Everyone throughout history has wanted the Algarve – from the Phoenicians to the Romans, the Visigoths, the Moors, the Spanish up to the modern day slicer, aka golfer!
In my opinion, there are three reasons why this tiny bit of the world was so attractive. Geography is one! The Southern most region of Portugal’s coastline is almost entirely accessible. The climate – how can you beat an average of 25 C or 77 F in winter?
The last reason has to be Four Seasons Fairways, one of my Bits of Perfection. For those who came to Quinta do Lago before it was open, you had the misfortune to have to stay somewhere else, but we who live now get to stay here, and often!
During my short stay, I began to realize that I was almost the only person who was a first timer! Ask anyone dining in the Clubhouse, enjoying a drink on the terrace, swimming in the pool and you will discover that they’ve been returning to Four Seasons Fairways annually without fail.
I have discussed this before, but just to reiterate, I find returning to the same destination year after year just as exciting as visiting someplace new. You uncover more and more layers that you would never find on just one visit. Still, I was determined to experience as much as I could in only the four days I had there.
La minha casa for the three nights was one of the 132 villas, all set within immaculately manicured gardens. Decorated in a traditional Portuguese style with terracotta roofs, whitewashed buildings, most of them at most two stories high. No villa obstructs the view of the hills and sky beyond.
What was completely unexpected was the variety of different flowers that are dotted around the property: Halimium Ocymoides (the little yellow flowers known as rockroses) Allium (the white puff balls), Anthemis tinctoria (Yellow chamomile), Rhododendron and loads of Hibiscus!
My villa was the height of perfection – there was nothing else I could have asked for or wanted – and that included a private pool!
The interiors were just as subtle as the exteriors – hints of grey-blue in the living room and lime green in the bedroom. Comfy sofas to snuggle in, down pillows always a must, huge towels, strong wi-fi, and secluded terraces. There were even BBQ Facilities for those of us who wanted to cook outside. It was also super quiet. Only a splash here and there was heard to remind you that you were not alone.
The only time I saw anyone was at the Clubhouse – whether on the terrace enjoying a meal or by the bar.
I had arrived at lunchtime and was crossing my fingers that one thing would be on the menu. I am happy to say that I wasn’t disappointed – my first bite, or should I say sip, was Gazpacho, that perfect combination of veggies pressed into soup-form, made for summer days on the Iberian Peninsula. I pretty much ate that continuously for three days!
Although the chef is aware that his audience may be those seeking familiar fayre, he has filled the menu with local Portuguese dishes! For the first time, I was able to taste Corvina, known in English as Meagre, a white, firm large flaked fish traditional to the Algarve. It was superb and a taste I was unfamiliar with before the trip, now I may have to seek it out at a the few Portuguese restaurants in London.
One night I was there, Piri-Piri Chicken was an addition to the Portuguese menu. This spicy dish, made ubiquitous by a chain I won’t mention, tasted like something completely different in its home country. Piri-Piri seasoning can include crushed chilis, onion, pepper, lemon, oil as well as some other spices and is not for the faint of heart. I did ask them to tone it down a bit and I can never go back to that other place that I won’t name but all you Brits know! For those who want the luxury of eating in their villa or at their own pool without cooking, the kitchen has a take-out menu!
The Clubhouse bar offers jugs of Sangria, Harvey Wallbangers and frozen cocktails at the main pool, but don’t let that make you think there are no mixologists here. Rui Pereira hosts a Gin night every Wednesday in the Clubhouse, Vicky and Nuno can make anything you want. They even invent cocktails like the Caiperão, made with local liqueur, Beirão.
Check out my podcast on Tuesday when I sit down to have a chat with the whole bar team, until then watch Rui make our Cocktail of the week: Sharish Blue Magic
Unlike a city break, free time here is usually spent sitting on your deck, dipping your toe in your private pool, while finishing up Crime and Punishment, which you still have 300 pages left to read.
I escaped from Raskolnikov’s trials and tribulations, by attempting to hit a little yellow ball into the distance as hard as I could. Having held a golf club maybe twice in my life, I took advantage of Four Seasons Fairways’ proximity to the Paul McGinley driving range to test myself again! I couldn’t disappoint my teacher, José Ferreira, the Academy Manager and Head Professional, and found whacking the ball a lot easier than I thought, telling where they went was not as easy!
One morning, I used one of the many available push bikes to head down to the Ria Formosa with the intention of swimming in the Atlantic. Although I love the Med, as an American who summered in Martha’s Vineyard and the Hamptons, I sometimes long for the cold, biting water of the salty sea. The briny scent transports me right back to my youth!
Over this wooden bridge, one of the longest in the world, is the only way to get to the sea. In Quinta do Lago, the Ria Formosa sits between the mainland and the beach. This 60 kilometer estuary is one of the Algarve’s highlights and really should not be missed.
Originating in Garrão and running all the way to Manta Rota, Portugal, the Ria Formosa Natural Park is home to birds, sea life, fisherman and even the Portuguese water dog, all of whom you can see in one day, if you are lucky!
Once you cross the bridge, the Atlantic Ocean awaits and this is how it looks…so inviting!
If you feel like leaving the comfort of your villa into town, I recommend Loulé or Faro. I personally wouldn’t miss either of them, especially if you like a little culture with your sun, or if the weather is not working for you.
You’ll have to wait for the post though! Still a few hints: if you are heading out, make sure you visit Loulé on Saturday and head to their local food market and pre-book Ernesto at Look-Al.com to show you his hidden bits of Faro.
As a first timer to the Algarve, like the marauders before me, I want it to be mine forever. Unlike them, my own private pool at Four Seasons Fairways might make me too lazy to leave my villa to pillage and plunder.
PIN IT LATER
Thanks so much to Four Seasons Fairways for all their hospitality! I had a great experience which is reflected in the post above and, of course, everything on Best Bits is my own opinion!