Weekend Getaway: Algarve, Portugal
No offense to the Netherlands but the pretty common clouds and rain are getting to me. I left San Diego knowing that I would miss the weather and the beach but I didn’t understand how much of an impact it would have on my well- being. I’m sure some people don’t understand or believe me when I say this, but having it be cloudy and cold for a majority part of spring and summer has made me into a grumpy, vitamin- D deficient couch potato. After a week (STRAIGHT!) of rain, I decided I was so over it. I need the beach and the sun and the heat. So I booked a relatively cheap ticket Faro, Portugal that left in a week!
I got off my flight and immediately felt the 80 degree weather around the airport even though it was 23.00. I was ecstatic. Mostly because I wore a dress and Toms on the plane so I was freezing already. I took a taxi to my hostel in the center of Faro, 1878 Hostel. I was placed on the third floor of the bunk (seriously, woah) and got myself situated. Luckily my bunk didn’t wiggle so much so I wasn’t so terrified, but I never did get used to sleeping on the regular top bunk so it was a new experience for me. I did meet such a sweet French girl who offered me some extra ear plugs, which I took. Let me tell you, they work wonders! I’ve never been one to ever wear them but about 10 people entered the room (probably drunk since it was Friday night in a hostel) and I didn’t hear a single thing. That’s remarkable!
Since there’s a time change I ended up waking up around 07.30 thinking it was 08.30 and began with my day. I gathered my bags and had an awful breakfast at the hostel (seriously the OJ was like pure chemicals and the apple was soft), then proceeded to check out. I was to stay the rest of my trip in an AirBnB that was really cheap. That should have been a Red Flag right away. But this place had really good, like REALLY GOOD, reviews so I thought, why not? It’d be nice to see things from a local’s perspective and meet some nice people.
After wandering around the city for awhile, I found a cafe with some wifi (so I could text this guy and figure out where I was supposed to go) and ordered myself a (okay… 2) cappuccino. As I waited for my host to wake up or check his phone, I people- watched. It was really sweet. To the right of me sat three old women who were enjoying a coffee and chatting with their friends. You could tell they’ve been friends for years. To the left of me sat an ever- growing group of old men enjoying their espressos and telling stories about their weeks or gossiping (you really can never tell). I thought I was people- watching two separated groups but then the most awesome thing happened: the women to my right got up to leave and walked past the group of old men, and then stopped to chit-chat for a little while! Now, maybe they are all long- time friends or lovers or maybe they come to this cafe every Saturday morning and they’ve built a friendship based on love of a certain cafe. I don’t know but either way I thought it was so sweet.
Oh, so eventually my host writes me and says he’ll meet me at this cafe. So I wait awhile longer. Finally he shows up and we head to his place so I can drop my bags and he can show me around. He invited me to go to the beach with him. I thought he would show me some really cool local spot so I said yes. I also (wrongly) thought we would leave immediately. We ended up hanging out at his house with his roommates for 3 hours until it was “better hours” for the beach. Sorry but every hour is the best a the beach. This should have been Red Flag #2.
Finally we headed to the beach on bikes. Now, since I’m living in the Netherlands I ought to be really good at riding a bike by now, right? Wrong. I hardly ever cycle since I don’t live in a city and riding from home to anywhere is a mission. So I usually drive and if I’m in the city I’ll rent a bike or walk. Anyway, I learned how to ride a bike when I was young, like most kids. I can do it. But one of the challenges of being 5’0″ is that virtually no bikes are suitable for me to ride on. They’re all too tall. Even with the seat lowered all the way. And tall bikes do not make for successful bike rides. So the bike ride to the beach was 1) awful since the bike was too big for me, 2) LONG and on bumpy, rocky roads, and 3) dangerous as nobody really signals or looks out for bikers. The only reason I got through it was because there was a beach at the end of the tunnel. (This should have been Red Flag #3).
The beach was wonderful. It was hot and sandy and full of people. I swam in the Atlantic Ocean which is not quite the Pacific but it’ll handle for my fix for the time being. I don’t know how I can tell the difference, maybe it’s in my head. We even watched a group of dolphins swimming from the shore; they were so close! Then we left around 18.30 and headed to the store. Apparently we were going to have a BBQ with his roommates and the other AirBnB-ers. We had to go to two different stores. I ran into my host on the bike and fell off. That was the end of the bike riding. When we got back to his place, I showered and got ready for the BBQ. BBQ cancelled. Brazilian hot dogs it was! The hot dogs reminded me of my time with my best friend and her family in Brazil years ago, so that was a nice surprise. Except that they’re hot dogs and I now know what are in them.
Luckily, two French girls that were staying there came back and we all drank some wine and played some games. It was a pleasant evening. Until the French girls went to bed and I stayed behind to finish my wine. It was around midnight. And then my host hit on me! It was one of the most awkward situations in my life. And that’s Red Flag #4.
I had already decided that I was not interested in staying at this AirBnB for another night. But as it did not have wifi, I had no way of booking another place before going to bed. I had to go to bed and wait until morning. When I woke up, I gathered my things and headed out the door. I got to my cafe and sent a text to him saying I ran into a friend and wouldn’t be coming back. Then I started my hunt for a new AirBnB/ hotel. I decided to book a wonderful hotel near Vilamoura, about a 20 minute drive away. It was relatively cheap- ish, had wifi (in public spaces which was a downfall but oh well), was private, and was gorgeous. Thank you Booking.com!
I walked to the station and took a bus to the airport where I got a taxi to my new hotel, Apartamentos Honório (seriously, if you’re ever in the area, book it). I was about four hours early for check in, oops. The man at check in was incredibly nice though and gave me a key into the pool and said he’d put my room at the top of the cleaning list. I laid out by the pool and soaked up some sun and took a tip in the water. It was a very pleasant afternoon. Around two, I left my bags in my room while it was being cleaned and, by the recommendation of the woman cleaning, decided to walk along the beach for some time. Somehow, I ended up walking for about 22 km. It was gorgeous. I was sweaty and tired and totally happy. I should’ve been in a terrible mood with my experience earlier in the weekend, but the sun and the beach really can work miracles. All in all, it was an amazing day spent walking around Algarve (and then an awesome taxi ride home)!
Here are some photos from my walking afternoon (in chronological order, mind you):
This is definitely one of dream homes:
P.S. Check out my walking shoes (and my TJ’s bag!):
In the end, it was a really wonderful weekend spent in Portugal. I definitely cannot wait to go back (hopefully with my family next time)! It was absolutely stunningly beautiful here and a majority of the people were so kind.