Algarve 2019

 

Zaterdag, 20 april 2019
Eens wat anders…
Emma liet vallen dat ze tijdens haar weekje herfstvakantie wel naar de Algarve zou willen.
Maar ja, wie wil en kan er dan mee? Als Mariecke gevraagd wordt begint ze eerst te zeuren en dus vroeg Renée of ik dan met haar naar de Algarve zou willen. Tja, waarom niet?!
We zijn dan net een weekje terug van onze reis met camper in Amerika en dan kan ik weer gaan. Ik denk dat ik mijn reistas dan maar gewoon ingepakt laat.

Gisteren heb ik de vluchten geboekt. Er vliegen 2 maatschappijen van Nantes naar Faro. Volotea was echter geen optie want die vliegen midden in de nacht.
Dus werd het Transavia. De heenvlucht is op een hele mooie tijd en voor de terugvlucht moeten we alleen wat vroeger opstaan. Ach ja, is niet erg.
We vliegen heen op 27 October en komen op 3 november weer terug.

Na heel wat gezoek op heel veel websites heb ik wat leuke en betaalbare appartementen gevonden.
https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/16227063?guests=1&adults=1
Een leuk appartement met 2 slaapkamers, een groot terras met uitzicht en lekker centraal gelegen in de Algarve voor onze uitstapjes.

Nu alleen nog een auto boeken en routes uitstippelen.

    

    

    

Zaterdag, 11 mei 2019
Autootje en een wijziging
Zo, de auto is geboekt. Ik heb een type Fiat Panda geboekt via Zest Car Rental. We hebben al eerder via hun geboekt en ze zijn bekend vanwege hun goede service.

De eerste vluchtwijziging is ook al binnen. We vliegen nu rond 2 uur ’s middags terug naar Nantes. Wel zo fijn want dan hoeven we niet voor dag en dauw uit het appartement en kunnen het lekker op ons gemak doen.

We hebben besloten om een boottochtje te doen langs de rotskust van de Algarve maar die boek ik pas iets voor we vertrekken zodat ik een beetje kan zien wat het weer gaat doen. We willen tenslotte niet met slecht weer op een boot zitten. Ook willen we kijken of we kunnen gaan trotten. Emma heeft dat nog nooit gedaan en ik vind dit altijd wel leuk om te doen.

Sunday, 27 October 2019
Zjwien goes to Portugal
I
t wasn't the earliest the humans had ever left for one of their trips. Thank the plushie Gods, I had a semblance of a sleep in the morning. But after that, into the suitcase I went. I didn't see the light of day again until airport security when Emma had to take that heavy backpack off my back. I tried to scream for help at that point because I was well and truly suffocating in that suitcase, but no one paid me any mind. I saw the sun a few more times, whenever Emma had to put her backpack back in or to take it out again. Aside from that, I didn't see a lot. Not yet at least.

I was finally let out of my prison once we made it to the apartment. I share a room with Emma (as usual), and though there are two beds, she insists on us sharing one. She did put me up on the window ledge to enjoy the view. And what a view it is. The last time I saw the sea was during our bike rides around Lacanau. It was a good view. Hopefully, I'll get to see more of Portugal over the next few days and not just the apartment. Though, after the ladies have left, I would have the place to myself. I bet I could figure out how the TV works.
Here's to hoping.

To Portugal We Go
There have been earlier mornings when going on vacation. But, the plane didn't leave until 12:30 (or was supposed to). This meant that we could leave home a little later. And once we dropped off the car at Izipark, we could basically hop right into their minivan and off we were. Honestly, I don't think I've ever dropped off bags and gone through security as fast as we did today. There were basically no lines. Then, of course, we had to wait about two hours before we could get on the plane.

The plane was late coming out of Algiers, meaning we got to wait a little longer. And then the two hour flight to Faro, Algarve, Portugal. It was my first time flying with Transavia but not Jacky's. Honestly, aside from the fact that I had no idea where we were because there were a lot of clouds and there is no Track My Flight option in non-trans-Atlantic flights, there wasn't much to see. We suspect we flew just on the Portuguese side of the border with Spain. There was a really long river, and apparently a river makes up the border. It is totally possible.

    

    

When arriving at Faro airport, I thought it would be about the size of Nantes Airport, you know, a smallish regional airport. But the place was pretty big. The first thing I noticed when stepping out of the "slurf" (after a quick Google search, Jacky was able to tell me it was a gangway) was the smell; PIZZA. Not the worst smell to have upon arrival. After that, you follow the signs SAIDA which is like Salida but just slightly different. The whole Portuguese language seems to be like Spanish but slightly different; it's just weird. Anyway, the airport seemed really empty. The arrivals hall was huge though, which can't be said of the one in Nantes. Our bags came relatively quickly, and getting the car didn't take long either.

We get to drive (Jacky gets to drive) a black Peugeot 108 that almost still has the new car smell. Barely 6.000 km on the meter. We had a few difficulties with the Miep, who never works as she is supposed when she is supposed but Jacky fixed that issue... somehow. And then the long and rather boring drive from Faro airport to the apartment in Porches Velho. It is a long road with the Miep telling us every two or three kilometers that in eight hundred meters we need to take the second exit (go straight) on the roundabout.

It was supposed to be the scenic route, but I'm pretty sure the scenic route is supposed to be pretty and this wasn't really pretty. The only thing I thought was kinda cool were the orange vendors on the side of the road; 3 nets of oranges for 5 euro at every single one. We drove past a Lidl, which was open, and there was a "Hollandse supermarkt" across the road, which wasn't open, but we might go back to, because what self-respecting Dutch person, not having access to Dutch products, wouldn't?

