Food & Travel Blog – Faro

Portugal from Norwich 

for the weekend 

Expect to pay a £100-200 subsidy for flying from Norwich, with none of the creature comforts of Stanstead but enjoy the practicality of a local airport.

I was shocked to see Norwich airport charge a £10 airport development tax which has been in place for the last 17 years, yet development looks minimal. Don’t get me wrong I was using Norwich airport in the 80’s when it had one check in desk, one snack counter and everything was built in wood – except the odd airplane of course. So it’s come a long way – BUT

This time we were literally herded from the comfort of our seats in the departure lounge, which had a Flour and Bean, F&B run bar and a WH smiths with all the usual airport price hikes – herded to a shed next door, which was standing room only. Where we were held captive for 20 minutes with no warning, to then be whipped onto the runway to the plane which was closer to the original lounge.  By which time we were 40 minutes delayed – on top of the original  time we booked. 

Yes the original flight we booked took us out at a time we would arrive for dinner and drinks, but this got us to the hotel at midnight – only in time to sleep, so that was a wasted day. 

We got an e-mail a few weeks back saying your flight is now 4 hours later and we could cancel if wanted!!! Unfortunately we couldn’t cancel the hotel as by this time there was all inclusive deals on the same flights hundreds of pounds cheaper.

We chose the AP Ava Senses, a grand hotel, modern in style overlooking the marina and in a perfect location for exploring. The old town is to the right and the new town to the left with the marina in front of you and a vast water in front of that.

This was a bit of a cock up too as because of my arthritis I need a room with a  bath when we travel so i can reset my joints in a warm water soak. Hence we booked via a suite costing £200 more than the basic rooms as these showed a picture of a bath and said in the comments rooms come with either bath or shower. So we requested one with a bath – the response we got back after a week was your room does not have a bath – – to cut a long story short, with nearly as many e mails, messages and chasing up as Baby Reindeer all was concluded by us having to cancel a non canceable booking on, and re-booking with the hotel a city facing more basic room with a bath at not much less in price (because they saw us coming!). 

So you can imagine we were annoyed – we met with a manager only to be told even if you book a twin it can’t be guaranteed – I’m surprised they inc beds with those attitudes. BUT on the last night they did swap us in to a suite with a bath – which they said they didn’t have 2 months earlier.

Anyway – despite many trip advisor complaints about service, (I agree) the hotel serves an ok breakfast, they claim it’s the best in Faro ! It’s the usual buffet nothing to write home about, but nothing to moan about. Apart from the chasing up cutlery and crockery on a daily basis. There is a European section with cold cuts and cheese, a good quality fruit section with yogurts, a few cereals (best avoided) breads and croissants, jams and sauces and another area with cakes and pastries inc a lack-luster mini Portuguese custard tart (Nata) Plus a good old British cooked section, but always bare in mind the bangers and bacon are as different in originality to a Linda McCartneys vegan bacon rasher.

Along with a few coffee machines with tea bags and not very good hot choccie.

But plenty of dining space along with a pianist and decking areas overlooking the bay which makes up for mediocracy. 

Rooms as clean and comfortable and our last suite overlooking the sand banks was delightful. The 1st more basic one was a good size with balcony and a seating area with table.

Prices on line range from £100-£200per night bnb. 

Expect Reception to be slow and not sort out problems in a British manner (like at all, in some cases).

Boat Tours – we didn’t have time but opposite the hotel and along the marina are boat tour operators, they run regularly & are ok priced and take you out to the beachy islands near by. 

Faro doesn’t have a beach, it’s on the water but that’s more a marina with walk ways. 

Also close by is the train station and the coach station. 

We had the uber app so that was easy peasy – the airport in an uber is a 6 – 12 euro charge, there is also a bus straight out the front of the hotel. There is a taxi rank outside the airport which we jumped in – within minutes we were whisked away for 4 – 8 euros than an uber.

But Faro is mini so you can get most places by foot – there is 2 shopping centres we got a taxi to as a 20 -30 minute walk was too much for my already achy legs. The FORUM FARO has a food court which was amazing – perfect for a simple cheap eats meal and local dishes too. Opposite that was another MALL but we ran out of time (eating).

Anyway day one we had booked a food tour via trip advisor for around £70 each by a local tour guide Jorge, we met literally 5 minutes from the hotel as everything is so small and central. The tour lasted about 3 hours with 3 main stops and lots of interesting history along the way. The first stop was a seafood restaurant on the harbour where we tried a local oyster, some clams with local bread and a salt cod croquette. Plus he treated us to some local dried tuna (the name sounds like maxma), a little fishy with the texture of jerky but softer. Another stop was an old building with original Portuguese blue and white tiling, telling historical stories of invasions past – we had the choice to eat out or in which was a nice touch, oh and beer on our first stop. There we had bread with traditionally flame cooked chorizo, olives, tuna dip and local oil along with a filo basket filled with honey, figs and almonds which was delicious, hubby also got to try the local green wine while I had a still. Our last stop was coffee and Nata at a traditional bakery in the centre of the new town. A really good experience and apart from my food tours of course, this was one of the best I’ve been on and certainly more filling than the average. (mine are over filling!)

Tours give you a good knowledge of the area and streets, with hints of what else to eat with all that local knowledge a good day one to start any holiday (tip, your welcome).

