30th October 2017- 30th March 2018
Portugal - Where the sun shines every day
In our first month we have done such things as shopping, cooking, cleaning and walking around the local area. There are a few nice beach bars and a tourist Train (bus) to Old Town which unfortunately while it has lots of restaurants (closed for the winter) is full of shops for tourists. Not really exciting, the architecture is very Portuguese.
In our local area, we have "The Strip", a very tourist area which has girlie bars and bars offering English food. Luckily we also have the main street which is full of Portuguese bars, restaurants and shops. The main street also has a medium sized supermarket were we get our regular food from. The main large supermarket is a 30 min walk and a €3.55 taxi ride home. Next to the supermarket is a cork shop which sells lovely cork made products. I am going to get myself a pair of sneakers very light and waterproof. The wallets, belts and handbags are also lovely. Ross tried a cork flat hat not so lovely.
We have been preparing for Christmas. I have started cooking early to trial the recipes and the stove, made a great fruit cake which I shall redo with cheap (€10) Portuguese brandy for Christmas, a cheesecake and my ice cream Christmas pudding is in the freezer. I have used a tree (artificial) from the apartment as my Christmas tree and with the 4 decorations I have (I am not intending to collect christmas decorations as they do not travel) and lots of chocolate decorations it looks quite pretty, A few christmas cards and we will look festive.
Peter and Elpie arrived for Christmas so we have done a little more…. Well we have visited a lot of bars on and off the beaches. Yesterday we went into Faro a big (3rd largest in Portugal) city a short train ride from home. We were all very impressed with Faro it is a lovely old city with very nice shopping. Peter went wild buying a new Jacket, a jumper and a shirt. I nearly got a new coat but talked myself out of it as I do not really need one.
At lunch time we found a fantastic Portuguese restaurant with a courtyard, we sat under the bougainvillea and the father of the owner serenaded us. He then proceeded to have a long chat in Portuguese, when he realised we could only speak the three word he had heard “thank you”, “two large beers” and “good morning”, he tried again in French, not much of an improvement. Then he tried out his German, which consisted of “my beer glass is not large enough”. We wished him farewell and Happy Christmas, big mistake we said that in Portuguese, so he promptly started chatting again. Eventually he left us, in hysterics wondering what we had been talking about. (We met him again at the Bus Depot!!!).
The sunshine moved before our lunch arrived, so we moved our table and kept doing so all through our rather long lunch. The restaurant owner thought this was funny and got into the mood of the thing by moving all other tables out of our way so we could move around the courtyard in our sun search. Before we left we needed a tree cut down but that was not quite as acceptable, but funny.
We are loving the wine here, (all booze is cheap; we have a lot of spirits too). The wine we are really enjoying is the regional wine, a red and a white. Strangely, the chardonnay is also a different flavour to that in Australia and I am enjoying that too. The local region makes a marzipan liquor which I am quite addicted to. Our first bottle of Port was a bad experience as it was corked. We returned it to the shop and eventually got a replacement, they did not believe the wine was corked. It was very bad!!!
Our visitors arrived, and we proceeded to see more of bars and restaurants then we had previously. Making firm friends with Dave from the Four Leafed Clover (and Irish pub in town) and various waitresses at our favourite food places. Dave kindly swapped me some hot English mustard a must for Christmas lunch in exchange I gave him some of my Christmas cake. We have had difficulties buying our Christmas meat as the Portuguese take all the fat and skin off their pork!! Of course, their ham while absolutely delicious is not quite baking ham!! Duck seems to be the meat of choice for Christmas. I sent the boys out this morning on a meat hunt they returned with a pork loin sans fat and skin, and a thin piece of belly pork with skin so we are going to stick the two bits together!!
Christmas dinner was lovely, we had my homemade tomato soup a big hit, Roast pork; Peter cooked that to his best recipe with all the roast vegetables, baked ham (a strange cut we found that looked like it could be baked) and frozen Christmas pudding for dessert (also a big hit). Elpie gave us some really thoughtful presents. My favourite Australian made soap and about a years’ worth of crosswords from “The Age” for Ross, something he had been missing. Our presents to them were not as thoughtful, but seemed to be appreciated.
Pete, Elpie, Ross and I did a Tuk - tuk tour around the local area of Albufeira. It was really good taking us to some off the way places and our driver was particularly good about telling us about the area.
Andreas and Carsten came for the sun and the beach, not having much of either in Berlin. They arrived with a small Berlin bear, Fritz, for me. Fritz has now started to have adventures and is on Facebook. The boys spent most of their time walking on the beach, with us meeting them at beach bars, after we took taxis. Another day in Faro saw us visit the Chapel of bones, an amazing place I had seen nothing like it, although there are a few bone built places in Europe. It was not as morbid as I expected, just fascinating.
The Capela dos Ossos in Faro is a macabre but fascinating little chapel located to the rear of the beautiful Igreja do Carmo church. The chapel is lined with the bones of over 1,000 skeletons and these bones decorate the walls and ceilings in ghoulish geometric patterns.
The bones were exhumed in the 19th century from Faro’s overcrowded cemetery and belong to the monks who once served the city. These long dead monks stare down from every surface of the chapel at visitors – the Capela dos Ossos is truly one of the strangest and creepiest attractions of Faro.
Ross and I then gate-crashed Andreas and Carstens trip to Sagres. Sagres is a surfing town with lots of wide coast for the boys to walk and walk they did, while Ross and I checked out the town and places to eat. We visited some of the main sightseeing areas by tuk-tuk, which was great fun and our driver was very knowledgeable. He had worked at the Cap de St Vincent as an entertainer. He also took us to the small fort which was transformed into a small hotel, but as the sea has undermined it. It is unsafe and abandoned.
