A Couple of HUGE (and Costly) Travel Learning Experiences For Me

During my week in the Algarve in Portugal, two things happened to me that had never happened to me EVER while traveling. I consider myself a pretty savvy traveler, at least for an American, having been to several islands in the Caribbean, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, parts of Europe, and South America. However, two things happened that ended up throwing me for a loop and I want to pass along what I learned as a result so that hopefully none of you make the same mistakes I did.

I have a Garmin GPS-enabled watch that I wear all the time. It usually resets itself to the current time when I travel but in the past it may have taken it a day or so to reset itself. While I was in Portugal, I noticed it suddenly reset itself after several days, on the Friday evening we were there. Since it had taken my watch a while to catch up before I didn’t think much of it. Around the same time I noticed my Samsung phone had also reset itself to the same time as my watch.

Sunset during dinner on our last night (nope even that didn’t trigger anything at the time even though we normally don’t eat that late)

Of course I assumed both my watch and phone had reset to the current time in Portugal, which was 5 hours ahead of EST, where I live. I assumed incorrectly, because as you will later see, both my watch and phone had actually reset 4 hours ahead, not 5 hours. So when I looked at my watch or phone and thought it was 6 am, it was actually 7 am. There was no reason for me to check that both devices had reset to the correct current time and there were no clocks in the Airbnb to check. I didn’t do a Google search to see current time in Portugal and check that it was the same as my watch and phone.

This wasn’t a problem until it was time to fly back to the United States on Saturday morning. I thought we were arriving at the Faro airport two hours before our flight, which should have been enough time since we weren’t checking bags and I had printed out our tickets at the Airbnb the night before. Plus, I knew Faro airport wasn’t huge like some other international airports.

At the airport, I checked the board to see what gate our flight to Lisbon was leaving out of and thought it was strange it said final boarding. I remember thinking to myself, “That’s strange they’re doing final boarding so early” but I still didn’t think much of it. We arrived at our gate and I saw a line of people getting ready to board a plane, thinking of course that was the line to board our plane, but I was wrong again. This line was full of people going to Berlin, as the chatty girl in line in front of my daughter mentioned and when I actually looked up and saw a Ryanair sign, my heart sank. Then I saw the final blow, a clock that read 7:00.

Frantically, I looked at my watch and phone and said, “But it can’t be 7:00! It’s only 6:00!” My daughter, who has nightmares about missing flights, despite the fact that it’s only happened a handful of times out of the dozens of flights we’ve had, usually due to weather delays and missed connections, started crying uncontrollably and she started to panic. Of course that didn’t help me. Nor did the fact that not a single soul was around to help me sort this out.

I went back to the ticketing area (thank goodness we never check bags and still had ours with us) and tried to find someone from TAP Portugal Airlines. There was no one. Finally someone in an information booth told me to wait until an hour before the next TAP Portugal flight, and someone from the airline would be at the airport then. Since it was a little after 7 am, that meant someone should be there to help me in a little less than two hours. I knew there was a flight from Faro to Lisbon with TAP Portugal at 10 am so I felt confident as long as there were seats left they could get us on that flight.

So we waited and I bought us some pastries from a kiosk and some bottled water since European airports don’t typically have water fill stations for water bottles. Finally someone from TAP Portugal showed up and I kindly explained that we had missed our 7 am flight to Lisbon and asked if we could please be put on the 10 am flight. She looked at me with disdain and repeated, “Missed your flight?” to which I replied, “Yes, we missed our flight. We had car troubles,” thinking she might be more sympathetic to that rather than saying my watch and phone hadn’t reset properly and had only reset 4 hours ahead rather than the entire 5 hours, which was actually the truth but I realized how crazy it sounded.

