Day 950 – The Algarve – 7 Oct 12

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Day 950 – The Algarve – 7 Oct 12
Primarily this blog is aimed at keeping our daughter in the UK, Chloe, abreast of our adventures in Europe. Additionally, we hope that other readers will find snippets of info regarding campsites, prices and foreign travel interesting or perhaps just informative.
For piccies see

Hi Clo,
Departed Lisboa around 10am with a helping push from 2 French chaps driving swish built-for-purpose, €60,000 desert vans. They were off to Morocco, Mauretania and beyond. Had an interesting conversation in French! as he explained about the vehicles. (See piccie).

The campsite in Lisboa was occupied predominantly by French and Germans. Only saw one other Brit. Got straight onto the A5/A2 motorway, across the ‘25 April’ suspension bridge (toll heading North only and HORRENDOUS queues) and headed due south to the Algarve. Once again the Péage was more or less empty. You could drive 5 miles without seeing another vehicle. However, that didn’t stop them charging €44 for the honour of wearing out their tarmac for 4 hours. We passed through a barren lowland region of Alentejo – no housing, farms or people – just the odd cork tree! Got to Albufeira after 4 hours and attempted to check-in. We had agreed previously what rate we would accept and when the disinterested clerk quoted €32 including €7 for the car and €3 for leccy, we hit the road. The campsite didn’t have a very nice feel about it anyway – so we set off for the Orbitur site at Quarteira – a 30 minute transit. Found it OK, near a Lidl, and checked in – ACSI at €16 – which saved us €150 over the fortnight. We eventually found a level pitch in an olive and eucalyptus grove. It's terraced and a lot of Brits are here for the winter. Nice Dutch couple next door and some friendly Brits on the other side, so we should be OK. Quarteira town is only a 5 minute walk, so we will investigate later.

The wood is sandy, but occupied by a plethora of birdlife – including Hoopoes, Azure-Tailed Magpies, and Bee Eaters – we also saw an Egret in transit and bats/swifts as dusk fell. A Peregrine Falcon came swooping in as it took a sparrow!:thumb:

When we went shopping at Lidl, and finally discovered their CC policy. It's cash OR national CCs only! No foreign banks so solves that issue.

Perhaps I should preface the rest of this entry with a word of explanation. We visited the Algarve 10 and 20 years ago and found it to be charming and almost unspoiled in 1992. Clearly, it has changed – as we have – and the comments below are by way of comparison and reflect a slight feeling of disappointment that tourism has altered the landscape.

Walked into Quarteira this evening for a look-see. (27th) I think it should be called ‘Blancoville’ – EVERYTHING is white. ALL buildings, pavements, shops – everything is WHITE! The entire place is clearly purpose built and although done very nicely, and everything is clean and tidy, and has a superb beach, it's all a bit sterile and lacking atmosphere. We will cycle in again today for further exploration but I hold out little hope. It's the complete opposite of Lisbon and I think I agree with Shirl that the shabby-chic of the capital is far, far nicer.

Cycled along the Quarteira boulevard past the fish market, where earlier Shirl had picked up some nice Sea Bass for supper. We continued along the coastal path, past an aire with 20 or so assorted wags parked up, then into Vilamoura. WHAT a difference to 20 years ago. It has completely sold out to British bars and swish cafes selling full English breakfasts and overpriced cocktails. The place is full of Sky TV blasting out and Brits/Germans/Irish strolling along enjoying their winter break. We escaped rapidly as a rain cloud approached and stopped for lunch near the fish market in Quarteira. Had excellent fish soup, vino and olives sat on the pavement in the sunshine – all for €13, with a really friendly look-a-like Norris from Corrie as our waiter. Much nicer.

Walked into Quarteira to catch a bus to Loule for the Saturday market (€6.40 rtn). It's 20 years since we visited this lovely old white-house mountain village town which has now been completely commercialised. It was FULL of tourists – much like us of course – but had large modern buildings and naff souvenir shops. The market was OK but nothing special and barely worth a visit. Maybe we are getting spoiled – visiting so many places, perhaps we expect too much.

Sorted out some Fado singing for next Saturday night and are rearranging our schedule to fit in some sights recommended by the Morrissesses – via Tavira, Huelva, El Rocio, Seville, Jerez and Zahora. Still get to Cabo by 23 Oct. Have asked Helen to post mail to us here in Quarteira. (It took 4 working days to get here Airmail).

