The One Thing You Shouldn’t Do in Portugal
Algarve to me is:
- burping grilled fatty sardines
- the heat of piri piri lingering under my nose
- eating the freshest seafood x2 a day, 7 days a week
- watching hot bods lounging by pools and beaches
- being the odd one out seeking shelter when everyone else is toasting under the sun or soaking in freezing Atlantic sea water
Anywhere I went, I was the only Asian existent I could find. The weird yellow alien avoiding the sun like a nutcase at every single beach in Algarve, the ‘special’ one surrounded by happy Portuguese kids while dining at the hideout restaurants tourists will never discover on their own.
É and my mother-in-law did everything to help me better my escape plan from mid-day hikes or protect me from the sun. É has swiftly and successfully mastered this language of love, though I couldn’t help but wonder what must be going through my mother-in-law’s mind as she helped him set up the one and only TENT in the middle of a ferociously windy beach at midday!
In the midst of thousands other colourful umbrellas at Praia de Cabanas, there I was – steaming slowing inside a crooked tent mouldable by hands or wind, suddenly layered with 2 damp towels on top. É popped his head into the tent, beaming. He looked proud of this improved set up, which I learned later that I will forever be grateful for.
If you are an Asian girl (and not a fan of sunbathing), which most likely you are, does this mean you should skip Algarve when traveling Portugal in summer?
Not if you like what you see below.
Stay: Balaia Golf Village
Address: Sitio Da Balaia – Apartado 917, Portugal.
Contact: +351 289 570 200
P.S. If you want to stay at É’s family summer house, pick house No. 215!
1. Carrapateira beach + caracois hunt
Address: Horta da Rio, Carrapateira 8670-230, Portugal.
Hours: 10 a.m. – 11 p.m. everyday (Please check beforehand if you’re not going in summer)
Contact: +351 282 998 147
Trek Drive towards Praia do Amado and stop occasionally to take photos of the GORGEOUS view – you won’t be able to live with yourself if you don’t.
For the gastronomically adventurous, go on a caracois (Portuguese snails) hunt. Lest it would be like your angmoh friend visiting Malaysia without having tried si ham rebus (blanched cockles). You be the judge of the importance of this eating experience!
2. Sunset-by-the-beach cocktail at Mirador Champagne Bar, Pine Cliffs Hotel
The fun here started for me during the process of getting ready. Everyone dressed up for the occasion – 4 little girls lined up in front of my room‘s balcony for a touch of glitter on their pretty faces or hint of blusher over their already flushing cheeks. As I attended to their shy requests, I secretly wished I look as beautiful as the little angels in front of me without the hassle of makeup.
We arranged ourselves into 3 cars and made our way to Pine Cliffs Hotel for a short and sweet cocktail session. The venue could perfectly host the dreamiest of weddings. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination . . .
As for us, we went home to cook a wicked vongole pasta. If you’re not on a tight traveling budget, progress to have dinner at one of the many restaurants available where you are.
Mirador Champagne Bar (Seasonal)
Address: Pine Cliffs Hotel, Av. da Praia da Falésia, 8200-909 Albufeira, Portugal.
Hours: 4 – 9 p.m. everyday throughout warm seasons
Phone: +351 289 500 100
3. Benagil Caves, Lagos
The one thing you shouldn’t do in Portugal is joining a boat tour for caves glimpsing and dolphin watching. Do NOT trust TripAdvisor or anyone who tells you to find small fisherman boats or to go with boat excursion companies. Duh, you wouldn’t fall for that trap at the first place!
Yes and no.
If you have done any research about tourism in Portugal before, you would know that Algar de Benagil (The Benagil Cave) is one of the Must-See spots in the country. There are many ways to get there, but finding the best way isn’t easy.
5 A.M. – We spent the entire morning trying our luck with Option 1: finding fishermen with small boats that would take us to the cave. The result was depressing. We went home to vegetate in disappointment.
5 P.M. – We tried Option 2: boat tours, in the evening. We saw the cave(s) and it was terribly memorable.
The story goes:
Bringing a bit of Asia with me, that is an umbrella above my head, we enquired every single boat excursion company along Albufeira Marina for the best package. Upon settling with one, we happily celebrated the idea that hard work pays off.
Aboard the boat, a lady who claimed to be a cetology – speleology expert
bullshit announced promisingly that we were going to search for dolphins en route to the caves, adding that her tours rarely fail, although she couldn’t give us any guarantee on behalf of nature’s will. No sh*t.
Once you hit 30, you start noticing or developing a strong repugnance for certain things which you simply won’t tolerate anymore. I’ve decided that mine are direct sun exposure before sunset, snorkelling and boat rides.
To summarise the experience, I was attacked by the worst sea sick in Tey history thanks to Miss Cetologist’s mythical dolphins; a trauma so bad that the thought of deleting myself a.k.a. jumping off the boat to face whatever consequences after, bred infectiously all over my feeble mind. The entire rocky ride, I covered my eyes and face to prevent myself from executing any regrettable decisions; so I saw no caves, heard no dolphins (which never showed up perhaps because of Mother Nature?).
The worst part was having paid hundreds of euros for immense suffer.
The best way to get to Benagil Cave is to:
- Drive / Get a car to Benagil beach (nowhere else)
- Rent a kayak at the beach and canoe to the cave OR
- Swim 200 meters in the cold water to the cave
- Swimming at Benagil beach vs. Pulau Redang is very different – the water is bitter cold, albeit in summer, and the waves less forgiving.
- If you want to take great photos with less tourists in your way, go very early in the morning. Good luck, brave swimmers!
- If you neither kayak nor swim, then you are only left with the small fisherman boat option (at least they exist here), but you won’t be able to get off the boat.
4. Cacela Velha
Dinner was so unique it was impossible to forget. Outside a church in a village called Cacela Velha, we joined a long queue of seafood fans outside Casa da Igreja for oysters picked from Ria Formosa (pictured below), where a mix of salt and fresh water makes for the most ideal habitat for these umami creatures. The French gets them here to be cultivated back home.
Another thing to order is their clams and superbly orange, tasty and crunchy fried shrimps (crunchy: if you eat the shells, because you can).
Casa de Igreja
Address: R. de Cacela Velha 2, 8900 Cacela Velha, Portugal
Hours: Opens 4.30 – 10.30 p.m. everyday
Phone: +351 289 952 126
Say goodbye to your last breezy Algarvian summer night before departing to Arrifana, Alentejo for more sunny adventures.