Our family have visited Portugal every single year for the last 29 years. And I cannot see that altering going forward. As a result, I feel like I can speak with some authority about the place and its culture.
As people look towards taking a summer break, they could be forgiven for worrying about booking a holiday at all until the dust settles on Brexit. The prospect of booking abroad is likely a concern because it is unknown what costs and disruption might be caused (either purposely, or accidentally) by the EU leadership when it comes to Brits travelling abroad. Many people seem to be hanging on before committing. Yet I would like to pose a different philosophy when it comes to considering booking a holiday to the Algarve, Portugal. Here are six key reasons to go ahead and book your holiday to The Algarve sooner rather than later.
It Will Be Easier To Enter Portugal Than It Is Now
Certainly, there is plenty of scaremongering around related to Brexit. Yet it’s most likely that Portugal will be easier to visit once the UK is out of the EU than it is today. It certainly won’t be harder. As long ago as January, Portugal’s leadership made their intentions very clear to keep tourists flowing into the country. See Portugal To Welcome Brits.
Its latest campaign, which they have named ‘BRELCOME’, makes their position even more transparent. The reality is that Portugal would be mad to jeopardise its critical tourism trade.
There is little or no threat of disruption to direct travel with Portugal and authorities are even promising a specific lane, much like the Schengen area countries enjoy, in order to prevent delays.
Booking a holiday to The Algarve for this year is likely to bag a bargain because everyone in the country is keen to attract custom. OK, this might be true of other locations too, but the Portuguese have suffered badly as a result of the two-speed Eurozone and the austerity that was forced upon them. But Portuguese people, (certainly those I have engaged) are very genuine, honest people. They certainly are keen to receive a tourists’ money, but they also take pride in delivering good value for that money.
Follow The Sun
Portugal is one of the only sun-drenched (265 days of sun per year) destinations within Europe that can be reached directly from the UK without travelling across another European border and which isn’t subject to proven disruption. Spain is obviously the other major destination. This is pretty-important given the likelihood that the already unsettled French will likely cause air-space disruption at some point in the year, if only to impact their own government. France of course has its sunny parts, but then there is that risk of disruption that has already been proven to disrupt many a Brits holiday plans through flight path restrictions.
The diplomatic alliance between England (now the UK) and Portugal, incidentally the oldest country in Europe, runs deep into the cultures of each country. It’s the longest-standing diplomatic alliance in the World, dating back to the 14th century. Whether the UK remains in the EU or not, the relationship of these two sea-faring nations will remain strong.
Portugal boasts some of the best food anywhere in the world. That’s because the food is from everywhere in the world. All the dishes that make up the so-called Portuguese Cuisine is a mix of centuries of cultural influences, and that’s what makes it unique. Fish is an obvious favourite, with bacalhau (salted fish) being the most prominent. Yet most of the bacalhau served actually comes from Norway or Iceland. Portugal has adopted many ingredients and styles from other countries. Chilli and peppers from the Americas, spices from India, its lovely cataplana (fish stew) results from a mix of North African and Middle East sources. The list seems endless. The cuisine is clearly Mediterranean, and yet you can tell it apart from other countries as it has its own twist. Yet the main factor that makes Portugal a good destination is that none of it is dramatically different from ingredients you might find in the UK, meaning fussy children tend to be accepting of the food presented.
Portugal’s reputation for its stunning Port production needs no introduction. Indeed, a visit to Oporto in the northern quarter of Portugal is a must whenever possible. Yet it is beginning to be out-positioned by Portugal’s fast-growing wine industry. Portugal is reportedly the 9th largest wine exporter in the World. But as with many other countries, the best wines are not necessarily the ones let out of the country. Portugal has remained immune to many of the outside influences which have forged regions like California or Washington State in the US etc. Most of its 200+ grape varieties are native. This results in very distinctive red and white wine production. And you’ll find wine production in many parts of the country. The climate in the Northern Vinho Verde region (famous for its fresh young white wines) differs greatly to the sun-kissed southern coast of The Algarve. It’s also worth noting that Portugal is one of the World’s most important cork producing countries. No plastic caps here.
To be sure of top quality, look for the ‘DOC’ acronym on the label. It stands for Denominação de Origem Controlada and means the wine was produced in one of the long-established and proven quality wine producing regions.
