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Published by Harmonia Norah, 2017-05-16 06:53:18



TRAVEL FYI waters and vivid blue skies more
reminiscent of the Grenadines of
Portugal the Caribbean than the Atlantic.
The sundrenched sea and sandpits
UNCOVERED relieved occasionally by small fishing
boats drifting lazily in the shallow
Breakfast in the sky, exploring deserted waters or the bowed silhouettes of
islands and taking up residence in a men with a lifetime of clam picking
stunning villa. This is where travel writers go etched on their weathered faces. I
for a well-earned holiday and it doesn’t get was mesmerised by the panorama
much better than this writes Norah Casey. surrounding us even more so because
in all the times I had visited the
T he islands of the Ria Formosa are spending time with people I live with year The vibrant colours and decorated houses surrounding waters are rich Algarve I’d never taken the time to
Portugal’s best kept secret. I’ve round there is quite a difference between the at fisherman’s village in oysters, muscles, clams and visit this incredible paradise.
been visiting the Algarve for some octopus. Farming and traditional
years now and it’s taken this long acquaintances I nod to in the supermarket on fishing methods ensure the fragile Further along the coast from Faro
to finally get to explore them. Even some of a dull, drizzly day in Dublin and the bronzed, ecosystem is preserved and is the less frequented town of Olhão
the Portuguese have yet to venture into the carefree fellow countrymen I encounter on respected. the largest fishing port in the Algarve.
ocean to visit these stunning little outposts. the Algarve. We travel well, perhaps. Paulo docked at the busy waterfront
I can promise, the Atlantic ocean has never I spend a lot of time on adventure We boarded an eight-seater, in the late morning so we could enjoy
looked less like the version we get crashing holidays, they’re exhilarating and magical. pristine-white speedboat, The some coffee and Portuguese cake with
onto our beaches and cliffs in Ireland. But when I want to chill I love familiarity Whistler, at Faro Island – a stretch the locals at the pavement cafes. At
My love affair with Portugal began only and I have always returned from this corner of beach and marina next to Faro the marina stand two large market
a few years ago when some good friends of Portugal relaxed and transformed. This airport. Paulo is a passionate halls, one is home to the best locally-
invited my son Dara and I to join them time, however we were spending ten days advocate for the protected wetlands, caught seafood and the other is
for a few days. Being intrepid wanderlust and I wanted to explore what else the a knowledgeable guide of the bird packed with locally-grown fruit and
travellers, my late husband Richard and I Algarve has to offer. and marine life and, as his website vegetables. We wandered around the
had always ventured to more remote and We headed out one morning with will testify, a great photographer. market with the late morning bargain
exotic locations given the chance so, apart Paulo Gonçalves, owner of Algarve This was a magical sea safari with hunters who took advantage of
from a conference speech in Lisbon, I had WOW, and our skipper for a day’s The Ria the expanse of these magnificent cheaper prices towards closing time.
never explored Portugal. With only a few exploration of the Ria Formosa. Formosa is one and surreal wetlands stretching out You could lose a few hours sitting
days to spare from work and the advantage Top of my list was a visit to the of Portugal’s on either side. Impossibly turquoise at the dock sipping coffee with the
of a short flight, sunshine and great remote islands in this protected true gems and a beautiful vista of the islands of
company, Dara and I headed off to our first wildlife park. Over the years I had preserved wetland Culatra and Armona in the distance
visit to the Algarve. And we have been back heard about Deserta (the Deserted while the everyday hustle and bustle
two or three times since for easy downtime. for wildlife of this characterful place settles
around you.
Quinta do Lago and the surrounding
area ranks among my top stress-free Oysters, straight from the sea
destinations. Everything is so effortless. The
beaches are great, the sun is almost always The perfect bar at Hangares
shining, driving is easy and the restaurants
range from hipster-casual to gourmet. It’s Island also called Ilha da Barreta) and
hard to beat when all you want to do is remote settled islands such as Culatra and
spend lazy days lying by the pool buried in Armona rarely visited by tourists or even
a book and on fun nights with great people. locals.
The Ria Formosa is one of the great
The Irish have been colonising Quinta wonders of Portugal, a 60 kilometre stretch
and the surrounding area for some from Quinta do Lago round through Faro
time and although I am pretty averse to and Olhão to Vila Real de Santo António.
It is one of the most important preserved
wetlands for wildlife particularly birds,
marine life and fauna. The islands and
“ilhas” (sandspits) dotted along the Ria
Formosa are mostly deserted but closer
to the mainland local fishermen have
made islands such as Culatra home. The


