Portugal’s Algarve, with its stunning coastline, long sandy beaches to die for and a blue sky that promises every day will be a holiday, has long been a favourite destination for Vi and I. When we feel the need to recharge our batteries, mental and physical, this place is hard to beat.
We have been coming here for over thirty years, and more recently we have made the Beach Club our base in Albufeira to explore the interior of the country, which to our surprise, with its green fields and small farms behind ancient stone walls reminded us of parts of Ireland. Another similarity here is the friendliness of the local people towards visitors who have taken the time and interest to explore their beautiful country.
One example of this was when a small group of us decided to visit a farm that had the reputation of manufacturing exquisite honey liqueurs. They produce more than one version and we were offered the opportunity to taste several – a fun experience I would try again! As far as I or Vi can recall, during the manufacturing process the ingredients that are added include honey, brandy and mountain herb extracts, all of which are then aged in oak barrels for many months to give the liqueur its unique golden colour and taste. It was a delightful morning, but perhaps the overriding memory of our visit was the wonderful reception given to us by the farm owners, who were only too happy to show us around their production complex.
Meeting such people and receiving their hospitality is not an unusual experience in Portugal, and one I would particularly like to mention here relates to my friend Rui Sa. It was on a visit to a restaurant in Albufeira that we were delighted to hear the sound of jazz being played on the saxophone. I feel especially privileged, as a lover of the blues, when I hear the music played with such passion by someone like Rui. But Rui is a professional and is also a composer, so he has adapted his compositions to meet most popular tastes when he plays in the hotels and clubs along the coast.
Over our many visits to the Algarve, we have been to Rui’s home and met his family; we have dined out together, discussed jazz and many other topics, and enjoyed endless hours of conversation.
We need little encouragement, but the people we’ve met, along with many other wonderful memories, are what keep bringing us back to the Algarve.