More from the south of Portugal.

A fourth and last report from my visit to the south of Portugal. I visited parts of the interior, went westwards to the rougher coastline…

Some special comments on a few places:

Close to Faro you can find the 19th century “Palace of Estoi”, which used to be a private home and now is transformed to a luxury hotel. You are welcome to walk around the gardens, even without being a guest at the hotel.

A charming covered market at Loulé.

Monchique offers spas and health baths, “Caldas de Monchique”

… and spectacular views from the highest peak in southern Portugal – Fóia.

Some more general views from stops along the road.

Reaching the western coastline, there are again some spectacular views, driving down from the Bordeira region to the Sagres region, down to the extreme southwest at “Cabo de Sao Vicente”. Cliffs, beaches, surfers…Beautiful!!

Taking the direction back to the Faro and Olhão region you can notice that the coast west of Faro is full of luxury villas with swimming pools, golf courses, marinas… quite different from what you find east of Olhão, where the atmosphere of the original fishermen’s little towns and villages is much more present. 


Ria Formosa

A third “report” from the south of Portugal. What you absolutely must visit is of course “Ria Formosa”, the coastal lagoon you find in front of Faro and Olhão. The tide is here in general limited to some 2 or 3 m (6 - 10 ft). It means however and of course that many of the "islands" disappear during part of the day, but there are also some real barrier islands. I visited two of them, Culatra and Deserta (also named Barreta). You can go by ferry, speedy taxi boats, slow special boats for bird watching… I tried them all. 
A first trip was from Olhão to the Culatra Island and its fishermen’s village… and a nice lunch…

… followed by a walk along the island and its beaches in the direction of Farrol , lighthouse and village.

I made a second trip, this time from Faro…

….by a slow boat to try to watch a little bit of the bird life. The lagoon is of course a birds’ paradise. Some 20 or 30.000 birds live here permanently, but the lagoon is also an important stop-over for migrating birds on their way between Europe and Africa.

This time I arrived at the Deserta (or Barreta) Island, where the only buildings are a few fishermen’s huts and a restaurant, where I had some local oysters and more.  

Then time for a nice walk admiring the scarce vegetation…

… the human and bird footprints and more…

When it is low tide you can see some people collecting what you will later find at the fish market or on your restaurant table. You may observe the little hole to the left of the feather? This is where the nice knife shells hide. There are different techniques to get them out of the hole. 



A second post about my visit to the south of Portugal. The first one was about the little town of Olhão, where I stayed with friends. This post will be about the slightly more important city, Faro, which is also where you find the regional international airport. I made a very short visit and concentrated on the “Cidade Velha”, the old town.  

A little bit of etymology? We shall not forget that this part of the world was under Moorish rule during some five centuries. The name of the region, Algarve, has of course Arabic origins – (“al ḡarb” = the west). Also the city name of Faro has obviously nothing to do with what you first would imagine, a lighthouse (farol in Portuguese, faro in Spanish, phare in French…), but the old name of the city, Faaron, seems again to have some Arabic origins - the name of a local “quadi” = judge.  The name of Olhão comes also from the Arabic - “al hain” = the source.  

A major entrance to the old city is by the “Arco de Vila”. You are of course fascinated by the storks on the top of the building.

There was another stork on the top of the Cathedral Tower… I wanted to get a closer look.

The Cathedral, the “Sé”, was completed in 1251, but was severely damaged in the 1755 earthquake, often referred to as the Great Lisbon Earthquake, but with its origin in the Atlantic it touched large parts of Portugal, northern Africa… It was actually felt in the whole western world  and was followed by an important tsunami. The interior of the church is today a mix of gothic, renaissance, baroque…

Some other views of the charming old town, including a place where you can buy some azulejos.

A walk along the old fortress walls and I prepared myself for a visit of the lagoon, the Ria Formosa.  


Olhão – Bom Sucesso

So, I spent about a week in the south of Portugal, in the Algarve region. I was invited by friends who live part of the year in the little town of Olhão. Yes, it was a “bom sucesso” – I will come back to the “Bom Sucesso” matter!

If you arrive by air, you will land at Faro. The sea, the lagoon, in front of Faro and Olhão is referred to as Rio Formosa. The coastline west of Faro is to a large part occupied by golf courses, splendid villas with swimming pools… but if you go east, towards the Spanish border, you will still find a number of more authentic and charming towns and villages. Olhão is one of them. The town has always been linked to fishing and related industries.

Today along the seafront you can walk along a nicely arranged park-like promenade. 

This is also where you can find a number of "azulejo"-decorated illustrations of the town history, more particularly referring to the local revolt against the Napoleonic occupants in 1808, which led to the liberation of the Algarve region. “Bom Sucesso” refers to a “caique” which left for Brazil to inform the Portuguese King who had taken refuge there about the successful uprising. What we see here (and also as top picture) is a copy of this little ship, "caique".

This is furthermore where you can find two identical market buildings (by Gustave Eiffel!!), one for fish and seafood, one for fruits and vegetables.

Especially on a Saturday, even if the high season is over, the market and its surroundings, including the cafés and restaurants, are crowded.

The centre of the town has conserved its original charm, with beautifully decorated facades, often covered with "azulejos".

Most of these buildings have a number of terraces, the same house often with several on different levels.

Some buildings are in need of restoration - there is a lot of activity ongoing.   

Typical for the town and the region are the cobble-stones, the “knocking hands”, the "azulejo" street names … 

A quick look on the “Igreja Matriz de Nossa Senhora do Rosário”.

I will come back to the lagoon and the small islands, but here are some photos to remind us of the nearby sea, the birds…

The Christmas season decorations were just ready.