The Algarve, or the South of Portugal (Portugal 1 of 3)

I can’t help but think of Arrested Development every time I think of Portugal. I remember Maeby being bound and determined to go to South America to make her parents notice her, despite George Michael’s warning that the plane ticket said “Portugal”. Later, Gob found the ticket and thought the ticket meant Michael had been learning Spanish for a trip to South America.

The joke that (I hope) the audience was in on is that Portugal is in Europe and does NOT speak Spanish but Portuguese. Wink wink, nudge nudge.

I have been to Portugal twice now, and I find it a nice, refreshing change of pace from the big brother Spain that engulfs it and separates it from the rest of Europe. It’s quite cheap, and the Portuguese are friendly and just as cute as their Spanish neighbours. They unfortunately refused my regift of Cristiano Ronaldo, as I TRIED to return him. However, the rest of Portugal is nothing like CR7, and he gives a bad name to the Portuguese.

The second part of my second trip was to Lagos in the south of Portugal. Lagos is one of the most visited places in the Algarve. I “did case” (hacer caso in Spanish, or listened to the advice of) to a few Portuguese friends of mine who said Lagos was the more beautiful of the two. And beautiful it was.

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Lagos, meaning “lakes” in both Spanish and Portuguese, is a small town of 31,000 that attracts a lot of tourists due to it’s proximity to the beach and the Algarve region. Its laid-back lifestyle is quite attractive to those wanting to get away from it all, and the people of this town are accostumed to tourists. Lagos also has a seedy past as it was Europe’s first slave port and was important during those years.

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The food was great, and even though it was seafood heavy, I was able to find some delicious chicken. On the second day, I cheated and went to a Spanish restaurant. Don’t tell! One of my biggest pet peeves about myself is my inability to eat seafood. I love trying new foods, but I just can’t deal with seafood or fish.

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While the old town and the city walls were quite nice, it was once again God who proved He (or She) is the better architect. The cliffs along the shore and the walk to the lighthouse in the evening for sunset were the best part of this town. The coast is spectacular, and the sunset was beautiful.

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On my second day, I was torn between kayaking and going to Cabo Sao Vicente. I ended up going to the Cape as it was the southwestern point of Europe. The bus timetables don’t allow for a lot of time there (and really, there is nothing more than a lighthouse), so I ended up hiking the six kilometres back to the nearest village, Sagres. The cliffs over the Atlantic provided a scenic route, and I worked up an appetite for that Spanish restaurant I found.

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My favourite find in Portugal my second time there was the galão, a café con leche (in English, relaxing café con leche) in a tall glass. It’s not the same as a café con leche in a glass, I swear.

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I was sad, just like that aforementioned Portuguese Boy Cristiano Ronaldo, when I had to board the bus to Huelva that Saturday morning. There is a lot to be discovered in the Algarve region, and I look forward to my next opportunity to explore it. To come, entries on Lisbon and Oporto…to be continued…WHEN? Stay tuned.

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