Headed on the N-431 to join the toll road (the only road to Portugal!) as we entered Portugal there was a little confusion as we were greeted with electronic toll booths that rejected all our cards… after pulling over and having a chat at the tourist information it was made clear to us that we could take either the first or second exit after the booths to avoid the toll (a sign would have helped?!)
Taking the lady’s advice we left at the first exit joining the N-122 before joining the N-125 (the coast road) stopping briefly in Altura we carried on to find a quiet little beach car park in Lota where another van with French plates was parked up, it turned out that they were actually Welsh and now living in France! A lovely couple called Huw and Barbara with equally lovely dogs that Zo (and even Tris) got very attached to! Although the beach was perfect, the weather wasn’t! But nonetheless we took a walk with the dogs as Huw took a dip in the sea…
That evening Huw and Barbara kindly invited us into their van for a lovely “spread” (as we say back home)!
The next day, with the weather showing no sign of improving, we carried on the N-125 to Fuzeta where we found another car park by the sea to hide from the rain and stay the night!
In the morning we got chatting to a chap called Vic who’d been on the road for the last 5 years! He invited us to take a look inside his bungalow of a van and gave us a few tips and places to visit! Carrying on the N-125 we headed towards Faro (which all we knew about was the huge motorcycle meet there in the summer!). Once arriving, we drove down to the marina where parking wasn’t much of an issue due to it being so quiet! The sun disappeared behind the clouds so a change of clothes was in order before we headed out to wander about! Fairly good call as around 10 minutes into our walk it started to hail(?!).
After stumbling across a little park that was home to a load of peacocks we headed into the town centre that was much smaller and quieter than we had imagined. We were stopped by a South African fella who was “in a right mess” and “needed a euro” (by the looks of him he’d been stuck here since the 70’s!) we gave him a euro and whilst heading back to the marina we came across a couple of classics…
Once back at the van we looked up a place to stay for the eve, unfortunately the stops on the other side of Faro we discovered were full on arrival (not even room for a small one!). Carried on the N125 and N396 towards Quarteira where another spot was highlighted on the app. Only €3 and next to a supermarket, we decided to treat ourselves to pork steaks for dinner!
Finished the pack of steaks for breakfast and decided to head towards Loule on the N396 as we’d heard it was famous for its indoor market. Surprisingly the town was buzzing (especially in comparison to Faro) with market traders rushing unloading their produce from the trucks. After reading the information board outside the market it became clear the building wasn’t as old as we originally thought (early 20th century).
We entered the market and were almost instantly welcomed by an old lady who was running a stall selling dried fruits;offering different bits for us to try, after having our “fill” we decided on 250g of figs! Moving on we were stopped once more by a right character called Carlos who instantly drew us in with the best laugh and a free shot of strawberry gin (it was after 10am so perfectly acceptable!). After plenty of advice on places to visit on Lisbon we took one of his bottle of beers that had been brewed in the Algarve.
After stopping at a stall that supplied oils,herbs and fudge We learnt that the owner was actually a Scottish ex-pat called Lucy who suggested lots of places to visit; was nice to see she had properly integrated into her new home and had seen a lot of places! We bought a jar of her chilli jam(unfortunately finished it now!) and carried on round the market enjoying the sights and smells it had to offer. We spotted a bread stall that was obviously popular with the locals; all the old boys were holding the wrapped bread to test the weight before buying! We on the other hand weren’t so fussy so took the first one we were offered! Rustic was certainly the word to describe it though no “authentic” or “rustic/artesian” signs in sight to try and draw the crowd in, they were already there!
After a walk around the rest of the town we headed back towards the coast where we found a gorgeous beach (the first beach that we came across where we could understand why people rave about the Algarve).
Carrying on west we did a “drive-by” of Albufeira and as we had expected it was rather touristy, but in fairness the surrounding streets and buildings it was quite pretty. But as it wasn’t really our style, we carried on to Armacao de Pera; a place that someone had suggested to us. Parked at the beach do €1.50 a night and although the beach itself was lovely, the town seemed a bit tired and offered a fair amount of 1970’s architecture… Spent the evening after a walk back in the van gorging on our finds at the market!