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Review: Solo trip to Plessis in the Algarve, Portugal

By Paul Hooper

It is not everyone’s cup of tea, I know.

But then again, as someone who regular sups Earl Grey, Gunpowder, Kenyan and the occasional iced green, I guess I am up for unusual teas.

Solo holidays - maybe an acquired taste.

The beach at Quateria
The beach at Quateria

Not singles looking for singles, nor singles going away together... I mean solo.

I got the idea when I saw an advert for the Maidstone-based James Villas - a secluded villa, its own pool and not a travel rep in sight.

And I thought: “I’ll ‘ave a bit of that!”

Being a widower, I just fancied a slice of solitude. Not so much ‘me’ time, more ‘not with anyone else’ time.

Villa in Plessis
Villa in Plessis

So I chose a three-bedroom villa with its own swimming pool in Portugal, just a 20-minute drive from the airport at Faro.

Plessis is a one-horse hamlet with a few scattered villas nearby, a swift drive from the small coastal village of Quateria and in striking distance from the busier Albuferia.

The British Airways flight from Gatwick - which came with its own Terry Wogan soundalike captain – is just over two and a half hours.

My Avis car, a Renault, was waiting and the staff courteous, friendly, and efficient.

My own pool at the villa
My own pool at the villa

But in fairness that’s one of the great joys of Portugal - the default setting for most of its people is warm and welcoming.

My first stop, en route to the villa, was to the supermarket Pingo Doce where I found everything I needed for my stay, but for a jar of honey (for my tea).

So, I asked one of the assistants, who smiled and then promptly disappeared.

I had finished my shopping and was about to leave the store, when she reappeared with two brands of honey in her hand after she had spent 15 minutes sifting through boxes and boxes in the back of the store, and then presented to me with a satisfied smile.

Sitting room inside the villa
Sitting room inside the villa

You can’t help noticing just how kind the Portuguese are.

My villa had a large living area, bookshelves, a TV offering a smattering of American and English programmes, three bedrooms - two en-suite - and a big enough kitchen to cook a meal, especially for one.

Cleaners only bother you once a week and the pool with its orange and lime tree-filled gardens are maintained to a very high standard.

And the joy of having my own pool and six sunbeds with only my towel on them was an unexpected joy! No sardine-like squashing on a noisy beach or next to a hotel pool.

Inside the villa in Plessis
Inside the villa in Plessis

During my two week stay, I tucked into some fabulous Portuguese cuisine. Piri Piri chicken, caldo verde soup, Bacalhau (cod) and chourico, a Portuguese sausage, and all washed down with some very quaffable Vinho Verde wine for just a few Euros.

For the braver there is also some strong wines known as aguardente or medronho – made from berries from the Monchique mountains. Please note they are also referred to as “local fire water”.

And there are a number of markets worth spending an hour or so sauntering through for souvenirs, shoes, clothes, handbags, etc – like the one at Fonte Santa, just a two minute drive away from the villa, and next to a large Lidl (which now seem to be everywhere in the Algarve).

The sunset over Plessis
The sunset over Plessis

It’s also worth stopping for a chat with “resident” market artist Miro or buying a couple of Portuguese doughnuts – known as Farturas – from delightful stallholders Carlos and wife Liliana for just one Euro each.

And for those wanting a traditional English breakfast, Mojo’s – run by Stephen and Irene, a friendly couple formerly from Liverpool - is immediately opposite the entrance to the market.

And there are markets virtually every day in Loule, Portimao, Alte and Lagos – all reachable by car or by public transport.

There is plenty to see and do for families in the Algarve in late autumn for the lone ranger. The water slides and amusement arcades maybe closed for the season but you can sit in fabulous sunshine on secluded beaches until 7pm. It’s the stuff dreams are made of.

South American musician playing pan pipes at Loule Market
South American musician playing pan pipes at Loule Market

On the spur of the moment I decided to take in a couple of football matches in Albufeira, which cost me just Euros 2.50, and I also enjoyed a visit to an art gallery in Loule, serenaded by pan pipes from a South American musician.

But during the days I just sunbathed on my own lounger, next to a private pool with a cold beer – or iced tea - in the fridge and apart from the occasional greeting from a nearby Portuguese rooster, I was left undisturbed and in peace.

The price for a week in October is just under £460. My flight and car hire from Gatwick was £300 with insurance.

Solo tips:

  • Learning a few words of Portuguese will win you friends
  • Have an adaptable plan for days out
  • Take time to talk to local people
  • Remember that most parking is free, so get out and about
  • Try local food. It is excellent

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