Travel 2009 – Faro, Estoi, Milreu, Sao Bras do Alportel, Alte, Day 6

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Tuesday, 15th September 2009 – Faro, Estoi, Milreu, Sao Bras do Alportel, Alte, Day 6

Tuesday the weather had improved immensely, which was a relief. After all, what are you going to do in a place that geared for being outside if the weather turns against you? We got up late, and meandered down to breakfast, which was taken on the terrace, in the sun… Lovely. And the breakfast was excellent, especially the tiny, tiny pastei de nata (custard tarts) that were brilliant with some good coffee. The cat was back again, and quickly discovered that Lynne was a distinctly soft touch, and could be cajoled into parting with bits of ham or chourico at regular intervals if miaowed at in a sufficiently pathetic way.

Once we’d finished breakfast the plan was to wander out to visit the Roman villa at Milreu, a ten minute walk from the hotel. I’m often very sceptical about claims like “ten minute walk” but it did indeed only take about that long to walk down the main road through the town and out to the site of the villa. Estoi itself is very pleasant, and in some ways time hasn’t moved on much if the horse and cart we saw was anything to go by.

Mind you, even the pleasantest of places can have its down side, at least in terms of taste!

Anyway, to return to the Romans. A very cheap entry fee was handed over, and we were free to wander around what is a very imposing site. It’s easy to see why the earliest archaeologists to work on it thought they might have found a town, but it is in fact a very large villa, with some impressive mosaics still in situ, as well as a much later tower and an even later farmhouse.

Plenty for everyone, including the very strange catfish with what can only be adequately described as a trout pout on the mosaic surrounding what is believed to have been the villa’s temple.

It was well worth an hour or so of our time, and we managed to wander all round the site in the time available before they closed for lunch. We took that as a signal to go across the small possibly Roman bridge at the bottom of the hill in search of cold water and colder beer in the little cafe overlooking the dried up river bed. While there we were briefly harassed by what we would come to know as the Portuguese bat-eared dog – they came in all shapes and sizes, the common denominator being the massive, sticking up ears on the things! Prove me wrong if you can, but I’m sure they are a definite breed! Suitably refreshed, we walked back to the hotel, collected the car, and headed out to explore.

Our first port of call was Sao Bras do Alportel, where we completely and utterly failed to locate the museum, but we did find some pretty little streets, a lovely park and garden, and a large church (but it was closed).

We found the Museum cafe, but the museum was nowhere to be seen, so we finally gave up, got back in the car and drove up to Alte, where the guidebooks all suggested there was a church worth a visit. It has been restored last year at great cost to the EU, and from the outside it looked lovely, but guess what? It was closed. Even though there was a board up in the tourist office offering guided tours. “Closed” said the lady in the tourist office. Well, that was three out of three so far…

We gave up, had a coffee overlooking the square, then trundled slowly back to the hotel, where we took to the pool, and had a (very) late lunch of a sandwich and a glass of wine from the pool bar. The pool was cold but refreshing and it was great to sit in the sun for a while before retreating to our room to shower and change for dinner. The plan was to go and find somewhere to eat in Faro, and while we were at it establish whether it was worth going back into Faro in the morning to investigate the old town.

We blundered our way into Faro and parked – more by luck than judgement – down by the walls of the old town, and wandered in. We had a couple of possible restaurants in mind but got sidetracked into Faz Gostos, which was deserted, to our great bafflement, especially once we’d tucked into our starters – foie gras…

Goats’ cheese…

And mains – Lynne’s three “shrimps” in a mango sauce proving to be the size of small lobsters…

And were theatrically flambeed for our entertainment by the chef/patron Duval Pestana…

My hake in batter with clam rice was also pretty damn good).

It was excellent food, and the green apple sorbet they brought us next was good too.

Whether the desserts would have been as good, I have no idea. I couldn’t manage one by then.

A coffee to keep me awake as we drove back to the hotel was enough for me, and as we left people started to come in, so perhaps we were just too early. As it turned out, it was just as well we did leave fairly early, because the damn satnav took us round the same bit of the town twice and was trying to do it again when we gave up and followed signs for the airport, intending to sort it all out from there… it proved a lot easier than repeatedly going round the same square, presumably until such time as we achieved escape velocity or something similar.

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