A SHORT FISHY AUTUMN TOUR OF THE ALGARVE IN COVID TIMES
Our first stop is to the beach town of Praia da Rocha, I last came here, in 1998, I noticed, that the main strip does not bear any resemblance to then, it is now full of karaoke bars and shops selling tourist tat, apart from the classical Bella Vista hotel and Spa.
Our first two nights were spent at the,
HOTEL DA ROCHA Four Stars
Avenida Tomás Cabreira, 8500-802 Praia da Rocha, Portimão
+351 282 424 081
It is a nice clean hotel with friendly staff. The swimming pool is a little small, with no sun after about 4.30/5.00 pm. If you book a front facing room, you get a fantastic view of the beach, Atlantic and sunset.
Our first evening meal was at,
Areal da Praia da Rocha, 8500-000 Praia da Rocha
+351 969 211 962
Set on the fairly new wooden promenade, on the great beach at Praia da Rocha, serving excellent fish, seafood, rice dishes and cocktails. The sunset across the beach in the evening is stunning. The service was friendly and entertaining.
Lulinhas (baby squid) with chips
Arroz corvina (stone bass with rice)
Our first home made piri-piri with whisky sauce, tread very carefully!!
and our first, of many, vinho verde alvarinho.
Our next lunch, the following day, was heading further west to,
RESTAURANT O CAMILO
Estr. da Ponta da Piedade, 8600-544 Lagos
+351 282 763 845
This is an excellent fish and seafood restaurant and worth travelling to. There is a large selection of fresh fish on display as you walk in. They grill it on charcoal, and they will not overcook it. You will need to book as it is very popular.
We had a Portuguese sparkling wine, Soalheiro Alvarinho
Followed by home made sardine paté
Octopus and clams
A large solha (similar to turbot) €50 a kilo.
Finished with a glass of Madeira wine.
The restaurant is overlooking Praia da Camilo, a great beach, which has 200 wooden steps going down to a sheltered, sandy cove, divided by ochre-coloured rocks, with a hand-dug tunnel. The walk down and up is strenuous and could cause a shortness of breath.
After two days in Praia de Rocha, we then moved on to Albufeira for one night. I expected this to be a bit too touristy but was pleasantly surprised, although, that may have been because it was only 25% of its usual capacity for this time of year, due to Covid-19. During an evening stroll around town, we came across many live music venues with excellent performers. There were no club music places anywhere.
We stayed at,
HOTEL COLINA DO MAR Three Stars
Rua Maria Teresa Semedo de Azevedo 3, Albufeira
+351 289 588 260
A cheap spot (€37) with clean rooms and friendly staff. It is on a steep hill though, so not suitable for everyone. It is only 5 minutes’ walk from the old town and does have a small swimming pool on the roof.
On our lunchtime walk, we came across a fish spa, so decided, to give it a try. €10 for 15 minutes and you have new feet!
We then headed for the main beach and stopped at,
RESTAURANTE O FAROL
Praia dos Pescadores, Albufeira, Portugal
+351 968 023 363
The red roofed restaurant on the beach.
This is a great location, right on the beach, friendly staff, and good service.
We had a large Dorada (gilt-head bream) at €45 per kilo and chips and salad.
Another pleasant bottle of Vinho Verde and a few hours looking out across the beach, soon passed.
Next morning we headed further east to Olhão, which is 12 km past Faro and stayed at,
REAL MARINA HOTEL & SPA Five Stars
Avenida 5 de Outubro, 8700-307 Olhão
+351 289 091 300
A good standard hotel, with indoor and outdoor swimming pools and a decent gym.
Make sure you book a room overlooking the pool with views across the street to the Ria Formosa Natural Park and the Atlantic Ocean.
Our first 10-15 minute from the hotel stroll into town ended up at,
VAI E VOLTA
Largo do Grémio 2, 8700-343 Olhão,
+351 968 027 525
Tucked away in the old merchant’s quarter of Olhão, this rodizio (grill) only opens for lunch and serves charred and skin-bubbled all-you-can-eat fish, with potatoes, sweet potatoes, bread, salad and açorda (stale bread, olive oil and coriander) (all for €12 pp). The owner and master of the grill, wanders from table to table with a tray of just-charred horse mackerel, salmon, sardines and bream, begging customers to eat more and is quite shocked when you say, "sorry, we are full".
Anchovies, tuna mayonnaise and olives
Açorda, salad, sweet and normal potatoes.
Sardines and dorada
Sardines, dorada and mackerel.
House rosé wine.
We spent the evening in this pleasant town watching football on TV in one of the bars .
Olhão is a fishing town totally obsessed with sardines.
Old and new buildings, mix together.
Stork nests are famous in this region.
The hostel opposite this one, is even named after them.
Time passes slowly here.
Next morning, we walked into town and visited the fish market.
Loja, 43, Dos Mercados Municipais, Avenida 5 De Outubro, Olhão, Faro
+351 289 817 024
A good fish market where you can see, amongst others, the litão, a fish, cured with salt in the sun and is one of the emblematic dishes of Olhão. Get there fairly early, as the stalls are packed away by 12.30 pm.
There is also an excellent fruit and veg market next door.
We then headed across the road to,
Avenida 5 de Outubro 2D, 8700-302 Olhão, faro
It is scruffy but is an authentic taberna, tiny, with no other attraction, other than what your good, experienced nose dictates, full of talkative locals. You are served as many sardines as it is possible to eat accompanied by some chips, sweet potatoes a very fresh pipirrana salad and jugs of house wine. All the food keeps coming until we say enough! Two and a half hours have passed, the bill for 3, €20!!
We had our usual bottle of vinho verde (this was €8 extra) as well as the house wine.
The sardines keep coming..........
Sweet and normal potatoes.
They even gave us some piri-piri chicken to try that we saw someone eating at another table.
After two nights in Olhão, we headed for Spain but before reaching the border, we stopped off here,
Parque Natural da Ria Formosa, EM1339 1090E, 8800-102
+351 281 961 222
Skirting the Ria Formosa, this lagoon-front restaurant in the little hamlet of Pinheiro is housed in a rather ramshackle restaurant, offering simple dining, with wonderful seafood and rice. Most of the tables are placed outside on a sand-strewn single-track road.
The little marisqueira is equally famous for its grilled fish dishes, clams and cockles. Most of the locals seem to sit inside, leaving the outside tables with a view over the lagoon for the tourists lucky enough to have found this little gem.
We started with our last vinho verde of the trip.
followed by salada ovas escada (whiting roe salad) sadly, not to everyone's taste.