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.