First part of our trip to Portugal with the Algarve region. This region in the southern part of Portugal is renowned for its beautiful beaches but is also a destination of choice for tourists during the summer months. When we were researching where to stay during this trip, we got a lukewarm reception from our friends and family. They said that Algarve had the reputation to being very crowded and filled with seaside towns with high-rises and multilingual menus in restaurants. So that was very far from the small village atmosphere we were looking for. We kept looking and quickly crossed of our list some towns but in the middle of it we found Sagres at the western point of Algarve. The guidebooks were describing it as a surfer’s town with an end-of-the-world feel. We were sold !
When we got there, it totally lived up to our expectations. The town in itself is very charming, quite small with a port, a market to get fresh produce and fish, some traditional cafes where the local grandpas are meeting. But there are also some cool surfer bars and restaurant that serve grilled meat and fish on the beach. We even found some places with good design without being show-off.
It was the perfect base camp to explore the region which offers magnificent landscapes within 20 km. In the south, we found beaches surrounded by ocher cliffs, covered with perennial plants, calm and clear water and frequented by families.
In the west, never-ending beaches with black cliffs or sand dunes (like in the Landes region where I’m from) with unrelenting waves perfect for surfing (which we did ! you may not know but I surfed a lot when I was a teenager and I got back to it 2 years ago). On all the beaches, there are small cafes and snack where you can have lunch or just a drink, the atmosphere is very laid back as this coast is mostly frequented by surfers and families going camping in the nature.
Also, a day when the coast was windy with misty rain, we went farther inland to find small villages with white houses built around an old church, a greener nature, and meandering roads. We explored Monchique, a mountain town that is a starting point of hikes in the Serra do Monchique. We chose to hike in Mt Picota, through a forest of eucalyptus, cork oaks, strawberry trees. Up there, the view on the region is breathtaking.
Well, it is quite obvious how much I liked this region, its wild nature and the variety of its landscapes. We took it day by day, doing what we were in the mood for, exploring different beaches according to the direction of the wind of the swell, going swimming in sheltered beaches like you do in the Mediterranean, reading in the shades, having lunch with a view on the sea.
I loved wandering the streets of Sagres, going to the market with the locals stocking up on vegetables and fresh fish for the barbecue, taking l’apéritif in our deck at sunset, getting wild in the bars in town after dinner. This town definitely feels like the windswept end-of-world, slightly old-fashioned with a California vibe.
One of the dinners we made was this ceviche with avocado, cilantro and ginger. It’s really fresh and bright, perfect to end a sunny day spent at the beach. You can make it after the beach, with your pareo wrapped around your waist, you feed covered in sand and you hair still salty. I serve it with basmati rice but you can also eat it as an appetizer.
Praia do Beliche
Praia do Cordoama
Praia da Mareta
Praia do Castelejo
Ceviche with avocado, cilantro and ginger
600g (21oz) of whte fish filet like seabass, sea bream or cod
2 avocados, sliced
1/2 cucumber, seeded and diced
1 small onion (white or red), minced
1 bunch of cilantro
2 tbsp of olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Juice and zest of 1 lime
4 cm (1.5 inch) piece of ginger, grated
2 pinches of Espelette pepper (or some mild pepper powder)
1. Prepare the marinade : mix the oil, juice of the lemon and lime, lime zest, grated ginger, pepper and onion.
2. Dice the fish filets and add it to the marinade. Mix well. Put the marinade in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
3. A few minutes before serving, add the cilantro, cucumber, avocado slices. Salt to taste.
4. Serve with rice for a full meal