An April 2001 trip
to Algarve by Re Carroll
Quote: Long sandy beaches with rock formations carved over time by the wind and water can be found all over Portugal's south coast. This is one of the most touristed areas in Portugal but worth a visit for its natural beauty.
It's in the old part of Lagos, about a 15 minute walk from the bus or train station. It's on a quiet little street, close to Iglesia (Church) de San Antonio which I used as a landmark to find my way back through the maze of narrow, twisty lanes and streets. At night, the bell tower was lit up and it was easy to spot.
The hostel is a two storey building - reception, eating area, members kitchen and mens' rooms are on the main floor and the womens' rooms are upstairs. Just off the eating area is a large, open courtyard with a big palm tree in the middle and tables and chairs positioned around it. The tree in the courtyard is the only thing that could remotely be considered resort like.
I stayed in a 4 bed (2 bunk) room that, although clean, had that dingey look to it that comes with age or overuse. Typical of hostel rooms, it was compact and between four women and their luggage, pretty crowded. Each bed had a separate reading light which came in handy at night. Bathrooms were just down the hall and were reasonably well maintained.
Excursions, like boat trips through the grotto, can be booked through the reception desk. The hostel has a small library and internet access was available but there was quite a long waiting list to use it so I headed to the internet at the Lancarote bar, just a few doors away.
After midnight the front door to the hostel was locked and the only way to get in was to ring for the night porter. I liked this security feature and the fact that he didn't allow noisey parties, etc. which meant that it was easy to get a good night's sleep.
Breakfast was included in the price and was certainly filling. Hard boiled egg, crusty rolls, freshly baked bread, croissant, cheese, jam and coffee or tea. On my last morning, I had to leave earlier than the regular meal time so they had a carry out breakfast ready for me when I checked out.
There is a popular, sandy beach less than a 5 minute walk away (although I didn't think the water was clean enough for swimming) and there are many little shops and restaurants within a few blocks of the hostel. Most of the guests were under 25 but there were also a few families with kids staying here.
The hostel is one of the busiest in Portugal because it is in the popular Algarve area. It fills up quickly and I was lucky that I had made reservations before leaving Lisbon.
Price was approximately $8.00 including sheets and breakfast.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on May 21, 2001
Pousada de Juventude Lagos
Rua Lancarote de Freitas 50
282 761 970
Caravela looks like it suffers from an identity crisis. It appears to be modeled after ye olde soda fountain or a
neighborhood pizza parlor with cane style metal chairs and red checkered tablecloths. The interior is small with about eight tables but most people dine at one of the many outside tables.
The cuisine is an eclectic mix of Portuguese and western cuisine and since it is geared to tourists, the menus are printed in English, French and German. The waiters are all young and
wear a uniform of black pants, white shirt and a striped red and white apron. The menu is
extensive - about 3 or 4 pages of appetizers and main courses as well as a large selection of ice cream for dessert. Most Lagos restaurants have a good selection of seafood and Caravela was no exception with grilled giant prawns, mussels steamed in wine and garlic and fresh fish as well as roast lamb, grilled chicken, pork chops, pasta, burgers and pizza.
I wanted a simple, light
meal so narrowed my choice to either spaghetti with piri piri sauce or marghareta pizza (tomatoes and cheese). I opted for the pasta. The sauce was a combination of oil, garlic and piri piri, a very spicy chili. The portion was more than adequate, the food was hot and the sauce was spicy. To refresh my tastebuds after dinner, I had a slice of lemon torte. The cool and tart torte was the
perfect antidote to piri piri .
Like most restaurants in Portugal, bread is brought to the table as soon as you sit down. This is looked upon as a starter and there is a charge for it but it’s perfectly OK to send the bread back if you don’t want it and you won’t be charged. At least Caravela fancied it up a bit and brought a crock of sardine paste as well as butter. I found the sardine paste too salty but the bread came in handy to soak up some of my pasta sauce.
I ordered spaghetti with an oil, garlic and piri piri. Piri piri is a very hot chili sauce and it lived up to its reputation - very spicey! Although the ice cream looked tempting, I was in the mood for cake so chose lemon torte.
