Sunday, 18 July 2010

Further Along the Algarve Coast - Portugal II

We left Albufeira for Quarteira after breakfast. I must admit I never saw the buses that could take me back to the central bus terminal (on the hill), nor could I work out the direction and their routes, so we walked. And this time, uphill.

Journey to Quarteira was only 40 mins. Hotel Dom Jose was across the road from the bus terminal, again facing the beach. It was much less crowded in Quarteira, and so less developed and more windy. The layout of the town was simple, just one road along the beach, where restaurants, cafes and souvenir shops were lined. The further away from the beach, the more residential it became. We enjoyed a couple of milkshakes before strolling along the beach.

The sand is coarser than Albufeira, and the waves higher. I have been misled.

Towards the end of the road, there was a market selling fresh fish in the morning and fruits throughout the day. The grapes were juicy and sugar sweet, we paid 3 Euros and got a huge bag of them, at least 1kg. The peaches were the size of melons; soft and honey-like. Perfect as we further cooked ourselves under the sun.

We also arranged a boat trip from Vilamoura from a newsagent to see the caves and smaller islands nearby. Since there were no tours on the next day, we booked for the day after. Instead we bought tickets for Aquashow, with a 25% discount.

Restaurant prices varied; even the price range within the menu was huge. The seaside Rosa was asking 55 Euros per kilo of lobster, while some fish dishes were as little as 8 Euros. My grilled squid was hearty and tender, though I couldn’t taste the freshness of the squid. James was baffled by the red, gold, silver and black sea breams, then decided sea breams are not his type of fish.

After the sunset, stall was put up along the road selling handmade jewellery and candles. We finished the evening with some ice cream and a coffee. It is worth mentioning that coffees in Portugal were almost as good as Italy.

Following day, we rose to catch the bus for Aquashow, the water theme park. The wait at the bus terminal was a torture. Midday sun searing; the mildly air-conditioned waiting room stank of the toilets within. The entrance for the park was enormous, and there was little else in the neighbourhood, you can’t miss it from the bus.

Maybe it was only early July, the park wasn’t too crowded. Yes we had to queue but no more than 15 minutes for the major rides. I would describe some of the thriller rides and slides, but…no, no one would understand anyway. It was simply fun. Super fun.

We splashed out on a seafood boat for dinner. Well, comparatively.
The boat was selling for 55 Euros, for 1 dressed crab, lots of large prawns, clams in herbs and butter, medium sized prawns cooked in lemon and herb, a few mussels dotted around and 3 oysters. It was a ridiculous amount of food. Quality wasn’t bad either. The herb butter dishes were well-seasoned, but was slightly salty towards the end. The crabs and prawns were very fleshy with a hint of sweetness. With great efforts, and a few hours, we managed to mop up the boat!

 One side note, these restaurants in Quarteira served up sardine pates, butters and cheese with the breadbasket. However these are all charged on the bill as per item. They do not charge untouched items. I thought the sardine pate tasted like cat food. On a plus side, no fish bones.

The famous pastel de nata looked great at the local infested Beira Mar pastelaria – bought a couple as breakfast.

The boat departed from Vilamoura, a marina lined with 5-star resorts. We were told the walk from Quarteira to Vilamoura would take 20 minutes. Not true. It took at least 40 minutes. Once we arrived at the C-shaped marina, we realized our port was on the other side of the ‘C’. After a panic mad sprint to the boat, we were sitting on the deck under the blazing sun for a good 15 minutes before everyone was on board. Urgh.

The marina was lined with more posh restaurants and refined hotels. No wonder Christiano Ronaldo chooses his holiday here too. I was secretly choosing my cruiser, they looked so sexy. I want one. I want one so I can have my luxurious holiday in the middle of the sea.

The boat was quite full, and we were introduced to the rock formations along the coast in 4 languages. The dingy boats took us into the caves and a tiny rocky island. It was a short 3-hour tour. I am still not sure if it was worthwhile, but it introduced me to Vilamoura. This is where I will book next in Portugal.

Since these restaurants look much more decent, we went for a late lunch. Sadly after the seafood boat, we wanted meat. I tried piri-piri chicken, which was very spicy; the skin on the chicken thigh was crispy. Good. James had pork chop with pineapple; the pork was thick and tender, and the zingy sweetness in the pineapple complimented the meat.

I am definitely coming back for a more extravagant experience, and James is already excited about game fishing.

1 comment:

  1. Hi! I hope you liked your stay in Portugal! I read your articles and I would like you to have the opportunity to visit other cities and experience our culinary culture. Algarve, specially the turistic areas, do not represente what we have best. I advise you to travel to Oporto, you'll have a great experience in every sense! Cheers Sónia