FEBRUARY ON THE ALGARVE
Parque Natural da Ria Formosa
It’s hard to believe we have chilly days on the Algarve, but on one of the coldest days of the year so far, I took a stroll along the pathways surrounding the Parque natural da Ria Formosa. Not far from Faro airport simply turn left in the direction of Faro Island beach and just before the next roundabout pull into the lay by to begin the walk. If you continue over the bridge this will take you to Faro Island and the old fishermen’s village.
Designated as a wetlands reserve of worldwide significance, these pathways have been created to make a walking, cycling and running path which goes as far as Quinta do Lago and around the salt flats providing easy walks for all ages. There’s plenty of wild bird life and on the right side next to the golf course there are bird hides where you can sit, watch and ponder. The park is a major stop-over place for the bird migration routes between Europe and Africa as well as a winter ground for birds from Northern and Central Europe.
The area particularly favours flamingos, egrets, storks, ducks such as wigeons, teal, shoveler, pochard and waders, curlews and grey plover. This Ludo Quinta do Lagos area is also the only breeding ground for the purple gallinule which is used as the symbol of Parque Natural da Ria Formosa.
There are also a number of indigenous plants to be found in the salt marsh habitat and the sand dunes. In the salt marsh area we spotted Sea lavender and you can’t miss Broomrapes a bright, yellow flowered plant. Further back from the sea there’s the Sea daffodil and shrubby pimpernel hover and as we look forward to spring we’ll start to spot the beautiful grape hyacinth and bumblebee orchids.
As well as taking a leisurely stroll along these pathways it is possible to hire Segways which are great fun particularly with a group of friends. My friend Nelson is usually available for Segway tours around the Formosa, although booking is required -962006153.
Festa das Chouricas em Honda de S.Luis
By chance I was travelling around the local area where I live and came across a local sausage festival. There are many areas particularly in the Alentejo area where the Portuguese pride themselves on their special family recipes used to make Chourico using the famous black Iberica pig.
This particular festival was held in Querencia a short distance from Loule my local town. All Portuguese festivals are usually related to a religious celebration and held in or around a church(igreja) and this one took place in the town square to celebrate the Nossa Senhora da Assuncao.
We arrived early afternoon when the festivities were well underway. The smoking BBQ’s were busy cooking hundreds of sausages which were served in a massive hunk of local bread and washed down with a carafe of local red wine or a cold beer, whilst the market stalls were selling traditional Artisan products. The padre led a procession with the statue of S. Luis and the whole square was packed with a mix of local and European crowds enjoying the traditions of this welcoming Portuguese town.
A lovely part of my job is to try out the latest places to eat so I took the opportunity to meet some friends for lunch in a new restaurant on the beach at Falesia, near Vilamoura, called Rocha Baixinha – telephone 289 037 289 for bookings.
The superb wooden cabin style building provided a warm and cosy atmosphere and the large glass windows let the winter sun pour in. The wine was reasonable and the food was varied and delicious with many fish dishes available. At the weekend, there is usually live music and as the spring sets in there will be comfy lounge seats outside on the terrace. There’s even little posts on the beach to tie the dogs to while you enjoy a refreshing drink!
To get to this restaurant simply walk over the bridge at Falesia and turn right – then either walk along the beach or take the sandy lane behind the beach. It is possible to phone the restaurant to arrange a lift to and from the car park!
Events this month
Vilamoura Atlantic Tour 2017 – from now until 2nd April
The Vilamoura Equestrian centre hosts two of the biggest show jumping events in the international calendar – the Vilamoura Atlantic Tour and the Vilamoura Champions Tour. They can accommodate up to 750 horses, five sand arenas and one lunging area. The two main arenas host many top international show jumpers providing exciting entertainment. There are pop up restaurants and bars whilst entry is free.
Carnival Loule – 25th to 28th February
The Loule carnival is one of the oldest events in Portugal, and has been celebrated for more than 100 years. The daily parades starting on the 25th February feature carnival floats, Samba and Brazilian dancers, giant costumed characters and lively musicians who entertain the crowds with very unusual and Brazilian style costumes – think Rio style!
The children’s carnival parade leads the show on Friday at 10am, Saturday and Sunday sees daily parades at 3pm, the Carnival Gala ball takes place on Monday at 9pm and then on Tuesday there are two parades in the afternoon, culminating in a spectacular carnival finale at 9pm. Entrance is 2€ and it takes place in the main Avenida Jose da Costa Mealha (the Main Street).