Travel series. Joe Lindsay and Vogue Williams take a trip to the Algarve in Portugal to find out why this area is a perennial family favourite for Irish holidaymakers.
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-Hello, and welcome to Getaways.
-The show where we go...
..where you want us to go.
We're on a mission to check out some of your most popular
You've been sharing your top travel tips, telling us where to go...
..and what to do when we get there.
This week, we've flown to the Algarve in sunny southern Portugal.
Known for its stunning coastline and 300 days of sunshine a year.
Over five million tourists arrive here every year.
So, we're here to find out what makes it
one of Europe's top holiday destinations.
Flights to Faro Airport are plentiful and year-round,
and take about three hours.
And all the main resorts are within an hour's drive.
Vogue, what are you looking forward to here in the Algarve?
Well, I came here as a child for years,
so I basically want to be a big child again.
I want to go to water parks, I want to do golf,
I want to just do loads of fun stuff.
-What about you?
-It's very simple, you know, three things - good food,
beaches and guaranteed sunshine pretty much all year round.
And I've just noticed, we're kind of in the way of one of the features.
That's so true!
Yes, that's right -
we've been asking you what your top recommendations are,
and it seems that the Algarve's best assets are indeed its beaches.
So, most of your holiday will probably revolve around sun, sea and sand.
And why wouldn't it? After all,
the Algarve is famous for its miles and miles of golden, sandy beaches,
its crystal-clear blue water and its rugged cliffs.
Hard to beat.
My first stop is Albufeira,
one of the top coastal resorts recommended by you, the viewers.
This is Tunnel Beach,
so-called because you access it from the town through this tunnel.
And if you think that's clever, then check this out.
This lift takes you down 100ft onto the beach from the town.
But I'm not going to take that.
I'm taking the escalator.
The escalator takes you down onto Fisherman's Beach,
so-called because of the colourful fishing boats that once
lined the shore. Nowadays,
it's the holiday-makers who use the beach purely for pleasure.
Now, there are gorgeous beaches all along the coastline here,
so if you want somewhere a bit more secluded,
then you won't have far to go.
This is the gorgeous Sao Rafael Beach,
and we're here to check out the rock formations and caves.
What better way to do that than a bit of stand-up paddleboarding?
-You're ready to go.
'After a quick safety briefing, I head out onto the water.'
-Good to go.
Paddleboarding is a fantastic way to really see and appreciate
the rock formations.
And even at high tide, I can get right into these caves.
It's an amazing experience.
However, this IS the Atlantic Ocean, and while it's nice and calm today,
I don't think I'd be just as confident in choppy waters.
But Albufeira isn't just about the beaches.
Marty McAllister from Belfast and Martina Doherty from Donegal said
we should go check out the old town.
So that's what I'm going to do.
Albufeira was once a thriving seaport.
The Romans named it Baltum.
But later, the Moors changed its name to Al-buhera,
meaning "castle on the sea".
And today, Albufeira is considered by many to be the capital of tourism
in Portugal. This is the hub of the old town, the square,
and it's surrounded by bars and restaurants and coffee bars.
Very family-orientated - you come down here at night,
there's live music happening, you can chill out and have a drink.
Or just watch the world go by.
Here's a handy tip - the sightseeing trains.
They take you past all the sights to see in Albufeira,
and they run until the end of September.
And they're especially great if you have kids with you.
I mean, come on, it's a wee train!
And of course, there are plenty of restaurants
here in the old town, too.
I already know what I'm going to have - the highly recommended local,
fresh polvo a lagareiro - or octopus, to you and I.
Marie Clynes recommended this place.
She came here for lunch, said the staff were extremely friendly,
the food was excellent, and she said the local white wine was a treat.
Indeed, Marie. Cheers!
Polvo a lagareiro is beautifully simple.
The octopus is boiled so it has just the right texture.
And then it's prepared along with some boiled local potatoes,
with olive oil, garlic and herbs.
It's quickly cooked off in the oven,
and it's finished off with the garlic-infused oil.
-Enjoy your meal.
Lordy, that is incredible.