She then informed me rather brusquely that indeed there were seats available on the 10 am flight and I could purchase them for 2800 Euro. I was shocked and blurted out “Excuse me? I need to pay for these seats even though I already paid for the seats from the 7 am flight? And is that per seat or for two seats?” She said it was for two seats and yes, that was correct. I was dumbfounded. Previously we had missed a flight going to the Canary Islands with Iberia Airlines and we had been put on the next flight without having to buy new tickets so I didn’t think it was just a difference between US airlines and European airlines. I hadn’t bought the cheapest seats available with TAP Portugal, either. She suggested I do a search online and compare my options with different airlines to see if I could find another option. In other words, I was on my own.

My mind felt like it was spinning a million miles a minute. Not only did I have to search for flights from Faro to the United States that same day but our flight back to North Carolina was at 9:15 pm out of Newark so we needed to get to Newark before 9:15 that evening. Thank goodness I had good wifi at the airport.

I finally found an acceptable flight with British Airways from Faro to London, London to Newark that was leaving in about an hour and a half, which I thought should give us plenty of time to get through security again and to the gate. It also didn’t cost me nearly as much as the 2800 Euro I would have had to have paid with TAP Portugal (this would have been on top of what I had already paid for our tickets from Newark to Portugal). Because of COVID, I also had to download all kinds of extra information like our negative tests and certifications that we were healthy.

We did indeed make it to the gate on time and boarded the flight on time. The flight from London just barely missed getting us into Newark in time for the flight home; we missed it by less than 30 minutes. Fortunately, the nice person from United that I called from the BA airplane when we were waiting to deplane was happy to put us on the next flight from Newark, in about an hour later, at no charge.

Typical buildings and cobbled streets in the Algarve; this was in the city of Portimão.

The next day after we got home I called TAP Portugal, thinking surely they would give me a travel voucher if nothing else. I was curtly told that was not their policy and since I missed the flight, there was nothing they could do for me. I hung up the phone shocked. Believe me, I will try everything in my power to never fly TAP Portugal again but if I have to for some reason (because I would like to go back to Portugal) I will make sure I’m at the airport three hours in advance, not two, and more importantly, I will do a Google search asking what time it is in my current city every single time I travel across time zones.

Have you ever heard of a GPS-enabled watch or phone only partially adjusting when someone travels across time zones? Has this ever happened to you? A friend of mine suggested maybe since I didn’t have cell phone coverage in Portugal, my phone only partially reset but that doesn’t explain my watch. And why they both reset 4 hours ahead instead of 5 hours ahead is a mystery to me.

If you missed my other posts on Portugal, you can find them here: A Week in the Algarve- Southern Portugal- Outdoor Adventures, Faro, Sagres and Lagos, Portugal, First Impressions of Every Day Life in the Algarve (Southern Portugal) from an American Point of View

Happy travels!

Donna

First Impressions of Every Day Life in the Algarve (Southern Portugal) from an American Point of View

For so many years I had wanted to go to southern Portugal and just when I was finally going to go the pandemic started and international borders were closed. After another almost two-year wait, I was able to go to the Algarve region. Was it worth the wait? Absolutely 100%. Was it what I expected? In some ways yes, in other ways, not at all. I’ll go over some basic things I experienced, like driving, the food, and the people, and my thoughts on each.

Driving in Southern Portugal

People in Portugal drive on the right side of the road so that was easy for me as an American. I can’t speak about driving in Lisbon, Porto, or any other part of Portugal since I only drove after I picked up my rental car in Faro. The highways are well-marked and well-maintained. There aren’t many stop lights but there are roundabouts instead, which I mostly loved as I saw how there was only traffic backed-up at the places where the stop lights were. I did have to get an international drivers license for my trip but that was taken care of with a stop for passport photos followed by a stop to my local AAA for the small booklet. The downside is the license is only good for one year, which means the next time I go to Portugal I’ll have to get another one.

