Travel Notes - Faro, Portugal

At Part Wild we’re built on a desire to travel, the wanderlust as they refer to it in Germany, so the Covid-19 worldwide pandemic has been a punch to the guts. Australia has been akin to Alcatraz while the UK more like a quarantined section of a prison camp, in a quagmire that keeps getting worse.

Things changed in Summer though and the pandemic was subsiding, numbers were dropping and the vaccine rollout in the UK was actually a roaring success; something we’ve actually done far better than Australia and possibly the rest of the world.

It was time for Part Wild to walk on foreign land again. Thank fuck! I can say, hand on heart, that the UK and the attitude of some sectors and our own government have been abysmal and selfish. To get to another country even for just eight days was welcomed respite.

How had travel changed?

PCRs or LFDs to go to Portugal were required. This wasn’t without its dramas, you can read about our PCR drama here.

Mask wearing – all around the airport and on the plane. In Portugal it was also customary to wear masks outside in busy streets when walking around. You’ve heard of a t-shirt suntan, 2021 brings us the mask suntan.

PCRs or LFDs to return - In Faro, it was a simple drop off to a clinic and our test was processed in less than a day – way more efficient than the UK process! There was also the Day 2 test once home in the UK to organize before travelling. Not too many other changes. At the time, testing was adding roughly £150 per person but after a government inquiry and the dropping of some required tests for the double vaccinated these additional costs have no significantly dropped for travel between the UK and Portugal.

Onto Faro

For most Brits, it would appear Faro isn’t a lot more than an airport and a train or coach transfer westwards towards Albufeira, Quarteira, Lagos and other locations targeting ‘Brits abroad’ Oi Oi! Walk a few hundred yards away from the Bus and Coach stations and the British voices soon become few and far between. Bliss.

Air BnB located, ½ a mile from the port and we settle for the night.

Old meets…old?

Faro has its “Old Town” which is set amidst the castle and old churches and bell towers however, I don’t really know where the Old Town ends and the new one begins, as everywhere looks traditional. Stunning tiling, amazing architecture everywhere, even small things like doors look incredible. The peeling paint and crumbling sections almost add to the area’s appeal.

We explore our locality; it becomes clear this place is built on a background of religion and Roman Catholicism and holds these traditions dear.

The Chapel of Bones

I’m definitely one for something gothic and macabre. Whether it be music, a film, history or a book – the darker the better. It doesn’t get much darker than the Chapel of Bones or Capela dos Ossos. The 18th Century Catholic Church is built with the exhumed bones of Carmelite Monks (who served in the neighboring church) from overcrowded cemeteries. There are over 1,000 skulls alone, as well as bones that are embedded within the walls of the small chapel in geometric patterns, where dead eyes stare down at you from every possible angle. There was even a bit of cranium in the middle of the floor that must have fallen, I picked it up and moved it. To think I was touching the skull of somebody that existed up to 400 years ago was kind of mind blowing in an almost literal sense.

To get into The Chapel of Bones you first go through the twin bell church tower Igreja do Carmo. A church with intricately carves pieces lavishly decorated with gold leaf, a far cry from the Chapel of Bones.

Uber to Estoi

Don’t bother with public transport unless you want to. Uber is cheap in Faro…very cheap! It’s completely easy to book as well. We bussed it to Estoi and Uber’d back when we missed our bus.

Estoi is a step closer to completely immersing yourself in Portugal. There are less English translations on signposts, it’s quiet, arid and full of olive skinned, elderly people looking like they’ve enjoyed the sun their entire lives and may be a little less forthcoming to pleas of “fala Ingles?”

The small village is home to Palacio de Estoi, nicknamed The Pink Palace. The 19th Century Palace that was near ruins had a recent renovation to convert it into a luxury hotel. The ground’s gardens are open to the public, however I did discover that the hotel swimming pool is very close by and had many scantily clad women and (with camera in hand) I went from tourist to prowler within moments and quickly found my girlfriend and swiftly exited down the steps.

Other recommendations

I definitely recommend a boat trip out on the Ria Formosa Wetlands. We took a trip on a solar powered, pretty much silent boat to take in the bird life and nature. Praia de Faro is a beach bar accessed easiest by Ferry, it has a number of cafes, bars and restaurants along the 5km stretch. It also has a decent break and is reliable for surf. Parque Ribeirinho de Faro is a purpose built sort of exercise area. It’s quiet, has picnic benches and stunning views of the wetlands out to the airport.

Of course, the surrounding areas of Port de Faro with it’s beautiful cobbled streets, cafes, bars, restaurants, old buildings, historic churches, street food stalls, the actual port and coastline are enough to keep you going for days.

Eat the seafood, drink the Super Bock & Sagres, give the language crack and just walk around. Faro’s bloody incredible and so far we’ve only scratched the surface of this wonderful place.