About nomadadviser

A travel blog with a twist. Taking in many destinations as we go around promoting mindfulness, volunteering on farms, random house sitting projects and taking in the many landscapes of this beautiful planet we call home.

Vegan’s guide to the Algarve

We had low expectations of how well we would be catered for in the Algarve, following a Vegan Gluten-free diet, but I have to say we were pleasantly surprised. We used Google Maps as our mainstay guide, but also checked the blogosphere as well.

Whilst certainly not mainstream, it did prove possible to find a Vegan place, or one with good Vegan options in most places.

First off we found Earth Shop & Café.  This is at Praia Do Carvoeiro which is a nice town with a number of bars and restaurants. It also has a fabulous boardwalk just down the road, with stunning coastal views. It is a bright modern restaurant with friendly staff. The menu is mixed, but they do have some vegan options. And for those with a sweet tooth, they do a delicious All Vegan Brownie and Ice Cream.

 

Next day we set off into Faro and found the Outro Ladro in the narrow lanes of Faro. We were driving, and even off season, it was still a bit tricky to park. Once you get there, the place has a rustic  feel, decorated with honesty and conviction. The young couple that run the café are keeping to Vegan only and freshly prepared dishes. We ordered Lentil Stew and Mushroom risotto from the menu.

 

 

Albuifeira is the largest tourist destination in the Algarve and has a few choices for Vegan restaurants. We visited Veggie Momi. This is a little gem, but you might need to come early in the season as it is small and will have limited seats. Monica runs it and works miracles in a very small space. She had a good all round menu, which is innovative. We were particularly impressed with her house dessert, which was about as close to Tiramisu that you can get without the dairy.

 

 

 

We went to the Mar shopping village in Loule one day. This is  the same as any shopping mall anywhere. It’s nicely designed and had a good range of shops. We took lunch in the food hall and found a few vegan options amongst the food outlets there. In the end we went for an Asian dish of Tofu and Vegetables.

On our last day we went to Sagres – the end of the world, or at least the end of the Algarve. Here we had lunch at the Terra Restaurant, which has a lovely location overlooking the coast.  This is not a Vegan restaurant, but it does have good vegan options. There was even a desert choice. The food was tasty and beautifully presented. One dish was Seitan and the other was Sweet Potato Falafel. I have seen mixed reviews on service at Terra.. On the day we went there were two servers. One enjoyed her job more than the other and that showed. Still highly recommended.

 So there you have our Vegan adventures in Algarve. There were certainly plenty of other restaurant choices, but we ran out of time to try them, so we’ll leave it to other Vegan travellers to explore them.

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Alluring Algarve

We decided to take a week’s break in the Algarve to get a top of sun and vitamin D before the full winter weather sets in.  Going out of season ended up being a blessing, as everything was much easier; the roads, the beaches, getting in restaurants and attractions. No queues, no hold-ups, just an easy going flow.

The weather this time of year is changeable, with showers and sunshine side by side and typical temperatures of around 18c.

Algarve has some of the best beaches in Europe. The character comes from the beautiful sandstone cliffs and rock formations that encircle almost every stretch of sand, giving it a sheltered and unique atmosphere.

Beaches with rock formations

In the summer the beaches are crowded, but as you can see, we had them almost to ourselves. As the coast is on the Atlantic, the sea remains quite cool throughout the year so be prepared to brace yourself if you do take a dip.

One of the attractions we visited was Fiesa – sand city, which is a sculpture park that has been developing over the last 15 years. It has an extraordinary mix of works, based on a wide range of themes, including entertainment, film, music, nature and history. It is open between Mid March and Mid November, so we only just made it.

Sand city group

We also took the Carvoeiro boardwalk one day to Algar Seco as it was close to a local café we had found. It is a stunning coastal walk with some great views. We climbed down to one of the caves near the beach. There were dozens and dozens of Cairns in one part of the rocks, also known as stacked pebbles. As a result of the simple act of contemplation so many had made, the place had a wonderful peaceful quality to it.

Algar Seco board walk

On our final day we visited Sagres, which is at the western most point of the Algarve. It’s well worth the drive if you do go. On the coast is a Fort with the unusual design of a  curtained wall (semi-circled), which seems better designed to defend the coast against the locals, than it’s original purpose of defending the coast against unwanted visitors. It is about 4 euros to go in, but worth paying as there is a paved walk aSagresround the coast with stunning views and some great sea and air blow holes. The air blow hole in the centre, which has concentric concrete circle walls around it that echo the noise all around is just the place to relive that Marilyn moment in the 7 year itch where she stands over the grill and has to fight to keep her skirt down – so hold on to your skirts ladies if you do go.

