One of the only nice things about being based in grey and dreary London is that it is easy to take short hops to countries in the European Union. Last year when winter just did not seem to want to budge in England, I decided to take a trip over the long Easter weekend to see if I could find any sun at all in Europe.
Portugal, here I come!
I decided to pay my native land’s neighbouring country a visit and booked flights to Portugal. I hadn’t been to Lisbon since I was in my teens and had never been to the Algarve. Somebody once told me that the only true contender against Spain’s magnificent cuisine is a ‘Cozinheiro Algarvio’. Compete against paella from Catalonia? I was not convinced. I decided to see what Albufeira had to offer.
‘Shh’ not ‘Ss’
I could always speak and understand a reasonable amount of Portuguese, it is similar to Spanish. One of the most obvious differences is that we pronounce an ‘S’ as ‘Ss’ and the Portuguese pronounce it as ‘Shh’. ‘Sun’ is sol in both Spanish and Portuguese and ‘sea’ is mar in both languages, and that is certainly good enough for me. Until I arrived at Faro Airport. The accent in Algarve is completely different to the accent in Lisbon. It was softer, slower, perhaps lazier… When I stepped outside the little airport, I felt like I could understand why the Algarvios speak with a languid cadence. I felt like I could easily just bask in the sunshine, like a fat, lazy lizard. I had found spring after all.
Sea, sun, food – Albufeira
I managed to rent a car finally, everything seems slower in the Algarve, and took a leisurely 45 minute drive to my hotel in Albufeira. It was called Sol e Mar and that was exactly what I got: sun and sea. Once I booked in and took a few moments to enjoy the 180 degree view of the Atlantic from my balcony, it was time to sample the famous food. I picked the most authentic looking restaurant and ordered a variety of fish in broken Spantugueselish.
Did I say food?
I had grilled sardinhas (sardines), carapaus (horse mackerel) and chocos (cuttlefish); the ink made the tasty squid even more rich and decadent. I was in food heaven. I refused a pastry for dessert and instead had another couple of cuttlefish. My tongue was black and my belly was full and very, very happy. Please don’t ask me to compare, I refuse to be a traitor to my country.