The perfect spot to welcome the soft breeze of an Indian summer
The Algarve reveals another, rather different, face with a soft yet bright colour palette.
Far from the seaside towns and the mass-market tourist resorts beats the heart of an Algarve that is generous and authentic with a carefully preserved unique character. It is to this Algarve blessed with warmth, culinary delights and maritime charms that we are taking you today. In these places where the memory of great sailors still floats in the spray-filled air, life is not lived by the watch, but instead by the rhythm of the tides. This makes it the perfect time and place for a change of tempo
ON THE ITINERARY:
DAY 1 - FRIDAY
From Faro, Malaga or Seville airport you will make your way to your hotel located along the Guadiana River that marks the border between Spain and Portugal. The scent of orange trees, the sea breeze and the cry of the gulls that wheel above your head will envelop you in their benevolent tranquillity.
10am – Drop off your luggage at the Grand House hotel
Where the light of the Algarve meets the charm of the Belle Époque, this fully renovated house has everything you need to travel back in time. The elegant architecture of the 1920s, the timeless design, the flavours of the locally sourced organic menu and the beach club that is only five minutes' walk away open the doors to an irresistible lifestyle
11am – Wander around Vila Real de Santo António
Not far from the sailing boats moored along the river, the Marquês de Pombal square is the authentic beating heart of the coastal city Vila Real de Santo António. The time has come to lose yourself in the straight white streets of the city before sampling the flavours, colours and local life to be found in the city market hall.
1.30pm – Wake up your taste buds at the Grand Beach House
You are about to learn the secrets of a cataplana of fish and seafood with its bold flavours. This traditional speciality from the Algarve gets its flavours from the copper cooking pot in which it is slowly simmered, but you'll be convinced that it's the spices used that give the dish its rich aromas. Is that a hint of coriander you can taste?
3pm – Make a salty discovery
After tackling the mediaeval fortress that overlooks the marshy plain of Guadiana, Jorge and his family will welcome you into their magnificent property to tell you about the history of the place and the harvest of the so-called white gold - sugar. The Castro Marim salt marshes have become a refuge for thousands of birds attracted by the fish-filled waters, molluscs and crustaceans.
8pm – Explore Ayamonte using your taste buds
The restaurant LPA Culinary Bar is an excellent reason to cross the river and sound out the city of Ayamonte which is located on the Spanish side. In the soft and idle ambience of an Andalusian evening you can savour the delights of the local cuisine to your heart’s content.
DAY 2 – SATURDAY
9am – Wake up your palate with a flourish
A golden finish, crisp pastry, the scent of vanilla and thick egg-based cream will awaken your taste buds with a taste sensation. Dusted with icing sugar or cinnamon, the famous Pastéis de Nata are the stars of Portuguese baking. You won't be able to resist them at breakfast
10.30am – Birdwatch in the Ria Formosa natural park
The charms of the Ria Formosa Park's natural reserve protected by dunes can be found between the land and the sea.On board a solar-powered silent and non-polluting boat you can let yourself be carried away by the beauty of the lagoon ecosystems escorted by the migrating birds and sultan chickens.
12h30pm – Berth at a deserted island
What better setting to taste oysters, prawns and regional products than a virgin island in the Ria Formosa? Cradled by the waves that come and go on the golden sand, you will swim in a great bath of light feeling carefree and convivial.
2.30pm – Forget about the demands of time in Tavira
To really get to know this jewel of a Portuguese city founded by the Phoenicians take the time to wander around its narrow streets. From churches with a baroque charm to houses adorned with the famous Azulejo tiles, not to mention its arty charm and friendly locals, here everything simply exudes the Portuguese Dolce Vita. When the sun goes down, you won't be able to resist the call of the terraces on the banks of the Gilão River.
5.30pm – Greet the ocean
When the sailors of Tavira stopped fishing for tuna, they abandoned their anchors on the Ilha de Tavira bordered with dunes. This is how the unusual anchor cemetery was born, located in the crosshairs of the sea spray. The nearby Praia do Barril invites you to go for a dip in the waters of the Atlantic where they meet the Mediterranean
8pm – Let yourself be soothed by the gentle night
You will be torn between dinner at the Grand Salon with its golden years’ ambiance and an authentic Vila Real de Santo Antonio wine bar. While you make up your mind, let yourself be guided by the softness of the night-time air in which you can hear a few notes of fado here and there.
