Stereotypes play a huge role in our collective cultural consciousness. Yes, the British can’t cook, the Americans only eat fried food, the Portuguese are obsessed with salt cod and the Italians can’t eat anything that doesn’t involve pasta.
Right, anyone who has travelled (or read a fair bit) knows this is utter rubbish (this is a family blog or I would have used a far ruder word) but even if we get past this, people still seem to lump nations together. They refer to the Americans or the Portuguese as homogenous groups of people but again they are wrong as while I am proudly South African, my culture is definitely Capetonian.
Now why am I offering you my theories on individual cultures? Well, I’ve fallen in love with Olhao in the Algarve, Portugal and want to introduce you to the glorious culture of Southern Portugal
|With thanks to theportugesenews.com|
So herewith a 10 top tips about the Algarve for those who haven’t visited:
- You fly into Faro Airport which hands down produces has the WORSE burger I have ever eaten in my life. I have no idea but in departures, they made a burger which is dry, tasteless but reminiscent of dog food. Honestly, when you fly home, eat before you get to the airport.
- When you leave the airport, you can head left towards Albufera (which is stag-do heaven), Vilamore (which is golfing heaven) or Lagos (which has a huge marina but is really lovely) Alternatively, You can take a right towards the Spanish border towards Olhao (Largest fishing port in Algarve) or Tavira (very popular with British Expats with a glorious beach).
- Olhao (especially the old town) has captured my heart. It’s white-washed buildings (complete with flat roofs) and little streets makes it charming to get lost in. And you should expect to as all roads seem to lead to the seafront and the numerous restaurants as well as the two food markets.
- Built in 1915, there are two food markets. One which sells fish and meat and the other selling some of the most beautiful fresh food I’ve ever seen. To add to this bounty, they have a farmers (not one of those which are popular in some parts of Europe but an honest to gosh actually grown by proper small farmers) market. They sell some of the best strawberries I have ever tasted and the honey is truly special as is the home made peri peri sauce.
- As the largest fishing port in the Algarve, the fish is hugely fresh (i.e. it’s just been brought across the road from the harbour) as is the other seafood. I particularly like their take on Octopus and the razor clams are so sweet. Now this isn’t posh seafood, but generally served with a few potatoes and a little salad. Trust me this is enough to let the food shine.
- However, if you have had enough of seafood, there is also a good steak restaurant, an Italian and an Indian which provide a respite from the seafood overload. The Italian on the seafront is particularly good and while some of their pizza ideas (who puts peaches and condensed milk on a pizza) may seem bizarre, they do an amazing steak pasta with mustard sauce.
- Now Olhao isn’t a party town but that does mean it doesn’t have some glorious bars. In front of the food markets (next to the sea) there are a selection of bars which serve really really good cocktails and occasionally host jazz nights. They are incredibly friendly, all speak English and there is little better than gazing across the water to the islands.
- A perfect day trip from Olhao is to visit the Islands which you can access from a ferry at the far end (i.e. the other end to Faro) of the sea front. The Islands are part of the Ria Formosa nature reserve and you can visit Cultura, Farol, Deserta and Armona. I visited Farol and we made the treck to the beach (and the beach bar). It was glorious – in fact so glorious, we missed the last ferry and phoned a water taxi to take us back. This was so much fun and I felt very glamorous as we zipped across the water.
|Beach at on Faro|
- Admittedly, I do love the old town but the new areas of Olhao are also very sweet and some of the shops are great. I personally love shoe shopping and there are some excellent bargains to be had in the local shoe store in the shopping centre in town. Alternatively, there is the Algarve shopping centre which is stocked full of glorious stores and on the way to the airport so a really easy stop on the way back.
- Finally, don’t be afraid to say ‘Bon Dia’ to those you meet and smile, the Algarve is friendly and the people in Olhao are amongst the loveliest you will ever meet.
Honestly a trip to the Alternative Algarve is one you can’t afford not to take.