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Lagos brings an end to my trip … with a bit of snorkelling, some history… and some nosh

Updated: Jun 10, 2023

Lagos is a city of white stucco in Portugal's southern Algarve region where Europeans from colder climes congregate for beach holidays.

I, myself, am not one for beach holidays - I burn and I get bored. But we decided that, if we were gonna see Portugal, we had to see the Algarve.

So we arrived mid-afternoon on Thursday in the last week of May.

Through a complicated series of events, Cyn and Robert ended up sharing one AirBNB while our friend, Susan, and I shared another in side-by-side seven-storey buildings just outside of Lagos's old town. Both of the apartments were beautiful and boasted fabulous views.

After settling in, we trekked over the cobbled roads of the old city and had a glass of wine at a bar that is perched on a cliff overlooking the sea. Then we walked into the downtown and had dinner at a seafood restaurant where the curry was one of the better things I had eaten since leaving the ship.

The following day, Cyn treated me to a snorkelling expedition (a present for my birthday two months earlier) with a marine biologist. It started on a beach about 10 K east down Portugal's coast from Lagos.

The water was frigid enough to require wetsuits - but quite comfortable once we adjusted. Our guides took us along the rocky shore and into an tall cave of clay and limestone.

This part of the Atlantic does not offer the colorful fish or corals of the Caribbean or the Great Barrier Reef. But we saw octopus.

And we generally had a great time bopping around in the sea.

Saturday was Robert's birthday so he and Cyn went for a 10 K hike - because hiking is his thing - and then I met them for lunch at at fish and chips shop called Old Bastard's where the fish was good (probably salt cod but not identified) and the chips were great.

Cyn went home to rest while Susan and I explored the city. After looking through some shops and buying a few nice things, we visited what was billed as a slavery museum.

Lagos was a central port in the Portuguese slave trade and I was eager to learn the history. But, um, there was very little in the museum related to that horrific era, even though it is the site of the former slave market. And one of the two museum officials seemed to have let the power of patrolling the limited exhibits go to her head.

If anything, the building housed artifacts meant to bolster Portuguese pride. Which has been a running theme throughout the country. It's not unusual to see a statute venerating some religious figure, only to learn he was instrumental in the inquisition and responsible for the deaths and torture of thousands of people. But I digress.

That night, Cyn hired a private chef to come to her AirBNB and prepare a Portuguese meal in honour of Robert's 60th.

It was kind of great with delicious clams - and the chef cooked chorizo with alcohol flaming in the dish, like we had seen on the food tour in Lisbon.

On Sunday, Cyn and I walked around Lagos, checking out the tourist huts full of linen dresses and shirts, and strolling the long boardwalk that lines the beach.

There is a castle in Lagos, but apparently it is a 20th Century construction on the site of a fortress that was built by the Moors and then conquered by the Christians.

The streets are lined with tourist shops and patios.

There is a lot of great street art.

And there is this statue of former King Sebastien who headed off to Morocco to fight the Moors in 1578 and never returned. I don't think it is an especially flattering rendering of his highness ... but what do I know from art?

On Monday, the four of us drove to the old city of Silves which is built around a castle on a mountaintop where archaeologists have unearthed the footprints of the ancient Moorish town.

The views from up top were spectacular.

We stopped for lunch at a great local place where I was final able to order chicken - and it was delicious!

Then we went to the museum, which has artifacts dating back to the Stone Age.

And also more modern displays like this guy who was killed at the Castelo by a lance that was driven through his shoulder.

Then we strolled the streets of the small town, which is just as touristy as Lagos, but had some great shops like this one that sold ceramics and lamps.

Susan left on Tuesday and the remaining three of us drove down the coast to Faro which is the biggest city in the region. I think we were all a bit underwhelmed.

But there was an impressive cathedral.

And it had a small chapel of bones.

Back in Lagos, we had drinks at a patio in town (the negroni was delish!) while listening to some lovely jazz and watching locals dance in the square.

Then we had mussels at a great little seafood place and went back home to pack because the long trip was coming to an end.

We set off along the coast on Wednesday and stopped at a place called Zambujeira do Mar.

Then we got to Lisbon, dropped Robert at his hotel, dropped our bags at our hotel, dropped the car at the airport, and headed back downtown for one last stroll.

After purchasing some chocolate and Port, we had drinks at a wine bar and then a last meal in Portugal at an Italian place in the Alfama district. I had wonderful pasta with mushrooms and tomatoes and we shared bruschetta. Yummy.

Now it is Thursday and we are at the airport preparing for the flight home. Canada awaits after my absence of five months.

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