DAY 3 – SUNDAY
10am – Take Icarus's flight
A hair-raising sensation of lightness will fill you when you touch the Algarve sky in your autogyro as it glides through the morning light. Around you, you will see the Castro Marim salt marshes, the Ria Formosa lagoon, Vila Real de Santo Antonio and the ocean that stretches out into infinity. Your stay in the Algarve is taking to the air.
12.30pm – Try tapas the Portuguese way
Under the terrace of the Ta Certo Wine bar shaded by the sails, traditional dishes have been redesigned to offer original and simple small plates. Accompanied by a glass of vinho verde and a pinch of Castro Marim sea salt, the stewed or grilled octopus will leave you wanting more.
2pm – Wave to the Vila Real de Santo Antonio chameleons
The forest that connects Vila Real de Santo Antonio to Monte Gordo marks the last stage of your weekend in the Algarve. Either on foot or by bike, follow the shade of the pines through the coastal dunes planted with aromatic grasses that are home to the chameleons. At this point you’ll have to find a very good reason to make the return trip home.
YOUR DROP POINT :
"THE GRAND HOUSE"
The Grand House opened its doors in January 2019, but its history goes back much further. In 1926, the building was the point of passage for the merchants who bought, sold and exported canned fish in the 27 canning factories of Vila Real de Santo António, which was then one of the most prosperous cities in the Algarve and known as Little Lisbon thanks to its Pombaline-style city plan.
- Location : The hotel is located at the heart of Vila Real Santo António on its main street looking over the Gardena River which separates Portugal from Spain (a small ferry provides transport between the two banks). The main square with its church, shops and cafés is located just behind the hotel. San António beach is just a few minutes away by car and the neighbouring town Castro Marim is worth a visit to see its mediaeval castle and impressive salt pans. Seville is 90 minutes away by car and Faro airport is 40 minutes away.
- Style&character : Swiss architect Ernesto Korrodi fully renovated the building to return it to its original form. A talented local company White & Kaki created the interiors. The focus on the glamour of the golden years was achieved through a mix of antiques, colonial design, nautical colours in the public areas and softer colours in the rooms. The old prints, white orchids, panelling and stuccos are flooded with natural light.
- Services&activites : The staff are friendly and efficient. The hotel's facilities are limited due to its size, but the staff will do everything they can to make sure you have everything you could need. There is a spa that offers massage on request. When the Grand Club House opens at the end of 2019 there will also be a concept store and a private cinema. There is an impressive list of experiences on offer including horse riding on a beach in the neighbouring town of Tavira and an open-air spa in neighbouring Castro Marim.
- Room: The hotel has 30 rooms decorated in soft peaceful colours. The wooden floorboards are adorned with handwoven rugs and ancient chests of drawers, while antique prints and black and white cards line the walls. Shutters and mullions made by Korrodi open onto terraces. The elegant bathrooms which only have showers (with the exception of one room which has a bath) feature black and white tiling and facilities designed by C.O. Bigelow Apothecaries.
- Food&drinks: The Grand Beach Club offers light lunches, from pizzas topped with local figs to salad Niçoise with fresh tuna, while the breakfast buffet providing eggs cooked to order is served in the pretty dining room looking over the river. You can find the perfect Negroni or Tom Collins in the bar, and in the summer they can even be enjoyed in the roof-top bar. For dinner, both a tasting menu and an à la carte menu are available. Don't miss the red mullet fillet and the razor shell clams from neighbouring Ria Formosa.
HOW TO GET TO VILA REAL SANTO ANTONIO?
DIRECT flight from Nice in 2 hrs 25:
EasyJet flies to Faro on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Volotea flies to Malaga on Tuesdays and Fridays.
EasyJet flies to Seville on Thursdays and Sundays.
DIRECT flight from Paris in 2 hrs 35:
EasyJet, Transavia and Air France fly to Seville, Malaga and Faro every day.
If you have a bit more time :
- Touch the very tip of the Portuguese Finistère at cabo de São Vicente.
- Relive the history of the Moor conquests at Silves Castle,
- See the green side of the Algarve at Portugal’s best golf courses,
- Get lost in Faro's enchanting old town,- Reach for the sky in the Serra de Monchique mountain range,
- Revisit the great sea voyages of the 15th and 16th centuries in Lagos,
- Drink in the turquoise and ochre of the Ponta da Piedade cliffs,
- And why not take a trip to the White Villages of Andalusia that are only a stone's throw away?
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