When I need somewhere to really relax and unwind (and enjoy some fabulous food), I head to my villa in the Algarve
I bought my first villa on the edge of Albufeira in 1961. I might have decided on a career as a property developer if I'd been able to predict how popular the south coast of Portugal would become! I tend to spend most of the summer in Portugal, heading there after Wimbledon and usually staying until September. My current villa, the third I’ve owned there, lies in a little town called Guia, in the Algarve.
The Algarve is a fantastic place, but it has become a bit more crowded. You can’t keep paradise to yourself for long - one day, just as I was throwing up the tennis ball to serve at the court behind my house, someone asked if they could have my autograph, and I knew it was time to move away from the beach front!
The house I have now gives me the best of all worlds, it is a mere four or five miles inland but is in the middle of 30 acres and has a driveway that is about 200 yards long. I can see the sea from my kitchen terrace, which overlooks my vineyard, but it affords me lots of privacy, which is ideal. And fortunately, while my vineyard is just beside the villa, the winery is at my partner’s farm so although tourists will often come and take pictures of the house, they then tend to move on to visit the winery (which offers daily tours and wine tasting).
Portugal provides me with a perfect contrast to the scene on the west coast of Barbados where I’m invited to lots of lavish parties. In Portugal I can find more time to relax and unwind and it’s not unusual for me to spend two weeks here without going out at all.
My favourite restaurants
Having said that, it’s not usually too long before I decide to visit one of my favourite restaurants to sample some of the delicious local cuisine. On the east side of Albufeira, overlooking its famous beach, is one of my favourites - the Dom Carlos restaurant (tel: 00 351 289 541 224 or 00 351 917 260617), run by an Irish/Portuguese couple. It has a really welcoming feel to it, like going into someone’s smart, comfortable home, and is very reasonably-priced.
Of course, when you come to the Algarve, and Guia in particular, you have to sample the famous local delicacy, chicken piri-piri. There are signs all over the village to publicise its claims to being the ‘birthplace of chicken piri-piri’. It is possibly the simplest and cheapest food you can eat but it’s really tasty – it’s grilled chicken with olive oil and herbs in the magical ‘piri-piri’ sauce, and you have it with a tomato and onion salad, and chips. It’s a real family dish, popular with everyone from the kids to the grandparents.
Also in Guia is one of my favourite haunts—the Atlantico - run by my good friend Aurelio—and all the food there is excellent!
Another really popular local establishment is the Albufeira Fishing Club, which I rate extremely highly. It is not a club at all (you shouldn’t let that put you off) and it lies in a great spot above the Albufeira marina. I love the food there, especially the ‘just caught’ local fish dishes which are really excellent and can be washed down with your choice from a good selection of local wines, including my Vida Nova!
The best places to stay
As I’ve mentioned, the coast has become much busier over the past 20-30 years so naturally the choice of hotels is enormous now, especially close to the beaches and the popular towns like Albufeira.
Slightly off the beaten track you will find a lovely, very exclusive hotel which is not far from my villa in Guia. It only has around 18 bedrooms but also has an impressive new spa, and is called Vila Joya. It is German-owned and is above the beach. The owners had the foresight to buy the beach bar down below, too, which means they can ensure it is nice and quiet for their guests when they want it to be.
Another great hotel, also German-owned, is Vila Vita Parc. It is about a 20-minute drive from me and you can either opt for a traditional hotel stay or, alternatively, the increasingly popular villa experience. This is ideal for families looking for a ‘home from home’ as they can rent their own villa in the hotel grounds but still benefit from the hotel services and facilities. I believe Sandy Lane in Barbados has villas in its grounds that can be hired out in the same way.
Things to do
Of course there are lots of things to do for all the family on the Algarve, whether it’s a trip to one of the beaches nearby, the Zoo Marine Park, one of many water parks, or a round of golf at one of the enormous selection of local courses situated all the way along the coast. But for me, the best thing about the Algarve is the peace and tranquility and the chance to take things at your own pace and forget about the stresses and strains of everyday life. It would be a holiday you would not soon forget!
Adega do Cantor: www.winesvidanova.com/thepeople.htm
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