Europe 2005-2006 travel blog

Always nice to visit a typical Portuguese bar!

You have to be careful walking down the pier in Albufeira!

Flamingos in the marshes outside Albufeira

Man out digging for clams in Lagos

Fishing boats on the beach in Salema

Spring flowers and cottages in Salema

Stormy surf in Sagres

The End of the World.... in Sagres

Moe had been to the Algarve over thirty years ago and so had mixed feelings about returning to see the impact tourism had on it. The Algarve, in Portugal, stretches from the Spanish border, along the Atlantic to Sagres, the most southwesterly point in Europe. To a visitor, there is really little difference between the villages on the Costa del Sol in Spain and the villages on the Algarve in Portugal - other than there is more space between them in Portugal (on the Costa del Sol they all tend to run together) and they are certainly less huge holiday apartment complexes. There are still an enormous number of British pubs (plus a Canadian bar in Albufeira, a town where we met more Canadians than we have seen since we left Canada 6 months ago!), restaurants serving English Breakfast, KFC outlets, Burger King, etc. In Albufeira we noticed a SUV and trailer in the campsite with Quebec plates. We met the owners and discovered them to be retired (Anglophone) Civil Servants taking the same trip as we are after having shipped their vehicle over from Canada as well. We love the many, many Brits we have met but it was very special hearing the clear Canadian accent for a day or two and catching up on the Canadian news (he purchased a Herald Tribune every day despite the lofty price of $4.50).

We arranged to meet Dot and Ray, a British couple we had met at Christmas on the Costa del Sol, who were free camping (as were dozens and dozens of others) along the beach in Lagos. We joined a jolly group of German and British campers who had placed themselves right at the edge of the beach at Praia Meia just outside Lagos. We were steps from the beach and looked out our back window at miles of sandy beach and turquoise Atlantic. Every morning we could walk an hour one way into Lagos or one hour the other way to the next village. A big group of us went out to a local café for lunch one day and for €7.50 (about $10), we had appetizers, unlimited wine, salad, unlimited roast turkey, rice and fries, dessert, coffee and brandy. It will certainly be an eye opener to get back to Canada to find wine does not come free with the price of the meal.

There is something very meditative about walking along a long stretch of sandy beach, listening to the waves wash onto the shore. But, there is something wildly exhilarating about standing on a cliff hundreds of feet above the Atlantic with the wind blowing at you from all directions, and the waves crashing so hard into the shore they are shooting up over the edge of the promontory. THAT describes the change in the landscape as we headed west along the Algarve - as different from the rest of the Algarve than anything could be. We had read that the further west you go along the coast, the less touristy it is. Other than the surfers who are drawn to this climate, the winter snowbirds seem to prefer the calm, sunny beaches of Lagos and Albufeira, and other points east.

In Sagres, there are several fingers of land jutting high out into the Atlantic: on one of them sits the village of Sagres and on another Cabo de So Vicente that is an old fort and lighthouse on the most southwesterly tip of Europe. It was also considered "the end of the world" by the poor Spanish and Portuguese sailors who sailed past this point with explorers such as Columbus and Vasco de Gama - wondering what fate would befall them as they sailed off the edge of the world.

The area provided miles of flat, albeit windy, cycling over the scrubby, desert like terrain covered in shrubs, lavender, Thyme and millions of low growing spring flowers now out in bloom. Another of the exhilarating experiences was seeing the death-defying anglers with huge rods perched atop the cliffs hoping to land bream or sea bass (that we could see by the millions swimming along against the cliff).

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