The villa’s elegant
and airy grand hallway

The VILLA early evening, with a takeaway option for
those who want to dine at home.
Traditional fishing boat at Olhão and Richard and I often debated whether it experienced the owner’s original flagship
pictured left, the market halls at the was worth investing in a home abroad as resort, Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel in Of course, the Martinhal brand is
marina are packed with locally so many of our friends had done. There is, Sagres (see for review). synonymous with luxurious, family-friendly
caught fish and fresh vegtables of course, the great advantage of returning resorts and Quinta is no different. The
to your own place with all the familiarity The brainchild of global entrepreneurs large Pool Hangout is a kiddie paradise
Eventually, though, we were enjoy a cold beer in the no longer Tá siad ag teacht (at Ilha da Culatra) and local knowledge to ease you straight Roman and Chitra Stern the Martinhal with fountains, slides and water features.
persuaded to get back on board deserted tin shack bar. into holiday mode. But then we saw brand has expanded significantly over the And wherever Martinhal is there is a VW
and continue our journey towards and sat gossiping in doorways and children that some of our friends began to feel past year. Chitra is an amazing woman, camper van for kids and adults to play in,
Ilha da Culatra. Our first stop was So far we had passed Deserta and in swimsuits raced around playing their own guilty if they didn’t use their home-from- mother to four children, former engineer a witty touch that adds to the personality
the colourful village of Hangares. Armona, stopped off at Hangares, imaginary game. I remember summers like home as much as they should. Then they and chartered accountant at PWC and of the place. Children from six months to
The impossibly picturesque village one of three settlements on the that. Culatra has its own pace and way of life stopped exploring new destinations. They a visionary in this new world of travel eight are well taken care of at the Kids’
was eerily quiet as we wandered Culatra Islands, and for lunch we and I hope it doesn’t change any time soon. complained about the management and where family-friendly goes hand in hand Club and the Blue Room in the Clubhouse
along the one street. A brightly were headed to the traditional bureaucracy of trying to rent out the place with luxury. She predicted that families has lots to keep the older kids and young
painted bar and café with makeshift fisherman’s village of the same name. On our return journey we watched and the difficulty of family and friends were becoming more and more global adults entertained including PS4s, Xboxes,
corrugated roof gave a hint of night- As we docked at the harbour a local men tend to the clam farms and, as asking to use it for free. So the wonderful (that is certainly true in Ireland) and that air hockey and table tennis with an
time banter when the locals were local oyster farmer and his son were the tide ebbed, we saw more and more of home-from-home dream often turned inter-generational travel would become outdoor trampoline.
left to themselves. This secluded cleaning the day’s catch and right the shorebirds that rely on this protected into a burden. I’m glad now that we increasingly important. The resort at
fishing village, untainted by outside there on the spot we enjoyed the park. As wells as the gulls, sandpipers and never bought a place abroad because it’s Sagres was the first five-star family- But the people make the place special.
influences is an amazing sight to freshest oysters ever. Paulo opened oystercatchers there are over 200 species so much nicer to borrow someone else’s friendly resort in the world. Last year Chitra had told me before how important
behold. Time and technology have a bottle of vinho verde (green wine) that visit the Ria Formosa every year beautiful home. Martinhal Quinta Family Golf Resort the Martinhal family were and the staff
hardly touched Hangares and despite and we washed down the freshly including herons, egrets, gulls, spoonbills and became the second and now a further two are exceptionally pleasant and helpful. I
the searing sun there were elements shucked shellfish in the midday flamingos. I know I will return again to the And on this trip we borrowed a palatial in Lisbon have been added. have a feeling that the Martinhal brand
that reminded me of summer days in sun at our makeshift oyster bar barrier islands of the Ria Formosa. Our day one. A villa with a beautiful pool in a will continue to grow and push boundaries
the Ireland of my childhood. on the wooden deck between the with our expert guide Paulo was a fantastic gorgeous manicured resort right in the The Martinhal stamp was evident in the travel world. For me, I have just
fishing boats. It was an unmissable introduction to this unique wetland park but heart of the great restaurants and beaches throughout our beautiful villa which discovered a new home from home.
What immediately struck me experience. there is so much more to be discovered. at Quinta do Lago and just half an hour blends contemporary décor, traditional At the time of writing, Martinhal Quinta
was the cacophony of colour To follow in my footsteps you can book Paulo from Faro airport. But I already knew features and statement pieces while was offering a special package for a two-
and tradition packed into this After our impromptu aperitif we Gonçalves via his company; Tel: what standards to expect because I had splashes of art add personality and flair. bedroomed townhouse with private pool for
small collection of houses. The headed inland to Culatra village (+351) 289 397 268; [email protected] The main doors of the living room led seven nights including breakfast, use of the
whitewashed, low rise Moorish for a traditional lunch at Zarica, The Pool Hangout is a kiddies out onto the tiled patio, garden and pool indoor/outdoor pool and complimentary kids
houses boasted brightly painted one of the local cafes. The menu is paradise where we lazed away for hours every club until March 2017 for €128.50 per night.
windows and doors with bold red mostly the day’s catch displayed in day. The daily cleaning service, the offer; [email protected]
and yellow flowers bursting out of a variety of fridges. We dined on of in-room massage and ready supply of
old ceramic octopus pots adding to huge portions of fresh tuna, shrimp, clean towels added to the ‘pampered house DECEMBER 2016 IRISH TATLER 157
the colour palette. It was as though grilled sea bream and cataplana guest’ experience.
each home owner had deliberately (steamed clams). The bill for five of
chosen a clashing colour scheme us including drinks was just €64. Some of the features we enjoyed at
to neighbouring dwellings so that Wandering the streets of Culatra Martinhal’s resort at Sagres have also
purples, blues, reds and oranges afterwards was like stepping back been installed at Quinta. The handy on-
melded into a chaotic but strangely in time – you won’t find cars, site Mercado Deli & Bakery where you
beautiful colour palette. I loved it supermarkets or wifi here. Local can stock up on vegetables, fruit, fresh
and wanted to hang around long boys were kicking a ball around bread and all the provisions for a holiday
enough for the inhabitants to come while old men smoked peacefully kitchen. At the pool area the O Terraço
home from a long day’s fishing to under a makeshift sun shelter, restaurant is now serving an excellent
women took a break from the heat buffet breakfast and light dinner in the