We were driving through a ghost town on the way to the apartment and then we got stuck behind the tourist train for about 800 meters and then we made it to the apartment complex and we said adios to the train. The building had the weirdest elevator. It's small but it also has an outside door but no actual elevator door. When it goes up or down, you see the other doors just passing by. But all the codes worked without problem, and connecting to the wifi was easy.

We did a tour of the apartment, which is pretty nice. If I have something like this once I'm done with school, I'll be pretty damn ecstatic. The only thing in the kitchen is that there is no space to put your things. One wall is completely tiled with big black tiles and Jacky and I both tried to see if they were actually cabinets. They are not. We unpacked and then went to do some grocery shopping at the Intermarché next door. 

Portugal is so damn cheap! It's not fair. Why do we have to live in the most expensive country of Europe. We got some chicken and pork for barely anything. The pineapples are three times the size but less than half the price of what they are in France. Okay, I'll admit, the store was confusing and slightly disorganized. We also got Chocomel; it doesn't exactly say "de enige echte" but it might as well. It is delish, so I'm going to try to keep that as my morning beverage. Also, Philadelphia cream cheese with salmon. Good, though Jacky's salmon mousse is better.

And the Brits. Just one look at the people around you in the supermarket and you can tell where they are from. And then they open their mouth and you know for sure. At the checkout, the girl just spoke in English to us before we even said anything. With a very British accent.

We had dinner outside, a New Yorker salad for dinner, with cheddar cheese bits, fried onions, croutons and lardons... and a not so very nice dressing but a generous serving of it. And Jacky cooked two chicken breast so it was basically a complete meal. I had a look at the TV afterward, to see if we could cast Dutch TV onto it but when I couldn't figure it out after the initial five minutes, I gave up. There are a few books in the apartment, and I found one within twenty minutes of arriving that I claimed as my own. It's been in my to-read-list since probably way back in 2012 or something. Jacky just had a look and pulled out three she claimed and squirreled away to her bedroom. We haven't even been here for 24 hours and we already have new books, haha.

Onto to tomorrow. Hopefully the weather will be okay in the morning. And we have to be back a little earlier in the afternoon because I have a WhatsApp interview with a hotel in Brussels.

Monday, 28 October 2019
Praia or Playa?
I was packed into the backpack today! That means I got to go out and visit too; HOORAY. The lady navigator is a real mess; she didn't want to take the road and once she wanted us to go where we were not allowed to go. But it did lead to the unexpected stop at the first playa... I mean praia. A short walk over the cliff, though not at the edge, I had a first row seat from on top of Emma's camera. They didn't have cliffs in Lacanau. Only sand dunes nowhere near as high as these cliffs. Emma and Jacky were very careful to not put me too close to the edge, because, you know, I can't swim. From there, onto another view point where I got to watch while safely strapped into the backpack. No point in taking unnecessary risks with my life.

    

The next time I was allowed to come out and enjoy the view again was at another beach. Not just on top of a cliff but actually on the beach. Sandy stuff, those beaches. I'm glad I never got anywhere near it; I would be brushing it out of my wool for days. We did go to a mall for lunch and a bit of shopping, but I had to stay in the backpack. Could be worse, I could have been locked in the car. Besides, it wasn't like I needed anything at Primark.

    

After Emma had her interview over the phone (I hear we might be going to Brussels next year), we went to more cliffs. And a church. A tiny church. I got to pose for more pictures, and I got to sit on a bench tiled with blue porcelain tiles. It was only an hour long trip, after which the ladies went back to the apartment, dropped me off and went grocery shopping. Not very interesting.

    

What is this I heard about a boat trip I am not allowed to go on?

Praia, Praia, Oh Look! A Cliff
Jacky created all these itineraries in the Miep. Which is great and all, but if she (the Miep) decides she wants to fly everywhere rather than drive, that is a bit of an issue. In the end, Jacky did convince her (the Miep) to take the roads, and although it was a little different from the originally planned itinerary, we made it where we were supposed to go. Sort of.

She (the Miep again) wanted us to take a right and then a left, and although the right was an option, the left definitely wasn't. So we had to take the next right, which led us up a narrow street (more like a one-way lane) along what felt like the edge of the cliff. It brought us to an unplanned look-out point/beach called Praia do Paraiso. There are either about a thousand steps down to the beach, or you could follow the unofficial trail off the path and over the cliff. That's what we did. Yes, Mom, we stayed away from the edge.

    

    

Zjwien got to come out and pose for a few pictures, though we made sure to keep a tight hold on him because the last thing we want is for him is to have any kind of accident. Damn, where is his leash when you need it. Tall cliffs with private beaches (or not, since there were stairs leading down to it) and caves (potential bat caves for international expansion?). The clouds covered the sky all day, though at times they were darker and more threatening than at others.

    

    

After that, we went to the Observatorio da Arriba de Salgadeira, the lookout that had actually been planned. More walking over cliffs, on paths with nothing to keep you from falling down the long tumble into the ocean. Makes you wonder if the Portuguese don't care about the safety of their tourists at all; there are quite a few schmucks out there. We were completely fine though. More cliffs and potential bat caves. More private beaches, one that had only a wooden ladder as access point. Do people really go down there?