 

As well as the wonderful nature, there are plenty of places to shop and eat. We did visit Albufeira one day which is the biggest tourist area and has a lot of shopping opportunities.

Albufera

One of the most distinctive aspects of Portuguese towns and cities is their tiled pavements and ceramic street signs. They are very striking in their use of patterns and colours. You can see it on the street scene above and also this ceramic covered house was one we saw in Faro’s old town.

 

Tiled house

As Vegan travellers it can be difficult to find places to eat, but Algarve proved to be a welcoming and generous host in that department. In the next blog I’ll cover the places we found and the wonderful treats they had in store.

So if you do head to these sunny shores, I hope you find time to explore and enjoy the rich and natural wonders all around.

Madeiran Magic

We’ve spent a week on the beautiful Island of Madeira.  It’s somewhere we’ve been to many times, but still each visit brings something new.  The island is a province of Portugal, but it is actually much closer to North Africa.   It has a rich heritage and a very interesting geology as a volcanic island.  It is very mountainous with several peaks over 1800m above sea level, making for striking peaks, ravines and valleys. 

One of the things that does immediately hit the senses is the vibrant range of colours of the many plants and flowers.  The mineral rich soil of the island produces an abundance of fruit, vegetables and flowers.  However it has come at the back breaking expense of the many generations that toiled to dig the terraces and the Levadas (the irrigation system drawn from the North side of the island to the South) to create enough flat land to cultivate.  Even today the work is manual, with no farm machinery able to access the high and narrow terraces.

Another highlight of the week was going Dolphin spotting.  We used a small but highly recommended company called H20 https://www.h2omadeira.com/ and we were not disappointed. During our 2 hour journey we saw Bottlenose, Striped and Spotted Dolphins.  All very different in size and character.  We got some lovely close encounters and it was especially adorable seeing the babies.   My pictures are a bit fuzzy, so this is from H20 themselves, who take a collection of photos from each trip.

Courtesy of H2O Madeira

Funchal is the capital of Madeira, famed for its wine, it’s tiled streets and for being the birthplace of Cristiano Ronaldo.  It’s a small town to navigate and has some lovely little squares and cobble streets to explore.

 

We found a Vegan restaurant near the centre called Coarcao Vegan (or Vegan Heart on Google Maps) https://www.facebook.com/icoracaovegano?utm_source=tripadvisor&utm_medium=referral The Teriyaki ‘Chicken’ is highly recommended and the Falafal salad or the soup.  Other meals, whilst delicious were mostly deep fried, so whilst tasty, were not exactly healthy.

No trip to Funchal is complete without the coffee stop at the Grand Café – Golden Gate.  It was closed when we last visited Madeira for refurbishment, but its certainly looking great with the new facelift.  It’s the best terrace for people watching in the centre and the coffee is excellent.

We always enjoy our time here and look forward to coming back again some time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The one I forgot to mention – Kuala Lumpur

This is by way of very late entry, the stop we made on the way home.  From Sydney we flew to Kuala Lumpur (KL) for a few days before going on to Heathrow. It was one of those ‘felt like a good idea at the time’ sort of decisions.

Kuala Lumpur feels like the pit stop to the world.  It opens up Europe for Oceania and vice versa.  We stayed at a beautiful hotel ‘ The Shangri La, which was on the outskirts of the main city ring.

We expected to either use public transport or shank’s pony to get around, but found both had their limitation.  The Taxi’s whilst cheap, also had their adventures!

After settling into the hotel, we took the free bus that circles the city.  We had wrongly assumed that this was geared towards tourists.  It was in fact a workers bus, taking the mostly migrant workers from Bangladesh took to their various work locations.  So we did a loop around the back of restaurants, hospitals, office blocks and many other spots.  We stood out in our bright holiday clothes amongst the sombre attire of the workers.  Many spoke little English, but there was one man who was very welcoming and wanted to help us and gave us lots of smiles.  A generous act when it was clear we were the interlopers.

The next day we decided to walk to the nearby shopping mall.  Only 10 minutes up the road – what could go wrong?  Well apparently a lot! The first thing you have to deal with is the heat and humidity which saps your energy with every step.  Then the dodgy street signs, which start off in earnest showing you the way and then seem to get bored and give up half way through.

The road junctions are a law unto themselves.  There are pedestrian crossings, but the pavements below you is either so broken up it’s hard to cross at the junction, or the traffic is rapid and not giving you confidence of its willingness to stop, so a 10 minute walk turns into a 30 minute adventure.

