Sao Lourenco, Algarve Beaches, Calanques in Marseille, and Drive to Nice

Sao Lourenco, Algarve Beaches, Calanques in Marseille, and Drive to Nice

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Our last day in the Algarve was a rather lazy one. We started our day off with a visit to an old Catholic church called the Sao Lourenco, then relaxed for most of the afternoon on one of the sandy Algarve beaches, then finished our day with dinner at an Argentine steakhouse. The next day was an early morning to catch our flight to France where we started off with a visit to the calanques in Marseille before taking a drive to Nice.

Sao LourencoSao Lourenco

We got up on the morning of our last day in Portugal and went to see the Sao Lourenco church. This is another gem we would have missed if it weren’t for the recommendations of Roger the Brit. The Sao Lourenco doesn’t look much different than any other church from the outside, what sets it apart is on the inside. The surfaces of the interior walls and ceiling are covered with a unique blue and white tile called azulejos. Azulejos were not only used for decoration, but they also served to control interior temperature. The azulejos inside the San Lourenco depict the life of Saint Lawrence. Β He was a pretty bad ass dude who got killed for giving money to the poor instead of Emperor Decius. The walls and ceilings depict him healing two blind men, giving money to the poor, talking with the pope, getting whipped with rods, seared with irons, and thrown over a mound of coals to die… like I said, total badass.

Photography isn’t allowed in the chapel, but who’s to say that someone couldn’t accidentally open the camera on the cell phone placed on their lap and snag a few pictures of the ceiling?

Beach

After our busy day of dolphin chasing and cave exploring, we decided it was time to hit the beach for some relax. The beach was a bit more crowded than it was when we jogged it the previous day. Being an American, I’m not too used to the liberal nature of European beaches; a lotta boobs, and a lotta wang. Once you get over the initial shock, it’s not that big of a deal, they’re just bodies. I asked Kendra if she wanted to be adventurous and walk along the beach in the buff, we didn’t have the balls to do it though. Maybe next trip… or never.

Parilla Restaurant

Parilla RestaurantFor dinner, we found an Argentine steakhouse called Parilla about a mile away from our hotel. This was probably one of the best dining experiences I had in Portugal. The exterior dining area had a pretty cool atmosphere with lights wrapped around each limb of the large trees, giving a soft amber light. Everything one needs for an evening of romance.

We ordered a couple starters. The one that sticks out in my memory was a cheese plate. They brought it in what I will describe as similar to a deviled egg platter. In each dip was a delightful dab of melted cheese with all sorts of herbs. Kendra had a beat salad, which looked like ass. The steaks were rather amazing and we topped them off with a dark chocolate ice cream and cheese cake for dessert. If you’re in the area, I’d recommend you try it out.

We got up for an early flight out of the Faro airport. Our connecting flight was in Lisbon, and then off to Marseille in southern France. Flights between European countries tend to be pretty cheap, so we didn’t bother to use any points. We just did a google flight search and found some tickets for around $80 a person. Kendra sat by a guy that only spoke French, yet he was determined to have a conversation with us. I still don’t know to this day what we were talking about. He’d point at things to try to explain what he was saying, and when I gave up trying to understand what he was talking about, I’d just nod my head as if I understood, and this seemed to suffice for him. I still don’t know what we talked about. Pretty friendly for a French dude.

We landed in Marseille and were able to get our luggage and rental car fairly quickly. We were a little nervous for the drive through Marseille as the road map looked like mom’s spaghetti. We had a few missed turns and a couple hectic bouts of re-routing, but we were able to make it through. One of the wrong turns allowed us to get some cool views of the town and the dock area. We were also able to snag a couple views of the Chateau D’If, where the Count of Monte Cristo was imprisoned.

Calanques

Calanques in MarseilleThe reason we flew into Marseille is that we wanted to see the calanques. Calanques are narrow steep walled inlets cut into the limestone along the Mediterranean coast of southern France. A large group of them between Marseille and Cassis were designated as national park in 2012. The pictures we found online looked beautiful, and this is one of the things we were the most excited to see in France. Being diligent planners, we google mapped the route. Knowing we’d be there around lunch time, we found one inlet that had a restaurant. We quickly learned that just because a road goes there, doesn’t mean you can use it. There’s a cutoff point where only locals can continue to drive through by car, everyone else has to get out and walk. So there we were after a flight, with no water in our camel backs, and a little grumpy from dealing with the maze of streets that is Marseille…. why not hike a mile up and over a mountain?

Le LunchThough not the smartest idea, the sights were breathtaking. We eventually made it to the other side where we figured we could get some water to go with our lunch. Wrong again, the restaurant was closed. Luckily, there was another restaurant a little further down the hillside that served seafood. This was our first experience with the language barrier in France, which is a much larger barrier than it was in Portugal… not a whole lot of English speakers in this particular area. We stumbled our way through getting a table, and Kendra (not knowing the word for water) just said “Coke”… the universal drink in any language.

Our Cokes arrived like manna from heaven, and we were left trying to google translate the French menu to find something edible. Kendra isn’t a huge seafood fan, so she opted for some dish that involved tomatoes and eggplant according to google. I chose a shrimp and risotto plate. What ensued could only be described as the worst meal of my life. It was like eating moldy ass underwear with skid marks. Kendra’s eggplant thing had the consistency of mushy meatloaf topped with curdled tomato paste, and mine was like trying to chew a disembodied rubber chicken. The restaurant is called Le Lunch and I would avoid it like a plague, unless you’re in desperate need of a refreshing Coke.

