Earlier this summer me and two friends went on our first girls holiday together to Albufeira, Portugal which is a popular tourist city located in the Algarve. It had been a long time coming for the three of us to go abroad together, even if it was for a whirlwind three-night stay. I had only booked two days annual leave from work and was due to be back in work on Monday morning after getting back in the early hours, believe me that was a tough day… I had been to the Algarve once as a child with my parents one December many years ago and all I remember is grey, rain and storms. Apparently, we were lucky enough to have been there for one of the worst winters on record. Excellent! But of course, I knew that isn’t the typical experience of Portugal so it was good to visit again as an adult. And you know what? It was pretty warm and sunny. But I guess it helped we went at the end of June. Although believe it or not as I write the UK is going through a long heatwave so it was actually warmer at home when we went.
We left nice and early to the airport and roughly two and a half hours later on the plane we reached Faro Airport. I’m assuming that as I had been to the Algarve once before that must have been the airport I went to previously. There were some really nice views on the approach to landing where you’re looking over all the buildings and yep, lots of water with the sea visible in the distance. One of the first things I realised about Portugal (and I will admit it did take a couple of hours) is that there is no time difference to the UK! This blew my mind (it doesn’t take a lot). The first day was fairly chilled out, we landed around 11am and we got to our aparthotel which was at the Alfagar Cerro Malpique Hotel (the name took us a little while to remember!). The balcony view was lovely as you could see over the pool, the Albufeira old town and the sea beyond. The only downside was that it was up a bit of a hill but we were aware of that before getting there.
By staying in an aparthotel, we saved quite a bit of money by making our own food not to mention we didn’t really go out drinking so overall the holiday was fairly cheap. We took a walk around Albufeira to get a feel for it and first impressions were that it is very touristy with lots of bars and restaurants, but again we were aware of that. I’m not used to hearing so many British people abroad out and about in one place though! We then walked along the beach which was super windy and later on returned there to lie about on the beach. I even did a bit of swimming in the sea after getting over the initial chill of the water. I’ve always loved the beach, especially on a hot day. I suppose one reason is that back in Birmingham we are pretty landlocked. Oh, and the weather isn’t usually nice enough in the UK to go into the water.
The first full day involved going to the Albufeira Marina to get on a 3-hour boat ride which took you around the coast of the Algarve and to some caves! The Marina itself had a lot of gift shops, bars and restaurants and even an arcade. There were some pretty looking apartments above them too in pastel blue, pink and peach colours. Just before we got on the boat, we paid the extra to go on the top deck and were greeted with a glass of white wine. Later, we were greeted with a glass of rose as well as the Tequila Sunrise cocktail we had just bought. So, we did pretty well! It was on that trip we all got the most burnt because the wind lulls you into a false sense of security. Early on we saw some dolphins at a glimpse jumping out the sea but we couldn’t stay near them too long as the boats can make them stressed, but it was nice to see them from afar. The main attraction was seeing the very picturesque Benagil sea cave, a beach in a cave which can only be reached by boat.
We spent our second full day at the Zoomarine, a well-known amusement park in the Algarve which has a mixture of animals, rides and water attractions including its own beach. To make the most of it I would suggest taking swimwear so you can go on all the water attractions such as the slides and pools but as we weren’t sure what to expect we went in our normal clothes – but still got wet as it is a water park, naturally. I would absolutely recommend it if you were travelling as a family as there is something for everyone especially for the kids. My favourite part was watching the Dolphin and Sea Lion shows, both were very impressive. You can see that these animals are trained incredibly well but you can also see how much they are genuinely loved and taken care of by their trainers. I also liked their emphasis on conservation and the environment. The atmosphere in the park itself was nice and they even have their own theme song which got stuck in our head for the rest of the holiday (as well as Jess Glynne’s Hold my Hand – cheers Jet2!).
Food wise I knew I wanted to try a few things Portuguese while I was out there so I made sure I tried Pastel de nata which is a Portuguese egg tart pastry which is very popular. On our final night in Portugal we went out for a meal so I wanted to go all out and have something I wouldn’t have back at home. Which meant I chose an octopus dish with olive oil accompanied with vegetables and potatoes. Very Mediterranean! I had never had octopus before so it was an experience, it didn’t seem as rubbery as squid but it was a little bit ick when the suckers fell off the tentacles as I was chewing. To accompany this dish, me and a friend shared a bottle of green wine and that was another Portuguese thing I never knew existed either. It doesn’t look particularly green, more like a white wine but it’s a type of wine from the green grape.
Albufeira was really fun and we packed a lot into the time we had. Unfortunately, it meant we could only properly go to the beach and pool about once but we made the most of it. Next time I would like to go for longer just to have a bit more time relaxing. Don’t get me wrong I could never be on a sun lounger for 7 days straight but it’d be nice to have a mix especially as I seem to end up on more city breaks. Albufeira’s old town is catered for tourists so if you’re looking to see a bit more there are plenty of trips out you can book so there is plenty to do. My colleagues at work were rather impressed with how little I ended up spending as they all thought I would need more money out there but it goes to show how much of a difference a self-catering apartment and a nearby supermarket can make. I’d love to visit Portugal again and next time I’d like to visit Porto as that seems to be an up and coming place, not to mention the second city. Maybe I can improve on my Portuguese for next time too… Obrigado!