All…garve pt.2: Sotavento

Travel

Following up on my post about Far Out Faro, I would love to focus on the Leeward (port. Sotavento) side of the Algarvian coast. This part of the region includes Faro itself, but also picturesque towns like Tavira, Loulé, Olhão or Vila Real do Santo António, bordering with Spain by the Guadiana river.

Leeward coast is particularly close to me, as during the time I lived in Faro, I was often visiting the neighbouring towns, as well as inland points of interest. Worth mentioning that I stayed for a couple of weeks in the village called Pechão on a volunteering service for the local communities, preparing the international part of the anual Festa. If you visit this region between spring-autumn, you will be amazed by the quantity of festas, local festivities, for different reasons: fishing season, cattle growing, and much more (and even more abstract – as there is always a good way to celebrate good times!). Many of these festivities are closely linked with the Catholic festivities (like name days of various Santos, patrons) but they incorporate a lot of ludic elements.

During my stay in Faro and Pechão, I was exposed to some very forward-thinking manifestos of the left wing activists, promoting well-being and equality on different levels. Worth mentioning that this part of Algarve is interesting for various, often borderline awkward reasons. The traditions of building bone chapels in small villages, the architecture showing years of different impact of various cultures and religions as well as food are very recommendable.

Moreover, Algarve is not only, as majority may think, the picturesque coast. Bordering with Alentejo you may find gems like Pego do Inferno, crystal clear waters waterfalls on the hilly trekking path. If you have time, I would recommend cycling around the region, as my Portugal-loving friend does it actually quite regularly!

Last but not least, you might consider taking a local ferry to several islands around Faro and Olhão where you can watch birds (including storks and flamingos!) and enjoy the remoteness. And, oh well, the sunsets… Or this dog, selling cigarettes in the local loja (port. grocery store).

If you are still not done with the beauty of the South of Portugal soon I will take you on the trip to the West side of the coast: Barlavento.

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All…garve part one: far out Faro

Travel

It’s been over 5 years ago I made an experience of living almost literally by the Atlantic Ocean shore in Faro, where the South-Western European continent ends. It was a pretty stress-free life of an Erasmus student in what we used to call ‘Iberian California’, even though at the end most of us had to come back to some sort of adult life. I was lucky enough to host my parents and friends from Poland, Chile, UK and Spain during these months which made it even more special.

Lately some friends who are going to drive through South of Portugal asked me to describe my favourite places I collected and saved in my memories during these couple of months. I have to say that going through my photo collection evoked strong, beautiful freeling and  that even though time has passed, Algarve stays in an important place of my heart.

First of all,I’ll describe the major town of Algarve: Faro, principally known for the international airport where most of the tourist arrive and reach their resorts. Boring, distant from the sea and pretty catastrophically planned – this is how it seems at the first glance. Well, having lived and studied there for a good couple of months, I started to love it in a very special way.

It was definitely the smallest town I’ve ever lived in (around 100K inhabitants if you count in students of the University of Algarve), so this was an interesting experience itself. You could literally recognise everyone on the streets, and get to know local ‘characters’ very easily, which can be an interesting thing to live for a city person, like I am.

Good thing was that it was very convenient to discover inland, leeward and windward Algarve, taking EVA buses (yes, they are monopolists in Algarve with all of its characteristics, but they can get you pretty much everywhere), trains (if not on strike which was a thing to often do in 2011 at least) or the best way: your own car or bike. Portugal, especially in the South has still a very strong ‘driving culture’ , which may come as a shock to people used to commute by bike everyday (again: like I do). And the breathtaking views of the coast and neighbouring Alentejo simply calls for a bike ride!

Tiny, but picturesque city centre of Faro is full of cafeterias and bars, some of them back in a day were still pretty local, and inspired by the students culture. Remember that Thursdays are typical days for Portuguese students to go out and ‘sentir, viver, cantar a noite linda‘ (to ‘feel, live and sing the beautiful night’ – no other words could describe better the wit of it!).

If you are careful, among the typical Algarvian architecture you’ll notice places with patios and terraces with life music, jazz jams and poetry evenings, and world-class street art pieces. There is a beautiful park where you can chill from Algarvian heat, and if you are lucky, you will meet a peacock waving its tail, as if he wanted to cool down the air.

Last but not least: you should visit the Island of Faro, where the beach is, as well as take a chance to discover the Formosa river’s lagoon, with the plethora of fauna and flora (and flamingos!). Which leads us to the chapter no. 2: Leeward Algarve, to be continued soon.