Ria Formosa

A bridge too far?

Well, it is, isn't it?

Well, it’s long, isn’t it?

I had no idea that it would be so long!  But then, I’d only ever seen it from the sky as I flew over the Algarve.  I knew it to be a part of the swish resort of Quinta do Lago.  Not my usual stamping ground, but curiosity impelled me to take a closer look.

Parking alongside a selection of resplendent villas at Vale do Garrao, I descended some steps and followed the path around the salt marsh in the direction of the sea.

Vale do Garrao in the distance

The villas at Vale do Garrao

Sure enough, there was the beach

Sure enough, there was the beach

Not too many people to share it with!

Not too many people to share it with on a January day

I plonked myself down for 10 minutes, to enjoy the gentle warmth and the glinting sea.  Then it was time to head off along the beach, in search of the bridge.

And there it was!

And there it was, bridging the gap across the lagoon.

In the far distance, Praia de Faro

In the far distance, Praia de Faro

A burst of colour awaits at Quinta do Lago

And on the shoreline, a riot of colour

While the bridge stretched all the way back to the beach

The bridge stretches all the way back to the beach

This is Quinta do Lago

But now we’re in elegant Quinta do Lago

From the map it looked as though there was a footpath to where the car was parked.  Otherwise it would be a long walk back along the beach.   Following the path, I was surprised to discover a large saltwater lake, with pedal boats tied up for the Winter.

The lake and the country club

The lake and the country club

Back in the land of unaffordable housing

Back in the land of unaffordable housing

But the flora and fauna are free

But the flora and fauna are free

And the bird life in the marshes

And the bird life in the marshes

The colours melting into one another

The colours of nature, sublime!

It just goes to show that you don’t need a pot of money to enjoy the Algarve.  The beauty is all around you and it’s free.  The walk took just a couple of hours and the sun was beginning to dip as I returned.

Flying home, I didn’t see the foot bridge, but I did get a hazy shot of the road bridge out to Praia de Faro.  It was a little cloudy, so not too sad to leave!

The road across the Ria Formosa to Praia de Faro

The road across the Ria Formosa to Praia de Faro

And from another angle

And from another angle

Quinta de Marim

The tidal mill at Quinta de Marim

The tidal mill at Quinta de Marim

This is the perfect Algarve walk when it’s too nice to be indoors, but not warm enough to sit on a beach.  Doesn’t that boardwalk call to you?  It does to me.

Quinta de Marim is part of the Ria Formosa nature reserve.  A 3 km trail leads through the pines and around the salt marshes, taking in the lovely old tidal mill en route.  The main purpose of the reserve is conservation and education.  The best option is to buy a map for a couple of euros and go at your own pace, but a guided tour is also available for advanced bookings.

No putting out to sea in this, I don't think!

No putting out to sea in this, I don’t think!

In the distance you can see the island of Armona

In the distance you can see the island of Armona

The tidal mill is the highlight of the reserve

But for me, the tidal mill is the highlight of the reserve

It sits proudly on the water

It sits proudly on the water

Looking out to sea

Looking out to sea

The views from the roof are captivating

The views from the roof are captivating

Sky and sea become one

Sky and sea blend into one

In a bird watcher's paradise

In a bird watcher’s paradise

A place where the spirit soars

A place where the spirit soars

I had never come across the concept of a tidal mill before and so was pleased that, inside the mill, display boards explain how it works.

Light floods in, illuminating the mill wheels

Light floods in, illuminating the mill stones

The ebb and flow of tide is what makes the mill work

The ebb and flow of tide is what makes the mill work

I had never seen anything quite like it before

I had never seen anything quite like it before

In season I believe the mill operates a small cafe, but it was closed when I was there.  The rest of the reserve incorporates salinas (or salt pans), a traditional farmhouse, a bird hospital and several hides for birdwatching.  Traditionally Portuguese water poodles were kept here- a special breed with webbed toes, once used in the fishing process.  These days they are most often seen in public demonstrations.