Caravela is by no means fine dining but it is a lively place, catering more to the under 30 crowd. I found the service friendly and efficient and the prices were quite reasonable. The restaurant is open daily until 11 pm.
Rua 25 de Abril 10
This family run
restaurant has a real homey feel - lots of green plants, sunny murals on the walls and an outside rear patio on the second floor. The small bar on the main floor has a limited selection but I did try vinho verde, a Portuguese specialty. Also called green or new wine, it is made and bottled without the usual amount of aging. I found it light and slightly bitter - worth a try but not
enough to make me switch from the full bodied reds that I enjoy.
The menu is billed as
Portuguese and International specialties and a sidewalk sandwich board lists the daily features which included grilled chicken and lots of fish dishes like grilled sardines, prawns and catapalana, a hearty fish and prawn stew that is a specialty of the Algarve. I ordered another Algarve specialty of pork and clams. The cubed pork was pan fried and then combined with clams steamed with garlic and other spices. The large serving came with cubed, fried potatoes and at 1650$ escudos (less than $10.00 US) was a bargain..
The restaurant is on a quiet back street, across from the Cultural Center and near the Santa Antonia Church and Lagos Youth Hostel. As well as indoor dining and the back patio, there are a few small tables outside at the
entrance. The restaurant is open from 9am until midnight daily.
Rua Lancarote de Freitas 12
I'd highly recommend two hotels that I checked out during my visit. Both are on the main street that overlooks the beach.
Hotel Algarve-Casino, like its name suggests, has a casino that opens from 4 pm until the wee hours. Most of the large bedrooms in the hotel feature a tiled balcony that faces the beach and the bathrooms are fully tiled. Each room has a private safe, mini bar and satellite T.V. The grandeur is fading a bit but there is still an old world elegance about the hotel. It features 2 outdoor pools, tennis courts, nicely manicured gardens and a number of restaurants and bars. The comfortable salon off the lobby has a blue and yellow colour scheme and the large outdoor patio overlooks the pool and beach. Prices start at approx. $120. US for a double room.
Even more impressive was the Hotel Oriental. The building used to house Praia da Rocha's casino and is very Moorish in design both inside and out with lots of arches and garden areas. Each room in the four storey building features a small kitchen, separate sitting area and double beds. The bathrooms are a bit small but beautifully decorated. The rooms are all set around an indoor courtyard that has water fountains and lots of plants. There is a pool and sauna as well as a restaurant and a couple of bars. The outside of the building is golden brown with white trim and lots of decorative white chimneys - definitely eye catching!
Prices start at 20800$ escudos (about $100. US for a double room.)
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 21, 2001
Praia de Rocha
2 miles southeast of Portimao
The town is set amid rolling green hills with terraced farms and beautiful views. It's the kind of place where locals sit in the square by the bus stop and visit with each other for hours. Those looking for something more strenuous can climb to an abandoned monastery at the top of the hill. The monastery is now going to ruin and can't be accessed but the view from the top over town is stunning.
The Monchique Mother Church is about halfway between the town square and the monastery. It was built in the 16th century but was badly damaged in the 1755 earthquake. The main door is framed with cement "ropes" in the Manueline style that is so prevalent in Portugal. Inside the Church are images from the 16th to 19th century - mostly made of wood, as well as beautiful tiles.
Across from the bus stop, there is a little park with water fountains, benches and colourful tiled murals. This is a nice place to have a picnic lunch and there are also a couple of cafes that ring the park. The tourist office is located here and has information on Monchique and the surrounding area.
Signs point to a "Miradouro" or viewpoint that offers great views of the surrounding hills.
Monchique is a good place to try the local firewater called Madronho brandy. It is distilled from cypress trees and is extremely strong - locals drink it in their coffee.
Not far from Monchique is the Caldas de Monchique, famous for its spa built in Roman times. Very few buses run to Caldas and a rented car would make exploring the area much easier.
Monchique has one small hotel on the main square and there are signs for quortos (rooms for rent) throughout town.
about 1/2 hour north of Portimao
Abbotsford, British Columbia