Whatever reason you find, Portugal remains a great place to stay, Brexit or no Brexit.
You often find that names sound so much better in another language than they do in English, don't you think? Frittata is one such word. It sounds so much better than Omelette! Yet that's exactly what it is. It's a perfect dish for hot days when all you really fancy is a salad.
But what if you don't feel like cooking? Well there's an answer. At Luis's supermarket just a few steps from Casa Jovic, you can buy a lovely fresh Frittata, ready to eat or warm up. You could even add to it and cook it a little more. And they only cost around €2.
Portuguese Frittata's are distinguished by their use of meats like Chouriço to boost the flavour.
Petiscos is a bit like its Spanish cousin 'Tapas', but with a delightful twist often based on the herbs, spices and other ingredients used - my favourite being figs, oh and honey, and cheese, and sardines. To be honest, it's all great.
It's not exactly easy to put your finger on the differences between Petiscos and Tapas so the best way to make up your mind is by trying both. And in The Algarve there are plenty of restaurants in which to deduce which you prefer, remembering that at the villa you are just one hour from Spain.
We found a great example of a petiscos restaurant in Lagoa. It's called Tapas No Bucho. I'm not certain what 'No Bucho' translates as, but the closest to it that I get is 'Inside me' or 'you'll feel it in your belly'. And you will!! It's the best Petiscos we've tried here. The restaurant itself is new but is already very popular so if you want to eat outside you'll need to book. You'll find it in the lower pedestrian-only part of Lagoa ( R. Teófilo de Braga 31, 8400-343 Lagoa). Tip: Try the Folhados and the Camembert. both are fantastic.
Take a Break from a busy day and take a look at the beautiful rugged coastline near to Casa Jovic. Apparently you can walk the coastline from Ferragudo to Carvoeiro, but I reckon it takes a little nerve and a lot of fitness. This section is the closest to Casa Jovic between Praia do Vale da Lapa and Praia da Cama da Vaca. You can reach it by foot from the villa in less than 15 minutes.
As we were at Casa Jovic for a couple of weeks (end of May) we decided to take a trip to Seville for a few days in the middle of the holiday. It's less than a 3 hour car trip (it cost us 30 Euros in fuel), although I'd advise stopping in Tavira or Vila Real de Santo António on the way for lunch and possibly at the shopping complex next to IKEA, near Faro, on the way back. You’ll need to make sure that your car hire covers travelling to Spain; it’s an easy addition. Alternatively there is a coach that goes direct from Carvoeiro and while it's normally a day trip, you can always stopover and come back the following day, or two. Seville is great to see and worth the trip. We stayed at the Petit Palace Marqués Santa Ana and it's lovely, but there are also studios and apartments available. Most importantly the food is brilliant, particularly the Tapas at Taberna Coloniales.
Those of you that have already visited Casa Jovic will likely have visited Pizzeria Donato’s. With great quality Italian food at very reasonable prices, and only 5 minutes walk from the villa, it's proved a popular haunt with Casa Jovic guests for quite a few years now.
Donato has now moved his restaurant slightly further away into the local town of Lagoa (now a 5 minute drive rather than walk) but thankfully has maintained the reasonable prices and great food.
In its place by the water tower close to the villa, local businessmen Joao and and his son have reopened the restaurant as Casa Joao's, which means that guests of Casa Jovic can now enjoy a second option of Italian food at very reasonable prices, plus more traditional Portuguese dishes including fish, meat, pasta, salad and of course pizza options on the menu.
Along with the new Casa Joao's, the village still has plenty of other options with Hexagone, Luisa's, Jophils, Rosa's, Oregano and michelin-starred BonBon all providing fantastic options and all within 5 - 10 minute’s-walk of the villa - after all, you can start the diet when you get home!
When you’ve been visiting an area for 25 years you would imagine that you’ve seen every beach. Yet the Algarve is full of surprises. Heading towards the coast from the A125 through Porches, look for direction signs to ‘Cova Redonda’. It takes 5-10 minutes to reach Praia da Cova Redonda (but don’t expect to see the beach from the car). Parking the car might be a challenge as it’s a highly built-up area, but once you have found the passageway to the beach park-up and head down the steps to the beach. It’s a lovely and surprising large beach. You could have an enjoyable day just here, but if beaches and exploration are your thing then you trip is not finished.
