Thursday, June 26, 2014

[ALBUFEIRA] Beach, Sun, Fun

I guess what I like most about Portugal and Spain is that you are almost always just an hour away by bus from the next town which is small enough to be enjoyed on a day tour yet also has a lot to offer in case you decide to stay for one more day. The region of Algarve is no exception to this. Because of its location along the coast where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic, there simply is no shortage of beaches here. Everyone seems to be all praises for Albufeira, and so I went.

It takes an hour to get from Faro to Albufeira and the bus ticket will set you back around 5 euros one way. You can also consider it as your last stop en route to Spain if you take one of the buses going all the way to Seville. If not, then you might be a bit disoriented once the bus drops you off at the terminal. First off, you have to find the Giro and figure out the various routes. Or you can just start walking like I did.

Follow the smell of the ocean, If your olfactory nerves are not that useful that day, then ask someone to point you to the direction of the sea. My notion of Albufeira is that of a boomtown enjoying huge influx of capital in the form of real estate. After all, Portugal is quite popular as a haven for the filthy rich who are hell-bent in securing European permanent residency. That is what will welcome you upon getting off the bus. Houses. Lots of them. This means it might take you a while to locate the ocean.

You can also take a cab, but why splurge when you can just walk and enjoy the sun? Locating the city center is easier because there are a lot of road signs pointing to that direction. Once you notice the restaurants multiplying, that is a clear indication that you are almost there. You will eventually reach a point where you would see a sign prompting you to turn right to this beach or left to that one. In any case, they will be sharing the same shore anyway so no need to get all stressed out regarding which one to pick.

Another indication that you are near would be the people in beach wear, may they be ladies in bikinis or shirtless guys. If you reserve accommodation, it would be nice to get a hostel nearby for easy access to the sea. This is one reason why there are a lot of half nude humans walking around, because their accommodations are just within the vicinity anyway.

If ever you get lost, you could easily seek help from the nearest tourist office. As for me, I turned right to the path leading to Praia do Peneco. Turning left would have meant ending up at Praia dos Pescadores. As mentioned, they share the same shore, and you can just walk from one right to the other once you reach the beach itself. What I liked about Praia do Peneco was the entrance leading to the beach, which was characterized by a concrete cave of sorts leading you to a terrace overlooking the sea.

I must say that it does provide some dramatic effect once you emerge from that short tunnel. The sun suddenly allows you to see the refreshing mix of brown and blue. Had the sand been white, it would have been paradise. I am not complaining, though. It has always been the Pacific Ocean for me, as far as beaches are concerned. For once, it is actually nice to get to know another ocean on the other side of the globe.

Warning signs alerting you of probable dangers are all over the place, which is good because at least you know that whoever are in charge are doing their job. Most of the warnings involve possible rock fall given the geography of the place. Pay attention to the hazard zones. The last thing you want is a boulder coming fast at you while sunbathing. Ain’t nobody got time for shit like that, so pick a good spot for one hell of an uninterrupted good time.

Aside from hotels, cliffs and large boulders are also part of the scenery here, which have their own appeal as far as aesthetics is concerned. As for the tourists, they were not that many when I was there. Most of them were just sunbathing while the younger ones play soccer or volleyball. They would not really be a nuisance as long as you pick a quiet spot for yourself. What about the overall appeal of the beach, then?

The beach is nothing extraordinary, but then again this opinion is coming from someone who lives in an archipelago with more than 7,000 islands. Albufeira is nice, but not something that would make you want to declare that you can finally die and go to heaven. Perhaps you could reserve that thought for Cabo da Roca. Even so, Albufeira is not considered a premiere destination for beach goers for nothing, and remains a highly recommended place if you want some good quality R&R.

Algarve has around a dozen municipalities, majority of which face the sea. As such, Albufeira is not your only choice for beach hopping. If you want to explore other options, you need not go far, because the beach has an abundance of maps showing not just that area, but also the neighboring municipalities along with the beaches that they hide. Since Albufeira seems to be the most popular one, that means you are bound to find a beach that is more secluded in a neighboring town. Go figure, if you have the time.

How is the party scene? You asked the wrong guy. What I could say, though, is that there is no shortage of cheap flights to Algarve, given its reputation as a legit beach party place for young Europeans in search of heat, regardless how you would like to interpret that sentence. I bet there is no shortage as far as parties are concerned. I went during the game which eliminated Portugal at the World Cup, so most people were in pubs eagerly watching.

Aside from the beach, you can also just get lost in the town itself. I think I ended up somewhere in Continente just walking around and taking a glimpse of what everyday life is like for the locals. The residential area seems modern and safe, with just the right kind of pleasant community vibe. The town seems to be a good option if you are scouting for places where you would want to retire.

[ALBUFEIRA] Beach, Sun, Fun

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