After adhering to our self-imposed quarantine in Florida for 15 months to protect ourselves from the unrelenting Covid-19, my husband and I decided that it is time for us to escape its human induced roller-coaster and never-ending upsurge. We have seen a lot of people, some close to us, who got sick and or lost a family member from the virus. This made us realize how fleeting life can be. Life is precious, and we thought that it was a time-wasting endeavor just to hunker down inside the four walls of our home, albeit beautiful, while we wait for this pandemic to end or take us out. With so much divisiveness going around the U.S., we were not even sure what political driven or life-threatening thing was going to confront us next. So, we decided to take our chances to SAFELY slow travel, explore other parts of the world whose Covid response was safer and realistic, and create new adventures while time was still on our side.
Early this year we started our serious research and formed our actions. Like anything else, we encountered many uncertainties during the planning stage, some of which ignited our hair and left us frizzled and frazzled. The suspense was almost unbearable. But God is good. After a couple of months of waiting anxiously for our visa approval, we received the most awaited good news. Immediately we tied up all the loose ends in our packing, storing items, and dealing with legal matters to get ready for our departure. While the tasks were quite daunting, we could care less. The thought of traveling made our hearts dance with joy and overflow with excitement.
“You are breaking like a dawn. It’s a new day. Become, become, become…” -John Roedel
Welcome to Portugal!
Our plane landed in Lisbon on July 31st. While our original plan was to stay in the city for a few days to visit some of its attractions, we decided to scratch that plan for another time when we felt more settled and rested. Also, we thought that it would be best to wait when Lisbon was not exploding with Covid Delta variant cases.
The very next day, we headed on our way. The first leg of our slow travel was the Algarve.
Named after Gharb Al-Andalus, Algarve is the southernmost region in Portugal. Famous for its warm climate and beautiful Atlantic beaches and golf resorts, it is also known as a fabulous vacation destination in Europe.
Algarve has a total of 16 municipalities or concelhos. One of which is Portimao, the second largest city in the Algarve. It is where we decided to rent an apartment to serve as our launching pad.
As slow travelers, our goal is far from keeping with the trends of fast and furious tours and changing locations every 2-3 days. We absolutely have no desire nor energy for that. Hopefully, our intention in our slow travel is to connect and find an authentic experience from its people, cultures, foods, and way of life.
For our first month, we wasted no time scratching the surface and exploring some of the famous attractions in Portimao and its neighboring regions.
History tells that long before Algarve became a tourist destination, residents of Portimao made a living from fishing and canning. This part of history you can still catch sight of at the Museo de Portimao where a lot of its equipment from the factory have been preserved.
From the museum, you can stroll up the riverside esplanade at the side of the town’s old docks. The riverside has now been totally transformed. Currently, it has a long row of palm trees and benches where we found a perfect place to take 5 and soak in the view. While there is barely a trace of the past, you can imagine that this riverside was probably a picture of bursting energy a century ago.
From the riverside, my husband and I took a short taxi drive to Igreja Matriz de Portimao. Founded in 1476, this Portuguese Gothic styled religious structure is considered the most important church in the town.
Before leaving the town, my husband and I passed by a restaurant called Largo for a take-away dinner. I went for one of the most famous dishes in Portugal. It is called the bocalhau a bras, a delicious twist of the chips and fish recipe with salted cod. Surely it was delightful!
On our next visit, we strolled further inland. Here, we found other interesting things to see in the old town of Portimao. An example was the beautiful Azulejo tile paintings in the Jardim 1 de Dezembro which depict the history of Portugal.
It was also hard to miss its pretty shopping streets, the relaxed atmosphere at all the restaurants and small pastelerias, and, of course, the cobblestones and apartment blocks that have a tired and worn out appearance yet still magical.
Marina de Portimao
Located in the Arade river estuary, Marina de Portimao is framed by the historical forts of Santa Catarina and Sao Joao. With excellent facilities, it is known as a preferential super-yacht destination.
Situated within the marina is also a luxury condominium oasis that includes its exclusive beach, restaurants, shops and bars, providing a big draw to both locals and tourists visiting.
Praia de Rocha
Two kilometers south of Portimao is the popular beach resort called Praia de Rocha which means “rocky beach.” It is such a lovely beach that offers an exciting atmosphere that includes great water activities for the whole family, impressive golden cliffs, sugary sand, and variety of restaurants offering good food to choose from and enjoy.
Since Portimao is known for its sardines, during our visit I decided to order them. I remember my American husband begged me not to eat the heads. He jokingly said “have mercy!”
Alvor is a seaside resort and small fishing village 10 to 15 minutes away from Portimao. It is a lovely town with, not surprisingly, a remarkably Portuguese ambiance. It is said that a holiday to Alvor is often focused around the beach, and I can understand why. Its beach has a clean pristine appearance and is encased in spectacular sandstone cliffs that are almost jaw-dropping when one is up close and personal.
Also one of the most visited places in Alvor is the Alvor Harbour. Our taxi driver was spot on with his description: it is a village that has remarkably retained its original charm. I must admit, I was taken aback by its traditional white washed houses, narrow cobbled streets, restaurants serving delicious seafood dishes, and, of course, the river which we are sure provides a spectacular sunset view at night
Alvor Harbour reminded us a lot of New Symerna Beach and the Cape Canaveral in Florida. Indeed, an interesting place to see in the Algarve.
Thanks for reading!
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