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Travel trough Europe; Southern Portugal


My urge to travel far is getting less and less, I to make a trip closer to home. Europe has beautiful countries with the most diverse nature and I have seen relatively little of it. Last year we went to Mediterranean Greece in November and this year we are also looking for a small vacation a little further south and went for Portugal. I have never been here before, although this country has been on my list for a long time. Over the past year I have heard a lot about this increasingly popular holiday destination from friends. It is best known for the people who drive around here with a van looking for the best surf spots. Now I don't surf myself, but we are also looking for the best spots. In our case, quiet, natural and preferably as far as possible remote places where we are surrounded by the most beautiful nature. During our holiday it is really only about a few things: Being away from everything and everyone to recharge, not having an internet connection, finding adventurous hikes, good food and in my case also observing 'new nature' . In this blog I take you on our journey through southern Portugal. From the coast to the inland and back again... I tell you about the places we've been and the nature we've seen. As a present I give you some tips for the perfect adventure & nature trip!


Linda van de Lavoir, tuinontwerper Linda, Studio Linda Lavoir, studio linda lavoir op natuurreis
Ohhhhh there I am, on the coast of Lagos.

Day 1, 2 en 3 | ALJEZUR

studio linda lavoir op natuurreis
From Faro airport directly to the Algarve

Our journey starts at Rotterdam Airport, which is practically in our backyard. With the craziness of recent times at Schiphol, it is better to fly from a smaller airport where you can be at your gate within 5 minutes (instead of 5 hours). From here we flew to Faro. A 2.5 flight to the south of Portugal. When we arrived, we first picked up our rental car and drove straight to our first destination; Aljezur. A place that is located in the national park in the south-west of Portugal. This is a special destination on the coast with its immensely high cliffs and protected nature. You will see many cacti, succulents, palm-like, agaves and sun-loving plants such as Eryngium, Artemisia, Cistus and Lavender here. In terms of trees, you see many imported Eucalyptus trees, strawberry trees, almond trees and cork oaks (30% of the cork production worldwide comes from Portugal). I'm really surprised how green and lush it is here, but apparently that's because it's later in the year. I could have figured that out myself. The summers are extremely arid & dry here. In contrast to the north of Portugal, which has a completely different vegetation due to a different climate with more moderate temperatures and more rainfall. Unfortunately we only have a week, otherwise I would have loved to visit the north of the country as well. There are several hikes in the park. This is a popular destination for hikers, so there are plenty of trails! Because the paths run along the coast, alternating with turns to the inland, the heights of the walk always vary and the wind and the position of the sun have a major influence on the plants, you will encounter many different plant and plant combinations. This is of course extra interesting for nature lovers. What is characteristic of the Portuguese coast are especially the high limestone cliffs that come in so many different colors. From red-brown to yellow and from yellow to even blue and pink (scroll down to see a photo of this). Our second residence is even named after this color of the earth; Poio Ruivo which means ginger stone.

 The coast in the south-west of Portugal - Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina
The coast in the south-west of Portugal - Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina

Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina
Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina

 Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina, studio linda lavoir op natuurreis
Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina

Some compositions of plants I have tried to unravel in order to understand them. Like the planting in the photo below, which consists of two different matrixes that weave together. One matrix is ​​of a certain grass species and the other matrix consists of a creeping plant called Carpobrotus edulis, which is actually native to South Africa, but is so well established in this location that it is now also considered native. Between those two matrixes grows some solitary Eryngium maritimum and groups of Scilla peruviana and a thyme-like species of plant in a 70/30 ratio. Where in matrix 1 (the grass) the Scilla and thyme 'disappear' and are not very clearly visible, the combination of these two plants in matrix 2 (Carpobrotus) plays a strong visual role. It all seems so simple, but understanding the effect is sometimes difficult. In any case, I found it very inspiring and I can imagine that this will look fantastic in spring and summer!




THE LEMON LODGE - ALJEZUR


Our place to sleep was literally in the middle of nowhere. When you are going to rent a car, it is good to think in advance where you will sleep so that you can adjust your type of car accordingly. To get to this place you could have participated in the program The most dangerous roads in the world. The road was unpaved, had deep potholes, bumps and ran along steep descents. You have to give something to come here, but then you also have something. It was no problem for Bas to drive here, he was very happy with the challenge. This place is owned by two Dutch couples who have transformed a dilapidated farm into a number of special accommodations that blend into the area. The cottage feels luxurious and natural and has a bedroom where the bed is the focus, a shower with special shampoo made in the valley, a living room with a wood stove and a kitchen where you can find organic tea, coffee and spices. Occasionally one of the owners' dogs comes by to say hello. Now I'm not a big dog fan but these were very sweet! From the cottage you can take a walk in the mountains. Although I do not necessarily recommend this, it is better to drive to the coast to take a nice walk there.



The lemon lodge with a beautiful orange flowering Bougainvillea
The lemon lodge with a beautiful orange flowering Bougainvillea



TIP: Look for accommodations or air bnb's that are not near major cities, but just outside them. The more remote your place, the greater the adventure! In addition, the starry skies are amazing in places where it is completely dark.

studio linda lavoir op natuurreis
The lemon lodge


Would you also like to visit this place? Below you will find the link.


