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Much of my blog (not really a blog) will relate to my love of travel with articles and pics. It will be an ongoing project.


I had never considered vacationing in Portugal but a co-worker who had just returned from there was so enthralled with the Algarve that I immediately booked a flight and hotel package that included a rental car. 
After an overnight flight we arrived in Lisbon at 8:30 in the morning.  Following some confusion in regards to the rental car we hopped on a shuttle bus that took us to the rental agency.  We quickly found our way out of Lisbon and crossed a marshy plain over the Vasco De Gama bridge that was named for the Portugese explorer.  It was a futuristic looking bridge 17 kms long that must have taken many years to complete.  The terrain went from flat to rolling hills to small mountains (3,000 metres) in The Algarve in the south of the country.  Disappointingly the hotel Vau in Portimao was not in close proximity to the water but from our balcony we could see the ocean sparkling in the sunshine.  After the overnight flight with no sleep, a three hour drive and settling in our room, we slept deliciously for 12 hours.

After breakfast we drove a few kms west to Alvor for a short walking tour.  Alvor is a picturesque village that faces a natural lagoon, long, sandy beaches and craggy cliffs.
  Its quaint, narrow streets have bars, restaurants and there is limited development in this ancient port.  From there we continued west to Lagos where we strolled along a promenade that was lined with palm trees.  The palms swayed in the wind coming off the ocean and dark clouds, threatening rain blew in.  We watched a mini cyclone of water sweep inland and disappear.  Suddenly big raindrops fell and we ran to a nearby coffee shop for shelter.  While sipping our java an old lady came over jabbering in Portugese and we tried to convey to her that we were unfamiliar with her language.  She continued talking to us, all the while drying my hair with napkins.  I felt some frustration in not being able to converse with this dear old woman.  In the evening after hours of walking we had a dinner of sardines that is common fare in this country, accompanied by a large carafe of red wine.

The Portugese people drink red wine like it is water and it is very inexpensive.  My co-worker friend had been to Portugal a few weeks before and asked me to deliver a bottle of Niagara Ice Wine to the owner of a hotel she had frequented.  She had promised to send him a bottle but since I was going to Portugal would I deliver it to him?  After a leisurely drive north through the hills we arrived at the hotel/restaurant near Monchique to present a very pleased and gracious Mr. Fernandez with the ice wine.  His restaurant seemed to hang precariously over a cliff with a stunning view of the valley below, and through the glass walls on the horizon the sun glistened on the Atlantic ocean.  We had a leisurely lunch overlooking the vista outside our window. 

An ancient Moorish castle sits atop the hill in the enchanting town of Silves and narrow cobblestone streets wind up the hill.  Colourful potteries were displayed outside the many shops.  I remember marvelling that the cobblestones had all been laid by hand many decades before.  We were not in the mood to take a tour of the cork factory but had noticed many cork trees as well as eucalyptus trees on our drive back from Monchique.  With a stop at the Modelo for some groceries we continued to Portimao and cooked a meal (I only did this one time) in our hotel kitchenette.  I had some packing to do for a three day guided bus tour to Spain, Gibraltor and Morocco that we had booked in the lobby of our hotel.

Upon our return to Portugal our next day trip was the gypsy flea market in Loule where I loitered at a very colourful display of hand made pottery.  As gypsies are quite aggressive I held myself back from the table and admired from afar.  I observed that these ladies drive a hard bargain so I wandered on.  I still regret to this day not purchasing some of the blue and yellow stoneware. 

 A little girl with an accordian had a little dog wearing a cap (for tips) beside her.  The dog never moved and the little girl didn't know how to play the accordian.  It was just an attention getter.  The Atlantic Ocean has hammered the southwest corner of Europe for eons creating amazing rock formations, grottos, and wind caves; a photographer's dream.  It is here that Henry the Navigator built his fortress that clings to the edge of the cliffs.  We perched near the edge of the western cliff to enjoy a picnic lunch and looked on incredulously at men casting their fishing lines from halfway down the precipice while angry waves pummelled the rocks below.

  Driving north along the west coast we stopped whenever we spotted a tour bus because we knew there must be an amazing view to behold.  The bus stopped at the most westerly point of Europe, called Cabo Da Roco.  As we headed toward Sintra the road we took had hairpin turns and most of the time we drove through fog. 
We stopped for coffee in the quaint town of Sintra and drove out of there along a narrow, rough road.  It was pretty though with lush ferns growing in front of ancient stone walls that had been constructed by the Moors.  Between fog patches we saw some scenic vistas as we were quite high in elevation.  As we were searching for Parque da Pena we ended up driving through a national forest.  It was eerie driving though the mist and cork trees.  Enormous boulders surrounded us and it looked as if they had been tossed there by a giant, some boulders on top of others.  We hoped that none of them would roll in front of our car.  We stopped at Boca de Inferno (mouth of hell) where the sea rushes into clefts and caves, making an ominous booming sound and sending up spectacular spews of spray.  It was awesome! 
We had booked a room in the old 19th century fishing village of Cascais that is a suburb of Lisbon.  It is located on a sheltered bay and is now a cosmopolitan community with outdoor cafes, restaurants and shops.  Our hotel had a rooftop patio overlooking the bay where we enjoyed a cold brew.  We walked a kilometer or so to check out the large casino that I wanted to compare to the one I was employed in at the time back in Canada.  It is rumoured by historians that it was actually Cascais fishermen who discovered the New World in 1492, not Chris Columbus.

From Cascais we drove along the waterfront to return to the Lisbon airport.  The road is very close to the water and as it was a very windy day waves actually splashed over our windshield causing us to laugh.

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