Details on the Algarve
Lagos, Portugal, seemed like the ideal place for our first weekend away. It is under a four hour drive and relatively inexpensive. And since the highlights are gorgeous outdoor scenery and not art museums, I thought a great respite for all members of our family. We tentatively set aside several different weekends, only to have bad weather or illnesses get in the way. Ultimately, the end of April was a great time to visit southwest Portugal. Having been able to experience the scenery in the sun, as well as behind moody clouds, I doubt there is a poor time to visit.
Lagos was a great fit for our family. The magic of the place is the absolutely amazing beaches. Dennis and I aren’t big beach people, but this is one of those places where you can’t help but be amazed at the beautiful world that God has created. And being outdoors, able to explore and run and yell just agrees well with our young kids. We were all so happy, but here are the highlights. And for more pictures, take a look at our short video.
Porches Pottery: Porches, Portugal, was about 30 minutes out from our hotel, and a stop I was determined to make to shop at its namesake pottery shop. Opened in 1968, Porches Pottery is known for its traditional handmade and hand-painted pottery. The pottery was amazing, and quite frankly, I was overwhelmed by it all and had a hard time picking what I liked the most. The real surprise, though, was the onsite Bar Bacchus Café and Gardens. Flowers spilled over trellises, beautifully painted pottery adorned everything, and the café con leche and hand-squeezed orange juice were just what we needed, not only to refuel, but to distract Henry from a store of breakables.
Boavista Golf & Spa Resort: Leading up to the trip, the kids were most excited about the hotel pool. And I get that. Fortunately, our two-floor apartment at Boavista Golf & Spa Resort met their wishes and ours. Two of our three balconies overlooked a heated pool, and we had separate bedrooms and living rooms.
Lagos Medieval Fair: Chance encounters with European festivals are pretty much a travel dream of mine. We learned of this one at hotel check-in, and were able to enjoy the festivities the two nights we were in town. Stalls lined the main square and wrapped around the castle wall. We sampled traditional Portuguese treats and sangria, all homemade and sold by local organizations as fundraisers. Bag pipers played and all of the school children donned simple traditional clothes.
Praia do Camilo: People rave about the boat tours you can take into the caves, however, ocean swells were keeping the boats out along the coast the day we were there. So, we decided to just take the 200 steps down to this amazing beach nestled among the most magnificent rock formations. We were so happy with this decision. We didn’t have to worry about my sea sickness or anyone getting antsy on the boat. We collected sea glass and pebbles of all colors. The kids got to climb through a window in the rock to another beach. No one jumped in the water, which is a real win for us. There were very few people there. It was just perfect.
Nah Nah Bah: Following the recommendation of neighbors, we hit up this burger restaurant for dinner the first night. We were the first guests after opening, but there was already a DJ playing music in the back. Perhaps it would have been too hopping for us later on, but the relaxed and noisy surfer vibe was perfect for our preschoolers. And the burgers - including my pick of a Top 50 in the World - were to die for. After this meal, we were actually disappointed by all of the others, so at least this was amazing!
Salema: Rick Steves praises Salema for being a more authentic, sleepy, fisherman’s town. And early on an ugly Sunday morning, it surely was sleepy. After reading that you can see real dinosaur tracks on the rocks, we were so excited to go adventuring there with the kids. Unfortunately, the tracks are on top of a giant bolder and only visible from the stairs that connect the beach with the town on the cliff. Try as we might to show them, the kids never did spot the tracks. The hunt was the fun part though!
Fortaleza Sagres Fort: The town of Sagres is positioned on the very southwestern point of Europe. While we weren't impressed with Cape Saint Vincent, which marks the geographical point, we did enjoy Fortaleza Sagres Fort. Prince Henry the Navigator launched expeditions from this spot, and our very own Prince Henry loved hearing about another brave "soldier-knight" with the same name. As with much of Portugal, most of the fort was destroyed in the earthquake of 1755, leaving it open and romantic on a moody day. Perched high on the cliff, the landscape is shaped by high winds and salty sea air, and dotted by fishermen casting lines down hundreds of feet the way I only imagine has been done for hundreds of years.