SAY A LITTLE PRAYER
Every little whitewashed village across southern Portugal has an equally whitewashed church, its bell tower rising high up above the characteristic Algarvean chimney pots that top the town’s single-story houses. (Look up: more often than not, the bell tower will be graced by a stork’s nest.) In contrast to the stark exteriors of the churches, the dimly lit interiors are always richly decorated with painted tiles, gilded altarpieces, and statues clad in rippling velvet cloaks. The best example in the region is the early-18th-century São Lourenço Church in Almancil, a 10-minute drive away (off N125), or a 40-minute bike ride away (if you’re feeling fit). The small church is unusually pretty from the outside, but nothing prepares you for what lies within. The interior is breathtaking, with every inch covered by striking blue-and-white azulejos (painted Portuguese tiles) depicting the life of St. Lawrence of Rome, after whom the church is named. These were created in 1730 by Policarpo de Oliveira Bernardes, considered one of the masters of this art. The Algarve’s greatest sculptor of the time, a Manuel Martinez, was responsible for the carving of the Baroque gilded wooden altarpiece. Stop for a typical pasteis de nata (a custard tart dusted with cinnamon) and a bica (the Portuguese espresso) or a galão (similar to a latte) at any of the little cafés in town.
GO FOR THE GOLD
- Visit a new wave boutique of traditional gold baubles
Filigrana, or “gold filigree,” is a jewelry technique that predates Roman times, making it one of the oldest in the world. The most traditional (and commonly found) forms in Portugal are the curved “Viana” hearts which have become a symbol of the country. At the top end, a new wave of designers are interpreting gold anew; at the forefront is Luisa Rosas, who has joined the family business named after her father, David Rosas. Luisa’s training as an architect and her work alongside one of Portugal’s most acclaimed architects, Pritzker Prize winner Eduardo Souto de Moura, is evident in her fluid 18-karat-gold designs. So for the ultimate wearable souvenir, head to the David Rosas boutique at Quinta Shopping just across from the hotel. There are plenty of eye-catching baubles to choose from, but we are smitten with Luisa’s collection of tactile rings which draw on nature-wood, water, grass, and stone – for inspiration. Don’t forget to collect your tax-free paperwork and stop by the tax-free counter at the airport to redeem your discount.
You can also find David Rosas chic jewelry boutiques in the cities of Porto, Funchal and Lisbon where the flagship store is located, in the luxurious Avenida da Liberdade.