After our previous trips to cold Venice and cold Dublin, when my wife asked where we should go in May, I said “I don’t care, as long as it’s sunny and has a beach.” I love Amsterdam, I really do, but sometimes the weather can get you down. It rains here a lot (though usually it’s just a light rain), and it’s frequently pretty cloudy as well. Rare is the sunny day, and I needed some sun.
Roxy did some searching around, and finally settled on the Algarve region of Portugal. The Algarve is the southernmost area of the country, with hundreds of kilometers of beaches. She found a nice apartment on 9flats.com (similar to airbnb.com, but smaller and cheaper) in the little city of Quarteira.
We flew from Amsterdam direct to Faro, Portugal on Transavia.com airlines. It’s the budget carrier owned by KLM, and flies mostly to vacation destinations. Upon arriving in Faro, we rented a car (a Diesel Ford Focus, with a stick-shift). There was a slight mishap at the parking lot, as Roxy went to stand in front of the car to tell me how much room I had. I thought I put the car into reverse, but really it was in first gear, so I ended up running into her. She’s got a bit of a bruise on her leg. Oh well, what’s vacation without adventure?
We drove the 30 minutes from Faro to Quarteira, and found our apartment. The hosts were an older couple with limited English, but were very nice and helpful. By the time we arrived, it was 8pm. We made a quick run to a local supermarket, and then found a place on the beach for dinner.
The next day, our plan was to go bask in the sun, but the winds were blowing at over 30kmh, and we lasted about 5 minutes on the beach before we had to hide from the blowing sand. We drove back to Faro, and explored the city for a bit.
The next day, the winds were still blowing, so we drove the opposite way, a little over an hour to Lagos, where the winds were much calmer. We found a nice beach right outside the city, Meia Praia, and laid there under a grass umbrella for 5 or 6 hours. On the way back, we stopped in the touristy city of Albufeira and had dinner.
Driving again was quite an odd experience at first. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like for my wife, who hasn’t driven a car in almost 2 years now. At least I got to drive last fall when I went back to the US. I was nervous at the beginning, but soon got comfortable again. Roundabouts still concerned me, but over the course of the trip I drove through probably a hundred of them, so I do feel better about them now. Time to work on getting my Dutch license.
The final 2 days we spent in Quarteira just laying on the beach enjoying ourselves. One of my favorite parts of the trip was my morning ritual. I’d wake up, throw on my swim trunks, then go sit outside on our balcony with a bowl of Rice Krispies and the laptop and just enjoy the warm air. We also found a nice little cafe/snack-shop right on the beach that we went to every day for sandwiches and drinks. Portuguese beer is perfect for laying on the beach, as are plenty of Mojitos and Caipirinhas, which is a rum, sugar, and lime drink.
Naturally, since coming back to Amsterdam, it’s been cold and rainy. I already miss Portugal. We will definitely be going back.