Long time no post! Again, a lot has happened after my latest post. I posted the second part of my Algarve recommendations already 2 months ago, and I need to say that my initial plan of posting on a bi-weekly basis turned out to be really unrealistic and I just couldn’t do it in the middle of everything else that has been ongoing in my life. Due to the fact that I want to keep my blog as authentic and real as possible as well as wanting to keep this a fun, stress-free hobby for me, I haven’t forced myself for writing at all, which is now the biggest reason for this break. And for me, that’s totally fine. At the end I am doing this for myself, and I want to enjoy every post I make, and only write when I feel like it. Of course a small part of me is feeling a bit disappointed that my goal for being actively posting has not yet been met, but this is a good learning for me to be more gracious and not feel bad when plans changed or goals are not immediately met. I am still at the very beginning in my blogging journey and still figuring out my “blogger identity”. Therefore, I now allow to give myself time for making small steps towards those bigger goals that I might have in mind.
We came back to Finland from Algarve end of March, and until then till today I have been very busy first with moving and making our new place feel like home, busy at work with all the extra challenges that the world’s situation makes, and on top of that, the big C found its way to me a month ago. And yes, I mean Covid. For me, the virus was pretty intense, especially for the first 5 days; I had high fever during all those days with headache and runny nose. Finally it took me around 2 weeks from taking the positive test, to get recovered. I am grateful that I’ve already been able to get back to working out after the virus.
But now I am more than happy to take this time and write the third and last part of my Algarve recommendations and must see places. After this post, I would also like to make a recap about the whole trip and write about the whole experience, revealing whether the trip was worth it and whether my expectations were met. After that I will focus more on what is happening now with my life and what are my plans for the rest of the year. Things are and will change a lot in my life, and I for sure want to open that up more in detailed very soon.
Back to the topic of this post! First we will go a bit further to the eastern Algarve and introduce Cacela Velha and Tavira, and last but definitely not least, going to introduce our hometown in Algarve, Quarteira and Vilamoura, which is right next to Quarteira. This is something I’ve been waiting for, as Quarteira and Vilamoura became our home and we really liked it there.
One highlight of the Algarve trip was the week when my sister and his boyfriend came to visit us. It was mid-February, right in the middle of our stay. It turned out to be the prefect opportunity to explore new places with great company, and also a great reason to eat more in restaurants and look the area from a different perspective. As we already had quite good routines and we were living pretty “normal” life, it really did good for us having visitors for one week. My sister’s boyfriend actually has visited Algarve once before, and thanks to him, I also found these recommendations Tavira and Cacela Velha. One day we took the car and headed to the east, first to Cacela Velha, a place that I need to admit, I wouldn’t have visited without this recommendation. Cacela Velha is further in east, very near to Spanish border, and I remember once driving, that the atmosphere and feeling changed the more we arrived to the east. It is difficult to explain, but the feeling was just different. Not in a negative way, but just different, which I actually liked a lot.
Cacela Velha is a very small coast town. We parked the car to a relatively big parking space, and headed to the town. First we could see a restaurant and walked by those small buildings and then headed down to the beach. This beach definitely is not a regular one. Let me share some pictures, because I have hard time to describe this spot. I immediately felt like this is a perfect “secret” spot, where people can just come when feeling for example anxious. For me, the fact that it was calm, small and there were not much people at that time made the experience very unique. I took a moment there and thought, that if this place were in Finland, I would definitely go there just by myself, when I would need some time to forget about everything else. Here, you can get very connected to the nature, already when walking to the beach. As said, I will let the pictures speak for themselves this time, as I do not have the correct words to describe this unique place. I really recommend to stop by this cute little town, to combine it for example with Tavira trip, as we did.
After Cacela Velha we headed to Tavira, and this was also something very different from the places we had visited before. Once we arrived, I instantly felt the authenticity of the place. Despite the weather was quite cloudy and relatively cold as well that day, Tavira didn’t leave my heart cold. If I would need to mention few things why visit Tavira, I would say due to its colorful old buildings and cosy streets, beautiful castle and bridges. Also, if I would need to describe a real, traditional Portuguese town, Tavira definitely would be it (out of the places I’ve visited). Here, I will again let the pictures speak for themselves. What I want to say, please visit Tavira at least once in your Algarve trip, you won’t regret it. I wish we had more time to explore this town, but we only had few hours. We didn’t even stop for eating, just walked by the town for those hours. But those hours were still memorable!
Next, let’s go to Vilamoura. Compared to Tavira for example, Vilamoura is the opposite of it. This town is actually a tourist resort, targeted to especially those tourists who love golfing. There are a lot of golf courses near Vilamoura, and a lot of hotels, restaurants and a beautiful marina full of nice yachts. Before coming to Algarve, I already knew that I wouldn’t want to stay in an apartment in the middle of Vilamoura, as I wanted to experience the authentic Algarve. However, we still ended up to choose Quarteira as our town, which is right next to Vilamoura. The reason we ended up to Quarteira is the location. Exactly those golf courses nearby as well as the centered location in the Algarve and the fact that it is only 20mins drive from Faro airport made us choose this place. And don’t get me wrong, despite I had some preconceptions towards Vilamoura, actually we liked it a lot, especially the beach and the marina. During our stay, I cannot even count how many times we walked to Vilamoura marina from our place. Due to the fact that Vilamoura is a tourist resort, in January and February it was very quiet in there. Some golfers here and there, but otherwise it was almost completely empty and shut down. Only in March, more tourists started to arrive to Vilamoura, but still little by little. Therefore, I cannot tell you the full picture of Vilamoura as I’ve only seen it off season, however what I can tell, that in case you like sports (golf, tennis, padel, watersports) then Vilamoura could be a place for you.
