I’ve realized that my once-golden legs are now the color of the snow outside; they’ve definitely seen better days! It’s at this time of year that I, like many others inflicted with tan-free legs, start planning their summer vacation. As much as I want to promote the Portugal most people don’t know, there is something to be said for the famous Algarve. Much more than that summer destination for British and German sun-seekers, for which it is known, the Algarve is an integral part of being Portuguese.
No matter where in Portugal you’re from, you’ll go to the Algarve during the summer, usually for two weeks; it’s practically the law in Portugal. Children go from a young age because it’s healthy for them to catch the sun, swim in chilly water (it’s the Atlantic, not the Mediterranean) and socialize with other children. The often form little play groups and borrow each others’, spades, and other beach toys – yes, sometimes there’s crying when they don’t want to return a toy to its rightful owner. It’s also tradition for children to go into the ocean to get wet, then roll around in the sand to create human “croquettes”. You can understand how this is way more fun for kids than it is for their parents, who’ll find sand in their bags months to follow.But what’s so enticing about the Algarve for those of us who’d look more crazy than cute if we were to play “croquettes” at the beach? I mean, aside from the obvious sun, sea and relaxation. For starters, the food: grilled fish, seafood and salada algarvia (a simple tomato, cucumber and onion salad) are always on the menu. You can also get some pretty generous steaks, often served with fries and fried eggs. Dried fruits and typical almond desserts and sweets are a must! And of course, the ice cream. Then, there’s drinks: cocktails, Portuguese beers, and sangria. My favorite though, is the orange juice (and that requires its own article). If you crave nightlife, it begins around 11 pm – bars and clubs will go well into the night and morning. There are also fairs, street sellers, mini golf, arcades and other nighttime entertainment if you don’t feel like dancing. Finally, my new favorite thing about the Algarve is the variety of water sports. Whilst parasailing, banana boats and jet-skiing have been around for as long as I can remember, there has been an increasing number of water-based activities in recent years. I’m almost embarrassed to say I’d never been jet-skiing before last summer (sorry, no photos of this – I was going so fast the camera couldn’t catch me). I also tried paddle-boarding (referred to there as “stand-up paddle” or SUP) for the first time and had a really fun time doing it… probably because, unlike most sports, I was actually pretty good at it! Tubing, kayaking, sailing, flyboarding (!) and exploring caves on guided boats are all available if you have the time and money. These are all on my to-do list. The Algarve has so much to offer… even if you choose to act all Portuguese by staying put and not traveling all along the beautiful Algarve coast. Time to start planning that vacation – give those legs some sun!