Countries, Culture, Europe

When the Portuguese boat comes in

You’re fishing off the Algarve coast and The Scary One wants to know when the Portuguese boat comes in.

Or more where the toilet is.

The answer at the westernmost point in Europe is Madeira!

Safer then to indulge in the any number of fish outlets in Piscine Portugal.

Now sardines have become a go-to family meal dish for as long as we can remember on this island of ours.

And we probably take our links with Portugal, the home of the sardine, for granted.

But our love of this fish dish is just another link in the world’s longest-standing alliance, between England and Portugal.

The Old Alliance

Portuguese fishing men of awe: And calming seas

Dating back to 1373, the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance was formalised in 1387 when John of Gaunt’s daughter Philippa wed John I.

English and Portuguese nobility discovered they got on quite nicely and Charles II and Catherine of Braganza further extended the links.

And most notably brought tea to this island.

Now you may be asking why we’re bringing you this royal history lesson.

Well, possibly because of the day that’s in it with Queen Elizabeth celebrating her 96th birthday today.

But also because our Portuguese friends have been in touch with an update on their bounce back ahead of a busy year.

And they have flagged up these Algarve treats when you venture further afield than poolside.

Nine lives in the Algarve

And what’s on the menu? Fish, of course

■Take a boat trip in Ria Formosa Natural Park, a unique coastal lagoon in central Algarve, elected as one of the 7 Natural Wonders of Portugal.

Visit Cape St. Vincent, the southwest edge of mainland Europe, which is particularly spectacular at sunset.

Hike along some of Algarve’s key walking routes such as the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail near Lagoa, with views over the Benagil Cave. 

A window into another world: Of caves

Cycle on the Ecovia trail to discover the natural marvels of the region. Highlights include the birdwatching haven of the Alvor Estuary (and my old friends the spoonbill birds).

■And we all love a Sagres when we’re in Portugal but probably don’t take in the majestic cliffs of Sagres point, or the pretty coastal fishing villages of Salema and Burgau.

■Now southern Spain is rightly proud of their Moorish history but the North Africans were in the Algarve too. The Castelo de Silves is a great national monument to learn about the Moors.

You’ll want to get out on the water too. Take a ferry from Olhão to Armona Island or from Faro to the least developed and inhabited Deserta Island.

■Ah, yes, our sardines, or fresh seafood in Portimão, at one of the many riverside restaurants or in Olhão, next to Ria Formosa promenade. Head inland and try the stews too.

■But not forgetting the beaches. And the award-winning beaches like Dona Ana, Camillo, Meia, Marinha and Falésia beach.

That’ll keep you busy and I think you’ll agree that it’s all there when your Portuguese boat comes in.


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