Our driver from Albufeira to Sagres had told us we must visit Lagos (it was his home town) So we jumped on a Bus and had a day in Lagos. It was lovely we saw a lot, only missing out on the slave museum as we ran out of time.
We had some good meals in Sagres, but again ran into “Portugal is closing for holidays”, so just got into a few places on their last night. This meant menus were rather decreased due to them running down the pantries. Friday was raining so I had a great day at the spa with a massage that left me very relaxed all day.
Ross and I visited the old fort. It was a nice walk along the edge of the sea, a few cactus to see and the fort was quite impressive. We asked the man selling the tickets if they did seniors, well we got a lecture on how the government make seniors older every year. This causes the ticket seller to have to continue to work as he never catches up to the retirement age. He said he will be working until he was 100. We decided to buy full price tickets and after commiserating walked into the fort. There is a chapel on the grounds and some very interesting fortifications that can be climbed on.
Returning to Albufeira, we organised a meal for Andrea's birthday, the boys walked, and we taxied. When we got there, it was closed for holidays. We went looking for another place. To cut a long story short our communications broke down and we waited in one place and they in another until we all started to panic. They thought our taxi had crashed and we thought they had fallen off a cliff. We were very glad to see one another. Champagne had to be consumed to calm us all down.
Farewell to our Berlin friends and off to Sintra to catch up with Peter and Elpie. Sintra is a fantastic old town on a hill. Our hotel was near the top of a hill, a great walk down into town, but a taxi ride back. Sintra has a few castles and forts in the area, I think 7 to be exact. We managed to visit 2 of them, mainly because the weather was very wet, and we did not have wet weather gear with us.
We visited A Quinta da Regaleira which is one of the most surprising of all Sintra’s monuments.
Located on the outskirts of the town, it was built 1904 -1910, in the last days of the Portuguese monarchy. The romantic property formerly belonging to the Viscondessa da Regaleira, was acquired and enlarged by António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro (1848-1920) as his favourite country estate. His vast fortune earned him the nickname of Monteiro dos Milhões, (Moneybags Monteiro). He commissioned this unique project of house and landscape from the Italian set-designer and architect Luigi Manini (1848-1936) whose genius, along with the mastery of sculptors, stonemasons, craftsmen who had formerly Palace Hotel do Buçaco, created this magical place.
It was raining so we could not enjoy the amazing gardens, but we loved the house and the palace opposite which is for sale for the small amount of €7.7 million if anyone wishes to join our syndicate. Due to the rain we spent most of the rest of the day on the hop on, hop off bus. The bus stopped at the most western part of Portugal, which I thought was in Sagres (my geography is not good). We also saw their best surf beach, which did look good and of course passed all the palaces and forts, in the rain!!!
The others popped into a bar for a drink and I decided to walk around Sintra and back to our hotel, I got excited taking great shots of the town and the buildings and got a little lost, until I found the train line. I knew how to get back to the hotel from the Sintra station, so I followed the tracks and eventually found myself at the Portello de Sintra Station!! Not the station I wanted. I had to catch the train back from whence I came. I was not very lost (as I said my geography is not good).
Peter and Elpie left the next day, I was very sad to see them go. Ross and I then went to the Café Paris as we had been told it was very beautiful inside and it was. We watched the rain until it stopped and then went into the Palace of Sintra in the town centre. This Palace was started by the Moors. I am giving you the history as I was so taken by this castle. You can skip it if you wish.
The castle was the residence of the Islamic Moorish Taifa of Lisbon rulers of the region. Its first historical reference dates from the 10th century by Arab geographer Al-Bacr. In the 12th century the village was conquered by King Afonso Henriques, who took the 'Sintra Palace' castle for his use. The blend of Gothic, Manueline, Moorish, and Mudéjar styles in the present palace is, however, mainly the result of building campaigns in the 15th and early 16th centuries.
Nothing built during Moorish rule or during the reign of the first Portuguese kings survives. The earliest surviving part of the palace is the Royal Chapel, possibly built during the reign of King Dinis I in the early 14th century. Much of the palace dates from the times of King John I, who sponsored a major building campaign starting around 1415.
Most buildings are around the central courtyard - called the Ala Joanina (John's Wing) - date from this campaign, including the main building of the façade with the entrance arches and the mullioned windows in Manueline and Moorish styles (called ajimezes), the conical chimneys of the kitchen that dominate the skyline of the city, and many rooms including:
The Swan Room (Sala dos Cisnes) in Manueline style, named so because of the swans painted on the ceiling. The number of painted swans, the symbol of the house of the groom, Philip the Good of Burgundy, equals to the bride's, Infanta Isabel, age - 30.
Magpie Room (Sala das Pegas); the magpies (pegas) painted on the ceiling and the frieze hold the emblem por bem (for honour) in their beaks. This relates to the story that the king John I was caught in the act of kissing a lady-in-waiting by his queen Philippa of Lancaster. To put a stop to all the gossip, he had the room decorated with as many magpies as there were women at the court (136)'
Arab Room (Sala dos Árabes)
John I's son, King Duarte I, was very fond of the Palace and stayed long periods here. He left a written description of the Palace that is very valuable in understanding the development and use of the building, and confirms that much of the palace built by his father has not changed much since its construction. Another sign of the preference for this Palace is that Duarte's successor King Afonso V was born (1432) and died (1481) in the Palace. Afonso V's successor, King John II, was acclaimed King of Portugal here.
That was the last of our trip to Sintra and as we have a few more castles to visit, we will try to return. There is of course the donkey park, which we also missed. There are lots of photos. So enjoy.