>> Wednesday, November 3, 2010
The Algarve region located in Portugal’s southern coast is known as one of the country’s top tourist locales with many beach resort towns located throughout the entire area. With so many great places, it was hard to pick a specific town to stay in when we were there, but luckily the rocky coastlines and its proximity to the most southwestern tip of Europe made it easy to choose Lagos as our destination spot.
When we first pulled up to our hotel, Vila Gale, we didn’t know what to expect. I guess we sort of gave each other the questioning look as to whether we arrived at the right place. Why you ask? Well when you step in to Vila Gale it looks like a spa not a hotel. Everything is very contemporary and the design of the whole complex is simply amazing. Not to mention it’s got an amazing pool which is literally a stone’s throw away from the Meia Praia beach. We were already on cloud 9 at this point, but what made this hotel stand out for us was their customer service. When they found out that we were there on our honeymoon, they decided to surprise us with rose petals, candles, robes, slippers, champagne and chocolate dipped pineapples. Yes! Chocolate Dipped Pineapples! What more could you ask for. At this point I could simply turn around leave Lagos and still say I had an amazing time. But of course I couldn’t do that, there’s so much more to explore!
Since all the towns within the Algarve region are literally an hours drive from one to the other, if you had time you can literally travel from one end of the Algarve to the other and see many different towns and ruins along the way. Some of the most memorable places for us included: watching the sunset on the top of Montchique or on the most southwestern tip of Europe, Cabo Sao Vincente, surfing along the Costa Vicentina while visiting the little towns on the way, checking out the castle of Silves, eating fresh fish caught daily in Portimao and of course kayaking between the rock formations along the coastline near Lagos while passing by all the secluded beaches and caves throughout.
If the sites itself isn’t enough to draw one to this region, the food certainly should, especially when you need to fill your stomach after a 3 hour kayaking trip. In the Algarve is where we had our first (of many) cataplanas, which is the Portuguese version of a seafood stew, made with different types of fish, shellfish, potatoes, peppers, tomatoes and herbs, it’s a food lover’s dream. The fish is cooked perfectly in a perfectly seasoned tomato sauce with plenty of potatoes; I couldn’t stop myself from sopping up all the juices with the chewy Portuguese bread. Each restaurant has their own variation of the cataplana, you can even get meat or mixed cataplanas, which has both meat and fish.
With the proximity to the ocean, it wasn’t surprising to find delicious bacalhau in this region, but their meat dishes weren’t too shabby either. One night in Portimao I had the grilled chicken along with their much favored French fries, it made quite the dish. I do have to admit that through our stay in Portugal we ate more than our share of the potatoes, whether they were fried or stewed or boiled, it was served with every dish.
As mentioned before I’m sure, everybody must visit Portugal at least once in their lifetimes and hopefully have a chance to sample the many different dishes and places as we have. Portugal is an amazing country with many beautiful sights. Of course we’re still missing the Northern part of Portugal, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we do find ourselves wondering back sometime in the future.