It’s winter, so Lagos is mostly emptied of visiting tourists who will return in the warmer months. Shuttered windows face narrow streets, restaurants close early or remain closed until summer, caramel-colored beaches are pristine and vacant. It’s quiet in town, and for my sister, this silence is eerie; the opposite sound of a bustling vacation town. To me, it’s the perfect backdrop for a relaxed weekend. We spend two full days together, eating fresh seafood, drinking Portuguese wine & walking on streets swathed in colorful tiled mosaic.
Sunlight beams down on us when we arrive in Faro; a welcome escape from London’s overcast skies. I press the “push to start” button in our rental car a few times, turning the engine on and then off again, puzzled that there’s no hum. After several frustrating tries, I find out from a helpful lady that our car is a hybrid and the lack of an engine hum is normal. Feeling silly, I thank her and run back to start the car, comfortable now with the silence inside it.
Soon we’re on the highway, and the only car on the open road for miles. My sister drifts off for most of the ride, leaving me alone with my thoughts and music playing low enough to keep me company without waking her.
Within the town, I navigate through one-way streets to our hotel–Casa Mae.
Inside, floor to ceiling windows let more of the winter sun in. We take off our jackets and sit down to a complimentary breakfast that’s more aesthetically pleasing than it is filling.
Sleep, not hunger is foremost on my mind, so I’m grateful when the concierge tells us our room is ready. Within the hour, we fall asleep, ignoring the loud timbre of a bell ringing in the distance.
In the evening, at Barbosa, we sit by the window to a dinner of grilled chicken and couscous and a raw tuna salad paired with Portuguese orange wine.
Early in the day, we sail along the Algarve coast, through icy water and cavernous rocks, past caramel sand beaches where a few brave bodies dip naked toes into the shallow surf. The water is cool enough to numb my fingers.
Our tour guide shares an oral history of Lagos as he navigates the boat, peppering his speech with well-timed jokes. From a cliff at least 30 feet above us, a man is fishing. Nervous, I pull my eyes away from the man and the precipice, hoping that he doesn’t fall.
Later, we search the city for open restaurants, most of which serve seafood. On a covered patio, we eat risotto and large tiger prawns and seafood spaghetti alongside a pitcher of white Sangria.
At Tasca do Kiko, our waitress –a sweet Ethiopian lady– serves us a bottle of red wine from the Douro valley in Northern Portugal. From where we sit, it’s easy to see white sail boats dotted along on the marina.
Our lunch is a medley of dishes from the sea–tuna tartare, a Brazilian prawn stew called moqueca, and lobster risotto. I picture my mom’s face screwed in distaste at my consumption of the raw tuna tartare but I relish it anyway, using a fork to pick every last piece off the plate.
By evening, we’re back in London. Underground, the northern line gets us close enough to home where I’m content to crawl in next to my sister & fall asleep.
I enjoy slow travel a lot. A quiet, sparsely populated city with gorgeous views and delicious food is right up my alley. How do you like to travel? Share with me in the comments.
Thank you for reading.
All photos shot by myself & my sister on iphone’s 11 & XR
Good to Know
We were already in London visiting our brother, so we flew from London Gatwick – Faro Airport. You can fly from London to Faro for ~ $20 each way, but I didn’t want to deal with all the restrictions on budget airlines like RyanAir so I booked us on British Airways.
*I use Google Flights & Skyscanner to look for and purchase all my flights
When traveling from or through the UK (and Portugal), all your 100ml and under liquids need to fit in one clear bag in your carry-on, otherwise, you’ll have to check a bag.
We rented a car at the airport (I don’t typically recommend this because airport prices are marked up; you’re paying for the convenience) to drive from Faro to Lagos. If we had more time, I would have driven to at least two other cities on the coast, and Lisbon, but next time.
Lagos is a tourist town, so if you choose to visit during the off-season as we did, expect to find quite a few places closed.
We got on fine not speaking Portuguese aside from the occasional “Obrigada (o)” for “Thank you.” If I did speak Portuguese, it would have been a great opportunity to practice.
Same footprints, Different sands