Albufeira, a resort town along the beautiful Algarve coast of Portugal was a perfect place to enjoy some relaxing and rejuvenating time by the sea. From our apartment high on the hill we had expansive views of the mighty Atlantic Ocean. This stop in our itinerary was a welcome respite from the many cathedrals and historic buildings we have been touring recently and being here in February meant the area was quiet, without the crush of tourists who descend here in the warmer months. Albufeira is a very hilly town so we got our fair share of exercise walking to and from the town center, the marina and the beach, and according to Blair it is a runners nightmare! We found a gym nearby and there is a tennis court in our condo complex which has kept us on track with our quest to get fit again, now that we are healthy 🙂
Salgados beach is a 15 minute drive West of Albufeira and a large expanse of lovely sand to walk along. The views from this beach are gorgeous, and this time of year very quiet. Bordering the beach is the Salgados Nature Reserve where bird watching enthusiasts can observe flamingos at the right time of year. We had a “don’t look Ethel” moment as we passed by a “human” nature reserve…never a dull day 🙂 And NO, no photos of the “human” nature reserve….LOL
Adega do Cantor (Winery of the Singer) produces Sir Cliff Richard’s award winning Vida Nova & Onda Nova wines and is a short drive up the hill from Albufeira near the town of Guia. The vineyard entrance is wide and impressive and leads to the estate which includes the Cellar Door shop to purchase the wines made on site. There are several tour times throughout the day, depending on the time of year, and can be found online via this link to their website. Our tour began outside at the old drying area with its spectacular views of the surrounding countryside and the three separate vineyards that make up this estate.
The first section of the tour gives an explanation about the three estates which combine to produce the Vida Nova and Onda Nova wines; the types of grapes grown on each estate, and the influence that the soil, the climate and the weather all have upon the vines. The oldest vineyard, Quinta do Moinho, is Sir Cliff’s, planted in 1997 after he decided that he would rather grow grapes than figs! Quinta do Miradouro was established in 2001 and is owned by Cliff’s business partner in the estate, Mr Nigel Birch; and the third vineyard, Quinta Vale do Sobreiro, was established in 2004 and is now owned as a partnership for the company. It was very interesting to hear about the differences between the three vineyards and how they combine different grapes from each to create their unique wines. Modern technology was certainly in evidence in the second area of the tour, at the winery, where the whole wine-making process is explained, and the machinery involved in the process is shown. With a capacity of only 150 barrels, the cellar really had a boutique feel to it, and it is here that the vineyard’s philosophy of producing wines to the highest possible standard is most evident. The cellar area with its French and American Oak barrels lined up is where the wine tasting part of the tour was given.
The tour takes about an hour, and after the wine tasting you are led into the Cellar Door Shop, and given a good price on wines. The shop was a very interesting mix of objects and memorabilia, as well as wine for sale. Signed photographs and objects are displayed all around the walls, a Cliff Richard fan would be happy to spend some time looking around the shop! It was also interesting to see how many awards this vineyard has been given for its wines – this is not just a pop star’s personal hobby, it is a small but professional vineyard that takes the production and quality of its wine very seriously.
What impressed us most was how small and peaceful the vineyards are with gorgeous views of the Atlantic. With a maximum production capacity of only 150,000 bottles of wine each year, there is a sense of exclusivity to the wine – and that doesn’t just come from the famous name on each bottle. With such a small production only 50% of these wines are exported, to places such as Germany, Great Britain, Denmark and Switzerland.
