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São Bartolomeu de Messines

São Bartolomeu de Messines is a Portuguese Parish in the Municipality (concelho) of Silves. It has an area of 246.41 km² and a population of 8,491 with a population density of 34.5 hab/km².

Since 1988 I visit Messines, and to me it is a very special town, not because of its beauty, maybe it is ugly, but ugly can make beautiful! It is pure, it is a farmer’s town, and it is very Portuguese! You can get there everything you want, there is a daily veg and fish market, there are numerous pharmacists, little supermarkets, and a bigger supermarket, open everyday! There is a cinema (!), papelaria where you can even buy foreign papers, and an unlimited amount of pasteleria’s to drink a nice cup of coffee with a pastel de nata, and believe it or not in one of those pastelaria’s they serve a full English breakfast!

Messines is actually well known in Portugal because the famous Portuguese poet Joao de Deus (1830-1896) who has born and raised in SB de Messines, therefore there is a museum of his work, the museum is the house he lived and is next to the church. He is also famous of developing an education system for young children, which is still in use today! A beautiful church with Manueline (16th Century) details based in the centre of Messines, and next to it there is a covered space where the Portuguese man always playing cards, domino, or sit and watch life going by…. But not during almoço (lunch), lunch is a main meal for the Portuguese, therefore many shops will be closed during lunch, streets become quiet, but apart from lunch time, Messines is a lively town. Portuguese have a habit to drink express coffee (bica) outdoors. It is cheap (0.50 per bica) and a social habit. The Portuguese like to talk, talk, talk and drinking a bica outdoors, give them opportunity to hear the latest gossips of town etc…

Apart from the pastelaria’s, there are a million bars, and some do live music in the weekends. A few restaurants, where you can find mainly Portuguese food on the menu like chicken piri, lamb (Borrego) and various fish dishes, like the Cataplana dish which is a stew of shell fish/fish and meat.

Carnaval (February/March) is well celebrated in Messines! Two days long there is in the afternoon a parade with beautiful dressed wagons and people, lots of music, dancing and lots of bars on the street!

Every month there is the so called gypsy market, it is always on the last Monday of the month and also well worth a visit, as well gypsies, but also lots of Portuguese selling there products, from Portuguese crockery, chickens, house hold goods, tools, plants, vegetable and they grilling chicken, and of course you can drink a bica (coffee) or cerveja (beer) amongst the Portuguese. For the Portuguese a nice day out, they come from all over the area, dressed up to meet friends and family!

Messines lies in the centre of the Algarve, only 20 minutes north of, for tourist famous Albufeira, beautiful beaches like Armação de Pera, 1 hour from Lagos, Western Algarve, and 1 hour from Tavira in the east Algarve. A little bit north of Messines there are two barragens (dams - artificial lakes), that supply water to various parts of the Algarve. Those lakes have beautiful mountainary surroundings, worth a visit.

A few little nice villages in same area with nice restaurants and bars like Vale Fuzeiros and Amorosa. Mountain village Alte is 15 minutes drive away, and historic town Silves is also 15 minutes drive away, all worth a visit!

So Messines is my place to live, away from the tourism, but close by if you want to visit it, enjoy the famous beaches and then back home to relax and enjoy the real Algarve!

Does this appeal to you? There is a wide choice of accommodations in this area, from rustic windmills to luxury villas! All with private garden and pool, in quiet surroundings.

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