Wanting to make the most of our time in the Algarve, we decided to take an all-day tour of the region. I'm not usually a fan of organised tours, but thought it may be a good way to appreciate a region which had, up until that point, not captured my heart. We were up early for an inedible breakfast (thankfully, we had stocked up on supplies at a nearby supermarket) and headed out to wait for our bus at the designated stop.
Our tour was too large and impersonal for my liking. The guide spoke three languages - English, French and German (good on her!) - but so do I. Hearing everything three times in three languages I understand nearly drove me to distraction! There were a few highlights, including standing on the most southeastern part of mainland Europe and visiting some historic fortification ruins.
However, the tour had some definite low points. The lowest of which was the lunch served (at an additional cost, if you don't mind!). It may even rate as my worst meal ever! My chicken had clearly been prepared the day (if not, days) before and was dry and tasteless. My beloved's "traditional" pork dish tasted rancid. The chips were cooked in old oil and dessert consisted of rolled balls of marzipan served in patty pans. In fact, lunch was so bad, we couldn't stop laughing about it!
Then there were the mandatory, crass souvenir shop stops, which, surprisingly, other tour group members seemed to thoroughly enjoy. Now, I am always one to support locally made goods, but Portuguese boomerangs? I think not!
Evidently, many love the Algarve, but its charm was certainly lost on me. I don't blame the area for my lousy experience, but instead think I should have more thoroughly researched the region prior to incorporating it (and for two nights!) into our itinerary. I can see that the Algarve really has so much history and heritage going for it - I only wish it would "be itself" (if that makes sense?) rather than cater to the presumed desires of tourists.