I have just returned from a weekend in the sunshine resort of Albufeira. It’s been sixteen long years since I’ve set foot in Portugal and I didn’t realise how much I missed it until now.
As we walked along the beach from Montechoro to Albufeira, in the distance I could see the block of bars where I used to work and it sparked a host of memories.
In ’96 (yes I’m really that old!) my husband and I took the long drive down the west coast of France, through the middle of Spain and into southern Portugal. It was May and it was raining hard. Upon our arrival, the sun came out and didn’t go back in all summer. We quickly found bar work and so began our summer in the sun. The bar I worked in was called Snoopy’s.
I didn’t realise how tiny it was until I went back this weekend. I was thrilled to find in still in existence, although pretty disappointed that it was closed most of the time. It is surrounded on both sides by larger restaurants and I imagine it would difficult to compete, but they really need to put a bit of effort in if they want to keep the business going. I didn’t get to have a drink there because each time we tried, the doors were firmly locked. Although I do have fond memories of working there, I also remember being treated quite poorly by the senior staff. I hate to say it, but I truly believe it was a gender thing. I clearly recall how it was the girls job to take all the rubbish down to the bin store situated in the middle of a dark, lonely car park at 3am, while the men sat around the bar, counting tips. We girls didn’t get any tips, instead we had to surrender them to ‘the tip jar’.
My husband was treated much more fairly. He worked in a club called The Fastnet. Again, we were surprised to find it still there and thriving as a business. We even stumbled across the DJ, who now runs his own sports bar around the corner.
The one thing that really stands out for me is how little the town has changed. Living in a country where nothing stays still for long, it was a real delight that everything is just as we left it all those years ago. The quaint little streets, the decorative buildings, nothing has changed … not really. Although known as a party resort, Albufeira is a pretty little town that for centuries made its living in the fishing industry and it’s clear to see that it’s where it’s heart truly lies.
If you go, be sure to check out some of the local fresh fish dishes. Watch out though the prices vary hugely from restaurant to restaurant. Try to stick to the smaller, back-street restaurants. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.