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Moorish fun east of Faro; TRAVEL.

Byline: By SARAH Sarah or Sarai: see Sara.

(flourished early 2nd millennium BC) In the Hebrew scriptures, the wife of Abraham and mother of Isaac. She was childless until age 90.
 BATLEY Travel writer

FISHES of every colour and description were laid out glistening glis·ten  
intr.v. glis·tened, glis·ten·ing, glis·tens
To shine by reflection with a sparkling luster. See Synonyms at flash.

A sparkling, lustrous shine.
 on marble slabs as we entered the busy market hall at Olho, a little port on the tip of the Algarve.

We'd gone there at the recommendation of the staff who'd greeted us to our hotel near Faro Faro, town, Portugal
Faro (fä`rō), town (1991 pop. 31,966), capital of Faro dist. and of Algarve, S Portugal. The southernmost town in Portugal, it is a seaport from which fish, fruit (especially dried figs), wine, and cork are
 with a courtesy glass of champagne.

This part of Portugal may be best known for its golf courses and tennis schools, or for the holiday homes of the rich and famous. But the region east of Faro, between the Ria Formosa The Ria Formosa lagoon, located in Algarve, south of Portugal, is a barrier islands system that communicates with the sea through 6 inlets. Five of these inlets are natural and have mobility characteristics and the 6th is artificial inlet that was opened with the purpose of  and the Spanish border, is less frequented than the more popular west, around Albufeira.

Here, the climate is more Mediterranean than Atlantic, the landscape more north African North Africa

A region of northern Africa generally considered to include the modern-day countries of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya.

North African adj. & n.

Adj. 1.
 than Portuguese. There's also a strong Moorish element in the house designs, a reminder of its Arab heritage.

While facilities and major roads are firmly in the 21st century, in the quiet hillside villages you're just as likely to see ancient wives sitting in a donkey-powered trailer behind their equally wrinkled husbands, taking their produce to market.

Monte do Casal, a former manor house near Estoi converted into a boutique hotel Boutique hotel is a term originating in North America to describe intimate, usually luxurious or quirky hotel environments. Boutique hotels differentiate themselves from larger chain/branded hotels and motels by providing personalized level accommodation and services / facilities.  by Englishman Bill Hawkins in a 21-year work of love, stands in acres of wonderful gardens.

There are three swimming pools - one of which looks more like a boating lake - plus a villa which can be rented separately.

It's just a few minutes' drive from Faro, where we'd landed after a flight from Manchester with Monarch.

Both the hotel and its restaurant can be found in guide books as among the best places to stay and eat. The cuisine leans towards cordon bleu cor·don bleu  
n. pl. cor·dons bleus
A person highly distinguished in a field, especially a master chef.

[French : cordon, ribbon + bleu, blue.
 though it draws heavily on local produce and rustic styles, with a mix of Atlantic seafood and fish plus fruit and veg from surrounding market gardens.

We tried the gourmet tasting menu Usually found in restaurants, a tasting menu offers small portions of several dishes as a single meal. Some restaurants and chefs specialize in tasting menus, while in other cases, it is a special or a menu option. , with dish after dish coming out of the kitchens superbly presented with an appropriate regional wine.

The day starts well at Monte do Casal, with breakfast laid on your private terrace by chambermaids. And what better way to begin than sitting in the sunshine, enjoying wonderful views across to the sea and the gardens below.

We'd hired a car so we could explore the region - a must if you are to get the most from this area. One day we headed into Faro, the capital of the Algarve.

Mostly known for its airport, it's an under-rated city, with lots of great little bars and handy shops.

From the marina it's a short walk into the old walled town. On top of the 11th century gateway in, the Moorish Arco da Vila, are stork stork, common name for members of a family of long-legged wading birds. The storks are related to the herons and ibises and are found in most of the warmer parts of the world.  nests. In fact they are everywhere, perched on posts, nesting on Sky dishes, swooping silently above the city.

Inside the old town you can climb to the top of the cathedral or tour its collection of gold sacred crosses and bibles.

We walked across the new town to Taska which during the evening is taken over by poets and performers.

Just around the corner is the new cathedral, Igreja de Carno, with its ornate richly decorated interior. There's also the gruesome Capela dos Ossos The Capela dos Ossos (or in English: Bone Chapel) is one of the best known monuments in Evora, Portugal. It is located next to the entrance of the Church of St. Francis.  (chapel of bones) the walls of which are covered with more than 1,200 skulls.

Just outside Faro is a shopping centre where we stocked up on souvenirs and vino verdo wine.

We also hoped to explore Estoi's rococo palace and gardens but they were shut, having been turned into a government B&B. However, we spent a couple of hours at the remains of a Roman villa
For general context, see villa.

A Roman villa is a villa that was built or lived in during the Roman Empire. The Empire contained many kinds of villas.
 at Mileu, which still has intricate mosaics.

We also explored the Ria Formasa nature reserve (37 miles of beautiful coastline) with a walk at Quinta de Marim educational centre just outside Olhao, walking through pine woods and along the shore past a freshwater mill. It's home to the very rare purple gallinule gallinule: see rail.

Any of several species of marsh birds (family Rallidae) found in temperate, tropical, and subtropical regions worldwide. Gallinules are about 12–18 in.
, a type of moorhen moorhen: see rail.
 or common gallinule

Bird of the migratory gallinule species (Gallinula chloropus, family Rallidae) of Europe, Africa, and eastern North America.

We also popped back to the street restaurants of Olhao, to try out that fish market produce. They were heaving with families enjoying a Sunday lunch.

Ordering was simple. We pointed to what a nearby group - from grandparents grandparents nplabuelos mpl

grandparents grand nplgrands-parents mpl

grandparents grand npl
 to toddlers - were enjoying (a big pan filled with a rich seafood casserole) and asked for one of those.

A longer trip took us east to the pretty town of Tavira with its seven-arched bridge.

Elegant wide streets are edged with lattice-balconied houses.

We then pressed on to Vila Real This article is about the municipality in northern Portugal. For other uses, see Vila Real (disambiguation).
Vila Real (pron. IPA ['vilɐ ʁi'aɫ 
 de Santo Antonio, standing at the mouth of the Guadiana, and looked across to Spain.

There we found a medieval festival in full swing.

Back along the new motorway to Estoi it was a much quicker trip than the winding route through the sleepy villages, but our mini-tour gave us a real taste of the area.

It's warm, and welcoming. The food ranges from cheap but well-made basic using local produce to top of the range haute cuisine.

On the flight home we chatted to a Manchester businessman with an apartment near Faro - it takes only a couple of hours from his UK home to sitting on his balcony soaking up the sun. And I can't blame him.

The climate is more Mediterranean than Atlantic, the landscape more north African than Portuguese

Travel FACTS

Sarahstayed at MonteDo Casal, Cerro do Lobo, Estoi near Faro (e-mail, call 00 35128 999 0140, orvisit

Monarch ( fliesfrom Manchesterto Faro-one way faresfrom pounds 46.50plus charges.

Go to for details of what's on in the region


HIGH LIFE: Monte Do Casal, Cerro do Lobo, Estoi near Faro, a former manor house converted into a boutique hotel by Englishman Bill Hawkins in a 21-year work of love, and standing in acres of wonderful gardens; SQUARE WORLD: The cathedral in Largo da Se, just in the heart of Faro. In the square is a statue of Thomas Aquinas who is the saint of Faro. (Below left) Faro's new cathedral Igreja do Carmo, best known for its chilling Capela dos Ossos (chapel of bones)
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Aug 2, 2008
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