We got back a few days ago from a week in Portugal. Our first family holiday abroad together, and it was just lovely. It’ll come as no surprise to you that food featured strongly during our week away, but it might come as a surprise that we chose to go ‘all inclusive’ – having three meals a day at the resort, buffet style.
Being our first foreign experience with the wee lass we wanted to make it as easy as possible for her to eat good meals, and having the choice of the buffet meant that we could get her trying out new stuff without the fear of having to eat something she didn’t like – if she pulled the ‘no likey’ face she could just hop back to the buffet and choose something she knew she liked. And it was a hit – she tried more new things than ever before. We even had her eating salad! Unheard of before.
I also found it fairly easy to avoid breads, pastas, etc, and enjoyed the odd potato or rice accompaniment alongside the tons of lovely vegetables they had, and of course I tried the odd dessert 🙂
The opportunity to try out some other eateries was too strong though, and a few lunches and dinners were had outside of the resort. By far the most impressive was Castelo do Mar. A beautiful restaurant in the port of Albufeira overlooking the sea, serving some delicious dishes. We went for the full three courses with some lovely wine and all three of us were more than satisfied. It was delightful, the food was amazing and the staff were great.
I think the most fun day I had was visiting Loule market, and we happened to come across a really small village market on the way to Loule which was just charming. We were astounding by how cheap everything was, I guess that’s the joys of living in a hot climate where you can produce the majority of your produce yourself.
3 euros for a crate of strawberries! Although I have to say that was something I thought we did better. You can’t beat a Scottish strawberry.
The variety of produce was impressive. It was around now that I decided any future family holidays would be self-catering and we’d be market shopping every other day!
We saw these salt cured fish sides everywhere, but this was now in Loule. I didn’t get the opportunity to taste any but they were very popular. I had to bring back just one blub of the gorgeous looking garlic.
Half of the indoor market sold fish – of every description. So fresh and simple. The wee lass wasn’t too impressed with the octopus.
There were some that we just couldn’t identify. If you know what this is, answers on a postcard please!
It was also in the market that I met this lovely lady, Linda. She’s English but has lived in Portugal for the last 30 years. She lives in the country and makes gluten, dairy free jams, chutneys, pestos, tapenades and other lovey treats.
She was so welcoming and let us taste just about everything. Of course we came away with some stuff! Unfortunately it wasn’t refined sugar free, but hey, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad 🙂
We also lunched in Loule, just outside the market. You know when a place is full of locals it’s a good sign, so we headed in.
We ordered some sharing platters of tuna and mackerel. First time I’ve had to do the full on boning etc at the table. The wee lass wasn’t so keen on this stuff, fish eyes staring up at you can be off-putting! She normally loves tuna, but unfortunately they’d seriously over cooked it, so it wasn’t that great. While the freshness and atmosphere was a hit, the delivery wasn’t quite spot on.
So what did we come home with? Well, this lovely lot!
A fairly heavy, chunky slab of raw honey for 5 euros.
Some new teas to try.
Red onion marmalade and ginger jam, both lovely with cheese – from Chillidelicious (Linda’s brand)
Some smoked gourmet salt.
Piri piri oil – the fella’s choice…
And how could we leave Portugal without Port?? Another choice from the fella 😉 We’re keeping one for Christmas… honestly.
We also enjoyed the Dao and Douro – local wines to Portugal, so we came home with one of the nicer bottles of Douro. It’s just waiting now for a special occasion 🙂
All in all it was a fab holiday. Unfortunately Portugal has been badly hit by the global financial crisis and is still in recession. It’s taken it’s toll on some places with lots of building being left to rot and ruin, and there’s an incredible amount of graffiti everywhere – a sign of the discontented youth perhaps. It’s still a lovely place though, and if you look outside of the resorts, there’s some great little places to discover.