Praia Santa Eulália, Praia da Oura and Alfagar II Aparthotel

I’m now back in gloomy, grey, England after a beautiful few days in Portugal.

The flight into Gatwick yesterday was slightly unnerving, as we landed in high winds. There were gasps, followed by a few expletives from passengers as we made our descent, but thankfully, our pilot got us back safe and sound (and without the drama this plane had trying to land at Heathrow yesterday – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-47177383/plane-struggles-to-land-in-strong-winds-at-heathrow-airport).

Thursday was my last full day in Portugal. I had intended on having a rest day, but I also wanted to get back out to see what else was around, close to where I was staying.

I had been staying at the beautiful Alfagar II Aparthotel, which has private access to Praia Santa Eulália. Although I had taken a walk down to the beach on the day I arrived, I really didn’t explore that much. So, I decided to pack up my rucksack and head down to the beach armed with my book and my beach towel ready to explore Praia Santa Eulália.

View from Alfagar Resort
View from Alfagar Resort
View from Alfagar Resort
View from Alfagar Resort
Private access path down to Praia Santa Eulália.

Once I arrived at the beach, I noticed the tide was out, so I decided to keep walking and followed the beach around towards the next cove. The beaches around this part of The Algarve are stunning. They are rugged and wild, but magical and serene at the same time. The cliffs were something else, and their colours are just beautiful.

As I continued my walk around to the next beaches (Praia da Oura Leste and Praia da Oura), I turned back to look at the view. It was such a stunning spot. So it was there that I sat and read my book until lunchtime approached.

After a spot of lunch by beachside restaurant Vivaldo’s it was time to head back to the hotel to enjoy my last afternoon poolside.

The view from Vivaldo’s

As the evening set in, it was time to reflect back on a fantastic trip.

I booked the entire holiday (flights, hotel and transfers) through easyJet, and I couldn’t fault any of it.

The hotel was absolutely stunning and spotlessly clean, the staff were really friendly and helpful, the food at the Buganvilla Snack-Bar where I ate my evening meals was fantastic. The portions were huge, with a wide selection of starters, and main meals. The apple pie was to die for, and the chocolate mousse was simply divine! The evening entertainment was on the cheesy side, but I guess you expect that in resorts, and in actual fact, holidaying in February, I was probably lucky that evening entertainment was on the menu! The little supermarket in Alfagar Village was well stocked with everything you could wish for, including fresh bread, a butchers, and plenty of wine.

I didn’t use all the facilities on site (there is a car rental office on site – not sure I trust myself to drive on the ‘wrong side’ of the road yet!), but those I did use were superb. The gym, the spa, the pools, as with the rest of the hotel were spotlessly clean and well looked after.

On my first day, I had a slight problem with my lights not switching on in the apartment, however, I called down to reception, and within 15 minutes the maintenance guy was at my door, ready to fix it for me. 2 minutes later, I had light and had no further problems throughout my stay.

Alfagar Aparthotel
Alfagar Aparthotel
Alfagar Aparthotel
Alfagar Aparthotel
Alfagar Aparthotel
Alfagar Aparthotel
Alfagar Aparthotel
Alfagar Aparthotel
Alfagar Aparthotel

I had also booked my transfers through easyJet. Finding the meeting point at Faro airport was really straightforward, and only took 30 minutes to get from the airport to the hotel. On the return journey, thankfully I was early, and already in reception, because the transfer was a good 10 minutes early picking me up. We got to the airport early which at least meant I had a bit more time to look around duty free!

And despite landing in windy conditions, both flights were excellent.

All in all, a fantastic holiday!

Where to next I wonder?

(All photos in this blog are my own)

Olhos de Água and Praia da Falesia

After my relaxing day on Tuesday, yesterday I was back into explorer mode.

This time I decided to head east of the resort, and headed to the beach at Olhos de Agua. Again, I chose to walk, as good old Google maps told me it was only a short walk away.

20 minutes later, I arrived at the beach. Olhos is small fishing town where the local fishermen still pull their boats onto the sand when they arrive back to the shoreline with their fresh catches. It’s a much quieter town than Albufeira, but lovely if you have a young family and aren’t looking for somewhere overly commercial.

As there wasn’t an awful lot to do or see there, I decided to head down onto the beach to see if I could walk round to the next Praia (beach), Praia da Falesia.

(All photos in this post are my own )

If you are lucky enough to get down to the Praias on the Algrave’s south coast when the tide is out, it is really easy to walk from many of the beaches to the next without too many problems, albeit over a few small rocks. However, once the tide comes back in, these parts are pretty much impossible to reach by foot.

