When West Meets East: Our Roadtrip Through Portugal, Spain and Morocco
Portugal’s Algarve has become something of a summer playground for our family, so frequently have we visited. Although we didn’t want to miss out on our annual pilgrimage to the western Algarve, we decide we wanted a bit more adventure this time round.
So, we combined a visit to our favourite little fishing village – Alvor – with two places that have been on our bucket list for ages, Seville and Morocco.
On familiar turf
Flying into the Algarve always feels almost like coming home, as the plane doors open and the warm air embraces you. It takes around 40 minutes to drive west from the airport at Faro to Alvor, which is far enough off the tourist trail to still feel like an authentic fishing village, yet with a myriad of restaurants and bars to eat out in.
Our first stop was the sprawling beach, which shelves – sometimes gently, sometimes steeply depending on the weather – into the Atlantic. Here, white sands are backed by wide dunes. You can walk towards Vau to explore little coves and caves. If you’re travelling with your family though, you might want to avoid the stretch nearest the estuary walls as it’s an unofficial nudist beach.
In the busy tourist season, you can get away from the maddening crowds by walking onto the newly built wooden walkways behind the sand dunes, turning left as you leave the big beach behind and walking as far as you can go. Here, you’ll find a narrower beach on the estuary side, which tends to only be visited by a few locals.
The conditions here are perfect for beginners learning to kitesurf, and we watch as the more experienced amongst them whizz across the top of the little waves, working with the sea and the wind to turn where they want to go.
At night, the smell of fish on the charcoal grills at the harbour side restaurants entice our taste buds. The restaurant owners here will show you the catch of the day before cooking it for you as you watch. We shared a huge sea bass, washing it down with crisp white Planalto from the Douro Valley.
From Alvor to Seville, where we arranged to drop off our hire car, it’s around a two-and-a-half hour journey. While we road-tripped on a previous holiday around the coast of Spain, visiting Girona, Murcia, and Andalucia, we didn’t make it as far as Seville.
Our last visit to Andalucia involved finding a hideaway in the hills, where we took long walks in the orange groves where shepherds herded their goats, so Andalucia’s capital is a world away with its winding streets and vibrant culinary scene.
We did visit the Plaza de Toros – although we’re not alone in finding the idea of a bullfight uncomfortable, the behind the scenes tour of the bullring is fascinating. We’re shown the small chapel where the toreros pray before a fight, the emergency room in case they’re injured, and we learn bulls aren’t really attracted to red – they only see in black and white, so it’s the movement they go towards, not the colour.
At night, we sampled Seville’s famous tapas bars, booking a tapas tour because we were only here for one night, we wanted to make sure the restaurants we went to were good.
The tour meets at 8pm, and they move from bar to bar, eating and drinking until 11pm as the guide takes you through the menu and helps you choose. Our favourite was the Vineria San Telmo, near the Barrio Santa Cruz district, where we dined on squid ink linguine, crispy fried prawns and goats cheese tart.
As we left our hire car behind, we bussed it from Seville to Tarifa, where we got our ferry to Tangiers. Some ferries dock at a new out-of-town port that takes you an hour to get to Tangier, but ours took about 30 minutes, cost 30 euros, and dropped us where we wanted to be.
Tangier is divided into an old walled medina with a tangle of medieval alleyways and a new modern city. On arrival, we prepared for a bit of hassle – and we got what we expected, with three people saying they’ll be our guides, and following us when we said no. Just wanting to literally lose ourselves in the medina, we eventually shook them off.
On the recommendation of our riad hosts, we headed out to Le Nabab for dinner, and we were not disappointed. The staff met us in the main Medina square and took us to the restaurant in case we got lost. We dined on lamb and prune tagine, washed down with some rustic red. It’s been a whistle stop tour but, as dusk falls on the Medina, we’re already making plans to explore more of Morocco. I definitely want to try surfing in Essaouira sometime.
Katie is a newbie blogger from the UK with a serious case of wanderlust. Exploring Europe and Africa with her family has provided them with some unforgettable new experiences, new recipes and wonderful memories.