What a retreat it turned out to be! A transfer along the motorway took us to Quinta Bonita, a beautiful boutique hotel with fabulous rooms and balconies. After lunch, our excellent leader, Adrian Flatt, led us on a short walk up the hill behind the hotel where we passed through olive and fig groves before returning to tea and homemade cake!
After a marvellous breakfast including home-baked pastries we enjoyed a short walk around Luz and then walked along the cliff top to Burgau were we enjoyed a lunch of grilled sardines. We had an opportunity to enjoy a walk along the beach before returning to Quinta Bonita in time for a swim.
Our third day involved a slight change of plan as heavy seas made the planned boat trip uncertain. Adrian took this all in his stride and he arranged for us to visit Alvor, a delightful coastal town with many small cafes, bars and shops. We enjoyed a walk along the boardwalk with extensive views over the estuary and out to sea. Moving on to Lagos, we walked along the harbour and saw the fort before walking up into the old town where there is an old slave market. Most of the group enjoyed a drink and an ice cream before exploring the streets and enjoying a little shopping before returning once again to Quinta Bonita.
The gardens at the Quinta are wonderful and have been created over 30 years with many plants, trees and a small orchard. There is an Italian garden and a 400 year-old olive tree. The two hotel cats, Tigga and Luna, are also to be seen in and around the garden.
The next day saw us travelling up into the mountains, Serra de Monchique. We parked at the summit and a few of the group climbed a rocky pinnacle to the highest point. Afterwards, we drove into Monchique and some of us, led by Adrian, wound away along little streets up to an old Roman convent, Monastery of N Sra do de Sterro, now in ruins; but an old gentleman lives there, growing fruit and veg and keeping chicken and guinea fowl and he allows visitors to explore the ruins. We visited a thermal spring area, Caldas de Monchique. The bottled water from here is also sold widely in Portugal. To finish our day we visited an organic vineyard, Monte de Casteleja. The interesting process of organic cultivation was explained to us by Guillaume, the owner, as he showed us around. A wine tasting followed, accompanied by snacks and a few people made purchases to take home.
A sunny day saw us travelling to Lagos for our postponed boat trip. We boarded the Bom Dia, a 67-year-old wooden boat, to sail along the coast to the caves. We disembarked into smaller boats to go for a closer look at the caves and arches formed in the sandstone cliffs. The area is known as Ponte de Piedade. Some of the formations are amazing – the Elephant, for instance.
Fortez Sagres was our next destination and is thought to have been a school for navigation during the time of King Henry the Navigator. Wonderful coastal views were had whilst walking 1.5km around the walls. A fish lunch at Tasca overlooking the harbour in Sagres was enjoyed by all. Our day out ended at Cape St Vincent, the most south-westerly point of Europe. We had time to browse the local hand-knitted jumpers, ponchos, etc. and our drivers provided a port tasting and delicious biscuits before we returned to Quinta Bonita, where we enjoyed a wine tasting in the evening accompanied by bread, cheeses and fruit.
A warm and sunny day saw us returning to Burgau to walk along the coast (some exercise was badly required after all the delicious food enjoyed on this holiday!). The paths were rocky in places and we had to navigate around the river at Boco do Rio. The walk concluded at Salema, where we had lunch before returning to Quinta Bonita for a swim and our last afternoon tea.
Alas, the next morning found us returning to Faro airport in torrential rain for our journey home. A super holiday with a lovely group of people, led by Adrian, an interesting part of the Algarve and, of course, the marvellous Quinta Bonita!