Spain Trip Report: Algarve Coastline

After subjecting my non-history loving family to the wonders of a city full of history, I decided to reward their long suffering with a trip to the beach. Who doesn’t love the beach?

Wanting to scratch Portugal off my “been there, seen that” world map (isn’t that the best way to make travel decisions?), I’d researched the areas within a few hours drive from Seville. During that search, I stumbled across a link to the famous caves along the Algarve coastline. Boys…caves…beaches? This seemed like an obvious win for the Snyder family.

SATURDAY, October 7

The drive from Seville to Portimao (our home base in Portugal) was uneventful. The road we took was a toll road and I’m still waiting to get a bill from our car rental agency because, uh, we couldn’t figure out how to register or get the equivalent to an Ez-pass while there….largely because I don’t speak Portuguese and didn’t feel like wasting a day looking for answers. They photographed the car each time we exited and entered the highway and so I fully expect that they’ll track us down and demand their pound of flesh (in euros : )

Of the many beaches dotting the coast line, I settled on Praia Dona Ana as the one to hit for our day at the beach. Having left the city at 10:00, we arrive at the shore around lunch. We took food along with us, bought a towel from a local beach vendor and headed down to the water’s edge. I say down, because you have to descend a huge flight of steps to reach the sand from the surrounding cliffs!

Here are a few tips to remember if you end up heading down that same flight of stairs. First, hauling bags and coolers and chairs and umbrellas and inner-tubes etc, seems to be a uniquely American thing. Thus, if you want to stand out and make your family’s nationality super obvious, go ahead and bring everything but the kitchen sink. I’d imagine the stairs will end up deterring you in this venture, but you can’t say that I didn’t give fair warning. Most of the people that I observed brought a towel to sit on, maybe an umbrella, and one bag to hold towels and the odd drink or snack. That’s it. And speaking of things I didn’t see on this beach, I didn’t see ONE PERSON slathering sunscreen on their skin!! (And let me tell you, there was alot of skin exposed to the sun : P) Again, is this unique to America? Is skin cancer not a thing in Europe? And, while speaking of skin, I should also warn you that for a few women on that beach there is more of that to be seen in Portugal than what you’d see at say, the Outer Banks, Destin or Myrtle Beach. With a little investigation there did seem to be a “family” side vs “young, hot and sometimes opposed the top half of bathing suits” side to the beach. So, yay for that! Small blessings : )

All those things aside, it was amazingly beautiful. The water was about the temperature you’d find at NC or SC beaches. Fine for us, but definitely not Caribbean-like. We spent about five hours there. I found some lovely shells, made some impressive sandcastles, and watched Paul toss the boys around in the water.

 

Those towels around the kids are shammies…like, the one’s you use to wipe down cars. They fold up tight and were easy to take to any beach and then to have to sit on in the rental car!

About two hours before sunset we shook the sand off, climbed back into our tiny Fiat and headed for Sangres, Portugal. This slice of land, which juts far out into the Atlantic ocean, is known as “The End of the World.” Back when the known world was much smaller, this piece of land was the furthest west that any normal European might hope to see. Naturally, it was on my bucket list of places to visit due to it’s name, if nothing else : )

Apart from the fear that only jagged cliffs + three young children can incite in a mother, this excursion was one of my favorites from our trip.  No one fell to their deaths and I got some amazing pictures of giant waves crashing against the rocks belong. I tried to FaceTime my Mom while sitting on the edge of the cliff to see if that fear extended to a mother of a grown daughter, but alas, she didn’t answer. Maybe that was for the best : )

(I should warn you, that beyond this point there will be ALOT of pictures of waves in various stages…because I LOVE waves. Ok. Just letting you know now.)

Paul started this thing (this dangerous thing, IMO) about throwing rocks off of cliffs : P

Watching the surfer “totally wipe out!”

   

(A break from picture taking because a very nice woman from Georgia asked if we wanted a family picture….um yes?! : )

(Ok, then back to taking wave pictures…and videos. You have to listen to this clip….the “BOOM” that the waves make was so cool : )

 

Ok, ok, I’ll stop. Until the actual sunset….

As we trudged back to the car I was finally able to see someone catch a wave (and then wipe out : ) Can you see his arm (board? leg?) sticking up there? Haha! I wouldn’t try it!

So thus ended our first day in Portugal. We made our way back to the center of the city where we stayed at a B&B (once we found street parking….an adventure in an of itself!)

SUNDAY, October 8

The next day we headed to Praia Benagil, a part of the coast famous for the caves that had formed between land and sea. I’d hope to snag five seats on the tour boats that left from the beach itself, but alas, the water was too choppy for this plan. In fact, when we arrived, the tour operator was nowhere to be seen! We had to be told about the choppy water by a friendly waiter who served us our lunch at a seaside restaurant (which cost an arm and leg…!) So instead of boating, we spent the morning walking the trail that ran along the edge of the cliffs. Again, I protested Paul’s decision to let the kids chuck rocks over the side, but he’s an excellent father who wouldn’t let his children get hurt. Also, I saw the death grip with which he was holding their hands as he walked.

We found the famous Benagil Cave and looked through its gaping hole to the secluded beach below. In a few hours, we’d be pulling into that very cave on a tour boat!! So amazing.

As the afternoon arrived I was running out of hope. No tour operator materialized and the water didn’t seem any calmer. Poor Brenn was nearly in tears (a sensitive soul, my Brenn) and whispered that he was going to pray his HARDEST that God would send a boat. And do you know what? Within 15 minutes the tour desk gained a person and we were able to reserve five seats on a boat leaving Portimao during the next hour!! God hears us! Never doubt it! So we headed back to our city armed with the happy knowledge that God definitely wanted us to see the coastline of Portugal that day : )

The tour itself was worth every penny (and it did cost a few pennies.) The guides were hilarious. The ride was exciting. The sites were overwhelming.

It’s sad, but as I look at my pictures and videos, they just don’t do the scenes justice. Still, I think you might get a taste of the grandeur of God as seen in the cliffs and caves he carved out of the land.


Heading into Benagil, the cave we’d stood and looked into that morning!

What a great day! Everything worked out, even if it didn’t go the way I have specifically planned : ) Flexibility is still key to great travel. I hope that someday you get a change to visit these amazing places!


  Follow the Spain Trip Reports! Space-A Arrival Adventure, Seville, Algarve Coast, and still to be written…Cadiz, Gibraltar and Tips for Travelers with Children (Who what to maintain their sanity)

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