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Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Road Trip to the Algarve

Mike online and very happy to introduce Natalia as a contributor to the Spain Now and Then blog. You will also find Natalia across on the Gomarbella Facebook page. Over to Natalia after her trip to Portugal.

Day One

Our initial plan was to leave my place at 5.30pm, however in true Spanish fashion we ended up leaving at 6.40pm. We took the A7, direction Estepona/Algeciras all the way to Los Barrios. Watch out for a radar in San Roque just before reaching Los Barrios. Then we took the A-381 to Jerez (theres another radar just before arriving to Jerez, after the last tunnel). Once in Jerez we took the AP-4 towards Sevilla, a two hour drive so far. From Sevilla we traveled on the A-49 to Huelva, continuing a stretch up to Ayamonte and then made our way down to Isla Cristina.

We arrived tired but happy at Hotel Plata Isla Cristina at 9:40pm. The hotel is two stars, clean, very comfy with a home away from home vibe. All the staff are incredibly friendly and accommodating. Having stashed our luggage away and admired our pretty blue room we went down to reception and asked for directions to a good seafood restaurant. Following Jose, the receptionists advice we walked down the road and onto the paseo maritimo (path along the beach) to the Sol y Mar restaurant. The food was divine. We had coquinas which are small clams and some incredibly fresh and tasty prawns. Fed and watered we walked back to our hotel and enjoyed a nightcap in the lounge. We were soon joined by a charming couple from Sevilla and Alicia our bartender/receptionist for the night, it was a lovely relaxing evening in Isla Cristina which is where we booked our hotel for the first night.

Hotel Contact details:
Hotel Plata Isla Cristina
Avenida de la Playa, 1
Isla Cristina, 21410
Spain

Tel: +34 959331800 E-mail: hotelplata@hotmail.com


Day Two

We woke up early and had a simple yet tasty breakfast and bid goodbye to the friendly staff at Hotel Plata Isla Cristina. Heeding their advice we made sure to visit Las Salinas before continuing onto Portugal. Las Salinas is where salt is extracted from sea water, theirs so much that they use tractors to make little salty hills! While exploring Ayamonte and admiring the town we saw that we could take a ferry which would cross the border and take us into Portugal. It took us all of 12 minutes and cost us roughly 5 Euros including the car, to cross Rio Guadiana, dropping us off in Villa Real de S. Antonio. From there we followed the signs to Tavira and then onto Faro where we stopped for lunch and then continued on the A22 - E1 to Albufeira. We woke up early and had a simple yet tasty breakfast and bid goodbye to the friendly staff at Hotel Plata Isla Cristina.

Once in Albufeira it was really easy to find the Monica Isabel Resort, which is where we would be staying for two nights, it cost (with breakfast included) 88 Euros. The resort is like one big urbanisation as well as its hotel it has several blocks made up into small apartments, come cafes a mini supermarket and some small shops. I imagine its perfect for families with young children as you have everything there on your doorstep with the added bonus of being a stones throw away from beach.

Venturing outside the resort and after a quick change of clothes we decided to go and check out the port of Albufeira. The port is easy to find just follow the signs marked marina and when you see a block of buildings painted in all different kinds of pastel colours, you know your in the right place! We headed directly to the information office to check out the info on boat rides. We had been told that this was something we should definitely do, so we booked a 6 hour trip for the next day and then headed into the centre of town.

The centre of town is full to the brim with lively bars and restaurants , and although the narrow streets and old buildings are charming the center was a bit too touristy for my liking. Nevertheless we enjoyed a scrumptious dinner at a seafood restaurant called La taberna do Pescador a.k.a The Fisherman's Tavern. We ordered catalplana which is a seafood dish featuring clams, crab, and prawns seasoned with herbs and spices and steamed in what looks like two metal plates put together to a make a sort of clam like pot. I highly recommend you try this typical Algarve dish!

Fun fact: Cataplana was introduced to Southern Portugal by the Moors during their occupation.

Hotel and Restaurant Contact details:

Monica Isabel Beach Club
Forte S. Joao, Areias De S. Joao,
8200-32
Albufeira
Algarve
Portugal

Tel: +35 1289599200

Restaurant A Taberna do Pescador
Travessa Cais Herculano,
8200 Albufeira

Tel: +35 0289589196

Day Three

We were told to be at the Albufeira port by 9.30am to catch our ride on the Amorita, we'd be setting sail at 10am and expected to be back by 4pm.

What a trip! We had a brilliant time, the weather co-operated, the sailors were fun and talkative and the beach which they took us to was breathtaking. We spent roughly two hours on the secluded beach and enjoyed a BBQ lunch, set up and cooked by our three sailors. We made a trip to the caves by dingy and then spent the rest of the time swimming and playing in the waves. I had expected the Atlantic to be much colder than in Marbella but luckily it wasn't, there was an undercurrent of the Mediterranean coming in, warming the water to around 21 degrees Celsius. The whole trip was fantastic and also very affordable as it only cost us 35 Euro's each. You can take a four hour trip which costs 28 Euros or a two hour trip which costs 17 Euro's.

As well as these "mini cruises" you can go dolphin watching or go big game fishing, something which my boyfriend Dani is keen to try out the next time we go!

Once back at port we spent the rest of the evening enjoying some drinks with a group of friends we made on the boat, it was a perfect day!

Mini cruise contact details:

Tel: +35 289 302 984

Email: bookings@algarve-cruises.com

Website: www.algarve-cruises.com

Day Four

Time to pack up and head back to Marbella :( but before leaving we went to visit Lagos which used to be the capital of the Algarve back in 1576 until 1755 when an earthquake destroyed it. We went to see the port, which is much bigger than the Albufeira port and busier. I had been told that the beaches in Lagos are even more beautiful and wild than those in Albufeira so we made a point of stopping by several. On our way to take a quick dip in the Atlantic before heading back we saw people snorkeling and spied a couple of people on kayaks...what a great idea! We quickly found a place where we could hire our own for two hours at 25 Euros.

Storing our valuables in a water tight container, we put on our life vests and headed out. Don't worry if you've never done this kind of activity before it's easy to pick up and a great work our for your arm and back muscles. Going by kayak we were able to actually go into some of the caves and enjoy the rock formations and grotto's at a much closer angle. This was possibly the most fun thing to do on the whole trip!

You can find kayaks to rent on most of the beaches. Unfortunately there were no public showers nearby to wash off the sea water so salty yet happy we climbed back in our car and headed back home.

NOTE: We didn't see any radars throughout the highways in Portugal!

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