Luckily, the tide was out when I arrived in Olhos de Água, leaving a clear path right i round to Praia da Falesia.

As soon as I walked around the corner of the cove onto Praia de Falesia, the view took my breath away. Seeing the vivid orange colours of the cliffs and the distinguishable layers of rock, made my inner geographer do a little back flip of joy!

I must’ve walked down almost the entire stretch of the praia with a massive grin on my face. Every new section of cliff face I came to had something different to offer.

As I continued to walk along the beach, I realised how light and carefree I felt. I felt more relaxed and content than I have done in a long time.

As I walked along, I did a lot of thinking. I started to make a lot of sense out of things on that walk, putting some things into perspective, letting other things go, and thinking about some of the changes I need to make in order to create more happiness and feelings of being carefree, on a more regular basis.

I will share some of my thoughts with you over the coming days, but for now, it’s time to pack and wave goodbye to Portugal as I have a flight back to London to catch tomorrow.

Albufeira

Yesterday was my first full day in Portugal. I am staying around 4km outside of old town Albufeira but I was keen to go and see what the town had to offer.

Whilst there were the options of getting a bus from the hotel at 10am, or a local taxi, I decided to walk instead.

I often find that we are so busy focusing on where we want to end up, that we fail to notice what’s on our doorstep, or in the surrounding area (something that can be said in all areas of life, and not just during travel!). Walking gives us a real opportunity to see what’s around.

Having never been abroad in February before, it was hard to know what to expect weather wise, and equally hard knowing what to pack. Whilst the days can be warm in the February sun, the nights can still be quite cold.

The weather was looking great yesterday, so I headed out in a thin jumper, T-shirt and jeans.

The walk into Albufeira isn’t the prettiest, and whilst the road takes you close to the coastline, you can’t see the sea until you reach Albufeira itself.

However, it gave me the opportunity to see where the Albufeira ‘strip’ is (I don’t think it matters where in Europe you are, if you’ve seen one party area, you’ve seen them all!), and to be grateful that I wasn’t spending my week there. Don’t get me wrong, I love a night out, and maybe I’m being very stereotypical here, but they just seem to be tackier versions of the clubs we have back home, with the main aim being to get so drunk you are sick, and to end up in a bed that isn’t your own. Spending all that money doing what you could be doing back home, seems a bit daft to me, or perhaps it’s just me getting old!

It took me around 50 minutes to walk into town, and when I arrived, I wasn’t disappointed.

Albufeira Old Town – all photos in this blog post are my own
Albufeira Old Town
Albufeira Old Town

By this point the weather was really warming up. Off came the jumper, along with thoughts of, why didn’t I pack any lighter trousers!?!

I’ve barely seen a cloud in the sky so far, and when you’re in the sun, even at this time of year, it’s hot enough to make this gingernut start to change colour (of course I mean red rather than a nice glowing golden brown!).

Once I arrived, I decided to take a walk straight up into the old town. It wasn’t quite lunchtime, so I had some time to explore before I needed to start looking for a pit stop. As I walked into the old town, there were signs that read Miradouro, which means viewpoint in English. I began to follow these signs to see where they lead.

Once I reached the Miradouro, there were spectacular views that looked over the bay.

From the Miradouro, I could’ve taken the lift down to the beach. However, I decided to keep walking as I had spotted the signs for the marina ahead.

I was quite conscious as I walked towards the marina that there were fewer tourists along this route. So I made the decision to walk to the next Miradouro and then head back into the old town to find somewhere to grab some lunch.

On my way back, instead of walking through the old town, I headed down to the beach.

The beaches here really are stunning. Everywhere I have been so far has been spotlessly clean. The sands are golden and pebble free, barely a sign of any rubbish or even seaweed lying strewn across the sands.

I wished I had worn my sandals instead of my trusted Nike trainers, so off they came, allowing my feet to breath and to enjoy the feeling of the sand between my toes.

As I got closer to the main hub of restaurants along the seafront, I decided to head off to find somewhere for lunch.

One of the many perks of holidaying in February means that it’s easy to get into restaurants at any time of day! I managed to get a table in the sunshine, in the first restaurant I stumbled upon. After an offer from the waiter to join me for lunch (I turned him down of course, but it was very flattering to get the offer), I settled down to look through the menu choices and to read my book.

Before coming to Portugal, I had read that they are big on their fish, especially sardines. I had never eaten fresh sardines before, but decided to give them a go. I hadn’t expected them to arrive with their heads on, and I had no idea which parts to eat, and what not to eat! But after a quick google, I tucked into them, loving every bite. Afterwards, I washed them down with one of my favourite cocktails, an icy cold Caipirinha.

