Welcome to my place ... Armação de Pêra, Algarve, Portugal
‘A big plate of grilled sardines with a jug of wine makes a terrific lunch for €15’
Senhora da Rocha, near Armação de Pêra in the Algarve, Portugal. Photograph: iStock
Jane Shortall was born in Ireland then lived in south west France for years, where she wrote about her life for various Irish, English and US publications. After the death of her husband she “moved around a bit”and unexpectedly found “this little gem of a town”, Armação de Pêra in the Algarve in Portugal. She has remodelled an old flat, is writing again, learning Portuguese and enjoying a laid-back life, 90 seconds from the beach.
Where do you always bring people to when they visit?
The beach. My little Algarve town, Armação de Pêra, has an outstanding beach. Portuguese families from Lisbon and the northern cities of Porto and Braga choose to spend their holidays here. Many spend every single day on the golden sand with picnics, or eating at the little bars. Whatever the season, for me, our seemingly endless, spotless, soft sandy beach, lapped by the ever changing dazzling blue and green colours of the Atlantic, is the perfect place.
The top three things to do there, that don’t cost money, are . . .
Walk the promenade. In 10 minutes, you will experience two different worlds. Begin at the Holiday Inn at the modern end of town. Here are the famous cliffs, Mediterranean pines, tall palm trees, giant green and yellow Aloe Vera plants and tall apartment blocks. The promenade has wooden and stone seats, ideal to watch the sunsets. At the other end, see the fishing boats and the fishermen’s huts on the beach. Armação de Pêra is a fishing town without a harbour, so the boats are pushed out to sea and hauled in by tractor. The huts are delightful places to photograph and the fishermen are friendly. Explore the charming old part of town, where I live, with its coloured, red-roofed buildings, many of which are fishermen’s houses. Witness close living, tiny bars and quirky shops in the narrow cobbled streets.
Where do you recommend for a great meal that gives a flavour of Armacao de Pera?
Because Armação de Pêra is all about fish, I’m going for sardines and recommending the place that prides itself on being the first restaurant to open here. A Grelha, or “Tony’s”, as it is known to locals, is hard to beat. A big plate of grilled sardines, accompanied by the traditional tomato salad, plus a dish of boiled potatoes, enjoyed with a jug of wine makes a terrific lunch. The bill for this feast, eaten in typical Algarvian surroundings, will be about €15.
Where is the best place to get a sense of Armação de Pêra’s place in history?
Armação de Pêra is and has always been, a small fishing village. So, drive or take the bus over to Lagos, once the capital of the Algarve. Here, the sense of history is enormous. The streets with their brightly coloured tile-fronted buildings, positively hum with history. In the 1400’s, Lagos was the starting point for astonishing maritime expeditions. Familiar names, Henry the Navigator, Vasco da Gama, Ferdinand Magellan and other Portuguese explorers sailed from here to navigate the world. Their galleons carried spices, exotic goods, and slaves, back to Lagos. This town, and Sagres further west, are perfect places to discover Portugal’s remarkable maritime past.
What should visitors save room in their suitcase for after a visit to Armação de Pêra?
Port. The variety is vast and a small selection pack is a great buy. This is the land of citrus fruits and almonds and they make wonderful liqueurs. Orange flavoured honey. The famous coloured pottery of course. Intricately patterned Portuguese tiles. One friend bought two in my local shop and they now beautifully indicate her Irish house number.
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