All…garve pt.3: Barlavento

Travel

May is already here, summer is forthcoming soon (even in Berlin!), and I am still not done with describing one of the most charming locations in Europe: Algarve in Portugal, where I was lucky to travel and live for a while.

So far I have dedicated most of the entries to the Leeward, Eastern side of the Southern Portuguese coast, given my sympathy and know-how of Faro and Olhão regions as well as Formosa river’s natural wonders.

The other side of this wonderful 100-km coastline stripe: Barlavento (eng. Windward), on the West, has been traditionally recognised by the surfers, beach testers and festival-lovers (famous festival Sud Oeste, taking place: as the name says: in the South-West Portugal). Infamously, this part of Algarve has been also known as the land of the massive tourism and disappeared child called Maddie few years ago that made this region a pretty bad press. With or without the scandal’s impact, I would avoid places like Portimão or Albufeira which are huge beach resorts with soulless architecture for rather lazy, all-inclusive kind of tourism. Sad places to see in such an authentic country like Portugal.

Coming back to the wonders of Barlavento, I would name a few: coming there outside of the season would be probably the most beautiful experience, since massive rocks and strong winds, while few people around create altogether a very dramatic and picturesque atmosphere.

My to-do list would include wandering around little towns with rich history, such as Aljezur, Lagos or Sagres (famous also for being a name of one of two most popular Portuguese beers!). For the romantic spirits, I would absolutely recommend facing the sunset at the most South-Western tip of Europe: Cabo de São Vicente. Whereas villages like Raposeira or Porto das Barcas would be on my surfing paradise list.

Last but not least, even in the surroundings of Lagos, one can find very particular beaches – among the numberless and funnily-shaped rocks. Beware that Barlavento: as the name indicates is the land for wind-loving people, but if you do, you won’t be disappointed by the natural diversity of this coastline.

 

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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.

Grandola jazz

Music

Thanks to the XJazz Festival in Berlin I discovered a very interesting musician: Studnitzky and his composition ‘Grandola’. I fell in love with these sounds from the very beginning:

Grandola, a Portuguese town located in the Setubal municipality, has got its place in the history of music for some other reasons though. I was visiting these wonderful region in September, on my way to the controversial settlement on the Troia Peninsula. Grandola became a symbol after the non-violent 25th Aprtil of the ‘Carnation revolution’ thanks to the song performed by Zeca Afonso. ‘Grandola Vila Morena’ tells a story about the fraternity among the people of this town and was broadcasted at the outbreak of the peaceful revolution in Portugal.

This song, associated with one of the brightest moments of the Portuguese history has some uplifting lyrics about the brotherhood.

Grândola, vila morena
Terra da fraternidade
O povo é quem mais ordena
Dentro de ti, ó cidade
Dentro de ti, ó cidade
O povo é quem mais ordena
Terra da fraternidade
Grândola, vila morena
Em cada esquina um amigo
Em cada rosto igualdade
Grândola, vila morena
Terra da fraternidade
Terra da fraternidade
Grândola, vila morena
Em cada rosto igualdade
O povo é quem mais ordena
À sombra duma azinheira
Que já não sabia a idade
Jurei ter por companheira
Grândola a tua vontade
Grândola a tua vontade
Jurei ter por companheira
À sombra duma azinheira
Que já não sabia a idade
sudoeste

Além do mar

Music, Travel

Last days of summer in Europe simply ask for transmitting some uplifting and boogie beats. Fortunately, there are places on Earth, where summer is a state of mind, not just a season. As mentioned before this is the case in the North-Eastern Brazil, be it August or February. European places cannot a comparison to its tropical climate, but I remember some 50 degrees differences between my hometown in Poland and in the South of Portugal where I used to live during a couple of months (-25 vs. 25 Celsius degrees).

Algarve, as we speak, is the most popular region in Portugal among tourists and surfers, but apart from some horrendous towns famous for being actually nothing more than ‘Nordic colonies’ it is indeed a region famous for some best beaches in Europe. From my experience, I would definitely recommend one-of-its-kind islands nearby the rivalry towns Faro and Olhão (like the Ilha Deserta or Ilha do Farol) for those who love endless sand-scapes. On the other hand, beaches located nearby Sagres or Aljezur are amazingly rocky and the waves are the best for those who love to surf more than anything else. The windward site is still considered to be less affected by the massive tourism, and if you have enough time, visiting sites in the Sud Oeste Alentejano National Park is a brilliant idea. However, for bird-watching aficionados, like my friend Krzysztof (for Polish speakers I recommend his hillarious blog about ‘the ones that fly’ http://volucrescoeli.wordpress.com) the leeward coast would be a delight, due to various deltas and natural reservoirs of Ria Formosa National Park for flamingos and storks, to name very basic few. More about Algarve to come, yet to illustrate its sunny, sandy and summery wonders I chose one of my fave remixes of DJ Marky, about what’s beyond the sea.

Wiki:

Além do mar – beyond the sea (taken from the Djavan’s – Nereci, one of the Brazilian classic’s lyrics)

Ilha Deserta – Deserted Island

Ilha do Farol – Lighthouse Island