After lunch, it was time to walk off those sardines with the walk back to my hotel, in time to spend a couple of hours by the pool and finishing the day off nicely in the indoor sun heated pool ☀️

Solo Traveller

When I first went on holiday on my own 3 years ago, I received a mixed reaction from friends and family. Some said good on you. Others thought I was crazy. Won’t you be lonely? Aren’t you scared going alone? Why don’t you find someone to go with?

The answers to those questions at the time were:

  • I don’t know, as I’ve never done it before
  • Yes
  • There aren’t many of us singletons left in my friendship circle, and why should no one wanting to leave their husbands, wives or their children, stop me from going to sunnier climes?

This time around, fewer people asked those questions. In fact, the comments I received were a lot more positive:

  • I wish I was brave enough to go away on my own
  • Have a great time

Perhaps people’s mindsets are changing. More and more people seem to be going off and doing their own thing, whether that’s because they are single, or simply because they want to visit places their partners don’t really fancy going to.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the easiest thing to do. It pushes me way out of my comfort zone. But I like to see how far I can push myself. Where are my limits?

When I arrived in Portugal this week, I asked myself the questions my friends had asked me 3 years ago. My answers this time were:

  • No, I now love my own company. Plus the beauty of the modern world, means I can stay in touch with friends and family back home, if I want to.
  • I am always a little apprehensive about travelling alone, but I try to avoid putting myself in the face of unnecessary risk. Plus, I have now been living in London for 3 years.
  • I didn’t even try to convince anyone to come with me this time. Well, ok, just the one, but I was truly looking forward to escaping, having some quiet time away from the madness of work and London, and spending some time working on where I want to be in the future, and the steps I can start taking to get me there

So here I am, in sunny Portugal, sitting on my balcony, alone, but not lonely, enjoying some time away from the rat race, relaxing and exploring, watching the sunset and wondering just how many trips I might be able to squeeze into this coming year ✈️☀️🏖

Albufeira – photo taken today by me

Active Relaxation

After reading an article the other day on active relaxation, it got me thinking.

I’m not always very good at slowing down and relaxing, even at weekends. I tend to think that days sitting around not doing much are wasted days. In a world where there is so much to explore, why would I want to spend a day or two a week, not doing anything?

Although I have to admit, this afternoon has been one of those rare times I haven’t moved far from the sofa…and I haven’t felt guilty or frustrated by this in the slightest. It’s been another incredibly busy week. I crawled my way to the weekend. It’s as if my body and mind have turned and looked at each other and said, do you know what, this weekend she needs to re-charge and rest. It’s a rare thing, but for a change I’m not ignoring what my body and mind are telling me.

So despite not being very good at relaxing, I do seem to be pretty good at active relaxation. Sometimes we need to move around to feel better. Sometimes we need to get outside for a walk or some exercise to feel good, taking in some fresh air, taking in our surroundings, and watching the seasons change.

Other times, we may chose to cook to make ourselves feel better. Since I have been adjusting to living alone, I am throwing myself into cooking new and exciting dishes. Nothing overly complicated, especially during the week, as I simply don’t have the time or the energy. Even cooking simple, quick recipes for the first time helps the mind to switch off from the day to day and to concentrate on the task at hand. It’s why I love to bake too. I lose myself in the recipe (and have to admit, that whilst I like to cook new things, even the oldest dishes in my repertoire, I still need to follow a recipe to get it right 🙈), allowing me to free my mind.

Writing is also another great way to practice active relaxation. Transferring my thoughts from my mind into my blog for example, helps to clear my mind, and really helps me to process the information in a more constructive way. It makes me question my thoughts and helps me to process them, freeing up my mind, and making my mind a much more happier and relaxed place.

So, as much as I find it difficult to sit and do nothing, active relaxation appears to be something I practice a lot, without even realising it.

Are you good at relaxing? Have you tried active relaxation to help free your mind?

Homemade Harissa Paste
Harissa Chicken
Enjoying the great outdoors
Writing helps to clear my mind

Self-Care Sunday

After the wobbles of last week, it’s been a beautifully chilled weekend.

Whilst some of the immediate work pressures have been lessened, there is a lot to do over the next few months, with lot’s of evening meetings coming up.

I knew I needed to get some self-care bonus points in the bag to help get me through the next couple of weeks.

The first thing I did this weekend was to get my haircut.

Whilst I’m trying to budget carefully at the moment while I get used to the extra expense of renting the flat on my own, there are some things I’m not prepared to scrimp on.

Getting my haircut at my favourite salon is one of them. It took me ages to find a hairdresser I liked after I moved to London. In fact, half the time I ended up traveling back to Northampton to get my hair cut at the salon around the corner from mum and dads house.