A Portuguese water poodle in action

A Portuguese water poodle in action

The reserve is close to Olhao Camping, and is signed off the E125 just before you reach Olhao, if you’re approaching from the east.

O is for Olhão

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I had always thought that my “O” post would be about Obidos, a medieval walled town in Central Portugal that stole my heart a couple of years ago.  But much has already been written about this tiny, charismatic place, so, with my Algarve affinity, it seemed better to introduce you to somewhere local and lesser known. (Unless, of course, you are a biker?)  Welcome to Olhão!

An aerial view of Olhão and the lagoons of the Ria Formosa (from Wikipedia)

An aerial view of Olhão and the lagoons of the Ria Formosa (from Wikipedia)

From its situation on the Ria Formosa, it was always obvious that Olhão would make a fine fishing port, but for many years its growth was resisted by neighbouring administrator Faro, who wanted to keep fishing rights to itself.  Autonomy was persistently refused and even permission to build a simple stone house.  Hamlet status was finally achieved in 1765 and Olhão formed a self-supporting “Maritime Commitment”.  Both before and since, it has been inseparable from the sea.

The natives of Olhão were never ones to run from a fight, and they occupy a special place in Portuguese history.  The first successful uprising against French occupation took place here on 16th June 1808, and was the beginning of the expulsion of the Napoleonic army.  The Portuguese king, João VI, was at that time exiled in Brazil.  A group of fishermen from Olhão set sail across the Atlantic, in a simple fishing boat, to bring the news of the French defeat to their king.  In recognition of this, Olhão was rewarded with village status.

A replica of the caique, Bom Sucesso (Good Fortune), sits modestly on the waterfront.

Azulejo tile representation of the sailing to Brazil (from Wikipedia)

Azulejo tile representation of the sailing to Brazil (from Wikipedia)

Would you cross the Atlantic in a boat like this?

Would you cross the Atlantic in this boat? You would need Bom Sucesso!

The town’s growth was enabled by a large spring or olho de agua (eye of water), for which the town was named, Olhão meaning big eye.  The arrival of a tuna factory, and fish preserving industry, transformed Olhão into a wealthy town, with fine merchant’s homes.  The fishing industry declined, of course, but today Olhão is again doing battle with Faro, attempting to lure away a little of the lucrative tourist trade.

The tourist train- all aboard!

The tourist train, outside the Real Marina Hotel on the long promenade

If you’ve seen any of my previous Algarve posts, you might know that a large part of the attraction of Olhão is the access it gives to the islands of the lagoon, Armona and Culatra, paradise for beach lovers.  From the harbour there is a lengthy promenade overlooking the marina.  In the centre of this stand distinctive twin market halls, one for fish, the other fruit and vegetables.  On Saturday mornings the market spills out onto pavement stalls in a flurry of activity.  Remember the bikers?  In July, when the Bike Festival arrives in Faro, the overflow spreads along the waterfront gardens in Olhão till there’s barely a blade of grass to be seen.

The other time when Olhão is exceptionally busy is when the Seafood Festival takes place, around the second week in August.  The smell of sardines mingles with the sound of Fado and a great time is had by all.  The waterfront is usually closed to traffic at this time, creating a little havoc in getting around.

Olhão waterfront with the twin towers of the market halls in the background

Olhão waterfront with the twin towers of the market halls in the background

Can you make out the lighthouse at Farol on the island of Culatra between those masts?

Can you make out the lighthouse at Farol on the island of Culatra between those masts? It’s a long way out.

It's the strangest feeling when you're out there in the shallows, far from shore

It’s the strangest feeling when you’re out there in the shallows, far from shore. The locals hunt endlessly for shellfish.

Every kind of craft comes idling home

Every kind of craft comes idling home

The most peaceful of spots, unless it's windy.

It’s a peaceful spot, unless it’s windy, when the masts vibrate wildly.

