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Travels in Portugal: The Locals in Lagos

A Floresta Restaurante

LAGOS, PORTUGAL, Nov 25, 2012/ — For most of my stay in Lagos I have been on foot. Quite often I frequent restaurants that are basically right at my doorstep. I call them my locals in Lagos.

There is always a smile, an “Ola Bom Dia” (hello good morning), “Boa Tarde” (good afternoon),” and of course “Obrigado” (Thank you by male), “Obrigada” (Thank you by female). Each restaurant and pub became a part of my new world.

One of the restaurants close to my hotel is A Floresta – Cozinha Portuguesa (The Forest – Cuisine Portuguese). Family run, it has a casual room for day, and a more formal section that opens in the evening. It also has an outdoor patio.

Whatever you order will be made from scratch; fish from the local fish market, and fresh vegetables. I have tried the sword-fish Algarve style, which in this case has a mushroom sauce. It is very tasty, but I usually opt for simpler grilled salmon.

The other day I had the half roasted chicken with a starter of Sopa Legumes (vegetable soup). As is the custom in many restaurants you are offered bread, butter, and sardine pate as an option.

The owner personally serves you with a twinkle in his eye. His wife waves from behind the counter. People working at my hotel come by for their coffee break, so does the owner of the dry cleaners I use. Slowly I am beginning to understand the Portugese menu, of course the English translation helps.

Even closer to my hotel is the Artista, owned by Luis Fagundas. He also owns the English pub next door; his namesake Luis’s. Many of the regulars are expats; English, Welsh, Scots, and Irish. There is the bar area, plus private booths. It has a happy hour at 5:00pm. Adding a festive element, it is always decorated for the current holidays. In December they have a special day where you are invited to bring your own cheese or appetizers, giving a welcoming family touch to customers.

Artista has a traditional English bar, along with huge wooden tables. The German tourists who are most likely familiar with the Hofbrauhaus appreciate this décor as well. The wall colors are warm in deep red and yellow tones.

Three quarters of the Artista is filled with a variety of square tables with more formal tablecloths, silverware, and wine glasses. These tables can be reserved for lunch or dinner, but you are welcome to order a meal at almost any time during the day starting at noon.

You can order fresh salmon, swordfish, leg of lamb, lamb chops, avocado and prawns, onion soup, salads, and all types of sandwiches ad infinitum. It is nonsmoking.

During the week there is a variety of entertainment at the Artista; jazz, rock, and karaoke. Luis is often there during the day, always ready with a kind word and a joke. His staff, Nelson, and Miquel follow suit. For ambience they make certain the candles are lit by evening, and on cold dark days. Luis built his business from the ground up, starting with Luis’s, then eventually expanding by opening up Artista. There is a special dinner held on New Year’s Eve at Artista, which is by reservation.

One of the local characters that frequented Artista was Alberto. He passed away in October. He often rode his white mare into town and “parked” it cattycorner from the restaurant.

Alberto rode at least fifteen to twenty kilometers a day, sharing the joy of his horse with children in the village. Last week I thought I was seeing the ghost of Alberto past, as there was horse droppings on the cobblestones across from Luis’s. It turns out the family was having a memorial dinner at Artista’s and they decided to bring Alberto’s horse for a last supper. His horse has been donated to a school to teach children to ride.

It is the warmth of locals in Lagos that makes one want to come back and stay awhile.

[MARSHA BENTLEY HALE]
Photos by Marsha Hale