I find some hairdressers so stuffy. I always feel so uncomfortable when the hairdressers are overly manicured and immaculately dressed. Thankfully my hairdresser in London is lovely and normal. We spend most of my appointment chatting about the great outdoors as opposed to gossiping.

I spent Saturday afternoon catching up with some housework and found some time to bake a banana and chocolate chip loaf to put in the freezer, ready to devour next time I have friends or family come to stay.

I woke a few times last night (thanks to my delightful cat who decided to play with her toys right outside my bedroom, and then tried to sit behind my head on my pillow 🙈), and had hoped to sleep in, but my cat was having none of that either.

As if butter wouldn’t melt…

So I decided to get up and make the most of my early start. By 9 o’clock I had my running kit on and was heading out for an early jog. It was so nice to be out and about whilst London was still half asleep. The park was empty except for the odd runner and a few sports teams starting to warm up before kick off. Every time I go out, I’m able to run a bit further, and my body is loving the exercise. I used to convince myself that walking was enough, but I realise now that it’s not. Walkings obviously good for you, but getting my heart racing, breaking out into a sweat and noticing the difference in how my body feels, is fantastic. It’s giving me so much more energy throughout the day, as well as helping me to sleep better.

After my jog, I carried on my workout at home, by cooling down, and lifting some weights. This time last year, I noticed my arms had got really big (and not in a muscly kinda way). That’s when I first realised how much weight I had piled on. Whilst I haven’t lost as much flab from my upper arms as I would like, they are slightly more toned. Hopefully now with jogging and eating better, hopefully it won’t be long until they start to look more how I would like them too.

I’m super pleased that I booked my holiday before Christmas, as this is giving me extra motivation at the moment to keep exercising, knowing its only a few weeks until I fly out to Portugal. On top of that, two of my best friends get married in the first half of the year, a month apart, so with two hen parties and two weddings after my holiday, I’m hoping that will give me the motivation I need to keep me focused on my new eating and exercise regime well into the summer months.

After my workout I decided to get some more self-care in the bank, with some pampering.

My brother always buys me really good beauty products for my birthday and Christmas. A couple of years ago he brought me Ren Flash Rinse 1 minute facial which has become one of my staple beauty products. It is what it says on the tube, a 1 minute facial. So even when time is short, there is no excuse not to treat my skin.

Another great product my brother brought me last Christmas was GlamGlow’s Poutmud fizzy lip exfoliating treatment, which is fantastic at this time of year when the weather and central heating are playing havoc with my lips. Like REN Flash Rinse 1 Minute Facial, it’s really quick to use and leaves lips super smooth.

With my workout and pampering complete, it was time to head off to Westfield to do some much needed pre-holiday shopping. Thankfully, I had some vouchers to use, so I came away with some lovely new holiday clothes without suffering from buyers guilt.

I then made it back home in time to pop outside to my terrace before it got dark, to see what state my plants were in. I love gardening, but as soon as the winter weather creeps in, I tend to neglect my poor plants. But it was lovely to get out there this afternoon to tidy up and deadhead the plants that haven’t realised it’s winter yet. A perfect way to end the afternoon.

So after a topsy turvy week, it’s been a productive weekend, with lot’s of self-care. I’d love to sit here and say I’m ready for that week ahead. Whilst my body maybe, my mind would really like another day or two at home not worrying about work. But at least I’m getting closer to my Algarve Adventure ✈️☀️🏖

Family time

After a hectic week at work, I returned home this weekend to spend some much needed time with the family.

I love living in London, but I am slowly learning that I need to take regular breaks from the chaos that comes with living and working in the city.

As soon as I reach the M1 the air changes, as does the scenery. With that my mind clears, the stress lifts and I feel energised.

Although we are now in September, the weather was beautifully warm this weekend, which also meant getting lots of sunshine.

When I first used to return home after moving to London, I would pack my weekends full, catching up with friends as well as family. However as much as I want to see everyone, it just wasn’t physically sustainable. I would return to London feeling more tired than when I left. By the middle of the week I would be frazzled and felt far from rested. So now, as much as I still feel guilty at times, I try to have a weekend of seeing family or friends, rather than both.

I can’t tell you how good it felt to escape from the city this weekend. Sitting at home in my parents garden, I switched off from work and just enjoyed sitting in the garden, letting the sunshine soak into my skin, eating good food, and catching up with my family.

I felt truly relaxed, a feeling I haven’t enjoyed in weeks.

And now, sitting back in my London flat, enjoying a glass of wine, I feel rested and relaxed and ready to tackle the week ahead.

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