That is just delicious.
There's a huge range of places to stay in the Algarve.
Here in Albufeira's old town is the recently-renovated Hotel Baltum.
It's only a short walk to the beaches,
and while it doesn't have a pool,
it has a newly-opened roof terrace with a hot tub.
A good family option is the Aparthotel Alfagar,
also in Albufeira.
It has a large outdoor swimming pool with a kids' area and a restaurant,
and it's only minutes from the beach.
You can rent a one or two-bedroom apartment.
They are big and bright, with an open-plan living area,
and come with a well-equipped kitchen.
For a little bit of luxury, you could stay at the Conrad Algarve,
a five-star hotel situated close to
some of the Algarve's top golf resorts,
and only 20 minutes from Faro Airport.
It has indoor and outdoor pools, restaurants and its own spa.
Rooms are modern and bright and come with a balcony,
and the bathrooms have their own built-in TV so you can tune in
while having a soak.
But if you feel like really splashing out,
you can book a suite which comes with its own private pool and sauna.
Known as the golf capital of Europe,
thousands of visitors come to the Algarve every year for its top-class
golf courses. A lot of you - and I mean a lot of you -
have told us that you come to the Algarve just to golf.
So I'm here at one of the 37 golf courses to brush up on my very
minimal golf skills.
So, how often do you play golf?
I haven't played golf in years.
'I've come to the Balaia Golf Course, close to Albufeira,
'which has a golf academy, so it's perfect for a beginner.
'And taking me out on the green is resort manager Maria.'
This gives our alignment to the flag.
Keep your head down.
Yes! Lovely - lovely swing!
-Come on, come on! On the green!
Let's go, then.
So, a lot of people have said that
they come to the Algarve just to golf.
Indeed, yes. You will reach the majority of the top courses in
the Algarve within 15 minutes' drive.
-And courses like ours, for instance, they suit the family,
the leisure, it's a resort course.
Fantastic for the kids, for the families, for the elderly people.
-While the big boys could go into the neighbouring courses,
like Vilamoura, to play the Masters.
-I can tell you, in the winter, more than likely in January,
you would play in short sleeves, easily.
-Yeah. That's lovely.
OK, so what do you think of my shot?
That's very good. That's very good, that's very good.
If you hole that one, now we're going to make a par.
-Yes, very good.
Your first par in the Algarve. Come on! Let's do it!
We did good, we did good!
Check this out. Over 100 hand-carved sand sculptures make up
the International Sand Sculpture Festival in Pera,
which runs from March to October every year.
And this year, the theme is music.
So, I'm enjoying discovering some musical idols like Bowie,
Freddie Mercury and Michael Jackson.
-AS MICHAEL JACKSON:
-Check out his glove!
Around 40,000 tonnes of sand is used to make the sculptures,
with some of them as high as 12 metres.
The detail is just great,
and there are loads of celebrities you'll be able to spot.
I'm meeting Paulo, one of the sculptors.
So, Paulo, this isn't so much like a park,
it's an annual festival of sand sculpture?
-How long has it been going?
Wow! How long do the sculptures actually last?
Well, the oldest one here, it's about five years.
Get away, five years?!
-Really?! I mean, the scale of them is impressive,
you've some really, really, like, massive pieces.
Is this, like, regular sand, or this kind of special kind of sand?
No, it's a sand that is normally found in England.
Oh, OK. Paulo, I was wondering,
would you maybe have a spare pile of sand lying about,
be prepared to give me a go at it?
Well, I have just one mount of sand prepared for you.
-You should try it.
A popular day trip in the Algarve is to the historic town of Loule.
The focal point is the Moorish-inspired covered market,
housed in this striking old building.
And we're heading there for a spot of retail therapy.
Inside, there's an array of colourful sights and sounds.
You can get your hands on the local fruit, veg and spices,
including piri piri peppers, a staple in Portuguese cooking.
And you can even sample some of the wares before buying.
Smells delicious, got good nose... Yes.
That is truly a knockout.
Have you a bigger glass?!
It's open six days a week, but the best time to come
is for the farmers' market on a Saturday morning.
