Monday, April 24, 2006

Near Albufeira..

First off, I want to specify that we didn’t actually stay in Albufeira..which would have changed my positive outlook on this area a great deal. We stayed just far enough away to be out of reach of all the cheese, cheese and cheese. And, for this, I was thankful. We stayed at a Sheraton Resort, so it was very nice, but this also meant that there were kids running rampant, at times. The resort wasn’t too crowded, so the amount of screaming could have been a lot worse. The location was absolutely gorgeous though, so I would definitely take the kids over the cheese of the town any day. The hotel was perched on these stunning ‘grand-canyon-esque’ cliffs. The contrasts of all the colors, between the reds, oranges and off whites of the cliffs..the wildflowers, the blue of the ocean and sky and the sand made for some really beautiful views. The beach was wide, and quite lengthy, which made it so perfect for taking walks, as well. After seeing this, I was stunned to see just how awful the town was. It was like Cancun on a smaller scale, and it seemed to cater to the many sunburned German… and English tourists by hosting a number of “Pig and Whistle” type Pubs, “serving Typical English Style Breakfast!” and “Football!”..there were many cheesy lit up neon, bars and restaurants “With Tourist Menu!” lining the main street as well as the kitschy cheap souvenir shops. Eeek. So, we had dinner in town the first night, then, we stayed the heck away! It was hard to believe that such serene unspoiled beauty actually existed just around the bend.

The weather wasn’t the most cooperative though, which was ok, but it is always a nice thing to read by the beach when it isn’t rainy, windy and somewhat brisk out. It wasn’t always this way. The weather was quite fickle, warm one minute, rainy and windy the next. My one attempt to sit by the pool and read, lasted all of 15 minutes, before I decided that I actually was not very warm or comfy as I sat shivering in my lounge chair. We spent our time, reading in the cozy bar, swimming, jacuzzing and (T)working out in the gym, (Me)walking on the beach, and (Me)getting a massage…and, we even ventured out one afternoon to the local shooting range, which was quite an experience as well…

We also ventured to Lagos, the sight of the first slave markets and Sagres, the most Southwesterly tip in Europe, also quite near to Africa. Sagres was a sleepy beach town, well, at least it was at 9 am when we arrived for breakfast. It was cute and the idea of standing on the edge of Europe, basically looking towards Africa, was kind of a cool notion, but, I wasn’t really blown away by it…
And Lagos, was the same way. While the old town was a little charming, there were a number of tourists and again, I wasn’t that blown away by it, either. Maybe it is that we have had the pleasure of seeing some really unique places, that had we seen these two towns early on, we may have felt differently. I recall saying this very thing about Siena, as well.

I definitely think that Portugal is a place that I would love to re-visit, but I think what I would really love about Portugal, next time around, is seeing the areas a little less traveled. I think that much of the Algarve (except the west coast, maybe?) was taken over tourists in the 60’s and 70’s and maybe the coastal towns that at one time were quaint have seen better days. There seem to be so many other areas of this country that have yet to be spoiled…and I think that is where I would head to next time. Of course, I would also take T back to Sintra and head back to Lisbon.. which were two unique and interesting places. I would visit the home and birthplace of the “Pastis de Nata”…a pastry shop in Belem, and see Evora, a town that also came highly recommended… ah, next time..

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