    

    

The next stop was supposed to be Fortaleza de Santa Catarina. Now, just getting there... oh boy. Not only did the Miep not want to send us along the small roads that Jacky had planned so we completely ignored her, but when we did decide to follow her, she took revenge. Once we crossed the bridge over the Rio Arade in Portimao, Jacky asked, "First left after the bridge?" I don't know the way, so I said, "No, a little further ahead." because, you know, that's what the Miep said. She (the Miep) must have been having the time of her life. Streets with cars parked on one side and barely space for another car to drive past. Half the roads are one way, meaning that you can never just take a random turn. Instead of going straight, taking a left and going straight, you go straight, left, straight, left, straight, left. And if you take the wrong left (like we did), you have to go around the block (still through those narrow ass streets) and start again. Finally, we made it to a somewhat bigger intersection and Jacky explained, "Hey, that's where Vitor lived." He's an old Portuguese penpal of hers. 

The lesson of all this, next time, take the first left after the bridge!!! And... always rent a small car!!!

All those tiny streets we had to take, and all the others I could see on the map. Oh my God! They should just raze the city and start over; lay it in a grid pattern, like the Americans do. Nothing charming or interesting but at least it works. And once we left those tiny ass streets, we got to the avenues that were almost completely deserted. It's weird, it's like in that part of the city they created all the infrastructure because they are expecting lots of tourists, but they just haven't arrived yet. And then, at other places, there are buildings that have been completely abandoned and covered in graffiti. It's such a weird feeling; it's clearly a tourist destination that is getting ready for hibernation, but at the same time it feels abandoned.

In the end, we didn't stop at Fortaleza de Santa Catarina. No parking. And rather than trying to find parking a little farther away, we decided to skip the whole stop. Because of my interview planned for the afternoon, we had to keep an eye on the clock. So, we went straight to the Praia do Alvor. For a day with such relatively unsunny weather, there were a lot of people on the beach. There was a café on the boardwalk so we paused for dos cafés com leite. The whole Portuguese language is still weird to me; so much of it is like Spanish but slightly different. It's like they applied all those little changes just to annoy the tourists. Example: an orange, in Spanish it's "naranja", in Portuguese it's "laranja". See what I mean?

We went for a walk on the beach. Jacky wore sandals and dipped her feet into the Atlantic. Apparently, it was cold. Since I was wearing my hiking shoes, I had to take her word for it. I was a little disappointed by the seashells, or the lack thereof. Nothing fancy and barely any. I suppose I should be relieved; I brought home way too many from Lacanau. One side of the beach was a bit busier than the other; giving the impression that there was almost no one there. Zjwien got to take a few more pictures before we went back via the boardwalk. It was about lunch time so we went to a mall; Aqua Portimao.

    

    

    

    

Okay, Portugal, we need to talk; what the hell is this “smoking is not prohibited” thing you have going on? I do not approve.

Although, with my thesis being on food tourism and thus me wanting to try authentic local food, they didn't have any of that at the mall and we settled for a pita shawarma com fargo. Jacky ate the meat out of hers and basically threw the rest away. I ate my pita and ended up tossing the fries. Next time, we will take something to share. I shall not mention the ATM debacle... or I will. There is this weird thing here that there are ATMs everywhere but no actual banks. So, because I needed to get the money for the common funds, I tried to get it at one of those. The machine took my card and asked me in French to enter my code, only to refuse to allow any of the buttons to work. I got my card back after too much inactivity, but no money.

We decided to forget about that for now and head to Primark. I wanted slippers because the tiles at the apartment are cold, and Jacky got some as well because for 2 €, why not. She also needed some warm PJs. I want a bathrobe for Christmas and I have my eye on one at Amazon, but Primark is cheaper. Only the pretty color wasn't available in my size. Never mind then; Amazon here I come. And, while we were there, I also got two formal black blouses that I may or may not use for work if the uniform is not provided (after the interview, it might turn out that I need to go back and buy some other colors).

By the time we finished there, we had to go home so that I would be there in time for the interview. I will not bore you with the details of my interview because that is completely unrelated to our travels here in Portugal, but I might be going to Brussels instead of Prague or Budapest. Anyway, once that was rounded up and put away, we grabbed our bags and cameras again and headed to the Nossa Senhora da Rocha. It's basically down the road from here. Walking down hill was not something my knee appreciated; it started to hurt at that point but it wasn't like I couldn't walk the distance.

    

    

    

    

    

Nossa Senhora da Rocha is a tiny church on the edge of a cliff (what possessed them to build it there, we will never know). There was a pretty bell, and two benches tiled with typical Portuguese tiles in front of a wall with similar tiles. French, German and British tourists were all in attendance as well. It was a pretty little building that looked stark white in contrast to the sky. But, no rain.

    

    

We did see lots of cats on the way back home. We finished the day with a trip to Aldi, and an adventure to find a bank (which is totally weird in Portugal) and a pharmacy. We got pasteles de nata, which were totally delicious!

Hopefully the weather will be better tomorrow so that we can see the sea in its turquoise glory.

Tuesday, 29 October 2019
Where is the Sun?
Last night, it was foggy when we went to bed, and this morning it was still foggy. Foggy like a London Fog. It took us a while to get going. Mainly because it was foggy and we wanted to see if it was going to clear up. It did start to clear up. It was decided we would first hit the mall, than Albufeira and a boardwalk after; that way, the clouds could clear away a little more.

