A long weekend in Algarve, Portugal

IMG_5132bThe theme of the holiday was Sangria… Branco, tinto, espumante.  Even homemade brew in a re-purposed Luso bottle.  You name it, we drank it.
What a wonderful way to spend four days in the south of Portugal in Algarve and with some incredibly fun people too.

algarve2We flew down on Thursday to meet up with Tania, her boyfriend Peter, Marlene and her husband, Brandon.

I’ve known Tania, Marlene, their oldest sister Sandy and their family my whole life.  It’s usually just easier to tell people we’re cousins and it certainly feels that way.  In reality, their mother babysat me from the age of one and then my sister until we were school aged.  We lived a few doors down from each other on Dufferin Street in Toronto.  We’d walk to school together, have birthdays parties and sleepovers and play in the backyard.  We grew up together.  Just a few years later when we moved to Mississauga and they moved to North York, we were already like family at that point so we continued to see each other and share life’s big moments:  more birthdays, weddings, camping holidays, etc.

Countless memories we share and now, to add to the list, a rendezvous in sunny Albufeira.The four of them were on a two-week holiday in Portugal so we figured, why not meet up with them on one of their stops.  We’re very lucky to be able to fly down at the drop of a hat.  So quick, easy and relatively cheap.

I love Europe!

algarve7 algarve6Now that we live far apart, unfortunately I only see them about once a year. But it’s like we never skip a beat. This was the first time that David and the guys really hung out and we were happy as punch (err… sangria) that everyone got along well.

We stayed just outside of Albufeira in Hotel Maritur which was good value for money and had a filling hot breakfast.  Each day we drove to a new beach.  Falesia Beach being our favourite but we also spent time in Sao Rafael and Praia de Gaia.  Can’t go wrong with any of the beached in Algarve… they each can take your breath away.

IMG_9831algarve11We did a lot of beaching, eating good food, lots of laughs, even more sangria and mini Super Bock beers. Oh and “bolas de Berlim” on the beach EVERY DAY.  Fried dough, covered in sugar and stuffed with custard cream… now that’s a beach snack!  It brought me back to my youth.  The men (and sometimes women) carried coolers of this stuff, walking along the sand yelling “bolas de Berlim” along with some sexist jokes.  Just a wave and they’re at your beach towel taking your 1 euro for cream-stuffed ball.

algarve1This vacation was relaxing and so easygoing.  That being said, Tania and I got up every morning to workout before breakfast.  We had a lot of ‘bolas’ and sangria to work off!  It was fantastic motivation for me as well as for her.  The guys went golfing one day, luckily the coolest day of our trip.  And we enjoyed the 30C weather lazing about on the beaches… it was so hot we had to rent a sunlounger/cabana thing just to get some shade.

We also  caught some of the World Cup games over drinks in the bars in Albufeira.  We had a fantastic meal at O’Leme one night.  A mom-and-pop and son place with the friendliest, warmest service ever and some great traditional Portuguese food.  And complimentary Port wine to finish off the night while we watched the World Cup match.

algarve9And another amazing meal at Arte Bar, all you can eat BBQ for 8 euros!  I miss the charcoal flavour of BBQ… I overdosed on meat by having a bit of everything, chicken, burgers, sausages, pork kebob and spare ribs.  Some of the best meat I’ve had in my life.  Really happy and thankful the two vegetarians didn’t mind being downwind of the BBQ smoke.

algarve10We did some more beaching, and rented a stand-up paddle board.  It is my new favourite water activity.  We rented it for 2 hours and used it non-stop! The waves were quite challenging for us beginners but I think we got the hang of it, even did some burpees and squats on it.  In the end, it wiped me out for the rest of the afternoon.  Then, by mid-afternoon, David and I sadly had to return to real life …. actually only David, I was off again the next day on a train.

More on that later.

algarve4 algarve3Having spent many summers in my young life in Portugal I was never excited about vacationing there.  Why couldn’t we go to Disneyland like other families?  I’ve only come to truly appreciate my heritage and my second home country in recent years.  I feel nostalgia when I think back to those summers growing up.  I’m grateful my parents forced me to learn Portuguese. And instilled those values and morals in me.

I’m Canadian but Portuguese blood runs through me.  The tradition and culture are what I know and grew up with. I now love spending time in Portugal and feel proud when I come across other travelers who love it as much as I do.  And I’m thrilled David feels the same way.  And really grateful that we live relatively close now that we can pop in for a 4-day weekend.

IMG_9881I’m already looking forward to going back in a few weeks to spent 10 days in my parents’ home town with Steph and Chris. More chicken piri-piri, grilled sardines, salted cod, chouriço, and of course enough pasteis de nata to induce a coma.


Hotel Maritur:  Great filling breakfast.  Friendly service. Spacious and confortable rooms. About 70 euros a night.
São Rafael – 8200-613 Albufeira


O’Leme Restaurant:  Friendly service, large portions, good homemade food in a family-run place that’s been in the family for generations.
Rua Fernando Pessoa – Pateo Village, Albufeira


Arte Bar:  Best Sunday BBQ for an incredible price.  Great service.  Amazing food.  The most succulent and falvourful pork kebob we’ve ever had in out lives.  Simple but delicious.  Sangria was top notch.  Not for vegetarians but Indian food from the restaurant above will cater to the meat-haters.
Rua do Cerro Grande, CC corpo sul, Fr B, 8200-108 Albufeira

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  • This is great info! I’m hoping to get there next summer.

    • Thanks for the comments Elizabeth! Portugal is definitely worth a visit – hope you can make it happen!