As I’ve said, I’m not entirely sure how I spent one entire week in the Algarve of southern Portugal. Considering the speed at which the week flew by, I clearly enjoyed myself.
From Faro, where I last posted in Portugal, I headed west and south to the town of Albufeira. I must say, during the majority of the week, Brian and I had one thing on our mind … renting motorbikes and spending two or three days exploring the roads of southern Portugal from two wheels of a motorcycle. Needless to say, we were unsuccessful in our attempts to rent motorbikes. There was no shortage of places to ‘hire’ (European for rent) motorcycles from, but many of these businesses were closed for the off-season.
While the off-season made our attempts at hiring a motorcycles unsuccessful, it most definitely added to our enjoyment of our time in Portugal. I can only imagine the difference in my perception of the towns we traveled to if it was the middle of the summer. First, the temperature would be unbearably hot. We enjoyed 12C – 15C degree weather during the day and cool, crisp evenings at night. Also, fellow travelers and tourists were few and far between. During high season, the towns we traveled to would have undoubtedly had an entirely different feel … one that I don’t imagine I would have enjoyed nearly as much.
We arrived in Albufeira late one evening early on in the week. Albufeira, as many of the towns in the south, is split into distinctly different sections – old town and new town. Old town Albufeira was very similar to the streets we encountered in Faro – full of skinny, cobblestone streets and alleyways, cafes, hole-in-the-wall bars, and restaurants serving fresh and cheap seafood. When in Faro, we were far enough inland that we didn’t see the sea. After getting off the bus in Albufeira, we wandered the streets of town until we found a tunnel under a hotel. We weren’t entirely sure, but from our map-reading, we derived the sea was directly on the other side of the tunnel. We were correct … I was so excited to again see the ocean – albeit through the darkness. The scents, sounds, and view of the vast expanse of darkness before me was indescribably peaceful.
Brian and I had unprecedented luck finding cheap accommodation while in Portugal. Bartering wasn’t difficult when checking into a accommodation. With no tourists in town, many places were happy to simply have a room rented. I think the best experience was in Faro – we had checked out a couple residencials in the town center. The owners had asked anything from €30 – €45 a night (for two). (The average price we paid for dorm style hostels in Ireland was in the range of €20/person) We walked into one place, “The Dandy Residencial” and the man told us it would be €30 for the two of us. We told him we would think about it and proceeded to walk around Faro with the hopes of finding something cheaper. As we meandered our way through the narrow streets, we somehow came across the same residencial. From the balcony above the street, we all of a sudden heard the owner shouting, “Okay, two beds, twenty-five Euros.” Perfect.
We also had nights when we struggled to find accommodation. On one of our last nights in Portugal, we ended up staying in a small town just up the road from Manta Rota. Manta Rota was small and had no direct bus service to the town near the border of Spain and Portugal where we hoped to spend the night. On our way to the town north of Manta Rota we came across a bar where we decided to have a pint. We’ve found that the best places to have a beer are the places where the locals congregate – this bar screamed local. We were shocked to go inside and find €0.90 beers, pool tables, and electronic dart boards. Three things we haven’t seen since leaving Iowa. We somehow lost track of time and therefore missed our bus. This wasn’t the end of the world, we would just spend one more night in Portugal. Spain and Sevilla could wait.
After asking the barmaid in broken Portuguese where the nearest (and we found, only) residencial was, we made our way to our hopeful accommodation. We rang the buzzer outside the door and two or three fretful minutes later, the owner made his way down the street from a neighboring bar. We let him know we needed two beds – he quoted thirty Euros and we asked if we could see the room. Mind you … all of this is happening with a distinct communication barrier – the owner’s English was only slightly better than our very bad Portuguese. After seeing the room, Brian said to the owner, “veinticinco?”
Aparantely, bartering wasn’t an option with this Portuguese residencial owner. He proceeded to scream no, immediately turn off the lights leaving us in darkness, and promptly escort us down the dark stairs of the chamber while we quickly pulled thirty Euros out of our wallet.
So, in memory of my time in Ireland, I’ll end with this description of my time in Portugal – “It was grand.” And now, some pictures …
Many times during my week in Portugal, I literally became speechless when thinking about where I’m at in my life. I can’t describe the contentedness I feel. I have no regrets with that path I’m chosen – really, I can’t imagine myself in any other place. I know I’ve said it, but the more I travel the more distinctly clear it becomes – I’ll never again have this opportunity to see the world.
Thanks for continuing to follow me on my journey. I’ll leave you with a quote by Mark Twain. All the best, mk.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”