Jacky had a shower and wanted to get some more cough candy from the Intermarché next door. This was mainly because the mall doesn't open until 10 AM. So, once we came back, we were ready to grab our things and set off for the day. There was this creepy cat store that the parents like so much at the mall, so we went in there first. Honestly, they didn't have many of the creepy cats. Lots of cute stuff. I got a cat and a zjwien for in my Christmas tree (once I have a Christmas tree).

We walked around the mall a bit, which wasn't very busy at all. My shopping these last two days have been mainly around finding "work" clothes. There were a few suitable blouses at H&M, but someone had smeared their foundation all over it, and H&M is just as expensive in Portugal as it is at home. I went to C&A but their blouses were a weird style. I like to think of this as recon, haha. We did stop at the food court for some coffee at McDo. Espresso with ice cream in it. It's really good; even me who needs a ton of sugar in my coffee didn't add any sugar. It didn't cost anything either; why is everything (including McDo) so expensive in France?

After the mall, and a slight mishap with the Miep, who wanted to send us back home, we made our way to Albufeira, which is apparently a very touristy place. And, true, there were quite a few tourists here. Tourist shops were still open and we got three magnets and some sunglasses for me. Nope, still not really sunny at this point but it was rather bright out, especially when the clouds were thinner. So, shades. There were plenty of streets going down, down, and further down, which definitely is not good for my knee.

    

    

Since it was around lunch time, we searched for a restaurant that had ameijoas, or even knew what they were. There were plenty of places to get English breakfast because there are so many Brits. A few Dutch families, and some Germans as well. We settled on a restaurant that had its terrace on the steps, meaning you don't sit on the same level as the others, making it relatively private. They had ameijoas on the menu, and we had some calamari, which came with fries and a small salad. The fries ended up in the soup with the clams. It was so good! But even the calamari; they were nice and crunchy and the calamari weren't actually stuck to the dough. It just wasn't the same as throwing a bag into the fryer at home. A Dutch lady worked there, who had been in the Algarve for 42 years after her parents moved and Jacky babbelde with her (of course she did). 

    

We had a quick look at the beach of Albufeira but it was a small thing stuck between cliffs (like many of the other beaches here) and was full of people (not so much like the others we saw yesterday). We walked back to the car, mostly going up, up, and uphill. A teeny tiny downhill which my knee didn't like. But, judging it wasn't too bad, we decided to stick to the plan and headed to the boardwalk next.

It was at Lagoa dos Salgados. We drove past two 5-star complexes, and later discovered there was a golf course. We decided on the boardwalk first and beach maybe later. It took us over a river's estuary and into a marshy area with a lot of birds. Now, I could say that it was just Jacky and I walking together, possibly count Zjwien since he was in my backpack, but I would be lying. There was a dog in the parking lot that just followed us. Not just walk at our side and at the same pace as us, but if we stopped, it stopped. It was definitely walking with us. It was both funny and weird. We were kind of worried people would tell us to keep our dog on a leash. But it wasn't ours!

    

    

    

It followed us most of the way. At some point, we went to a small observation deck and it kept going there. We went our separate ways. After that we turned around. It was all kind of the same, though we did notice that land, that had been dry previously, had now disappeared under turquoise water. We spotted a heron, and one of the other birds was struggling to swallow the fish it caught; clearly, the fish didn't want to be eaten.

We did have a look on the beach after we were done with the boardwalk. There were a few people. Honestly, it was warm out but the sun was nowhere to be seen. Those people weren't there to get a tan obviously. This was the only time Zjwien came out of the bag for some pictures. It's like he only ever gets to see the beach and nothing else, haha.

    

Since it was only about 2 PM at this point, we decided to go back to Primark. Yesterday, we had been a bit rushed because of my interview. Mariecke needed leggings, I was still looking for blouses, and, yesterday I saw a bathrobe but they didn't have it in my size in the color I wanted. They did today! It's all nice and soft and I am happy. No more blouses though. Which, I suppose, is fine. If I do end up needing them for an internship, I will see then if I can get some more. We had something to drink at McDo and walked around the mall some more before eventually heading back to the apartment.

We ate dinner outside. I mean, if it's cold outside and cold inside, it doesn't really matter anymore. Jacky still has no idea how to turn off the dishwasher, which is definitely funny. But the quick question is, will we see the sun tomorrow or will it be cloudy all week?

Wednesday, 30 October 2019
I Got To See The Sun
Emma took me out of the backpack today! Does that mean I got to see the sun? Not at first. It was so cloudy; it was more like walking with my head in the clouds than actually feeling the sun on my wool. I made my first appearance at the ruins of a fort. And when I say ruins, I don't mean a building that is in pretty good shape but is no longer in use. This was just a few walls, what may or may not have been staircases, and a ditch that apparently once was a moat. You could vaguely see the beach down below but the next cliff was completely shrouded in the fog.

    

The second fort wasn't much like a fort. The wall cutting off the edge of the cliff with the rest of the cliff was pretty fort-like, but that's about it. Anyone attacking from the ocean side wouldn't have had any problems. The cliffs were okay, what with the fence and all. That didn't mean there weren't plenty of fishermen on the other side of the fence. Honestly, going to Lidl to buy your fish is both less work and less dangerous.

    

The ladies went to a lighthouse but it must not have been interesting enough because they didn't take me out of the bag again. Neither were the megaliths that made a brief appearance on the schedule. All in all though, it was a good day for me. I had my head in the clouds but finished with my face in the sun.


West Algarve... The Atlantic Ocean Side Of The Algarve, If You Can See The Atlantic
Today was supposed to be the best day in the west Algarve, where we had planned to visit some ruins, some forts and some lighthouses. Well, if today was the best, I don't want to visit it on the worst day. There were so many clouds... or maybe it was fog. Hellhound activity? It just didn't want to let up for most of the day, though we did catch some sun after the second fort. But I am getting ahead of myself.

We took the toll way to Lagos. It's a great road to drive on; there is almost no one there, the toll booths are not really booths so you just keep driving, and there are no roundabouts so there is no reason for the Miep to speak up every kilometer to announce one, and then again as you finally approach it. Once we returned to the N125 though, she was back in full swing.

We visited the Forte de Almadena first. It wasn't much more than a few walls and a vague impression of what it once was. We walked around and I climbed up through a hole in the wall to the first floor - or what was left of it, really. Even the stairs didn't resemble stairs. Because of the thick mist you couldn't see anything. We knew where the ocean was of course, but that didn't mean we saw it. There was something about pirates and privateers on a sign at the front of the fort, but let me tell you; if there had been pirates getting ready to take the fort, no one would have seen them coming.

    

    

    

    

We left the dirt road leading to the fort and took the main road down to the Boca do Rio beach. It was a 14% incline on that descent and we got to see the uphill climb waiting for us after our short stop at the beach (20% incline we learned, Jacky was convinced our little car could never make that). The beach wasn't much, just a small patch of sand between two cliffs. Some ruins dotted the landscape. Ruins of modern (20th century) houses, all covered in graffiti.

From there, we drove up the steep-ass hill and made our way to Sagres. We did make a slight detour to the Lidl for some baked goodies; two pasteles de nata, two pizza bread thingies, and a mystery bread. No donuts, something Jacky would come to regret later. In Sagres, we drove all the way to the edge of the world, well, as far as we could drive. The last few kilometers needed to be walked. It was so foggy, that we didn't understand why some of the people (who were little more than vague shapes) would go walking on the cliffs. We couldn't even see the fort until we were right in front of it.

    

It's not really a fort, I suppose. Fortaleza de Sagres is a wall from one edge of the cliff to the other. It's a smart way to make tourists pay to walk all the way to the end. It works too because aside from the fishermen at the very edge of the cliff, there were, as far as I could tell, only foreign tourists. We followed the path along the edge of the cliff and slowly left the clouds behind as we made our way to the farthest most point. We were walking in the sun! It was very bright and pretty hot too. Zjwien had to go back into the bag because it was too hot to carry him (no negotiations because, as I told Jacky, it's not a democratic relationship). After a while, it all looked a little the same and I was ready to head back; the problem with a circle is that walking back is pretty pointless. The landscape became a little repetitive.  And then the clouds came back; they covered part of the path and there was a noticeable difference in temperature. Definitely cooler.

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

We got back to the car, which had 5 flyers for local restaurants. 5! They are all in the bin now.

The Faro do Cabo de Sao Vicente was our last stop in the area. Jacky had decided that with the clouds being everywhere and blocking the view, there was no point to head further north as was originally planned in the day's itinerary. The lighthouse was completely in the clouds when we drove up. It wasn't even that tall, which I suppose, sitting on the cliff as it is, isn't really necessary. There wasn't much there; it had been turned into a big affair with a restaurant and people selling souvenirs outside, but you couldn't even get in the lighthouse. We spent a few minutes taking pictures of the waves hitting the rocks down below.

    

A man asked me to take a picture of him and his family. Turns out, he was French. Turns out, they recognized me because I sat in the row in front of them on the Transavia flight from Nantes to Faro last Sunday. What are the odds!

We didn't stick around long. We headed back the way we came, stopped at another fort that was also just a wall, but without the entrance fee and without the path to walk on. Just a wall on the edge of a cliff; can someone please buy Portugal a dictionary and open it on the fort definition? I'm pretty sure it doesn't equal a wall.


(The infamous wall and our car)

With the rest of our itinerary for the day rejected, we tried to think of what else we could do. We had both seen a sign for megaliths on the way to Sagres and we figured we could visit that. We made a short stop at the Lidl. They have wifi there, as well as the donut Jacky regretted not buying. And, while we were there, she asked me if she should make those Portuguese clams; they don't cost that much per kilo and it's way cheaper to make it yourself than to have it in a restaurant. So, guess what we are having for dinner tomorrow! Ameijoas!!!


We followed the sign to the megaliths and saw a sign supposedly indicating them. We didn't see a single one; you'd think they'd be big and very visible. But that detour was a bit of a bust. We followed another one of those brown tourist signs to a place called Guadalupe. It is a church; a small thing that you need to pay an entrance fee for because there is an exhibition in another building. Honestly, when you only want to go into the church, you don't want to pay for an exhibition you aren't going to see.

That left us with nothing else to do but go home. By that point, the driving was making me drowsy so I didn't really care. I was also hungry since we hadn't had lunch yet but there aren't any places to have a picnic if you aren't going to the beach.

Tomorrow we have the boat trip, still hoping for some sunny weather. If it's going to happen while we are here, it has to happen tomorrow!

Thursday, 31 October 2019
Nothing Goes According To Plan
The morning started out rather sunny when I woke up. But Armaçao de Pera slowly disappeared into the clouds. And they kept coming closer and closer until we couldn't see more than a few hundred meters from the house. That is no good when you have a boat tour planned. Or a walk around Armaçao de Pera.