THEY SPEAK IN PORTUGUESE
'The market is also an ideal place for picking up inexpensive souvenirs
'or trinkets.' Thank you.
Ooh. These are so, so good over here.
So, what did you buy, Missy? Apart from a massive nectarine.
Massive nectarine. Got one for you.
-You did not!
-I did. I got an anklet.
-That's very pretty.
And a bib for my niece.
-What did you get?
-I didn't get you anything.
-Unfortunately. I did get some Good Boy sardines.
And a nice bottle of local wine.
-Doesn't our shopping speak volumes about us?
'Loule has a strong tradition in pottery.
'And if you fancy doing something a bit different and want to learn
'about local crafts and traditions,
'then you can take part in creative workshops
'run by artisans and craftsmen.'
Oh, Joe, this is going to get messy!
-Come on, sir.
-He's just showing off now.
-Come on, sir.
You've done this before.
-OK, so that's what we have to attempt.
-Yeah, no pressure. Look at that.
What are you doing? You don't seem to be doing very well.
Joe, it looks like a pot.
I seem to have taken to it quite well.
-I think, you know.
-How did you get it like that?!
-That is not...
-That didn't happen. Uh-oh.
OK, I'll start again.
I can't get the machine to stop.
I think it's time to add my pattern. I'm quite happy with the shape.
I like the fact you're going for the more abstract notion of pottery.
-I like that.
-It's moving again off the thing.
You see a lot of those in fields in Ireland, you know.
How did you do that?
Well, you know, I had a wee bit of time on my hands because, you know,
you were working away, so we just take note here, you know.
What does it say? "Getaways".
I mean, I'm not bragging.
Look, look at my hands compared to yours. And it's on my face.
Doesn't that say a lot? Doesn't it?
But if you prefer a getaway closer to home,
then Joe has been on a short break to County Wicklow.
The seaside town of Bray in
County Wicklow is only a short trip by car or DART from Dublin.
The childhood home of James Joyce,
it became a holiday hot spot for Dubliners once the railway line
was extended here in the mid-1800s.
But Bray is more than just ice cream and chips.
I'm using it as a base to explore beautiful County Wicklow.
I'm staying in the Martello Hotel, which is right on Bray's esplanade.
It has a good terrace restaurant, where you can dine alfresco,
and a busy bar on the ground floor.
I'm starting with a trip to the Wicklow Mountains National Park.
And Glendalough is a perfect place to admire the scenery and pick up
some knowledge on early Christian Ireland.
There is a visitor centre where you can gen up on the history of
Glendalough, but I'm getting a guided tour from George McClafferty,
who showed Michelle Obama around during her visit.
So, George, tell me a little bit about the history of this site.
St Kevin was the man who founded the site,
and that was back in the sixth century,
and he came here in the middle of the sixth century
with a small group of monks. During his lifetime,
it was quite a well-known monastery, but after he died, it started to
blossom and it got bigger and bigger and it went through a golden age
between the tenth and 12th centuries,
and then it gradually went downhill until the Reformation,
when it was closed down.
Before I get to my next destination in the Wicklow Mountains,
I'm stopping off for lunch at one of the pubs in Ireland that claims
to be the highest one, Johnnie Fox's.
Inside, the pub is beautifully quirky.
If this is a theme pub, then the theme is randomness.
But it creates a fun atmosphere to enjoy the lovely grub.
When you come to Johnnie Fox's,
go for the classic combination of a pint of the black stuff
and the seafood.
I mean, you don't have to go for all this, right?
But you couldn't beat it with a big stick.
Look at that!
Powerscourt House was the ancestral home
of the viscounts of Powerscourt,
who lived here for nearly eight centuries before it was sold
to the Slazenger family in the 1960s.
But now Powerscourt Estate attracts tourists from all around the world,
who come here to eat, shop and enjoy the magnificent gardens.
In 2014, National Geographic listed Powerscourt
as number three in the world's top
gardens, and you can see why.
It's an immaculately preserved garden,
with some interesting features for green-fingered enthusiasts.
