Portugal 2018

February in the Algarve with Dave and Marylou Driedger

Carry On

Woke up at around 6:00am. Still dark outside. Windy. Raining. The electricity in our apartment is still off. No hot water. No shower this morning. No coffee either. I’ll just get dressed, close up my carry-on suitcase, say goodbye to the Driedgers,  and go downstairs and head to the airport. 

MaryLou is sitting on the couch reading her Kindle in the dark. She goes to wake up Dave to come say goodbye. Dave tries the breaker panel again — and voila! the power comes back on! Oh well — I’m set to go. We say goodbye and I head out to the car. 

The A22 freeway has very few cars on it — especially this early in the morning. It takes me just about an hour to get to the Faro airport. I park the car and go to the rental booth. It’s out on the parking lot and it’s raining pretty good now. The attendant isn’t there yet — it’s quarter to eight and he’ll be there at eight. When he arrives, he checks my car — checks the fuel, walks around it, looks for dents — all okay, good to go. I take my big golf bag and my small rolling suitcase out of the trunk, strap on my backpack, and walk quickly across the parking lot to the airport. By the time I’m inside my shoes and pants and luggage is sopping wet. And I’m cold. 

The airport info board says my flight is delayed by more than an hour — no one at the check-in yet. So I sit down, log on to the wifi, and read my emails. I’ve got lots of time. 

When I finally get up and go to the check-in gates I see that all three lines are backed up. WAY backed up. I go to the end of the shortest line and for the next hour plus, I’m shuffling my luggage ahead, 6 inches at a time, just like all the other impatient passengers. By the time I finally reach the desk, more than an hour later!, the flight is already boarding! My big golf bag gets checked-in as an oversize bag — I ask to have it checked through to right to Winnipeg so I won’t have to handle it again. The attendant asks if I want to check my smaller ‘carry-on’ bag as well, gratis, just to Amsterdam. Gratis? Well sure! By now there will be no room in the overhead bins anyway. Plus, I’ve got a whole afternoon in Amsterdam to kill — might as well spend it standing in the crowd around the baggage carousel!

The flight to Amsterdam is okay. Budget airline (Transavia) for this first leg, so no food, no drinks, and a very full flight. And sure enough, it takes nearly an hour after our arrival in Amsterdam for my little ‘carry on’ to come flipping out onto the baggage carousel. No problem. I’m in no rush.

It’s an hour later here than it was in Portugal, and it is after 4:00 pm by the time I finally get my bag. I eat a late lunch at one of the airport cafes (sushi and a beer), and then go stand outside where the free hotel shuttle busses come by. It is FREEZING cold outside. The reason our flight was delayed by over an hour this morning was because they’d had SNOW here in Amsterdam and had to de-ice the plane before flying it down to Portugal to pick us up. 

I haven’t packed enough sweaters and jackets for this. I DID have some winter gloves along, but they got checked through to Winnipeg in my golf bag. There’s no way I’m taking a train to downtown Amsterdam to spend an evening checking out the red light district in this weather! So I elect to go directly to my hotel when the shuttle bus shows up at 4:15.

Check in. Clean up. Log on. Catch up with what I’ve missed on CNN — and now I need to write TWO blog posts. So I write yesterday’s entry. At around 7:30 I go across the parking lot to the McDonalds and order a flat white coffee from the McCafe. Did I already mention that it is freezing cold outside?

Back in my room I finish my second (this) blog post. I have the TV on, listening to that idiot Trump spouting off about how he’s not afraid of the NRA and how they really need to get more guns INTO schools so that they can ‘protect’ the children! Boy, I sure haven’t missed much in the world of US politics!

It is 10:30 pm by the time I load up my movie, “The Shape of Water”, on the computer and settle in for an ‘evening matinee’. 

Final Thoughts:

Tomorrow I head home. Alex will pick me up at the airport, hopefully at around 8pm if all works according to plan. I’m looking forward to going home, but I’m very glad I made this trip. I’ve already said how grateful I am to Dave and MaryLou for inviting me to join them and for making me feel welcome. This Portugal trip was something that Sue and I talked about a year ago, something that we planned to do, something that Sue booked for us last July when she already wasn’t feeling great, but was hoping to do once she ‘got better’. And even after we knew that Sue wasn’t going to be making this trip, I didn’t cancel it right away. We didn’t know how long Sue would be around — when asked how long she expected to live she said sometimes she thought she might not make it to Christmas, but other times she thought she might still be alive to see the spring. And whenever I thought about what was ahead, about how it might all turn out, I too didn’t know whether I’d be going to Portugal — either way.

Well, now I know and I’m so glad that I came. It’s not my style to sit around and be sad. Sure, there have been quite a few times on this trip where I’ve thought about what might have been, and many times that I’ve been so sad that Sue wasn’t there to share the experience. And many, many times when I’ve really missed her. It’s all still a bit surreal. But (as Jerry Jeff Walker says), A Man Must Carry On. You just keep putting one foot ahead of the other. You keep going forward, one day at a time. With this trip to Portugal, that’s what I’m doing. I’m carrying on. 

So, buckaroos and buckarettes, until next time (which may be just a couple of weeks away), as they say in Portugal, “Ciao!” It’s been good talkin’ to ya. I’ll see you around.

Lights Out

The last full day in the Algarve started out not so bad. The rain that Dave kept warning us about didn’t really materialize. Yes, it was cloudy, and yes, there were some drops of rain from time to time, but really the day was pretty good! 

We started off kind of slowly. A lazy breakfast. The usual coffee and yogurt and bread with peanut butter and jam. MaryLou did a load of laundry. After I spend about an hour packing my bags, including my golf clubs, I sat around and worked on a crossword puzzle. Dave was checking out the late night talk shows. And in between we all did a bit of reading, too. MaryLou went for a walk. We had lunch. 

Okay, it’s too nice out there for us to just sit inside and do nothing all day. So we decided to take a drive — go check out the Lagos Zoo. There are splashy signs and billboards throughout our area advertising this zoo. Dave had often mentioned that he’d like to go see it. Well, today was the day. 

At the Espiche Golf Course

I took my big golf bag downstairs and put it in the trunk of the car, ready for my early morning departure tomorrow. Then we got in and headed north. The drive took us right past the Espiche golf course where Dave and I had played a few games earlier in the month (when the prices were still ‘discounted’ winter rates). So today we turned into the driveway and showed MaryLou where we had been. By now MaryLou had heard so much about Dave’s ‘miraculously’ finding his sunglasses in the thistles of this course, she thought she might right a book (or at least a column) about it. So we stopped for a short ‘photo shoot’ of Dave (and me) standing in front of the clubhouse, holding the aforementioned sunglasses. Click. Done. Next stop?

We continued down the road and wound our way through some small (and visibly less well-to-do) villages on our way to the zoo. When we got to the zoo, the parking lot had LOTS of room for us to park. We walked across the muddy parking lot and across the road to the big entrance to the zoo. Twelve euros for an entry ticket. I looked over the wall — a big pool with hundreds of small turtles crawling around and a couple of ducks swimming in it. A few (empty) cages and displays. The big sign at the entrance listed the animals to be seen here. Hmmm… Not many ‘exotic’ animals here — no lions, tigers, camels, elephants, giraffes, etc. No, they listed parrots and birds and hedgehogs and the most exotic animal was a crocodile. It looked like we would be the only visitors if we went in — but we didn’t. We got back into the car and kept driving. 

Coffee break

Now the fuel gauge was dinging ’empty’ and we needed to find a gas station so we could put a few dollars in before I take the car back to the rental company at the airport in Faro tomorrow. That turned out to be more complicated than we might have guessed. We ended up WAY west of our place, near the Santo Antonio golf course before we finally found a gas station at a large ‘Inter-Marche’ grocery station. We put in fifteen euros and then decided to have a coffee here before heading back home. We parked the car and went inside. Pastries and espressos. 

We drove back to our place and parked the car. A few minutes later we were all back in our respective stations. TV on. Waiting for happy hour. Dave and MaryLou both nodded off for a bit, although I’m sure it wasn’t the exciting day that tuckered them out! Happy hour. Our last G&Ts together. 

At 7:13 it was time to go out for supper. Although I really liked the Chinese food we’d had a few weeks ago, I thought we should really try the British pub that is just across the road from our place. Mushy peas and Guinness pie. But when we got there we learned that they are not open for meals in the evening — only for lunch, at least until the ‘summer’ season begins. Okay, that settles that — we’ll go for Chinese.

Dave & MaryLou at the Chinese restaurant

And we did. And it was good. And when it was done we went back to our place. MaryLou really wanted to play Parcheesi or Rummy Cube or some game like that — she’d found the game under our coffee table earlier today. But Dave wasn’t interested and I didn’t know how to play it, so we ended up watching a Beatles documentary on Netflix. That put MaryLou to sleep in her chair within 10 minutes. Dave woke her when it was time for our night snack — Venetian ice cream and a small port.

I was not at all tired and had intentions of writing a decent blog post — something to finish up the series — about how much fun it had been, how good it was for me to do this, how incredibly kind and generous Dave and MaryLou had been (and are), not only to invite me to join them, but to make me feel welcome and put up with my whining about the weather and my fussing in the kitchen and my walking too fast on the walks, etc. I was going to write a big long THANK YOU post to the Driedgers. They are GREAT FRIENDS to me. But right then, the three of us sitting there in the living room in front of the telly, POW! the breaker went and the power was off. Well, we’ve blown that breaker on a daily basis for the entire stay, so I just pick up my phone and turn on the flashlight and go reset the breaker. POW. It won’t reset. Hmmm.. Maybe the power is off in the entire building? Maybe that big stormy wind that is coming off the ocean and rattling our windows has knocked out the power? But we open the door and look out into the hallway — and there are lights on and the elevators are working. Dave determines that it is our breaker panel. He keeps trying to reset it over and over, but it pops right back off. 

