Who knew managing a full time job, family life & a blog would be so hard! I thought I'd get to this post a day or 2 after I wrote part 1, but here I am over a week later and I'm just starting it. I think I need to lower my expectations for myself to better align with reality. Anyhow, thanks for being patient while I get my act together!
As promised, this is part 2 of our Portugal trip, where we headed off to the sunny shores of the Algarve! Our days in Lisbon were already exceeding our expectations, and we couldn't imagine it getting any better, but, it sure did! There are many little towns dotting the Algarve and it was hard to pick one as our base, but ultimately we decided on Lagos (pronounced with a sort of 'SH' sound at the end), mostly for its walkability, varied accessible beaches and vegan food options. We generally won't rent a car when traveling abroad, and Lagos proved easy to get to and easy to get around without our own vehicle.
On day 4 of our Portugal trip, we easily check out of our apartment and headed to the train station with our luggage in tow. We had pre-booked our train tickets from Santa Apolonia train station to Lagos. While I did have directions from our apartment to this train station, which was about a 25 minute walk from our apartment, we got a bit turn-around on the way there. But, because everyone in Portugal was so nice, a man saw us sort of scratching our heads and offered to assist us, which was amazingly helpful. We arrived at the train station with plenty of time to spare, a bit sweaty and out of breath, but all in one piece. While waiting for our train to arrive, we were able to purchase a few vegan food items in the train station that we would enjoy on the ride. We did have to make a couple of train changes along the way, but they were no trouble and this was certainly the most direct route from Lisbon to the Algarve, via train. Total cost for roundtrip tickets for 2 adults and 1 child was right around $100 and travel time was about 3 hours and 15 minutes. When we arrived in Lagos, we did not have transportation to our hotel, but instead planned to walk there from the main train station. It was nice to stretch our legs a bit after sitting on the train!
After checking into our room at Vila Gale Lagos, we immediately changed into swimsuits and headed for the pool and beach. Following a quick swim, we changed and headed into town for dinner, on foot. The walk from the hotel to town was just under a mile and took about 20 minutes. Taking a taxi was certainly an option, but the wait for said taxis was ridiculously long, and I have no patience for that! Our first night, we had a delicious dinner at The Green Room. We sat outside and people watched while enjoying some vegan nachos, served by super friendly staff. After dinner, we took a stroll down by the harbor, where lots of little vendors set up shop. You can buy all sorts of things from the vendors like beachwear, jewelry, etc. Lots of tour companies also set up shop along this strip, so if you're interested in some activities like boat excursions, you'll be able to find out about the area offerings here. On very tired feet, we walked back to our hotel and turned in for the night.
This was our first full day at the hotel and we really got to check it out. We headed down to the included breakfast a bit before it opened. It was a good thing we did, too, as the line to get in was already quite long. As we were there at peak tourist season, it didn't surprise us to see so many people, but it was a nice reminder that we would want to get up early for breakfast each day if we wanted a good table and the freshest food. This hotel was definitely a big resort. It was large and there were many, many guests, and the food operation was clearly one of quantity over quality. The breakfast, while plentiful, was nothing to write home about. As vegans, we had some fresh fruit options, some cereal and toast, and we could request soy milk for both our coffee and cereal. For non-vegans, there were the typical breakfast options like eggs (done in various ways), bacon, pastries, etc. Luckily it was included in our room cost, as it was probably not a breakfast I would have paid extra for. The outside pool area was lovely, and, as long as you got out there early enough, you could grab a seat (or 3) under an umbrella. Directly across the street from the hotel was a nice sandy beach. It was quite crowded, but we didn't mind, since we only ran over to take a quick dip in the ocean before heading out for the day.
Again, we walked into town, this time heading Pinhao Beach. This was the cove beach that was closest to town. As we had expected, the views were lovely. We found a little patch of sand and and set down our things. The beach was crowded, as we had anticipated, but not many people were in the water. It was our little ones first experience at a beach like this, and it did not disappoint! As we were there late morning into the noon hour, the sun was quite strong. We did bring lots of water and some snacks, but after an hour or 2 of exploring the beach area, we headed back into town for some lunch. On this day we headed over to Beats and Burritos, which would become our go-to lunch stop while in Lagos. The vegan burrito there was Ah-mazing. Like, the best burrito I've ever had. Even Little C liked it - so much so that she ate the whole thing, which NEVER happens. After lunch, we milled around town a bit before grabbing a sorbet and heading back to the hotel. After a quick rest in our hotel room, we headed down to the pool, where Jay & C splashed around and I read in a shaded chair. We did a quick clean-up after the pool and then headed back into town for dinner, this time stopping at La Esterella. While not an entirely vegan restaurant, they did have several vegan options, which was nice.