The property has a Japanese garden,
an 18-hole championship golf course and, my favourite, a pet cemetery.
But inside the big house,
it's in the basement where it really gets interesting.
A significant amount of damage was done to the house in 1974 because of
a large fire, but what it did do was expose this beautiful brickwork that
you see. Oh, and I have to show you this.
This is the Venus de' Medici.
There are only four of these in the world in marble.
The other three are in the White House,
Buckingham Palace and the Vatican.
And this is the fourth. All right, love?
OK, let me explain.
This is Stunt Drive Ireland, just outside Avoca in County Wicklow,
where anyone can learn how to drive like a Hollywood stuntman.
Yes, even me.
It's the brainchild of professional stunt driver Brendan Condren.
Brendan, Stunt Drive Ireland
basically gives everyone the opportunity to
be a stuntman for a day.
That's right, yeah. We do,
basically what we do here is we do experience days for people that want
to kind of experience precision driving,
which is the type of driving that we do on film sets.
-It's learning all the tricks of the trade, like 180s and
reverse 180s and high-speed forward slaloms and reverse slaloms.
And literally anybody can do this?
Yeah, everybody's welcome.
You see, right, here's the thing.
I've never driven in my life.
I've never been behind the wheel of a car,
I've no idea how they work. You've got your work cut out for you today.
-That's no problem.
-I have my faith in you, Brendan.
'Now, if Brendan's worried, he's not showing it.
'After all, he's worked on big Hollywood movies
'like A Good Day To Die Hard with Bruce Willis.'
Well, I got one, anyway.
Sorry about that!
'I really hope he wasn't attached to that cone.'
That was rubbish, wasn't it?
It's not bad for your first time, at all.
'I want to get this one right.
'The classic Hollywood 180 degree handbrake turn.
Thanks, mate, that was brilliant.
You've so got to do this.
you owe this to yourself, at least for a day.
You can be a hero - just for one day.
We're on a getaway to the Algarve region of Portugal.
'So far, we've been exploring some of the gorgeous beaches.'
'I've been brushing up on my golf swing,
'and I've been out in the water,
'exploring the famous Algarve rock formations.'
'We're visiting Lagos along what's known as the Algarve's Gold Coast.'
'Lagos has a long history as a seaport and shipbuilding centre,
'and the older part of the town is still circled by the Moorish walls
'that were built in the 16th century.'
Lagos was home to one of Portugal's most famed residents,
Henry the Navigator, the Prince of Portugal.
He was born in 1394 and was an important figure
in the early days of the Portuguese Empire.
Henry is regarded of the founder of Portugal's golden age of discovery,
where ships would set sail
to explore new lands in the Mediterranean and Africa.
Henry wanted to find a sea route to circumnavigate Africa,
and he used Lagos as the launch pad for many of his voyages.
But there is a darker side to Portugal's age of exploration.
Here in Lagos, they don't shy away from it.
Henry was also known as the founder of the Atlantic slave trade,
and here at the Museum of Slavery, you can learn about how the first
slave market on European soil was established here in Lagos.
Back in the 15th century, this was the slave market,
and this was where that vicious cycle of trade began,
from Portugal, to Africa, America and back.
'Also in the old town is the church of St Anthony,
'which houses a museum with a collection of historical artefacts.
'But the main attraction is the spectacular baroque interior.'
'The centrepiece of the church is the grave of Irishman Hugh Beatty,
'commander of the Faro Regiment in the 17th century,
'who helped rebuild the church after
'it was damaged in an earthquake in 1755.'
He must've been pretty special to be buried here.
Yeah, it's an important man, right there.
A lot of you told us
that we had to come to a water park here in Portugal.
This is one of the best ones in the Algarve. it's Slide & Splash.
Now, I know it's meant to be for kids, but I'm sorry,
this is my best day out - ever!
Slide & Splash water park is about 30 minutes from Albufeira
and it's one of the biggest water parks in Europe.
Adrenaline junkies will love slides with names like Kamikaze,
Tornado and Corkscrew.
But for the less confident, or younger ones,
there are swimming pools and a children's area.
