Vila Gale Albacora, Tavira
Hotel - Quatro Aguas, 8800-901 Tavira - 162 Rooms
2 reviews from the community
Review of "Vila Gale Albacora, Tavira"
Just now I’ve had very little Ciao time – occasional reading, and no writing at – then oh joy, I end up in bed for a week with a chest infection. Can’t work. Can't visit folk. Can’t clean or cook. Can’t walk or wash dogs. The Spanielmeister is flying his kite in the southern hemisphere. High time for me enjoy a couple of modest pleasures – reminiscing about a lovely holiday, and writing a very long-overdue review.In fact, it has taken me almost two years to get this one written, so apologies if it (and I) are not too fresh!
The run-up to the holiday was blighted by the terrible service of company Low Cost Holidays (see the review that I did write last year - anger is a great motivator). In fact, Low Cost Holidays is no more (no wonder), but I’ve been checking Trip Advisor and this delight of a hotel is still going strong.----------
The beautiful town of Tavira is a charming little gem on Portugal’s Algarve. Instead of turning right at Faro and heading for the pleasant, but typical coastal holiday resorts, go instead in the direction of the Spanish border and the Ria Formosa nature reserve and you find yourself in the charming riverside destination which boasts a ruined castle, a “Roman” (actually built in the latter part of the 12th Century) bridge and over thirty churches and chapels.I’ve been very fortunate and enjoyed a couple of visits to Tavira in recent years but have always stayed in the centre of town. Taking the boat to Tavira island to the beach, I’ve been intrigued by the outline of the Vila Gale Albacora hotel, set about 3km out of town at the mouth of the Ria Formosa and amid the spooky salt flats. The Albacora (named after the large tuna caught and processed there) was formerly a fishing community and the factory, housing, church and school have all been restored and converted into what is described as an “eco hotel”, providing remote and unique accommodation, services and facilities.
Three-quarters of the way through what had been a difficult year, we decided that we would take short break, quite literally away from it all, and in the five days in September when I was permitted to take some annual leave, we booked ourselves into a riverside room on an all-inclusive basis, in order to stop the world and get ourselves off – if only for a little while.I searched Trivago for the best price, and looked forward to a quiet retreat, in this already quiet resort.
We got a taxi from the airport which took only about 30 minutes to the town of Tavira, then a short drive across the fascinating salt flats to our remote destination. I was braced for a bit of difficulty checking as there had been a bit of a drama over the booking and an error of the holiday company (another story, another review). The reception area was large and airy, decorated in purples and orange, and there was a little cooler offering a lovely drink of water infused with mint and pineapple. I was quite glad of this, as the helpful and friendly (but confused) receptionist had to take some time to locate our booking. To be brief, despite being the main traveller my name was nowhere on the booking – and Baron Spanielmeister (who even didn’t know where he was) had to verify ME and sign all the paperwork on my behalf.We had arrived early, and our rooms were not yet ready, but a helpful chap took our bags and gave us a little tour until were ready to move in.
---------While waiting for our room we wandered about the cobbled streets of the complex which contained two types of terraced houses – those with a garden view and those with a river view. The houses where one storey and painted a bright mustard yellow. These rooms were formally the homes of the fishing village, and resemble a quaint “holiday camp” layout. They open onto the street, but each also had a little garden of its own. Each of the streets still had the original ceramic street name signs, and at night they were beautifully lit up with lamps and ground lighting. The other rooms, which faced the river were built from the processing and canning buildings of the plant, as was the restaurant and bar. Being a fully functioning community, the complex had a school, which now served as the Kids’ Club. There was also a pretty and interesting little church which had been restored and was open to visit, as well as former administrative buildings – one housed the scuba diving centre, and the other a museum telling the history of the area, the tuna industry and the day to day lives of the fishers and their families.
----------Of the hotel’s 162 rooms, 43 have a view of the river. On recommendation from Trip Advisor reviews, we paid the extra supplement and took a river facing room. The décor was a little dated, all dark wood and mustard coloured bathroom but this was in keeping with the old village style. We had TV, mini fridge, air con, safe, hairdryer, extra bedding in case it was cool, and an iron (I won’t use one at home let alone on holiday).
The terrace was quite spacious and had a lovely view of the river. There was always activity on the river, tourist traffic, fishing boats, and a strange but small dredger working night and day, but it was all very laid back and relaxing, was we enjoyed many times just sitting with a glass or two and watching all the busy, but quiet comings and goings. The terrace wasn’t particularly private as it was lined with hedges rather than walls, and it would have been easy to walk through them all without any obstruction, but I didn’t mind the openness, and it did add to the overall feel of being in a community.----------
The large pool was icy cold (which I was glad of) and right in the centre, set in a grassy garden area surrounded by the little streets of houses, and it was very quiet, but not “dead”. The area also had a smaller paddling pool for little ones, and a couple of showers. There were always plenty of sunbeds, which were very substantial and comfortable, and a sufficient parasols if you needed shade. Most of the time the children were in the Kids’ Club, so there was usually only adults around the pool. There was occasional water aerobics classes, and guests were gently encouraged to participate. The pool was also used for scuba diving practice in the early evening when it was practically empty. At night when it got dark there was an illuminated fountain in the centre of the pool – we used to have a drink and wait for it starting, but always seemed to miss when it began.-----------
Unfortunately we did get a bit of rain, so it was nice that the complex had an indoor pool and spa facilities. The Satsanga Spa is in the basement and has a lovely atmosphere as it lies under a canopy covering that makes up part of the hotel’s main patio. The swimming pool is beautifully cool and deep, there is a hot tub and a steam room, plus a sauna. There is also a gym, but I never darkened the door there of course. Once we had the pool to ourselves and it was very relaxing and serene – on other occasions, it did get quite busy with families and young children, but they too were escaping the rain, and as the hotel is so remote there’s not much fun to be had if it is lashing outside.