To this day, I can get lost in the maze of streets behind the waterfront.  Olhão is unique in the Algarve in that it has cube-shaped Moorish style houses which do not, in fact, date from the occupation of the Moors.  They are instead the result of the town’s fishing and trading activities with the countries of North Africa.  Try to visit Nossa Senhora do Rosario, the town’s main church, situated just behind this warren of streets.  Igreja Pequena, the Little Church, was the first stone building in Olhão, and this is the second.  Both were financed by the efforts of the local fishermen, at that time living in little more than mud huts themselves.  The view from the Bell Tower reveals the special construction of the cubist houses.

White stone steps lead up to a second small roof terrace, the mirante, traditionally used by fishermen to evaluate the marine conditions before going to sea.  The women of the house go up there to watch for them.  A chapel at the rear of the main church is open day and night, to pray for their safe return.

Igreja Pequena- the Little Church,1st stone building in Olhao

Igreja Pequena- the Little Church, and the first stone building in Olhao

Roof tops of the cubist houses

Roof tops of the cubist houses, from the Bell Tower of Nossa Senhora do Rosario

Typical merchant's house

One of many fine merchant’s houses

Approaching Olhão along the EN125, the urban sprawl is not at all attractive.  You might never think that this world existed.  But take the trouble to dip down to the waterfront, and you will find an Olhão with real character.

Just before I finish, I should mention Quinta de Marim.  2kms east of Olhão, just off the EN125, on the Ria Formosa a link to the Roman occupation of the Algarve can be witnessed.  A tidal mill overlooks fish salting tanks and the salinas for producing salt, which were a very important industry in Roman times.  Today it’s an education centre and a very soothing spot from which to witness the natural world.

If you have enjoyed this piece, you might like to take a look at some of my other personal A-Z’s.  The original idea came from Julie Dawn Fox, a fine writer who lives in Central Portugal.  Click on the header or the links to see what’s out there.

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My Algarve Insider Tips

Call me mean if you like but I’m always reluctant to share too many tips, for fear that my favourite Algarve places become over popular.  In general I like my beaches to be empty.  But Easyjet have tempted me to share a few things that might make your Algarve experience that little bit more special.  I’m always glad to promote Portugal – it’s a beautiful place.

The Ria Formosa from the castle walls of tiny Cacela Velha

So shall we start with the beaches?  They’re hard to ignore, and why would you?  My personal favourites are those that you reach by boat.  Watching the sun glint off the water as you glide towards your beach of choice is my idea of heaven.  I’m an Eastern Algarve lass, and Tavira Island beach is my natural habitat.  It’s in the Ria Formosa so you’ll be able to spy out egrets and heron as the boat heads down river.  Looking back, pretty Tavira fills the skyline.

Tavira’s iconic Ponte Romana bridge, church and water tower

Tavira Island ferry, surrounded by an international sailing regatta

If you happen to be a landlubber, you can reach a stretch of the same beach by land train from Barril, a little further west.  I usually ride out and walk back, depending on the time of day.  Tiny crabs scuttle in the salt marshes and wispy pines shade the varying blooms.

My lazy husband loves to catch the land train over to Barril on Tavira Island

I’ve already hinted that I love boats, and the harbour at Olhao is the perfect jump off point for the islands of Armona and Culatra.  The ferry loads up with all manner of goods from the local market before slipping past the yachts in the marina and across the limpid sea.  Armona, my favourite, is a bare 20 minutes away, but it’s a different world.  In Summer the beach houses that line the narrow paths across the island may be lazily occupied, but it’s still not hard to find your very own stretch of sand.  If the heat becomes too much, a cluster of restaurants provide welcome shade.  Youngsters cool off rather more dramatically by plunging off the pier.

Looking across Armona to the mainland

Culatra is slightly further distant.  Chances are you’ll have seen the lighthouse at Farol as the plane banked in the skies over Faro airport.  As with Armona, a small community lives on the island, and you can wander the sandy paths down to the sea.  The ferry makes two stops on Culatra so it’s possible to disembark at the first and paddle along the shoreline to Farol, then pick up a later ferry back to Olhao.  A couple of cafes offer shade with a sea view.  The sun sliding down the sky on a golden evening is the perfect ending to a day by the water.  You might even spot a dolphin or two, playing in the waves as you sail home.