KL centre seems to be about big architectural statements and shopping malls.  The Petronas twin tower was a towering piece of architecture.  The streets had a mixture of run down and broken building, alongside vibrant colours. The big attraction seemed to be the shopping centres and I wondered as I walked around them, who were all these shops for?  Certainly not the locals, many of whom would struggle to afford even the smallest item here.

On the Sunday we went to the KL Bird park, billed as the largest open air aviary in the world.  And the size and space where impressive.  We seen a great range of birds.

Yet beyond the apparent open air nature of the park, we saw some small enclosures with little in the way of natural habitat or growth and some birds that did not look happy.  An emphasis, was for entertainment, with many left out for picture opportunities or to fly to the staff on demand.  It was perhaps not different from the many other animal parks and sanctuaries we had visited over the previous few months, but somehow it felt different. To be fair to the KL Bird staff, I did write to express some of my concerns and they did write back.  I won’t be there to see if improvements are made, but perhaps others will.

 

One of the unexpected visitors to the bird park where the monkeys who somehow have managed to live and thrive in this metropolis.  They had a way of getting through the net at the top of the aviary and come in for plentiful supply of food.

Four days felt like long enough in KL and we were happy to be heading back to London when the time came.

Last but certainly not least on our Ozzie adventure – Sydney

Perhaps we saved the best to last in Australia.  As the largest city by population, Sydney oozes confidence, style and a welcoming charm. We stayed in the heart of the city in Hyde Park and it was the perfect spot from which to go exploring. We were opposite the Anzac war memorial, which although closed to the public for refurbishment, is still an elegant landmark in the park.  Here’s a night time picture.

Anzac at night

 There is lots of heritage to see here.  Not far from our hotel was the Queen Victoria Building, a very large multi-story shopping mall, built around 1895.  It is still elegant and full of interesting shops.

 Queen Victoria Building

 

We also got to the more historic end of town – The Rocks.  This is where the first convicts were dumped when they arrived in Australia and left to fend for themselves.  As it was surrounded on three sides by sea, only one side needed guarding, reducing the amount of supervision needed. From these humble beginnings a substantial neighbourhood has emerged, with a mixed and sometimes unsavoury past. We took a walking night tour to hear about some of the past characters.

This is Cadmans cottage, one of the first buildings on the Rocks and now one of the oldest buildings in Sydney. Built in 1816 for the use of the governmental coxswains and their crews that would help to navigate the ships through the treacherous rocky coast of Sydney.

Old cottage

 

We took a bus ride around the city, which ended up being excellent.  We used Free Tours The bus ride is $18AUD each, and then you pay the guide what you think it was worth.  Fantastic concept and the guide was informative and funny.  We got to see Bondi Beach.  Joy was able to soak it all in, but I had to run around trying to find an ATM that worked, as we still owed the driver for our ticket. Also Macquarie Lighthouse which was built in 1818.

Bondi beach

 Lighthouse

 We also found a great restaurant for lunch one day.  You pay on weight very like Tidbits in London, if anyone has been there.  Very tasty dishes and the desserts were positively sinful at Om Vegan .

 Of course, no visit to Sydney would be complete without seeing Darling Harbour and the Opera House.  It is an iconic building and it was very exciting to see it up close.  There are no bad angles to this building.  It is quite an extraordinary structure.  The front of it almost looks like a glass cathedral.    The contrast inside was quite stark, where unrelenting grey concrete is everywhere and was quite ugly when compared to the exterior.

Sydney opera house group

 Sydney opera house group 2

 

We also noticed this lamp in the corner of our hotel lobby.  Anyone who has visited the BA Lounges in Heathrow Terminal 5 will recognise them.

Black horse lamp

The last thing we went to see was the architectural quirk of the Business School of University Technology Sydney  in Surry Hills.  The building is made from brick, but with such a fluid shape it’s hard to believe.  The building’s façade, which was made of 320,000 custom designed bricks, is described as the “squashed brown paper bag” and you can see why from this picture.

Brown paper bag building

So we know that Little Man has been a little shy lately, but he does pop up here somewhere.  Can you spot him?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canberra – the 14 minute town

After the Blue Mountains, we decided to take a last minute detour to Canberra which is about a 3 hour drive from Sydney.  Unlike most of Australia’s cities, Canberra is inland, with a population of 400,000 resdents.  We coined it the 14 minute town as it seemed that everywhere according to the Sat Nav was exactly 14 minutes away from us.  Mind you, it was the Easter Weekend, so that may be more optimistic than usual.

It’s an interesting place as it is a low rise city, spread out into smaller towns, each with their own identity and centre.  Canberra is reputed to be one of the cleanest, safest and most hospitable cities in the world, and visiting it, you can see why it may earn this accolade.

