In honor of Ireland having a Bank Holiday on Monday October 29th, thereby changing my regular four day weekend to a five day weekend, I took advantage of the opportunity and decided to take a little holiday down in the Iberian Peninsula. It was definitely a great decision, since Dublin weather is starting to get a little chilly, and Spain and Portugal are still comfortably warm in the 70s. Leaving Wednesday night on my regular budget airline Ryanair, I spent 3 full days in Faro, part of the Algarve region in Portugal, and one full day in Seville, Spain.
I didn’t really have much in the way of expectations when arriving in Portugal. I studied a little bit about what I should do when I got there, but that was about it. The Algarve region is an extremely popular European holiday destination, and booked solid in the summer months. It’s somewhat similar to Americans going to Mexico, minus the kidnapping possibility. But many resorts do line the region, and you can even rent a set of golf clubs at the airport. The entire area is beautiful though, and full of history, going back to the times when the Iberian Peninsula prospered with exploration of the Americas. In addition, there is a major Moorish influence on the region, making for interesting architecture.
Two of the days in Portugal I spent in Faro. The city was interesting, but not overly busy, since they are definitely in their low season tourist wise. I spent time wandering around the town, doing a variety of activities including a Portuguese Guitar show, going into the many intricate churches that dot the town, and visited the beaches on the outside of the Ria Formosa, which is a large set of barrier islands that surround Faro, as is a Portuguese national park. On Saturday night, instead of finding a restaurant to eat at, we found a fair celebrating Santa Iria going on. We walked around the booths, and picked up a few souvenirs, along with an interesting Portuguese bread, a bread roll with chourico inside, and a sandwich that we never really found the name of but was also delicious. Ordering food in Portugal was definitely an experience, and I never really knew what I was getting, but it was all delicious, including bifana, merendeira, both sandwiches on delicious bread. There grapes were also good, with their green grapes much sweeter than you’d find in the States, to the point where they almost tasted like candy.
Besides Faro, I also took a day trip to Lagos, about two hours away and closer to the Atlantic Ocean. This is one of the most famous regions in the Algarve, known far and wide for its beaches. I took the cliffside walking path, which was beautiful the entire way down to the Ponta de Piedade and back, wearing shorts, sandals, and a tank top. I also made sure to spend a little time on some of the hidden beaches that dot the area. They’re hidden in the fact that they’re in between the sides of two cliffs, and therefore are shaded from most elements, yet still sunny and warm. It was a beautiful area, and if you like beaches and are ever in Portugal, I highly recommend it. And yes, I actually took that picture and it did look like that.
After Portugal, we took a bus to Spain and spent a quick but amazing day in Seville. The food here was also fantastic, eating lunch at a tapas place by the Seville Cathedral. Also, our hostel hosted a Spanish experience night on Sundays, so we took part in that, learning/helping to make paella, a traditional Spanish dish, and drinking sangria. We also had these wood fired nuts, that kind of tasted like potatoes, they were good even though we couldn’t quite figure out what they were. The food was fabulous and addicting, though paella might be a little out of my culinary range and patience at the moment 🙂
Besides eating, we spent the day wandering around the city, visiting important historical sites including the Cathedral, the Alcazar, and the Plaza de Espana. Seville was also a great opportunity to take advantage of being a student, since we received highly discounted entrance fees to the places we visited. The Cathedral was huge, which makes sense since it’s the 3rd largest church in the world. It was built in the 16th century, and is the burial place of Christopher Columbus, who has an extremely intricate tomb inside. The Alcazar was also an amazing place to see. It was a Moorish fort, and later turned into a royal palace, which was easy to see the moment you stepped inside the walls. Opulence doesn’t even begin to describe the interior, with walls covered in decorative tiles, which the region is known for. They also had gardens that looked like they extended forever, with free roaming peacocks. After that, we continued to the Plaza de Espana, where we walked around. It was a good time to sit back and think about and appreciate the fact that we’re wandering around Spain right now, just because we could. It was somewhat of a surreal experience.
Well after that trip it’s somewhat back to reality, as a celebrate my 21st birthday and Halloween here in Dublin before jetting off on my next adventure, which definitely won’t be as warm as Iberia was!