weekend.  We arrived on Saturday afternoon, got checked in at our hotel and just walked around the small old town.  Lagos' old town has shops, restaurants and plenty of bars -- we ate at Nah Nah Bah which is a burger place that is home of the Toucan Burger winner of the Top 50 Burgers in the World.  I actually wasn't that big a fan of the burger but the fries, oh man they were amazing.  They are like soft potato chips dipped in garlic sauce -- it sounds gross but I will go back for those fries.

The next day we went on a boat tour of the grottoes -- most of southern Portugal is on cliffs which creates amazing views from the water, various grottoes along the coast and secluded beaches only accessible by boat (or an insane amount of stairs). We only took an hour tour because of Serafina (she hated her life jacket and lucky fell asleep about 10 minutes into the ride) but we loved seeing the gorgeous coastline -- we saw the famous Dona Ana Beach (rated top in the world) from the water and it was stunning.  If we went back without our Peanut, I would for sure take a kayak trip or a longer boat tour.  We went with Days of Adventure tours and loved our skipper!  Most tour companies offer similar experiences at similar prices but I would definitely recommend Days of Adventure.

Dona Ana Beach

this beach had over 250 stairs to get down to the beach

We spent some time at our hotel pool where Serafina only wanted to run straight to the big pool, so we packed up and headed up the coast to Sagres, Portugal -- the former end of the world.  Sagres is now a backpacker and surfers' paradise and again, so incredibly gorgeous.  We drove out to the Cabo São Vincente lighthouse which is the most westerly point in mainland Europe.  I am not even going to describe the views because they were unreal; I will let the pictures do the talking -- but know that it is shear drop offs on either side straight to water with no railings so definitely not a place to let kiddos run around.

On Sunday night we ate at Bora Cafe -- it was a combination juice bar, actual bar and restaurant and it was amazing.  We ordered a few appetizers (so good) but the highlight were our milkshakes.  They weren't like milkshakes you'd get in the states -- it was made with fresh frozen fruit and milk, so like a frothy thicker milk with intense fruit flavor.  That doesn't make sense at all but it was heavenly.  And Serafina devoured half of pizza -- we will be back to this place!

And then it was Monday and our time in Portugal was ending.  On our way home we stopped in Albufeira -- another beach/tourist down in the Algarve region and another gorgeous spot to visit.  Albuferia tends to have bigger hotels and resorts with a lot of beach activities -- the main beaches in town had lots of activities: jet skiing, a floating obstacle course type thing (it looked fun), beach volleyball and more.  We ate amazing Portuguese pastries while wandering through town -- the pastel de nata which is like a mini custard pie that isn't overly sweet but so delicious and also a doughnut type thing filled with the same egg custard used in the pastel de nata.  Trevor and I were immediately reminded of malasadas from Hawaii (which are Portuguese doughnuts).  We should've bought a dozen of each and brought them back home!

Portugal was wonderful and we can't wait to go back!

I forgot to mention that driving to (and in) Portugal can be tricky because of ALL THE TOLLS -- I swear there is literally a toll every kilometer and there are no toll booths, it is all done electronically.  So for us, when we cross the boarder there is an exit immediately after the boarder (super easy to miss) where you can drive through a toll booth type place that swipes your credit card while using cameras to attach your card to your card license plate.  This will then allow you to drive through all the tolls, no problems.

I recently took a girls trip back to Portugal with the sole purpose of buying pottery and wine (two things that are amazing in Portugal).  We chose to stay in between Lagos and Albufeira at a resort and we loved it.  We stayed at a villa at VidaMar and it was amazing and so freaking huge -- we had two bedrooms, two full baths, a full-sized kitchen and our own small private swimming pool.  We had NO idea that we would be living large when we booked the place, and since it was off season it was so incredibly cheap!  The resort was right on the beach and had a wonderful spa (that we took full advantage of) -- and it was just fantastic.  The only downside was that it was far away from any town, restaurants or nightlife and sadly the food we ate on the resort property was pretty bad.  But because there was a full sized kitchen we were able to make food and then drive into Albufeira one night for dinner.  While our villa was amazing, it wasn't the most toddler friendly place -- glass railings, easy access to the pool...  So this is a place for couples or families with older kiddos, but we still loved it and I definitely recommend going during off season!  

1 comment :

  1. What a trip and WONDERFUL pictures. Your description of the foods just makes me hungry!!


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