Okay, that’s that. I gotta get up early tomorrow — I would like to leave by 7 at the latest. It’ll take me an hour to drive to the airport in Faro, and then I need to return the rental car and check in and make sure my oversize golf bag gets on the plane and the flight leaves at 10:30. I’m going to bed. We all did. In the dark. With the wind howling outside.

No blog post tonight! (so I wrote this the next afternoon)

Rain on the plains in… Portugal?

I got up early today — yesterday’s forecast predicted rain here, beginning in the afternoon. Our 2:40 tee time looked like it might be too late for us to get one more (dry) golf game in. So at 7:30 I called the course and switched our time to 8:40 am. If we could finish our game in 3 to 4 hours we’d be home, high and dry, by noon.

The wind was cool and the waves on the beach below us were big and white. So I packed my hoodie, my poofy vest, and my rain jacket. When we checked in at the clubhouse, Dave asked the lady if she thought we were making the wrong call. She shook her head — and said ‘there will be rain’. Not too many other cars on the parking lot, and we only saw one other golf buggy anywhere on the course. 

But we’re Canadians, and we’re tough. And besides, tomorrow’s forecast looks worse and the day after that I’m outta here. We’ve got to make this work.

First tee: Driver hits it high and right, but it rolls down the big slope and it’s playable. Second shot lands on the green. Putt, Putt. Par.

Second hole: Good drive, a bit right, but playable. Second shot ricochets off two trees and lands on the green. Putt. Putt. Putt. Bogey.

Third hole: Good drive, but a bit left. Wedge shot to about 2 feet from the hole. Par.

Fourth hole: Short drive. Good second shot. Wedge onto the green. Putt. Putt. Par.

Fifth hole: Par three, 90 yards, green is WAY down below us, surrounded by bunkers and anything that’s not on the green rolls way down into bushes. Tee shot misses the green left, ball is at the edge of the bush. Wedge over the green, ball lost in the bush on the other side. Drop a ball. Hit it back over the green, ball lost in the bush. Drop a ball. Okay, this isn’t going so well — why am I even doing the play-by-play? Nobody wants to read this! Nobody cares about my GAME. Tell ’em what they wanna know, why don’t you…

Dave lining up his drive on the 18th

But how’s the weather? Well, the light rain we had for the first 7 or 8 holes wasn’t too bad — the cool wind was drying us off as fast as the rain was wetting us. But then the rain got a bit more serious. And we were getting quite wet. Okay, VERY wet.

I’m as wet and cold as I look in this photo on the 18th tee

By hole 15 I was REALLY looking forward to the finish. But we persevered. And although Dave could barely (or not at all) hold onto his club after each swing, we would NOT throw in the towel. We couldn’t throw in the towel — we only had one towel between the two of us, and we needed it to dry the seat on the golf cart so we wouldn’t get our pant seats all wet. Okay, our pant seats WERE all wet anyway.

We skipped the after-game beer and loaded all our wet gear into the car and went back to the apartment. Because it was our last game we took all our golf gear up to our fourth-floor apartment so it could dry out and I could pack it all for the flight home.

I ate the sandwich I’d made in the morning, and Dave boiled up a cup of tomato soup for each of us. All our heaters were on ‘high’. And then the cleaning lady came in and did a quick cleaning of our bedrooms (but skipped the living room and kitchen because we were in there). I don’t blame her for the ‘quick’ job — I had my golf bag emptied and every chair and table now had golf paraphernalia and wet clothes draped over it. And the wind was HOWLING around our doors and windows and the rain was pounding the windows and all that was left for us to do was to sit in our comfy chairs and watch TV. So eventually I download the Oscar-nominated best picture “Get Out” and we watched that. Interesting…

We had happy hour and then at around 7pm we headed out for supper. We made a quick stop at the SPAR to get some groceries for tomorrow, and then went across the street to one of the two Indian restaurants. We shared three mains and had a fine meal. 

Shortly after 9 pm we were back at our stations in front of our TV. Dave was blasting away at his iPhone Scrabble game and MaryLou was getting the latest news from her Facebook friends. I was busy adjusting my load of laundry — making sure that each piece some hot air from one of our space heaters. 

Dave found ‘The Thin Red Line’ movie on a Dutch channel on our TV and we watched that and had our nightly ice cream and port. And that was the end of Day 21 here in the Algarve. Looks like my last day here will be just as wet!

 

Sunday at the movies

I went to bed early last night, and I woke up late this morning. I made coffee and then sat down to catch up on my blog — I was too tired to do that last night. We had breakfast late — and then had to decide on a plan of action for the day. Should we go to the zoo? Or just hang around at home? What about the weather? Rain in the forecast? Well, we talked about it so long that it was almost irrelevant. But Dave found a cinema within driving distance that was showing just about ALL the movies that I still needed to see before the Academy Awards next Sunday, so that’s what we decided to do. 

And then it was time for lunch! So we made sandwiches and had lunch. And MaryLou skyped with her dad. At 1:00 we finally left the apartment and took the 1 hour drive to the big fancy mall near Ferreiras, in the town of Guia. We parked the car and found the cinema. The mall is the largest we’ve seen so far, and of course the cinema turned out to be at the OTHER end from where we’d parked the car. And since Dave and MaryLou have seen all the movies that have been out for more than 3 days, we had to find something that they could watch while I watched ‘my’ movie where the start and end times would align. Not so easy. We finally decided that I would go see ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ while the Driedgers would go see the cartoon ‘Ferdinand’. But when I went to buy my ticket the girls behind the counter informed us that Ferdinand would be in Portuguese only — after all, it’s a kids movie and kids can’t read subtitles. So the Driedgers decided they would go shopping in the mall for the next two and a half hours while I went to see my movie. Which I did. 

One very unusual (and annoying) thing about movies in Portugal is that they insist on having intermissions about halfway through the movie. Literally, halfway through the movie! So there’s a very tense scene in my movie, with a operatic song and a guy running up the stairs to attack someone and BOOM, the film abruptly stops and the lights come up and the screen announces a 7-minute intermission. Just like that! 

Anyway, the movie was entertaining and well-acted. I met the Driedgers sitting in some comfy chairs just outside the entrance. We went to get some ice cream cones from a shop in the food court nearby. And then we went downstairs and picked up some things we needed from the humungous grocery store on the first floor before Dave drove the car back to our apartment.

Happy hour when we got home. Dave and I watched the snooker finals. MaryLou worked on completing one of her eight daily tasks — today she worked on drawing a comic strip. And then she made a salad and Dave fried up the burgers we’d just bought and we had a late supper. 

We were just finished eating when I got a FaceTime call from Alex and Max. They are at the C’mon Inn for a long weekend — and looked to be having a great time.

After supper we watched the final round of the Honda Classic golf tournament on TV. At ten o’clock it was time for a small glass of cherry liqueur and a dish of our fancy ice cream. And that was how we spent the twenty-fifth of February this year! The forecast for tomorrow says rain in the afternoon — so we just may have to switch our 2:20 tee time to the morning. I’ll let you know how it all turns out tomorrow. See you then.

Saturday: a golf game, a hike, and a pizza

Well, if the weather forecasts are right, today just MIGHT be our last golf game here in the Algarve. The golf courses are all hoping for some rain — it’s been unusually dry here this winter and the fairways are looking a little brown. But for tourists like us, the weather has been great for golfing, and we’re hoping for one more rain-free day after today.

Dave and I drove to the Santo Antonio course for our 9:50 tee time. We both think this is the best course of the three we’ve golfed, and unlike Espiche and BoaVista, it’s just not very busy here and we always get on right away and golf as a twosome. 

The view of the 10th tee and the 18th fairway and green — from the 19th hole.

I know you are all wondering how my tee shot on the first hole went this morning, but I’m afraid my game isn’t any better than the Canadian hockey and curling teams’ games were in the Olympics. You’d think that Dave’s rule that we can have 2 tee shots on the first hole would be of some benefit to me, but it only means that I get to lose TWO balls right off the bat. And so, gentle reader, I will NOT bore you with the hole-by-hole analysis of my game today — no, let it suffice to say that I finished with a score of 100, and that’s not the same as 100 PER CENT. But the large cold beverage that awaited us at the 19th hole was as delicious as ever.

We got back to the apartment at around 1:30, and Dave fried up some hot dogs for our lunch (already a ‘red-letter’ day!). MaryLou took off just about as soon as we got home — I think by now she’s more efficient working on her eight daily tasks WITHOUT listening to Dave’s full-volume highlights of the Jets game and the Colbert Report on the computer.

I doddled around a bit, and then at around 4pm I put on my walking shorts and went for a quick bit of exercise. I stopped on the promenade and found a couple of size 5 t-shirts with ‘PORTUGAL’ on them, and ‘negotiated’ with the old woman who said she “really needed the money” until we both felt we’d been ripped off. I stuffed the bag with the t-shirts into my ‘poofy vest’ pocket and continued on my hike. I didn’t want to be gone for much more than an hour (and miss happy hour!) so my plan was to run up our hill to the big obelisk at the top — twice. That would get my heart pumping and my shirt sweaty and make me feel better about eating those hotdogs for lunch.

Along the way I pondered some more on those interesting chimneys on top of most of the buildings here in the Algarve. MaryLou had ‘googled’ it this morning and learned that they are unique to this region. They are called ‘Algarve chimneys’, and although they look like they might be a reminder of the Arab influence on this region, they are not ‘Moorish’ at all. No one really knows who designed the first one and why they continue to be so popular here. It turns out that they are mostly decorative, and not functional at all. I took a few photos on my way up and will post them here for your enjoyment.

I took the path going straight up the hill, but there is an easier ‘zig-zaggy’ route which I took to run back down.

