Tuesday, April 14, 2015

THE ALGARVE, PORTUGAL: The End of the World.


We had been living a bit more out of our suitcases the last 6 weeks in Spain, and decided to see what using hangers and drawers was like again.  The Algarve beckoned with off-season rates but still remarkable weather.  They consider it off- season if the water is cold, yet the temps were regularly in the 64-68F (16-17c) or warmer.  The beaches without tourists became our private little getaway as we marveled at the beauty of Portugal.  A month in the Algarve and a Portuguese austerity diet I could live with.

We stayed in Burgau Portugal, it at one time was a small fishing village - and you can still see locals fixing nets and going out every morning, but the village now relies on tourist dollars.

20 minutes from Burgau is "The End of the World"  - in Cape Sagres -when the Earth was flat before the days of Columbus...

 Cape Saint Vincent is the south-westernmost point in Europe - In Portugal lore this is where the sun sank in the ocean marking the "edge of the world"


Sometimes I feel I'm back in Southern California - so many beautiful beaches and surfers... The difference is it's only crowded here in the summer!  

 I love seeing a great number of the locals living off the sea -  men and women spearfishing, cliff fishing, barnacle diving, octopus fishing, clam fishing, sardine fishing, not to mention the normal stuff of deep sea and beach fishing!   To our fisher(wo)men friends - this is definitely a place for you to visit and participate in the many types of fishing.  Rich of course only fishes for compliments and the only experience I have when it comes to fishing is eating the spoils - "We sea food, we eat it"...

Our Austerity Diet (really, we ate only 1 piece of bread, and you don't see wine on the table)  Grilled Sardines and Algarve Shrimp (maybe a little butter and garlic in this dish - I didn't ask)

This looks a little messy because we started to eat it before I took the pic - but it is a Porco a Alentejana served in a tiny local cafe "Firmino Bernardino" in Alentejano and the only dish  served for the day.  We asked for 2nds (oops sometimes it's tough to be on a diet) and the recipe.  The secret ingredient was the "Massa de Pimentao" that the porco was marinated in overnight!!

Love this ingredient - we found in a grocery store and have used in numerous dishes!

Richard in an Anthony Bourdain moment - checking out the local porco preto (black pig) tastes in Monchique,  a mountain hamlet in the Algarve.
Typical regional products are sausages and ham from the black or Iberian pig.

In Monchique they are also known for a powerful Medronho liqueur (or brandy) made from what the locals call  strawberry trees.  Of course Rich is getting a taste and goes home with a bottle.

Acorn fed pigs are big in the farms of Monchique - so we ate what the locals fed us - another delicious pork dish! (and Sangria)

What Monchique is really known for is having the only natural springs in the Algarve.  Since  Roman times, visitors come from all over to fill empty bottles from the springs that are supposed to have healing properties for respiratory, muscular, and rheumatic ailments.  We waited in line to fill our little bottles - and I have to admit, we needed a little help after all the local food tasting!

Meanwhile, heading back to the coast...

These locals were working hard Clam Fishing!  I have never seen this done before, but they drag and pull a pole attached to a metal net agitating the sand to catch clams!

 Cliff Fishing (for those with good balance) in Sagres .... note, there are not safety rails...this is a little dangerous since every year fisherman have fallen to their deaths.  

Rich was out there cheering them along and voila!  A successful catch!

A quick photo and back to the cliffs!

The Algarve is known for their fantastic beaches - we didn't get to all of them, but here are a few of our favorites:

Praia de Odeceixe- we had the place to ourselves on this spectacular beach sheltered by cliffs and the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park...

The small village of Luz was close to where we were living.  We would go there to grocery shop and walk along the beach...

Praia da Marinha (pics above and below) - we did the cliff walk along the edge, 
 views were as only the Portuguese can say "Miradouro Maravilha" (Viewpoint Wonder!)

Getting to some of these beaches/coves require walking down steep stairs or some only by boat...

The grottoes and beaches of Lagos were truly amazing - we spent the most time in this city exploring the town and all the coves and beaches

There are many secluded beaches among the grottoes and caves of Lagos, one is the popular Praia da Dona Ana...

Beautiful sandy beach outside of Lagos "Meia Praia" which is a golden stretch of 4 km of sand.  No worry - we walked the entire beach and back to a local  bar on the beach for R&B (Rest and Beer!)

Albufeira - once a fisherman's village is now probably the most visited city in the Algarve, it is full of bars and restaurants and more bars!  If you are tired of the peace and quiet of nature - go to Albufeira.  This is 1 of 7 beaches in this lively town.

There are so many beaches and coves we did not include in this already long post.  (Not to mention quaint castle towns such as Silves).  If you are looking for a  "Zen get-away" with unspoiled beauty - the south of Portugal fits the bill!  
We loved our month hanging out in the Algarve!

Next stop Lisbon...