So that afternoon we explored further the old town and the new visiting shops and picking up presents for family back home. I love a supermarket when I’m abroad, buying cheaper liquors, cigars, nick naks, snacks and interesting goodies I can legally smuggle back in my suitcase. There are a few big sized Chinese shops in Faro selling everything from plastic shite to flip flops, but well worth a look if you forgot your charger or toothbrush. 

Tourist tat – the Portuguese specialise in really good pottery, plus some tourist ashtrays etc, but you’ll also find tourist shops with t shirts, lighters and pens  – needs must. 

We found a tinned sardine shop who sold tins for around 9 euros  – bear in mind that local supermarkets sell for 2 – 3 and locals do not eat tinned sardines! I remember visiting Portugal before and having tinned sardine paste with bread in every restaurant as a cover charge, but not seen in Faro or Lisbon.

As mentioned before the shopping malls have your usual European chains like Mango & cheap eats. 

But the best thing we found was the indoor food market a small walk from the centre. They say its shut on Sundays but it was very much open, I’m guessing they try and keep it for locals at the weekend but we picked up bags of dried figs, almonds, local meats and cheese for a deli snack later that day. Plus there is fresh fish and meat stalls, along with veggies looking plump and tasty all well worth the look. Around the outside is some really interesting cheap eat locals cafes – I would definitely go back and eat but we had plans. The bakery stalls also looked good if you wanted to grab a picnic and some Natas. 

Definitely go – I was surprised this wasn’t part of the food tour. 

While away our musts are to visit a local food market, we also found one outside in front of the church of bones, selling amazing fruits we bought some oranges  after being told they were juicy and sweet – they were as we sat on the steps of the church, juice dripping from our fingers.

We like street food, a food tour and a posh possibly Michelin recommended restaurant which this was – 

On Sunday we pre booked ALAMEDA if I went again I would choose the 9 course taster menu at 115 euros pp but we went a la carte for around 80E pp. 

Set in an old bakery with a traditional tiled front and enclosed al freso seating out front and additional seating in side in their open kitchen. We were served incredible flavours, beautifully created dishes and divinely tasty food – pure foodie heaven and 200% recommended. 

It has quite the following so book ahead. And don’t miss out on the bread.

We got lost finding it but it was a shorter walk back past what we called the deserted pool, a fountain in a residential square (around the corner – Restaurant on Police street).

But since Faro is so small you can wander around the streets in 2 – 3 hours and discover all it has to offer, there are plenty of restaurants, cafes and bars to keep you content.

Another good find was ALIANCA (cafeteria) a restaurant and bar, in a wooden panelled 100 year old place, with old black and white pictures around the walls of old Faro before they chopped the kings head off but after they kicked out the Moors. It’s in the new town and has entrances on two streets, very easy to find. They make fresh chippies, we ordered squid but didn’t get it – I assume they didn’t hear. But they had cheap beers and wine and reasonably priced cocktails. I imagine if all the food has the same love –  it will be very good for lunch. 

We had some tapas in a back street one evening but it wasn’t very good and an ice-cream at a waffle shop near the hotel also not good so I won’t mention those by name only places that excel at doing food good.

Also look up at the Storks nesting in Spring time on the roofs of some old buildings around the old town. 

There is also a tourist train in the marina side square beside a tourist / craft market which seemed to be daily or maybe just weekends. The train gets rough reviews on trip advisor for being uncomfortable on the streets, which half are tiled in the traditional paving a bit like English old cobbles. So maybe take a cushion or be young and naturally shoe absorbed – I didn’t trust it with arthritis, as when I got off I might be a bag of bones. But I’d say it was reasonably priced and a good way to see the whole area.

Our flight back went exceptional well  – an uber was called on check out and in 12 minutes we were checking in, in another 12 we were in the departure lounge. Faro airport is really good – too much British style junk food but ample toilets, a soho bakery concession so much like pret, Paul bakery barrow selling delicious Natas for 2.5 euros each and a few shops – all wonderously clean and new looking. Before long we were whisked through with no cattle prods to the plane and took off on time. 

Ryanair – is ok, you can buy food it’s mainly cashless. They leave you alone – annoyingly they only take the rubbish at the end of the flight and there is no where to put it with very little room for your legs let alone anything else – which reminded me of the sardines in those tins the tourists buy. I avoided the loos and we brought on a picnic from a local supermarket near the hotel, who doesn’t love European paprika crisps, strange chocolate bars and bread to starve away the boredom.

When all has been said – I would recommend FARO – a few days is enough, there isn’t loads to do and if you have a spare day – go on a boat trip, try the Natas, try some seafood, go to the indoor market FARO MUNICIPAL MARKET – eat there be brave, wander around the streets drink beer its cheap and have your picture taken in front of the FARO sign on the marina.

I would also recommend our hotel the AP AVA SENSES but book direct and ignore the service – the Portuguese are very direct and say what they think. But there is loads of Air BNB’s that look lovely if you book ahead, but make sure you stay in Faro. We also noticed a hotel opposite ours HOTEL FARO & BEACH CLUB. Choose well there is some dodgy looking residential street’s with some dodgy looking hotels nearby & some hotels are not even in Faro it’s self – do your research. (Please note – Faro feels very safe) 

Plus if I had more time I’d love to go on a Dolphin tour – but I would jump in and swim with them.

Zena Leech-Calton ©