Farol, the lighthouse on Culatra

If your base is further west in the Algarve, you can sail out of Faro to reach Culatra, or to Barreta, popularly known as Ilha Deserta.  Don’t go without your sunscreen- the reflection off the sea will tan you instantly, and the only shelter is at O Estamine, the Algarve’s most southerly restaurant.

Peace and calm at the end of the day, just the tinkle of masts

As well as bobbing about in boats, I very much like to walk.  The Algarve has some truly beautiful countryside, and one of the best ways to see it is to join a walking group.  These are advertised each week in the “Portugal News”.  You benefit from the local knowledge of the walk leader, and like-minded people to chat to along the way.  People are always keen to share tidbits like the best places to eat and drink cheaply.  The walks usually include a stop off at a restaurant as a reward for your walking efforts.

Really keen walkers might like to check out the Via Algarviana, an inland walking trail which stretches all the way from Alcoutim at the Spanish border out to the very tip of the Algarve.  It’s possible to walk just a small section, or to book accommodation along the route in local farmhouses.  It’s an Algarve many people never glimpse, or even dream of.  You might be lucky and spot some of the spectacularly pretty bee-eaters, swooping low over the water, or a hoopoe hiding in the trees.

Looking out from Alcoutim across the river to Sanlucar de Guadiana, in Spain

Bikers are not neglected either.  Cycle tours are also featured in the “Portugal News” (grab one free at the airport on your way in).  There’s a coastal cycle path which is great for getting the wind in your hair on one of those warm Algarve days.  Bike hire is widely available throughout the area.

To really add some Algarve flavour to your holiday, you should try to seek out a festival.  The Portuguese are often quite serious natured, but they love to celebrate.  Carnaval in February is one of the year’s major events, and the parades are full of joy and laughter.  The town of Loule hosts the main one, but many of the villages have their own celebration.  I was lucky enough to catch the one in Paderne, not too far from Albufeira, this year.  The children delighted in wearing their fancy dress and skipping along behind the main procession.  If you do visit Paderne, don’t forget to check out the Corte Real art gallery.  It’s a lovingly restored very special farmhouse.

Carnaval carry-on at Paderne

A small ladybird gleefully joins the procession

Further inland, Alte has a great Carnaval celebration too, but more than this, there’s a superb Folklore Festival in May, and in September a traditional Wedding Ceremony.

Alte’s wedding ceremony is like no other

You can even pop very easily over the border to Spain from the Eastern Algarve.  Sanlucar de Guadiana has a beautifully costumed gypsy romeria the first weekend in May.  I came upon this quite by accident and it’s one of the delights of time spent in the Algarve that you can happen upon a local festival at almost any time of year.

There are lots of reasonably priced places to stay across the Algarve, but if you like the sound of the Eastern Algarve and don’t mind being just a little way from the main towns, newly opened Fazenda Nova will give you a warm reception.  Their “things to do” page will give you lots more ideas too.

The end of another lovely day in Tavira

These are my tips for tourists visiting the Algarve.  If you wind up in Tavira you may even find me, sitting with my evening glass of port, outside Anazu, watching the tiny swifts dart up to their nests above the cafe.  The riverside setting is perfect.  If I’m eating out, I could be round the corner at A Taska, just off Praca Dr. Padhina.  It’s the prettiest little restaurant I know.

If you need any more details, just ask. Many of my posts relate to the Algarve.  https://restlessjo.wordpress.com/2012/01/23/b-is-for-beaches/ will give you a flavour of the area.

How fitting that I’m flying south again tomorrow.  Hope to see you there soon.

Sunday Post : Silence

My friend Jake has come up with the theme of Silence for this week’s Sunday Post challenge.  Hush!  I’m searching for the sound.

How rare is silence!  At home, with the TV and radio turned off, still there’s that intermittent ping of the fridge, a gurgle from the central heating, or the steady breathing of my laptop.  Walking down the street, my head buzzes with thoughts and words, never mind the rumbling of the traffic.