From the road entrance to Cova Redonda head down the hill by foot, turning right at the Pestana hotel following the sign for ‘Praia da Senora da Rocha’. Some way down the hill, follow the ‘Praia’ (Beach) sign down the steps. You’ll find another lovely beach with a good beach bar and boat trips etc.
But you’re not finished yet! Once on the beach, head to the headland on the right-hand side of the Praia. You’ll find a hole in the wall. If you’re brave, head through the hole (be careful as it isn’t very tall) and follow the path through the headland. If you don’t fancy the exploration, simply look at the photos below. These were taken very early season when the weather isn't hot and the tourists are less plentiful. Don't expect it to be so empty when you visit as there are a number of sprawling 'Solana-style' (for those that watch Benidorm) hotel/apartment blocks around.
If Beach Volleyball is your thing, or you'd like it to be, then look no further. Praia da Rocha is one of the finest beaches you'll find for a sport which suits both types of people - people who want to play and people that want to sit and drink Sagres while watching people play.
We found two organised groups at the beach this time. Both seemed really well run and from the fun everyone seemed to be having it's a great event to attend. The first group was DeepDish, a group (brand) created by the Great Britain Volley Ball team. There were some seriously good players, but also some people to whom VB was clearly new. The atmosphere among the group seemed terrific. If it wasn't for the ridiculous amount of effort involved, we would have joined in. The second group, a Swedish company Beach Travels, were spread over another section of the beach. This seemed suited to a young crowd, more of a summer camp vibe in my view. Again, everyone looked to be having great fun and there was a lot of training underway.
Visiting the amazingly wide Praia da Roche beach is a bit of a must-see during a stay at Casa Jovic, if only to realise how wonderful it is to have your own pool to go back and sit beside.
A new hop-on hop-off bus route has opened in and around Carvoiero, with the main connection stop right outside the Sesmarias Supermarket, on the Ferragudo road just 200 metres from the villa. On first sight it seems like an expensive option, but we think that if you use it efficiently it could be really worthwhile. The ticket takes in a number of routes ranging from Lagoa, to Ferragudo, to Praia do Carvalho. A 24 hour ticket in high season is 10 euros and for one trip that’s more expensive than a taxi, especially if there are four of you. But our suggested itinerary gives you a good day out, all for the same money:
First take the 9am bus to Lagoa to see the fish market working. To be honest you need to be there by 7am really, but then you are on holiday :) After the market, take a wander around the village. There are some lovely buildings there, particularly in the vicinity of the market although the local council has clearly received a bumper load of tarmac recently and has decided to lay it through the village. The work may, or may not, be finished by the time you are here because it only started last October and this is Portugal after all.
By now it’s 10am’ish and you need a Galao and maybe a Pastel-de-Nata. Head towards the newer office buildings near the end of the pedestrian cobbled street (Rua Alfonso Costa) and find Helydoce café. It’s a lovely pastelaria and they make some amazing cakes, plus fresh rolls. It’s now time to get back on the bus. You’re now heading for the beach. You can either pick Praia de vale Centianes or Praia do Carvalho. Both are worth a visit. Each has a great beach and a good café/restaurant.
Having sweltered in the sun for a while, catch the bus back into Carvoeiro. Metabixo bar in the square is a good place to watch the world go by for a while (and grab a beer) before taking the bus home. But the day is not done.
In the early evening, take the bus to Ferragudo and take a walk along the water front before settling in the square at one of the many restaurants, or for a big meal book Fim do Mundo (End Of The World) - on the road opposite the square.
The last bus home is around 11pm, but it’s worth checking the time with the driver as it might alter during the season.
There you are, a full day out for just 10 euros each.
Have you ever fancied your hand at driving a hovercraft? Well now you can! This is seriously good fun and just a short drive (20 minutes) from the villa near the Autodromo. There are three circuits and as long as you're over 15 years of age then you can drive as fast as you like (well up to 50Km per hour anyway). Go on, you know you want too!
It's not unusual to see a good number of storks and other birds in the Algarve. But May and June are particularly fun because the birds are nesting and rearing chicks. This pair, pictured from about 100 metres away (plus their nest sits on-top a chimney stack) had at least one small chick. You can just see its head in the second photo. It's a lovely sight seeing such lovely birds, but beware parking nearby - they eat a lot and what goes in, invariably comes out.
