The Algarve: Sun, sea and a rich culture

My head buried in my thesis, I haven’t been able to bare any extra writing, hence such as long gap since my last blog entry. However, I know that I should have been blogging to stop and reflect. I’ve had a bit of a break due to it all getting a bit too much working a full-time unfulfilling job, while trying to produce a quality piece of academic research the rest of the time. Returning from a week in the Algarve, Portugal has left me feeling refreshed though, and after my employer offering me 6 weeks unpaid leave after I was about to hand in my resignation, I am free to focus fully on the thesis, knowing that I won’t be homeless on the streets by the time its finished (especially since I have also just purchased a brand new laptop making my work and life a whole lot easier)Camping near the quaint fishing town of Olhao, a stone’s throw away from Faro, yet quiet and away from the tourist crowds was a perfect place to chill out in the sea air and searing sun (slightly too hot but much more preferable than the clouds and rain of England).

The market was bustling and thriving and full of fruit and veg stalls as well as a huge variety of fish in the old market hall. We ate tasty (but very fatty) and cheap churros while watching people and boats.

We spent lazy days on the long stretches of beach on the islands Armona and Culatra, just short boat rides away from Olhao.

A perfect opportunity to capture shots of fishing boats, aesthetic curiosities that I can’t get enough photographs and drawings of. I love the random wellie stuck on a pole, I wonder where the other is…

Although I love continuously being outdoors while camping and the simpleness of it, we decided to treat ourselves to a hotel inland from the town of Tavira for the last couple of nights. It was situated further East of Olhao along the cost and nestled in the hills. Run by a very friendly and welcoming Argentinian couple, it was idylic in its setting, with a swimming pool, terrace restaurant and chic, comfortable, barn-like bedrooms. We even managed a game of tennis still sweating heavily in the soaring heat at 7pm.

Tavira, like Olaho is a historic town that once had strong trading links with North Africa and carries a strong Moorish influence. This could be seen in the richly tiled house fronts that seem to have been perfectly restored against the wearing window frames and doors that the floods of the winter cause.

One of my favourite attractions of Tavira was the Camera Obscura, built in a water tower in the old town centre. We were led in a group up to the top of the tower and into a chamber containing a huge white parabolic dish. The multi-lingual guide narrated very eloquently while projecting 360 degree images of real-time Tavira captured using a large mirror. The guide pointed out particular places and buildings of interest while telling stories of the town and zooming in and out according to the subject.

The Palacio de Galleria contained the municipal museum, a cool, quiet haven in the town where they showed an insightful exhibition of a photography family capturing the Algarve and its inhabitants through the centuries, as well as a painting exhibition by Spanish artist Luis Gordillo.

I also discovered a hidden gem and my new faavourite shop: Casa das Portas containing an eclectic collection of local hand-made products, art works and photography as well as collected objects from around the world. I admired the stitched quilts the owner had bought in Bangladesh and this sparked a conversation about our common love of fabrics from the subcontinent.

The friendly, relaxed atmosphere, the delicious meals of fresh fish and vegetables from the local market, the culture, architecture, and nature all made for a perfect break, and the Algarve has definitley sucked me in and captured my heart.

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