Speaking of posting photos, I’ve uploaded a couple of pictures I took the big obelisk at the top of the hill. After running (well, if not running, at least climbing as fast as I could) up and down the hill twice, I sat down in the shade of said obelisk to catch my breath and give my heart rate a chance to return to normal. There was an elderly couple already perched on the ledge at the base of the obelisk. We began a short conversation — they told me they’d been coming to this place since 2001, and marvelled at how things had changed since then. I could hear by the woman’s accent that she was German. The husband didn’t speak English, so she would translate some of our conversation to him. Then at one point I answered one of his questions directly, in German. Oh ho! Der kann auch Deutsch sprechen? He asked me from which part of England I was from. I corrected him: Nicht von England, but from Kanada, wo es sehr kallt ist. And so I had to explain why it was that I could speak German (and not French). And then it was time to say ‘Auf wiedersehn’ and run back down the hill or for sure I’d be late for happy hour.

I got home just before Dave got back from the grocery store — with the fixings for G&Ts. After cooling off a bit and a quick shower — and snapping a few pics from my bedroom window of the sun setting in the west — we sat in the living room and waited for the clock to reach 7:13, the agreed upon time for going downstairs for pizza. Dave had a short snooze and I looked at my photos (and a few of Max diving into the pool at the C’mon Inn in Grand Forks, which Alex sent me). 

Sundowners — the view from my bedroom window at around 6:30pm

There are actually TWO pizza restaurants on the main floor of our building. Side by side. Which one should we go to? We chose the first one, the one where the woman inside always smiles at us whenever we walk by. We sat down at a table and the pizza maker guy comes over to take our order. We order a litre of sangria (red), and two pizzas and one salad to share between the three of us. The Pizza Nazi doesn’t get it. “You want one special and two pieces? How many pieces do you want?” I seems he uses ‘pieces’ and ‘pizzas’ interchangeably. After a lengthy discussion the complicated order is sorted out and Mr Pizza gives us a final lesson in how to order ‘pieces’ the correct way for the next time we come here. He goes into the bar and starts squeezing fruits and crushing in ice cubes for our sangria. After a short wait the smiley woman brings us our two pizzas. She is very friendly and the rest of the meal is as pleasant as it is delicious. 

Back upstairs the snooker semi-finals are on TV. MaryLou is soon snuggled up in her blankies; the excitement of the match on TV doesn’t keep her attention for long. Dave and I sit and watch for a while until we can stand it no longer — and it’s time for our nightly ‘Venetian’ ice cream dessert and a glass of port. The end of (another) perfect day. I nod off a few times before the best of eleven snooker match is decided — and finally drag my weary butt off to bed. My day is done and I am fast asleep by 10:30. For the first time since I started writing my daily entries, I conclude this day without a blog post. I’ll do it tomorrow. (I DID it tomorrow — and since both of my faithful readers are in another time zone they won’t even notice!)

Friday night in Lagos

I’ve been doing my share of the dishes most days.

Today was a truly ‘lazy’ day. The only thing on the agenda today was a dinner in Lagos with some friends of Dave and Marylou. So I slept in until around 8:30. I got up and made coffee and we had breakfast. After breakfast we all sat around for much of the morning. I went out into town just before noon, looking for a souvenir t-shirt. None to be found. Maybe I’ll try again on the weekend — there may be a few more ‘beach’ shops opening up this weekend.

I had lunch and fished out another page from the stash of Winnipeg Free Press crossword puzzle pages and started working on a sudoku. Dave and Marylou went for a little drive out to where we’d seen a whole bunch of storks sitting up in their nests on the top of tall poles. They returned shortly before 3pm and Marylou immediately set out on a hike across our ‘mountain’, heading to Lagos where we were scheduled to meet Wilf and Karen, Winnipeg friends of the Driedgers who happen to be here for the next week or so. Marylou wanted to get a head start on the walk, so that she’d arrive at the meeting point around the same time as Dave and I, who apparently walk too fast for her.

Hang-glider above the coastline on our walk to Lagos

As we walked along the cliffs today, we spotted a couple of hang-gliders hovering over the coastline, catching the updraft and then flying back and forth above us. We caught up to Marylou when she was just down from the cliffs, and making the big climb up the sidewalk into Lagos. 

Cataplana dinner at the fish market in Lagos.

We met Wilf and Karen at the bridge and were just walking back together along the main road in Lagos when we passed by a restaurant that had a menu that interested us. Dave had been waiting to try the Portuguese specialty dish, ‘cataplana’, so that’s what we ordered. Cataplana is a popular traditional seafood dish here in the Algarve. Fish and seafood, like prawns and clams, are cooked in a copper cooking pot called a Cataplana. And it was quite good, too!

We said goodbye to Wilf and Karen — they are staying at a B&B in Lagos — and caught the hourly bus back to our place in Luz. Dave found the channel that was playing the snooker championships from Scotland, and we had our evening glass of port. We were in bed before 11. Tomorrow is another golf game for Dave and me at the Santo Antonio course.

A fine day for golf

A quick breakfast again today, and then we high-tailed it out to Santo Antonio golf course for our 9:20 am tee time. We’d been told that Thursdays could be busy, so we were prepared for a round that could be a bit slower than our last one here, which was about 3 hours. But it really didn’t look very busy to us.

I was a bit unlucky right off the start: I took out my one yellow Taylormade ball, hoping that I could play and entire round with it, then smacked it too far right with my drive and couldn’t find it after that. Oh well, if that’s as bad as it’s going to gets…

The 13th Fairway — spectacular view except for that very slow threesome whom we had to wait for on every hole.

There was no one behind us at all, so we never felt any pressure. And it looked like a couple of holes ahead of us the course was wide open. So the only problem was the two groups ahead of us — they were holding us up on EVERY hole. Finally, on the eleventh hole, the guys ahead of us let us play through. Whew! at least we didn’t have to watch those guys duff their shots along the fairway ahead of us anymore. That left 3 ‘walkers’ who certainly were not in a hurry either. They held us up for another 3 or 4 holes and finally let us play through on about the 16th hole.

It was 1 o’clock by the time we were sitting on the deck with our cold post-game beers. But it had been a fun morning — not hot, but not cold either. We golfed in shirtsleeves. We’ve got one more game scheduled for Saturday at the same course.

We drove home. Marylou was out in town somewhere. I FaceTimed with Alex and Max for a bit. Then I went out for a fast walk to the neighbouring town and back — 90 minutes to do almost 10 kms on the rocky pathway. When I returned we had happy hour at the apartment.

At around 7:00 pm Marylou made Denver sandwiches and we had supper. Then we sat down in the living room and watched “The Florida Project” which I rented from iTunes. 

At around 11:00 pm we were all done — finished our movie and our glass of port and time to go to bed.

Another day, another hike

After breakfast today I did a load of laundry. The washer is S – L – O – W, so that meant we had to wait for a while until the load was done and I had a chance to hang the laundry on the lines outside on our patio, and THEN we could get into the car and begin today’s “adventure”.

The initial plan was to go up the west coast of Portugal for a way, but we changed it at the last minute and decided to go a bit further east and see the ‘Seven Hanging Valleys’. We drove out near Porches, the place where we visited Jim and Bonny a couple of weeks ago, and then down to Praia da Marinha, near a beach, where there was a car park. And from there we set out on the trail. 

We were just barely on the marked path and already our camera lenses were starting to wear out. So much beauty! Almost TOO much beauty. What am I going to do with all those photos?! Well, for now, I’ll try uploading them (although the internet here in the apartment isn’t fast, and our TV channels come to us via that same internet — so I can’t upload my photos right now because then the TV picture goes blank. I will wait until Dave has gone to bed before I upload my fantastic photos.

We walked from Praia da Marinha to Praia de Vale Centeanes, a distance of about 6 kms one way. The trail is winding and goes up and down a lot as it meanders around along the top of the cliffs. The scenery is great; not just the cliffs, or the sinkholes (where the ground has fallen into the sea), but also the vegetation. Flowers and interesting creatures can be seen along most of the walk. The day was perfect for our activity — sunny, warm, a refreshing breeze coming off the water.

We planned to stop for lunch when we got to the other ‘end’ of this trail, near Praia de Vale Centeanes, but it took quite a bit longer than we’d anticipated to get to the other end of the trail. So we were VERY thirsty and tired when we finally arrived at Centeanes, and so it was doubly frustrating that we still had to go up and down and around and back again a few times before we realized that there WAS NO RESTAURANT for us on that beach. So we ended up hiking up and around to the top of yet another big cliff where my GPS showed that there would be a restaurant. I think it was after 1 o’clock when we sat down for a large beer and a sandwich. And we still had another time as far to get back to the car park!

But we made it. It was around 4:30 when we got into our car and decided that instead of driving home directly, we’d check out the cinema in the nearby town of Portimão. We could go to a restaurant for supper first and  see a movie at around 6:30 and THEN go home. So that’s what we did. We shared a pizza and then at 6:20 I went to see “The Post” (the Driedgers had already seen it) while Dave and Marylou went to see “The Blank Panther”. I enjoyed the story in “The Post”. After the movie I waited a few minutes for Dave and Marylou’s movie to end. Early reviews (from Marylou): not really a very good movie. And although that movie is breaking some box office records right now, here in Portimão the Driedgers were the only two people in the theatre. 

We drove home in the dark. The roads here in Portugal are winding, with many traffic circles to interrupt your progress, but fun to drive — and not too much traffic most of the time. 

Back at the ranch we had a little dish of ice cream and a glass of port and watched some more snooker finals on TV. By midnight it was bed time. Dave and I have another early tee time at the Santo Antonio golf course tomorrow.

A game of golf, a walk, dinner, and a documentary

Sunrise on Praia da Luz
Sunrise on Praia da Luz

We have 3 tee times booked at the Santo Antonio golf course this week: today, Thursday, and Saturday. And today was the earliest we’ve had to get up to make it to the golf course for our game. So it was actually mostly dark outside when I got up and showered. When I got to the kitchen to make coffee, the sun was just climbing out of the eastern sea, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky! There would be no clouds all day — it was actually a bit on the WARM side in the Algarve today!

