We arrived in the tiny city of Faro, the capital city of the Algarve region by bus and were warmly greeted by our new family. We could instantly tell we were going to enjoy working for Cristiana and Pedro. They were incredibly friendly, trusting, chatty and a little goofy. They also wanted to make sure that we were staying over Xmas so they could leave their “baby” with us! Diogo, one of their few paid staff and local student was also eager to show us the ropes and 5 other workaways invited us into the mix and gossip of the hostel. Mikel from France was leaving the next day but had started the hostel veggie garden; Jasmir and Vanessa from Austria had another week and had huge smiles; Martina from Italy was with us 2wks and was very outgoing and our life saver many times as she was the only worker/helper (Cristiana preferred this term) who spoke any Portuguese! And Anni from Finland. Anni arrived the same evening we did and despite saying she would only stay a few weeks stayed the whole month with us! We had a blast together and survived all the craziness of the hostel. But it was really hostels...4! Pedriana (as we liked to call the hosts) had taken over the 4 buildings only a few years ago and taken on workaway helpers just recently so they were always game for feedback and ideas for how to improve the houses. The main hostel where we slept and worked reception most days was just steps from the bus station which also provided us with many walk-ins. The houses were old but decently furnished and only suffered water cuts once in a while. We were also around the corner from the harbour and the town centre. It got to the point that whenever we left the main house, we would run into someone we knew.
One of our first and ongoing jobs was painting. There was an awful orange colour someone had painted the hostel and it had to go. So did the mold in the bathrooms. Long-term fixes didn't seem a priority for Pedriana as they had bigger plans of buying a nicer, single building around the corner. So convincing the health inspectors we were mold free was fixed with water based bulk bins of paint. Not ideal for the non-ventilated rooms.
Another was reception. A little daunting at times as many guests were Portuguese and not all handy with english...during our stay it became apparent that the locals are not always pleased when visitors do not know their language. Juggling the 4 buildings with ongoing projects and demanding guests was also an interesting task at times but we always found a solution. Otherwise it was a very slow if not a boring job. Most times we were stuck entertaining the few long-term guests. Our most colourful guest, Cesar 1, was the most feared. He was hated by all the workaways whom he was usually rude or offensive towards and paid EVERY morning for the next night. He especially loved arriving when Anni was working reception and tell her he had “important plans” he had to attend. Otherwise lots of tea, reading or browsing the internet was available.
Cleaning and making beds was sometimes our responsibility. Was a bit hectic sometimes when keys were not labelled properly or missing. Most annoying was when it rained! With no dryer it made it very hard to get fresh dish towels etc.
These minor complications or annoyances were always overwhelmed by so many great interactions, and family dinners. We met many friendly guests, mostly from Europe and were extremely lucky to have eager friends at the hostel who were eager to cook, especially a long term guest, Cesar 2, a chef and overall handy-man who made KILLER bacalao.
The rooftop had a pretty decent view but it only had a few plastic chairs, a few couches and rolled up fake turf. We knew it had potential and made it our mission to make it a hang-out spot. It took forever, being dragged away by reception and guests etc, but we managed to strip 1 couch and apply pieces of pallets to it. Kev made a full coffee table and side table out of pallets too! We were able to mostly pin town the turf and were quit pleased with the results. If we had more time we were tempted to install a mini golf course, but I guess we had to leave something for the next workaways.
Despite it's size, Faro had some gems. First the food: There was a drool-inducing burger place right behind us as well as a killer allyoucaneat sushi joint. Around another corner from us was the “yellow house”. Weird to explain to guests as it literally had no name but as it was painted yellow was the best name for it. Cheap Portuguese food, and only open for dinners it was a popular place to eat and drink big pitchers of sangria! In the same square was our favourite place for live music, Diatura. They always had great local music and really knew how to fill up a wine glass!
It was quiet impressive on the weekends how busy it got at night. If you started dinner around even 8pm though you were incredibly early. But by midnight the bars would be packed, mostly with Erasmus students.
Activities in Faro: Our favourite spot by far was Fabrica dos Sentidos, or the Factory of Feelings. In a small industrial zone across the train tracks a building had been taken over and re-made by artists. Now run by performance artist Matos, it was an open gallery/studio/bar/book share/used clothing/dj room! Ceiling to floor was used and the cheap drinks and cool people kept us coming back. O Castello, a swankier restaurant, hosted free Fado's on mondays which we attended and joined a hilarious group of travellers one night.
Christmas holidays was crazy! We thought our days running the hostel with only Anni would be pretty relaxing but they were busy! We had a few guests in and out (many people flying out of the city) and a few long-term guests so we had to sweep thru the 4 buildings and someone always had to be covering reception. Most guests we had staying in the main hostel but then on x-mas eve, eve the main kitchen wall lost electricity...ergo the hot water boiler, fridge and microwave. We were able to re-arrange the fridge and micro but was another week until we could get hot water again. X-mas eve was still a success though! We had the holiday off and we decided to make it a beach day and try hunting for clams with Anni. Our poor fisherman skills did not pay off. We were too late for the tide and opted for beach beers and pretzels. We got back and started to cook and drink (sans clams). Afterwards we had heard of a potential pre-party at our favourite venue, the Fabrica. As always Matos was at the door to let us in but there was only 1 light and 1 guest there- our guest! Big kiwi Warrick. We had a great few hours chatting and having more drinks as Matos let us use the bar and we eventually left for some more lively entertainment. We found the bar behind the hostel with an ecletic band and a handful of guests but we weren't keen to stay long. Anni was determined to keep up as the 24th is much more celebrated in Finland. We woke up and made a nice breaky, dragging zombie Anni with us. We let her go back to sleep and started to cook for dinner and skyping home. Kevin was set on making stuffing (sans turkey) and it turned out great! Anni tried making a Finnish version of mulled wine, Groggi, but she was very upset with the results. Carlos arrived with a Brazilian chicken veg/fruit/mayo/ salad dish and Warrick made a nice salad with beetroot.
Days off: One was spent exploring the neighbouring town of Loule with Anni. Only an hour away on bus, Loule was a sleepy town with tons of cork stores and old crumbly buildings. Wasn't the most spectacular town but we were entertained by their tiny “dried fruit” museum.
Another few days were spent wandering around Faro Beach watching surfers or taking a ton of photos for holidays cards.
New Years Eve was full of beaches and drinks! We spent the day going out with Anni and Warrick to the Desert Island a short ferry ride away. It is uninhabited except for a restaurant that is operated nearly in the mdidle of the island. The beaches are long and filled with oodles of seashell treasures. Anni and Ariel were stopping every few steps to pick up and examine a new one. We enjoyed a picnic on a sand dune before heading back for a quick nap. Once awake we had our regulars and Pedriana over for a big dinner We got out a few minutes before the countdown and followed the music of a 80s cover band. We squeezed into the crowd of what seemed the entire population of Faro and we almost ran out of time to unwrap our champagne in time to pop it at midnight! After lots of hugs and dancing we found the rest on top of the roof and shared more champagne. We ended up back in Fabrica which was filled with music and friends.
We were sad to see Anni leave a few days before we did but it gave us the time to finish the roof! By the time we left the hostel was very quiet and Pedriana were expecting another large group of workaways. We still hear from them and they miss us all so much as the new group is not as they don't “click” as well or have big family meals. It was time to move on though and embark on our next adventure...