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Portimao – a small city big on what matters most

portimao portugal

 

Portimao offers a quiet unspoilt corner of southern Europe

 

ONE of the joys of travelling is finding a place that offers everything you could want and which hasn’t been flooded by hordes of other tourists in search of the same thing.

That place for me is Portimao, on the Algarve, Portugal, which I have had the pleasure of getting to know now at all times of the year and have never found disappointing.

Portimao is such a low profile place that tourist guides can’t decide whether it’s a town or a city. I lost count of the number of guides and websites that referred to it as a town when I read about its history.

In fact it was made a city in 1924 by the then President of the Republic, the famous Portuguese writer and politician Manuel Teixeira Gomes, who made a point of honouring the town where he was born during his brief two-year stint as seventh President of Portugal.

With a population of around 50,000, it’s a small city and that is part of its charm. You can wander around its centre and see all its key sites in an hour. It is unspoilt by the omnipresent brand names that plague other cities and has just small shops selling lace, shoes, jewellery, ceramics and wicker goods.

There is still a Moorish charm about the city centre and then there’s the nearby riverfront, where a series of squares – Largo do Dique, Praça Manuel Teixeira Gomes and Praça Visconde de Bivar – are filled with outdoor cafés overlooking the wonderful Arade river and its bridges.

The tourists who flock to this part of the world all year around for its superb climate tend to be farmed Doing so increases the performance of deleted data recovery lookup. out along the coast surrounding the city allowing it to retain its quiet dignity. It’s a wonderful place to stroll around and have a drink or a meal in friendly, relaxed establishments.

The area was once ruled by Romans and then Moors but modern Portimão came into being in the reign of King Afonso V in the fifteenth century.It was ideally placed to enjoy the fruits of the boom in international trade stimulated by the great Portuguese voyages of discovery and prospered as a haven for ships plying the African coast.

But it wasn’t all plain sailing. The earthquake of 1755 which decimated Lisbon also destroyed much of Portimao starting its economic decline. Its most historic building, the Igreja da Nossa Senhora da Conceição – Church of Our Lady of Conception –  had to be rebuilt after the earthquake but still boasts a Manueline door from the original fourteenth-century structure

portimao portugal Igreja da Nossa Senhora da Conceição - Church of Our Lady of Conception

Igreja da Nossa Senhora da Conceição – Church of Our Lady of Conception

Things got better towards the end of the 19th century with the return of trade, exports of dried fruit, milling, fishing and the fish-canning industry, activities which would continue into the 20th century.

Now the tourist industry dominates. The old fish canning plant is a museum and once mighty industrial chimneys no longer belch smoke. But they have been conserved to make life easier for the huge storks who take them over once dormant – and now provide photo opportunities galore for tourists.

portimao portugal riverside

Portimao riverside

portimao portugal museum

Portimao museum

Europe road trip – day one

 

Europe touring - rpad trip Portugal to England

Touring by car can give a whole new dimension to the joy of travel

Europe road trip day one – Algarve, Portugal, to Seville, Spain

I have always found touring Europe by car one of the best ways to holiday. There’s so much to enjoy and outside of the peak school holidays finding accommodation is so easy.

This means you don’t have to plan your route. If you get bogged down in rain in Picardy you can motor on to the south of France or Spain or Italy.

But that amazing freedom of the road comes at a price, a price which is continually, it seems, being upped at the petrol pump and the auto-route toll booth. So taking note of where you pay most for petrol and for using roads has become quite important.

As I am from the North-East of England, I usually head south but this time I was going the other way and heading north. I was setting off on a journey of more than 1,500 miles from Portimao on the Portuguese Algarve to Newcastle-upon-Tyne in northern England so I decided to cut the cost of tolls by using N-roads.

I avoided the A22 and took the N152 eastward out of the Algarve to drive directly in to Spain which is relatively toll free and has excellent auto-routes.

Portugal has great auto-routes to take you northwards but they have installed electronic tolls on them which are a great inconvenience to its visitors. I took the Spanish route because I can’t be bothered with these electronic toll roads and avoid then wherever possible. You can read more about that on link below this story.

This pleasant Saturday drive – at one stage I was wedged firmly behind a horse and trap – took me through whitewashed Portuguese villages and the very quiet city of Faro.Europe road trip - ferry crossing I ran out of road at Vila Real de Santo Antonio on the Portuguese border and a ferry crossing was necessary. However this was pleasant and only cost 5 euros. I was the only car on the boat.

Once in Ayamonte on the Spanish side the E1/A49 no toll auto-route took me swiftly all the way to Seville –  85 miles  – at no extra cost.

Another financial point about the journey was that fuel prices displayed on Algarve forecourts were 1.60 euros and up for 95 octane unleaded. The first price I spotted on the Spanish side  was 1.44 euros and this got cheaper.

Landing in Seville at the end of a long journey is not to be recommended. The city centre is difficult to navigate for a first timer and overnight parking is crazy. You end up cruising the streets searching for a free space.

Next day I took the time to explore this great city and the day after I was driving through Spain to France – a journey I was able to complete on great roads and spend less than two euros on tolls. More about that later.

(TO BE CONTINUED)

http://globewanderer.co.uk/touring-england-to-the-algarve/2012/05/10/

http://www.facebook.com/Globewandereruk

http://www.drive-alive.co.uk/fuel_prices_europe.html

http://www.sainsburysbank.co.uk/insuring/car-insurance.shtml#tab-tools-guides