We left freezing cold, hurricane winds and rain in the UK to arrive late morning at a sunny Faro airport in mid-December. I love the chunky white statues on the island at the airport, all gazing up to the sky – you felt obliged to join them in their upward stare. We were driven to Albufeira, about 18 miles, to our first hotel the Luna Miramar.
It has a very welcoming lobby, white marble floors and black marble staircase, clean and bright with a dash of turquoise on the seating and lots of original artworks on the walls. We had a good size apartment with a kitchenette – microwave, hotplate, fridge with crockery and utensils – and can confirm that a group of Hindu guests from Age UK Harrow were able to produce a full spread of fantastic Indian food on their hotplate! You could easily stay here for a week or more. The balcony gets the sun in the afternoon as it overlooks a well maintained pool area. Greeted with fresh fruit, bottled water and a bottle of bubbly, this was certainly a good start to our 3 day stay!
Reception is actually on 3rd floor, a comfortable bar with free WiFi on 4th floor, and a health club on floor 1 next to the buffet style dining room. You can book sessions free for any of the facilities, including the Jacuzzi, indoor pool at 29-31?, sauna and a gym. During the season, there is entertainment and games in the gardens, not just for children, although these weren’t available at this time.
The Luna Miramar is in a good position near to the old town of Albufeira, within walking distance to the town and the beach. We strolled down to the beach – OK, a bit of a steep stroll but at least it was downhill on the way there. There is now an escalator at one end of the beach and a lift at the other, so accessing it is easy. It is many years since we last visited the Algarve, and the old town of Albufeira has changed. The shops in the centre are the same, of course, and even out of the main tourist season there are restaurants and bars to choose from.
We tried the fish soup at Flavours restaurant, right on the beach front. Very nice, not chunky, a tomato base but with a definite taste of seafood (it includes crab so check if you have any specific seafood allergies). Served with different types of bread, a glass of wine (of course!) and a small beer, it was a very pleasant afternoon sat in the sunshine next to the sea.
The town is very hilly, and the footpaths are mainly made up of small blocks so a bit uneven and not easy for wheelchair users. But, there is a small train that trundles around the town, a hop on- hop off tourist bus, and the hotel has a shuttle bus to the beach and town so there are plenty of options if you decide not to walk. Luna Miramar is 10 minute walk from the beach and town and next to a shopping centre with supermarket, a Pizza Hut (of course), and small clothes shops including a really good choice of clothes for men, a bit different from standard V-neck sweaters but definitely wearable.
The town is quiet at this time of year, but the beach is kept clean and tidy. The sand is harsh underfoot with tiny bits of shell so open sandals not ideal, but there are some fascinating rock formations and greenery along the cliff face. Look out for old buildings, some derelict, as basically this is a beautiful area for artists and photographers alike.
Luna Hotels are very interested in what Silver Travellers are likely to be looking for, particularly over the winter months when it is much quieter. They have a range of hotel apartments in the Algarve, good quality accommodation 4*, well presented hotels, exceptionally helpful staff, plus pool and spa facilities at the Luna Miramar ideal for 50+ visitors. There are many places to visit in the region including the vineyard owned by Sir Cliff Richard, the Cork Museum, and fruit picking of the Arbutus in November (no, I don’t know what they are either).
Two weeks before Christmas seems a strange time to visit, but it was a welcome break from the harsher British weather, if only for some sunshine.
Temperatures not as high, perhaps, as some of the Mediterranean countries, but it was very pleasant, bright and sunny during our stay, ranging from T-shirt and shorts on the warmest days to cooler cloudier days that still only required an extra sweater or jacket. They would like to offer long-term stays over the winter with some very favourable accommodation rates, so definitely worth considering if you have only ever thought of the Algarve for a summer holiday. There are various flight options to the Algarve, both Ryanair and Monarch, the one we used, flying direct from Birmingham.
For more information, please visit www.lunahoteis.com