I recently spent two weeks in Portugal with my boyfriend Jack and his family, and honestly coming home was so sad. We stayed in Faro, in the Algarve, and spent two weeks relaxing, wining and dining in the nicest restaurants, and seeing some beautiful sights, making the most incredible memories.
The flight lasted two and a half hours, so despite the 3am get up, by midday we were relaxing by the pool and beginning our holiday, so it’s an ideal destination for those who are put off by long distance journeys and travel times. As well as this, Portugal has the same timezone as the UK, so there was no jet lag or any time lost.
We stayed in a gorgeous villa named ‘Sunflower Villa’ with 4 bedrooms, lounge, kitchen, three bathrooms and a sizable outdoor BBQ and pool area. The interior hallway was in keeping with the sunflower theme, with a wall picture and the light fitting in the style of the sunflower, which I thought was a really nice finish.
The area around our villa was fairly barren and very quiet, but with very pretty views of surrounding areas. It was interesting for me because I have only ever stayed in a hotel on holiday, and have usually gone all-inclusive. Staying in a villa was actually a refreshing change and felt more homely and private. I enjoyed having my own schedule and having the pool to ourselves, as well as the choice to eat at restaurants in the evenings. It’s made me more open minded to selecting a villa holiday in the future.
One of my favourite journeys was to the town of Loulé. It was a small town with a very traditional feel to it, with a beautiful castle, old houses and a lovely little shopping street with pretty mosaic tiles on the floor and overhead hangings. Loulé is a lovely place to visit for an afternoon out, if you’re wanting to experience a traditional area, largely untouched by tourism. There were some really good shops here: lots of clothes shops with very cheap prices, a couple of cork shops (something quite big in Portugal) and plenty of little gift shops. Loulé is a great place for photography lovers, with plenty of aesthetic streets and places to get some beautiful shots.
Although beautiful and aesthetic, Vilamoura was a stark contrast to Loulé in terms of tourism. This is the perfect place to go if you’re looking for activities such as golf and shopping, if you want to see a harbour, or for fine dining. There is a little train that can take you into the central part, but unfortunately we were half an hour too early for it. Vilamoura is aimed and made for tourists, with very little representation of the Portuguese lifestyle. Despite this, I could have spent ages here browsing the shops, from big brand names to small boutique stores. It was lovely shopping in the afternoon sun, with little jewellery stores and even a shop purely dedicated to Sardines. I managed to find lots of souvenirs and gifts in the shops.
The harbour was vast and was surrounded by a large horseshoe of restaurants and bars, each with a very different style. We ate at a lovely fish restaurant which overlooked the harbour. This restaurant was one of the nicest, probably due to its unique qualities. Their only menu is on the wall as you walk in, and you select the fish and tell them how you would like it cooked and with what sides. The bar was in the shape and style of a boat, and their chairs were so comfortable – donned with colourful pillows and cushions. The portion sizes were very generous, and we took large gaps in between courses. The beauty of this restaurant lay not only in the aesthetics, but also in their skill. The fish they cooked was excellent and perfectly flavoured. Jack and myself ordered a Sole, which they brought to the table whole and then filleted in front of us. As the sun started to set, the lights below us came on and lit up the harbour, making the view absolutely stunning.
The Algarve is famous for its massive golf courses, attracting many golf fanatics, both professional and not. After playing mini golf, it’s safe to say i’m not the best golfer, but it was lovely playing with such warm temperatures, alongside one of the biggest golf courses. We played foot-golf too (which no one had tried before) which was a lot of fun despite the fact I wasn’t the best. Jack used to play football a lot so it’s safe to say he had far better aim than I did. The range of things to do here though shows that the destination caters for all interests.
We visited this beach twice during our stay, and being surrounded mainly by villas, it was much quieter than most beaches I have visited, which made it so much more relaxing. We found some large shells on this beach, and I could get a lot of reading done listening to the waves and feeling the summery breeze. The beach also has a few bars and restaurants at the top of it, a couple which we tried. There’s nothing better than a refreshing Caesar Salad for lunch whilst overlooking the sea.
I think it’s safe to say that a huge part of any holiday is the food: deciding where and what to eat, and getting a taste for local and traditional foods. During our stay we went to multiple restaurants, and Jack’s dad did some amazing BBQs. I tried camarão which are giant prawns (perfect for me as I love prawns) and also Sardines, which when cooked in the Portugese style, are absolutely delicious.
We went to restaurants such as Alambique, Casa da Quinta (Jack’s favourite) and Parilla Natural. It was a lot of fun getting all dressed up to meet the dress codes of these restaurants, and the style of them didn’t disappoint. Their settings are so beautiful and cosy, and they really have the diners in mind.
Parilla Natural was the fanciest restaurant I think I’ve ever been to. It attracts many celebrities (I can now understand why) and had by far the most beautiful setting – a restaurant situated underneath a giant tree with hundreds of fairy lights and hanging lights. Their food and drink selection was vast, with so many choices for cocktails (which tasted amazing). Their staff were also very knowledgeable about the food they were serving, in many cases advising us on cooking style and portion sizes. Despite the affluence, Parilla makes you feel very comfortable and at home. Towards the end of our meal, there was a live singer and musician which really made the atmosphere feel special. All of lights really made it feel like a magical night.
Alambique also had a beautiful setting – a vast garden space with many coverings and a fountain. The menu was extensive with enough choice for any eater. The waiters were so friendly and helpful, having a laugh and joke with us which immediately makes you feel comfortable. It was so bus there showing the popularity, but it wasn’t noisy and had a very relaxed atmosphere.
Monica’s surprised me the most out of all of them. It was such a quaint little place, with a family feel to it, and was away from the main road so it was very quiet. It felt like sitting in someone’s back garden and was so sweet. Their food was my favourite out of all restaurants, with the most flavour and style. Their menu offered Tapas (which I absolutely love) and the chicken I ordered had such a gorgeous marinade, with shredded vegetables embedded inside and piped potato. I even managed desert here (a rare achievement for me) which was a gorgeous chocolate pudding and ice cream.
Casa Da Quinta was a bittersweet night for me. It was Jack’s favourite restaurant, and I can see why: it had a very cosy and homely feel, and the owner was very friendly. The food was gorgeous and you couldn’t fault the ambiance – lovely lighting and atmospheric music. It was just a shame that it fell on our last night in Portugal: I kept thinking how much I didn’t want the holiday to end. That aside, I had a beautiful seafood pancake for starter, followed by Duck A L’orange which was the most beautiful flavour.
Portugal is a beautiful country and I had one of the most relaxing holidays. It was all the more special because it was the first holiday that me and Jack had together. We had the most incredible time together and it was a much deserved holiday after our first year of our long distance relationship. I am very proud of us for getting to this point, and I can’t wait for our next holiday. His family are also amazing and I feel so much closer to all of them. I’ve never felt such a part of anyone elses family before which was really special.
I 10/10 would recommend Portugal as a holiday destination for anybody looking for a little adventure, or a relax, or both! If I go in the future, I would love to explore further inland, and go to Lisbon. I would also love to watch a sunset and discover more about the history of the country.