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Portugal!

January 6, 2015 10:03 am

 

Sunday, Dec 28 – Albufeira: Portugal!

Our first bus trip!

We journeyed from Seville to Albufeira, Portugal by bus; it was relaxing and comfortable. As we approached Albufeira, several of the small towns the bus stopped in appeared rundown and the locals were a little rough looking. The stop before ours was in an underground parkade and all passengers but us, exited the bus. The driver told us we were stopping for 20 minutes and then he bought Joe a coffee and me a sweet, which we thought was very nice. Albufeira was another 30 minutes away and as the landscape changed to city, we knew this place was going to be enjoyable. It was clearly beautiful.

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The resort was fantastic and right on the beach with the most incredible sandstone hills and lush vegatation. We were able to check in just after noon so we went for a nice lunch and explored all the nooks on the beach. The colors were so vivid, photos don’t reflect them as they are. It was a cold and cloudy day but refreshing. We loved Portugal already. Supernatural.

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Our Expedia Gold membership entitled us to a free room upgrade, 10% off food/beverages and a visit to the hydro pools. Breakfast was already included and our 4th night was free. We were in paradise and it wasn’t breaking the bank!

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I have been careful to book hotels that say they have laundry facilities but slowly discovered in Europe that means you can send out your laundry for a lot of money. We haven’t had much luck finding laundromats over the holidays so we had to resort to a sink, wring and hang dry here. My portable clothesline came in very handy.

A big perk at this resort was that all the staff spoke good English!! The Algrave is a popular vacation destination for the Brits and so English is essential for tourism. A shopkeeper would later tell us they were taught English in school as well. This was a nice change for us although we did try learning a few Portguese words out of respect.

Monday, Dec 29

Oh how I loved to open the curtains each morning and see that incredible view!

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We took the shuttle into Albuferia’s New Town on this wam and sunny day. The main street in this district is called ‘The Strip’ and it is several blocks of shops and restaurants. A good percentage of them were closed for the season but there was no shortages of open spots. There was a Canadian Bar!

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We walked past all the shops and went down, down, down a hill to homes and hotels that were cosied onto yet another fantastic beach.

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We spent several hours walking both directions along the crescent shoreline. Each corner lead to the discovery of another unique shaped limestone formation. Some had hiking trails that took us above the hills to breathtaking views of the beach from above. The waves splashed in alcoves and we were in awe.

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We had a nice lunch in town and a great dinner back at the resort. Beautiful sunset!

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Tuesday, Dec 30 

Hopped on the shuttle into the Old Town this morning. Beautiful white buildings gleaming in the Atlantic sun.

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The Center of Old Town was clearly preparing for New Years Eve with the addition of a huge stage just off the beach. This is where the main fireworks were launched as well. We were sure the younger generations would have had a fabulous time here.

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The beach in Old Town is the largest and we spent the afternoon exploring and uncovering its’ beauty.

 

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Back at the resort, new hotel guests started to arrive for New Years Eve by the hundreds. I referred to them as The Beautiful People. And they, and their children, were.

These were at a local wine shop – too funny…

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We took a cab back into Old Town to an ethentic Portguese restaurant. As in Spain, the house wine is fantastic and cheaper than soda. Cheers!

Wednesday, Dec 31 – New Years Eve

We hit our own beach again today and discovered more trails and viewpoints.

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Mid afternoon we donned our mandatory bathing caps (too funny) and went for a swim, spa tub and sauna. There were only two other people there. There is also three pools outside but we didn’t use them. Not that warm!

Time to get ready for NYE. We are just going to the buffet for dinner but we saw them roll out the red carpet on the huge staircase for the Gala event that The Beautiful People were attending.  I was nervous about what to wear with very limited clothes; none of which are glittery. Here we are on the red carpet; too early for anyone else!

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The buffet was fabulous and the service impecable as always.

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We finished just as the Beatiful People were enjoying cocktails before dinner.

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We adjourned to our room and had bubbles. We sent our messages for Happy New Year and made some Facetime calls. We made it to the fireworks!

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Thursday, Jan 1 – Lisbon

Happy New Year!

After one last fulfilling buffet breakfast at the resort, we departed by autobus for Lisbon. The bus depot was littered with last night’s partiers still drinking beer or drinking beer again; we weren’t clear. Our bus ride was a short 3 hour, direct trip to Lisbon. Thankfully the partiers stayed behind.

Lisbon is a big city and the capital and largest city of Portugal. It is the westernmost large city located in continental Europe. Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world and the oldest in Western Europe, predating other modern European capitals such as London, Paris and Rome by centuries. Our hotel was centrally located and we were steps from the Expo 1998 grounds.

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With it being New Years Day, not many restaurants were open so we joined the ranks of shoppers at the mall food court and had a gaseous Chinese dinner.

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Friday, Jan 2

We are both very tired of our long lasting, boomerang, flu/colds. We haven’t felt up to exercising in weeks. Interestingly, in order to buy vitamin C or a tynlenol type drug, you have to go to the Pharmacy. Both items are behind the counter so you must speak to a pharmacist. I had read about this in my research but quite strange to experience it.

Lisbon!

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We had an authentic and enjoyable Portugese dinner tonight. Our waiter, Willcharllys, was also the restaurant manager and knew quite a bit about Canada.

Willcharllys explained how cod in Portugal is dried and salted to preserve it and when you want to use it, it is rinsed and soaked for days. Then it regains and retains its’ lost moisture. Joe and I shared a sampler of 4 types of cod dishes.

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They were all very good and each unique. Then we were treated to the restaurants homemade pastel de nata (a Portuguese egg tart pastry very popular at Christmas) and two types of port.

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This man was very passionate about these things and we were happy he shared some local traditions with us. It was a great and entertaining evening.

Saturday, Jan 3 – Cascais

Today we thought we were making a local hotel switch from Lisbon to Cascais. Our research told us a taxi to Cascais would be 10-15€. Our research was wrong. The taxi drove for over 45 minutes which included 2 incorrect hotel stops, and we got out of the cab 50€ poorer. We were willing to bite the bullet on that one but unfortunately we had to return to Lisbon to catch the train to Porto on Monday. My first poor planning experience in 4 months; a lesson learned.

Cascais is a coastal town 30 kilometres west of Lisbon and one of the richest municipalities in Portugal. We stayed at a beautiful luxurious hotel here, the Pousada de Cascais. It is set within the walls of the historical fortress of the emblematic  16th century Citadel of Cascais, in the centre of Cascais. It is a unique place where ancient meets modern.

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Our room had a  view over the interior plazas. Lots of small art shops.  A very unique experience.

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This was also the first hotel where early check-in was not available and it had the poorest wifi signal so far. Compounding challenges were making it an ‘off day’, but we soon bounced back and absorbed the area and two great meals.

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Sunday, Jan 4

As of today, it has been 4 months since we left Kelowna and started our journey. Wow – one third of our trip is completed already!

Here are some additional pictures from our visit to Cascais:

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Lots of graffiti in Europe so far:

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Got my own “Roosters of Barcelos”

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Haven’t seen a peacock since I was kid – they had a peacock garden here LOL:

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This is what some of the streets looked like; they were actually flat but looked wavy! It was dizzying!

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The bar in our hotel was so beautiful I insisted we have a drink there on our last night. The bartender was very OCD and took 30 minutes to make me this fantastic gin and tonic; he infused a lot of things. But really….

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Monday, Jan 5

We took 3 local trains, with our luggage, to get back to the main train station in Lisbon from Cascais. But we figured them all out and we were back in Lisbon for a mere 7.50€ each. Very worth it.

The train into Porto was just under 3 hours. I discovered there is wifi on the trains! It is is better than most of our hotels. That’s pretty cool.

We are now in Porto for 4 days. Our apartment has a washer/dryer combination. Like you wash and dry in one machine! Why don’t we have these? Laundry night!

On the 9th of January, we head back into Spain – first stop Santiago De Compostela. This is where our friend and former boss Victor Temprano is from.  We are looking forward to visiting this city! And frankly, we are missing tapas! We have 2 or 3 other Spain stops planned and then we will be own our way to Southern France….

We will talk to you soon!

Paula and Joe


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