When you get into the main part of town, especially in small towns, driving can be a bit nail-biting. The roads in town are of course very old and were built way before the existence of today’s large vehicles. I was glad to have my compact car and even with that was nervous I’d scrape the sides of the vehicle next to me when I encountered another car. Fortunately the drivers that I encountered seemed willing to let others merge and seemed courteous for the most part. The only times I encountered any kind of car-related hostility was parking-related. As you’re probably aware, gas prices in Portugal (and Europe as a whole) are outrageous so be prepared for that. You should also acquaint yourself with European signs before your trip as well.

Do you need a car in the Algarve? If I would have only wanted to stay in my little corner of the Algarve where my Airbnb was in Ferragudo, I could have skipped the rental car entirely. However, I knew I wanted to explore the southern coast, which meant I would absolutely need a rental car. My only advice about renting a car is pay attention to the charges on your rental agreement. I’m currently disputing a charge with my credit card company about a toll fee that should have been credited back to me by the rental company but they neglected to do so, despite the fact I never drove on a toll road.

The Food in the Algarve

If you enjoy fresh seafood with loads of fruits and vegetables, this is the place for you. I’m not sure if we had seafood every day we were there but it must have been close. I had been told I should try the grilled squid, which I normally don’t enjoy in the US, and it was delicious, as were the grilled sardines, which are gargantuan compared to the nasty tinned sardines in the US. Even my teenage daughter devoured her sardines, which should tell you how good they were.

Portugal is also famous for their little pastries called pastel de nata or pastel de Belem. These are little egg custard tarts sometimes dusted with cinnamon. We had these for breakfast several times and once for an afternoon snack during a long walk. They were so tasty my daughter wants to learn how to make them!

So much fish here! Not a single meal wasn’t at least very good and most were excellent!

Some of my favorite restaurants in the Algarve include: Haven in Vilamoura, an expensive city with golf courses, expats, and a harbor filled with yachts. Side bar- there’s also an archaeological site in Vilamoura, Cerro da Vila but it was temporarily closed so we couldn’t visit. Another restaurant I loved was the fantastic O Molhe, in Ferragudo, with fresh seafood, servers fluent in at least 5 different languages (I heard them speak French, English, Portuguese, Spanish, and German), and some of the best views in the Algarve. I also enjoyed some wonderful Vietnamese food at Sen Tonkin in Ferragudo. Finding Asian restaurants is a rare find in the Algarve so it was a nice change. Another favorite was in Sagres called Three Little Birds. This is a large restaurant with a comfortable outdoor seating area in addition to many indoor tables.

Shopping in the Algarve

I was surprised to see so many Lidl grocery stores, the German-based company, but I guess I shouldn’t have been since apparently there are 11,000 Lidls in Europe. There were also several French-owned grocery stores called Intermarche, as well as the German-owned store Aldi. I always like checking out selection and prices at grocery stores when I travel and I found the selection and prices to be reasonable with some things priced lower than I would pay in North Carolina but other things were about the same. I didn’t go to a Continente grocery store, which has the most grocery stores in the Algarve so I don’t know how the prices are there but I suspect they aren’t much different from the others.

I know I seem to be contradicting myself a bit here because I’ve said before I prefer to shop locally when I’m traveling abroad and the grocery stores I’m talking about here are all chains. Further, I also shopped at a Decathlon, not once but twice when I was in the Algarve. Decathlon is a French sporting goods store with almost 1700 stores worldwide but none are in the US (there used to be one in San Francisco but it closed recently, citing the pandemic).

One rainy day I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to finally get to go to a Decathlon store in person. I have bought several things from Decathlon online, and I was so impressed with the products I wrote a post about some of my purchases (Review of Decathlon Running Apparel or Why Running Tights Should Not Cost $158). If you’re not familiar with Decathlon, they sell everything from gear for running, hiking, cycling, swimming, surfing, camping, and well, you get the idea, for extremely affordable prices. My daughter was excited to see short-sleeve running shirts for 5 Euro, pullovers for 10 Euro, and I was excited to see a backpack for 15 Euro, all of which I bought, along with a box of cereal bars for something like 3 Euro (for 12 bars). When we were in another town just strolling around and happened-upon another Decathlon, of course we had to pop in. It was a much smaller “boutique-size” store right on a beach, with mainly bathing suits and a small selection of other sporting goods. It wasn’t nearly as exciting as the main store we had visited a few days prior and we didn’t buy anything at this store.

