Portugal, meu amor

The fado of Faro

Blazing sun, quiet beach, endless summer, reasonable prices. Faro is everything you need for a vacation and more. Far from pretence and unnecessary trends, it shines most through its utter simplicity.

By Jean-Pierre Chanial
Carvoiero, a picturesque beach resort in Portugal.

At the sharp end of Portugal, land is swallowed by the Atlantic. As we reach the South edge of the country and the continent, the Algarve becomes brighter and more beautiful. This region stretches over 150 km between Spain and Cape St. Vincent, a look-out post for all adventurers at sea. This is the perfect distance to enjoy a discovery road trip in a rented cabriolet. At the heart of the region, the capital Faro takes cover behind the heavy walls of its fortress. Bordering the land is a gorgeous sea of endless beaches and discrete coves nestled in the tall, beautifully sculpted ochre cliffs.

The relentless attack of the sea

During the flight (2 hours and 15 minutes from Paris), a simple glance through the window is enough to grasp the beauty of the white city, crowded around the cathedral and defiant of the Atlantic. Separated from the ocean by a vast lagoon and endless strips of sand, this land promises good times in the sun. West, sand becomes stone in a gorgeous spectacle of metaphorical sculptures. An angel, an elephant, a face, all are eaten away by the artistic attack of restless waves, the soft touch of the breeze and the embrace of a blazing sun.

Carvoiero, small town in the west of Algarve.

Visit Faro, but don’t miss out on Tavira, Albufeira, Portimão, Lagos and Figueira, old villages which bear the mark of centuries of architectural beauty. Where the cathedral was built, a mosque used to stand; there, a Roman temple used to welcome its believers, after overtaking the grounds of a Carthaginian fortress. For time goes by and only the memory of man does not waver. Fishermen throw happy nets, and terraces invent the taste of happiness.

The getaway at the edge of the land

It’s dinner time, and the conversation is lively. A couple is reminiscing about their getaway to the edge of the land. At the world’s end, Cape St. Vincent is flanked by dizzying cliffs, as steep as the break of a continent, every bit as impressive as America, and filled with orcas bathing in the clear waters… Next to the couple, others remember the gorgeous cathedral and the panache of the castle… or was it one of the 42 golf courses in Algarve, or the lingering taste of the delicious local food? The rest of Portugal drools over the town’s tasty marriage of grilled fish, assorted seafood and local wines. Cheers!

The streets of Faro, out of the ordinary.

Picturesque Faro was painted with all the happy colours. Blue for the jacarandas in bloom and the azulejos of the episcopal palace, which witnessed the history of the city. Orange for the fruit trees in every garden. White for the lime walls of the old buildings. Bright red for the royal poincianas providing shade in the parks. Ochre for the tiles of the old monastery, the chapel, or the patrician house. On the roofs, the cross is a frequent guest, often protected by a pair of storks. From their fancy nest, they watch over the tranquil city.

The vacuity of matter and the celestial lights

To enjoy the view, climb to the top of the gothic cathedral bell tower. From the terrace, the city centre appears as a white, quiet miniature on a big screen. The next day, visit a quiet chapel for any needed prayers. Then, lay eyes on the breathtaking ossuary of the Portuguese monastery, a tradition of piling the bones of their brothers for generations. Displaying the vacuity of matter so that their souls better join the celestial lights…

Faro with the jacarandas in bloom.

Let us brush off these otherworldly thoughts and focus on the immensity of the border between land and sea. The lagoon stretches over kilometres of bushes, sand and water. These are part of the 45,000-acre Ria Formosa natural park where millions of migratory birds build their nest. Beyond the park, an endless strip of sand feels the spray of the Atlantic ocean and becomes the runway for mermaids in their best swimsuits. Their bodyguards dream of surfing, spinning and kiting as they gaze at the horizon. Worldly thoughts to the unbothered birds, who chirp, chatter, screech and coo or simply fall into silence as they await the next part of their journey.

Cape St. Vincent.

Red rose in the neckline

No need to think about how to conclude this trip: enjoy grilled sardine and vinho verde at the terrace of a restaurant then go sit at the back, next to the small stage. There, black and  white pictures immortalised artists like Amalia Rodriguez, or Fernando Farinha. A thousand voices protecting the legend, culture, and identity of one tradition: the fado. A woman comes forward, she’s young, she’s wearing a black low-cut dress with naked shoulders, a lace scarf, and in the neckline, one single red rose. A guitarist also arrives, then another one. Their instruments are shaped like a mandolin. They stare at the diva. She bats an eyelash, and that’s their cue.

Iconic Portuguese love songs take the lead, with a slow tempo and a deep, powerful, intense voice promising eternal passion and whispering of Love’s despair. Hand on the heart, blown kisses from the fingertips and gazes lost in the mystery of a forsaken lover. Clapping, cheering, encore. It is the fado of Faro.

Useful information:

Portugal is in the same time zone as the United Kingdom. The local currency is the euro.
For more information: https://www.visitportugal.com/en

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