Portugal 2018

February in the Algarve with Dave and Marylou Driedger

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.