Dining Areas and Bar-----------
The hotel had a large main dining room with buffets at breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was quite spacious – when empty – but was very busy at breakfast and dinner. There was a patio area outside, but it was only set up for eating at dinner time. Lunchtime was very quiet indeed – many people took themselves off for the day, and the only people eating at lunch seemed to be those who took the all-inclusive option and wanted to get their money’s worth! Dinner could be quite chaotic, as there were long queues of people either waiting to be seated, or to pay their bill at the end of the meal. Thankfully, as the patio dining area was set up, we ate outside in the evening and avoided the fuss inside.There was a lounge bar that was only serving in the evening – it had the usual large TV and pub-style singer on entertainment evenings.
During the day the pool bar was open and it was lovely as it was set in the grounds just far enough away from the pool so that you didn’t see folk hoiking away at their speedos when they climbed out.-----------
Food & Beverages----------
I was a bit dubious about the quality and variety of the food as I had read many negative reviews, but I was very impressed by the variety and quality. Breakfast buffet included the usual hot fare of bacon, scrambled eggs, beans, and funky little euro sausages, and a show chef was cooking fried eggs and omelettes. There was a huge cold selection of cheeses, cooked meats, smoked salmon, salads, fruit and breads. Tea and coffee were from machines, and weren’t too bad, but by the time you got back to your table they were either spilt or cold. So just on the safe side they put out some sparkling wine at breakfast which was much more sensible!Although lunchtimes were very quiet, there was a large selection, with hot and cold choices of starters, mains and dessert.
Things were much more frantic at dinner, but the choices were excellent once again, with occasional themed nights.On the whole, the food was very Portuguese in flavour, with many dishes made up with both pork and shellfish. I can understand that this might not be everyone’s choice, but I love this combination, and if you didn’t there were still plenty of options.
Local red & wine was excellent quality and we enjoyed a lot of this with our meals, beer was the usual Superbock which I love, but aside from that the all-inclusive ticket did have its limits. Local spirits were included, but if you wanted a cocktail on AI then you were stuck with the “Cocktail of the Day” which was ready made in bulk. We tried one of these most evenings, really just for the novelty and although they weren’t too adventurous or decorative, they weren’t shy with the measures. If you wanted a cocktail off the menu you had to pay, which was a bit of a swiz, as they could’ve been mixed from the bar selection rightly – however this way you were guaranteed branded spirits.
The staff were all cheerful and friendly, however, I did get the impression that many of them were on their “first day” – at the quiet lunchtimes, eager waiting staff were folding napkins with gusto, while missing out on clearing tables or filling glasses.Once we got the hold of one we demonstrated our need for frequent “refuelling” as wine was not on tap. We had a good laugh with the lunchtime staff regarding this, but in the evenings (especially as we ate outside) it was quicker to nip to the bar and bring back a couple of glasses than to wait for the refill. However, the staff were very hard working and good natured – one poor chap got it in the ear from a nasty bloke dining a la carte (obviously not on an AI free-for-all like us) so we kind of adopted him as our regular fuel attendant. He (like many of the other staff) were kind of self-employed and they seemed to be the best and most professional.
----------We never usually bother with hotel entertainment – just being away, being together feasting and quaffing is entertainment enough for us. A few times there was a bloke singing in the bar, I’m sure one night I saw a poster of a guy and a parrot, and one other time there were folk dancers, but we only saw them because they danced round our table.
----------There isn’t really a beach by the hotel – just a few rocks and lots of mud from the river, but a short boat ride took you to Tavira Island and the most amazing long beaches, situated on the far side of the river’s seaward bank. There was a charge for the boats, but it was only €2.90 for a return ticket – one beach was 5 minutes away and it was the most popular and busy one, with plenty of shops and restaurants - the other was 15 minutes boat ride and was much quieter. It had just one beach shack selling beer, but this was by far our favourite.
-----------Connection to Tavira Town
----------A quiet dusty, and very exposed road crosses the salt flats. Some people choose to walk this, other hired bicycles. We used the shuttle bus twice to get into the lovely town of Tavira, and took a taxi back - approx. 6 euros during the day and 8 euros at night. It’s worth mentioning that if you are thinking or walking or cycling at night, being a nature reserve, the road is unlit.
----------No matter how much you enjoy or require the sanctuary of the hotel and grounds, the town is well worth a visit. The “Roman” bridge makes a pretty backdrop to a riverside meal or drink, especially at dusk. The town square has a little amphitheatre and there is live music most nights. When we visited, the town was hosting a food festival, and there were stalls, displays and music all throughout the town. The castle ruins are small, but set in beautiful, cool gardens, and you get a marvellous view of rooftops and church tops from the tower and walls. Meanwhile the Camera Obscura in the converted water tower is a marvellous experience – your guide’s mastery of languages is just as fascinating as the live pictures projected on the enormous table screen.
----------I would not hesitate to recommend this unique and charming hotel, and if you see any negative reviews do take them with a pinch of salt (no pun here). The issues that many people expressed are either to be expected from the hotel’s situation in the nature park (mosquitoes, no nearby beaches) or as part of its traditional charm (local cuisine, small village houses as accommodation). We found it a delightful retreat, and if we are fortunate enough to have the chance would definitely return.
Thanks for reading.
Product Information : Vila Gale Albacora, Tavira
Manufacturer's product descriptionHotel - Quatro Aguas, 8800-901 Tavira - 162 Rooms
Address: Quatro Aguas, 8800-901 Tavira
Listed on Ciao since: 13/02/2006