30th October 2017 - 30th March 2018

Portugal - Part 2

We have done so much I decided a second page was needed.
We have been having fun. Our visa’s ran out, so we found a SEF (the visa Office) where we could extend them. I was told on the internet, that we must make an appointment, l emailed for one, after a week I rang and got no answer. As the office was not too far we decided to go and visit, we were running out of time. We got to the office and took a number. All went very slowly we eventually to the desk and the very nice lady who could not speak any English tried to help, very strange as we have found almost everyone speaks English and this SEF is in the most English part of Portugal. She seemed to be saying we could not extend the visa’s, I got very worried as we go to France after Portugal and I did not want to have to leave Europe. Eventually we got taken into an office (deportation, I thought) the issue was that our visa’s ran out the next week we could not renew them until then! We could not get the appointment because it was the quiet time, so emails were not getting answered for appointments nor was the phone line being checked, lucky we had dropped in for an hour or two of wasted time!!! We would be getting visa for Portugal not EU so need to leave the EU, we will now be spending Easter Sunday in London as we have to go to France via the UK.
We had to return the next week with ticket out of Portugal, proof we had accommodation, proof we could support ourselves and insurance for if we got sick. All of which must be printed out (we have no printer and most of this stuff is on the computer). I spent a few days getting everything together filling in the paperwork (thanks Google translate). Got the photographs (not passport sized) and back on the correct date to the office.
We arrived early-ish 10:30 am, the office opens at 10:00, took our number and got to the desk at 11:00-ish. The lady this time could speak English and was filling in for staff on holiday. She knew what she was doing and was often giving the others advice. She took all our papers and photocopied them!! She photocopied our passports every page!! She corrected the mistakes we had made on the paperwork (not so smart Google translate). She photographed us (again), she took our finger prints. She filled in forms, stamped and signed and was generally busy for a couple of hours. Then she scanned everything into the computer and everything stopped!!!! We had a lovely chat about food in her village and how far she has come, normally working in Faro (40 mins away). Then it turns out this great pile of scanning must be up loaded, and the software is the same for every SEF office in Portugal, we are in a queue. Ross eventually after about 90 mins gets his successfully scanned in. Now we must start again with me. At about 3:00 she suggested, as we were now waiting for my documents to be scanned, that we go and have some lunch and come back in an hour. I needed a liquid lunch. After lunch we return. Success we have two visas attached into our passports and are free to go. It is now 4:15 and I have lost a day of my life at a cost of €198.20 not cheap. Notice the SEF closed at 5:00 so one person had spent all day doing 2 visas’ so very efficient.
Monica and Stephen arrived to stay, we promptly started eating and drinking our way around Albufeira again, they were with us on the SEF day, we sent them to Faro, it seemed it rained all day and was the worst day of their trip, we did not notice in the SEF office.
As they were here for Robby Burns night and Monica is Scottish we celebrated with Haggis and the trimmings. It was a great meal. We celebrated Australia Day at the same time.
Another day we went to Villamarina, which is known for its huge marina. A bit boring as a town but the best spaghetti seafood I have had anywhere. A reason to return!!
Once we had seen all we can of Albufeira we booked a few days at Evora a town rich in history and culture. We did manage to get to our local restaurant and eat crab, we have been trying to do this for ages, but as we had to order the crab, we kept missing out. It was fabulous. The lovely waitress was pleased, I gave her some marzipan from her home town in Russia. The box of marzipan had been given to us by our German guests, who found out she was from the marzipan town (that was once German). So, I saved her a couple of pieces.
The trip to Evora was by train early in the morning so not much conversation was had, we were all tired. When we got there, we found we had very nice rooms in a quite modern hotel.
Evora is known for its history and there is lots of it. It has been a world heritage site since 1986, The walled inner town is all cobblestones and the houses must be painted in the heritage colours. The town has been there since Roman times. It was conquered by the moors and in 1165 was taken back by Geraldo the Fearless who sounds like a horrid man, he was a noble turned outlaw. As he was about to be executed the King gave him the choice of death now or go and try and get our conquered lands back and probable die trying. He beheaded the guards of Evora, a man and his daughter who were sleeping. Then conquered the rest of the town. In the square named after him the inquisition killed many hundreds of people who refused to change faith. It is said that the romans built the square and the aqueduct which brings in the water. 
 It is said that the romans built the square and the aqueduct which brings in the water. There are roman baths under the council building which were found when the road was being repaired. Another Roman building is the temple of Diana, which got its name (according to our guide) not from the Romans but from the fact that the Portuguese sold meat in the square and Diana is the goddess of hunters.  The town features many castles and churches all worth a visit, as we only had a couple of days we did not visit them all. A couple of highlights for me were the Chapel of bones, huge and fascinating, much bigger than the one in Faro. The Church also had a nativity scene collection on the top floors, 6300 nativity scenes. Some were hilarious other hideous.  
The University was a surprise all the classrooms having hand painted tiles, covering the subject that is taught in the room. It is a lovely place and must be an inspiration to the students. The Church of Grace was my favourite being Roman in looks with statues on the roof depicting the 4 corners of the world conquered by the Portuguese. I did not get inside it as it was closed at the times we were close to it.