We went anyway. For the walk, that is.

The Miep totally got us lost and after some reprogramming by Jacky, we finally found the parking at the end of the boulevard. It was very foggy; you couldn't see the parking from the first cliff (and it really wasn't that far). The good thing is that you don't have to try and get the horizon straight in the pictures because there is no horizon. We walked along the boulevard a bit, I got some postcards and we walked some more. It's not really a boulevard because it wasn't a single street. Well, it was mostly a single street but with a tiny square/terrace on each rocky outcropping, hidden behind the houses. We had a cafe com leite (because the girl spoke no English) and that's about when the sun came out. There were still plenty of clouds around but we got to walk in the sun.

    

    

At this point, Jacky had also gotten two phone calls on her cellphone, both of which were probably bogus. But, she did get a text from the woman at the boating tour company. Unfortunately, due to south eastern winds, it would be too dangerous to leave and therefore the trip was cancelled. Sure, we could move our booking to Tuesday, but I have Spanish class that day and will not be available. So, no boat trip for us (I guess I left Zjwien at home for nothing).

    

We went from one end of the boulevard almost to the other before turning back. Then, we got in the car, drove to the other side of town and went for a cliff walk. The sky at that point was black and there definitely were a few raindrops at the beginning of our walk but everything else was done in the sun. We took the stairs down to Praia dos Benjinhos Este, where it was low tide and we could go from one beach to the next. At high tide, that definitely wouldn't have been possible.

At the beaches, there were also a few openings in the cliffs that were like secret passage ways, and caves. I was searching for shells but most have been smashed to pieces. It was a nice little detour from our cliff walk. We went a little further along up top but not too far. Until we reached a beach with screaming kids, that's when we turned around.

    

    

    

    

    

    

We made a quick stop at the apartment and headed out again, this time to Carvoeiro. This is where we were supposed to take the boat trip (it's also where the Miep wanted to send us into a one-way street from the wrong side on the first day). Although we no longer had a boat trip planned, we still went there for lunch. Jacky decided to park the car around Algar Seco, from where there was a boardwalk along the cliff edge and to the "city center" of Carvoeiro. Of course, we were at the top of the hill and had to go down to the restaurants. Down is actually pretty terrible, but once we were sitting at the table, we realized it would be a steep climb back up again as well.

    

    

    

    

We had calamari for lunch again. They weren't as good as those we had before, clearly from the freezer, as were the fries, but they were still good. It gave us a moment to sit down and eat before going again. There were plenty of tourists in Carvoeiro; you can definitely tell who is British, but plenty of Germans too. After lunch, a small walk up and down the tourist streets before the steep climb back to the boardwalk and back to Algar Seco. Plenty of Belgian people in big groups.

    

    

    

    

    

More stairs down to where the water rushes up between the rocks (and a potential water slide for Zjwien along the side; good thing he stayed home). And a small passage way in the rock, where two windows had been carved out of the rock side so that you can appreciate the view. After that, on to Benagil, where Jacky thought the cave would be the one you see in all the pictures. Of course, even if it was there, it's only accessible by boat and we all know what happened to our boat trip. We went down to the beach just to have a look, and then climbed back up to the parking lot. From the parking lot, there were a bunch of paths going over the cliffs and we decided to go for a longer walk.

    

    

The big hole in the ground is where we assume the cave would be since it has a hole in the ceiling. There was a fence around it so you couldn't really see much of what was down below. Of course, we could have gone over the fence for a closer look as some people did but we aren't that kind of people. Especially not with loose rocks lying around. One slip and you go for an unexpected dive in water that is too shallow to be diving into. We went a little further, just far enough to see one of the side arches. With the sun now on the other side, everything was in the dark. You take the boat in the morning you can't see shit because of the fog, you take one in the afternoon and the sun is already gone.

We found a new hobby for Mother. There were juniper bushes with berries on them; we should have collected them so that she could start making bracelets. Wait, didn't she already try that hobby? And gave up again after only half an hour? I guess we didn't find her a new hobby then.

By the time we were back at the car, it was already past four. It was pretty hot in the sun and we were both thirsty. With nothing more planned for the day (though none of what we did had been planned in the first place), we headed back home. After a quick stop at the Intermarché for the cheapest bottle of white wine (for cooking, not drinking), a lemon, and some bread for dinner and we were back at the apartment. Jacky made clams for dinner. They didn't taste the same as when we had them at the restaurant but they were still good. We ate outside, because despite the clouds being an ominous black, it was nice out. In the end, there was no rain to spoil the meal.

But what will we do tomorrow? It's November 1st and some things might be closed. I guess that's what Jacky is figuring out now, and might decide on tomorrow after having had another look at the weather forecast. 

P.S. The collective noun for a group of seagulls is a colony. Not a flock. You’re welcome.

Friday, 1 November 2019
I Tagged Along Again Today
There were some megaliths on the planning and the town of Silves. No dangerous boat rides, no dangerous cliffs, so I was allowed to tag along again today. Of course, what is planned never happens quite like that. The Miep doesn't know Portugal as well as Google and we ended up on the wrong road. The megaliths were suddenly moved along to a later point of the day, and Monchique, which the ladies hadn't thought would be on the planning ended up as our first few stops.

    

Caldas de Monchique was the first stop, which is a town that consists entirely of thermal hotels and a water factory. It was so quiet! And nothing dangerous so I came out of the backpack for a photo opportunity. At the top of the mountain, we got to enjoy a little bit of the view. The mountain wasn't in the clouds but the rest of the lands below were. Again, I got to come out, and was the center of attention for the camera. The ladies had something to drink before we finally headed down the mountain again.