I quickly made a ham and cheese sandwich to take along, and then Dave and I drove the 15-20 minutes to the Santo Antonio golf course. Our tee time was for 8:40 am. Dave paid and got the golf cart and we loaded up the clubs and were at the first tee at around 8:30. A little ahead of several groups, and so the starter told us to go ahead and tee off. We were hoping to improve on the scores we had when we golfed here for the first time on Saturday — but we settled for having ‘just as much fun’ as we did last time. And we were sitting on the patio with cold beers on the table, overlooking the 10th tee and the 18th green, a short three hours after we teed off! Record time!

We got back to the apartment by one o’clock. I picked up some cheddar cheese at the SPAR before heading up to our place, and then Dave made us each a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch. Marylou was heading out the door — off to find a place in town or on the beach where she could get her activities done without ‘the boys’ to bug her. I FaceTimed with Alex and Max — they were having breakfast and then off to school. Then I Skyped with my mom and dad — they were watching Olympics and enjoying the falling snow. After I’d cleaned up the dishes I headed out for a walk. That morning golf game just went by too quickly and left far too much of the day still available for more activities. 

I decided to head west — to the little village of Burgau, where the three of us went for a brunch a week or two ago. It’s 5 kms to the village via the coastal walk, and the 10 km roundtrip took me an hour and 45 minutes. When I got back we had gin and tonics for our happy hour. Marylou had gone shopping for all the fixings she needed to make chicken fajitas, which is what she made for supper for us. Delicious!

By 8:00 pm we were all done dinner, cleaned up in the kitchen, and back at our stations in the living room. Marylou was sleeping in her chair while Dave sampled almost all the TV channels, looking for a curling game. And I updated my journal. We watched some snooker on TV. Finally, we checked Netflix to see if there was anything new. In the end we did our best to stay awake watching a documentary about Hitchcock’s “Psycho”. And then we went to bed.

 

A Walk to the Ponta da Piedade Lighthouse

Because our Saturday night visitors recommended it to us, we decided that today we would walk back into Lagos, but take a right turn once we got into the town and walk the 3 or so extra kilometres to the lighthouse. We can see the lighthouse from the cliff path, but so far we hadn’t taken the time to have a closer look. 

So after breakfast we set out to do just that. We had talked about taking sandwiches along, but at the last minute decided to eat lunch at one of the cafes on the beach near the lighthouse and have supper at home later. 

Well, it turned out to be quite a walk. Not only was it a LONG walk, especially for the Driedgers who had only walked TO Lagos (one way) up until today. We probably walked close to 15 kms today. But the big treat was the scenery once we got to the coast. The lighthouse itself was locked behind a big fence and not at all interesting. But the rocks and the caves in the coastline were incredible. I really couldn’t help but take a ton of photos. So here is a gallery of what we saw:

We stopped to have lunch at a restaurant near the lighthouse. 

We discovered that the path along THESE cliffs actually extended MOST of the way back to where our cliff path started, so we scouted that out as we walked back to our apartment. 

When we got home we were all warm and tired. Dave made some G&Ts for us and we watched the final two episodes of “Alias Grace”. Although I had enjoyed the production for the most part, when we finally got to the end I was quite disappointed with the ambiguity in the plot. I HAD read the book a few years ago, and I’d forgotten much of the story, but this show didn’t bring back much of the story for me. 

I fried up the ‘wieners’ we bought yesterday — it turned out they were more like large breakfast sausages and didn’t sit quite right in our hot dog buns. But that was our supper!

After supper we had our standard ‘Venetian’ ice cream for dessert and then retired to the living room to watch a bit of snooker on TV. A final glass of port finished off the Driedgers and by 10 o’clock they were both in bed. I sat in the living room and watched a bit more TV and listened to our space heater fans while I uploaded all my photos and wrote my journal. And then, just before 11pm I too called it a night. Gotta get up early tomorrow because Dave and I have an early tee time at Santo Antonio golf course tomorrow. 

 

Sunday, a day of rest

Morning sunrise over Praia da Luz

I woke up a little earlier than usual today. In fact, after my shower I went into the kitchen — and was there alone! Hmmm… Where was Marylou? Usually she has already researched about 12 things and completed 4 of her 8 daily tasks by the time I show up in the kitchen. And Dave? He must surely be ill or he’d be in his usual place on the couch in front of the TV, peering into his phone and working his magic on one of his online Scrabble games — bloop, bloop, bloop, BRRRNG, BRRRNG — his phone sounding like a Saturday night at the casino. But no, I’m here alone. So I make coffee and watch the sun rise over the beach below us. And I savour the quietness of the morning.

But I’m not ahead of the Driedgers by much — and soon we are all drinking coffee and planning the day ahead. Not a lot on the agenda today. After all, it IS a day of rest. I clean out the dishwasher and gather up the bottles and pizza boxes from last night and take the garbage downstairs to the recycling stations across the street. After breakfast we decide that we will go to the lent service in the church across the way at 11:30. It’s the least we can do to try to make amends for all the heretical church talk around our dining room table last night. Nothing like a good old basic liturgical church service to get us back on track. (You’d think I’d get some credit from my mother for going to church while on a ‘holiday’, but since this service wouldn’t be Mennonite and/or German, I’m sure she would say ‘Daut meint enivay really nuscht.’)

The warm morning sun was enough to get me to switch to shorts instead of jeans. I figured since we are ‘tourists’ in a tourist area, I could get away with wearing shorts to church. When we arrive at the little church just before 11:30 the benches are already mostly filled. We sit near the back. Four people to a bench, twenty benches plus a few chairs in the back and a small ‘choir’ in the front. We are here to sing the Eucharist. It is an Anglican service in a Catholic church. The minister walks in and we begin with some ‘gentle music from the organ’. When we join in to sing the first congregational song, the sound is remarkable. It’s LOUD and it sounds pretty good. I was convinced that there was a choir singing above and behind us, in the balcony. But no, the sound that filled that little rectangular brick building was created by about a hundred old mostly British ex-pats. It is the first Sunday of Lent, as the pastor informs us. A few members of the congregation are wearing purple to celebrate the occasion (and there are more than a few old ladies sporting purple-ish hair-dos). We have little booklets so can read along with the pastor. It’s all scripted out for us. Oh, the pastor DOES give us a little ‘personal’ story in the middle of it all about the trials and tribulations of trying to mix up the ash for Ash Wednesday so it has the right consistency and ‘stickiness’ so it will stick to foreheads when he plasters it on in the shape of a cross. I guess you had to be there.

Well, we stood up and sat down quite a few times, and sang songs from the hymn book that only had the words, no music, printed in it (but everyone sang heartily!). But then, about halfway through, it was time for communion and the three of us slinked (slunk?) out of the church. It’s not because we weren’t enjoying the service (we weren’t), but I was getting pretty cold sitting there in shorts and sandals, and besides, we were not all that excited about this whole ‘Anglican’ thing — why should take part in a service in a church founded by a king of England who got mixed up in the whole church business because he wanted permission to annul marriages to wives he’d lost interest in. So we shook the dust off our sandals and headed back to our (nice and warm) apartment and had lunch.

Rudy the hiker

Lots of leftovers in the fridge, so that was lunch. After lunch I changed into crappier shorts and a t-shirt and went for a walk on the cliffs. It took me about an hour and a half to walk to the little beach cafe on the outskirts of Lagos and back. Some great views, and lots of walkers on the path today.

Rudy the artist

When I got back to the apartment I had a short FaceTime with Alex and Max. Dave was watching a movie on TV and Marylou was sketching in her art book. Marylou says drawing is good exercise for the brain; since I’d now exercised my legs, I thought I might try a little brain exercise myself. So I selected a fine HB2 pencil from Marylou’s collection and doodled a portrait of the Driedgers in Marylou’s art book.

After another shower, the three of us hopped into the car and drove into Lagos to do some grocery shopping. There are TWO smaller SPAR supermarkets within a block of our place, but we’ve driven by some larger grocery stores a few times and thought we might go check them out. We came back home with the back seat filled with bags and bottles — and it was all we could do to carry all that stuff up to our fourth-floor apartment in one trip.

Happy hour in the kitchen. Then we watched an episode of ‘Alias Grace’ on Netflix before Dave fried up burgers and beans for our supper. Another episode after supper. And then our ‘day of rest’ ended — all three of us headed off to bed at around 10:30 — all that ‘resting’ had made us quite tired. Tomorrow we plan to take a picnic lunch with us as we walk to Lagos, and out to the lighthouse at the point there. So I’d better be off now, and get some rest.

New golf course, and new friends!

Most of the golf courses around here ended their ‘winter rates’ on the 15th. But one course had special prices in effect until the end of this month. And on Saturdays the special rate is in effect not only for the ‘early bird special’, but all day. So it was a good surprise to find out that not only is the rate a good deal, but the course is the most fun of all the three courses we’ve played here in the Algarve so far. 

Santo Antonio is just under half an hour drive from here — heading west. That’s not bad for us, but I wonder if it’s just a bit too far away for the bigger resort towns east of us — and perhaps that is why the rates are a bit better at this course. Dave and I showed up a bit early for our scheduled tee time, but the front desk offered that we might just head to the first tee and see if we couldn’t start earlier. And that’s what we did. 

The first tee was up on a hill, looking down on the fairway below. The green was up on the hill across from us. And the fairway sloped right to left. A bit intimidating for our first drive of the day. But we both hit safely and Dave parred the hole. A good start. Plus, we were golfing as a twosome. And by the fourth hole, the group ahead of us let us play through and we were off and running. Instead of a five-plus-hour game, we played this course in about three-and-a-half hours. The course was in very good condition and the people working at the course were friendly. We decided to book three more games for the week ahead.

When we got back to the apartment we tidied the place up a bit in preparation for visitors. Werner and Adelia, friends of Dave and Marylou (from their church in Winnipeg, and Werner and Dave both are retired teachers who have a part time job driving for the Lexus dealership in Winnipeg) and THEIR friends Richard and Caroline, from southern Ontario. After they arrived at around 4:30 we went for a short walk up and down the promenade here in Luz, and halfway up our ‘hill’. Back in our apartment, Marylou had set the table and prepared hors d’oeuvres and a salad. After we’d had our happy hour Dave went downstairs and ordered pizza from one of the little pizza restaurants on the ground floor of our building. We sat around the table, eating and visiting until around 11pm. The two couples are staying in a hotel in the neighbouring town of Lagos. We had a very fun evening getting to know and visiting with them.

 

Friday. Our nicest weather so far!

Dave predicted great weather for today, and when I woke up I already knew he would be right. Sunshine. Big waves down on the beach where we could already spot surfers taking advantage of them by 8:30 in the morning. 

We had a lazy first half of the day. After breakfast I put in a load of laundry and when that ‘eco-friendly’ washer of ours with its big jet engine finally finished spinning my jeans and underwear out into space and back (90 minutes to do a load) the sun was already high in the sky. It wouldn’t take long for my clothes to dry out on the patio where we have 4 wash lines and 3 clothespins. So when Dave followed Marylou out to the promenade to do some reading or sketching or yoga or whatever they did there, I stayed back and finished a couple of sudokus while my clothes dried. 

At 12:30 we all met down near the beach where there are a couple of restaurants. Lunch time. I (finally!) had a hotdog for lunch. Almost warm out here! People are wearing shorts and sandals. I was wearing shorts and sandals!

Back at the apartment after lunch — I sat around and did a couple of crosswords. At around 3pm Marylou left for a hike across the big hill going back to Lagos. She wanted to get a head start on the boys and agreed to meet us at 5:45 near the pizza restaurant in the center of town. Dave and I hung out and listened to some golf on TV until 4 o’clock. Then I  got my hiking shoes on and Dave and I headed out to Lagos ourselves.

We found Marylou waiting for us when we arrived at the town centre. She’d done a bit of shopping and because she hadn’t taken a jacket along, now that the sun was setting, she was feeling somewhat cold. Dave navigated is to our restaurant, “Ol’ Bastard’s Fish and Chips”, but when we got there the doors were locked. We’d have to wait about 20 minutes before the doors opened. So we did.

I think we were the first customers of the day and of the season when at 6 o’clock sharp the doors opened and we went in and got a table. But we weren’t the only ones that were hungry for fish and chips tonight — the restaurant, like almost ALL restaurants here, was soon quite a busy place. Dave and I ordered ‘American style’ fish and chips; Marylou ordered three fish tacos, each one spicier than the one before it. 

After our meal we left and headed for the bus station. Dave had checked on the departure times for tonight, so we had about 15 minutes of waiting in the bus shelter until a large EVA bus rolled up and we got on. The 10-minute ride to our town (Luz) costs just under 5 euros for all three of us. Not too bad, and the bus drops us off right in front of our building. 

Back in our (now warm, cozy) room, we watched the second episode of Alias Grace on Netflix. And we had our ‘usual’ night snack of Venetian ice cream and a small glass of port. Dave and Marylou have been busy trying to arrange a dinner date with friends from Winnipeg who are staying in Lagos — I think we are expecting to get together with them tomorrow evening, although I’m not sure if it’s at our house or in Lagos. Dave and I have a golf date at the Santo Antonio golf course tomorrow. It advertises itself as “one of Europe’s most spectacular golf courses.” Okay! I’m looking forward to that.

 

 

We go check out ‘what might have been’

Today we didn’t have a ‘plan’. So we made one up. Dave wanted to go to a ‘resort’ that we ‘almost’ booked. A place that is owned by someone from Winnipeg. So we took a drive to the small town of Ferreiras. It’s way out, near Faro, about an hour away from our place. We found the resort and went in to check it out. We even looked at a room. Confirmed. We’re happy where we are. So we marched back to our parked car. Got in and started heading back out of town.

Lunch: Ham & cheese sandwich and a beerHold on. It’s noon and as we’re leaving town Dave spots the perfect lunch spot. We park again and go into the restaurant — order 3 ham and cheese sandwiches and small beers. “This is going to be our cheapest meal yet,” says Dave. Six euros total. We sit out at a small table on the sidewalk. The sun is warm. An old British guy starts talking to Dave and before you know it we’re having second thoughts about NOT staying here in this town. They’ve got the BEST restaurant in the Algarve (4 course top-quality meals for under 10 euros) and their little 300-seat ‘stadium’ hosts big-time professional English Premier League soccer teams. When done our sandwiches we hop back into the car and do a quick mini-tour of the stadium and the restaurant. Yep. Looks mighty good. 

The second (and final) stop of our road trip was to walk on the big long boardwalk at Albor Beach, a suburb of Portimao. It’s a boardwalk that stretches along a 3.5km beach. We took off our shoes and walked the length of the beach — and back along the boardwalk. On the way in we passed a sign next to a roadside bar advertising .99 euro large beers. Too good to pass up. So after our walk Dave navigated us back to the bar and we took advantage of the deal. By now it was mid-afternoon. Time to head back home. So we did.

Back at the apartment we quickly found our devices and caught up on the latest news and Scrabble scores. And a little afternoon snooze. Sometime after six Marylou made her way into the kitchen and warmed up the leftover spaghetti and meat sauce. Salads too. Another fine supper for hungry adventurers like us. 

After dishes were done we sat in the living room updating journals and online Scrabble games and making sure all our Facebook friends still ‘like’ us. And that our blogs link to Facebook. Social media is where it’s at, baby. We listened to a good old Gordon Lightfoot album on my AppleTV. The plan was to go to the English pub next door for a dessert and nightcap. And at around ten o’clock we Dave and I did. A little glass of port. No food served after ten. So for our little dish of ice cream we had to go back to our apartment. Dave dished it out while I cued up the first episode of “Alias Grace” on Netflix. Good day. And good night.

The Cliff Walk to Lagos

After breakfast on this ‘Happy Valentines’ day, I left for a walk. I wanted to be back at the apartment by around 3:00 so that the three of us could walk to the neighbouring town of Lagos where we planned to have supper and to see a movie. I wanted to give the Driedgers a bit of a break from me — a bit of ‘space’. And I really wanted to go for a ‘workout’ walk. So I decided to do my own walk to Lagos, have lunch there, and walk back — and still be home in time to walk back to Lagos one more time. The walk to Lagos is actually a 7.5km hike over a big hill that lies between Lagos and Luz (the town we’re in). It was a cloudy day which made it ideal for a brisk walk.

The path is along the coast — and there are parts of the walk that remind me of the cliff walk we enjoyed in Hermanus, South Africa, a couple of winters ago. Both walks featured a good path and ‘feinbush’ vegetation along the coast of an ocean. (see some of my Hermanus ‘cliff walk’ photos below).

I took a few photos again today, including some shots of a large group of surfers.

And some more of the interesting rock formations along the coast. There are numerous signs along the path, warning hikers that they do so at their own risk and that the edge of the cliffs are prone to collapse into the sea. But someone has smashed all the signs along the way so I guess that means we just don’t have to worry about that anymore! 

I got to Lagos around noon, so my first stop was to have lunch. Then I wandered around the city centre for a bit before heading back to where I’d come from. It took me just under an hour-and-a-half to walk the 7.5kms each way. Back in town, I spent some time on the promenade, watching tourists and looking for dolphins in the water. I was back at the apartment by 3.

We left for Lagos again at around 4pm and were there in just over an hour and a half. We wandered around a bit, looking for a suitable restaurant. We decided to try the restaurant that the two Swedes we golfed with on Sunday had recommended. We found it but it was closed; opening at 6pm. Well, that was in about 10 minutes, so we waited outside until it opened. 

The best thing about the movie tonight was this sign on the door! (I’ve enlarged the image so you can read the caption)

We’d been ‘warned’ that the portions at this restaurant would be big, and they were. Dave and Marylou each ordered a fish dish and I had prawns. Lots of food and it was pretty good. We left at about 7:10 and found the movie theatre just a couple of blocks from there — and bought tickets for “Phantom Thread”, a Daniel Day-Lewis movie nominated for Best Picture. The movie was terrible — boring and terrible. We were hoping to catch a bus back to Luz but I think we must have missed it by a couple of minutes, and the next bus was over an hour later. So we took a taxi back to our apartment. 

Back at our stations in our now-comfortable living room, we had a small bowl of ice cream and a glass of port before calling it a night. Tentative plan for tomorrow? A drive to Albufiera. 

Really? Our last ‘cheap’ golf?

Well, I say ‘cheap’ but I don’t really mean cheap. And it’s not really the ‘last’ one either! So I guess maybe that headline isn’t true at all. Click-bait? Not even that!

This morning after I slept in and then had a my usual ‘moka’ coffee made every morning by Dave, I went back to Espiche golf course for what is likely the last ‘special promotion discount’ golf round with Dave. Perhaps the most glorious day yet, weather-wise. Sun shining — I even put a dab of #50 sunscreen (it’s been in my golf bag for 3 or 4 years, so it may not actually be all that effective anymore, but it makes me feel better) on my nose so I wouldn’t come home looking like Rudolf the Red-nosed… Busy day at the course — probably other folks were taking advantage of the second last day of discount golf — on the 15th (Thursday) rates go up to 160 Euros for 2 players and one buggy (as compared to 99 Euros today — and for those of you keeping score at home, a Euro is about one-and-a-half Canadian dollars). So today was a good day all around. 

We were paired with an older couple, man and wife, who we found out were from Finland but (like the Swedes we golfed with on the weekend) had MOVED here. The husband didn’t have much use of his entire right side, but both he and his wife hit the ball down the middle most of the time. We had a good afternoon — even though the game itself was pretty S-L-O-W — we were waiting for folks ahead of us at every hole. Our tee time was for 11:10 and we finished at around 4:10 — five hours. Dave shot a pretty good round (90) and I was happy to end up with a score of 106. The Espiche course isn’t easy for us Manitobans — every fairway slopes to one side, so that if and when you shoot a good drive down the middle it ends up in the creek or in the bush BESIDE the fairway. The only consolation is that since our shots end up in the bushes so often, Dave gets to look for balls in those said bushes, and right now there is a big backpack of found balls sitting in the middle of our living-room!

