The Algarve

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When we were planing our Portugal trip, a friend of mine chimed in. “Oh, I loved going to Portugal for vacation when I lived in Spain! The beaches are amazing!”

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That sealed the deal. She said “beach.” I’m a beach girl. Growing up, we often spent Thanksgiving weekend on Ecuador’s coast, and while living in California, I made the hour-plus drive to the beaches as often as I could. This now land-locked lady was determined to make the beach happen.

We left Sintra’s glorious crispness by train and headed south. My husband had been in favor of a remote fishing village; I was afraid there wouldn’t be much life there, and that we’d have a hard time getting there if there wasn’t a train station.

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We ended up in Albufeira, a perfectly nice town, but I suppose all the British tourists out drinking for St. Patrick’s day ruined it for me. That and we had spend all our “cool hotel capital” in the other two cities and had hurriedly booked a personality-less rectangular place on the beach. It was full of older German tourists, probably heading off on a bus together in the mornings.

It happened to be a rainy couple of days, and this leg of the trip began with a tearful phone call from our 5-year-old son: “Mama and Papa, please come back. Oma and Opa don’t understand anything I’m saying!”

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We enjoyed a typical meal that first rainy evening, having inquired of the desk clerk for good local good and borrowing an umbrella for a soggy walk up the hill. (And rest assured dinner included the vinho verde Portugal is well known for.)

The next day was mostly just as dreary, so we walked for several hours along the craggy cliffs in the drizzle. It was actually pretty enjoyable, but chilly.

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This fisherman was trying to catch his supper.

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We walked most of the evening, too, into downtown and down a strange outdoor escalator to the beach. We checked into taking a bus out to a smaller village, but the schedules weren’t great and we’d have spent most of our time on the bus. So we skipped the fishing village.

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(I did find the most perfect turquoise door, right on a cliff looking down at the beach. It’s probably some irresistible Airbnb room, and probably where we should have stayed.)

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Looking back, I’d have preferred head up to Porto (north of Lisbon on the coast, allegedly a land of olive trees and Port wine) or spend another few days in Sintra.

But at least I can say I scratched that beach itch for the year.

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