I had always heard tales of Portugal, and didn’t put much thought to traveling there, but during a conversation with a lovely English couple, I mentioned that I was thinking of embarking on a trip to Portugal but unsure if i should stay in Lisbon for the complete trip or embarking to the the infamous Algarve coast. I was then informed that the place to go is Armação de Pêra. I wrote down the name of the town and I instantly decided that would be my next destination.
3 months later I was on a mid-morning flight from London Stanstead to Lisbon, excited that I had managed to pack for a week in just a carry on luggage, weighing 8 kilos (The limit was 10kg!).
I arrived to the welcoming arms of my friend who had driven from Spain to meet me at Lisbon airport, after being enticed by my planed adventure, he couldn’t allow me to have all the fun. We spent just over 2 hours driving down towards Armação de Pêra chatting as the open windows allowed the scent of eucalyptus trees gathered at the edge of highway to invade the car.
Amendoeira Golf Resort
Finally driving through the terracotta entrance of Amendoeira Golf Resort in the early evening, yes you read it right; we were staying in a golf resort. See this is the thing, my friend loves playing golf and I love lying in the sun whether it’s on the beach or besides the pool, so this was the happy medium. We could split up and do things separately enjoying activities that the other would not care to spend time doing.
Amendoeira Golf Resort is a village of its own, so vast in size with two golf courses, a spa, a sports center, a children’s park and streets of villas and apartments arranged into blocks. Just to give you an idea of how big it was, you needed to drive from the apartments to the main building where breakfast was served, or call reception for the free shuttle bus to come and collect you from you building.
During check in, you will receive an explanation of the grounds map of the hotel grounds and a wrist band for breakfast. After exploring the two bedroom apartment, the pool and the gardens near our apartment block, it was time for dinner as it was already 9pm.
Trip to Silves
We decided to make our way to Marisqueira Rui, a seafood restaurant located 10 minutes’ drive away that was recommended by the staff at the hotel reception.
The restaurant is based in Silves, a relaxed town with cobbled streets and the Arade River running besides it. The ambiance was different compared to the coast of Armacao De Pera and added an experience of the dinning with locals.
At Marisqueira Rui we opted for a seafood platter which came with mussels, clams, crab, an array of fried, boiled and grilled prawns served with garlic bread and a garlic mayonnaise. The mussels and clams were delicious, served in hot in white wine and garlic sauce. It was what I was longing to taste before stepping on the plane toward Portugal. The body of the crab came filled with seasoned crab meat which although delicious, was served cold. The crab claws and legs were fun to crack but after a few bites I left it to my companion as I preferred the grilled and fried prawns which were hot. The grilled prawns were amazingly seasoned and delicious, so much that we ordered an additional portion.
The platter cost €45, but once we added an additional portion of grilled prawns, red wine, 2 bottles of water and an espresso the bill was closer to the €80 mark. Our bellies were full and although the platter said it was for 2 people, I think it could easily feed party of 3.
Exploring Armação de Pêra
Breakfast was served in the resort’s dining area, overlooking the golf course. There was a great selection of hot food (sausages, eggs, grilled veg etc), cold meats, cheeses, fresh fruit and freshly baked rolls with an option to toast sliced bread. When it came to beverages, we were spoilt for choice, with a range freshly squeezed juices, tea and a coffee machine available for use.
Driving to the heart of Armação de Pêra took 10 minutes, and parking was easy to find. The beach itself is a long strip of fine sand that is easily accessible from the main pedestrian walkway with plenty of bars and restaurants. We stopped at Jony’s for an early drink.
Once I was left alone to my own devices, I explored the town walking back to a craft museum situated next to the Tourist Information Centre, where Rua da Fortaleza meets Rua de Praia. The museum had stalls displaying wares and handmade ornaments by local artists that are available for purchase. I selected a few locally grown dried herbs and flowers before making my way down to Rua da Fortaleza and R. Dr. José António dos Santos where I discovered a little swimwear store that stocked Brazilian style swimwear.
I made my way to the beach, strategically deciding to walk away form the crowds towards a deserted area. At the beach I’d advise you to head towards the east end of the beach next to Arte Nautica Beach restaurant. Here the sand was not as fine, instead seeing the hints of shell, which is a preference as it’s easier to brush the skin. Here I fell asleep in front of the Ribeira de Alcantarilha after shooting visuals for ‘The adventures of the wooden plate’, later on awakening to enjoy a drink at the Art Nautica bar.
Exploring Boliqueime & more
Later that evening we rushed over to O Retiro in Boliqueime as we had left it bit late for dinner and most of the restaurants within Armaçao De Pêra that we wanted to visit were closed or didn’t open on a Monday.