We sat at the beach and enjoyed the Calanques as we let our “food” settle as neither of us wanted to experience a bulimic buffet, and contemplated the steep hike back to our car. Not 200 yards into our trek, a jovial French man pulled over and waved for us to get in. Visions of getting raped, brutally murdered, and buried in the French hillside only to be forgotten by my American friends and family flashed through my brain. I compared that against the thought of enduring the hike back over in the blistering heat without any water, and it was a rather easy decision to make. We quickly hopped into the air-conditioned paradise of his back seat. I’m glad to say there was no rape, murder, or burial. He was a nice fellow. We tried to pay him for his kindness, but he refused. He dropped us off at our car and we were back on the road and headed to Nice.

Holiday Inn Saint Laurent Du VarWe stayed in the Holiday Inn Saint Laurent Du Var. We used 70,000 points that we got from our Chase IHG card to book a two-night stay. It’s a bit of an older property and not quite as fancy as the others we had stayed at on our trip, but it had magnificent views of the French Riviera and Mediterranean Sea. After we got settled we walked along the coast and found a nice pizza joint called Tortolla. It was a nice reprieve from the shit ass lunch we had earlier. They had English menus, and the title said it all, “This is Eat!”Tortolla

Moral of the story: contrary to popular belief, the French are not all ass holes. In under 12 hours, I met two: one really friendly, and another that took time out of his day to save us a trip over the mountain. And later in the trip, we met one who paid for our parking since the meter was not accepting our credit card. Turns out Dumb and Dumber is not the absolute truth when it comes to paradigms by which I should live my life.

Have you ever been to any of these places? If so, I’d love to hear about any of your experiences. Please feel free to leave a comment and I’ll be more than happy to get back to you.


18 Replies to “Sao Lourenco, Algarve Beaches, Calanques in Marseille, and Drive to Nice”

  1. Sounds like an awesome trip! I have recently just considered Europe. We’re almost done for now with Latin America. I may just follow your footsteps next year!

    1. Awesome. My wife and I love Europe. If you end up going check out some of my other posts. The information will save you a lot of money getting there.

      Thanks for the comment.

  2. I love the set up of your website. It’s easy to navigate and the organization is flawless. I feel the pictures are set up just right and you offer great information.

  3. After I spend time in Asia, I think I can go to Portugal. But it really depends if I will have time or not.
    And I really loved the Parilla Restaurant. I will definitely go there. Even the pic made me hungry.

  4. I really feel like this article was written for me because it’s my dream to travel the world ( kind of for the food lol) , so for you to write this is very helpful. It’s good to know that the french aren’t mean. I really think I’ll visit here one day because of this post.

    1. Thanks Tiffani. If you follow the methods I lay out on my blog, you should have no trouble getting there. I hope you’re able to. Be sure to come back and comment on your adventures when you do.

  5. You guys have an awesome sight. For your next trip you should go to Hawai’i and tell us how to get there cheap. Just don’t ride the helicopter over the volcanos – I hear they crash a lot and are very dangerous. Swimming on a black sand beach would be cool too. Have fun!

    Brad Boschma

    1. Thanks for the comment Bradley.

      Our first award trip actually was to Hawaii. We spent a week on Oahu and a week on Maui. We used a combination of Chase Ultimate Reward Points and Hyatt free nights. Stay tuned and I’ll have some travel journals about it. We’re thinking we may go back to hit Kauai in 2018 as we still have a lot of Ultimate Reward Points.

      Thanks for the heads up on the helicopter rides. I’ll be sure to find a company with a good track record if we choose to do that.

  6. Oh wow. Yesssssssss.

    You two seem like you are having so much fun. I would love to go on similar adventures with my other half after completing MD school.
    The food looks amazing.Those views are to die for. I would love to visit places with famous historic or ancient land marks.

    Can’t wait. I’ll be following your Journey. Heading over to your Switzerland blogs now.

    All the best!

    Crystal

    1. Thanks for the comment Crystal. Kudos on going through med school. I have a nephew currently doing that, and it sounds rough. If you have any way to put expenses on credit cards, you should be able to rack up a ton of points in time for graduation, and then you can go on any vacation you want without breaking the bank. If that interests you, check out our tips on how to do it here.

      We’ve posted a little bit about Switzerland, but that page is still under construction. We can’t get everything written fast enough. We have completed documenting our Portugal trip, and are about half way through France. Switzerland, Croatia, and Hawaii are still to come, so please feel free to check back.

  7. I love the review! I’ve never done France but many times in the Algarve, the beaches are out of this world! I’d definitely recommend anyone to visit. Your holiday sounded amazing, I am jelous! The Holiday Inn Saint Laurent Du Var looks incredible, I mean what a view! I wish you many more happy travels

    1. It really was a great trip. We hope we’re able to go back to the Algarve many times as well.

      Thanks for the comment.

  8. I found your blog quite comedic, especially the beach section! A lot of Europeans like to go “starkers” (naked) on the beach!

    It looks as if you took the pictures yourself, and if so, great photography. The views look beautiful, but the food made me hungry!

    A part of my family live in Marseille, and the area is beautiful. The South of France is notoriously known for having incredible weather. I will be going to visit their again sometime this year, but after this have put it on my bucket list to go to Algarve!

    Keep up the good work

    1. Thanks for the compliments Luke.

      That’s awesome that you have family in the area. That usually means you’ve got a free place to stay. I hope you end up making it to the Algarve. I’d love to hear about it if you do.

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