So where do you find silence?  For me, the gentle Algarve countryside is peace and quiet itself.  Bird song, or maybe the rustle of the eucalyptus, is all of the sound.

Rio Arade, with Silves in the far distance

Even the Algarve villages can be a place of refuge and silence.

Looking out from the village of Salir

A quiet corner in the village

Empty beaches on the Ria Formosa, with sandbars that stretch for miles, have no lapping tide to disturb the stillness.

Ria Formosa at Cacela Velha

Wide, open spaces characterise the west coast, but peace there can often be disturbed by the crash of the waves.

Still, there’s always an empty cove to be found, at the right time of the day.

The beach at Burgau

And as the day ends, sunlight, glinting on the water, carries no sound.

Algar Seco, near Carvoeira

Cliff tops have always held appeal for me.  High above the water, I revel in the silence.

Clifftop near Staithes, North Yorks

Far from the Algarve, the North York moors owe their restorative powers to the stillness of their ridges and valleys.

Ruggedly beautiful, the Moors can be a bit of a scramble

But so worth it!

Roseberry Topping in the far distance

And when the colours roll in…

August’s riotous colours

…there’s no place like it.  Even the bees hum quietly.

So where do you go to find your silence?  It’s something to be treasured.  Something that all of us need.

Jake has given so much pleasure in providing this opportunity to look at and experience our world.  Many thanks to him.  You will always be welcomed to Jakesprinter’s world.  Please, just follow the link.

Seven Super Shots

On a grey, murky Easter Sunday afternoon, after a rather nice dinner had been eaten and washed up, I decided to focus on my next challenge.  Julie Dawn Fox kindly tagged me to take part in HostelBookers Seven Super Shots.  You can see what Julie made of the challenge by clicking on her link above.  Quite appropriate that there’s a chocolate Johnny Depp to be viewed.  I didn’t get any Easter eggs.  Did you?

A photo that takes my breath away

The Ria Formosa from Cacela Velha

You might know that I’d be starting in the Algarve.  I have more beautiful shots from there than just about any place I’ve ever been- not surprising really.  This is a good time to point out that many of the photos on my blog are the handiwork of my husband Michael (he would say the better ones!)  As we sometimes share a camera, it can get confusing, but for the purposes of this post I have to stick to photos that I’ve taken.

The above shot comes from the very first time I witnessed the natural beauty of the Eastern Algarve, in the tiny hamlet Cacela Velha.  It really was breathtaking, and a moment I love to recapture.

A photo that makes me laugh, or smile

James goes paddling

This is one of many engaging photos of my son James that make me smile.  He was a charming toddler and easily found entertainment wherever in the world he happened to be.  Water was inevitably a success.  This was on Rhodes.  Can’t you tell?

A photo that makes me dream

North coast of Madeira from Porto Moniz

I’m fairly sure that this is one of Michael’s photos- oh dear, you’d better disqualify me!  It encompasses everything that I love in a photo- water, mountains, blue sky.  I thought Madeira one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.  Cascades of flowers everywhere, distinctive buildings, fabulous scenery and wonderful levada walking- most definitely a place to dream.

A photo that makes me think

Part of the wall in the Jewish Cemetery, Krakow

I was very moved by this section of wall, constructed from the headstones wilfully destroyed by the Nazis during the Second World War.  I have been too cowardly to visit Auschwitz.  Just the descriptions of the teeth, hair and glasses massed in cabinets has me in bits.  I really can’t make myself go there.  But Kazimierz, the Jewish Quarter of Kraków, speaks to me of the past, and I was intrigued by the synagogues I saw there.  The area is now quite tourist orientated, but if you are able you should experience one of the free walking tours that are available.

