Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Kites and changes on the Algarve's Praia do Garrao

You can keep your windsurfing, your banana boats and your volleyball: give me a kite any day. And not one of those fancy stunt kites either, just the normal sort. When it comes to beach activities, I'm of the opinion that simple is best: sunbathing, reading, kite-flying.

The Algarve's Praia do Garrao, a quiet, sandy beach between the chi-chi villa-filled areas of Vale do Lobo and Quinta do Lago, proved a perfect spot for a bit of autumn kite-flying last week. The odd sunbather, stroller or jogger aside; my family and I had the beach to ourselves to launch our kite and watch its ribbon tail swirl in the breeze. Costing just 6 euros from the local supermarket, the smiley-faced kite attracted more than one admiring glance and the attention of a few photographers.

Praia do Garrao is a laid-back pocket of this gently developed area, overlooked by a charmingly ramshackle collection of bars and restaurants. These mostly wooden constructions perch above the beach, linked to the sand by a rickety boardwalk. The six premises are unpretentious places, particularly That Shack, the most tumbledown-looking of that lot. Owned by the jovial Jerry, the bar's menu says it all: 'When you're lucky enough to dine by the beach, you're lucky enough'. No linen napkins and white-shirted waiters are needed here: a post-kite flying tuna steak burger served with a smile is more than sufficient. From its rear deck, That Shack has the best view of the beach; an uninterrupted vista taking in the dunes, the boardwalk and the Atlantic Ocean. During our few days in the area, we spent almost every afternoon idly admiring that view, sipping a glass of Portuguese rose.

The view from That Shack

But sadly, the area has been earmarked by the authorities for development. Not understanding that Praia do Garrao's peaceful setting's appeal is enhanced by the low-key, low-gloss nature of its beachside bars, plans are afoot to demolish the existing establishments and replace them with just two or three fancy food outlets, a bigger car park and improved access to the beach. The announcement came as a shock to the bar owners, who were only able to submit blind bids with detailed plans for new, more 'suitable' (and large-scale) restaurants. Part of the Polis development programme which will affect a large area of the central and eastern Algarve, the plans will be put in place during 2011, meaning that there are just a few months left to enjoy Praia do Garrao as it is now. Once the winds of change revamp the area and stamp it with sanitised 'boutique' appeal, kite-flying on the beach will still be possible: but you won't be able to follow it up with a cheese toastie and a stunning view of the sands from That Shack's wooden terrace. If only the Algarve's authorities understood that sometimes the simple things in life are the best.

1 comment :

  1. Excellent and I agree with what you have said about spoiling the unspoilt, why do that, you can find these stone built restaurants everywhere and the restauranst at Garrao beach are just perfect and busy. Help the parking suituation, yes but the restaurants only need a little yearly spruce up and that gets done. I do hope the powers that be see sense, before it's too late.


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