Canberra group 1

 It’s different from many cities as it was made not born.  By that I mean it was planned as a city from the very beginning.  Most places start out with a bunch of houses, and then grow from a small nucleus in a rather haphazard and unplanned way into a city. 

Canberra was designed from the outset. The location was decided so that it did not place either Sydney or Melbourne above each other, since they were already growing and sprawling urban populations.  A piece of land from New South Wales was identified and became the Australian Capital Territory, so it would not have allegiance (or subservience) to any other Australian state.

To build the capital city of a confident and growing nation an Architecture competition was launched in 1912, asking for entries from around the world.  A Chicago based couple won the design competition  Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin.  Marion was herself a pioneering figure, being the first female registered architect in the world. 

Their design was about building a city for people to live in and enjoy, so the emphasis was on lots of open spaces, wide streets and accessibility.  Their grand vision was never fully realized, as war, depression and political incompetence, got in the way, but by the 1950’s, work began again on building a capital city that would make Australia proud.  Whilst some of the egalitarian vision of the original designers was lost, it is still amazing to see how much of their initial vision was retained.

You cannot go far in the Southern Hemisphere without seeing some memorial to Captain Cook.  For us in the Northern Hemisphere he’s known as an explorer, but in the Southern Hemisphere, across most of the Pacific, he is seen as the founding father.  The memorial in Canberra tracked his three voyages that circumnavigated the globe and brought back  valuable information about the coastlines, flora and fauna of the lands here, paving the way for others to follow.  This memorial showed the route of his three voyages and the stops he made along the way.  The fountain is another Captain Cook monument.

Canberra Group 2

Whilst we were in Canberra they launched the largest Cartier exhibition that I think has ever been shown.

Cartier Group 1

The director of the Gallery personally went to meet the queen to convince her to share some of her personal pieces in the exhibition.  The pink rose brooch above is said to be one of her favourite pieces.  The pink diamond at the centre was given to her as a wedding present from an Indian prince (as you do!) and was made into the brooch.

There were also some famous pieces from film stars such as Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor below.

 

Cartier Group 2

On the way back to Sydney we stopped at a service station to pick up a bite to eat.  We have happened upon a really cool fast-food chain called Olivers Real Food, that aim to serve good wholesome, mainly plant-based food.

Right beside Olivers was a Merino wool shop (the highly specialised wool that Australia and New Zealand are famed for.)  To make sure that you didn’t miss it, they put a huge Merino Ram in the car park. Oversized animals must be a thing here as we’ve seen a lot of them on our journeys!

Giant Ram

Our final stop in Australia is Sydney, so we’ll be back soon with our final Ozzie update.

 

We met The Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains and a few other friends

Three sisters panoramic

From Byron Bay we made our way to Blue Mountains, to do our last bit of volunteering.  This time house sitting  for a doppelganger for Milo from the film, ‘The Mask’, called Jack and two cats.  The Blue Mountains is West of Sydney.  The range is huge, covering over 11,000kms.  It is called the blue mountains because of the blue Haze that is created by the oils from the Eucalyptus trees. 

It’s most famous landmark is the three towering stones that rise up above the forest at the cliffs edge.  They were once a group of seven formations, but only these three remain and they are referred to as the Three Sisters. 

Three sisters 2

 Not far away are the Leura cascade.  Here’s a picture from near the top of the trail.

Waterfall

 And the final big landscape we visited was the Lennox Falls. 

panoramic blue mountain

All three locations were pretty spectacular to look at.  We’ve seen some amazing sights during our trip through the Hawaiian Islands and New Zealand , but it was the sheer scale and range of the view here that took our breath away.  For as far as the eye could see there was just forest and mountains.  It was heartening to see so much untamed land, when you consider the destruction that European settlers made to these lands (and their inhabitants) with their arrival.

 Our charges for the few days were Jack (aka Milo) and Tigger and Sylvia.  They were a lot of fun to be with.  Jack was like a mother hen clucking around his chicks with the two cats.  He would greet them, nibble at their necks and ears, like a mother cat might cleaning her kittens and make sure they didn’t fight, which they were prone to do. 

When it was Jack’s time to go for a walk, Sylvia decided she needed to join us and would follow us into the bush, or lead the way, if we weren’t going fast enough, or going the right direction.  It is a real pleasure being around animals when you are travelling, they are immediately grounding and help you to relax.

Dog and cat walking

There is a very strong arts and crafts movement in the mountains with many galleries and craft centres.  We saw some very creative yarn bombing in the town of Katoomba near the Three Sisters.  It was so colourful, even the tree was probably smiling.

 

 

Next stop – Canberra.