Recently I flew home from Portugal after another fantastic Guitar Retreat. This was my tenth Guitar Retreat since my first back in 2013 and the second time I had travelled to Alvor in the Algarve for a bit of winter sunshine and guitar playing. Whilst not as hot as last year it was still a very pleasant 17° during the day with the only rain falling once and that overnight
I had booked a couple of extra days before the Retreat to do a bit of sightseeing around the area. I hired a car last year but since I only used it the once to go to the lighthouse at Cabo de São and to transfer from the airport, I decided against one this year. Stu Marshall, the owner of Guitar Retreats and his wife Sharon had also arrived a couple of days early so I spent some of the time with them and got a lift from the airport. This “Guitar Getaway” is very much more of a holiday than others and there’s no pressure to attend any of the lessons.
It was great to see Sue, Chris and Jim again, who I had stayed with in Leatherhead just the week before. There were other familiar faces there including Simon who hails from the Isle of Wight and Stephen who I first met last year at Guitar Retreat and took him and a friend sailing last summer. I have already planned my next Retreat to France in June and Stephen will be joining me on the journey there.
The hotel - Pestana Dom João II – is a modern beach front hotel and pretty good value at this time of year so much so that there are regulars who stay for 3 months over the winter for around £70 per week! Many of them recognised us from last year and we were constantly asked when we were playing – we must have gone down well. It’s a literally right on the beach and a boardwalk runs past the hotel, eastwards to the magnificent cliffs and west towards the centre of the town. Alvor is a small fishing village which relies heavily on tourism and whilst many of the restaurants along the beach were closed for the winter, a number of restaurants and pubs in the town remain open all year round. On my wanderings I counted 6 “Irish” pubs, one of them, The Leinster House, was the venue for our gig. It’s usual on a Retreat for there to be lessons during the day and building up to a performance on the last night. This can either be in the hotel or as in this case, a local pub or café. Many of the residents at the hotel walked into the village to see us and the pub was packed. A great night was had by all.
The town of Lagos (pronounced “Lagoosh” according to our bus driver) is a short bus journey along the coast. It too is a fishing and maritime town with many restaurants and bars as well as tourist shops. One of them is the “cork” shop. It would seem that due to the demise of corks in wine bottles, locals have found ingenious ways of using cork to make all sorts of things from purses and wallets to hats and even dresses! Last year I bought a hat there, which for all the world looks and feels like leather. We visited it again as Jim wanted a hat!
All in all it was a fantastic week of guitar, singing, quizzes, crazy golf, bowling and sightseeing. The weather was great and the company fantastic – I’ll be booking next year!