Autumn break to Burgau and Aljezur, Western Algarve

Burgau is on the westerly tip of the Algarve, Portugal, away from the high rise tourist spots and expensive restaurants and full of locals and ex pats who are there because it is still unspoilt, but with a vibrant community who keep it going all year round.

The climate is obviously a big attraction and with clear light and blue skies and very warm sunshine, they are already onto a winner. Combine it with some lovely country drives through eucaylptus and pine forests, orange groves and the best beaches we have ever seen, it is paradise.

Cutting across the southwestern tip, the few roads take you to the surfing beaches of Aljezur. Accessed down dirt tracks or winding narrow roads through the hills, you suddenly come upon a vista of pure magic, the sea rolling in; and at it’s warmest.

We stayed at a lovely boutique bed and breakfast called Salsalito. Just four rooms in a traditional slightly mexican hacienda style casa with established tropical gardens. It had been lovingly restored and decorated with years of collecting local artifacts including enormous terracotta olive oil pots which were around the perimeter.

Sally and Ralph Eveleigh were the perfect hosts, happy for us to come and go and use it as our own. Lucky and Noddy, the portuguese dogs were friendly but had nightly conversations with other local hounds.

Obviously local characters with Sally Vincent who owns the Casa Grande up the road, Sally 1 and Sally 2 were great fun and must have had some amazing times in the past.

Three days we drove up the Aljezur coast to the big open bays of Praia do Amado and Arrifana. Both different, but great to get some good long surf waves to splash around in. Likened to Cornwall, it might be, but many years ago and much less populated with even nicer beaches.

Even in October, we had temperatures of 28C and the water at 22C. It was hard to take ourselves away from the coast, but we had two nights slightly inland near Silves. We drove there through the Monchique Mountains with vistas over the whole of the Algarve coast.

A totally different experience, we stayed with a dutch couple, Karin and Imco who had turned a derelict farmhouse into a contemporary space near Silves. It had amazing large loft ceilings and the rooms were decorated with oversized furniture, with views over the lagoon towards the river that comes up from Portimao. At Tapada do Gramacho, I had a fresh pomegranate in my yogurt for breakfast every morning from the tree outside our room and every afternoon, the local farmers herded their goats up the lane and sat in the shade of the pool watching the visitors. God knows what they thought of it all.

We ate soft curds with chestnuts in a salad, piri piri chicken and slow roast kid with plums and a lovely fig and carob tart in the hills after a steep descent from La Foia the highest point of the Monchiques.

All the villages and towns have a moorish feel with whitewashed low buildings, decorated tiled surfaces on the outside!, large churches and cobbled streets. Sardines are cooked at lunch and evening in the streets and all the local dogs come out to meet and greet when it cools down.

It was incredibly peaceful everywhere and the portuguese although direct and abrupt in their manner, they are very cool with most of the English if you are gracious enough. We met one or two absolute ass’s, but also came across lovely people. It’s the same the world over I guess.

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