A Fishy Tale of Beauty and Beasts on the Road!

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Yesterday was Sunday! A Sunday in July, in the Algarve and it was hot. It still is hot, although there is a waft of a breeze today. No complaints though as we had an extraordinarily wet and cold winter this year. I like the heat but I don’t like the crowds and it is high season here in Portugal now. The sky was/is gloriously blue, so after attending the early church service in Praia da Luz, Peter and I decided to take a trip north on the coast road, stopping off for coffees at some of the little bays along the way.

The west coast of Portugal has a dramatic coast line interspersed with sandy bays that attract more locals than tourists. This part of the country is largely under developed and appears, thankfully, not to appeal sufficiently to the majority of today’s tourists.

The road from Sagres, in the far south-west, winds through wooded hills passing small farming villages along the way to Aljezur and beyond. For me, it is always good to be away from the madding crowds of the Algarve’s southern shores hosting ugly hotel blocks, exorbitantly expensive amusement parks for thrill seekers (why pay – just hire a car and drive on the highways with the locals), stalls selling snide football gear and ‘kiss me quick’ hats, restaurants selling all-day English breakfasts, egg and chips, reconstituted battered fish and chips, beer and chips, and chips and more greasy chips! You may have guessed by now that I am not too keen on this part of Portugal! In search of a plus – every cloud normally has a silver lining somewhere and I have to admit, in this case, it does bring revenue to the country; and Portugal desperately needs revenue at the moment. Well, with that in mind, I’ll stop ranting, so long as I’ve conveyed how I feel!

If you haven’t visited this part of Portugal, please make a note to put it in your ‘100 things to do before you die’ diary because it’s simply …… beautiful. The air is clean, the birds sing, goats and sheep graze contentedly together, the waves thunder and crash against the ancient cliffs that line the coast as far as the eye can see, and the scent from the eucalyptus and Mediterranean pine trees are both restful and invigorating. The journey up to the border with the Alentejo region is a pleasure. Though (expanding on my earlier reference to the local drivers) I just wish some of them would slow down a bit to enjoy the surrounding beauty. Is it necessary to over-take in the most hazardous places? Have they developed an ability to see around blind bends or an instinct to detect an on-coming motorist, and have simply failed to  tell the rest of the world about it? We have a future trip in mind – we intend to travel further along this particularly winding road, making our way slowly up to Lisbon. I’ll take a sedative before!

We turned around at the border with Algarve and Alentejo and headed back in search of lunch, stopping at one of our favourite restaurants on the cliff top at Arifana. It is called Restaurante O Paulo and has the most wonderful choice of fresh sea food and fish. It is my kind of restaurant – it is about real food, the staff are friendly (and so they should be, but it’s not always the case!) and the views catch your breath. The choice on the menu is almost too much and, as dining out is such a treat – there is nothing better than sitting down to savour the prospect of a delicious meal – I did not want to make a regrettable choice! Although, I think I would have found it hard to regret anything on the menu – the choice of freshly caught fish was dazzling! Peter ordered the sea-bass and I had a stone-bass steak. The stone-bass is one of my favourite fish – it is a large creature with just a central bone, so one can tuck into it quite heartily without fear of having to fish (ha,ha!) small bones out of one’s mouth. Most un-lady like! If properly cooked, the meat is succulent and flakes away.

Stone-bass with garlic, olive oil and sea salt. No other words needed – simply delicious!
The veggies were tasty too!

Peter’s sea-bass was cooked to perfection. They know how to cook fish at O Paulo. It’s not rocket science – especially when it’s your trade but it’s amazing how many restaurants don’t get it right!

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