August in the Algarve
Following a few weeks of record heat in July (35c/95+f) we were greeted with more normal temps for the area, low 80s cooling at night with low humidity. August is peak tourist season in the Algarve with many Europeans flocking to the sun and beaches for their holidays. Although Alvor is busy with visitors, it's not nearly as chaotic as we read before coming here. Other areas east of us do seem to be a bit more crowded but our little slice is bearable but were looking forward to the fall when life gets back to "normal".
It's certainly Festival season here where most towns small and large hold festivals celebrating foods and music to attract visitors. Most festivals we have found center around large concerts that mostly feature well-known DJs whipping crowds into a dance frenzy with their thump, thump, of Euro Tech music. A few feature well-known bands and performers. The great thing is that most appeal to all age groups with families coming out for the early food scene around 7pm and the Techno beat crowd showing up later with the acts starting around 10pm.
We've also been exploring the local golf clubs here playing several this month as we look for a home course to join. There are several options located within a half-hour drive from our home, then several more to the east that are within an hour. The resorts are very nice, most are designed for the leisure "Resort" golfer with wide open fairways and mildly challenging features. July and August are slow seasons for golf so rates have been reasonable. Mid Sept-January and again in the spring are peak golf times so we're looking to join a club to enjoy unlimited golf at a lower annual rate. Joining a club here is another item that we are amazed at how inexpensive it can be, a year of unlimited golf, including restaurant and golf shop discounts is about $5,000 per couple! That's unlimited rounds for a full year! We thought about joining a comparable club in the US but couldn't justify the cost on average at least triple what we will pay here.
Arte Doce, Lagos. Festival celebrating all the sweet treats from the Algarve
Mercado Central, Portimao
Unique foods and flavors of Portugal. We continue to enjoy the flavors of Portugal and try to experience foods out of our comfort zone. Snails are a big deal here in July and August although not a dish we have yet to try. One of our neighbors picks them right out of the garden and sautes them up in onion and garlic! Cured meats and of course dried fish (Bacalhau/Cod) are prevalent at all markets/stores. We're getting used to the varieties of fresh fish available, most have unfamiliar names so finding our favorites has been an adventure although it's hard to go wrong with so much to choose from. Pork is also readily available in many forms from fresh and cured to whole spit roasted. "Hamburgers" are everywhere too... but it's difficult to replicate the taste of a good ole American burger for some reason (although we have found a few). Snack foods are also an adventure Ketchup, Ham, or Hot dog flavored chips?
Barragem da Bravura. One of the many reservoirs in the foothills near us that store water for the Algarve. The drought has lowered the level significantly.
First Golf Day in Portugal @ Penina Resort. The first golf resort in the Algarve. We played the resort course not the championship course for our first day out in Portugal.
Sardine Festival, Portimao. One of the many summer festivals in our area. We're finding that most cater to families for the food and the Techno music crowd later in the evening for the featured acts.
Golf @ Vale de Milho. A small, hilly 9-hole course for a quick game.
A tour around the neighborhood. Many small farms occupy open spaces of land. What they produce usually ends up being shared/traded with neighbors or in the local farmer's markets.
Parking is a big challenge here, especially in the summer months with tourism at its peak. Regardless of the season parking on the sidewalk is very normal.
D-Montes is our local market, a short walk from our house. They carry everything from the gas canisters outside, we get our fresh pastries here on occasion, fresh regional produce, deli meats, and everything else we could need.
Cars are interesting here too. Many older smaller cars (think smart car size) around, the occasional horse and buggy on the main roads, and plenty of scooters that make getting around locally and parking much easier. It's interesting that despite having some of the lowest average income and highest car prices in Portugal, many drive higher-priced brands like Mercedes, Audi, Volvo, etc...
Towards the foothills near our home, there are many larger farms with groves of Oranges, Avocados, and Carob. Vineyards are becoming a large part of the landscape too with several new large plantings in what was once open space or other agriculture
Golf @ Silves. Located in the Foothills this is one of our favorites so far.
The Aerodromo (local airfield) is a small airport just behind our village. The main activities are two skydiving companies, small planes that pick up and drop off advertising banners to fly over the regional beaches, and SevenAir our local commercial airline with two flights daily to small towns around Portugal.
We can view the activity from our backyard, it's fun to watch and hear the hoots from the skydivers as they get dropped from the sky and land back at the airport. The majority of the jumps are tandem with an instructor but we often see more seasoned jumpers land at Alvor beach near us
How the Banners are picked up...
Olhao Seafood Festival. Not much of a festival as it is an opportunity to promote the waterfront restaurants with a little techno music too... The town of Olhao is one of the larger small boat fishing ports in the Algarve.