So, back to the beginning…who is Sir Cliff Richard? He is a British pop star, the third top selling artist in the UK after the Beatles and Elvis Presley!! He dominated the British music scene in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s probably before the time of some of you reading this 🙂
Following our vineyard tour we drove to the tiny rustic village of Guai for an early meal at Ramires. They claim to be the “original” piri piri chicken restaurant in the area, established in 1964, and this is the only dish they serve, spicy or not spicy!! Piri piri chicken is a traditional Portugese dish originating in North Africa. Rumor has it that the only person now who knows the secret recipe is the daughter of the founder, not even her husband is privy to the recipe. Once you are seated the waiter comes over and asks you how spicy you want your chicken, of course we went for spicy…but nothing compares to the Jamaican Jerk seasoning that we became accustomed to over 16 years in Grand Cayman 🙂 The meal comes with french fries and a tomato/onion salad, basic but obviously what they do best based upon the size of the restaurant which seats 400. The meal was good but not one we will rush out and have again, it was similar to jerk chicken but not as spicy. The village of Guai appeared completely deserted at 4pm but I suppose we are in between the lunch and dinner times. Fortunately Ramires is open from noon until 1 am every day so you can enjoy their piri piri chicken any time.
The next day we drove half an hour West along the coast reaching Praia de Marinha and it was here we found the iconic views one associates with the Algarve. The crumbling sponge toffee colored cliffs, hidden coves and incredible arches of rock reaching out into the sea.
After hiking for a while along the cliff top trail we came back to the parking area and headed to the beach via some steep steps down the cliff.
At the Eastern end of the beach was a small tunnel we had to crouch down to pass through, going through the base of the cliff opening up at an even smaller and prettier cove. What a beautiful spot this is 🙂
Silves is another Medieval town a short drive from Albufeira and it was here we found a castle!! At the entrance of the castle, you will find the statue of Sancho I, who was the second king of Portugal, born in 1154.
With the help of the Crusaders he took Silves in 1191, ordered the fortification of the city and built the incredible castle whose remains can still be seen today.
The Castelo de Silves is now the best preserved castle in the Algarve. It is believed to have been situated on top of Roman fortifications from the 4th or 5th century. It is a most impressive site, with eleven square towers and red sandstone walls. Some of the towers have Gothic doorways and there are some small exhibition rooms housing artifacts and displays. There were originally two entrances to the castle grounds; the main gate defended by two towers and a so-called ‘Gate of Betrayal’. You can see many areas of excavation, historical and archaeological importance as you walk around the ramparts.
Our final weekend in Albufeira we took a catamaran tour of the Algarve coastline taking us as far West as Ferragudo to admire the many beautiful beaches and dramatic cliffs along the shore. The tour included the Algarve’s most famous cave, Benagil Cave; the Arco do Triunfo and Praia de Marinha where we walked the other day.
It was a pleasant 3 hours on the ocean although a bit cool on a cloudy February day. We enjoyed a nice chat with a Canadian couple from Sarnia, Ontario – fun to spend time with fellow Canadians and discuss traveling. They told us when visiting Croatia recently they rented a car and driving was no problem, this may be an option for us as we make our way around Croatia, good information 🙂
We have thoroughly enjoyed our 11 days in Albufeira, it felt like a relaxing vacation, and we can see the attraction for people wanting to move here. The winters are mild and no doubt the summers are hot. The views from anywhere along the coast are breathtaking with many hiking trails, and for golfers there is an abundance of courses around. This would be a great area to spend a few winter months if you lived in a cold climate.
On a personal note I am sad to say Albufeira is the last place we will be playing tennis for a while. It has been great playing almost every day while here but between the discomfort of my torn meniscus and the general difficulty in finding tennis courts to play at during our travels we have decided to stop carting around assorted tennis gear and rackets. Along with paring down our clothing a bit more, this will allow us to get down to one suitcase each, saving a tremendous amount of excess baggage fees in the upcoming months. For the short term we will ship our third suitcase to my cousin in the UK and pick it up in August when we pass through on our way to Calgary. It was a tough decision giving up my love of playing tennis but we can add it to the list of things we have temporarily given up to travel full time. Fortunately Blair has been really successful in finding gym’s near our various apartments so we can attempt to stay somewhat fit during our travels 🙂
From this Southern tip of Portugal we now begin our journey North, to the capital and largest city in Portugal – Lisbon…..