A-list Algarve

By INÊS LOPES*[email protected]

When it comes to the perfect celebrity holiday, the Algarve seems to have it all: luxury resorts, award-winning golf courses, Michelin-starred restaurants, VIP nightclubs, fantastic weather and pristine white sandy beaches. But it is the privacy that they can find here that makes the destination one of the most sought-after by the world’s most famous people.

Since the 60s, when the Algarve was ‘discovered’ by foreigners from Northern Europe, the region’s holiday appeal has been unchanging with the exception that now, more than ever, high-profile personalities are finding its attractions irresistible, not least because they can get away from the flashlights and media frenzy, and enjoy peace and tranquility.

This summer promises to be exceptionally busy for the paparazzi, who will be on a mission to spot the many international stars holidaying in the Algarve.

A newcomer to the Algarve summer scene is British Prime Minister David Cameron, who landed at Faro airport on Thursday last week on an easyJet flight and retreated to the hills of Monchique with his family for a two-week holiday.

Enjoying a drink in a local café or visiting the market undisturbed are probably rare moments in the life of the UK premier, but he was provided just these when he visited Aljezur on Friday.

Looking relaxed and casually dressed, David Cameron and his wife Samantha visited the local fish market and browsed through the various fish stalls, spoke to vendors and decided on freshly-caught squid to grill for their lunch.

The photographer clicking away no doubt sparked some curiosity among locals, in their majority unaware that they were in the presence of one of the world’s most powerful figures.

Far from the hustle and bustle of the Algarvian beaches, the Camerons have found peace and solace in Monchique where they are staying in a secluded property surrounded by dense vegetation.

The couple are accompanied by their three children – Nancy, 9, Arthur, 7, and Florence, 2 – and are guarded by more than a dozen security officers from Scotland Yard, providing 24-hour protection, as well as officers from the English and Portuguese secret service.

Speaking to the Algarve Resident on Monday, Monchique Mayor Rui André said the local people have warmly welcomed the Camerons and wished them a restful and enjoyable holiday.

“Holidaymakers drawn by the beauty of Monchique can now take advantage of top quality accommodation providing total relaxation, while also being close to the beaches, golf courses and coastal urban centres,” he said, adding that the late Margaret Thatcher was also a fan of the area, having been spotted twice enjoying a meal at the Paraíso da Montanha restaurant. “Grilled meats and typical stews are very popular among our international visitors.”

Monchique, which is much sought-after by the British, who account for 20% of the local population, may now witness increased interest from UK visitors and property investors.

Desidério Silva, president of the Algarve Tourism Board, has no doubt that the presence of “one of the world’s most important figures” in the Algarve will be highly beneficial to tourism. “Out of all the destinations in the world he could have chosen, the fact that he selected the Algarve for a relaxing family holiday is a real testament to the region’s qualities – beautiful weather, beaches and scenery, hospitable people, good food and total peace of mind,” he said.

Meet the star

Sir Cliff Richard is a well known regular to the Algarve where he has had a property in the Albufeira area for many decades. A unique opportunity to meet the star is being provided by Intermarché Lagoa on August 2, from 11am to 1pm, when Sir Cliff will be signing bottles of his Vida Nova wine.

Famous international singing star Bonnie Tyler is also known for her love of the Algarve, visiting as often as possible. She has owned a villa here since 1976.

Portuguese personalities visiting the Algarve this summer include the President of Portugal Cavaco Silva who stays at his property in Aldeia da Coelha in Albufeira and Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho who holidays in Manta Rota. *Roger Green