Day 4, 5,6 en 7 | POIO RUIVO

From the Algarve to Lake Santa Clara
From the Algarve to Lake Santa Clara

After spending three days on the coast, we moved further inland. The climate here is perfect for people who want to escape the cold in their own country . It is 23 degrees here at the moment. We've been doing nothing for the past few days. Which is sometimes difficult when you are used to working 60 hours a week, 7 days a week. Here we just try to go along with the rhythm of the residents. We spend four days at the Berragam de Sante Clara lake; Do a little fishing, do some hiking and of course observe the plants and trees that grow here. The landscape is fairly monotonous and you mainly see eucalyptus trees for the paper/wood industry, cork oaks for the cork industry and strawberry trees that they sometimes use to make alcoholic drinks. The undergrowth includes Lavandula stoechas, Malva multiflora, Artemisia, Erica lusitanica, Helichrysum stoecha and Lithodora fruticosa and the evergreen shrub Cistus ladanifer. There are many species of butterflies and birds flying and although not much blooms at this time of the year, you also see many bees. Sometimes I wonder how biodiverse a place must be in order to function healthily. The vegetation, which extends over many kilometers (especially the Eucalyptus), is mainly planted and there are few different types of plants, yet it is bursting with life. This must be a paradise for bird watchers.

studio linda lavoir op natuurreis
Nothing caught btw

The accommodation where we stayed had a number of jetties on the lake where you could grab various water devices such as canoes, sup boards and this beautiful pedal boat with slide. Of course we couldn't resist ;) There were no real hike trails, but you could easily determine your own routes. In any case, we have made some special walks around the lake.



















TIP: Talk to the locals. If not in English, then with hands and feet. People often think it's great that you come to visit their place, especially when there are few tourists. They are only too happy and proud to tell you all the ins and outs about their area.

Uitzicht op het meer Santa Clara
View of Lake Santa Clara


What I like about this composition of plants is that again two species play the leading role. In this case Helichrysum stoechas and another plant (sorry, I couldn't find out the name, but in terms of structure it can be compared to a small-leaved Sedum) that happily dance through each other. The stripes in opposite directions on the picture on the left should represent these two different plants. Between them are coarse, green clumps that contrast nicely with their fresh green leaf color and shape, Nicandra (bottom right) and a plant with extremely spiky seed pods (at the very top of the photo) that you shouldn't walk past. The last two are unfortunately slightly less visible in the photo. The leaf colors and textures match each other incredibly beautifully.


POIO RUIVO


Completely forgot to take pictures of our residence Poio Ruivo. There are several wooden bungalows for rent here for 2 to 4 people. It is a lot more accessible than our first place to stay, but here you literally live outside all day. Fortunately I still have this photo, cozy in front of the ski hut! Also visit this place? Here in the link!


Ook hier veel bezoek van de honden van de eigenaars van Poio Ruivo
Also here a lot of visits from the dogs of the owners of Poio Ruivo


Day 8 & 9 | LAGOS

Ook hier veel bezoek van de honden van de eigenaars van Poio Ruivo
From Santa Clara to Luz

For our last days of vacation we drove back to the south coast. True to tradition, we always end our holiday in luxury, preferably with a visit to the spa. The journey here has been great. We prefer to drive through the mountains, past 'real' nature and small mountain villages. Only older people seem to live here. In any case, the aging population is clearly visible and you see many vacant mountain homes. Where we in the Netherlands have to fight for every square meter of land, land seems to be in abundance here.










TIP: Drive the shortest but longest route. This road often runs through the mountains, so you see the most beautiful nature and drive past the most adorable mountain villages that are often too narrow for cars. Stop along the way to drink a coffee somewhere at a village pub. It's a lot more romantic than stopping at a gas station along the highway. And... take your time and enjoy.
 A mountain in all the colors of the rainbow!
A mountain in all the colors of the rainbow!





During our last walk we walked further and further west from the coast of Luz where you can see the most southwestern tip of Europe in the distance. The walk starts rocky, but gets greener and greener until you walk completely between woody plants such as Lavendula stoechas and Cistus albidus. You will also come across many almond trees here. They were now abundantly hanging on the trees, but I didn't dare to try them myself. The wild almonds are so bitter that it almost makes you sick when you eat one. I think this place is already beautiful, but when everything is in bloom it must be great here! I will definitely go back again.


THE COUNTRY DESIGN HOTEL VILA VALVERDE

Our last stay was at the country design in hotel vila Valverde. A luxury hotel with super service. The rooms have a beautiful view of the mountains behind which the sea lies. In the summer it is always very busy here, but we had the luxury of not having to share the swimming pool and sauna with anyone, another advantage of going on holiday out of season.

Would you also like to visit this place? Here is the link!



That was it! Next time read how I apply my inspiration from the plant communities in the test garden. Of course not with the same plants, but the plants that I like to use myself. And if you have any questions, you can always leave a comment :) See you! Love, Linda




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