World’s End is the southern-most point of the Algarve, Portugal. Looking out from the high cliffs of S.Vincent, over the Atlantic Ocean, I understood why 15th Century sailors, heading off on the Voyages of Discovery, named it so.
The Algarve is usually promoted as a holiday destination for beaches and golf. A well-kept secret is that when the mass tourism of the summer season leaves, the resorts dependent on visitors hibernate. All becomes quiet and peaceful but there is still sunshine a plenty. Portugal boasts of 300 days sunshine a year.
If you want to explore the real Portugal and stay a month or more in the sunshine, then the Algarve is a good option.
A young company called Algarve Senior Living has recognised that in addition to the ‘snowbirds’ from Canada who travel down for 3 months or more a year, many Silver Travellers want to escape too. This company specialise in long term rental solutions. They can arrange accommodation from self-catering 4* serviced apartments to villas. Your trip can be tailor-made, in addition to arranging your accommodation, if you would like financial advice on how to get your pension tax free in Portugal or need a medical package to help you travel with ease of mind, they can help as they have a wide network of specialists to call upon.
The advantage of renting a property as opposed to staying in a hotel for a long stay, is that friends and family can come and visit at no extra cost. During a long stay you have the opportunity of creating a home from home. Get involved in local activities, make new friends and really get to know this part of the world. This company also offers flexibility on dates which means you can scour flight deals and choose your dates accordingly.
Luis and Ana Paula da Silva run Algarve Senior Living and gave me a good overview of possibilities for Silver Travellers in this part of the world. There are free newspapers produced by permanent ex-pat communities along the coast, who invite you to join a cross-section of weekly workshops and cultural events. All the local markets are advertised and you can join groups that meet for lunch or go walking. I went to a Portuguese operetta; a production of Swan Lake by a touring Russian company and a childrens Christmas concert, all good fun.
The N125 (the Algarve corridor) runs approximately 2 km inland, from the Spanish border in the east, to Sagres the western point. Driving along and looking down towards the well publicised coastline, you see holiday resorts and the inevitable high rise blocks of apartments and hotels, many of which close down for the winter season.
Look the other way and you have unspoilt countryside with citrus groves, olive and cork trees, mountains and white-washed villages where the dogs sleep in the middle of cobbled streets soaking up the sun. Roads are quiet, particularly the A22 toll road which the locals shun, this means easy driving for us. Here, you can explore the real Portugal and join the locals for lunch in restaurants which offer a four course meal including wine for just 7.50 Euros. Fresh fish is always on the menu.
Sierra de Monchique and Sierra de Monte Figgo near to Loule, offer the most spectacular areas for walking and cycling. These well mapped routes are called the Via Algarviana and Vale de Alportel. Excellent brochures show distances and fitness levels required. Walking tours are available.
I saw all shapes and sizes of visitors cycling around towns, electric bikes are advertised everywhere. Although many urbanizations and Town Halls are bankrupt, the streets are clean and Portimao had creatively made their Christmas decorations out of recycled plastic bottles.
Portugal is very good at museums too. Their history begins well before the Voyages of Discovery. Phoenicians, Moors and Romans have all passed through building their empires. Portimao is built on the banks of the River Arade. This area used to support a large sardine canning industry. The industry died due to over fishing and the promised riches of tourism in the ‘70’s. Storks have now taken up residence on the top of disused canning factory chimneys!
Many of these old buildings have been very creatively converted into contemporary museums and hotels. There is the Museum of Clothes in Sao Bras de Alportel which shows clothing worn by the different social groups through the ages, the English text describing lady’s corsets is a joy to read. This museum also has a barn where the production of cork is explained and a film shown.
Used to visitors, most of the Portuguese people I met, spoke some English and embarrassingly many are fluent in many languages.
So head off on your own personal Voyage of Discovery and explore the Portuguese Algarve, but be quick, before they catch on that Northern Europeans are crying out for a better climate during the winter months.
For more information visit Algarve Senior living