There's more than a dozen slides here,
so plenty to keep the whole family entertained, and when I was here,
there were no queues, so if you have young children,
this is sure to tire them out.
And I bumped into Daniel and Stephen from back home.
So how are you finding the water park?
Oh, I love it, yeah, loving it.
The slides and stuff, it's pretty good.
So what do you recommend for me to do first?
-Do the big one.
-It goes without saying, like.
So this is the big one,
the Big Wave, and I'm slightly terrified but really excited.
Oh, my God, that was mental! It was so much fun.
Here we go!
'This place is really popular with holiday makers from back home,
'like the Gormleys from Sligo.'
So, guys, what did you think of that one?
-Scary, wasn't it?
-Were you not scared?
-Very scary. Thought we were going to fall out!
Was it the best one yet?
-Really enjoying it. We're enjoying it, though.
I know, that's what I was saying, I was so happy to be coming here,
-because it is for adults as well.
-Yeah, it is.
'OK, just one more slide before I go home.'
Vilamoura is an upmarket resort on the Algarve coast.
The marina is huge and attracts some luxurious yachts,
and the waterfront is a popular place for a dander.
This is also the place to get a boat trip to take you out onto
the Atlantic, for swimming, fishing or sightseeing.
'I'm taking one of the tours of the rock formations and caves.'
So, when I think of the Algarve, I think of landscape like this.
Nichola Crawford from County Antrim said,
"You should take a boat trip out
"and check out those golden-stoned arches."
And you're right, Nichola. it doesn't disappoint.
Also taking in the boat trip are John and Cindy from County Cork.
-How are you enjoying Portugal?
-Beautiful, absolutely beautiful.
It's our first time here, so, yeah, very nice.
Yeah? What do you think, what have you been doing?
Have you been doing different things?
-It's the best thing we've done so far, visit the caves.
-The scenery is gorgeous.
-The scenery is fantastic, yes.
They focus on a lot of watersports here, and boating and...
canoeing and... It's fantastic.
-Have you been doing that, have you?
-This is the closest we've got.
-This is as close as we get.
'On our way back, we're lucky enough to catch sight of some dolphins.
'Watching them swimming and diving
'unfazed by the boats and holiday-makers
'was, for me, the highlight of the whole trip.'
For many of us, Faro is simply the gateway to the Algarve.
However, it is the capital of the region, and we're taking a day trip
here to find out more about this historical city.
You know, when I think of Faro, I automatically think of the airport,
but if you take some time to come into the old town, you'll find some
really interesting history and culture.
'The central area, where most of the places of interest are,
'is compact, and everything is within walking distance.'
'The old town is where you'll find narrow, cobbled streets,
'well-preserved old buildings and the centrepiece is the Se Cathedral,
'which dates back to the 13th century.'
'We're visiting the Igreja do Carmo,
'which has more than just an interesting facade.'
Now, never let it be said
we don't seek out a little slice of the unusual on Getaways.
This is the Capela dos Ossos, or "the chapel of bones".
And it's constructed with the remains of the monks
who were buried in the nearby cemetery.
'It's thought that the bones came from over 1,200 monks
'who once served the city
'and whose remains were exhumed in the 19th century.'
It's not as eerie as you think.
In fact, it's really quite beautiful.
So, Vogue, how did you find the Algarve?
You know, I've been here about ten times as a child,
never left Quinta do Lago, and this trip, I just saw so much more.
There's so much to do, it's really diverse and I absolutely loved it.
I think this place is ideal for everyone from Ireland,
because the flights are frequent, they're cheap,
it's short and you can come here all year round
and it's great for families. Perfect!
Joe Lindsay and Vogue Williams take a trip to the Algarve in Portugal to find out why this area is a perennial family favourite for Irish holidaymakers. They explore the beaches of Albufeira, take in the famous coastline, discover why the Algarve is great for golfing and go wild at a waterpark. And on this week's short Getaway, Joe visits Wicklow to take in the sights of ancient Glendalough, explore the beautiful Powerscourt Estate, and he gets a rush of adrenaline on a stunt-driving experience.