On to the megaliths... or not. Since it's a Catholic holiday and not everything is open. It just so happens they were not.

Straight onto Silves then, where I got to see the castle. It is such a red castle; usually they are made out of sand-colored stone but this one was made out of red stone. It was pretty nice along the walls though. The courtyard was a bit meh... there were some archaeological digs, but the visitor center, which was not at all in the same style as the rest, as well as the gardens, were completely out of sync. Still, it was a good visit and the sun shone, the sky was blue and it was hot!

    

    

The Sunniest Day So Far
It is just a little annoying when you wake up to bright sunlight and it looks like it is going to be a pretty day and then you watch as the clouds slowly roll in and turn the day grayer and colder. Today, was not one of those days. Well, it started out as one because the clouds did come rolling in after I got up, but as we drove to what we thought would be the Alcalar megaliths for the first stop of the day, the weather seemed to be only getting better. 

I say that we thought Alcalar was going to be our first stop because that's the way we had planned it. We tried to enter the place name into the Miep but she didn't know it; instead, we chose a point towards Monchique that Jacky knew wasn't far. Turns out, the two aren't that far apart but on two somewhat parallel roads. As we drove, we had already decided we would go up the mountain today since this seemed like it was going to be the clearest day.

Along the way, we passed through a town where they had traffic lights for no apparent reason (they weren't at an intersection or at a crossing) and Jacky kept just driving on… through the red light. And there was a town where every third electricity pole had a stork nest on it, most with either one or two storks in the nest at that time. I don't think I've ever seen so many at once.

Eventually we ended up at Caldas de Monchique, a place where almost every building is a thermal hotel. They had just let loose a group of German tourists with audioguides but we managed to avoid them. We followed the stream up the hill until we could go no higher. There were plenty of pictures taken in this short period of time. It was very quiet there, though you had the impression of being far away from everything (it wasn't long after that, that we reached the town of Monchique where they have an Intermarché and even a tourist office, so not completely in the middle of nowhere).

    

    

    

    

We went further up the mountain, stopping at a few viewpoints. While the mountain itself didn't appear to be in the clouds, all the lands below were hazy because of them. You could barely make out the coastline, the Atlantic or the Arade river delta (is a delta for all rivers?) The view didn't change as we went further up; the temperatures did drop a little though. At some point we drove through low hanging clouds.

    

    

    

All the way at the top, I took a few pictures of Zjwien and his ears kept flapping in the wind, which was pretty funny. We had a coffee and a hot chocolate there before making our way back down. We took another road that, according to the Miep was a yellow road but one that Jacky had seen to be a one-car road on Google Maps (seriously, when is Google going to make GPS's because clearly, no one else can get it right). The temperatures definitely increased as we went down and down and down. There were so many turns in the road that Jacky doesn't want to see another one for a long while. But it was a pretty road through the somewhat-forested part of the Serra de Monchique and onto Alcalar.

Of course, at that point, we didn't know that at Alcalar, the megalith site would be closed yet.

Once we figured that out (the chain and padlock around the gate are a dead giveaway), we headed back to the A22 (the highway that was still as empty as ever) and went straight to Silves. No point in hanging around outside a closed gate. We had a burger and fries for lunch, nothing Portuguese today, just good old American food before we tackled the hill on which the castle and the church were located. All the cobblestone roads are nice and all, but damn are they uncomfortable to walk on.

    

    

    

The castle entrance seems to be at the highest point of the hill, just a little bit above the church, and once inside, you have to climb stairs up to the wall. You'd expect great views over the surrounding areas but that was a little disappointing. For one, the church was blocking part of the view. We walked the entire way around and I have to admit it wasn't much of a castle. It was nice to walk across the wall, especially since it was sunny and hot but there wasn't a castle in sight. Now, I just read on Wikipedia that on November 1st, 1755, the castle was destroyed during the Lisbon Earthquake (I know about the earthquake because the Irish Assassin gone Templar set it off [Assassin's Creed: Rogue]). But basically, the earthquake destroyed the castle, the cathedral and a lot more. They didn't bother rebuilding.

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

On the way back down the hill, we spotted another stork. Jacky also wanted to go into a shop that sold pottery; bowls of different sizes, plates, decanters and all those things, in different designs. She liked a lot of them and didn't know what to pick. I offered to get her something for Christmas but I don't think it made the choice much easier. Truth be told, it was all pretty nice. We paused at Lidl to grab another couple of donuts and two more pasteis de nata.

    

    

Then we came home and we could still enjoy a bit of the sun on the terrace. The only thing the apartment needs are comfortable chairs on the terrace. And a fridge that is much easier to open than this thing.

All in all, a good day with good weather. Nothing to complain about. Hopefully this good weather trend continues onto the final days of the week but I don't want to jinx it!

Saturday, 2 November 2019
It Never Turns Out Quite As Expected
I slept surprisingly late this morning. Not that it mattered, we left somewhere between 9:30 and 10 like every other morning. We took the A22 (fast becoming my favorite road) to Faro. It's just under 50 km once you hit the highway and it’s smooth sailing (driving) as always. You know you are getting close when ESPANHA starts appearing on the signs.