Of course there are also the touristy beach shops selling things like t-shirts, magnets, photo holders, and other souvenirs. There were two things I didn’t buy that I wanted to: an adorable ceramic honey pot decorated with typical blue and white Algarve designs and a small zippered bag. I didn’t buy the honey pot because I don’t check bags when I travel and I knew I’d never eat all of the honey before we flew back home plus you can’t fly with honey in a carry-on and I didn’t buy the bag because I wasn’t sure I’d actually use it for anything useful. The one thing I did buy was a keychain. I buy an ornament for our Christmas tree when I travel to a new place but I didn’t like any of the ornaments we saw in the Algarve so I bought a cute key chain instead (I’ve done this before and by now have several keychains that I put on the Christmas tree from places we’ve traveled to over the years).

The People

I realize I may be getting into a controversial subject here but my first impression of the people was not what I expected. Every other person in the US that I’ve talked to that’s been to Portugal has raved about how beautiful the country is, how amazing the food is, and how friendly and nice the people are. My experience was not like that when it came to the people I encountered.

Not that I expected the people to gush compliments and be the most friendly people I had ever met but I didn’t expect them to be rude and ignore me at times. Not only was I yelled at by an elderly Portuguese man who thought I was taking his parking spot (I was just trying to turn around) when I was in Lagos, there were other people there who yelled at me for parking in an inappropriate spot (temporarily, since I quickly moved the car when I figured out why they were yelling at me). If any of those people would have just talked to me instead of yelling at me, it would have been an entirely different experience for me.

Then there was the time when my daughter and I went to a restaurant for lunch and we were blatantly ignored by three different people who worked there. They saw us standing by the entrance then looked the other way and carried on with their business. At best, all of the people we encountered were civil but in a cool and distant way, if that makes sense. In other words, they were merely doing their job and were not chatty or in no way tried to get to know us or basically had any real interest in us.

Since I didn’t take any photos of the people there, here’s one of my lovely daughter wearing her new shirt from Decathlon!

One thing I don’t think I mentioned that is a big reason I wanted to go to the Algarve was to see if it could be a potential retirement place for me. Some of the boxes were checked, like good food, reasonable prices, great weather and scenery but the one box that I don’t feel like I could check off was friendly people. I will go back to southern Portugal and give it another chance but honestly, I’m not sure I’d want to live in a place where the people aren’t that friendly. Maybe I just had a bad first impression and on that account but I’m willing to give it another chance. I’ve since talked to other people who have said they’ve heard the people are more friendly in Lisbon and Porto than in Southern Portugal. Who knows if that’s true in general but since I would want to live in the south because of the warmer weather, even if it were true, it wouldn’t help me.

Have you been to Portugal? If so, where did you go and what was your experience like?

Happy travels!

Donna

Faro, Sagres and Lagos, Portugal

First a little geography lesson for anyone who has never been to the southern part of Portugal known as the Algarve. Lagos and Sagres are both on the western end of the Algarve, with Sagres on the very tip of southwestern Portugal. I had read that the further west you go in the Algarve, the less populated it is and I found that to be true. There also wasn’t as much to do as far as shopping and restaurants on the far western part. Faro is about an hour and a half drive east of Lagos and is where the Faro Airport is. All three cities are unique in their own right, each offering something worth checking out. I’ll break down the three cities one-by-one here.

Sagres

One of the major attractions in Sagres is the Sagres Fortress. This is part of the Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina Natural Park and includes a lighthouse (Farol de Sagres, where “farol” means lighthouse in Portuguese) and A Voz do Mar, which I’ll explain in a minute. There is a very large parking area where you’ll park and walk to the entrance of the fort and pay 3.50 Euro. Although you enter in an enclosed area, the vast majority of the fort is outside.