Day 6 & 7
Days 6 & 7 were more of the same - breakfast at the hotel, a walk into town, a visit to a cove beach, some pool time and dinner. On day 6 we headed to Praia Dona Ana by foot. This was a bit further of a trek, but totally worth it! Once at the beach, we were able to connect to different beaches through a series of caves. Dinner that night was at Estudio Vegatariano.
Day 7 was the big one - a visit to Praia do Camilo. This time, we took the bus from the center of town up the hill. Knowing the walk to Praia Dona Ana was a challenge and that this beach was even further away, we realized we'd better hitch a ride if we wanted to make it. I failed to mention earlier that accessing these beaches is not for the faint of heart. They require a descent down very, very steep wooden stairs. So, if you have trouble walking or have very little children, it may prove to be a big challenge to just get down to the water.
We spent the good part of the day just exploring the beach and hidden caves. Again, the beach was CROWDED. It was challenging to even find a small spot to sit! Eventually, we found a little corner of sand near the stairs and settled down there. Word of caution - there are NO facilities at any of these beaches. If you need to use the restroom, you'll have to climb ALL the way back up the stairs to the top of the cliffs (I won't say what the other option is - but I'm sure you know).
We opted to walk back into town when we were all beached out, stopping and taking in the amazing cliff-top views along the way. Again we ate at Beats & Burritos for a late lunch, before heading back to our hotel. Dinner that night was at the The Green Room.
We awoke the next day, headed down to an early breakfast and then spent some time at the pool, before returning to our room to pack up. We had a marginal lunch at the hotel, before checking out and heading to the train station to catch our ride back to Lisbon. Our return journey was the same as our arrival, although, the commuter train from Lagos to Tunes was less than ideal. I won't go into the details, but lets just say it was hot and stuffy and crowded and some people (not us - others on the train) weren't able to cope with all of those things. But, that's the way it goes sometimes, and it certainly did not ruin the trip for us in any way!
After arriving in Lisbon that afternoon, we checked into our hotel, The Lisboa Carmo Hotel, which was easily the best hotel we've ever stayed in. It was this big suite with 2 bathrooms, a king bed in one room and a twin bed in another. It was amazing! Our only regret was that we only had one night there. The area the hotel was in was also fabulous! It was a stone's throw from the Carmo Church and Convent ruins, which although closed when we got there, were lovely to see from the outside. We had dinner at Jardim das Cerejas again, which was just as good as the first time we ate there. After dinner, we headed off to our favorite Gelato stop, Amorino. They had lots of vegan options, including a to-die-for hazelnut gelato! While we couldn't enjoy them, they also made these beautiful desserts with gelato and macarons. Drool.
Sadly, this was our last day in Lisbon. We awoke to breakfast at the hotel which was simply amazing. Everything was freshly baked and prepared and they provided us with soy lattes and soy milk for our cereal and for our little one to drink. We had a pre-arranged cab back to the airport, who, just like our first driver, was incredibly friendly. He talked all about the areas we were driving through on our way back to the airport, while also telling us the things we missed, such a Cascais, that we should come back and see another time. We were certainly sad to be leaving, as we know we only scratched the surface of what this wonderful country has to offer. So, although we've now been there once, Portugal is still on the list of places to visit!
Be sure to check out our post all about the first part of our trip to Portugal, including Lisbon and Sintra!
Day 1: Arrive, Praca do Comercio, Check into apartment
Day 2: Castelo de Sao Jorge
Day 3: Sintra
Day 4: Train to Lagos, Lagos beach/pool
Day 5: Pool, Cove beach
Day 6: Pool, Cove beach
Day 7: Pool, Cove beach
Day 8: Train back to Lisbon, exploring area around hotel
Day 9: Return home!
(all prices USD) - Excludes food or unplanned activities (such as TukTuk rides)
Direct Flight YUL to LIS - $2484
Lisbon Airbnb (3 nights) - $500
Airport Transfers (roundtrip) - $67
Castelo de Sao Jorge - $20
Train Tickets to Sintra - $10
Quinta da Regaleira - $23
Train Tickets to Lagos (roundtrip) - $100
Lagos Hotel (4 nights) - $800
Lisbon Hotel (1 night) - $280