As enjoyable as it is here, we couldn’t stop for the winter. Although there is an excellent swimming pool and tennis courts, there are no organised camp activities and the cafeteria doesn’t have the same atmosphere as Mario’s at Cabo. What's more, there seems to be very little camper interaction. The town is larger but doesn’t have the cosy feel of Cabopino Harbour. It's mainly fish and chip merchants catering for tourists who’ve flown into Faro. (I know – Fuengirola is the same BUT Marbella isn’t). The great thing about Marbella is that it caters for the Spanish and has a bit of character with tapas bars and Spanish locals out enjoying themselves. This whole area is specifically designed for the British/German tourist industry. This is not a direct criticism of the Algarve, but more a reflection of our own personal taste. There's nothing wrong with this bit of coastline at all – but it's not the REAL Portugal.

Shirl’s off to the fish market again to pick up dinner and then we might take a drive out to check on the possibility of playing golf. I’ve got to re-seal the awning and might start the roof clean.

Had a very pleasant evening next door last night, with Ruud and Wendela, the Dutch couple hosting an Indonesian Rijstafel. Mike, Sylvie, Neil and Jill from the other side joined us and we sat out till curfew at 1100pm. Thanks everybody.

Add Faro to the list of places to tick off the visiting schedule. Once again, the old fishing village has been ‘modernised’ – albeit tastefully – and has little to offer. Even the storks were not at home.

Talking of which, we took a stroll down to the beach via an inland lagoon and saw a variety of wildfowl – heron, ibis, spoonbill, stilts, egrets, terns and various ducks. A stork was hiding out though. As we walked back we spotted a pack of large wild dogs which are quite a nuisance around the perimeter of the site. They bark and howl incessantly throughout the night and it's another reason why a long stay wouldn't suit us. I'm a light sleeper and after a while I'd be worn out.

Cycled into Vilamoura again today (3rd) and gave it another chance. It's not so bad really once you get used to it. We found the Dom Pedro Golf Hotel, which we stayed at some 20 years ago. Then back into Quarteira for lunch at the fish market restaurant. It was OK but not as nice as the restaurant we tried earlier in the week on the pavement. The weather is plenty hot and well over 30 degrees C during the day, but cool at night so comfortable for sleeping. Time is spent at the pool and doing jobs around the 'van. We are going to drive into Albufeira to check it out and then will be going into Quarteira on Saturday to have a late meal and watch some Fado singing. Then it will be packing up and heading for the next stop.

Albufeira has really changed. It was quite busy with tourists wandering about the town, but the beach was quiet. The old café-restaurants on Fisherman’s Beach have been demolished and the fishing folk moved elsewhere – in case they contaminate the sun worshippers! It's classic all-day breakfasts and tat for sale as far as one can wander. There are a few decent looking restaurants away from ‘Bar Street’ and the Main Square – but it's basically a holiday resort for Brits. Good luck to them – it's all cash into the ailing Portuguese economy. We were very happy with our decision to camp at Quarteira which, on reflection, is not quite so touristy.

Quarteira has been a very agreeable sojourn in the sunshine. The neighbours have been friendly and the local area has lots to offer. However, from our point of view we would prefer Cabopino for a long stay. It ticks a few more boxes – mostly social – and we like Spain. However, it's been extremely worthwhile checking out the option.

Well, the Fado was very ‘entertaining’. The restaurant was rammed with locals and tourists. Lucky we booked. Our table was at one end of the room next to 3 empty chairs! This was not the ideal position since the performers were basically in our laps. Fado is described as a ‘monotonous chant’ and we were treated to 7 examples of the art sung by a local diva accompanied by 3 guitarists. It was all very serious and we had to listen in complete silence (our table got 2 bollockings for daring to chat during the performance/dirge). The male Portuguese in the audience were enraptured by the singing, but frankly it all sounded the same to me and a bit Greek if I'm honest. Perhaps if we'd understood the lyrics? Anyway, we got no dinner until they finished and had to wolf it down before the 2nd half. A very nice fish Cataplana was dished up and was most enjoyable.

All in all a great experience and Shirl got 2 ticks – Fado and Cataplana all in one night – and we met Claude from Quebec who invited us out to stay! Just one piece of advice …..sit a good ten yards from the singers as it's very powerful stuff!!!!

Well, that's all for now
See you on Nov 17th:Cool:
M and D
PS. We won a quiz in town! On our own!:Doh:

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