We have been staying for the past three days in a remarkable place — a once dying village tucked deep in a valley in the western Algarve. Someone bought the old village, fixed it up and now runs it as a eco tourism village. And it works! We have a little row house (for lack of a better word)… A white stucco one-bedroom place on a narrow cobbled lane. Aldeia de Padralva, we discovered tonight, also has an excellent restaurant where we had black acorn-fed pork kebabs and spicy Piri Piri (a Portuguese spicy chili).
Mostly, we have been eating seafood plucked right out of the Atlantic including fish stew (cataplana) and grilled prawns in oil and garlic and grilled sardines. Delicious! A highlight was the Michelin-starred restaurant in the nearby village of Villa do Bispo called A Eira do Mel (We ate a cataplana of wild shrimp, cubes of pork and Portuguese sausage in a delicious broth. It was served for two in a large pot with rice, followed by homemade lemon ginger ice cream) and at a seafood place right over the little bridge from the Mercado in the moorish city of Aljezar (grilled sardines, shrimp sauteed in garlic). We also ate at Site de Forno overlooking the beach near the town of Cappeietera.
It’s not been all about the food. The scenery is spectacular – dramatic black stone cliffs along the Atlantic Coast, with wild waves crashing into jagged rocks in the water, perfect sandy beaches, lots of wind. We walked today in the morning from Casteljho beach to another beach a little to the north, with fisherman somehow fishing on the jagged rocks in the water. We also went to the beach in the tiny town of Salema on the Mediterranean side, which was much calmer but very cold. We braved the water anyway.
Also enjoyed the fort at Sagres (which did feel like the end of the earth, as people once thought it was pre-Christopher Columbus), roaming around the resort town of Lagos and exploring the Moorish village of Aljezur. I am so glad we stayed on the western Algarve instead of on the southern coast which is chockablock with high rises. This area is a national park so protected from development. Amen.
One mishap: our car was broken into while we were roaming around a beach area the first day. Fortunately we didn’t lose anything crucial (passports, credit card, glasses etc) and I had a good excuse to buy a little cork purse (a Portuguese staple.)