One of the amazing views from the Sagres Fortress

The views from the fort are amazing and there are markers along the walkway describing the fort and the flora and fauna in Portuguese, Spanish, and English. A Voz do Mar (“Voice of the Sea”) is a circular labyrinth that was originally going to be a temporary exhibit but was later made permanent. It was designed by the famous architect Pancho Guedes and is one of those places you just have to visit to understand but suffice to say when I was there, I exclaimed, “Whoa! That is so cool!” In short, it has just the right acoustics with its design to capture some of the sounds of the surrounding ocean. There’s also a tiny little church you can walk through on the grounds. Apparently one fortress and lighthouse wasn’t enough to the people in Sagres because there’s also the Lighthouse of Cabo de São Vicente and Fort of Santo António de Belixe, both about a 10-minute drive from Farol de Sagres and Sagres Fortress.

I had a hard time finding much to do in Sagres other than visiting the forts. There were plenty of surfing shops and several bars but not a whole lot else. The restaurants seemed to be clustered together in the same area; one we liked was Three Little Birds, a large restaurant with an outdoor seating area in a garden-like setting. The service was slow but they were also pretty much at max capacity and the food was excellent.

Can you tell it was windy at the fort?

Lagos

Driving toward the east from Sagres, Lagos is only about a half hour drive from Sagres and has much more to do, including one of my favorite walks, the Fisherman’s Trail (Trilho dos Pescadores) with Ponta da Piedade, which I wrote about on my previous post on Portugal (A Week in the Algarve- Southern Portugal- Outdoor Adventures). There are also streets that you can wander around on and get lost and discover some cute little shops, stopping to eat when you get hungry. Plus there are also some historical sites, including a Roman bridge, a fort complex, Forte da Ponta da Bandeira, and a castle.

I did have a hard time finding a parking spot in the center of town in Lagos but part of the problem may have been because it was Easter weekend. There was a street festival going on so there were probably more people than usual out that day. I got yelled at in Portuguese by an elderly gentleman who thought I was taking his parking spot in front of a church. I was on a tiny one-way road that suddenly ended and I was trying to turn around when he came over to my car and started pecking on the driver’s window. It was obvious what he was saying even though I didn’t understand a word he was saying. I tried to use my hands and arms to gesture and let him know I wasn’t parked but was turning around (which I would have been able to do sooner had he not approached my car) and finally I was able to get out of his obviously important (to him) parking spot. After much driving around, I lucked upon a tiny park with just one parking spot left and I happily took it.

The water along the Fisherman’s Trail was so pretty!

Faro

Compared to Lagos and Sagres, Faro is a bustling city, with a population of around 41,000. The Faro Airport serves the Algarve and is well-situated geographically, although it is a bit closer to Spain than the far tip of Sagres. On the day we went to the nature park, Parque Natural da Ria Formosa, we also stopped at Faro since they’re a short drive from one another.

While in Faro, we went to the Municipal Museum of Faro, a former convent, where we walked around for maybe an hour. Admission was 2 Euro per person but is free on Sundays until 2:30 pm (check their website to be sure that’s still the case before you go, (https://www.cm-faro.pt/pt/menu/215/museu-municipal-de-faro.aspx). I also wanted to go to Faro Municipal Market. I’ve always enjoyed checking out local shopping areas when I go to other countries and this one did not disappoint. There were plenty of local vendors selling fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and fish, chocolates and pastries, and flowers plus some restaurants and cafes and a large grocery store on the bottom level.

We got some pastries and sat outside to enjoy the nice weather while we ate. When we got to the rental car, I noticed a parking ticket on the windshield. It had a link to a website so later that evening I went online and saw I had inadvertently parked in a time-limited spot and had to pay something like 4 Euro, which I did right then before I forgot. Honestly, for the amount of time we had been parked there, 4 Euro seemed like a fair deal and it was quick and easy to take care of.

