Our neighbor Don drove us to the airport where we boarded our Continental flight for Newark New Jersey. The Continental flight served salad and a sandwich for lunch. We were able to procure an extra sandwich, which BettyAnn and I split so we weren’t hungry when we arrived in Newark.
We had a one and a half hour layover before our TAP (Air Portugal) flight at 8:00 PM. They served both supper and breakfast on that flight. Supper reminded us of what airline food used to be like in the US. We both had the pork entrée, over noodles with salad, veggies, two hard rolls and apple strudel for desert. In addition, complimentary wine was served with dinner. We were pleasantly surprised.
The arrival in Lisbon, Portugal was at 8:00 AM, and we passed through six time zones along the way. The actual flight took six hours. Of course that made it Sunday Morning, and the reason for coupling these two days together as Day 1.
We then went through the process of deplaning by stairs to waiting busses, which transported us to the terminal. After the confusion of passport control we were off to claim our luggage, which all arrived at the same time that we did. This is good as it helps with the stress level.
The next hurdle was customs, which is much less complicated than returning to the US. So that went smoothly. Of course, once we were in the terminal we needed local currency so we changed $200 for €150 at the airport. On Monday we should be able to get a better exchange rate at a bank.
The information desk was interesting, even though English was well spoken; the foreign atmosphere of it all is somewhat overwhelming. In the end common sense prevailed, and we simply took a cab to the hotel.
The first impression of the hotel wasn't great, but the luggage was handled quickly, and the check-in process was fast, with no waiting in line. As with most European hotels the rooms are small, but we do have a small balcony. Unfortunately there isn't much of a view to speak of. There is a courtyard below our third floor room at the back of the hotel and we can see the pool area, and the back of the apartment building on the next street over.
When all was said and done it was about 11AM (that's 3AM Arizona time folks). We weren’t able to sleep much on the flight over, so were very thankful that the room was ready and we could crash for a few hours.
After a short nap, and doing some unpacking, we took a walking tour around the area about 4PM. We found a French style restaurant not to far away, and took a sidewalk table. We had Lasagna and Spinach crapes with tea (the coffee is soooo strong here). After dinner we went on and found a large shopping mall with a grocery store, so we bought a gallon of water, which I lugged back to the hotel.
It's going to take a day or two to get on the European time table, guess that's why I'm up at 3AM writing this.
Catching up is not an easy task; we were up early this morning a few hours before breakfast, so we watched the sunrise together. The hotel includes a complementary breakfast, which we expected to be a continental array of rolls and jelly's. To our pleasant surprise it was a full breakfast buffet with eggs, ham, cereals, rolls, bread, fruit, juices, sausages, and several different types of coffee and other beverages.
So we'll start our days in Lisbon with a good breakfast under our belts. We saw a McDonalds here, but it pales in light of all the good quality restaurants that seem to be all over the place.
After breakfast I changed the global time on my laptop, and digital camera, to the local time, so that all the file dates would be in correct real time.
Today was spent exchanging currency, buying a few things for the room, and introducing ourselves to the subway system (our preferred method of travel when available). All the rail systems we've used have been excellent, and superior to above ground bus transportation.
The hotel directed us to the Metro station (subway) located just a few blocks away, and all down hill too. The return trip was a bitch though. On the way we found a travel agency, and looked into booking our flight to Faro next week. It's only 250 Km, and we thought that the €450 each round trip price tag was a bit much. We discussed auto rental, and the travel agent just happened to have a friend in the auto rental business (how convenient).
So we went and talked to the auto agent and found that we could rent a car for half the cost of flying, for a two-week rental, including insurance and unlimited mileage. Because we would need a car in Faro anyway, we are leaning towards getting the car here and driving to our next destination. It turns out that the road to Faro is a toll road that costs €15 each way, and is smooth sailing and takes about two and a half hours. Gas here, by the way, is about $6/gal (€1.25/ltr).
Finally we made it to the subway (Metro) station. Naturally, citing Murphy's Law, the ticket and information booth was closed. How convenient is that? There were ticket machines available but naturally they were all in Portuguese. After talking to a few people we discovered that by touching the British Flag on the opening screen, it turns to English like magic.
Next we found we didn't have the €.70 required per ticket. After talking to a few more people found out that it gives change for bills (just like in the US). After that we were on our way to a new adventure on the underground.
Once on the system transportation is simple. We started at the Rato station which is the red line, and transferred to the blue line at the Marqulis de Porntal station then traveled to the Restauradores station downtown. This is where we spent the afternoon. The return trip was simply the reverse.
Once downtown we did several things. As predicted, we found a better rate of exchange downtown where we were able to magically make $500 into €400 plus change. Last year in London we could only get 250€ for the same amount. The dollar has become stronger, and goes further.
After the exchange we stopped at the Hard Rock Café, Lisbon for a beer, and BettyAnn purchased a Hard Rock T-Shirt for herself. Then we checked out the post office to see what it would cost to send post cards back. We did a lot of walking, and checked out several souvenir shops, as well as other shops in the area. We did a little souvenir shopping before our return. At this point we were becoming somewhat tired because of the early up, so decided to head home to take a nap.
On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a local grocery store and picked up a couple 75W light bulbs to replace the 25W lamps in the reading lamps at the hotel. While there we purchased some wine, beer, and chocolate (Crunch Bars). We got back about 2PM and slept for a while.
We woke up about around 5PM, so our nap was short. After dressing, and having a pre-dinner glass of wine we went to the hotel restaurant. Which isn't actually connected to the hotel but is considered the hotel restaurant nonetheless.
For dinner tonight we split a Portuguese filet, which was served with bread, and Italian Ham, and fried potatoes that resembled potato chips. Everything is billed separately. So it turned out the ham was 4€, the bread was €1.25 in addition to the €10 for the stake. The potatoes that resembled potato chips were included, Yahoo.
When we returned to the hotel (from next door), we decided to sign up for a city bus tour. This is one that takes all day with hop on and off privileges, and runs every half hour. This should take us to several areas, and we may be able to do some shopping, and picture taking. But that will be tomorrows subject.
After a late night last night, we slept in until 8:30 AM today. The nights are really crazy, I find myself doing these logs at like four in the morning, and the photos too. Changing the names from a generic PICT0015 to something like 050927-015 to reflect the date, and exposure number.
Once we got going, breakfast was a hoot. Menu doesn’t change much, but with a buffet the choices and combinations are almost limitless. They have several cereals, some sweetened and some not, to choose from in addition to the other items. Enough about breakfast, if we go broke, at least the hotel is pre-paid and we won't go hungry.
We had gotten our tour tickets yesterday evening for the "hop on - hop off" bus tour, but needed to take a subway to the next station to catch it.
The walk to the subway station is a fun trip because it's all down hill. On the way we stopped at the car rental place to book the car for this weekend, but the girl that we talked with was off. So we decided to come back tomorrow. In the meanwhile we spotted several car rental placed about town. Apparently getting a car here is not a major problem. There was some talk about needing an international drivers license to rent, but that was false. All that's required is a valid drivers license, a passport, and a credit card.
We continued down to the subway, and were about to descend when I saw a red tour bus heading our way. BettyAnn said, "That's our bus, wonder if he'll stop for us". Well, as luck would have it, this very station was a regular stop anyway.
It turns out that almost every stop is at, or very close to a Metro station, except at the seaport area where the subway doesn’t run. The bus was a Double Decker, with an open upper deck. We scurried upstairs to take photos, which was bad, but good. The upper deck careened about with every bump and turn in the road, but it also gave an unrestricted field of view for photography. The end result was lots of photos, which required lots of editing. The tour bus followed a pre-prescribed route with fourteen stops.
We made the complete tour the first time to familiarize ourselves with the "lay of the land" so to speak. The second time around we did some hopping on and off. The first of which was a shopping area, which included an Internet Terminal. As opposed to an Internet Café, where drinks are served. Anyway, as a result I was able to send the first installment of our trip.
To give an idea of he costs involved for Internet service, it's generally less than a letter. The hotel is ridiculous at €5/15min (€1=$1.25), even exceeding cruise ship rates. Downtown it's €1.25/.5 hr (.5 hr minimum) and I can upload from a pre-prepared memory stick in less than 3 minuets. This leaves me plenty of time to check my incoming mail.
BettyAnn found some earrings that she wanted to buy, but decided to think about them for a while. The earrings here are 19ct gold, rather than the 14ct popular in the US.
We took the next bus to the port area where we took photos of the WWII memorial, and the suspension bridge across the Rio Tejo River. The same builder built this bridge shortly after the San Francisco Bridge was built. It's almost identical to the one in San Francisco bay.
After that we took the red tour bus to another area in town that we wanted to visit, and did a little shopping in that area. From there we took the subway to our home station, and had our first mishap as BettyAnn got caught in the closing subway door. They don't automatically open you know; just crush anything in their path. BettyAnn ended up keeping her body parts, but received a bruise on her arm the size of an orange. Upon arrival we promptly got lost. After walking a mile or so up and down hills, we finally found the correct street. You know, the up hill grind that we've learned to dis-like.
On the way we stopped at the grocery store (around the corner from the hotel), and picked up a bottle of port wine, and another one of those fabulous 16-ounce beers to re-supply what I consumed the night before. After returning to the hotel we re-cooped for dinner, and struck out again.
We walked back to the Rato station (our local subway intersection, which is a rather large metro area), and down hill of course. We found a nice restaurant overloaded with young people watching the Rigby game on TV.
There we ordered a couple of grilled pork chops. We found that bread is not included with the meal. It is served however, but if you don't touch it, it's not charged (and the carbs aren’t good for us anyway). The bread costs €1.25 which isn't all that expensive if you really wanted it.. The meal came with a salad, rice, and French fries. We had way more than we needed to eat, and the total came to €14 for the both of us.
The walk home was all up hill, and I'll suffice to say it wasn't really too pleasant. We did make it home though, and fell into bed for the evening after another wonderful day of vacationing in Portugal.
It's hard to believe it's another day. The alarm has already gone off, and I've just finished yesterdays log. Guess it's off to bed for an hour before breakfast. How time flies when your having fun.
We really slept in today, awakening at 10:00 AM, almost missing our fabulous breakfast. It's wonderful to be able to do that.
After our late breakfast we went to the car rental place, but as luck would have it, we forgot to take our passports with us. So it looks like we'll have to do the rental tomorrow. Eventually we'll get that taken care of.
The city of Lisbon uses these gigantic traffic circles, generally with a monument of some sort in the middle, at most major intersections. These circles have complicated traffic control signals, and streets that veer off every which way. There are more angle streets than straight ones, certainly not a grid system like most US cities. Driving here seems that it would be a real challenge.
We walked to a new shopping area today near the hotel, and found many wonderful things from a shop called Matuse Crafts. BettyAnn bought a few nice items that I would classify as pricey dust collectors. These items were fragile so we took them back to the hotel so we wouldn't need to lug them around all day.
We set out again about 4PM, and decided to have dinner. We walked to a nearby restaurant that served sweets, sandwiches, beer and wine. We sat outside at one of the sidewalk tables and ordered crepes, I had chicken in mine, and BettyAnn had Mozzarella cheese and tomatoes in hers. We've become quite the tea drinkers because the coffee is really bad at most places here. I suppose we could water it down to American consistency, but as it turns out the tea is an excellent substitute.
After dinner we trudged up hill to the large shopping mall near the hotel (maybe six or seven "normal" blocks). This is the mall that has the supermarket where I bought a jug of water and lugged it back to the hotel. We've since found a few small stores (like mini-Circle K's) within a block of the hotel.
The mall is a Double Decker with a basement-parking garage. It has a Pizza Hut, and a McDonalds in the gigantic food court. No Mexican food though, bummer. There's even a shop that would have to be considered a mini-Six Points Hardware Store. And naturally there's a multi-screen cinema. We spent several hours mostly looking, enjoying the live entertainment on the grand staircase. We ended up at a soup place in the food court and split a large bowl of bean soup.
The one thing I'm looking for continues to elude me. The hotel tap water is luke warm, plenty hot enough for a shower, but really crappy for instant coffee. I had high hopes that the mini-Six Points would have a small electric hot pot, or mini-cup heater. No such luck, guess I'll have to add that to my foreign country travel list for the gadget suitcase.
The long climb to the mall could be done by bus for €1 each, but it still involves quite a bit of walking to the bus stop. We took a cab from the mall to the hotel for €3.15 which we considered a bargain.
It seems that none of the sidewalks here (at least in our section of downtown) are made of concrete. They are all made from square stones about four inches on a side. I would imagine that cobblestone sidewalk construction and maintenance would be very costly. But as a result, there is no skateboarding on public walkways. I have seen a skateboard park here, but no one was using it, skateboarding doesn’t seem to be too popular here.
So far the people here have been friendly, even strangers on the street. Language isn't a real problem, most people speak some English or Spanish, and are willing to stop and help with directions. Almost all merchants speak good English; cab drivers would probably be considered the exception.
The Smart Car continues to amaze me. This little car is so short that it can park nose to the sidewalk, between two parallel-parked cars without sticking out into the street. Well, time to retire; even though we didn't do anything very spectacular it's been a fun day.
Today we started at a reasonable time for a change. We weren’t the first for breakfast, but were finished by 8:30 AM. I'm not sure what happened to the rest of the morning, but we didn't leave the hotel until almost noon. Part of that time was spent reading, and relaxing. We may even have cat napped a bit.
When we finally did get under way, we had our passports and headed to the car rental place (again). They xeroxed all the paperwork and told us to return tomorrow when they would have the documents all ready, and the car would be available. Even though we don't need it until Sunday, we can leave it there until then. They just don't want to come in on Saturday if they don't have to, and of course Sunday is out of the question.
After that was taken care of, we headed downtown by subway. We again took the yellow line from the Rato station, transferred to the blue line at the Marques de Pornball station traveled three stops then transferred once again. This time to the green line at the Baxio station, and traveled one stop to the Rossio station.
After a few days these station names become familiar. After all the train system is hardware, and the location names never change, ever. The Rossio station let us off down town where we took more pictures, and enjoyed the cafés, and shops. We couldn't find a particular jewelry shop we were looking for, nor the Internet point we used last time.
The cityscape is hard to explain, the shops and cafés are seemingly on top of each other along the cobble stone walks and roadways. You'll be able to see this from the photos attached. After an enjoyable few hours we decided the shop we were looking for was located at the Restauradores station. This involved two stops, and a transfer back to the Blue line.
When we arrived, sure enough, there was the Internet point, so the emails were sent out and should have arrived before 7:00 AM Arizona time. We also found the jewelry shop BettyAnn was looking for. She purchased a pair of earrings that she was looking at yesterday. Gold is 19.2ct here rather than the 14ct we're used to.
We were also looking for a downtown store called Pollux, this is a department store used by the locals that one of the hotel employees turned us onto. After locating it we were enthralled by the range of merchandise available. They have fine linens, china, and silver, and all sorts of household items. The store was nine stories with bathroom fixtures, bedding, kitchen cabinets, and just about anything you would want for your household. A lot of the finer things were sold in the shops around town at quite a price mark-up to tourists.
We picked up a couple of insulated travel mugs for my coffee, and Bettyann's hot chocolate in the mornings. YES!!! The all-elusive coffee cup heater was located and purchased. It fits perfectly into the travel mugs, and boils water in three and a half minutes flat. Yippee! No more luke-warm coffee
Pollux is quite a store, sort of a Mervyns's, Home Depot, Sleep America, and Levites all rolled into one, with a European flair.
We were horrified to discover that most of the landmarks at the Restauradores station closely resembled those at the Rossio station, a couple stops, and a line transfer away. They just seemed a little different, like in another point of view. Well, it turns out that the two stations are about four or five blocks apart. Sort of like entering a house of mirrors from a different entry point, things look the same, but different somehow. Two subway tickets just thrown out the window, attributed to education I guess.
During our travels, and explorations, BettyAnn found her very earrings at another jewelry store at a savings of 20%. Of course nobody likes to be cheated, including us. The first store was in the next block, so we trooped back, claimed a change of mind, and requested a refund with receipt in hand. They had this surprised look, said it was not customary to return purchases. Guess they haven't dealt much with the American Consumer. In the end the refund was granted, and the better bargain secured at the second store.
We were downtown all afternoon, so ended up eating there. Pity, we stumbled onto a restaurant that cloned Subway, except with outdoor tables. We could have done better, but we were hungry and unlike the US, they served beer. Next it was time to go home.
We took the subway back to the Rato station, but rather than climbing the steep hill we hailed a cab. He took us to our hotel for a little over €2, a bargain after running around all afternoon. As BettyAnn went up to shower, I made the trek to the corner grocery store for soda, some snacks, and a couple of beers for the refrigerator. This is so much better than going to work.
It's hard to believe that our week in Lisbon is coming to a close. Today and tomorrow will be our last full days here. Sunday we will drive to the Encosta de Vau resort, which is about 50 miles from Faro. I'm told that the road is a turnpike type toll road, so we shouldn't have too much difficulty.
After breakfast we went back to the auto rental place around the corner to sign paperwork. Arrangements were made to pay and pick up the car later in the day. The reasoning being we wouldn't have to pay for parking on the street after 6PM on Friday. And, of course we are leaving on Sunday.
We planed to take one of the subway lines to the end so that we could investigate the area where we came up. As luck would have it, maintenance was being done in the tunnel, so we were kicked off less than half way to the proposed destination. Quite a few of the real commuters were somewhat upset. We took a walking tour from that point in the direction of another station about three quarters of a mile away, checking out stores, shops, and café's along the way.
When we continued our subway excursion, we went to the only station that was located at the waterfront along the Reo Tejo River. This river borders the South side of the city, and this is also where the main railroad station is located. We watched a few boats and ships moving around, and had a sandwich at a nice outdoor café overlooking the river.
On the return trip, we got off downtown at yet another station that we had not used previously. These subway stations are really close together in this area, maybe five or ten minutes walking. So that’s three stations that put us basically in the same general area. The subways seem to travel so fast between stations, giving the impression that they are traveling long distances. This is apparently an illusion because the tunnel walls are so close to the windows of the car.
I took more pictures of the same statues and street scenes, and we spent time watching people. The clothing styles here are striking, but not too terribly unusual. Most of the people here seem young (of course from my perspective they are), and everyone is so much thinner here than the slobs in the US. With the abundance of café's, and pastry shops here, I don't understand how that's possible.
Returning, we challenged the hill up to the hotel and saved the €2 and change taxi fare. We made our usual grocery store stop for snacks, and sodas, and visited our local café for scones (crumpets) and tea. After securing our snacks in the room, we strolled to the rental place to get the car keys. They provided us with a station wagon that will accommodate all our luggage, and all the stuff we've been picking up along the way.
They have been taking down a three story building in our block, and have been having a time with it. The buildings are constructed of poured concrete. There have been jackhammer operators at work every day during our stay. The last time I looked, a large tracked front-end loader type bucket machine was operating on the second floor. No one seemed concerned about the floor caving in. I mention this because we passed it going to and from the car rental place.
Back at the hotel be had dinner at the hotel restaurant. BettyAnn wanted pasta so we settled on spaghetti, which was on the menu. We were thinking of meat sauce or meatballs, but that wasn't available. They only had seafood sauce, which included oysters, squid, clams, baby shrimp, large shrimp with heads and tails and beady eyes, crab, and ocean surprise (?) in a nice sauce. It was excellent, however they didn't leave the squid in the washing machine long enough so it was a bit tough.
It's been another nice day, and now it's time to shower and visit the sand man. Speaking of which, the shower in the hotel is really great. Water comes out of the handheld sprayer under pressure, as opposed to the water restrictor dribble at home. I'd almost forgotten what a real shower is like.
Last night we finally watched a DVD on the laptop. This machine is amazing, it plays music through the FM radio, stores and edits photographs, keeps our travel log. The only thing we aren't doing with it this time is keeping track of expenses. Bettyann's doing that manually.
Breakfast was taken early on, and we had good intentions of an early start to make a final trip downtown for something that BettyAnn wanted to purchase. But it didn't work out that way. The past week of running around, and late nights finally caught up with us and we fell back to sleep.
So early in the afternoon we headed down town, using the last of our subway tickets. Pity, the store BettyAnn wanted to visit was closed. And I was so looking forward to purchasing yet another costly, but pretty, dust collector to tuck away somewhere.
We stopped at the Internet point to check email, and then headed back to the base of the big hill at the hotel. It took almost a week, but I finally found a shortcut that cuts the climb in about half. Isn't that the way it always is? We stopped for lunch at a small café near the hill bottom, and split a so-called hamburger. It came with two patties, some garden stuff, two hamburger bun shaped hard rolls, and French fried potatoes shaped like round slices, and rice. It was served with an easy over egg over the paddies, isn't that different? We had red wine to boot.
Well, it was time to fire up the Opal, and check our driving skills in this environment. We wanted to go to the river and visit a monument area we passed the day we took the "hop on, hop off" tour bus. Then we wanted to go to the airport lost and found to see if we could retrieve a lost case.
We promptly got lost, but knew the general direction of the river. Our subway trips paid off because the different sections of the city are used on traffic signs, and match the Metro station stops. Who could forget a home station called Rato? Anyway we found the riverfront Metro station then it was a breeze from there. The fortress we went to see was used centuries earlier to defend the city from invading ships.
Coming back we found the hotel quite by accident because we had no idea where we were driving. But BettyAnn recognized landmarks here and there, and that was a tremendous help. Our little store was closed today, so no snacks for the room later.
I knew the general direction of the airport, and the map route, but with no street name signs, and roads all looking so much alike, it was hit and miss. We found it all right, but I have no idea how. And ditto for the trip back.
The Opal handled very well. It's all power, with a 5-speed on the floor. The car is larger than most others here, but about the size of Bettyann's Honda Accord. The two and a half-hour trip to the resort tomorrow should be a real adventure. On the return trip, we'll be racing the clock for a 10:00 AM check-in time at the airport, won't that be fun. We were lucky, and found a parking space right in front of our hotel.
A great Italian restaurant was found not two blocks from our hotel, and we had spaghetti with pesto and garlic sauce. It was green, and we had never had it before. It turned out to be exceptionally delicious, and was served with rolls, and thin bread sticks. We ordered a separate salad, and as usual everything was charged separately. The place was crowded, even though it was past 9:00 PM, and a group of fifteen or twenty pre-teen boys were celebrating a birthday. Another group of about twenty-five were arriving as we left to return to the hotel to start packing. Guess folks eat late hereabouts.
Our last morning in Lisbon went well. After breakfast we did our final packing and had the bags brought down to our waiting car. Everything but one carry on, and the laptop fit behind the back seat, so as BettyAnn was kind enough to point out several times, we could have used a smaller car.
After packing we went to the hotel desk and got directions to the Encosta de Vau resort. Once we found our way to highway A2, we crossed the suspension bridge and continued on to the coast. Faro wasn't our destination and is located about 25 miles to the left, and the resort is about 25 miles to the right on intersecting costal highway A22. The toll road turned out to be €16.80, and fuel was €28, or about $21, and $35 respectively. The trip took two and a half hours not counting coffee stops at the fueling plazas.
It never fails to amaze me how easy it is to drive in a foreign country, once you get behind the wheel. Our instructions were good, and we didn't make any wrong turns. The resort is in the town of Portimao (the a is hyphened). This seems to be a fairly small city with downtown buildings that appear to be twenty stories in height, more or less.
The resort is a eight-story apartment hotel. We opted for a large studio with a nice view of the ocean on the sixth floor and decided to stay put for two weeks, rather than move into a one bedroom on the second floor in the middle of our stay. We have a small grocery store (that has fresh rolls at 8:00AM, Noon, and 7:00 PM, along with a few nice restaurants near by.
Unfortunately we weren’t so lucky with the air conditioning, but then neither was anyone else. Guess the chiller is off line, and the plant operator is off on a fishing trip or something. The staff claims it will be fixed in the morning and has asked everyone to bear with them. With the balcony windows open, it's beautiful, and air conditioning isn't really necessary.
Our new home has cable TV, a refrigerator, stove, microwave, dishwasher, and an automatic dryer outside on the balcony (sometimes called a folding clothes rack). We've already stocked up with bottled water, snacks, and beverages. Tomorrow we will start exploring the local area here in Portimao, with a car we now have a two or three hundred mile range which we can explore.
The resort has a nice restaurant, but it seemed high priced. About two blocks away there is a better one called O Chef Carlos. We had chicken breast with mushroom sauce, rice and some veggies. We ordered soup, and wine with dinner. From start to Finnish it took an hour and a half, and that's skipping coffee, and desert. We left there at 9:30 PM.
Snack bars close about seven or eight, and restaurants open around seven. The dinner hour in Portugal is between eight and eleven.
What a nice day we had in Portimao. I woke up about 8:30 AM, and went to the local store for fresh hard rolls. After BettyAnn woke up we ate. We had purchased the rest of the stuff for a continental breakfast the night before. With the microwave, the cup heater is no longer needed. Anyway, we had a nice continental breakfast in our small apartment, with coffee and hot chocolate, and then crashed until noon.
Once fully rested, clothed, and informed, we set out for Portimao. They have a lot of one-way streets here, and they are not very well marked. Before the day was over I managed to break the law a few times but was very lucky and didn't get caught. A few flashing headlights, head shaking, and wagging fingers were all.
First we went to the waterfront, where we looked at harbor cruises, and fishing expeditions. This is something we may consider later if we can count on the car not being towed while we're away. There was a local Indian band playing on the plaza, and BettyAnn purchased one of their albums. The music, as I listen to it now, is very nice and we may go back for a few of their other albums.
Portimao is located on Rua Judice Biker, leading to the waterfront. The square of Latgo 1 de Dezembro features ten benches backed with azulejo tile picture panels telling the story of the ten most important events in Portuguese history. The old town hall, an eighteenth century building, stands in the square.
The waterfront was nice, and had several seafood restaurants, but we weren’t hungry, so decided to adventure on. We wormed our way to old downtown through the narrow, mostly one way, cobble stone streets that had no parking spaces. We ended up parking at the end of a dead end street, too narrow to turn around, under a tall construction crane.
This place is a shopper's paradise, with all the things everyone would love to buy, if only they could find them. And the prices approached bargain basement status to boot. The biggest problem is that most things that we would want to buy were either much to heavy, or much to fragile, to toss into a suitcase for airline travel. During this quest we kept a sharp eye out for an Internet Café, so we could send off yet another boring report.
As we travel through this beautiful area, the cobblestone streets and the designs that craftsmen apply to them are quite unique.A lot of the building have window boxes that are ablaze in color. It's one of the quaint things about most European countries that is somewhat rare in the United States. We did find a nice supermarket, and stocked up on some things that we would need during our stay, including some local beer and wine. World news is available, no US papers, but publications from the UK and other areas are plentiful. News doesn’t hold much interest for me here and if I become homesick there's always CNN on satellite, but I do miss the funnies.
Afterwards we went back to the hotel to deposit our purchases and regroup, this was about 5:00 PM. We weren’t planning on going out again, but the hotel desk swore that there was an Internet point nearby at a shopping center, so off we went. Of course it was a lie, but we found another great supermarket and laid in even more supplies. BettyAnn found hamburger patty's on sale 8 for €1.80 ($2.25), which we considered a really good price.
Returning to the hotel, BettyAnn prepared hamburgers on local rolls with onions, and a nice Italian salad. We ate on the balcony with wine and candlelight. It was all very nice, and the best part is we can do it all again because we have lots of hamburger patties. I didn't even mind getting stuck with the dishes.
It's going on 11:00 PM, and time for desert, and another good nights sleep.
The nights are getting a little chilly, at least enough to warrant using extra blankets on the bed at night. Both the hotel in Lisbon, and here on the outskirts of Portimao, has the idea that two single beds pushed together make the ideal queen.
After a restful nights sleep we woke up to another clear day, which ended up peaking out at around 85°F. Which reminds me, true to their word the chiller was repaired and running by Monday afternoon, so we have air conditioning now.
After a breakfast of cereal, we decided to visit the third teeming metropolis in our immediate vicinity. This would be a small seaside village called Alvor.
One oddity that we encountered was the local milk. It's packaged in a box that contains about a quart, which isn't much different than at home. The odd part is that it's stocked on the grocery shelves un-refrigerated. Milk served at breakfast in Lisbon for cereal, and drinking was also served at room temperature. It available as full, or skim, and is just fine after being chilled.
BettyAnn had packed for cooler weather, so she's been picking up lighter clothing here and there during our travels. Right after breakfast we returned to a shop in downtown Portimao for a top similar to one she had purchased yesterday. This gave us the opportunity to double our inventory of local Indian music CD's as well. Her taste in music obviously isn't the same as mine.
By this time it was a little after lunchtime, so we tried a local version of pizza at an outdoor café. Then we headed to Alvor. This small village is located about four or five miles from the hotel, much too far to walk, but ridiculously close by car. Aside from a few large luxury hotels and a stable of overpriced souvenir shops clustered in one area, the town was very picturesque. Alvor was once a fishing village, but now it mainly caters to tourists. It's narrow higgledy-piggledy streets tumble down into the Alvor estuart, a shallow wetland with an old lifeboat station, a fish market, and several anchored boats.
We spent most of the afternoon here, BettyAnn prowled the many shops, and I watched people and sipped coffee. I've found that the terms "black coffee", and "coffee grandee" mean the same thing. This is a strong coffee served in an almost standard cup with a little milk added. Using a little sugar takes out the bitterness, and I'm developing quite a taste for it. Even the really strong coffee in the itty-bitty cups is good if you add a little sugar, and sip it slowly. We still drink tea, but it's not my beverage of choice.
This being only our second full day in this area, the roads are still confusing, and it's easy to make a wrong turn that can send you off in another direction altogether. The roadways here use divider strips, and traffic circles a lot. Most intersections are comprised of a circle. There are very few right, and left turns outside of a circled intersection, almost to the extent of a limited access roadway. Side streets are generally to narrow for U-turns, and about half are one way anyhow.
So far parking has been tight, but not a problem at all. There are several free parking areas, especially near tourist areas, and these are marked with a round sign sporting a large letter P, and the word "gratis" in small print in the lower right quadrant. Otherwise there are ticket machines where parking can be purchased, and placed on the dashboard. The "No Parking", and "Do Not Enter" signs look similar and are easily confused.
After returning to the hotel, we made a supper of left over hamburger, BettyAnn made a fresh salad, and I made tomato soup. We ate on the balcony overlooking the ocean and watched the sun go down. Sunsets aren’t much here compared to Arizona.
Slept in today until almost 10:00 AM, and it was evident that this was going to be a lazy day because we were just about shopped out, and have already seen the local surrounding towns and villages. We had a quick breakfast of cereal, and orange juice before dressing and heading out.
Our first stop was at Rocha (translation; Beach of the Rocks), a mile or so to the east of us. BettyAnn picked up a beach towel, while I visited an Internet Café for fifteen minutes. The hotel has a free computer available where I can read and send "live" email, but can't upload from a memory chip. The plan today was to hit the beach.
The beach at Rocha was beautiful, but located at the base of a cliff accessed by a zillion steps. They had a nice viewpoint and I was able to take several striking pictures. We were in the area long enough for lunchtime to sneak up on us.
A restaurant across the street from the viewpoint offered a ham salad sandwich with mayo, and dessert for a modest sum. The sandwich had carrots and cucumber in it, which we thought was a little unusual, but good. That was in addition to the lettuce, tomato, and mayo. Dessert was fresh strawberries and cream.
Rocha (actually Praia da Rocha) was one of the first small towns in the Algarve area to encourage tourism from abroad. The main attraction is the spectacular beaches (down a zillion steps), of course. I'll have to admit that they are really spectacular. But then, the beach a few blocks from our hotel is pretty nice too. I'll try to include pictures of both.
We spent the majority of our time today at the local beach, getting a little sun. It gave me a chance to do a little reading. There was even a small café nearby where I could indulge in a cup of coffee, photograph scenery, read and avoid skin cancer. It was a nice change from running all over the place looking at all the fragile things that we couldn't possibly get back home in one piece. The beach towel that BettyAnn purchased earlier is blue and green, with a map of Portugal on it and has the names of all the places we've visited.
This evening we survived on cheese and crackers, and watch the Portuguese version of The Price is Right. We couldn't understand a word, and it was hilarious. We also got some European Union news and weather off CNN in English.
We read until late, and then retired.
Another fine day, still no sign of rain, which I shouldn't really complain about. The weather has been unseasonably warm all the while we've been here, and it looks like there is no change in sight. It couldn't be better.
I've come down with a cold, and had a restless night last night, but I'm trying to ignore it as best I can. Today we planned to go to Lagos (prounced la-gosh), a town about 30 miles West of us along the coast.
After a light breakfast we set out, and arrived there before noon. Lagos seems like a larger town than Portimao was; it's hard to tell. The beaches here are really nice as they are throughout this region. We didn't spend any time on the beach today because we were more interested in the architecture, monuments, and naturally all the wonderful shops and restaurants. The town is still partly enclosed by medieval walls.
Most of the pictures today are beach, and beach related landscapes. Lagos has beautiful cobble stone walks, streets, and plazas just like in some of the other photos I've sent. Many of the sidewalks, and plazas have geometric designs built into them. The buildings are quite old, and very rustic in the older parts of these towns. This is in sharp contrast to new modern construction going on outside of these areas. When they pour a building, I doubt that even Katrina like storm could damage it much.
One of the attractions here that interested us was a linen factory store. Portugal is known for bed linens, covers and shams, place mats, and towels made of Egyptian cotton. These are produced in Northern Portugal, and sent to hotels in Europe, and high-end department stores in Europe and the USA. All of the things we saw were very well made, and BettyAnn purchased a few of the smaller items.
We are getting used to the streets, and traffic circles in the area, and I haven't gone up a one-way street the wrong way in several days now. People drive fast here, just like in Phoenix, and traffic police cars are seldom seen, just like in Phoenix. The nice thing about the circles is that if you miss a turn, all you need to do is go around again. Town signage is well done, and once you've learned the names, you would be hard pressed to actually get lost. Of course anything is possible, Murphy's Law, you know.
We found an Italian restaurant here that served spaghetti with real meat sauce. So that’s where we went for dinner, and it was truly what BettyAnn and I call real Italian spaghetti. We may return tomorrow for lunch on our way to visit the town of Sagres, located about twenty miles beyond Lagos. I might add that the name of the restaurant was MaMa Mia's, same as the Italian eatery that BettyAnn worked at for seven years. But that was when she was single.
At the waterfront there were places that grilled shark, sardines, and all types of local fish. The grilled sardines are a nationally popular dish that we will have to try before leaving. These are not the canned variety, but are about a foot in length.
On our return trip, we went to downtown Praia da Rocha, which is near our hotel, for some brandy to make a hot toddy with. Hopefully that will help with my cold. Even if it doesn’t, it should be fun trying.
Wouldn't you know it, rant and rave about how great the weathers been and it's cloudy and cold this morning. That's what I get for carrying on so. Ended up sleeping until almost noon, the two hot toddies last night put me to sleep early enough. Even with all that sleep, my slight cold didn't go away.
Because it was late, I skipped breakfast, although BettyAnn was up several hours before me, and had eaten. So we headed out to Lagos with no further delay to have lunch at MaMa Mia's. With photo stops, getting side tracked, and all, we arrived in Lagos about two in the afternoon.
After lunch we got on highway A-22 for Sagres, the trip was about 35 km. The speed limit is 90 km/hr, but most people travel about 120-130 km/hr (maybe 70 mph). Driving on the main highway, approaches, and crossovers are generally used, but there were still a few traffic circles along the way. Once off the highway, almost all intersections consist of a traffic circle.
Sagres is at the southwestern tip of Portugal, and is a fairly small town compared to the others we have visited. The countryside along the way seemed somewhat arid, but some crops were seen where it wasn't too rocky. There is a lot of clay in the soil here in places as well, guess that's where all the Portuguese pottery comes from.
Of all the towns we visited, this one was the least commercial, so far, as far as tourism was concerned. In fact it was almost non-existent, if that’s possible. The waterfront sported a fish processing plant, and there were several large commercial fishing boats either moored, docked for unloading, or coming in. The weather, in addition to cloudy, was very windy. This caused some spectacular water shows as the waves crashed over the breakers, and onto the rocky shoreline.
There were also several boats pulled up out of the water for storage, and some for repair, and then there were some beyond repair. I had a field day with the camera, just wished that the sun had been out to give the pictures a little sparkle.
The fish processing plant was a modern production plant with what appeared to be about one hundred employees. It's hard to tell because I wouldn't attempt to enter the plant, but there were fifteen or twenty on the output end of the plant preparing the product for loading into waiting trucks. Dockside, fish were being unloaded for processing.
There was a really large concrete ramp for launching boats; a couple dozen-boat trailers could be backed in simultaneously. Most boats here were either large wooden fishing boats with inboard diesel engines, or smaller wooden fishing boats with outboard motors on them. A few rowboats were moored in the water as well. Not much in the line of sport boats, mostly work boats.
The town rose steeply from the bay, and the view from town overlooking the bay with the fishing boats, and processing plant was spectacular. There are several large rock formations all along the coast, and Sagres was no exception. These formations rise as high as four or five stories in places and add a lot of character to the seascape.
We finally started home about 6:00 PM, but didn't make it back until almost 7:30 because we did make a few wrong turns, and that required some backtracking.
Up at the crack of 9:30 AM today, and still feeling a bit under the weather. Over breakfast we discussed going to a small town called Silves. This town is northeast of us about 30 miles.
We are just outside and west of Praia da Rocha, so we travel through this town to go anywhere east and northeast of us. We also have the village of Alvor to the west of us about three miles, and travel through it to go west and northwest. As a result we visit one of these towns almost everyday. Rocha is the largest, and has a large shopping center, several gas stations, a great beach, lots of shops, a pharmacy, etc., etc. It's about a mile and a half to the hub of activity.
This morning we passed through Rocha to take the road to Silves. As usual we stopped for some little thing, which delayed us about an hour. This gave me a chance to pick up something for my cold at the pharmacy. Once we were finally on our way, it was again close to noon, this seems to be becoming a habit.
Once on the road, we figured it would take about half an hour to reach our destination. It would have too, if we hadn't missed the turn onto costal highway A22. We ended up on the road to a northern town called Monchique. Even though we soon realized our mistake, we decided to continue towards the north to see if we could find a back road heading east that we could take to our original destination.
Portugal's been around for a few hundred centuries, so it didn't surprise us to find another road. It passed through some very interesting countryside, including several small hamlets containing just a few homes, and a store, or gas station, not much else. The trip to Silves took almost two hours because we stopped occasionally to take photographs.
Once in Silves we found a town that was very close to a typical Portuguese town, with almost no tourist shops. The streets are very narrow, and all of cobblestone construction. It's a very hilly area as well, almost to the point of being mountainous. This made driving a bit difficult, especially if you needed to back out because another car was coming from the other direction. The streets curve, and the buildings are right up to the roadway (no sidewalks) so you can't really look far ahead
There was a town square, with a monument, gardens, and park. And there was a Catholic Church across the street from the square. This was located in the lower part of the town.
The main attraction here was a medieval castle, built in the thirteenth century, located at the highest point in town. I suspect that the town was built around the castle. It had been abandoned for centuries, and recently work has been started to dig out the upper rooms foundations, and clearing the lower passageways, and spaces. It's in surprisingly good condition, even though no restoration work has been started, other than digging out the room foundations that have been buried over the years.
There's also an ancient church built around the same time as the castle, and a museum in town as well. By the time we finished touring the castle, it was time to head back home, so we skipped the other attractions. This time the trip only took half an hour. It was a very interesting day, and we both were impressed with Silves.
Although we didn't tour, or take many pictures of the church, because we spent considerably to much time at the castle. Sorry there are no church pictures. In retrospect we probably should have taken the time to see the church also. If we were ever to go back, the church would be first on our schedule.We stopped at the grocery store in the shopping center on the way through Rocha and picked up a few things. BettyAnn prepared some hamburgers for supper, along with salad, and baked beans. We were hungry, as we had forgotten all about eating lunch.
Now that the dishes are all being cleaned in the dishwasher, it's a refreshing shower, Hot Toddy, and off to bed for me.
We woke up to a dark, rainy, overcast day this morning, so we turned over and went back to sleep, at least for a little while. When we finally did decide to get up, BettyAnn served up a nice continental breakfast of hard rolls, jam, orange juice and coffee. Our plans for a harbor cruise from Portimao were certainly shot to hell, and it looked like this might be a great day to just lay back, and read our books.
The maid had other ideas however, and wanted us out so that she could make up the room undisturbed. Not wanting to stir up an international incident, we simply packed our ditty bag, and went to Praia da Racha, our closest center of civilization.
After sending off installment #7 at the local cyber joint, I settled in at a local grocery store on Tourist Trap Avenue. We ran across this place a few days ago, and they have a small snack bar at the front of the store that serves up a great cup of coffee.
The rain wasn't a pouring affair, so many of the vendors were out on the streets. While I was people watching, and enjoying several cups of coffee, BettyAnn looked for a Christmas tablecloth for our kitchen table. Having forgotten a hat, I finally had to purchase one to keep the rain off my glasses. Up to this point, one wasn't really needed.
After about an hour of watching the drizzling rain, I thought it would be a good opportunity to photograph the beach. This area of Portugal is akin to Nice, France, and finding a completely empty beach is unheard of. But empty it was, and we have the pictures to prove it.
About noon the drizzle really did turn into quite a downpour. The street venders packed up, and cleared out making me wonder, given the weather, why did they bother in the first place. Anyway, it was back to the protection of the grocery store with their excellent coffee for us. People watching remained about the same, just faster people, and more umbrellas. BettyAnn did a little grocery shopping for supper at the store while we were there as well.
The rain did let up after awhile, and believe it or not, the sun even peeked out occasionally. We jumped into the car and drove to the main square in Portimao to see if perhaps we could connect with a harbor cruise after all. Just about everything was closed there too, so we hung out for a little while before heading back to the hotel.
Not wanting to spend the rest of the day in the hotel, we stopped at the local beach a few blocks from the hotel. This is where we spent the majority of the afternoon. The weather had cleared up nicely, and people were starting to populate the beaches once again.
We walked about two miles of beach, taking pictures of caves that had been carved into the cliffs along the shoreline. The actual width of the beach extended from the waters edge naturally, about a block or block and a half to the foot of the cliffs. The beach is all sand with no rocks or pebbles, and goes on for several miles along this section of the coast.
The water was reportedly cold, but some children braved the cold water and seemed to be having a good time of it. When we had our fill of beach combing, we returned to the area where the car was parked, and had some refreshments at a beachside restaurant. We didn't eat lunch today, as we had a late breakfast.
Once back at the hotel, BettyAnn made a local soup called Cazido for supper, along with a tossed salad and wine. The soup instructions were in Portuguese, I just don't see why they couldn't just print them in Spanish like we do in the US.
We took the picture on the right from our balcony, the building in the picture is another resort. In full sunlight the building is bright white.
The sunset this evening was very close to an Arizona sunset, and one of the nicest that we enjoyed during three week stay in Portugal. The rain finally subsided about mid afternoon during our beach walk, so it actually turned into a nice day even though it was somewhat overcast.After dinner was over and the dishes put away, we just relaxed. I found some nice country and western music to put on (imagine that), and we danced the evening away on the balcony.
We didn't stay up too late because we wanted to get an early start to our next adventure.
We awoke to another rainy day. BettyAnn and I had planned to go to Faro today, but slept in instead. After a really long sleep, we had a quick breakfast, then read for awhile before taking a nap.
When we finally got up for real, we realized that we were just about out of money, and the gas tank was almost on empty as well. So we grudgingly decided to get dressed and drive over to Praia da Rocha to see a moneychanger. The rate has worsened since we last visited. It's now a little less than four for five. $500 yielded €397.
With nothing better to do, seeing we were all dressed up anyway, we thought we would run over to Lagos (Pronounced La Goooosh), and along the way, fill up the car.
We stopped for gas at a plaza on costal highway A22, and spent €49 for a tank of gas (that’s $67.50). It doesn't cost that much to fill my pickup. Thinking I was choosing the cheapest grade of gas, I unwittingly selected the most expensive. The prices aren’t posted on the pump handles, and so I choose the only one that didn't say "Super" on it. My fault, I should have asked.
The rest of the trip was pleasant enough, with BettyAnn driving from the passenger seat, yelling something about overpaying for gas, and navigating the road signs all at once. She's also the seat belt, headlight, and windshield wiper police. Now that’s multi-tasking.
By the time we got to Lagos the rain had let up. Which was too bad, because by this time we had dug the umbrella out of the luggage, and now we had no excuse to use it. Maybe we'll be lucky, and it will rain tomorrow.
About this time I came to realize that it was almost suppertime, and I hadn't yet had my first cup of delicious Portuguese coffee. So we parked the car, and had coffee at a café a few doors down from MaMa Mia's. We forewent the MaMa Mia thing this time, as we were burned out on spaghetti anyway.
Meanwhile I was snapping pictures indiscriminately like I generally do. I spotted a young man with an unusual hair color, and with full telephoto could get a pretty good shot at him. One of the fellows at the next table ran interference, so I ended up shooting him, and a friend of his instead. We got to talking with them, and BettyAnn mentioned the kid with the odd hair that we were trying to photograph, He was about a half a block away.
One of the Englishmen at the other table got up and said "I'll go get him for you". We thought he was just kidding of course, but he wasn't, so that’s how we got our picture of the guy with the unusual hair.
The center that we were located in was very large, not to mention that MaMa Mia's was located here as well. One of the attractions is the several circular fountains where older folks gravitate to visit. This whole area is paved with the local cobble stone, and most of it is set in different colors to form interesting and beautiful designs.The trip back was uneventful except for the fact we never seem to be able to get back the same way we went. We missed the town of Alvor altogether coming back, and overshot the hotel by about a mile. But we've done far worse.
Don, who's watching the house for us, emailed the calling card codes, and local MCI number to us. So BettyAnn was able to chat with her Aunt in Hurley Wisconsin for a few minuets.
We finally got back about seven thirty in the evening, and dinner was very predictable as we finished up leftovers in the refrigerator, we had picked up some cake at a bakery in Legos for dessert. We ended the evening watching the movie Signs, with Mel Gibson.
Off to an early start today, really. After a quick breakfast, we loaded the camera with some memory, jumped into the car and got under way.
This is our longest side trip so far; Faro is 60 km from Praia da Rocha. We took coastal highway A-22, which is sort of like I-17 between Happy Valley, and Cords Junction. The interior highway A-2 to Lisbon tee's off to the North about half way to the city of Faro. This gave us a chance to spot the turn off for our race to the airport Sunday morning. It's just as well too, because there was an earlier minor turnoff marked Lisbon that we probably would have taken by mistake.
We were disappointed with Faro, it has a seaside area sort of like the wetlands in the everglades, and no beach that we could find. The powerboat marina is small, and we were unable to find our way to the sailboat marina, although there was one. It may be a seaport, but I suspect it's not; the wetlands surrounding the area would make ocean-going vessels berthing here doubtful.
On the positive side of the coin, we had a great lunch in a local restaurant. The special of the day was Algrave Stew. This was a dish native to the Algrave area of Southern Portugal. Sometimes called the winter dish, it consisted of noodles, potatoes, carrots, garbanzo beans, pig's feet and chucks of pork. It also had two kinds of sausage in it. We didn't even attempt the pigs feet, which we think was just for flavoring. The meal was just delicious.
Churches abound throughout Portugal, although I haven't photographed many of them I found the one to the right of interest because of the location downtown.The streets were very narrow, and parking was a real problem. Some street people in Faro help by directing parking, when spaces are available. They do this expecting a tip. This can be very helpful, but usually is about as welcome as window washers on street corners in the US.
The vending koch pictured to the left has a lazy dog that caught my attention, but he's difficult to see in the photo. These little retail places are found on just about every major corner throughout most of the cities and towns that we visited.Streets also twist and turn, and become one way indiscriminately. We found ourselves traveling in circles more than once. The downtown, or "Centro" area is quite old, the streets and sidewalks (if they exist) are of cobblestone construction. Several streets are pedestrian only areas, although delivery vehicles are allowed in. These areas have cobblestone designs built into them that are quite intricate. The area has gardens, fountains, café's and shops which cater to the local population more so than to tourists. Faro, it turns out, is not really a tourist area.
We ended up doing more driving around looking for parking spaces, than shopping. It's probably a good thing because we only have so much space in our luggage.
The church on the right I found of interest because of the bell towers, it's just one of many in the area. The park on the left exhibits some of the decorative cobblestone work that populates the streets and parks here.We headed back home about four in the afternoon, and had no trouble finding our way. I suppose we'll have this area down pretty pat the day we leave, isn't that the way it always is. We were going to stop at the mall for some groceries, but I was just to tired of driving so we went right home instead. After a short nap, a run was made to the local little store for bread and stuff for supper.
The rain is still with us intermittently, but I would have to say that we had sunshine about 80% of the daytime hours. We hope that the weather will improve even more, as we would still like to take a boat excursion or two from Portimao.
A "Full English Breakfast", that's what we'll have today. There are several café's offering this on the menu here, starting about 9AM, and serving until 3PM. So here we were, up at the crack of 7:30, a-raring to go. Continental breakfasts are good, but after awhile they tend to get old, and with memories of the breakfast buffet in Lisbon, anything English sounded tempting.
So after dressing and all, we finally headed out around 10:00 AM to Praia da Rocha for this fabulous meal. And that's exactly what it was, fabulous. We had a fried egg, a piece of toast, Campbell's pork & beans, an English sausage, a plumb tom (a heated tomato), and Canadian bacon. A cup of coffee or tea was also included.
With all due respect to the English, as excellent as it was and all, I think our next "Full English Breakfast" will be taken at IHOP.
After breakfast BettyAnn purchased a couple of really nice Portuguese sconces (called lanterns) for the columns holding up our back patio roof. These will clash nicely with the Southwestern theme in our back yard, but will give us our little piece of this corner of the world.
The beach here is so photogenic that I find it hard not to take and retake the same pictures under varying lighting and weather conditions. One of the nicest things about digital photography is that editing is so mindlessly easy.
The weather was overcast and windy, so that sort of shot any plans for a nice harbor cruise, or Dolphin watching expedition. Nonetheless, we drove to the square at Portimao (fondly referred to as Portable Tomato) anyway. Once there we hung out for the afternoon. BettyAnn read her book while I took photos of boats in the harbor inlet.
The Indians were playing in the square again, so there was entertainment to be enjoyed. I was able to get several pictures of the Indians playing their strange instruments, and dancing around the totem pole. This town square has turned into one of our favorite places, with the dancing fountain, shops, and café's. Not to mention the entertainment.
The weather being a bit if'ie, there weren't any boat operators around to ask about booking any of the water tours we were looking for. It's also close to the end of the tourist season, and things here are beginning to wind down for the winter months.
We spent most of the afternoon at the square, and then returned to the hotel around 4:00 PM. BettyAnn's into this really good book, so she spent the rest of the afternoon reading. Meanwhile I had a few beers on the balcony whilst listening to the local country & western music station on my portable radio, and watching the traffic on the roadway below. Having mentioned there was no rain at the beginning of our vacation brings to mind the adage "Watch out what you wish for". Guess I shoulda kept my big mouth shut.
For dinner we skipped any idea of going out, and just picked up a loaf of Italian bread. We had that with duck pate (which tastes like chicken liver paste), and cheese, along with a can of local tomato soup and a glass of wine.
All things considered, it's been a nice enjoyable, relaxing day.
It was a great day today and the sun is out in full force, with a few clouds. It was little windy, but the temperatures seem to be up. We checked on the Dolphin excursion at the hotel desk, but didn't get very far. Actually we just didn't want to hang around for the reply to come back by phone. Sometimes phone calls are not returned in a timely manor.
From the information available at the desk, the excursion that we wanted to take left from Alvor, rather than Portimao. So we were barking up the wrong tree from the outset. We planned our day accordingly, and went to Praia da Rocha first for coffee and Internet services. Then headed for Alvor.
We've been to Alvor several times, but the connection between the Centro area where the shops are, and the marina area where the fishing boats are, by road has always been a bit hazy. It's really easy to walk between the two areas, and we've done this and taken pictures of both areas. Today we looked for the marina, and fishing area by car.
After a lot of trial and error we found it okay, but I couldn't re-trace my steps back. Anyway we found the tour operator, and booked a Dolphin watch excursion for tomorrow. It's anyone's guess how we're going to find the damn place again in time for the 11:00 AM departure.
This location gave us access to local fishermen tending fishing nets, and lobster traps. So naturally I took more pictures than I probably should have. Afterwards we stopped at one of the local café's along the marina park like concourse and had a beer for me, and a pot of tea for BettyAnn, and we read our current novels for a while.
As it was well past lunchtime by now, we decided to take lunch in this area. We should have had a sandwich at the café' where we had our beer, but then we wouldn't have learned our lesson, would we have.
We decided to have lunch at one of the seafood restaurants, where I had an order of sole, and BettyAnn had a small lobster. The tip off should have been the menu, which stated prices in Kilo's of weight. To our utter surprise the cost of lunch exceeded any lunch, or dinner, we have ever had in our lifetime. I'll have to admit that the food was excellent, as was the service, but come on, ninety US dollars for lunch, give me a break. But we're on vacation, right, so what the hell.
On the way home we needed to return to the mall at Rocha for some of the excellent packaged soup sold at the grocery store there. BettyAnn wanted to take a half dozen packages home with her. And rats, if she didn't find some dishes she liked from France. Even though I objected, citing the dangers of airline luggage transportation, dammed if she still didn't talk me into a few pieces.
After returning home, and napping for an hour or so, we went to the local beach. The weather was splendid for a change (no disrespect intended to the wonderful weather we had for the first two weeks here), and we walked and walked on the sandy beaches. Finally, we stopped at a beach café before sunset for a beer, and watched the sun set from our table (Arizona still has better sunsets) but it was very romantic.
We were having such a nice time that I didn't mind at all when BettyAnn wanted to return to the mall grocery store for a few more pieces of French dishware. And how could I, she promised to feed me when we got home.
After supper we watched a movie that we had brought with us titled "The Man in the Moon", an entertaining flick, with a sad ending. But I was strong, and didn't cry, at least not as much as I did over the lunch bill.
We got up reasonably early this morning, and I rushed off to the local grocery store as soon as they opened for nice fresh hard rolls. We had hoped to have a continental breakfast this morning, but the store was just opening, and no rolls were ready. So we settled for some cereal that we had in the cupboard instead.
The sun was out and it looked to be the beginning of another perfect day here in southern Portugal. The morning was a little nippy, so I wore a flannel shirt. I had thought about wearing a jacket, but expected that it would warm up as the day progressed. It also turned out to be a windy morning, and we were fearful that our excursion might be canceled.
After getting our stuff together, we set out for the Alvor harbor area. As we had been here the day before, even though it was hard to locate, we arrived in plenty of time. In fact we had a bit of a wait before we could park the car because they were filming a local soap opera. BettyAnn took the camera, and headed off to the filming location and took pictures as I waited to gain access to the parking area.
The wind had picked up considerable by 10:00 AM, with no improvement in the temperature. So far no representatives from the tour operation had shown up, so we just settled in drinking coffee at one of the local café's. It wasn't long afterwards that the boat, and the rep's turned up, just as though they had been there all along.
They reassured us that the tour would go on as planned, and we could just continue with our coffee and we would be notified when the boat was ready for boarding. With this news, the weather started warming up, and the wind died down.
The boat turned out to be an inflated pontoon type boat (RIB "Rigid Inflatable Boat") that seated about twelve people plus a crew of two. We had ten in our party this morning. The motor was a turbocharged six cylinder diesel that produced 300 horsepower.