What is good in Vilamoura, is that you can find a lot of restaurants, a nice beach and possibilities to go and do sports very easily. Vilamoura is convenient for a tourist wanting to have things “ready and easy”. In Vilamoura, there are a lot of hotels (i.e. Tivoli, which is right at the heart of Vilamoura port) as well as tourist apartments. In summer, I can imagine it will be full of tourists enjoying the nice bars and restaurtants in the port and the beach. We also celebrated our birthday in March with my boyfriend in Vilamoura port with some drinks in a terrace. We also tried some restaurants there, but in case you want something original and Portuguese, Vilamoura’s restaurants might not be the best choice. In that case I would suggest to head to Quarteira. Vilamoura definitely has a place in my heart, even though I didn’t except it to happen, but as we have great memories with my boyfriend there for example some great conversations by the beach, watching many sunsets and thinking about life during our evening walks, it actually started to feel like home. If you want to see something touristic, go to Vilamoura and experience what it has to offer. I think you won’t regret it. There is a place for each occasion, mood or feeling, and that is something that I really like about Algarve in general.
Finally I can introduce our Algarve home, Quarteira, more in detailed. Quarteira, located just next to Vilamoura and 20mins drive from Faro airport, is much more authentic and feels more like a real town . Of course, there are also tourists visiting Quarteira, but especially in winter time, and during our stay, there were not many tourists and I think we got to live a lot like the locals, which I appreciate. Quarteira is an old fishing village with an authentic fishing port where we could see fishermen every day. They took their boats out every night which we could see from our apartment window. In addition to being a fishing village, Quarteira has lot more to offer.
First of all, I need to mention the long beach promenade. Already from the airplane once we arrived during night time, we could recognize this long beach promenade, and actually didn’t realize back then that it was from our Portuguese home town Quarteira. This promenade is around 2,5km long, and it is right next to the beach, going all the way from the westside of Quarteira to the east side of the town. It is a perfect place for going for a walk, run, to enjoy and go breathe the fresh air coming from the sea, or just to stop and stare the waves and horizon. Also, it is a perfect place for watching sunsets either outside or from the car, as there is a long parking space where the cars are parked heading the sea. On top of that, Quarteira beach promenade is a great place to get together, walk dogs and socialize, as well as have great dinner in one of the multiple restaurants or bars by the promenade. This place is the heart of Quarteira for sure, and you won’t feel alone once walking there. Ok, I gotta say hat beginning of January the place was a bit more quiet, however still then there were multiple locals enjoying their daily walks with dogs or just enjoying life.
As another favorite in Quarteira I need to mention the great possibilities for outdoor training. There are at least two outdoor “gyms”, which we started to use multiple times per week. In addition to the outdoor gyms, there are also lot of space to go for run; what we did, is that we jogged from home all the way to the end of the Quarteira beach promenade and all the way back towards Vilamoura marina, where the promenade continues. It really seems that outdoor activities are highly valued in Quarteira, which I learnt to appreciate a lot. Not even once during our stay did I want to go to a “real” indoors gym. Fresh air, nice views and just perfect temperature (15-20 degrees) for outdoors activities. Due to all this, I found again motivation to work out, after many passive and dark winter months in Finland. A fun fact; there were also triathlon competition organized in Quarteira, which was a full surprise to us. We were so happy we got to see that event during our stay. It is so nice that sports and active lifestyle (even among old people) was present everyday.
Next, I want to mention the restaurants in Quarteira. During the first month we barely went to any restaurants an only cooked at home, but from February we started to explore the restaurant offering of our hometown. One absolute favorite is Gusto’zza. It is owned by a french-portuguese couple, who really seem to love what they do and served all their customers with enthousiasm and great, positive attitude The interior design of the restaurant is welcoming, not to mention the food which was delicious. Especially those mushroom raviolis were so good. Pizza is also a great choice! And wine, let’s not forget about it! Another good place is a tapas place is called Social. This place was only 100m from our place. We took the brunch and there were lot of different and tasty tapas food. Really recommend! Also, don’t forget to visit the Quarteira “mercado”, which is located just next to the beach promenade.
Finally, I want to mention, that Quarteira just felt like home, almost from the day 1. I am quite picky when it comes to my surroundings, as I am quite sensitive and my surroundings affect my mood and feelings, in other words I want the place where I stay to feel good. For example at home, I want it to be bright and clean, without too many furniture or stuff. And when it comes to the neighborhood, I also want it to just feel safe, cozy, with some social life but also calmness and having the sea and nature close by. Well, Quarteira really met all of those criteria, and much more. The daily life just felt right in Quarteira. I again let the pictures speak for themselves.
That was it for the Algarve recommendations. I hope you liked these posts, I really enjoyed writing these and make a recap about the most memorable places we visited in the Algarve.
x Mari Susanna