Just returned from two weeks in Portugal, a small country full of good things to see and do. Landing in the northern city of Porto on Ryanair -- ‘The airline that’s the cheapest in Europe and always on time’ (except when a volcano erupts), we hired a car and made our way down to the Algarve in easy stages; the Algarve being the southernmost region, the most favoured by ex-pats and tourists, but, we found, not at all congested in April and early May. A change of scene is always refreshing. What struck me most was the luxuriant and near-tropical vegetation, the variety of palm trees, fields of wildflowers, gardens dripping with vividly coloured exotic plants. Unlike some southern European countries, Portugal is generally very clean (the beaches impeccably so). On our last day’s driving we encountered hundreds of people trudging along at the sides of major highways, pilgrims bound for Fatima; an annual undertaking, dangerous and often fatal, we were told. We spent most of our time in a quinta or villa b&b near Lagos. We were lucky with the weather, except in Marvao, a medieval village perched on a rocky promontory above the clouds, where it might have been January.
Here is a photo of Praia da Rocha, Algarve, where there is a typically dramatic contrast between sand and high outcroppings of ochre limestone rocks: