Ed’s Portugal Week 8

Wow, it’s hard to believe that another week has flown by!  Time is going very quickly and 2 months are already gone.

Another fantastic week with the weather having improved significantly…lots of sun and warmer temperatures.  Beach Time!   Karen and I explored a few more beaches in anticipation of where we want to take our Daughter Megan and her husband Chris to when they arrive on Wednesday and did we find some spectacular scenery!  The first stop was at Praia Dona Ana with its carbonate rock formations, isolated groups of rock and the remains of potholes and caves.  It was really very nice and a beach we will definitely come back to!

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The highlight of the day really came when we visited the Ponta da Piedade where the lighthouse is located.  They have a wonderful staircase down to the waters edge and a great view of some grottos and caves…again this was a spectacular sight and the weather was perfect.

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Keeping with the beach theme, on Monday we went down to “our” beach because the low tide was convenient for us to see how the beach changes with the tides and boy, does it ever change.  We were able to walk around the corner to yet another beach we would not be able to access otherwise.  Plus, on the other end, the rock formations were completely different…it was like we had a couple of new spots to explore.  Since the day was so nice, we decided on coffees and pastries at a beach restaurant called CampiMar.

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We thought we better get one more round of golf in before the kids arrive, so on Tuesday we headed over to Salgodos Golf Course on Tuesday.  Not sure why I chose that course because it was about 45 minutes away and there are other courses much closer, but it turned out to be a nice course.  The twilight rate was 115 Euro for both of us including the cart.  Golf is really not very cheap here now that it is classified as “high season”.

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Wednesday and Megan and Chris finally arrive.  Despite an overnight flight, we hoped to show them around a little bit on the drive home.  First stop…the Gypsy Market in Quarteira.  I have already blogged about this market so I won’t go into much detail but we bought a couple of things.  Then off to the fruit/vegetable market to pick up supplies for tonight’s welcome supper.  What a pleasure to be able to buy fresh produce directly from the farmers on market day and at really great prices…it’s nice to support these producers and we try to buy there as much as possible.  Today’s haul included the basics like lettuce, tomato, potatoes, cilantro, avocado, lemons, etc but we also picked up almonds, figs, cheese, olives and other great treats.

Chris really likes photography and so, with his blessing, the following are some of his pictures at the market…

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Next stop is the fish market to pick out which fish we want tonight.  As it turns out, we bought both a sea bass and a sea bream for the next couple of nights.  It’s fun to listen to the fish mongers trying to sell their wares and we settled on one, not because his fish looked any better but he was a character.  They happily clean their fish and tell you how to cook it…yum!

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Home in time for a great late afternoon stroll on the beach, supper and then they crashed!

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Another gorgeous day for Thursday, so we decided to visit Sagres with Megan and Chris.  We had been here before when the weather was not as nice, so we were excited to be going again.  What a difference the sunshine makes!  It certainly brought out all the fishermen to the cliffs at the Fort and we just could not believe how they were fishing but there were lots of them and they were catching some pretty nice sized fish.  I don’t think I would have the nerve to stand that close to the edge but they certainly didn’t seem to mind it.

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We thought this guy was nuts and then we spotted this guy…

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From the Fort at Sagres, we went to the lighthouse at the most south western point of Europe…Cabo de St Vincent.  The last time we were here, the lighthouse was closed, so we were happy to be able to get in and look around.  Not that there was much to see but there were some great views.

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Driving to Vila do Bispo for lunch to a restaurant that was recommended to us, we stopped at a great surfing beach called Beliche.  It was a long way down and luckily the tide was out so we could actually access the beach.  There were quite a few surfers there and the wave action was pretty good.  None of these beaches are very busy at this time of year, so we often feel like we have the beaches to ourselves.  I expect this will change very quickly once March rolls around.

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One of the delicacies that I have been wanting to try are barnacles.  These are very difficult to harvest, very dangerous and not always available but the seas have been relatively calm and my hopes were high.  The following is a link that shows how they harvest barnacles…the video is from Spain but the process is very similar in Portugal.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zj714pJI_dM&list=PLMSdLUHR-MuAbF11HnBUm9UVGR9tQk3kf

I was very happy to find them available at Cafe Correia and the rest of the meal was also fantastic!  To eat the barnacles, you twist the “stem” and pull, exposing the flesh inside. Then slurp or pull them out with your teeth and chew … discover the meat is very much like that of a clam and tastes similar to them too.  The chef here cooked them with a garlic butter and they were truly delicious (happily since they were 32 Euro a kg)!

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After lunch we decided to check out a couple more beaches on the way home.  There are so many beaches in the Algarve and everyone seems to be different with some fantastic rock formations.  The first stop was at Praia da Figueira.  The walk into the beach was about .5 km through a bit of forested area but we were rewarded with some fantastic scenery and were able to get some great photos!

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Friday had us scouting out more beaches before heading to the Castle in Silves.  We stuck a little closer to home and decided to take Megan and Chris to the beaches in Lagos.  While we had been to these beaches before (see previous blogs), we did find a way to get down to Praia do Pinhao.

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Since we have previously been to Silves, my thought is not to repeat what I have already blogged and you will see a shortened version of some the repeat sights.  So here are a few pictures of Silves..ImageImageImage

Made the trek back to Olhao for the Saturday market to pick up some produce and fish for supper and to show Megan and Chris our January stomping grounds…the weather was perfect and you could tell by the large crowds today.

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How about these delicacies…

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Plus every imaginable type of fish…we ended up with Tuna steaks and Salmoneta (no relationship to salmon other than the fish is a pink colour).

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Fully stocked with food for supper, we wanted to stop in Faro to see the Chapel of Bones.  Unfortunately, being Saturday, the church closes at 13:00 for the day/weekend and we arrived at 13:15.  Instead we walked around the old part of the city taking pictures.  It is just mind-boggling how many storks there are in the Algarve.  It sees that every stack and high pole has a nest and in some cases, like the example below, there can be multiple nests on a building.

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We finished the day and the week by going to Adega do Papagaio, the restaurant where you cook your own meat on a hot stone.  Great fun and a really good Fado singer as well.  Megan and Chris seemed to really like it.

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Thanks again for following along with our adventures.  Have a great week!

Saude!

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Ed’s Portugal – Week 7

The weather this last week was very unsettled, with periods of rain and cool winds interspersed with sunny and cloudy periods.  This meant that our last few days with Karen’s sister Dianne and her husband Richard were tempered with what the weather would allow.

As I left off last week’s blog, Sunday started off quite miserably with rain and wind, so that afternoon, we hopped into our car and went to Albufeira to walk around the town and perhaps buy a vintage port that I have been scouring around for.  Unfortunately, the port store I wanted to visit was closed and the weather just didn’t co-operate.  Here is what the normally beautiful beach looked like…

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Instead, we stopped at a shopping centre in Guia so the ladies could look around to see what Portugal’s mall’s might have to offer.  Thankfully, no-one was in the buying mood, opting instead to go back to the condo to get caught up on some reading and perhaps some libation to help forget the weather.

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Supper on Sunday was a gastronomical delight at a restaurant called Casa do Pintor here in Lagos.  Dianne had done some research and picked the restaurant.  While it was difficult to locate (thank goodness for GPS), it was a wonderful find.  We were the only patrons in the restaurant (I guess the weather scared the rest away) and our owner/waiter Alex was very attentive.  The meal was fantastic and the presentation of each course was exquisite.  This was a French/Portugese style restaurant that I would highly recommend to anyone.  It was not inexpensive and thanks to Dianne and Richard for treating us to this experience.

I don’t normally take pictures of food, but these should show you the carefully presentation and trust me, it was every bit as good as it looked.

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The following day, the rain mostly held off and we set off for Sagres, to the fort where Henry the Navigator apparently had a school of navigation.  Sagres, has often been referred to as the “end of the world” back in the day.  The fortress at Sagres is pretty well maintained and a giant wheel made into the ground with rocks is still there from the Navigation school and is thought to be either a sundial or a location for wind measurement but certainly used in teaching sailors navigation.  While it was quite a windy day there (I suspect it usually is), it actually provided for some exciting and dynamic displays of the waves crashing into the rocks below.  These pictures will give you a sense of how powerful the waves really were…

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We then drove over to Cape St. Vincent, which is actually the most southwestern tip of Portugal to visit the light house there.  Unfortunately, it was closed for the day, so we will have to have a return visit to actually tour the lighthouse.

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The day before Dianne and Richard left was again an ugly, dreary day, so we opted to have lunch at Antonio’s at “our” beach (Praia do Porto de Mos), just a short way from our house.  They are right on the ocean and on a nice day, you can sit outside and watch the waves role in.  Unfortunately, the Atlantic was very angry that day (perhaps because Dianne and Richard were leaving 🙂 ) and we were stuck inside.  Dianne and Karen braved the weather for a couple of shots…

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I had the great idea that since the weather was so crappy, that we would drive to Sir Cliff Richard’s winery and do a wine tasting.  Sir Cliff is an aging pop singer from the 60’s  (remember “Summer Holiday” or “Devil Woman”?) Anyway, after quite a long drive of about 45 minutes, we pulled up to Adega do Cantor for our tasting.  It looks pretty nice but when we went in for a tasting, this rather indifferent young woman gave us probably the worst wine tasting I have ever done.  She gave us the choice of red or white, explained nothing about either the wines or the winery and in fact, we had to share a tasting between Karen and I.  I asked about other wines and possibly tasting them also but was quickly told no.  The wines we tasted were OK but the experience was very disappointing.  In fact, I had a better wine tasting in a grocery store yesterday…at least he was knowledgeable and friendly.

Sir Cliff, as he is referred to, apparently lives in Guia, the town that we are moving to in March, so if I happen to run into him…

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We sadly said goodbye to Dianne and Richard on Wednesday after a great week or so together.  We had time for a coffee with them at the airport…probably the largest cup of coffee Karen has ever had!

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On the way home, we stopped at the gypsy market in Quarteira again and bought a few items, but we also went into town there and discovered they had a fruit and vegetable market there on Wednesdays as well, so we stocked up on some fresh supplies.  I truly love these small town market days and I am sure we will be back there again next week when we pick up our daughter Megan and her husband, Chris.

Lunch time and we stumble across yet another great little restaurant before we take time to walk along a really nice beach sidewalk.  But check out this stork nest on the churches tower…I don’t know how it even stays up there.ImageImage

Now that our company has left, it means laundry day.  We take that pretty much for granted back home with a nice large washing machine and a great dryer.  Not so much the case here…a very small washing machine that does about half a regular load.  That’s not the worst of it though.  When we rented this place, it was advertised with a clothes dryer and so we thought after a month in Olhao without one, we would finally be able to dry our clothes quickly and efficiently.  Apparently, a clothes dryer to the British (the guy that owns the condo) is a clothes tumbler and the dryer he advertises is really just a clothes rack!  It takes forever to dry clothes here, thereby slowing down the laundry process significantly!  Time to kick our feet up and bury our noses into a good book.

Valentine’s Day!  Karen has decided that this should be a special spa day and we have booked a couples massage at the Elements Spa at Boavista Golf Course.  Actually, we had booked a 90 minute massage for both of us and it was only when we got there that we realized it they had a special on for Valentines.  So, they gave us 30% off our treatments, provided sparkling wine and chocolates after and provided lunch and a drink in the Restaurant.   The whole thing was under 160 Euro PLUS we got to use the exercise room (yes, we did use it), the pool, hot tub, steam and sauna all day long.  It really was a sweetheart (referencing Valentine’s Day) of a deal.

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The prawns we had as part of our supper…huge!Image

The day after Valentine’s Day saw us back at Boavista Golf for another round of golf there.  The weather co-operated with us and we had a nice round there.  Neither of us golfed as well as the last time even though I shot 43 on the front nine…I hate it when the round goes to *@#^!

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It was a great way to finish the week though.  We are looking forward to another round early next week and we are very excited and happy that Megan and Chris will be joining us on Wednesday…we have a lot to show them!  Fingers are crossed for nice weather.

We are past the half way mark of our extended winter vacation in the Algarve and time is going quickly.  Thank you again for reading about our adventures.  If you need us to expand on anything or if you want additional information on anything, please let us know!  Have a great week.

Saude!

Ed’s Portugal Week 6

Well, we have said goodbye to our apartment in Olhao and have moved into our Condo in Lagos.  It’s quite a change as we had a central location in an older building right in the heart of the action into an almost new condo complex complete with underground parking but we have to pretty much drive everywhere.  Shopping is now done primarily in a supermarket as opposed to a local market.

Our new place has a swimming pool and a hot tub, but unfortunately neither is heated L and we seem to be the only ones in the complex so it is very quiet here.  It’s a beautiful place and we do have an oceanview and the beach can be walked to.  Some pictures below.

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We had the day to unpack and then off to a restaurant in the small town of Espiche to a restaurant that was presenting a Fado show.  Fado is a style of Portugese folk song and we had been wanting to find a place that had some.  This little restaurant features a hot stone cooking style. They bring you several types of raw meat along with salads, rice and French fries and you cook your meat at the table on the hot stone.  It was all kind of fun and the food was excellent.  Later, the Fado singer walked around the restaurant singing and getting the crowd to participate with clapping and even singing.  It was a great experience even though it was quite difficult to find the restaurant and even more difficult to find parking!

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The weather has been good so the following day off to a golf course called Boavista where we were teamed up with a lovely couple from Holland.  The golf course was excellent…challenging but fair and Karen has decided we should golf there a few more times.

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The exciting part of the week was driving to Seville, Spain to meet up with Dianne and Richard Stobbs (Karen’s sister and husband).  They had been touring around Spain a bit and we agreed to meet them in Seville and bring them back to Portugal for a few days.

The hotel we stayed in was the El Rey Moro, a very nice boutique hotel in the old town which gave us walking access to all the sights we wanted to visit.  The two most important sights were the Cathedral and the Alcazar.  However, before seeing those in detail, we opted to take a “free” city walking tour run by a company called “Feel the City Tours”.  It was a free tour but with the expectation that if the guide was good, you would tip them.  In fact, our guide Lola was very good and gave us a lot of information about the old town of Seville in a way that was both engaging and entertaining.  We were very impressed with what we saw and experienced.

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Feel the City Tours

Feel the City Tours

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Old City Hall

Old City Hall

Our Guide - Lola

Our Guide – Lola

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The Bull Ring

The Bull Ring

The Golden Tower

The Golden Tower

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The final stop on the Feel the City tour was the Plaza de Espana, the home of the 1929 International fair.  As you can see, this plaza is a fantastic area where you can rent row boats or take a horse drawn carriage to marvel at the beautiful architecture.

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The Cathedral of Seville is the 3rd largest in Europe, just behind St Peter’s Basillica in the Vatican and St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.  It took over 500 years to complete the cathedral and it has a variety of architectural styles.  Inside the Cathedral is the tomb of Christopher Columbus as well as a variety of other tombs, alters, organs and the church treasury.  The pictures below will hopefully give you an idea of how large the cathedral is.

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The top of the bell tower can be accessed by a series of ramps.  The tower at one time was a Muslim minaret and they put ramps in instead of stairs because the caller would ride a horse or donkey up every time they were called to prayer (5 times a day).  There are 37 ramps leading to the top of the tower and a small stable to house the animal.  The views were spectacular from there although the bells were very loud when they rang.

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The Royal Palace or Alcazar, was another must see in Seville.  We opted to hire a guide to explain what we were looking at for a cost of 5 Euro plus gratuity…well worth the expense as she was able to explain the Moorish influences and the uses of the Palace.  The architecture is very interesting as it has a significant Moorish influence.

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While in Seville we enjoyed several of the restaurants specializing in Tapas and had a jug or 2 of Sangria.  One of our meals was had at a Flamenco show.  Seville, according to one of our guides, is the birthplace of flamenco and we were very impressed by the skill and endurance of these dancers.  Unfortunately, they didn’t allow any pictures, but would recommend going to a show.  Ours was fairly expensive at 60 Euros each but it did include cold and hot tapas and a drink along with the show…a very enjoyable night.

Unfortunately, the weather has turned for the worse and we have been getting some rain and cooler temperatures.  I do regularly check the weather at home and when I see the -30 C temperatures there, I don’t feel so bad about a little rain.

Arriving back in Lagos, we are anxious to show Dianne and Richard around a bit, starting with the town of Lagos and the fort/beach there.  Luckily the rains seem to hold off when we are walking outside so we enjoyed our walk about the town.  We also took the opportunity to walk them down the beach close to our house before settling down to a home cooked meal of sea bass that we picked up at the market today.

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We had not yet been to Silves to visit the well known fort there, so on Saturday, we braved the rains and headed out there.  Almost miraculously, the rain stopped when we arrived and we were able to explore the castle without an umbrella.  The castle is nicely preserved and the archeologists have unearthed  some of what was the “palace” in the castle.  There is a restaurant inside the castle, so it seemed appropriate to have lunch inside the walls of the castle imaging life in the days of old.

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From Silves, we drove to Portamao hoping the weather would cooperate when we got there so we could walk the beach there.  We have been there before but we really liked it and wanted to show Dianne and Richard more of the fabulous rock formations.  Though cool, especially with the wind coming off what I will describe as an angry ocean, the rain held off and we had a wonderful, long hike down the beach.

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Today is Sunday, February 9th and I am afraid that our luck may have run out on the weather.  It’s raining and very windy and we have postponed our plans to visit Albufeira until at least this afternoon in the hopes that it may clear up again.  If not, our cupboards have some nice wines and a very nice 2007 LBV Port that we can tuck into while we absorb ourselves in our respective books.

Until next week, thanks again for following our blog and our adventures.

Saude!

Ed’s Portugal Week 5

We only have a couple of days left with Ken and Jan Cooke and we decided to spend a couple of days in Evora, a town about 2.5 hours away.  It is a world heritage site and by all indications, worth a visit.  It also puts them much closer to Lisbon where they are off to next.

We have really been avoiding the main highway as we want to see as much of the countryside as possible.  What we didn’t realize was that the road we chose was one of the windiest little roads I have ever driven.  The scenery was very nice from what I could see (focussed on keeping the car on the road) through a bit of forest where they harvest cork.  Interesting to see how they carve away the cork bark from the rest of the tree.  Unfortunately, there is nowhere to pull over to take any pictures.  Mario Andretti would have been proud as we navigated through all the hairpin turns.

I must apologize to Jan as she does not like or take this kind of a drive well and we stopped in a small town cafe for a refreshment so everyone could catch their breath.

The rest of the drive was fine as we left behind the road that would have been perfect for a motorcycle with images of scraping the pegs on each corner.

We also broke up the trip to explore a medieval castle in the town of Beja.  Very well maintained, it conjures up images of knights and damsels in distress.  Certainly worth a visit since it was on the way!

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On entering Evora the GPS  led us through the narrowest of streets and blind corners to our hotel located in the core of the inner city.  We booked the Pousada dos Loios for the very reason as everything was very walkable.  The hotel is an old Monestary and the rooms are actually called cells where the monks used to sleep.  Thankfully modernized, the room was very comfortable and the feel of the hotel was wonderful.  The rate was about 80Euro and included a full and very tasty breakfast.

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The first thing that hits you as you approach the hotel are the ruins of a Roman era Temple of Diana.  In remarkable condition, the Temple is right outside the doors of our hotel and marks the fact that Evora was on the main road to Rome and as they say “all roads lead to Rome”.

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Unfortunately our day of sightseeing in Evora was a colder (I know it’s all relative when you live in Saskatchewan) and overcast day.  However, there were some spectacular sights.  The first of these was the St. Mary’s Cathedral.  As all churches in Europe seem to be, the interior of the church is very ornate and one has to appreciate the construction and motivation behind the building of the church.

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We opted to pay for the entrance to the church, the tower, the cloister and the museum.  So next stop was the tower.  Climbing a very narrow, steep and winding staircase up to the tower brought a great surprise…we could walk on the roof of the Cathedral.  This has only happened once before to us in Barcelona, so this was very interesting.  Great view of the city and the church bells which did ring for us when we were on the roof.

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Descending down the steps, the cloister was next and was very nice.  The pictures below will give you a good idea of what it was like.

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The museum was interesting although no photos were allowed.  A great many church artifacts but I am not much of a museum person and after a while one old icon after another became a bit boring.  Glad I went but an hour was too long.

From this cathedral we walked down to St Francisco Church primarily to see the chapel of the bones.  We had seen a similar chapel in Faro but this one is much larger and contains many more bones.  It is a reminder that we are all mortals and the sign over the chapel entrance reads “Our bones in here wait for yours to join us”…

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We wander the streets of the old walled city being drawn by old, narrow, winding roads through the main Giraldo square which up until a couple of years ago, was a market and a livestock trading area.  In days of the Inquisition, many were burned at the stake as heretics in this square as well.  Our goal is to find a place where they do Regional wine tasting and with some luck and some skillful map-reading, we did indeed find it.  Every week, they sample wines from the area from 3 different producers and we enjoyed sampling several wines from the Alenejo Region.  She was kind enough to also point out a few wineries that Karen and I could have lunch at on our drive home (more below) as well as a nearby restaurant we could have today’s lunch at.

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We ended up at Restaurant O Fialho, rated #10 in Evora by Trip Advisor and recommended by Rick Steeves as well.  We had an absolutely amazing meal and would highly recommend the octopus salad…it was fantastic.  The octopus was so tender and Karen even enjoyed it…a high rating from her as she is not an adventurous eater.  Some great wine to accompany a great meal.  Our gracious thank you to Ken and Jan for treating us to a magnificent meal.

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Wandering back to our hotel via some sightseeing of a Roman Aqueduct and Archway, it was definitely nap time and that gave us time to get hungry again as our plan was to visit the Trip Advisor #1 rated restaurant in Evora…Botequim da Mouraria.

I don’t know what I was expecting but it was more than the 12 seat bar/restaurant we found.  None-the-less, the proprietor welcomed us in with his limited but very passable English and suggested some of his best dishes.  I think I enjoyed the calamari the most but mostly enjoyed his hospitality and the atmosphere of this quaint space.  It was very interesting watching him as bar tender, waiter, chef and chief bottle washer…he was very busy but yet made time to chat to all 12 patrons of his full restaurant.  In the end, he treated us to a shot of what we can only describe as home-made, 100 proof hootch.  He called it a peach something.

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Time to say goodbye to our dear friends, Ken and Jan Cooke.  We have had enjoyed their company immensely and are sad to say “Ciao” (yes, they say Ciao here).

On the way home we decide to stop and have a wine tasting and lunch at one of the wineries recommended to us at our wine tasting.  It’s on the way home and looks good.  In fact it was so good that we were there for over 3 hours and the hospitality was excellent.  The place is called Mercade dos Grous and it’s not just a winery but also a hotel and convention resort.  As travel agents we are always keen to check out facilities that we might recommend to our clients at some point down the road.

A highlight of our winery tour was that one of the assistant winemakers was doing a barrel tasting to determine how the wine was aging and he invited me to taste from the barrel…very interesting talking to and tasting with him.

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At first, we thought the wine tasting was expensive.  It was 9 Euro each to taste 2 different wines.  Karen chose her usual white wines and I chose a red tasting.  We did our tasting in conjunction with our lunch and what was exceptional was that there gave you a healthy pour (1/2 a glass) and asked if you wanted more before going on to the next wine.  The disappointing part was that I was driving and couldn’t drink that much.Image

After the lunch and tasting, they drove us around the property showing u s one of their rooms, the stables, animals, etc.  Located just outside of Beja, it is not likely someplace we will be selling but it would be ideal for an incentive or specialty group.

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We had one more chance at a round of golf before moving to our second location here in the Algarve and this time we drove to Casto Marim, which is close to the Spanish border.  The day was unfortunately quite chilly and very windy…reminiscent of golf in Saskatchewan in the fall!

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Moving day arrived and we sadly packed up our possessions moving from the eastern part of the Algarve in Olhao to a more westerly location in Lagos.  We truly enjoyed living in a typical Portuguese community with everything right outside our door.  However, we are excited about our new location and that Karen’s sister and brother-in-law, Dianne and Richard are also coming for a visit.  More on that next week.

Thanks for following along in our adventure!

Saude

Ed’s Portugal Experience Jan 1 – 5, 2014

January 1 – 5, 2014

So, we have started our adventure…3 months in Portugal’s Algarve Region.  I will try to blog once a week or so for those that are interested.  We are really hoping to get an insider’s feel to the area, enjoy the local foods, drink the local wine and experience the people as much as possible.  At the same time, we want to do the tourist things with sightseeing, golf and some shopping.

We started our adventure flying British Airways from Toronto to London in Business Class.  We used points for the Transatlantic flights.  If you collect RBC Avion points, did you know that twice a year, you can convert your Avion points to British Airways Avios points at a rate of 1:1.5?  This little benefit has meant that we have been able to upgrade to Business Class or First Class for very few extra points…bonus, who doesn’t like to fly up front?  Service and food was excellent, great movies and lay flat beds for a good night’s sleep…zzzzzzz.

We opted to stay in London overnight for a variety of reasons, but primarily so we wouldn’t arrive in Faro late at night and then get to our apartment in a small town called Olhao.  We got a pretty good rate at the Marriott Heathrow Airport hotel and thankfully they had a room ready when we arrived in the morning.  They also had an executive package for an extra 50 pounds but it included internet, access to their executive lounge (treats and drinks) and a buffet breakfast for 2.  That added up to at least 50 pounds and we used all the services, so a good option.  A nap and an afternoon of the pool, hot tub and steam bath and felt great.  So, off to a local pub called the Pheasant Inn for a couple of pints and some fish and jack potato (baked potato) and a nice evening.

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The next morning, we had booked a transfer to Gatwick airport with Express Airport Transfers and were very pleased with the service.  Right on time and a great trip for about $57CAD.  I think I will book them for the return flight since we fly into Gatwick from Faro and out of Heathrow again.  Minimum suggested connecting time is 3.5 hours.

British Airways to Faro was uneventful, the way you want a flight to be, arriving in Faro at about 5PM.  We were met and picked up by a driver recommended by the people we rented the apartment from.  It’s about ½ drive to the apartment which has a great location directly across the street from the ocean/harbour.

The apartment we rented has turned out to be fantastic.  2 bedroom, 2 bathroom with a Julliett balcony over a main street and guess what…it’s right over a wine bar!  How perfect is that!  Plus it has a great rear balcony…not much of a view but the hot tub is fantastic.  Our first night here we went to the wine bar for some great tapas and a jug of Sangria.  Excellent food and drink.  This was followed by the hot tub and then we crashed…some jet lag after all!

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Day 2 – The bakery is about 100 metres from our place so breakfast today was easy and wonderful with pastries, OJ and coffee…I think we will be back here on a regular basis!  Did I mention that we are right across the street from both the fish market and the veg/fruit market.  Since today is Saturday, they also have an outdoor market, so we stocked up on some essentials for today’s meals including sausage and cheese, fresh fruit (the Clementine oranges are in season and very sweet), olives, produce and a variety of other things.  For supper, we chose a fresh, caught that morning, sea bass which they prepared for the grill on the spot.  So we are ready for both lunch and supper today.

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Our Supper

The rest of the day was wondering around the town…found the super market (more groceries and essentials).  Not a great deal to see in town as it is not really a tourist town…most of the action is on the street where we live, which by the way includes a great wine store.  Cheap wine at the supermarket (as low as 1.50Euros) and a good selection of better wines at my new favourite wine store.  Life is good.

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Day 3 – We took the ferry to one of the islands today…Ilha da Culatra…cheap 3.60 Euro return per person.  We wanted to do a hiking trail we discovered along the dunes and beach on the island.  Had a wonderful, albeit expensive lunch there before heading out…about 30 Euro.  My fault, I think I just ordered wrong…enough food to feed 4 really.  The beer was only 1.20Euro, so was OK with it.  The hike was a board walk over the sand dunes to the beach and then 1.5km to some more boardwalk area…except we never found the second boardwalk.  Don’t know if we didn’t go far enough or just missed it, but the weather was great and we enjoyed the walk.  See the pictures below to see how crowded the beach was 🙂.

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Supper is ready now…thanks Karen!  That’s it for the first installment of the blog.