Speaking of living-room, I’m sitting in it right now! Yes! It is actually COMFORTABLE in our living-room today. I think we have finally managed to find the right combo of heaters that won’t blow our breaker but still keep the place warm. That, and we’ve opened all our blinds and curtains so the sun’s rays can help heat the apartment during the day. 

Too bad the couple sitting at the next table couldn’t just TALK to each other!

After golf we met Marylou at a seaside restaurant not far from our apartment. Noticeably more people out and about today — and more of the shops and bars and cafes around our place are open now — I guess mid-February signals ‘back in business’ for many of the shops in this tourist area we’re in. 

Marylou had been busy today — not only had she completed her daily ‘8 things’ but she’d gone grocery shopping and was all set up to cook up a great spaghetti dinner for us. Fantastic! 

After supper Marylou disappeared into her bedroom — and Dave and I sat in the living room listening to J.D Souther on my iTunes. Dave wasn’t NEARLY as impressed by his singing as I was.

Another road trip

When I got up this morning I expected it to be raining outside. And I guess it HAD rained — the patio floors were wet. But the sun was shining. And it was actually a bit WARMER than it had been for a while. I checked my laundry which was draped over the TWELVE dining room chairs around our big dining room table (in our big dining room which unfortunately we will never use because we won’t have that many guests and it’s almost always too cold to sit in that big dining room) — but (as Menno Rempel is fond of saying) I digress. Most of the laundry was dry, and what wasn’t I hung up on the lines outside for about half an hour by which time the sun and the breeze had done their thing.

Marylou enjoys sitting at her computer researching various things. We had decided that today might be a good day for another road trip, and this morning she was ready with a suggested itinerary. So, after breakfast, we hopped into our car and went out to find an adventure. Marylou was suggesting THREE stops: a hike around a big inland lake (I forget the name of it), a visit to a castle in an inland town (I forget the name of it too), and a winery tour (the name of the winery had something like Fransisco in it because it was owned by a French couple). Okay, I don’t remember the names, but I DID have the places all punched into my Google Maps app on the phone so we wouldn’t get lost. And we DIDN’T get lost, although we ended up turning around quite a few times when the map led us down a wrong road (or trail!). 

First stop was at a big dam next to ‘Barragem da bravura’ (I looked it up). There was a little cafe at the parking lot, but it was closed for the season, opening up at the end of this week. So much for a quick lunch stop before we set out on a hike. We walked down the trail to the big dam. We walked across the dam to the other side. There was a trail leading around the lake that had been created by the dam. We soon caught up with some German folks who were doing the same thing we were — only more ‘official’ with their walking poles. We assumed they were walking right around the lake, and we would do the same. But the leader of the group told us it would take several DAYS to walk around the lake. Hmmm… Okay, we turned around and headed back to the car. We were not interested in a ‘several day’ hike.

After a couple of false trails out of there, we ended up in the town of Silves, site of the Castelo de Silves. We drove up to the castle which towered over the town, and then we drove back down and parked next to a restaurant on the main street. It was 12:30 and high time for lunch. The ‘special’ of the day was Portuguese pork ‘stew’ — a half portion for 8 Euros. Sounded ‘authentic’. Dave ordered it. Marylou ordered chicken and chips and I ordered chickpeas and cod. When our plates arrived they were MASSIVE. 

No problem leaving our car at the restaurant parking lot and HIKING up to the castle. When we got there Dave and I decided that we’d be okay NOT paying the 3 bucks admission and letting Marylou go scout it out on her own while we waited for her outside the castle walls. So that’s what we did. Of course, when Marylou came out about an hour later we had already sunned ourselves good and proper at an outside table in front of a orange juice shop. 

We walked back down to our car and decided that if we were going to make it to the 4 o’clock wine tour we would have to hurry. So we did. And then we took a wrong turn. And then another. But we DID stop at a roadside fruit stand where Dave bought TWO huge bags of oranges from a lady for 3 Euros. 

When we got to the Quinta do Frances Winery we were told that the next (final?) tour would be in about 10 minutes, as soon as another group of people arrived. So we didn’t have to wait long. Our guide was a young Portuguese lady who did the usual wine tour thing. She talked about the origins of this particular winery (not very old) and the types of wine they make here. We went down into the cellars to see the big vats and the various machines that crush the grapes, etc. Then down another set of stairs to where they stored bottles and cases of wine. By now I have been on so many wine tours, and I didn’t think this one was particularly good anyway, so I wasn’t all that interested in the MAKING of the wine. And it wasn’t long and we were back upstairs in the tasting room. We were served a two white and one red. We paid the girl and were soon back on the road, heading home.

Back at the apartment it was back to your stations, everyone busy on their devices, making sure the world was still turning as it should. Marylou had photos to sort through and when that was done she hauled out her art book and pencil crayons; Dave was on the couch, catching up on several online scrabble games he was playing on his phone; I was thinking about supper. The cleaning lady must have left just before we returned, so the floors were all clean and the place smelled of soap and disinfectant.

Marylou and Dave at supper
Not going to let supper interfere with Dave’s ongoing scrabble game!

We warmed up assorted leftovers and had supper. After we’d eaten and cleaned up the dishes we were back in the living room, which really DID feel warmer today. Olympic highlights on TV — I’m not really following the olympics but I think the Canadians won some medals today, maybe for snowboarding or for figure skating. After a while Dave switched over to Netflix and we started watching the latest season of ‘Homeland’. Marylou was visiting with relatives in the kitchen via FaceTime. It was quarter to eleven by the time I updated my journal — time for bed. We have a tee time at Espiche tomorrow morning. Hope the weather keeps improving.

Boavista (Beautiful View) Golf Course

Sunday morning. Marylou was looking forward to another day of peace and quiet and relaxation — maybe she would even visit the church across the street from us and see how Portuguese tourists worship on Sundays. Dave and I were booked to golf at the Boavista Golf Course. After a (too) leisurely breakfast we had to rush to get to the course on time for our 10:20 tee time. We got there, parked, got our ‘buggy’ and fastened our clubs to the back. Then we took off for the first tee — well, we THOUGHT we were heading for the first tee, but we got to a dead end and turned around and THEN we got to our first tee. The two Swedes who we were paired up with were already teeing off. We hurriedly got our balls, tees, and clubs and took a quick practice swing before belting the ball off the side of the fairway. We should have warmed up a bit first, I guess. 

The course was okay, but Dave and I both thought the Espiche course we golfed during the week was more fun. Instead of brambles and bushes along narrow fairways, here we had resort homes to contend with. It’s not fun hitting the ball into the bushes, but it’s less fun hitting it through the window on the second floor of a luxury home on the course. But thankfully we kept our damages to a minimum, even if the cost to our pride was a few strokes.

We were teeing off from the yellows because that’s what ‘Life’ and ‘Toon’ were doing. They were a couple of retired Swedes who now lived down here in the Algarve. The were 66 years old (which is about 25 Canadian years according those ‘Participaction’ ads we used to see on TV), and they’d bought homes here about 2 years ago. They were members of the Boavista course. We enjoyed their company for the day.

Ham and cheese sandwich on the seat of our golf 'buggy'.
Ham and cheese sandwich on the seat of our golf ‘buggy’.

I guess I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the HIGHLIGHT of my day was the FANTASTIC sandwich I made this morning, which I enjoyed on hole number 10. There is NOTHING better than a delicious sandwich on a beautiful Sunday afternoon out on the golf course.

Certainly the highlight of my day COULD have been my score, but only if my score had been about 20 strokes better than it actually was. I wish I could blame it on the fact that everything here is in metres instead of yards, but today our GPS on the golf ‘buggy’ was giving us all the distances in yards. Oh well.

After we finished 18 holes, ‘Life’ (that’s probably Leif in Swedish, but that’s how he pronounced it) invited us to join him for a beer at the course restaurant. Sure. So we sat at an outside table and visited for an hour or so. We learned a lot about the pros and cons of living in Sweden and retiring in Portugal. Life and Toon even sort of invited us to join them here again NEXT Saturday. We’ll see.

We drove back home and looked for Marylou. Turns out she was hiding at a neighbourhood bar, busy doing one of her eight things — or maybe reading — or maybe reading IS one of her eight things. We all went back to our apartment and put on extra sweaters and jackets and looked for the warmest room. Marylou had been busy getting a big fancy supper ready for us. Now all that was left to be done was try to figure out how that fancy European oven is supposed to work. Or how to turn it on. Dave got out the manual and eventually got it bake. At least we hope it’s baking.

Dave once again stirred up some delicious gin and tonics for happy hour. We sat in the kitchen and waited for that oven to cook up the chicken breasts and bake the potatoes. Dave found some golf on TV. Finally, at around 8, or maybe even after 8, the oven finally cooperated and supper was served. Mmm.. Nice job, Marylou. Thanks for a great supper.

After supper we watched a movie on iTunes — Night Train to Lisbon. Marylou had read the book and wanted to see how the movie compared. After the movie we had our late-night dessert, ice cream and a glass of port. Marylou went to bed while Dave and I sat through an episode Black Mirror on Netflix. It was just after midnight when I finally updated my blog and then went to bed. Looks like we might get a bit of rain tomorrow. No plans for now. Good night.

 

A hike to the village of Burgau

Saturday morning — so I guess that means bacon and eggs. I had a lazy morning, sleeping until about 8:30. Dave was already making coffee when I entered the kitchen. We had a little breakfast of yogurt and toast and then sat around ‘planning’ our day. Marylou was waiting for the washer to finish so she could hang some laundry out on one of our big patios. In the mean time I had a FaceTime call with Alex and Max and showed them our apartment. Things are cold here in Portugal, but it’s quite a bit colder back home.

I’m not sure what the time was when we finally got the train going — but my guess is it was getting close to 11 o’clock. I think our hike along the coast, going west, took about an hour and wasn’t much more than 4kms one way. The Driedgers had done this before and knew there would be cafes and restaurants once we got to the little village of Burgau. And there were. We found a table at one of them which looked pretty busy (so it must be good) and ordered our food. I (finally) got my bacon and eggs, on a ‘toastie’. And since it was easily LUNCH time, and not really breakfast, I washed it down with a cerveza. 

Glorious sunshine and very little wind today. There were a few sailboats looking for a breeze to catch out on the ocean. We hiked back the same way we came, and encountered some of the same people we’d met going the other way. It was mid-afternoon and we’d basically finished the day’s major “activity”.

Now what? Well, that’s what I asked MYSELF. The Driedgers wasted no time idling around. (Marylou has committed to doing 8 things every day (I’m not sure what they all are, but they include writing and drawing and coloring; and Dave is hardly ever without his phone so he can stay up-to-date with what’s new in sports and talk shows and Facebook and games.) Marylou got busy sorting and selecting photographs of the hike. Dave caught up with various online scrabble games and found a TV channel featuring Olympic ski-jumping. I finally figured out how to code a couple of functions so that my website banners show up on single posts. I tried to persuade Marylou to share a few of her photos with me, since I had only taken a couple of Dave on the walk and none at all of our lovely brunch. (Since most of my photos are of the Driedgers, and Marylou had quite a few of me which she shared with me and let me use on my post yesterday, I figured if we shared our photos on the cloud we could both benefit.) She tried, but it seems our internet isn’t very fast and her setup is a bit complicated. And with all that going on, we are often busy resetting breakers and waiting for our devices to reconnect to the internet — we still haven’t figured out how many heaters we can have going at any one time and in any one room before we blow a breaker.

After happy hour we sat down in the living room and watched the final two episodes of “Big Little Lies”. Dave went out to get some groceries and when he got back he fried up some burgers and beans for supper while Marylou made a salad. After supper we watched a little more TV and had some ice cream for dessert.

By 10:30 the Driedgers were having trouble keeping the sandman at bay and decided to turn in for the night. So here I am again, sitting in the corner of the living room, typing away about my day, listening to the hum of the space heaters and the rumble of the occasional car driving by on the cobblestones 4 floors below our windows. Tomorrow Dave and I are off to Boavista, a golf course near the town of Lagos, about 15 minutes from here. I’m looking forward to it. It IS actually warming up a bit.

Our first Portuguese roadtrip!

When I got out of bed this morning and looked outside the sky was cloudy and the deck was wet — it must have rained, and it looked like there might be more before the day was done. After breakfast Marylou found the article about the top ten scenic drives in the Algarve — and copied the places and points of interest into her notes. Then we got in the car, and with Dave navigating and Marylou reading her notes, I drove along the N125, heading west.

That’s the fortress at the top of the hill.

The theme of the trip seemed to be “Henry the Navigator”, who, as Marylou has already discussed in HER blog, would not have been considered such a great guy in today’s world, mostly because he ‘navigated’ slaves out of Africa and into Portugal. But in spite of that, we did our best to follow his footsteps to the west coast of Portugal today. We stopped to see his home, his church, his chapel, his mistress’s chapel, his pub, his library, his lighthouse — okay, maybe I’ve missed a couple of spots, but you get the idea. One of the highlights for me was a hike to Henry’s fortress — a long drive along a narrow road that became a trail that became a path that became not for cars, so I had to back up about half a mile, park, and then HIKE it. We found the beach, saw the fortress and the graffiti that was sprayed all over it, and then hiked back. 

At another stop I found a couple of old fishermen mending their nets beside their fishing boat on the shore. One of them could speak a bit of English, and after a bit of gesturing and the fisherman saying the same Portuguese word over and over, each time little bit louder until we finally guessed what the word meant, we learned about how to catch octopuses (octopi?), which they do by dangling terra cotta pots down into the ocean and then yanking them up and scaring the octopus out of them (with a few drops of bleach) and onto your plate. 

One of the next stops was Henry’s chapel. We parked, walked the cobblestone walk up to the front of the church and watched the woman inside quickly close the front doors, heard the double-lock, and then had the ‘ticket taker’ guy up on the hill yell down that they were closed for lunch. I have to say, we were not altogether disappointed to hear that. At least I wasn’t. It was at LEAST 12 noon by this time, and high time for lunch anyway. Back in the car, seatbelts on, hook up the phone to the charging cord, punch in the next stop, and off we were.

Gooseneck Barnacles
Gooseneck Barnacles

Speaking of lunch, we found ourselves in a TINY little town, the name of which I can’t remember, and parked on the cobblestones in the town square, and went into what SURELY must have been an “authentic” Portuguese restaurant. Marylou’s notes suggested we “must try the gooseneck barnacles”. Well, brave intentions failed us — we asked if we could just SEE what that might look like. The server said ‘no problem’ and promptly returned with a small sample on a small plate.

 

And so Marylou ordered a chicken sandwich and Dave a cheeseburger. Both of those meals sounded great to me, but instead I ordered “moreia ray eel”.  The server explained that they were FRIED eel, and although HE didn’t like fish, I would have to eat everything on my plate. And I did. Not bad.

And then we continued on our drive. We got to the town of Sagres, which I now find isn’t at all where the Sagres Cerveja which we’ve been drinking with our eel dinners comes from. No, THIS Sagres is the town that is at the western, or probably SOUTHwestern tip of continental Europe. Okay, I guess that’s almost as cool. We parked and walked around and I took some photos. If I’d had a telephoto lens I would have zoomed in on that sign way out in the distance, the one in Cape Spear, Newfoundland, that informs visitors there that they are at the EASTERN edge of the North American continent. But I only had my iPhone camera. In any case, here are a few of my photos of Sagres, or more precisely Cape St. Vincent, which is just west of the actual town.

And that’s how our field trip for the day ended. We hightailed it back to our place. I stopped to pick up a few groceries before joining Dave and Marylou in our ‘cozy’ kitchen. There we had a little happy hour and reconnected with our devices.

At 7pm we went out for Chinese food at a restaurant just steps from our place. We discussed plans for tomorrow — maybe a walk to the OTHER neighbouring village. We’ll see.

And that brings you up-to-date again for another day. So I bid you Tchau! Até mais.

Another day, another golf game

After a quick breakfast, Dave and I headed back to the Espiche Golf Course, about 15 minutes north of our place. We golfed here 2 days ago, and we were hoping to improve on our game with a return visit. As soon as we got to the first tee, things were looking good — the sun was shining, the wind seemed to have abated, and it felt a bit warmer. And our play WAS better. I had a few pars on the front nine and Dave finished the day with a birdie on the 18th. We were not paired up with anyone else, and even though there were a couple of groups ahead of us and we often had to wait a bit before teeing off, we had a very enjoyable day. Things got a bit slow, especially on the back nine, but we often made the most of the wait by heading into the scrub brush around the greens and looking for (and finding!) golf balls. So, even though I didn’t break a hundred (Dave did), we both came out WAY ahead on golf balls. Like the good Mennonites that we are, we know what REALLY matters! We enjoyed a cold beverage on the sunny patio at the clubhouse before heading back to the car. Having quenched OUR thirst, we then drove into the nearby town of Lagos to do the same for our rental car — €75 (that’s $115CAD) to fill up the tank on our little Skoda. Another quick stop at the Boavista Golf Course to enquire about rates — we need to get some games in before the ‘summer’ rates kick in at most of the courses here — rates go up quite a bit on Feb 15, a week from today.

We drove back home and picked up some groceries before going up to our apartment. Happy hour, and then supper. Dave fried up some sausages and we had homemade “hotdogs” for supper. It felt a little warmer in the house — partly due to the warmer temps outside, and the sun shining in all our big windows, and SOME of our heaters going for most of the day. In fact, for the first time since I’ve been here, we sat in our lovely LIVING room tonight and continued watching “Big Little Lies” on our TV instead of on the laptop. A couple of episodes of that, along with a small dish of ice cream and a glass of cherry liquor, and the day was done. Time for bed. Marylou, who had another quiet and productive day ALONE at home, suggested that tomorrow might be a ‘going for a drive’ day. She had done a bit of research and found two ‘road trips’ that looked interesting and doable — so that’s the plan for tomorrow.

A hike to Lagos

Got out of bed around 8:30 — I guess I’m still not quite acclimatized to the new timezone yet. Last night I didn’t fall asleep until after 2:00. Oh well, not much on the daytimer today anyway.

After coffee and toast we decided to go for a hike across the hill to the east of us, to the town of Lagos. I wanted to buy a phone card for my phone — so at the very least, next time Dave and I are out golfing and it takes a little longer than we expected, we can call Marylou, so she doesn’t sit in the kitchen waiting for us while dinner is getting cold. 

We walked along the promenade, then up into town, before striking out along a trail leading up to the top of the cliffs that cradle our beach. Along the way we stopped from time to time for a quick photo or to stop and chat with other tourists who were hiking the same trail — and I must confess that I didn’t stop talking for most of the trip!

Not many locals here — this is a tourist area, and it’s not quite “in season” yet. There are many shops and restaurants all around us, but most are not open yet. But we’re told the warm weather is coming soon, and it will bring with it (mostly Irish and British) visitors, many of whom have summer homes here. But it’s not quite ‘summer’ here yet!

After reaching the top of the cliffs we soon stopped for a celebratory drink. And talked some more. Marylou gave us an update on how many steps we’d made so far, including the horizontal and the vertical kind. Yikes! if we keep that up we will surely cancel out the calories we’ll consume at each of our ‘rest’ stops!

When we got into the town of Lagos we made our way into the town centre. We chose a small outdoor table at a restaurant where the Driedgers had already tested the offerings on a previous visit. We ordered a couple of pizzas and fortified ourselves. Then it was just a short walk to a ‘Vodafone’ shop where it only took a couple of minutes to get a SIM card installed on my phone. So now I have data and a L-O-N-G phone number that no one will call me on. 

