If you live in the UK then it’s really no shock that after the dull months of winter it’s hard to remember what sunshine actually feels like. When my parents invited me to join them in Olhão, Portugal for a weekend getaway it was an immediate yes from me.
Haydn and I had a flight booked from Leeds/Bradford to Olhão after work on Friday (thanks to flexi-time!) however, nothing could have prepared us for the chaos that unfolded once we got to the airport. The day we flew also happened to be the day the storm trio (aka Dudley, Eunice and Franklin) decided it was time for their big moment. Naturally, this caused a lot of flight delays which unfortunately meant we spent the entirety of Friday afternoon and night (literally 3:30pm to about midnight) at the airport. Eventually, we were sent home and asked to come back the following morning. Although this meant our already short trip had now been reduced to just 2 nights we were still keen to get away and make the most of it.
Travel chaos aside, arriving in Portugal was easy, since H and I are both vaccinated we didn’t need to do any tests before entering. We simply filled out a Portuguese passenger locator form (which we weren’t asked to show) and that was it. Portugal was still heavily enforcing a mandate mask rule in shops and restaurants when we visited so I was glad we had a few spares to keep a fresh one handy at all times.
Day 1 – Saturday 19th February
We arrived at the airport at about 3.30pm which meant we had most of the evening to afternoon sun before dinner. We checked in at Villas Marim and then went to the supermarket to get some snacks. Our first impressions of Olhão were so positive. The host at the villa offered to drive us to and from the local supermarket in order to save time and when we got there and I realised I’d forgotten a mask another local kindly gave me one he hadn’t used yet; it’s the little things right?!
Back at the villa we ate crisps on the balcony and watched the sunset. My parents and brothers arrived a couple of hours later and we headed into the town centre for dinner. They had chosen a great Italian restaurant where a family friend also joined us. We ate pasta, drank wine and joked around. Haydn and my parents stayed out longer to drink in a bar, but as that isn’t really my thing I went back to the villa with my brothers and read a book in bed. The aircon was on, the bed had one of those thin (but comfortable) classic holiday duvets and it was just bliss.
Day 2 – Sunday 20th February
Being the only full day that we were in the country I was keen to get out and explore. The sun was shining and was warm enough to wear a summer dress which I took full advantage of.
In the morning we stayed around the pool at the villa. My brothers and Haydn threw a water disc across to each other and I read some more. My Dad braved it into the pool for approximately 20 seconds and tried hard to convince us it wasn’t cold at all even though he could barely speak he was freezing so much. Haydn braved it and had a similar reaction. Despite the air temperature being warm, Olhão in February is not the ideal time for outdoor swimming.
My youngest brother, Brandon, wanted to explore with us so we took an uber first into Olhão town. Seeing the historic fishing village in daylight was really cute. The winding streets were so quaint and it was fun to see somewhere new. Brandon is obsessed with a local gelato shop that sells fresh crepes with Nutella so we took him to get one. I tried some macaroons in a variety of flavours and we looked out to the ocean.
After we had finished seeing Olhão we got another Uber to the bigger city of Faro. Being a Sunday most shops were shut but it was still nice to see the area. We were dropped off by the Catherdral. In the setting of sunshine and with fresh oranges growing on the trees it was so pretty.
The three of us walked down more winding streets and through Arco da Vila, an arch that leads down into the old town of Faro. This was another beautiful piece of architecture that really solidified the holiday feeling. If that holiday feeling wasn’t enough we then proceeded to try some of the Mcdonald’s menu items that aren’t available here in the UK – a real classic holiday activity for Haydn and I.
My family and I were all tired that evening so we went to a little seafood restaurant where my parents had eaten before. I wasn’t particularly hungry but did enjoy some of my Dads monkfish and brothers’ seafood curry. Even though I’m not the biggest lover of seafood it was nice to try something new and I did like what I tried.
Day 3 – Monday 21st February
Our return flight wasn’t until the evening so on our final day we were able to enjoy every hour of daylight before heading to the airport. My parents and brothers were moving to a different hotel for the remainder of their trip so we moved everything there first before heading out for the day.
Haydn, my Dad and I wanted to take a boat trip to see more of the islands around the Algarve. Since it wasn’t a particularly busy time of year we got a boat trip with just the three of us and a tour guide who was really great. He gave us great insight into the lives of people living in the Algarve and the small islands.
During the boat trip, we made two stops to get off and explore. The first was a gorgeous beach where there wasn’t a single other people in sight! We walked over the sand dunes to see both sides of the small island. The shells were incredible and I choose a couple to take home with me – frowned upon I know but don’t judge.
From the boat we watched oyster farmers working their land which was fascinating to see!
The second stop was our favourite. We got off at Culatara harbour and explore this tiny fishing village home to just 1000 permanent residents. Seeing this way of life was fascinating. The homes and buildings were quaint and traditional tile (azulejos) created beautiful artwork all over the island.
After the boat trip, we lazed around the pool at the hotel, ate some good food, talked and just in general chilled out. Our final day was the hottest of the three and whilst out on the boat I managed to get a little tan/sunburn (a very real reminder that suncream is needed always when you are pale).
This has been one of the shortest holidays we’ve taken to date, however, I really enjoyed the pace of a weekend abroad and will definitely look to do more trips like this in the future. For small cities around Europe, I think short breaks that don’t require too many days of annual leave are a good way to take in some culture and see any major landmarks without feeling like you should be doing a lot.