Questions & Answers

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Got a question you don’t see answered here? We love inquisitive travelers. Drop us an e-mail, ask away. info@gwenmccauley.ca

 

Who Does A Taste of Algarve Appeal To?

A Taste of Algarve appeals to you if you:

  • Enjoy great food, fine wine, casual dining, unique culture and intelligent conversation
  • Like to meet and converse with locals who are knowledgeable about food & wine
  • Want to discover a healthy, life affirming cuisine based in whole foods, simply prepared
  • Appreciate the company of others, yet want alone time for reflection and contemplation
  • Are new to traveling on your own because of widowhood,  divorce, retirement or you simply have a desire to discover more
  • Are a seasoned traveler looking for something different
  • Live an alternative lifestyle and seek a mainstream group travel experience where you’ll be accepted and honoured

I’d like to know more about A Taste of Algarve:

shells-2428A Taste of Algarve is a culinary experience focused on dining for people interested in food and culture. Set in the rich, historic Portuguese province of Algarve, you will spend time with an experienced facilitator/guide and up to 9 other like-minded people.  You’ll stay at an ocean front hotel, in luxurious surroundings but there won’t be any pretense. The Algarve people and their food are earthy, ‘real’ and honest, reflecting a way of life and a love of food that has been largely forgotten elsewhere.

There’ll be plenty of time each day for you to relax as well as to visit local sights of interest, explore farmer’s markets, hill villages and shops.  Advice and guidance is readily available from our facilitator/guide, Gwen McCauley, who is knowledgeable about the area and its many amenities.  Gwen has been visiting The Algarve since 1975, has blogged and written extensively about the area and writes & publishes Algarve Dining, a comprehensive restaurant review guide for the region

A Taste of Algarve offers you the camaraderie of a group experience with opportunities for solitude typically only available in a retreat setting.  Plus you get access to a wide array of scenery, sights and activities while having a ‘home base’ for your trip. No daily unpacking & re-packing.  Our hotel has been carefully selected to offer you a view of one of the most beautiful beaches in a land of beautiful beaches, plus the latest in amenities and ready access to shopping and entertainment.  Free wi-fi is available, as is a swimming pool and a lounge.

Some of our activities include:

  • Orientation seminar with wine, cheese and Port tasting
  • Visit to a local pastry shop/bakery to discover the joys of hearty Portuguese breads and exquisite pastries
  • Visits to local farmers markets to explore incredible produce & the delightful people growing and selling it
  • Daily lunch & dinner at carefully selected restaurants, with a focus on regional Portuguese specialties, house wine included
  • Daily breakfast at our hotel
  • A music evening to hear Fado, the soulful music akin to The Blues
  • Sunday visit to a 10thC castle and a musical lunch on the patio

 

“Ask not what you can do for your country.  Ask what’s for lunch!”

Orson Wells

Why the Algarve?

Portugal and the Algarve may not be well known to North American travelers yet they offer so much.  The Algarve, in particular, is a fun, easy and culturally distinct place to visit.

redbluewall-3640Algarve’s top 12 benefits

  • Easy access from North America ~direct flights from Toronto to Faro, return
      • Safe, Safe, SafeFun, fun, and more fun
        • Little crime,
        • Drinkable water,
        • Food can be safely eaten raw and unpeeled
        • Hygiene standards are like at home,
        • Good roads, similar driving habits
  • Lots of activities: Dining, golfing, hiking, sightseeing, touring, bird watching, surfing, kayaking, cycling …and more! 
  • English widely spoken, yet Portuguese culture is honoured & celebrated
  • Fabulous, fresh food ~ ‘take out’ barely exits
  • Glorious, clean and sanitary sand beaches at every turn:  Choose from long swathes of golden sand; tiny private coves; broad crescents; wild surf beaches
  • Consistently great weather ~ only about 20 days of rain a year!
  • Welcoming locals who enjoy visitors
  • Ancient churches, castles, and ruins for history buffs to explore
  • Some of the world’s best golf courses
  • Most reasonable prices in Europe
  • 1st world economy ~ severe poverty, shantytowns & begging are almost unheard of; no need to feel guilty here!

Personally, I love the Algarve because it is laid back, visually stunning and still unspoiled in many places. I can easily access all kinds of wide open spaces that fill my soul with delight; the rugged parts of its coastline appeal to the adventurer in me.  You’d have to work hard to get a bad meal or an indifferent glass of wine.  Plus, at 160 x 40 km (100 x 25 mi) in size,

The cure for boredom is curiosity.  There is no cure for curiosity.

Dorothy Parker

What will the weather be like during our tour?

Greg-Sipping-Coffee-at-Cafe-Crema-350Whether it is spring or autumn, expect mostly sunny days.  Spring is a bit cooler with temperatures in the 20-24C (68-75F) range.  Autumn is a bit warmer and drier, with most days ranging from 24-27C (75-80F).  Evenings cool off a bit so make sure you have a wrap or light jacket.

Spring or autumn, we visit at a time that is perfect for active people.

In spring the landscape is lush with blossoms. Wild herbs such as thyme, fennel and lavender cover the hillsides as do poppies, wild gladioli and all sorts of ‘mystery blossoms’.  In autumn, you’ll find markets filled with pumpkins, locally grown figs, and pomegranates.

The Algarve is blessed with an almost perfect climate

How should I dress for my A Taste of Algarve tour?

Resting-under-an-orange-tree-VRSAAs you might expect, the Algarve is a casual place so dress in a way that is comfortable for you.  All but the most exclusive of restaurants are fine with diners arriving in shorts or jeans.  On most beaches going topless is acceptable for women, although you won’t feel out of place if you prefer to cover up.

Cobblestones are everywhere so if you plan to do any amount of walking make certain that you have at least one good pair of sturdy shoes.  While I see many women in high heeled shoes, I can’t imagine making my way for very far without a thin heel catching in spaces between paving stones.

Are visas or special documents needed?

Passports, of course, are absolutely necessary for North Americans. A 90-day visitors visa is automatically offered upon entry to Portugal, under European Union regulations. If you are coming from another part of the world, we’ll gladly support you in finding out if any additional documents are necessary for you to enter Portugal.

Should I be concerned about driving?

Throughout your A Taste of Algarve experience we’ll provide the transportation to all scheduled events and venues. For your free day of exploration or if you choose to extend your stay and want to rent a car, the good news is that the Portuguese drive on the same side of the road as we do in North America.  Plus the rules of the road are pretty much the same as we’re accustomed to.  They don’t allow you to turn right on a red light and the speed limit on the freeway is a whopping 120 KPH (75 MPH), but otherwise it is just like driving at home.

Loule-Traffic-Circle300The major quirk of the Algarve is the prevalence of traffic circles.  But they are easy to master and you’ll receive a tutorial should you rent a car.  You’ll find that these circles actually make moving around much easier.  Traffic jams are almost unheard of.

You’ll drive a much smaller car that you’re likely accustomed to at home.  Almost everyone uses a manual transmission.  Upgrades to automatic transmission are available with a significant surcharge.

Finding a parking spot can be a challenge.  On the upside, there are very few places where you have to pay for parking.  And I must admit that many of my greatest finds in terms of views, small shops and interesting sights were discovered as I drove myself up and down back streets looking for an available parking slot!

How fit should I be to enjoy my A Taste of Algarve experience?

Remnants-of-a-roman-bath Stone-Staircaise-MonchiqueThere is not a lot of walking required as part of your A Taste of Algarve tour. However, there will be a fair bit of stair climbing, the ground surface can be very uneven and the Portuguese don’t even the ground surface out like we’re accustomed to. There’ll be lots and lots of short inclines and small hills even though you’ll be transported to most destinations.

If you need to use a cane, a walker or some other sort of assistive device, this may not be the tour for you, although we can certainly discuss your particular scenario.

The following comments are provided in case you are thinking of extending your stay.

You’ll find that there is a huge range of terrain available, depending both on your fitness level and your sense of adventure.  Many fine walks are possible along the flat, broad headlands.  Much more challenging hikes can be had in the Monchique Mountains and in the Rocha de Pena area.

I am anything but an athlete and yet I find that I walk much more in the Algarve than I do at home.  The streets are filled with interesting sights and sounds.  And the terrain is not flattened out when homes and apartments are built. So the terrain is always shifting which means that a short walk gives you more of a workout than a typical city landscape would.

For cycling enthusiasts it is easy to find rolling hills, long flat stretches or demanding grades, again depending on your fitness level and interest in a challenge.  Most secondary roads are hard-topped so road bikes can take you many interesting places.  And once you are away from the densely populated coastal strip, you’ll be amazed at how little traffic you’ll encounter.  Cafes and small stores dot the landscape so there are lots of opportunities to pull over for a rest and refreshments.  Best to stick to coffee, tea, or soft drinks, though.  Those inexpensive yet delicious half-litres of wine that are ubiquitous throughout the Algarve can mean for a wobbly next stage of your journey!

Whether you are a couch potato or a high performance athlete you’ll readily find something that accommodates your needs and expectations in the Algarve.

What other experiences do you offer in Portugal?

Tara-in-a-blue-mood600Since 2007 I have been offering varied spiritually oriented secular retreats in the Algarve. These experiences appeal to people who are seeking deeper meaning in life, greater Self understanding, and more profound relationships in their lives.

  • Awakening Spirit …women rediscovering their essence is currently not scheduled.  This 2-week adventure plumbs the depths of women’s conversations about creating a life of meaning and purpose and their ability to create the kind of life they want for themselves.  Great for women in transition whether as a result of loss, retirement, empty nesting or a desire for more.

 

  • Feeding the Muse …exploring the artist you can become is currently not scheduled.  A 2-week exploration of personal and professional creativity based in a custom process guaranteed to have you painting in no time, even if you’ve never picked up a paintbrush before.  And if you are an experienced artist, you’ll press the boundaries of your awareness of your creativity.  A MUST for anyone seeking to expand their creativity in all areas of life.

 

  • Leadership Voice …expanding the leadership paradigm is not currently scheduled.  This 2-week experience is for entrepreneurs, organizational leaders and those seeking leadership positions.  It is an opportunity to discover deeply held beliefs about the nature of people, leadership and your abilities to lead.

 

One Response to Questions & Answers

  1. Brenda says:

    Hi I just finished listening to you on the expat chat and really enjoyed what you had to say. I am now retired and will be going to Portugal for the winter also and would love to meet up with you while I am there.

    Hope to hear back from you soon.

    Best Wishes
    Brenda

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