“Selamat datang ke Olhao, Sara!” went the first line of the email from Jeff and Leonie De Zilva at the Pension Bicuar Residencial in Olhao, Portugal where we had booked our beds online. They probably Google-translated the word ‘welcome’, we assumed.
Eyebrows were raised once again when Jeff welcomed us when we arrived by asking, “So which part of KL are you from?”
Turned out Jeff and his wife Leonie had lived in Malaysia for over 20 years, and moved to Portugal just eleven months ago when they bought over this pension. As Jeff worked in the hotel industry in Kuala Lumpur and Penang, it was only natural that he finally runs a hotel of his own. In fact, they were so Malaysian-ised that when they left Malaysia, they also shipped their stash of curry powder and other Malaysian food items to Portugal.
Olhao is a historical city within the Algarve region in southern Portugal. A 15-minute bus ride away from the capital of the Algarve (Faro), the city is unpretentious and immediately reminded us of Penang as we walked from the bus station to the pension.
Jeff and Leonie’s pension is located within Olhao’s historic town center, an old fishing town of marble and cobble stone streets and Morrish-style whitewashed square houses. It is a pretty little place, with a well-equipped kitchen and an amazing rooftop terrace with stunning views.
There is a lot to do here, explained Jeff, but as we only had one full day here before heading to Lisbon, he suggested for us to visit the Ria Formosa National Park located just off the coast as well as explore the historical part of the city on foot. And not forgetting the seafood, to which he recommended a few good restaurants a few minutes away.
But there was one restaurant that we just had to go to: Indian Hut Restaurant, right opposite the pension.
We rose early the next day and took the boat to Culatra beach within the Ria Formosa National Park. It was a scenic island with a few Portuguese “kampungs” with interesting short houses and nice beaches that would’ve been nicer if the weather wasn’t so cold.
We had to make a mad dash across a two-kilometre stretch of beach to get to Farol, a jetty on the other side of the island, as we wanted to catch the earlier boat back to Olhao for lunch.
We didn’t have dinner that night as we were still full from lunch. Our tapau-ed fish was our breakfast before we left for Lisbon.
Jeff and Leonie, it was wonderful to have met you. Meeting you guys cured our homesickness a little, and it was nice to chat about the food, traffic, people and amusing politians back home. Selamat tinggal dan semoga kita berjumpa lagi.