Photos from the Faro Municipal Museum and nearby

Despite getting yelled at by the elderly Portuguese man in Lagos and getting a parking ticket in Faro, I enjoyed these cities plus Sagres. Driving around Lagos wasn’t my favorite, with so many little one-way narrow roads and many parking signs saying parking was for residents only (which I fully understand and am not saying they shouldn’t offer this for their residents), but finding shops with parking spaces was difficult. Ultimately, when I did find a parking spot I found it was easier to just walk around and find shops and restaurants on my own rather than try to drive directly to them like I would in the US.

I know the Algarve is mainly known for its beaches (and for good reason) but I wanted to bring attention to these three cities as well. After all, not everyone just lounges at the beach all day. It’s good to have other options too.

Have you been to any of these cities or anywhere else in the Algarve? Do you want to go to Southern Portugal but haven’t made it there yet?

Happy travels!

Donna

A Week in the Algarve- Southern Portugal- Outdoor Adventures

Stop me if you’ve heard this story before: In 2020, I was supposed to take a big vacation and then all of a sudden this thing called Covid-19 hit, causing worldwide shutdowns. I know I’m not the only person who had to cancel plans when the pandemic started. I’m also not the only person who thought, “Surely this will be over in a couple of months and I can just postpone my trip until then.”

I was supposed to go to southern Spain and southern Portugal for a week each in June of 2020. When borders were closed I pushed back those plans a couple of months to August, only to finally cancel indefinitely. Once vaccinations and treatments were available and borders were starting to open again in 2021, I made plans to go to just Portugal (so no Spain this time) for a week during my daughter’s spring break in 2022.

I’m not going to go into detail here about all of the COVID testing requirements and regulations since I already wrote about that here: International Travel as an American During COVID Isn’t Easy but needless to say it was stressful. It turns out the stress didn’t stop there. When we arrived in Lisbon we were told there was too much fog that morning to fly safely into Faro. The airline, TAP Portugal was going to bus us all to Faro, or we could rent cars ourselves if we chose to do so (on our own dime). The ironic part is the fog lifted fairly quickly and we could have easily flown to Faro and we would have gotten there sooner, even with waiting a few hours. We were told it would be about a three hour bus ride.

After much standing around in the Lisbon airport for hours and being told time after time, “We’re still working on getting the buses here,” we finally boarded the buses (we all fit in two buses after many people left and rented vehicles on their own) and began the drive to Faro airport. Of course there was a lot of complaining by passengers in the meantime but I was just happy to get to Faro that same day. They could have easily told us we would have to wait until the next day to fly out.

I should mention never once did anyone from the airline (TAP Portugal) tell us we were entitled to any form of compensation or even a free lunch for our troubles, despite many people angrily demanding something in return. I know when it’s a weather-related delay airlines can pretty much do what they want. Since our flight from New York was an overnight one, I was exhausted by now and slept on the bus most of the way. The few times I did look out the window there didn’t seem to be much to see anyway other than normal highway sights.

Our temporary home in Portugal was perfect!

FINALLY in Faro (that should have been the title of my post), I picked up the rental car and about an hour later we arrived in Ferragudo at the Airbnb, a beautiful townhouse with several balconies including a rooftop balcony with bouganvillea spilling over the front of the property. Ferragudo turned out to be the perfect area to stay because it was a fairly central location in the Algarve, only an hour from the southwestern tip of Portugal and an hour from the southern border with Spain.

Things to Do- Hiking

Since the water was still chilly (I saw surfers wearing wet suits and children in the water but that was it) the plan was to spend most of our time hiking and generally checking out all that we could in a week without spending a ton of time in the car. We were very close to two incredible trails, The Seven Hanging Valleys Trail (Percurso dos Sete Vales Suspensos) and Trail of the Headlands (Caminho dos Promontórios).