Dolphins are generally sighted eight or twelve miles (fifteen kilometers) from shore, and the boat was well suited for this task. It was originally designed as a high-speed ocean going rescue, or assault boat, and could cruise at thirty miles an hour in fairly rough seas. The water today was fairly calm, however I've traveled in water taxis of the sixteen to eighteen foot speedboat variety, that would beat you to death running full bore in waters like this. This twenty or twenty-two foot watercraft was surprisingly comfortable, and handled exceptionally well at high speed in the ocean.
Everyone was issued a slicker type jacket, and a life vest. The jacket was more for warmth, as the boat traveled fast enough that any spray produced was already behind us before being picked up by the wind. It wasn't long and we were almost out of sight of land. The boat had no radar but was equipped with radio, and global positioning equipment.
It wasn't long before we found the Dolphins we were seeking, and we spent close to an hour in the area. There were hundreds if them, and they would leap in groups of two to six. Due to the slow recording process of digital cameras, they are not too conducive to this type of photography. Perhaps two or three fairly good pictures are about all that could be expected out of a hundred photos taken.
It's difficult to express the exuberant feats that these active creatures displayed. BettyAnn commented that they certainly must have had a really good breakfast. There were as many as two or three dozen completely clear of the water at once, and many more could be seen just below the surface swimming at a high rate of speed. During this time the boat traveled forward just fast enough to maintain steerage headway. Now BettyAnn wants a Dolphin of her own, say's she can keep it in the bathtub.
After our allotted time came to an end, the trip back was similar to the trip out. They can't guarantee that we will locate any Dolphins, but had we not found any, the ride alone would have been well worth the price of admission. Nonetheless they had a Dolphin Guarantee, if none were sighted another ticket would be issued for a future trip for free.
On the return trip, another group of Dolphins were spotted, so Skipper Paul came about, to verify it was a large group, then radioed other boats in the area with the position. He was kind enough to wait on station until at least one other boat arrived. Coming back to Alvor the skipper took a course along the coast giving everyone a chance to see the beaches, cliffs, and the caves off Praia da Rocha, and Portamao.
Afterwards, we left Alvor about 2:20 in the afternoon, and went to Praia da Rocha for lunch. BettyAnn wanted seafood, so she ordered a sea bass special at a local restaurant; I opted for a local version of lasagna. After hanging out there for an hour or two, we returned to the hotel to nap until dinnertime.
The rest of the day wasn't much to speak of. We had leftovers for dinner as we started to empty the refrigerator. One item of interest today was the beautiful sunset; it actually rivaled an Arizona sunset for a change. We watched a movie this evening, then called it a night.
We had an early up today, in happy anticipation of a beautiful day, as forecasted by the weather channel last night. Well, somewhat early anyway, made it to the local grocery store by 8:30 for rolls, and today they were already baked. So we enjoyed a continental breakfast and were able to use up most of the margarine, and jam in the refrigerator.
After Breakfast we headed to Praia da Rocha for some last minute shopping, like we really needed to shop some more!! Actually we wanted to vacate the room so that the maids could do the room. We didn't want to start packing without a made-up bed to layout the suitcases on.
This gave us an opportunity to do the last minute photography that we had put off, such as the hotel facilities, our local grocery store, etc.
We were able to get a photo of one of BettyAnns favorite venders that deals in linen items. Then there is the ostrich that we pass each day. Finally we stoped to take his picture as well.
During the process of morning stuff we had another shock, we haven't been living on the outskirts of Praia da Rocha as we had originally thought. We've really been on the outskirts of Portimao. So everything I've said about our location so far has been a lie.
Our morning adventure took us to a whole new area of Praia da Rocha with all new groups of shops. While Betty Ann explored these new shops, I had coffee at the local café's. After 12:00 I started checking out the local grocery stores. Like Circle-K stores, they sell beer by the can a lot cheaper than the café's do, Particularly the ones with tablecloths.
We figured the room would be ready by two, and we were starting to get a little hungry anyway, so it was decided that the proper thing to do was to returned home, eat and pack. We had leftover ham on hard rolls for lunch, and on the way home, picked up a few more hard rolls for breakfast in the morning.
It took us about an hour to pack out, even with all our shopping purchases. Everything actually fit, experience you know. With nothing further to do, we spent the remainder of the afternoon at our local beach walking, and taking pictures.
We were at the beach most of the late afternoon until the sun went down. People were comming down to the beach, some with there dogs, to experience the beautiful sunset which was nice for people that have never experienced an Arizona Sunset.
After the sun had set, we came back to the hotel to change, then went to O Chef Carlos. This is the fancy joint we went to in the beginning of our stay. We were undecided between Chateau-Braind or Salmon. We ended up ordering the stake for two. Dinner turned out to be time consuming so when we were finished we returned home to retire, as tomorrow would be an early up for the two of us, so we could make the race to the airport in Lisbon (about three hours away).
With the alarm set for 3:00 AM, we flew out of bed for a quick continental breakfast. All things considered, we didn't do to bad. We finished packing the final things, like the tooth brushes, and computer stuff, and ate.
After loading the car, and waking half the hotel guests in the process, we finally got under way for Lisbon. It's a good thing we went to Faro during the week, and spotted the Lisbon turnoff onto highway A2. Everything looks so much different at night.
Well, the race was on, and we had 275 Kilometers to cover. Once we picked up our toll ticket, it was like driving the Pennsylvania Turnpike, except without speed limits. We burned along at about 160 km/hr (must be somewhere around 90 or 95 mph). We made one stop for coffee, just in case the exit tollbooth calculated your speed like they do on the turnpike.
One thing that was really evident was the lack of traffic on Sunday. We saw two cars going our way, and no more than coming six coming the other way, until things picked up about 30 km outside Lisbon.
Once we cleared the suspension bridge into Lisbon, I remembered that it was the second turn to the right to head to the Rato intersection near the hotel. Unfortunately, the turn was like a cloverleaf and actually went left. We promptly got lost, and BettyAnn made me stop for directions. Now, I can pronounce Rato from the spelling, a no brainer. But the guy in the gas station hadn't a clue.
After pouring through the luggage for our maps, I was able to find the intersection, and point it out to the attendant. When he pronounced it, it showed me one thing, he never learned phonics, because it sounded like Portuguese to me. When it was all said and done, it only took two corrective direction changes to locate the intersection.
When we got there, we were lost again, things looked vaguely familiar, but at night it seemed like a completely different area. Well, by shooting out of the intersection this way, and that, we finally found the car rental place quite by accident. This intersection isn't normal; it has an irregular traffic circle that doesn’t go all the way around, two separate sub-way entrances, and about eight streets branching off, and the lanes are complex, unforgiving, one-way affairs with curb like dividers. It's impossible to see the entire intersection from any given point.
That said, it was only two blocks to the hotel. That was easy to find, we walked it enough trying to rent the damn car in the first place. So now we waited an hour and a half for the appointed time for the agent to fetch us to the airport, and take the car. The hotel was exceptionally gracious, and served us complementary coffee and crescent rolls while we waited.
Mike, the dining room supervisor, insisted on serving us cup after cup of steaming hot coffee. We really wern't hungry enough to have breakfast, so the coffee and rolls were more than enough. Did you know that in most foreign countries, the luggage trolleys are free? That was nice because we had lots. After a couple of hours we got on the plane, and it departed on time. Air Portugal served a chicken breast dinner for lunch, with wine. That was about two PM, and about nine a large sandwich snack was served, also with wine. In fact wine was a complimentary beverage right up there with water, soda, and coffee.
After a really long time, and several time zones later we found ourselves in Newark (4:00 PM) doing our four-hour layover. This was nice because there wasn't anything we wanted to do more than watch the Newark sunset. Yep, it's true, Arizona's sunsets are better.
We finally boarded our Continental flight right on time; this gave the captain a chance to explain why we needed to wait for a late incoming connecting flight. It turned out okay though, because he made up the time by speeding. Actually we got into Phoenix ten minutes early, Whoopee Doo!
We were actually at home in Peoria only twenty-six hours after we turned our alarm off in Portimao, and it was all done the same day (Sunday) with several hours to spare.