I am writing this after a rude awakening this morning, from my stomach (I’ll leave it there, but you can probably guess what I mean).
I am lying awake in a hotel bed on the Portuguese coast of Praia de Faro. When I first arrived in the hotel Aeromar, I laughed at how dated it was, with its woollen blankets, dark wood furniture and the bathroom with its 50’s style hairdryer and dodgy shower. I broke the shower head as it fell from the wall within seconds and didn’t really hold out much hope for the rest of the stay. In my best Portuguese (thanks Google translate), I went down to reception to explain what had happened, half expecting a “meh” response, the guy didn’t bat an eyelid though, said he couldn’t promise it would be fixed straight away, but would be done that day. When I got back to the room a few hours later, it was all sorted, I then started to feel the charm about this small hotel by the beach.
The location is perfect, only a few minutes by bus from the airport, beach on one side, nature reserve (great for spotting long beaked birds (I know nothing about birds!)) on the other side, 20 minutes by bus to Faro city, where you can catch a train or boat to various locations and sunrises/sets to boast about. The loud Portuguese music that plays on a Tuesday night till midnight adds to the charm. Being so close to the airport I considered the noise, but in fact the planes are more of a rumble, in Faro city however, they can be quite loud as they fly overhead.
Here are some of my tips if you visit:
1. Learn some basic phrases, a little bit of effort to speak the language goes a long way. The Portuguese are very friendly and seem proud of their language, so will happily help you pick up more. Here is some key ones to help along with my weird pronunciation guide:
Thank you – Obrigado (male), Obrigada (female) – Ob-ree-guard-oh
Please – Por favor – Pour-fah-vore
I don’t understand – Eu nao intentendo – Ooh-no-intend-oh
Do you speak English? – Voce fala Ingles? – Voss-fal-ah-ing-lays
2. Visit the cathedral in Faro city and climb the bell tower and take in the views. Be sure to take some binoculars (I admit I’m a geek).
3. Wear comfortable shoes. A lot of places along the Algarve have slippery cobbled stones, flip flops and heels won’t cut it.
4. Walk down the side streets. Some of the tiled walls and architecture of the buildings are fantastic to look at, I wish the UK had more colourful houses.
5. Take a boat trip. I was told by a local to take the train to Lagos, as the best caves are over there. Sadly, it is just under 2 hours by train and we didn’t get up early enough, so instead we got the hotel to book a trip from Vilamoura marina which included the taxi there and back. It was convenient, but I felt I cheated a bit. I was still able to swim in the freezing sea and go into the caves.
6. April is not normally as warm as it has been for us, so take a long sleeved top. The coast is renowned for being windy and in the evenings it can get quite cold, especially if you’re eating outside.
7. Take a train along the coast. We visited Tavira, it was very pretty along the river and the views from the castle are fantastic. There is a walled garden which smelt so sweet, and sounded like a film as a busker played softly in the background.
8. Try some local fish. Even if you aren’t keen on seafood, ask for a taster. Some of the restaurants will do a tapas style dish you can have alongside your main if you are unsure about your choice, just ask.
9. Wear sunscreen! This should be a given, but my friend didn’t listen to my warnings, assuring me she doesn’t burn *cue eye roll*, yes she burnt on day one, when it didn’t even feel that warm, but the breeze here can definitely make it feel cooler. She learnt her lesson and used my P20, which is ideal for me as I only need to apply it once a day (you may need it more depending on your skin type).
10. Have fun! This may seem obvious, but the amount of people I hear moaning when on holiday, makes you wonder if they are encouraging sadness. So your hotel may not be perfect, laugh about it, you aren’t really going to spend that much time in it. The plane might be delayed, play a game, talk to strangers (don’t go off alone with them though). Your friend is snoring, put a pillow over her head and hold it there until she shuts up, she won’t snore again! (I’m joking, I promise she’s still alive…for now!).
For more photos go to my Facebook page here