We drove through Faro to get to the planned parking lot and the place looked nice. But a lot of places look nice from the car; once you are out walking with the camera, it's not always so obvious. Jacky had printed out a small walk through the city that we followed (at least for a little bit). Cobblestone streets almost everywhere here in Portugal; in some of the nicer and touristier streets they even used the black and white stones to create designs such as fish and waves (or Casino related things such as dice and playing cards in Armaçao de Pera).

    

We had a cup of coffee (the most expensive one of the trip) next to a square with a statue of Afonso III, and there was some sort of museum there as well. Today, the planes were flying over on their way to the airport so we got to see a few of them. It's funny sitting on a terrace; I could understand everyone around me. The Flemish, the German, the French and the Spanish. And how many of those could understand me?

    

After the coffee, we walked around and visited the cathedral. Churches and cathedrals looks so different here than they do in France. Most have been painted white and don't have any of the tall towers or statues decorating their facades. In fact, they are a lot shorter here and their bells are always out in the open. They remind me of the churches you see in pictures of South America... which makes sense I suppose. In the cathedral, there were a couple of small chapels in the courtyard. One of them had been made out of bones, which was both slightly freaky and slightly cool (I'll figure out a way to use that in a story).

    

    

    

The cathedral on the inside is also completely different to the kinds I'm used to seeing in France. It's very light, and there was a lot of tiling involved. It's a Portuguese thing and they clearly liked to use it everywhere. Why paint your art on canvas when you can paint it on tiles? We finished our visit by a trip up the tower. Like I said, the church bells are always visible from the outside, and in this case, they were accessible on the rooftop terrace (though I don't think anyone has used it as such before). From up there, you could see the water and the boats, as well as some of the city of Faro. Not as much as you would have seen from the top of a French bell tower but whatever.

    

We walked through a few more cobblestoned streets, passed the marina and onto a square that had a little souvenir market. This is where we deviated from the planned walk. The thing with cities is that often, once you leave the old city center, things are no longer as nice. It wasn't that the city is terrible and ugly but you know what I mean. We ran into the same problem in Montreal, which we were definitely not impressed by. We followed a few of the busy streets but it didn't feel particularly touristy. There were a few restaurants that were a bit expensive, and there were regular clothing shops but it just didn't have that touristy vibe. We made our way back to the car via a few more small and quiet streets, passing a palace and back past the statue of Alfonso III.

Our next stop were some Roman ruins. Let me tell you a bit about the road getting there. Speed limits in Portugal make no sense. Half the time you won't see a single sign telling you how fast to drive, and when you do see it everyone seems to ignore it and drive way faster. It's a real headache. And then, you get stuck behind the car that is driving 40 instead of 90 and swerving from left to right and taking forever to get a move on even though the light is green. Really, the Portuguese either drive like that or way too fast. There seems very little in between. And when you do find the in between, it's likely to be a tourist.

So, anyway, the Roman ruins.

We walked in, ready to pay for our tickets, only to have the guy tell us they were closing for lunch. Really. That's the terrible luck we were having. Antiquities really weren't on the menu for us during these holidays. No megaliths on the way back from Sagres, no megaliths yesterday, no Roman ruins. That was a very short stop, we got out of the car and right back into it.

Next, and last thing planned for the day in terms of sightseeing was the Poussada in Estoi. A Poussada is a state owned hotel in an old cloister or a palace or something along those lines (you learn something new every day). In the case of Estoi, it used to be a palace. And it was part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, which is a group of hotels that I know about thanks to my class last Thursday (my Master isn't a complete waste of time after all). Now, why are we visiting a hotel? Because of the gardens.

    

    

    

    

The garden had several levels with a small fountain and some hedges on the first, with direct access to one of the fancy sitting rooms inside (if the door had been open), a much bigger fountain with a few statues here and there on the second level, and a small inside part with several statues (including Diana and Venus) on the third level. There were also some grassy fields and some trees, which I suppose would have been nice places to create seating areas for guests (missed opportunity). The gardens were nice but they also didn't occupy us for too long.

After that, we headed to the Ikea and the mall it is in, for some food and for Primark. Food courts are messy business, especially around lunch time. We had trouble finding a table, and once we did, Jacky sat there to make sure no one else took it and I went to order two Happy Meals and two espressos with ice cream. The guy making the coffee didn't speak English but he spoke Spanish so I had no trouble asking for both coffees now despite a glitch in the order saying that I wanted them later. It wasn't as good as last time, but I suppose being the only customers and being a customer in the middle of the lunch hour rush isn't the same thing. It shouldn't matter, but whatever.

We did go through Primark in search of more clothes for my work outfit but we left empty handed. We went to the cat store again and left empty handed as well. I went into the first and only Starbucks I saw because I wanted to see if they had a Portugal mug. They did but it cost the same as anywhere else and that left me feeling disappointed. I didn't get it, though I kinda regret that now since it was pretty. We left the mall to make the 50 km drive back to the apartment, stopping at the Aldi for some last minute purchases.

The bags have somewhat been packed. We just need to stuff in the last few things tomorrow and we will be good to go. We leave the apartment at 11:00, get to the airport around 12:00 and the flight is at 14:10 (or it should be if it isn't delayed). This was it for the Algarve; I've seen it and I'm not entirely sure I will be back within the next ten years. Spain next, probably. At least, over there, yo hablo la idioma.

A Little Something Extra
We saw all these boxes in many of the little towns. Usually an ugly beige, here, they were decorated with a number of different pictures and what not. Very pretty and soon I started collecting pictures of them. So, enjoy.