Phil's Travel Pages (Europe - Portugal)

Clean, golden beaches (only inhabited by surf-casters at this time of year)Golden sands of the Villamoura beaches
Photo: P.McKenzie/span>

After a tough year, we needed to get away for a "chill-out" break and in December, 2004 we headed out for an off-season break to Villamoura in the heart of the southern Portuguese Algarve.

December is of course the off-season on the Algarve, but that only serves to provide an excellent retreat for those looking for a pre-Christmas break.  Our 4-hour flight from Heathrow to Faro airport was followed by a 20-minute taxi ride to the Ampalius in the Vila Gale complex.

The resort comprises a series of hotels which surround an impressive marina and are only a minute's walk from a beautiful coastline (almost deserted at that time of the year, except for a few die-hard surfcasters who are dotted along the tide-line).

The lack of people only served to add to the charm and it is a very peaceful experience to watch the sunset on waters blue...

Terrific sunsets provide a background for contemplationBeach Sunset
Photo: P.McKenzie

No trip to Portugal would be complete without sampling some of the best fortified wines in the world. A word of warning though: you have to take it nice and easy as they tend to creep up on you a bit (unfortunately, I over-indulged on the first night and I barely managed to stagger back to the hotel around 1am). In moderation however, Portugese wines are just fantastic!

The marina has a wide range of bars and restaurants serving an excellent selection of Mediterranean cuisine (Portuguese cuisine is absolutely superb and must be sampled), in the relaxed cafe-style atmosphere common in most of southern Europe.

Oh - and just as an extra bonus, the view around the marina is pretty good too!

Sunset over the marinaMarina Sunset
Photo: P.McKenzie

The whole area is remarkably clean and well serviced and the people are polite and friendly.  It was sometimes a little disconcerting to walk past a string of empty cafes, all with their signs and chairs out, but a comfortable spot, with a good book and glass of something cold soon sorts that out.

The week passed far too quickly and before we knew it, we were heading back to the dark and dreary English winter, but in a far more relaxed state of mind (and a little fitter from all the walking we did).

Bandanna Club Rating: 4-Bandannas Bandanna Club Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

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