So Faro, so good

This is a report of my trip to Faro, Portugal. All opinions expressed are my own and I have not received any payment or gratuities.

We had never been to Portugal before so that was as good a reason as any to book a flight to Faro in the Algarve  with Jet2 airlines. After much deliberation and checking places on TripAdvisor we settled on a private room in the Casa d’Alagoa hostel.

Monday:It was an early morning  flight from Glasgow airport, good flight and landed on time. The landscape as we flew over Portugal was like no other I have seen; round fields, fingerprint whorled shaped vineyards and the weird wetland areas bounded by  long, long beaches.

We travel hand luggage only so no waiting around , straight off the plane and headed for the local bus to Faro or it should have been had we not just missed the bus by the skin of our teeth ( sod’s law) and had about a 30 minute wait for the next bus. Happily the weather was nice.

Once on the bus  the journey was not too long to the bus station in Faro. Although we had downloaded a map we still managed to lose our way and even walked right past the hostel. However a warm welcome awaited us even although we were too early for check in we were able to leave our bags an set out to explore Faro until our room was ready.

Met a fellow traveller from Boston about our age who gave us a great tip where to get a drink and people watch beside the Brazilian embassy.

We made our way to the Marina for a few pictures with the “Love Faro” sculpture and generally found our feet in Faro.

We returned to find that our room was ready and Orlando who was on reception was very friendly and gave us lots of information. Our private room ( and bathroom) was off a pretty courtyard. The hostel also has a nice roof terrace. We had use of the fridge in the communal kitchen and all cooking facilities ( not that we were going to use them). We were really impressed with the room, no view as the frosted window looked on to the street but is was spacious and nicely decorated. Both the room and bathroom were clean.

After unpacking we went exploring again and found the Cathedral. There is a charge to enter the cathedral but for this you get to climb the bell tower ( not too high) for a view, view the cathedral, the ornate chinoiserie organ , the museum and the small bone chapel ( not the larger more famous one). There is a nice small courtyard and a toilet available.
The view from the bell tower is worth the entrance fee alone. The cathedral is small, the organ is unusual. Most of the sculls in the bone chapel are broken but not sure if this is vandalism or because it is exposed to the elements.

My Husband tried to find a supermarket on Google Maps but I resorted to the old fashioned method of asking someone starting with the time honoured phrase “Do you speak English”. Turns out we were not too far away from one. We stocked up on milk , rolls and smoked salmon and cream cheese for a picnic the next day.

Time for a drink and we found the small bar, Ponto Expresso, that was recommended to us, and he was right it was a lovely place to sit and enjoy a drink I do not drink alcohol and was please to find that alcohol free beer is available and at a decent price. This became our go-to place for a drink . We also tried a Bifana ( small roll filled with thin slices of pork steak) which was excellent and really cheap.

Eating: Restaurante Cinderela That night I had a hankering for some salmon and chose Cinderella as the prices were good. I had my grilled salmon which came with boiled potatoes and salad; my husband had sardines which, again, came with boiled potables and salad. Both were good sized potions of fish and delicious.
We were even given a Portuguese orange cake at the end of the meal.
My husband had two small beers and I had a bottle of non-alcoholic beer and the total bill was around €29.
Tuesday: After breakfast of toast, ham and cheese we made our picnic and set off for the bus to the town beach – Praia de Faro. It is the same bus that goes to the airport but it is not too long a ride to the beach. Wow! what a fantastic beach, very long and it was easy to find a quiet spot far away from our nearest sunbathing neighbours. We picked our spot to enjoy a lazy morning in the sun reading and eating. The sea was lovely but still too cold for a swim. We packed up in time to catch the bus back into to town for the free walking tour at 3pm.

We have done free walking tours in other cities and really enjoy them and the Faro free walking Tour was no exception. Marcello, our guide, was able to tell lots about the history of Faro as well as lots of local folklore. Tips on where to eat was a bonus. I really recommend taking this tour which although “Free” do leave a tip for the guide.

On the way back to the hostel we picked up two Pastel de Nata ( Portuguese custard tarts) at Baxiacaffe to have with a coffee back in the hostel. They were delicious; the puff pastry really flaky and the custard filling was just set and sweet. Lovely!

Eating: Tasquinha Cruzeiro Another  guest at our hostel recommended this restaurant ( that’s what is so good about hostels , meeting other travellers and getting recommendations). We found it on the map but when we arrived were not sure that we had found the right place as the sign is on the inside not the outside but we are pleased that we persevered. It was very quiet the first night that we ate here although a large group of locals celebrating a birthday did arrive as we were leaving.
We were given a menu in English, I had a sardine pate to start and my husband had mussels. For a main course i had fried chicken in clams as I had seen this combination on menus in other restaurants. The chicken pieces came in a tasty red sauce with clams in their shells. I also given a large plate of chips. My husband had veal escalope with Parma ham and a fried egg on top ( also a plate of chips). Both dishes were excellent. However the Pastel de nata ( custard tart) we had for dessert was not up to the standard of others we had tried. With wine and water the whole meal was around €29.