Golf @ Palmares. Hyped as a super premium resort where many Californians are buying up newly built overpriced apartments and Villas. It is a great location with nice views but we found the golf course to be just OK. The fairways were very dry due to the lack of available water and conservation. We later learned that this is one of the few Golf Resorts built relying solely on Municipal water supply. Most have their own wells or water storage where Palmeres does not. They are forced to significantly cut municipal water use for the golf course to continue building homes. We also learned that they are trying to contract with the surrounding farms to access water from their wells
Alvor, our nearby village busy on a summer evening
Golf @ Gramacho. Another one of our favorites so far
Golf @ Morgado. Nice course in the foothills near us. WIDE open fairways and very little shrub growth on the perimeter make this a very forgiving course. Except for the few water holes
Lunch @ Ramires in Guia. Frango Assado or Piri Piri Chicken is one of the more popular dishes in Portugal and several restaurants feature this as their specialty. Simply marinated small whole chickens are grilled over a charcoal fire. Piri Piri sauce is added if you prefer, giving the bird a slight peppery flavor. The town of Guia is said to be the capital of Frango Assado with several restaurants focused on this gem. Guia chickens raised here are the secret to the best Frango Assado according to locals. Ramires is one of the pillars of Frango Assado in Guia opened in 1964 it now covers three floors of large dining spaces in the center of Guia. The Frango is commonly served with a tomato salad (Fresh Tomato, onion, oregano, oil, and vinegar) and french fries (most restaurants here make their own fresh). For dessert, we shared a Dom Rodrigo, another staple sweet in the Algarve. Egg strands with egg custard, almonds, and cinnamon.
Tennis @ Penina. Our first Tennis match in Portugal.
FATACIL (Fair of Crafts, Tourism, Agriculture, Commerce and Indústria de Lagoa). Reminded us of a County Fair in the US but with a certain Portuguese flair.
Arrebita, Portimao. Festa Da Gastronomia Local. This was a great event for us. An opportunity for us to hang out with like-minded foodies and explore tastes from some of Portugal's better chefs.
Golf @ Espiche. This was a really nice course, a bit more challenging with water, sand, and large greens but a fun course. In the Foothills above Lagos about 25 minutes from our house.
Golf @ Amendoeira. A high-end resort, sister property of Palmeras. Two fantastic but challenging 18-hole courses and an "Academy" 9 Hole course that is lit for night play. We played the O'conner course which is a bit longer with connected fairways and large challenging greens, The Faldo course will test your accuracy with hazards galore! Tough courses but beautiful and well maintained. Many water hazards and strategically placed creeks in the fairways. Busier than others we have played. We were backed up and waiting a lot on most holes, and this is the slow season!
We decided to get a scooter for short trips around the area. Parking is tough, especially in the summer so this should make things much easier. We narrowed down our search between Vespas and Peugeots. Quickly eliminated the all-white Justin Beber edition of the Vespa! The Peugeot won out over the Vespas.
Algarve no Copo (Algarve in the Cup), Portimao. Showcases the Algarve’s top wines, liqueurs, craft beers, and juices. We met Joao and his wife who are part of the family that owns Quinta dos Capinhas, a small winery and, vineyard near the village of Porches.
Sunset Concert @ Vale do Lobo. The best of Queen was performed by a 36- piece orchestra and a rock band in an intimate setting on the grass near the golf course. The Orchestra was a combination of seasoned musicians from Orquestra Classica and Orchestra Nacional de Jovens, the national youth orchestra. A really fun concert.
This area of the Algarve (Central) is a popular destination for Brits and Irish during their holiday season. They have a reputation of "cutting loose" during their visit, loud, boozed-up, and ready to party! We got to view this first hand, although not quite as rowdy as it can get in some of the local towns.
A Day trip to Sagres and Fortaleza de Sagres the extreme western Algarve. The Fort of Sagres was a critical defense point for the country, poised at the very southwest of Portugal which was once believed to be the end of the world. It also served as a training facility where Prince Henry the Navigator trained the country's explorers on the world's top cutting-edge navigational techniques for sailing, and exploration of the new worlds. Portions of the Fort date back to the early 15th century
Stopped for dinner at Agua Salgada - Gastrobar at the end of the world. Cute open courtyard with communal seating for several restaurants. The menu was "Tapas" style smaller bites featuring fresh local products. All of the items were great, Octopus salad, local goat cheese, Gambas da Costa, and house Smoked Salmon Bruschetta
The nearby village of Porches is known for its Artisan pottery. Several small shops and "factories" are located here making by hand, artisan pottery from plates to tiles, flower pots, and more.
Dinner tonight at Alvors' "French" restaurant Por do Sol (Sunset). Our most "formal" dining out experience so far but still casual enough that most people were in shorts and sundresses. Great setting indoors and out. The food was nicely done, French onion soup and pate for starters, Steak Frites and Sole for entrees, and lemon meringue tart for dessert. The prices still amaze us here, my filet steak was one of the most expensive items on the menu @ $25 Including tax & tip! That's probably a $40++ meal at a nice restaurant in the US. The wine, one of the most expensive on the list, from the Douro, one of the better regions in Portugal @ $18 Including tax & tip! And this is one of the more expensive restaurants in our area. Sure there are more expensive restaurants around in the larger cities of Portimao and Lagos, but here in Alvor, it's good value and casual.
That about wraps up our third full month as expats in the Algarve. It's starting to feel more like home to us as we familiarize ourselves with the area. The only thing missing is our family and friends. We still miss you all and do hope that you can find the opportunity to visit soon.