A photo that makes my mouth water

A "quejinhos do ceu"

I’m not much of a foodie and I rarely remember to take any photos of food- I just eat it!  I was delighted with this exquisite little cake though.  I was in the small village of Constancia in Central Portugal, at the junction of the rivers Zezere and Tejo.  It’s a lovely peaceful spot for canoeists and nature lovers (unless you time it to arrive on a Youth Festival weekend, as I did)

In the tiny village square with its pelourinho (ornate pillory), visible from our hotel bedroom, we lingered for a coffee at the end of the day.  I have a fondness for the pastel de nata (custard tart), widely available in the Algarve, but the proprietor, Luis, advised me that they only had the local delicacy, quejinhos do ceu.  What a find!  It looked as good as it tasted- a strong hit of almonds.  Strictly for sweet toothes!

A photo that tells a story

Mummers at Grassington Dickensian Festival

Not the best of photos, but a memorable occasion.  The Dickensian Festival in the Yorkshire Dales village of Grassington is one not to miss if you’re in the area in December.  Together with nearby Skipton village, festivals are staged over 3 successive weekends.

The whole is in aid of local charity and you are quite likely to be offered “a kiss for 20p” from a nice-looking young shepherd. (no, that’s NOT my main reason for going!)  The Mummers have many a tale to tell, and if you’re into audience participation they’ll happily include you.  The day closes with a procession through the streets, following Joseph and Mary as they search for shelter at the three village inns.

The photo that I am most proud of (aka worthy of the National Geographic)

Porta da Vila, Obidos

I’m out of my depth here as I am no technician when it comes to photography- I just know what I like and do my best to capture it.  You knew I’d end with Portugal, didn’t you?  I’m going to give you two to chose from, since that one in Madeira wasn’t really mine.  That way I can legitimately claim seven.  The Porta da Vila is part of the town walls of Obidos – another place you don’t want to miss if you have the opportunity.  I was there at the time of a Medieval Fair, which really added to the atmosphere, but the liqueur Ginja de Obidos, served in chocolate cups, makes it a great venue at any time of year.

Sunset in Cabanas

I can never resist a sunset and am often up on our roof terrace at the end of the day, listening to the birds and watching the changing sky.  The above shot was taken in February, during an evening stroll along the boardwalk in Cabanas, just a few miles east of Tavira, in the Algarve.  I like to think I’m getting better at taking photos, but in reality I’m very hit and miss.

So I’ll pass on the challenge to someone I know can do much better:

Francine in Retirement

Fun and Fabulousness

Just a Smidgeon

Bringing Europe Home

Fabulous 50s

I am knocked out by the photography on all your blogs and I don’t know how you’ll pick just seven.  You also need to tweet your post to HostelBookers to let them know you’ve taken part at #7SuperShots.  Don’t forget to check out Julie’s Johnny Depp!

B is for Beaches

Ok, it’s predictable I know, but how could I have a home in the Algarve and NOT love beaches?  There’s nothing I like better than an amble along the beach, picking up the occasional shell for the collection.  Flat, calm and twinkly in the sunlight, or raging and frothing, I love being beside the sea.

Beach below Cacela Velha, Eastern Algarve

So where better than Portugal, with its wrap around beaches, north to south?  In theory I could walk the full length, starting off in my treasured Eastern Algarve.  Of course, I’d have to swim the odd river.  Perhaps I should take our inflatable dinghy with me- I’m not that much of a swimmer!  Think of the Podcam I could do, if, of course, I were skilled and steady-handed enough to point the video camera in the first place.

No.  Better to focus on my digital memories.  I’m starting in the east and going west, with a few impressions of the beaches that I love.

The beach at Praia Verde

Praia de Verde, not far from Monte Gordo, was one of the first beaches ever recommended to me.  The coast at the eastern end of the Algarve is quite flat so I was surprised at the drop down to the beach from what is essentially an upmarket holiday village.  The bay is beautifully shallow and I’ve seen some of the prettiest fish basking in the warm water.  One of the big attractions is the restaurant Pezhinos n’ Areia.  www.pezinhosnareia.com .  It was much more simple when we first visited and less expensive too, but I would still consider it for a special lunch.

