At the end of an EMC work event in Lisbon (in which my team organized and ran for sales…and Trev attended as a sales director) we naturally extended a couple of days, for a long-weekend of exploring uncharted land.
Friday morning we collected our rental car at the airport in Lisbon, and headed south on a road trip to the Algarve. Driving over the Vasco Da Gama Bridge out of Lisbon city limits immediately caught us off guard with it’s beauty; glimmering blue coastline running up against a backdrop of intricate, glistening city skyline. I was only able to capture a quick image from the passenger seat, which truly gives little justice to the actual site – but nonetheless, I’ve included it below. This exit out of Lisbon set the tone quite nicely for what was to come over the next 2 days.
Road tripping through the south of Portugal is peaceful and easy, with several little towns full of character to stop through along the way. There are two routes from Lisbon to Lagos – one is a straight shot on the motorway, which takes just about 2.5 hours, and the other runs along the coastline, taking around 3h15min. We opted for the shorter route on the way there, as we wanted to have as much time as possible on the beach.
About 1/3 of the way to Lagos, we pulled off the motorway in search of a nice seafood lunch, and found ourselves wandering through the quaint little village of Alcacer do Sal. We passed by a cozy little restaurant with porch seating, and decided to try our luck. O’Alpendre ended up serving one of our favorite meals of the entire trip; a traditional chopped and spiced pork dish with fresh Portuguese clams for Trev, and fried cuttlefish for me. Crisp, clean, and heavenly seafood goodness. Oh, and two Pepsi Lights to wash it down. 😉
We arrived to Lagos that mid-afternoon, and checked into our bed n’ breakfast at the Villas D. Dinis; a charming, colorful, adult-only accommodation. The location was perfect for easy access to the beach, and several beach-front restaurants. We spent our first evening taking a stroll down to catch a view of the beautiful coastline before sunset. Portugal has a unique coastline; beautiful, shimmering, blue water with large, sand-colored rock formations sprinkled all across the shore. It’s not like anything we’d seen before.
For dinner that evening, Trev had booked us in to one of the top rated restaurants on TripAdvisor; Dos Artistas. It boasts gourmet international cuisine, using region and international ingredients, and is a Michelin recognized restaurant. The ambiance was wonderful – dimly lit, the walls painted with rich reds and yellows, and the glow of several candles giving light to each table. Here, we tried our first bottle of ‘green wine’ – yes, it’s a thing! Apparently it’s made from green grapes, aged for a very short period of time. Crisp, light and quite bitter, I enjoyed the unique flavor, but am not sure I’d order it again over a nice Sauv Blanc (I suppose there’s a reason we hadn’t heard of it before….). The food was expectantly delicious, and we found ourselves enjoying a 3-course meal and each other’s company over a relaxed 3 hours.
Saturday morning, we were meant to wake early and head 30 minutes north for an all day surf lesson. As appealing and exciting as this sounded, we felt incredibly torn with the fact that Saturday was our only full day to enjoy Lagos and it’s beaches, and we’d surely be too exhausted after a day of surfing to appreciate it afterward. Indecisive, as the two of us can be when it involves foregoing an adventure, we got in the car and drove up to the beach where our lesson was to take place. Needing cash for the lesson, we drove to the towns only ATM machine to find that is was broken. We took this as the sign that we should enjoy the day at a slower pace, and cancelled our lesson. To ensure a journey not wasted, we stopped at a local café for Portuguese coffee and baked goods, and headed back to Lagos. We spent the first half of the day, basking in the sun on the glorious beach of Praia Dona Ana. The sand and sun vibes here are wonderful. The widespread beach allows all Sungods/goddesses alike to claim a decent amount of space as your own, and kick back with a good book, or splash around in the active waters.
For lunch, we hopped to the next beach over, and enjoyed a fresh seafood meal on the hilltop restaurant looking out over Praia do Camilo. Again, amazing seafood and scenery! After lunch, a wooden flight of 100 stairs carried us down to the base of a private beach below, nestled into the cove of the towering rocks beneath the restaurant. Fate didn’t seem to be on our side here – as we shortly discovered that we’d layed our towels out over a rotten, decaying fish carcass, and then the tide came in and soaked all our belongings. However, all was not wasted, as I captured some of my favorite photos before we left.
We spent the remainder of the afternoon in the central part of town, exploring the unique and interesting architecture of many of it’s buildings, including a tour of the Lagos museum – which, was not so much worth the small fare paid to visit, however, did have some very unique art fixed to it’s roofing structure, and a great view of the sea from the roof as well.
Saturday evening, Trev brought me to a seaside cocktail bar, where we both indulged in a Caipirinha before dinner. The Caipirinha is Brazil’s national cocktail, made with cachaça, sugar and lime. Because there is heavy Brazilian influence in Portugal, this drink is particularly popular (and STRONGLY, refreshingly delicious).
We were particularly excited about our dinner plans Saturday evening – for no fancy, high-end, proper dining experience – but for a highly-rated, dive-bar/burger joint. We’d read about Nah Nah Bah on TripAdvisor, weeks beforehand, and as it boasted the winner of one of the top burgers in the WORLD, we had to try it out. Much to our satisfaction, this experience would be the highlight of our trip. The vibes in the bar are loads of fun; reggae music on the loud speakers, wooden walls and tables adorned with rasta red, yellow and greens. The menu itself is a whole experience in itself – each description of a cocktail or food item carefully crafted into an offensive, suggestive and hilarious read (written by the owner).
To start, we opted for the deep-fried, prosciutto-wrapped mozzarella sticks, and for mains, Trev of course ordered the world famous Toucan Burger, and I went with their renowned fish tacos. We indulged in every bite that we could possibly consume – and left surprisingly little on our plates, given the mass amount of greasy, oily goodness that was originally presented to us.
As if the food experience wasn’t enough for a fun night out, it only got better from there when the manager – a tall, younger guy, dressed in boarding shorts, backwards cap, and sandals – came over to our table to ask how our meal was. Upon recognizing his distinct New England accent, we then discovered that he grew up in Massachusetts…and graduated from NorthEastern University, only a couple of years before Trev had done so himself. After exchanging stories of world travels, and what led us both to be where we were today, he ordered us a round of their most popular cocktail, on the house. We had the privilege of meeting his lovely wife (originally from Ohio), as she stopped into Nah Nah Bah before the end of the night as well. We’ve discovered that while living a life abroad, amidst a barrage of unfamiliar cultures, these kind of unexpected experiences are the sweetest of blessings.
Sunday morning, we packed up the car and headed out on the 3 hour journey back to Lisbon, where we’d be catching our flight home to London that evening. This time around, we took the coastal route, and stopped halfway in Vila Nova de Milfontes for our last seafood meal. Choupana, located at the peak of a cliff, overlooking the beautiful sea, kept the menu simple, grilling simple fish dishes, and clams. Here, I had my first experience of being served a full, whole fish (Sole) – descaling, deboning, and consuming nearly the entire fish on my own. Proud life accomplishment.
We spent the final moments of our lunch stop, soaking in the sun and beautiful coastal views, before making the final journey back home. Overall, Trev and I both were overwhelmingly surprised with Portugal’s beauty, and how much we enjoyed our short time there. We’ve already made the decision to take a longer trip back to Portugal next summer, and explore the northern Port region. 🙂