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Algarve, Europe’s Southern Gem

Located at Europe’s most south-western tip, the Portuguese region of the Algarve is the quintessential holiday setting. The warm Mediterranean climate, the beautiful beaches and the exceptional golf courses make the Algarve an idyllic location to holiday or reside in. With most of Europe’s capitals only a short flight away the Algarve is the obvious candidate for becoming your second home.

A Moorish Past

Portugal, and the Algarve in particular, has much that reminds us of its Moorish past, with a Muslim heritage leaving marks right through its cultural identity. An Arab presence in Portugal of more than half a millennium (712-1249) could never be lost forever, despite efforts to eradicate any signs of it in the aftermath of the Christian Re-conquest. Architecture and art, the Portuguese language and place names, even the local cuisine, all reveal Moorish influences, clearly adding to the region’s cultural interest. The imposing walls and towers of the castle of the city of Silves, once the Moorish capital of the Algarve, provide a powerful reminder, as do the mesh of alleys and narrow streets and ‘cubic’, flat-roofed houses in some of the region’s city centres (Olhão). Look up and you’ll see the ornate chimney pots decorating the region’s rooftops, said to mimic minarets. The Algarve itself owes its name to the Moors, who originally referred to the region as Al Gharb, meaning The West, and many are the place names across the region that continue this legacy – Albufeira, Alcoutim, Algoz, Aljezur, Almancil, Alvor, Odeceixe, Odeleite, etc.
For more information on local attractions and possible tours, please contact our guest services.

Loulé Market

Dating from 1908, Loulé Municipal Market provides one of the municipalities architectural highlights, as much of interest to local shoppers as tourists from afar. Designed by Alfredo Costa Campos, the market boasts a revivalist Art Nouveau style of Arab inspiration (Neo-Arabic), four pavilions and four entrances, while its scale was supposed to reflect the prosperity of the municipality. The city’s iconic meeting place for over a hundred years, the market underwent serious renovation work during the first decade of the 21st century, protecting its historic and cultural value and modernising its facilities, to reopen in 2007. Today it is one of the region’s most popular tourist attractions; its unique red domes the symbol of the city. Saturday morning markets are a frenzy of local colour, revealing an enticing blend of fresh produce and traditional regional products.
For more information on local attractions and possible tours, please contact our guest services.

Gastronomy

Revealing a love of seafood, local produce and clear Mediterranean influences, the cuisine of the Algarve is as delicious as it is varied. Split into two distinct different areas, culinary traditions are materialised in fish and shellfish dishes in coastal districts, while chicken, pork and game feature in inland dishes. Staple ingredients in an Algarve kitchen include olive oil, garlic, onion, tomatoes, peppers, parsley and coriander, leading to simple yet surprisingly flavoursome creations.
On the coast, freshly grilled fish, such as sardines, mackerel or seabream, are joined by elaborate shellfish concoctions, such as the famed cataplana, a dish of fish and shellfish cooked in a sealed copper pan of the same name, or simpler risotto style dishes featuring clams, for example. Our Casa do Lago restaurant excels in its seafood creations, combining the freshest catch with local produce to produce memorable, Algarve-inspired dishes.In the hills and valleys of the interior, meat finds its way into hearty stews, or grilled over coals, while expertly cured meats and sausages are commonly used.

The produce of fertile orchards and groves has led to wealth of sweet treats featuring almonds, figs, carobs and citrus fruit. Medronho, an eye-widening spirit made from the fruit of the strawberry tree, is joined by the wonderful wines produced in the Algarve, recently enjoying growing international renown. As is flor de sal, the gourmet sea salt produced in coastal saltpans, praised by leading chefs for its ability to waken flavours in food. Interestingly, the talented mixologists at Bovino Steakhouse bar are a font of knowledge when it comes to the Algarve’s special ingredients, whipping up delicious cocktails with surprising Algarve flavours.

Arts and Crafts

Traditional handicrafts reflect the ingenuity of the local population, in making use of the materials found around them. The resulting items, for everyday use or for decorative purposes, give the Algarve is own particular identity, which needs to be protected. Native plants provide the raw material for a range of crafts, including basket weaving, in which cane, reeds, wicker and palm leaves are used to produce household objects. The cork-oak groves of the inland hills and valleys, especially around São Brás de Alportel, have long provided the corks stopping the world’s wines and champagnes, while recent developments have seen the use of this natural material moving into fashion accessories.

Everyday objects have long been made from clay, with the Algarve’s potters renowned for their decorative work, such as plates, jars, pots and tiles (the village of Porches is well known for this). Handmade terracotta floor tiles are another speciality, with the area surrounding Santa Catarina even lending its name to the ladrilho tiles. Other crafts include rug weaving, copper shaping, doll making and lacework. Unfortunately many of these skills are dying out, as result of depopulation of rural areas, but with the help of innovative organisations, such as TASA, based in Loulé, new ways of combining traditional crafts with contemporary design are being promoted.

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