Wednesday: The 1st May was a local holiday we booked the 10am ferry  online to Ilha Deserta (a  deserted Isle) but found out that the hostel could have booked that for us. So after breakfast we made our way to the jetty. The ferry takes longer but is cheaper (€5 each way per person). Nice trip out on the ferry and ferrymen were very helpful getting on and off the boat. Although ferries continued to arrive throughout the day the beach did not get busy at all.. We walked the boardwalk round to  Cape Santa Maria passing some small beaches on the way. At the cape there is a driftwood signpost with sign showing distances and directions of major cities throughout the world. The beach at the cape is really  beautiful with lots of shells, some really big. We left them there taking home memories only. As with the town beach, the sea was too cold for swimming in early May.
There is a restaurant and a small snack bar; these are the only buildings on the island. No one stays on the island and the staff and fresh produce came over with us on the ferry. We  brought a picnic, the same as the day before; salmon and cream cheese.

We spent a few hours on the beach and then made our way back on the ferry , lots of places were closed because of the holiday but we returned to Restaurante Cinderela for coffee and a lovely passion fruit dessert, again it was unbelievably inexpensive.

Eating: Bella Italia  Again as it was a holiday  lots of restaurants were closed and but Bella Italia on Rua Dom Francisco Gomes was open and although we were in Portugal we do like Italian food. I chose tagliatelle Bolognese and my husband had a variation with cream in the sauce. Unfortunately the pasta was overcooked, I mean really overcooked, to the point of being tasteless. My sauce was OK but my husband’s was  slightly better.
I  gave the restaurant a second chance to reprieve itself and ordered a tiramisu. It was OK  and I have eaten better, lots of cream but no coffee flavour. Not enough to make up for the pasta.
I can’t remember what the bill came to but whatever it was it was too much.

Our big mistake was not to partake of the home cooked food on offer in the hostel on a Wednesday night.

Thursday: We had planned a day trip to Albufeira but in the end we were too lazy and so after breakfast had another day at the fantastic Praia de Faro with another picnic.

In the afternoon we went in search of a Pastel de Nata at  O Seu Cafe as this place was recommended by our walking tour guide. The tart was sooo nice, two Pastel de Nata and two coffees only €4, a bargain!

Eating: Tasquinha Cruzeiro. Now that we knew where to find it we returned to Tasquinha Cruzeiro for our last meal in Faro and sat outside this time. It got very busy and they were expecting a group of 32 locals. I enjoyed the sardine pate so much that we had this again to share and also a marinated carrot dish as we had seen this on other menus. This time my husband had the fried chicken and clams but I had the grilled sea bream Again we both enjoyed our food. For dessert we both chose a fig, carob and almond cake; very heavy but great flavours but huge slices and I could not finish mine. The bill was more this time as we ordered dearer dishes so came to under €40.

Friday: Early morning start, too early for breakfast in the hostel but we had bought some yoghurts at the supermarket. Pleased that they had my favourite Oykos  Greek yogurt in the supermarket but oh! the flavours I have only seen pedestrian flavours like strawberry and apricot in the UK but in Faro they had lots of different and exciting flavours  including chocolate and salted caramel. We choose passion fruit.( moan over!)

Got the bus to the airport and through security without too much trouble. Why do I always get stopped and swabbed? Lots of places to eat and drink past security and announcements nice and clear i do however have a gripe about the airport as there is nowhere to refill a water bottle once though security only water to buy. What if you were delayed with no money to buy  water.

The flight home was uneventful and we are looking forward to our next trip away.

 

Final Thoughts on Faro

Most people use Faro as a jumping off point to visit the rest of The Algarve and faro as a destination in itself is overlooked. We enjoyed faro and found enough to do for four days and indeed did not see everything. We would definitely return and perhaps include it with a trip to another part of the Algarve or Seville in Spain ( you can get a bus direct from Faro airport).

The hostel was great and it is nice to meet people from all over the world and all different ages.

 

However, I am now seriously addicted to Pastel de Nata and therefore must return to Portugal.

 

 

 

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me! I have always enjoyed travelling and retired in April 2018  so that I can travel even more. The day I retired I wore my tiara ( which I got free) and have taken it on my travels since. I like to travel on a budget with the occasional splash -out and take hand luggage only – I also take my long suffering husband!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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