Pezhinos n'areia

Of course, Tavira, my adopted home, can brag of a beach or two, but for the sake of brevity I’m going to refer you to an earlier post of mine.  https://restlessjo.wordpress.com/2011/10/20/impressions-of-an-eastern-algarve-shoreline/

Armona

Armona  This island was a strong competitor for my first post, “A is for”.  It is unlike anywhere I’ve ever been before and I find it hugely charming.  It’s reached by ferry out of the fishing port, Olhao, though you can also visit from tiny Fuseta, such is the length of these offshore islands of the Ria Formosa.

A path wends away from the harbour through myriad dwellings, many of them holiday lets, but they have enormous character.  Driftwood and shells vie with the plants in the sandy front gardens.  As you peak down the narrow lanes between them you catch glimpses of the sea and any one of them will take you to the shore.  If you continue across the island you will come to the ocean facing beach- an endless expanse, sufficient enough even for me!  There’s a beach bar here, or if you return to the harbour you have a choice of restaurants from which to look out across the water.

Livingstone daisies cover the beach in Spring

Barreta  Another island.  Are you sensing a theme going on here?  Also known as Ilha Deserta, this is Portugal’s most southerly point, and a longer ride out of Faro harbour.  Gazing down the beach there’s a real sense of isolation here, until of course, the ferry comes in.  It’s not the place to find yourself in the height of summer as there’s absolutely no shade other than the restaurant O Estamine.  Nevertheless it’s an enjoyable trip out with some compelling views. www.ilha-deserta.com

Once you head east from Faro airport, you reach the Algarve with which most people are familiar- red cliffs and golden sand speckled with rose.  It’s just one long glorious beach, backed by a variety of resorts.  Stacks puncture the sand and walking the cliff tops is a joy.  Commerciality has spoilt some of it, but in low season the beaches from Vilamoura to Lagos are more relaxed and it’s possible still to enjoy the wonderful beaches that brought development to the area.

Vale de Lobo

Algar Seco, Carvoeira

Praia da Rocha, off season

Portimao marina with Ferragudo in the distance

Coastline near Lagos

Looking towards Sagres

Praia de Marinha has some great memories for me.  We walked the cliff top to Benagil one Spring day and were caught in a sudden downpour- from blue skies to hail stones, I kid you not!- and back to blue skies.  The scenery was glorious and the fields full of flowers but I’ll never forget the disconsolate expression on my husband’s face as we trooped down the hill to the tiny cove at Benagil, rolled up umbrella in hand.  He soon rallied after a warming café duplo in the beachside bar.

Marinha beach

Stacks below Marinha

Clifftops above Marinha

Burgau  I’m rolling along to the west now, to a charismatic beach.  The sandy cliffs are threaded with agave and aloe vera plants and after a swim (paddle in my case) there’s one of those beach bars where you could probably lose a day or two of your life.

Burgau beach

The beach bar in the distance

Amado We’ve turned the corner now and are heading up the Atlantic coast, where the beaches are wilder and largely untamed.  Small communities sit back off the beach and the campervan rules.

Praia de Odeceixe

Praia de Odeceixe  Oh, I loved this place!  Billed as “surf city”, it was still quiet when we were there last May and the expanse of beach was the equal of anywhere I’ve been.  You need good legs to get down and back up again, but there’s a rewarding little restaurant, Café Dorita, with good shelter from the winds but maintaining the views.  I expand on my visit in  http://www.simonseeks.com/travel-guides/praia-de-odeceixe-cautionary-tale__168002.

I’m still only at the Alentejo border and the beaches roll ahead of me.  There are many more I’ve yet to visit, and I’m sure, many more that you can point me to.  Please do join in, with your favourite Portuguese beaches and the stories that go with them.  Be assured of my close attention.  When it comes to beaches, I’m all ears.

For more great reads in the Personal A-Z series, try

http://juliedawnfox.com/2012/01/19/e-is-for-eucalyptus-trees/

http://algarveblog.net/2012/01/12/a-is-for-the-algarve/

http://wordangell.wordpress.com/2012/01/17/an-a-z-of-the-uk-arundel/

and don’t forget to sign in on http://myatozchallenge.com/if you want to join in.