Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Algarve

Today was a free day for my parents in The Algarve.

They are staying in a resort hotel right outside the town of Alvor, and they managed to make the most of their day.

Alvor is a very small town. First settled by the Carthaginians, Alvor was nothing more than a small fishing village for centuries. Its most notable claims to fame are a ruined castle outside the town (destroyed in the 1755 earthquake) and the fact that Portugal’s greatest king, Dom Joao II, died suddenly in Alvor in 1495.

The Algarve first became a tourist destination in the 1960’s. Tourist development over the last forty years has driven away the old fishing industry and replaced it with a ring of fashionable resorts that surround the town. The town itself, however, remains much as it was ever since the post-1755 reconstruction.

Genuinely, Alvor is a village that serves tourism. It is a maze of narrow, winding streets filled with cafes, small shops and houses. Most of the town’s inhabitants work at one of the nearby resorts.

My parents and the couple from Rochester spent the morning and early afternoon walking around the town. The most notable building in Alvor is the town’s only church, Igreja Matriz, the only Alvor building that survived the 1755 disaster.

They visited the church, and walked all around the town, and strolled the beach, and found a place to enjoy a seafood lunch.

In the early afternoon, they all went back to the hotel to relax for a couple of hours, after which they embarked on an excursion—primarily because it seemed to be the most interesting thing to do.

The went on a sailing expedition on a two-masted ship, which sailed around The Algarve Coast, passing fishing villages and medieval fortresses and amazing coastal rock formations. The sailing expedition included a visit to the famous Algarve Caves. At the entrance to the caves, the ship launched small boats to take passengers inside the caves, which apparently are very similar to the caves on the island of Capri off the coast of Naples.

The sailing expedition concluded with dinner at a classic Portuguese restaurant in the town of Portimao, a somewhat larger version of Alvor just up the coast.

After dinner in Portimao, my parents and the couple from Rochester were transported back to the hotel.

My parents said they loved the excursion. It made the day worthwhile.

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