Out For Lunch!

I was on holiday for a month so I was determined to be a little more adventurous and try somewhere different to eat!
Not having a car in Carvoeiro I had to take a taxi or bus in order to get around, but taxis can prove quite expensive so I went to inquire about bus timetables.
What I had in my head was a trip to Portimão as I wanted to have a really genuine 'fresh' sardines meal; to me this simple fare is what Portugal is about. I remembered from our time of residence, how we would travel regularly into Portimao over the old bridge and if it was lunchtime the fish restaurants on the harbour side would be teaming with people and I would think, what a perfect spot for a midday break!

The day I chose to go I was a little late getting out and when I went to the bus stop, realised I had missed the bus by 10 minutes and that another wouldn't be along for about an hour. There was nothing for it. I would have to take a taxi. Bit of an 'expensive' lunch, but I was determined to go!
It was a beautiful day, with temperatures touching 80 degrees, the skies that wonderful cloudless deep blue. The driver took me through Ferragudo and as we drove through that pretty town, he proceeded to tell me a little of the local history, pointing out tall chimneys he said they were sardine factories where his mother had once worked but that all were now closed and although sardines were still fished and brought into the harbour, all of these were now mostly all exported to Spain. He seemed a little sad at the passing of this once thriving industry.
As we came into Portimão, the driver dropped me off close to the small park by the harbour. It was a bit early for lunch so I decided to have a stroll through the center of town. Its been some years since I had done this and I was pleasantly surprised to find plenty of pedestrian shopping area.
In the bright sunny weather, it was a real pleasure to stroll round the little shops without the worry of traffic and the small fountains that played intermittently along the walkway brought a refreshing atmosphere to a very hot day. I stopped at a small café for a cup of tea and as usual found the owners kind and friendly. Then I started to feel hungry, so I made my way back through the park, along the harbour and under the old bridge. There they were, half a dozen fish restaurants jostling each other, vying for customers as they passed by! I decided on the end one, it didn't look too busy and I was starving!
I was served as soon as I sat down. Starters of bread and bowl of olives. A half bottle of Vinho Verde, then I sat there, looking at my fellow diners, all completely relaxed, chatting, enjoying their meal and then I looked out over the sun-sparkled waters of the harbour thinking, this is just perfect!
Then my sardines were served up, 6 of them plump and crisp on the red terracotta plate with an accompanying 'salad simples'. It looked a lot but the walking and fresh air had me hungry and before long I was looking down at an empty plate! A young lad asked me if I would like coffee, he spoke no English and I ordered a café com leite. Five minutes later he arrived and put the small strong 'bica' down before me. It wasn't what I ordered but he was so friendly I didn't have the heart to tell him it was wrong.
After that simple but wonderful lunch I strolled back to the small park to sit in its welcome shade. Hearing music I looked over to the water display and saw our old friends of last year, the 'Music of the Andes' South American group. I sat back on the park bench, closed my eyes and let their soft serenades waft over me.

Portimão harbour
During the first few days of my holiday I had paid just a brief visit to Lagoa and looked up my old friend Luis. The Taberna 31 had opened earlier this year and I had promised that I would pay a visit. It was late afternoon and as I walked in there was Luis, the 'Oliver Reed' lookalike (as I had dubbed him), pouring drinks and chatting to staff and customers alike. Luis lived in London for many years, working in the Met. Police force, so his English is excellent and he is a very friendly and interesting man. That day I didn't stay long but promised to come back the following week for some lunch.

Luis, Isabel & Vera

Taberna 31
The very next Tuesday, I turned up at Taberna31 and the young waitress showed me to a small table. When asked what I would like a for a main meal, I simply said fish please! Then a bowl of fresh vegetable soup, mainly potato and cabbage was set before me and very good it was too! Luis asked if I would like wine, he then produced a local white from the fridge and poured me a glass leaving the bottle for me to help myself. There were quite a few customers, all men on their lunch break. I felt a little conspicuous being the only woman but when I looked up, I was met with a smile and courteous nod of the head. The fish looked wonderful and tasted the same. Once again it was simply grilled and served with lemon slices and a few fresh vegetables. I asked Luis its name but he couldn't remember the English, so all I can say is that it was very similar to plaice and I thoroughly enjoyed it. This was followed by a creme caramel 'Pudim' and white coffee, by which time my hunger was well and truly satisfied!
Afterwards I sat and talked to Luis and he introduced me to his partner Isabel and the young waitress Vera. As we talked I asked if it was okay to take a few photos. I was told to feel free to take as many as I liked. Some young lads at a nearby table were quite happy to 'pose' for me, then I went outside to say thank-you to the cook Rosa and BBQ man Helder. Then it was time to take my leave and when I asked for the bill was astonished at being charged just 6 euros for such a sumptuous meal! Before I left I assured them I would be back in the New Year but this time I would bring some friends!

Taberna 31

It was Monday and my last full day in Algarve. The next day I would be going home. So that morning I spent tidying the apartment and packing my case. I'd had an early breakfast so by 2.30 or so I was beginning to feel hungry again! The weather was still lovely & sunny so I decided on a last visit to Lagoa. As I wandered into the little park a voice called out, on looking over I saw it was Joaquim, the owner of Classique 21. I walked over, sat down and soon the waitress was coming over to take my order. I had a simple sardine salad, some ice cream and a coffee. I noticed there were quite a few stray dogs around the park, one of which was a small Chihuahua-type dog and they were troubling people at a table next to mine. The poor creatures seem to be starving and the woman was putting scraps from her plate onto the nearby lawn.
When I'd finished my meal I went to sit on a bench in the park but I hadn't sat there long when I heard someone call out to me once again. It was the waiter at Classique 21 and he was waving me over to a table where he was serving. On going over I was introduced to an English lady. She was staying in Lagoa and indulging in her favourite hobby of painting. We chatted for a while. She was a Londoner from the Westminster area, so we had quite a lot to talk about. Then another lady joined us. She was Linda and works in the nearby animal charity shop. As we talked about her work, she suddenly fished out a collar and lead from her bag. She was worried about a small dog she'd seen running around, an obvious stray and intended catching the dog and try to find an owner. On her description I was able to tell her it was the little Chihuahua I'd seen earlier. Yet another lady came walking by, accompanied by a poodle on a lead. Linda called out "Hi Joan. Come and join us!" which she did and so we ended up quite a merry party, drinking a little wine and a few snacks of anchovies and spicy sausage!

Lads lunch break

Lagoa park
On finding out that Joan (Lemmo) was in the film world, we were soon deep into conversation about acting and I was able to tell her of my older son's career. She was quite impressed when I spoke of the different actors he had worked with and she went on to tell me of her earlier career as an actress, then producer in Hollywood and I learnt of her working with actors such as Sidney Poitier and many others. I was quite fascinated to learn that she was in the process of making a short film in Algarve. It was to be called 'The Pink House' and was about a lady who lived in a house filled with mannequins!!"
As the afternoon wore on I suddenly looked at my watch and noticed it was after 4.30pm. Linda told me I had just missed a bus. On hearing this Joan said "Don't worry. Ill give you a lift to Carvoeiro. I wanna go to the internet cafe to check my e-mails"
Before I knew it, I was being whisked off to CVO by this elderly but very energetic and most interesting American lady!
When Hub called me later that evening, I told him about my afternoon. He laughed and said, "Elle, you do meet some don't you!"
That's true. I don't believe I had one dull moment!

please also see:
Sardines in Portimão by Liz Hendley