The Seven Hanging Valleys Trail has been voted the best trail in Europe and I can see why. It’s around 12 kilometers (about 7.5 miles) and stretches from Praia da Marinha to Praia do Vale de Centeanes (Praia means “beach” in Portuguese). The trail is one-way so either you have a car pick you up at the end or you turn around and go back the way you came. Along the way you go past one of the most famous beaches in Portugal, Praia de Benagil. The trail was a little difficult to follow at times so pay attention when you come to businesses, since one part of the trail goes right through a restaurant at one point, and bring water, snacks, and sunscreen. There are some restaurants along the way but if you’re there during the winter they may not be open.

Hiking along the coast was one of my favorite things to do- it was so beautiful!

The Trail of the Headlands is about 6 kilometers and you can park at Praia do Molhe in Ferragudo to begin. There’s a wonderful restaurant by this beach that we ate dinner at on both our first and last days and I highly recommend it (the restaurant is called O Molhe). The trail is another out-and-back trail where you’ll see the rugged limestone cliffs with the azure blue water below but it was notably less busy when we were there than when we hiked the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail. Although many of the beaches along this trail are inaccessible, you can reach Praia do Pintadinho and Praia dos Caneiros.

A bit further west near Lagos is the Fisherman’s Trail (Trilho dos Pescadores). This 11-kilometer trail goes from Luz Beach to the train station in Lagos and like the other trails in the Algarve discussed here, has views of limestone cliffs with the blue water below. You’ll go past a famous area called Ponte da Piedade with its rock formations, caves, and grottos. There was once a Roman temple, a Moorish temple, a Christian hermitage, a fortification to protect Torrinha’s fishing tackle, and even a lighthouse here.

Beaches

As I mentioned earlier, the word beach in Portuguese is “Praia.” Honestly, I could never say here, “These are the best beaches in the Algarve” because 1) I’m certainly no expert on this and 2) That’s a pretty subjective matter. I will say this, two of the more popular beaches, Praia do Carvalho and Praia da Marinha get crowded. We managed to find a tiny beach one day, Praia da Afurada, that was near where we were staying in Ferragudo and not a single other person was there the entire time we were there, reading on the beach. It’s hard to go wrong with the over 100 beaches in the Algarve.

Ria Formosa Nature Park

The Ria Formosa Nature Park is near the town of Olhão. I suggest you stop in town first to get cash if you don’t have any since the nature park has an entry fee and they don’t accept credit cards. There’s also no food or drinks for sale in the park. We were there just before lunch so I found a small restaurant that turned out to be interesting. I asked for a menu and the person working there pointed to a small chalkboard with three things written on it: carne de porco, frango, and peixe (pork, chicken, and fish). Good thing my daughter and I are adventurous eaters! I chose the chicken for both of us and we received steaming plates of tender chicken with a creamy yellow sauce and fried potatoes on the side. It was delicious and tasted a bit like yellow curry but I honestly have no idea what it was and we didn’t get sick later.

Flamingos but not pink. Not sure what the birds in the trees were (upper right).

The Nature Park has a small parking lot where you park and pay for entry then it’s all self-guided trails. I didn’t find the trails especially well-marked and got turned around a few times, despite having a map given to me at the entrance. It’s full of a bunch of loops that go around one another so while it’s virtually impossible to get completely lost and not find your way back, you may end up like we did going in circles the wrong way a few times. We saw some flamingos and many other birds that I have no idea what they were since I’m not familiar with Portuguese birds but no other animals. We went past some salt pans but they were disappointingly not picturesque, unfortunately. It’s a nice place to walk around for a couple of hours, especially if you’re a nature-lover, and this doesn’t seem like a place that gets overly-crowded.

I’m going to end my post on southern Portugal here since it seems like a nice place to end. I’ll pick up with a post on some of the restaurants, shopping, and other things we enjoyed and some other things that happened to us (not all good) on our Portuguese adventure!

Have you been to Southern Portugal? If so, where did you go? Happy travels!

Donna

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