We opted for a bus ride back to our apartment. When we stepped into our apartment we were expecting to find a couple of additional space heaters which our apartment manager promised us. And sure enough, there they were: two brand new fancy heaters. But they were not on! What’s up? It didn’t take long to realize that turning on the new heaters caused the breaker to fail. And after quite a bit of trial and error we determined that no matter what combination of outlets we used, have all SIX space heaters going in our apartment would not be an option, no matter how much we spread them out. Hmmm…

And so it was that we found ourselves once again huddled around the kitchen table where the small room and ONE of our new fancy heaters seemed to keep the temperature up enough for us (well, MOST of us) warm without wearing our jackets. 

We thought we’d watch a movie on Netflix but were sorry to realize that the movie we WANTED to see was no longer available on that service. I had brought along a couple of thumb drives with some video selections — so there we sat, watching videos on Marylou’s Macbook which we parked in the middle of the dining table. We paused it a couple of times for snacks and supper breaks, and before we knew it, it was 10 o’clock — bedtime.

Well, not for ALL of us. Dave relocated to the couch in the living room and wrapped himself up in some extra blankets and watched TV while I sat in the corner and updated this journal. And shortly after eleven, although I wasn’t at all sleepy, I too made my way to bed, hoping that one of those new heaters would keep me warm at night.

B-r-r-r-r-r. Cold wind and warm hearts.

I finally woke up at around 8:30. Yikes! This is no way to start! We have things to do and places to go to.

A quick hot shower to combat the FREEZING cold room. I found out later that the space heater was connected to an outlet that turns off when I turn out the lights. Hmmm… That’s not going to work. The apartment is large and lovely. But it is clearly designed for seasons when the temperature is higher than 10 degrees. Those tile floors are brutally cold.

I found the Driedgers in the kitchen checking their ‘devices’. It’s warmer in the kitchen because it is a smaller room where the doors can be closed and there are TWO space heaters and two people sitting in there. Make that three…

We went out for breakfast — a short walk along the promenade that fronts the beach. Lots of outdoor tables at the restaurant we went to. Not so many outdoor customers, although, just like at home, smokers are banished from all confined spaces and a few hardy souls were ‘hubbering’ outside. Not us. We went inside and tried a few tables (there were only a few tables) until we’d decided which spot was the ‘warmest’, and I use that term loosely. But the coffees were hot and the waffles hit the spot.

On the way home we stopped at one of the two ‘Supermercados’ and bought some supplies for tomorrow’s breakfast. We’d been invited to visit Jim and Bonny at their AirBnB condo in a neighbouring village for supper tonight, but Dave and I thought we could probably squeeze in a game of golf before heading out to meet them at 4pm. So we loaded up our clubs and left Marylou to hold the fort while we drove out to a nearby course, just to ‘check it out’.

We asked about golf at the front desk. We hadn’t made a reservation — and were surprised and delighted when the girl said how about right now! Yes! We opted to take a ‘buggy’ instead of walking because there was a special deal available. That turned out to be a good call. We were paired up with a lovely couple from Ireland. For the next 4 plus hours the four of us managed to hit some fine shots — but we also got quite familiar with the trees and the scrub brush that lines each fairway. The course was quite nice, and although the layout looks relatively straight forward (as in, on most holes you are required to shoot the ball straight and forward), with a fairly brisk (and cold) breeze to contend with, we soon realized that it was a sufficient challenge to in all likelihood warrant a return visit.

I think that Irish woman was looking at us ‘a little sideways’!

We’d been invited to the Peters’ place for four o’clock so we could go for a bit of a walking tour before supper. Well, when we were still working our way down the 15th fairway at 3:15, we realized we would not be able to make it by four if we finished the game. So we aborted our game and bid our new Irish friends adieu and hurried home to pick up Marylou.

Marylou was just starting to send Bonny a text that we would be ‘a little late’ when Dave and I rang the doorbell. A quick change and we were back in the car heading to Porches (the town where they’re staying for a couple of days), with Google Maps guiding Dave as he drove back along the A22 Autobahn.

We arrived a bit late, but not too late for Jim and Bonny to lead us down a long beach staircase so they could show us the incredible cliffs along the coast, while Jim’s brother Rob and his partner Evelin prepared supper for us.

Lovely. Back at their apartment we enjoyed appetizers and drinks. The Peters brothers and their women have already travelled many roads here in Portugal. They are here for one more week, ending their tour in Lisbon. It sounds like they’ve had a marvellous time.

Too bad Rob isn’t in the picture (because he’s taking it!) A delicious meal and a fine evening hosted by gracious friends.

WE certainly had a marvellous time there with them tonight! Robert and Evelin prepared a feast of shrimp, mussels and paella, salad, beer and wine, and a dessert of chocolates and some Portuguese Tawny Port. We had a very fine visit — lots of interesting conversation around the table. I guess sometimes you have to go far away to really visit with people ‘from home’!

We said goodbye and returned to our apartment. Maybe, after such a fine evening, it didn’t seem quite as cold anymore. Still, we huddled together in the kitchen, now all three of us hovering over our devices with our space heaters doing their best to keep us feeling warm. I had to update my blog — and now I have to hurry and ‘save’ my work before the battery dies. And so ends Day Two — and a good day it was!

Day 1

I’m sitting in the airport in Amsterdam. It’s 1:30 in the afternoon here, 7:30 in the morning at home. The last leg of my trip to Portugal is a two hour flight to Faro, departing in about three hours from now. I’ve already sent a text to Dave; he and MaryLou are at the bus station, waiting to take the bus to Faro. We’ll pick up our rental car there and drive the one-hour trip back to our apartment in Luz together.

The flight from Minneapolis was uneventful. The KLM flight was less than a third full; according to the stewardess, it was so empty due to the Super Bowl game. Since I missed seeing most of the final quarter, I was somewhat surprised to learn that the Eagles had won! Well what do you know! Probably a little too much air in the footballs that Brady used.

I snoozed for about four hours — everyone took advantage of the extra seats and we all had a ‘bed’ across 3 seats. I read my kindle too, and finished the Bill Browder book Red Notice.

Part Two: I sat around in the Amsterdam airport for about 3 hours. I wasn’t tired — it was around noon local time when we landed. I started reading another book. I went for walks. I watched planes taking off and landing. For a while I followed a large group of Chinese tourists around — they were being led by a ‘guide’ who was waving her ‘tour leader’ flag. Most of them were wearing white masks over their mouths. I think they were all lost for a while — they headed a long way down one of the arms of the airport, and soon they were all coming back. Wrong concourse, I guess.

The last leg of the journey was the opposite of the flight I’d just taken. Instead of a large modern jet, this was an old 737. And it was PACKED. My carry-on bag ended up somewhere in the middle of the plane even though I was seated in row 3. But ultimately it got me to where I needed to go, and everything was just fine. I landed in the Faro airport, waited for my ‘oversize’ golf bag to come careening down the luggage chute, and then made my way into the waiting area where I met Dave and Marylou. They had taken a bus from their town and we were going to find our rental car and drive back together. Great.

The rental car ended up being at the OTHER end of the airport, but we only found that out after we’d dragged my luggage across about 4 carpark lots in the cool wind of the evening. After filling out the forms and stopping to fill the empty gas tank, we were on the Autopista (or whatever that main toll highway is called here in Portugal) heading back to our apartment. In spite of Google Maps expertise we somehow ended up on a dark narrow country road, a bit lost. But only for a short while. And then we were there. I parked the car and we gathered up my luggage and crammed into the two small elevators that would take us up to the fourth floor. Home. At least that’s what this will be for the next three and a half weeks.

It was COLD. Colder inside than the temperature outside. But Marylou had made soup which she warmed up for me, along with a fine plate of cheese and cold cuts and crackers. We visited for a while, had a glass of port to go with our ice cream dessert, and then off to bed. A long day. Cold and tired. But Dave got a space heater going in my room, and Marylou found another big warm blanket in one of the closets, and it didn’t take many minutes after my head hit the pillow, and I as fast asleep.

Did you pack your bags yourself?

I’ve often been asked whether I packed my bags myself by the airport customs agents. They want to know if I’m sure of what’s in there and to avoid being interrogated and delayed in some holding tank, I always answer in the affirmative, just as I did today. But today I answered it honestly.

It’s been a while since I’ve packed my own bag. It’s been a long while since I’ve flown alone. But that’s the way it is now. That is “my new reality”. So here I am, sitting in the Winnipeg airport on Super Bowl Sunday, on the first leg of a trip to Portugal. A trip that Sue and I planned and booked half a year ago. But those plans were interrupted. In fact, when Sue got sick in fall and then died in December, I cancelled our flights and our ‘HomeAway’ apartment rental in southern Portugal. But our plan had been to spend February and March in the Algarve together with our friends Dave and MaryLou, and the Driedgers did NOT cancel their travel plans. After Sue’s passing they invited me to consider joining them for part of their time — they had rebooked the same apartment in the small beach town of Praias da Luz, a town with several golf courses nearby. Dave and I could go golfing while MaryLou did some writing.

So that brings me to why I am sitting here in the Winnipeg airport, typing my first blog post of this ‘holiday’ on my phone, hunting and pecking away with one finger! I packed my (own) bags yesterday and had a leisurely start to my day this morning. My kids invited me over for brunch and then shuttled me here at 1:00, giving me the requisite 3 hours to check in and get through customs before the scheduled (and so far, on time) departure.

And that brings YOU, dear reader, up to date. And now it is 4:00pm and they are starting to call passengers to board. Next stop: Minneapolis, home of Super Bowl LII (that’s 52 for you non-Romans).

Update #2. It’s 8:00pm. I’m sitting at the airport in Minneapolis, watching the “super” bowl. The second half just started and the Eagles are hanging in there against the Patriots. Hey, I wonder what’s more American: a ‘patriot’ or an ‘eagle’?

My flight to Amsterdam leaves at 9:30, so I won’t see how this ends. It takes an hour and a half to play the last two minutes, never mind the whole second half. I got a text message from Dave, who is apparently watching the game together with Jim and Bonny, who are also in Portugal. By my calculations it’s two in the morning there! They’re going to be up all night if they want to see how it all ends.

Well, I will stop poking my phone for a while and watch a bit of football.