DINING IN THE SKY 1Bovino Steakhouse opened last year and we enjoyed
a fantastic night there with great steak, wonder-
I’m not one for heights as most at the side that would bring it ful service and the best cocktails of the holiday. It
of my friends know. I have in recent upright, but I was so afraid I would takes the number one spot for scoring high in all areas.
times tried to confront my fear by pull the wrong handle and find The décor and mood is New York steakhouse with brick,
doing some crazy things. Despite myself unbuckled (or worse) I didn’t wood, butchery and a great cocktail bar with studded
various vertiginous challenges dare touch it. The more I tried not red leather high chairs adding to the retro vibe. The staff,
including flying a plane I still have a to look down the more my eyes dressed in bow ties, braces and jeans look like they sprang
fair degree of height fright. So I am betrayed me. “Better to look out from the same era. We had magical sunset cocktails in an
not sure why I though it was a good over the lake,” said one of the staff. ecelctic mix of bottles and jars at the pool side. My dining
idea to have breakfast strapped to She was right and unbelievably I companions consider themselves to be steak aficionados
a chair on a platform suspended 50 started to relax a bit, enough to and we had tried various options at other restaurants –
metres above the lake at Quinta do leave just one hand clenching the the verdict by a long shot was that Bovino beat the others
Lago. There is a bit of a daredevil in table while I shakily toasted my hands down. bovino@quintadolago
me that doesn’t stop to consider the fellow passengers with orange juice.
reality of actually doing it, rather “You can let go and swing the chair 22 Passos takes the top spot
than bragging about it. I was the around if you like,” they told me. for fabulous seafood, great
first to get strapped into the chair Bad and all as it was to face inwards sunset but above all the best
so had plenty of time for the stress imagine facing outwards with your service on the Algarve (by a mile
to reach peak levels as I constantly legs dangling over nothingness, at or more). The front of house team
checked and pulled on the strap, least with the platform in front of here might have every reason to
asked the staff for the umpteenth me I felt I could grab onto it if the rest on their laurels as many others
time how often they had chair broke. In between my heart do at the height of the season but
flown (alarmingly it was instead they are the epitomy of
the first time for most of fluttering and the tummy efficiency and friendliness. 2 Passos
them) and inspected the flips I could appreciate how
hinges and pulleys of the beautiful the view was. 3has it all.
wires. In front of me was It was a glorious sunny Casa do Lago, which
an enticing pre-packed day, the lake was sparkling is also at the lake
breakfast from the below us. I have never dined has been a favourite
restaurant, Pure, which in such spectacular settings of mine since I started to
I suspected wasn’t going and my companions were holiday at the Algarve. The
to go down too easily. Finally, having a ball. When we seafood is great, I love the
everyone was strapped in, the staff eventually started to descend décor but above all the front
were harnessed and the platform I found my inner smile and joined of house team are superb. I
began to rise slowly. I noticed that them in taking lots of photos and always see this as a special
I was leaning back further in my selfies just to prove I had been there treat during our stay. Book
chair than my companion and one and done that. Not a bad way to in advance and arrive early
of the staff said there was a handle start the day. Check quintadolago. to make the most of the
com for regular updates on events. view.

TOP 3 FOR CASUAL DINING 4Restaurante Alambique at Almancil is consist-
ently good. I love the ambiance and the outside
1 We had breakfast at Pure regularly which has great space. The service is charmingly old style and
smoothies and tasty superfood salads. You can also buy the menu features traditional portugese dishes as well
takeaways which is handy for lunch or BBQs. 5as great lamb and fish. Tel: +351 289 394 579
Maria’s at Dunas Doura-
2 Casavostra Pizzeria is buzzy and has great pizza, book das takes a spot because
in advance and ask for an outside table on warm nights. the location is great and
For great burgers try its more casual sister restaurant. I always book it for the first; night we arrive. Arrive early for
sunset with a cocktail on the
3 The Shack at Quinta do Lago lake was a firm early roof overlooking the beach and
evening favourite. Rock up in beach wear and enjoy a let the sea breeze ease you into
cold beer. [email protected] holiday mode. Book early. mari-


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