One for a cooler day is this indoor race track. Whether you're a keen driver, a group looking for an indoor thrill or a family looking to make sure the kids have a holiday to remember, this indoor karting track, just 35 minutes drive from Casa Jovic, is definitely worth a visit. The 400m track is great fun and quite reasonable too.
See more at their website here and the video below:
Have you or the family been to GoApe in the UK? If you have, then you'll be familiar with this type of activity, if you haven't and as long as you're not scared of heights then this has got to be worth a try. Located just a a 30 minute drive from Casa Jovic, this high ropes course is well soon to adults and children alike who are seeking an exciting physical challenge that can be participated in at your own pace.
Also available is paintballing and a nice area to enjoy a drink for the slightly less adventourous while the rest of the group climb through the trees.
For further information visit the website here.
If you don’t rent a car when you’re at the villa, or if you fancy some open-air exercise, then renting an electric bike might be the answer. There are rental/charge points at two locations within 5-10 minutes walking distance of Casa Jovic, plus stations in Lagoa, Portimao and at many other locations across the Algarve. The bike can run for 60 kilometres on one charge but if you also peddle then this can be extended. You can either park your bike at a recharge point, or swap its battery for another and head on your way. The cost for a day’s hire is €30. You can even rent it for €5 per hour. This was a new facility in 2014 so, in good Portuguese style, the website still lacks detail but does provide full pricing. See www.citybike-pt.com.
When visiting Casa Jovic in the slightly cooler months (November - March) provides a great opportunity for a more ambitious ramble along the Algarve cliff tops. This is the sort of activity than in peak summer would be just too hot for us but in the cooler (15'c-20'c) temperatures that this time of year brings a recommendation is to do the cliff top walk from Marinha beach to Benagil. The stroll takes approximately 40 - 60 minutes and provides stunning views of unaccessible beaches and caves along the way. We chose to stop off in Benagil for a coffee stop, but the walk is doable as one loop. Worth the effort for those that can and really is worth it for the beautiful views!
Fancy a few days away in Lisbon before or after your holiday at Casa Jovic? We did.
Fly into Lisbon for a short city break which is just a 2 hour drive (or 2 hour train ride) from Casa Jovic. Lisbon has plenty to see and is a bustling city full of history, culture and glorious sunshine!
Top tip: pick up a bus pass for Yellow Bus tours at the tourism office. These passes not only give you access to 4 routes of guided bus tours but also transport on the local tram routes which is sure to get you everywhere you need to be.
Lisbon has so much to offer it would be impossible to share it all (and we don't want to spoil the surprises that this city holds!) but here are just of the few reasons we recommend a visit:
One of the great things about Portugal is that you’re never far from a vineyard (Vinha). And what’s better than enjoying a nice wine whilst perusing some excellent artworks? Fortunately, many excellent artists live in and around The Algarve. But at Casa Jovic we’re really lucky. The villa is about 10 minutes’ drive from a fantastic winery: Quinta-dos-Vales which produces a number of different red, white, rosé and sparkling wines of differing strengths (and costs) from something like 19 Hectares. But the grounds, which are used for weddings and other events, also house some pretty amazing art. It is also the venue for many art related events and each year the vineyard holds wine-tasting open days (well worth a visit!). The artist Karl Heinz Stock designed most of the sculptures that can be seen around the property and in the photo’s we took during one such wine-tasting event.
Getting to Quinta-dos-Valesis pretty easy. Head towards Portimâo on the N125 (that’s left at Lagoa roundabout). At the first roundabout take the road towards Slide & Splash. The map below provides directions from the road once you pass the Slide & Splash entrance.
"Carvoeiro is a great place on the Algarve to stay, with many places of interest within easy reach. Had trips out to Vilamoura, Ferragudo, Portimao, Silves and Luz"
"We had many nice meals down in Carvoeiro, and particularly like 'Ela and Elas', 'Casa do Bife' and 'O Tascos'"
"Some of our favourite places to eat were L'Orange, Bon Bon (Sesmarias), Primavera (Carvoeiro) and Jophil's (Sesmarias)"