I tried the grilled sardines for the first time, and enjoyed grilled mullet as a main dish that was cooked to perfection.
Off to Benagil
Day 2 in the golf resort saw us waking up to the rising sun as one was determined to get to the gym and other had to get onto the golf course.
I can’t tell you much about the golf course, but I was informed it was a difficult course. The resort also has no problem with solo golf enthusiast wishing to give it a try. The gym however was great, it contained the usual weighted machinery including up to date cross trainers, treadmills and even a smith machine. Free towels are provided, however I assumed water would be free it is not. A 750 ml bottle cost €2, (expensive when compared to the supermarkets that charge 50 cents).
Proceeding a great work out, I returned to the apartment to enjoy their disco playlist on the T.V whilst packing my beach bag, as we were about to embark on the adventure that I was excited to do….visit the Benagil caves. My companion, on the other hand was eager to dine at a restaurant, O Pescador close to the beach, that had great reviews.
The drive from Bengail took about 20 minutes and parking was nearly full as we arrived around 1pm and we had to eat. Actually we needed to eat, we were starving and we managed to get one of the last seats outside the front of O Pescador.
The seafood is on display allowing you to see how fresh the catch is before ordering and they also cater for vegetarians. For starters 100g of razor clams was ordered for me to try for the first time and the Cataplana to share. The razor clams was my first introduction to this creature, and it was looked like nothing I expected as the texture was more chewier than mussels or clams. The Cataplana arrived in a great metal dish, opened by the waiter who proceeded to fill our plates with an assortment of fish and seafood. The fish is depends on the catch of the day, ours included monkfish and sea bream. It also came with muscles, clams, razor clams and roast potatoes all submerged in a well seasoned tomato sauce.
Dessert was the chocolate fudge cake with the caramel ice cream encased in a chocolate nut shell, it was two separate desserts but I wanted cake and ice cream.
So after the fun of eating went down to the beach ready to book a kayak for our cave adventure. The only problem was there was no kayaks! The beach was crowded so we took the details of the booth and booked a kayak via email for the next morning. As the beach was crowded, we returned back to the hotel so I could finally lounge by the pool.
Dinning at Bombordo
Dinner was at the Bombordo in the center of Armaçao De Pêra. A starter of 200g of cockles steamed with fresh garlic and white wine, and pan fried prawns was placed in front of us to taste the goodness.
Service impeccable with attention to detail, the staff made sure you were welcomed. Even when I opted for the red mullet again, the waiters was honest enough to inform my friend that he too should go for the same as it’s the best choice for today. Although seasoned well, it was slightly over cooked and we had to fish out the bones. It was served traditionally, Portuguese style with potatoes, green beans and carrots. We were too full for dessert but that didn’t stop the drinks server from pouring two shot glasses of liquor. It was a strong Portuguese drink infused with herbs, honey a strong note of aniseed. I couldn’t finish it, so I just poured into my glass of unfinished wine hoping the waiter would not notice. He didn’t, yet he returned to pour me another glass, not to offend his hospitality I closed my eyes and prayed that it wouldn’t go straight to my head as I drank it in one straight go, with no wine available to rescue my tongue from the taste of aniseed.
Back to Benagil
Next morning we went straight to Benagil beach after a heavy breakfast. Whilst parking the car we became intrigued by a couple coming from a ruined house, we decided to see where they came from and discovered a pathway that led to rocky plane taking us to the opening ceiling of the caves.
We collected our bright orange kayak for €20 per person, large enough to accommodate 2 people and a child, and the provided life jackets after leaving our belongings at the booth (we took our valuables as we had a waterproof bag).
The waves carried us to sea and to the entrance of the cave as we approached. Although there was a few people that morning, we realised many of the people swam from the main beach. There were also boat tours coming into the opening of the cave then turning around to go back out, it was then I was glad I never booked to go on a tour as you wouldn’t have the opportunity to walk around the cave.
Since the boat tours were coming in and out of the entrance the waves were stronger, luckily there was a second way out that was easier to leave from. We decided to keep going east of the beach where we found little beaches points, we had to select carefully as the waves were starting to get rough and we had to consider how we would leave. We found a small beach point was home to seagulls that had buried their nests within the walls of the cliffs.
We failed to leave the shore twice before the sea would allow us to sit upon its waves, then we battled our way back to the beach. The waves were fierce and since I was at the front of the kayak I endured the cold salty water constantly slapping into me. We counted our blessings as we got to shore since as we met the kayak staff on the beach as they were deciding to stop others going out due to the rough tide.For our last lunch we went back to O Pescador for mussels, clams , seafood pasta, finished off with their sticky and sweet Fig & Carob tart before making our way to our next stop.