I cannot finish my description of Evora which out saying we had some fabulous meals and found more great wines to drink. The only complaint was the chips in the square where we sat in the sun. The chips were cold as if they had come out of the fridge. We did have a meal in the supposed house of Vasco De Gama who lived in, a house close to the Kings palace. It was very funny as we were waiting for a vacant table. The manager kept saying that people had finished the meal and would soon leave. They were still sitting at the table when we left!! It had became a joke between us and the staff, how we were still waiting for “OUR” table.

Again, we meet the nicest people in Portugal. All so helpful and nice. They are a bit inclined to take their time, but as we are on holiday who cares. I shall put photos etc. on my website and a few more details, if you want to see them.

When we returned to Albufeira we visited the little town that Stephen and Monica had spent their honeymoon 38 years ago. It has changed a lot, but we found the hotel, now a Holiday Inn. I actually walked on the beach, I did not take my shoes off so touched no sand and was very pleased when we found a great place for lunch on the beach. The manager was so nice to us when she realised we wanted proper Portuguese food and not tourist food we got shown the fresh fish and the homemade desserts which we had room for delicious. I am getting quite a taste for Portuguese desserts they are all lovely. We also got a free glass of port with our coffee. Ross and I might go back.

We have had a bit of rain in Albufeira so have sat around the apartment watching the weather. Our landlords have been in town, so have been doing all the little fixes to the apartment including buying a bigger TV. Ross is thrilled, but of course it is different, he is having to learn how to use it (much swearing involved).

We had a lovely meal at Vila Joya a 2-star Michelin restaurant. 12 courses each one a party in my mouth. We had steak tartare with caviar, oysters with apple, ham with citrus, octopus salad but magnificent, Fish ceviche, duck liver and pate, Veal with truffle, pear and peanut, ice creams and an assortment of melt in the mouth desserts like home-made ferro Rocher, chocolate and orange to name just a few. Have I made you hungry? We washed it all down with white port,  dry white wine a couple of glasses of a nice red and a tawny port with coffee. With great wait staff, this was a superb experience. They even waved our taxi off!! The weather was awful, so it was a good day for sitting and watching the rain and waves being wiped up by the wind.

Tomorrow we are off to the Irish pub for St Patricks day. I have made a Key Lime Pie as it is Green!!! The publican ate it all!!!! We had a great time even though it was karaoke which I do not like. We met lots of new friends and a few not so new ones

We had our last trip around last week. We took off for Lisbon. I had fluked a great hotel in the square were all the tours leave from. We had a great view into the square which was not too noisy. On our arrival we had to go for a wander, so we walked around the town and realised we are in a perfect spot. The tram took off from the front of our hotel, but we soon realised that as it was the second stop getting on was not easy, so we walked to the first stop. Sneaky. I had purchased the tram ticket with my rail tickets what a good idea I paid 17€. The tram ticket was normally 20 and it also got us into lots of other places. We think we saved about 20€ each. The first afternoon we stayed on the tram and did the full trip around all 6 hills of the city were traversed glad I was not walking, then got off and few beers.

The next morning it was off to the elevator for a view of the city all free thanks to our magic ticket. We decided to walk down the hill rather than take the elevator. A walk around an old church and we found the Police museum with a changing guard just after we arrived how serendipitous. Coffee was called for and a funny little corner café looked like the place, the owner had just taken some stewed apples out of the oven they smelt divine and tasted just as good a health breakfast for once. Coffee and a chat to a student of Mechanical Engineering who had arrived from USA for a semester of study in Germany. Then back off down the hill next stop the walls and the Castle of Lisbon (Caste lo de S. Jorge) first built by the Arabs in the 11th Century. Lisbon itself was started properly in the 7th century but not a lot remains from back then. A lot was also destroyed in the earthquake in 1700’s.

We then jumped on the funicular railway up yet another hill. The one we caught went through the Urban Arts district so it like the district was covered in graffiti, so it does not look like the postcards and tourist information. When we got off we found a market so an excuse for a beer and coffee while we soaked in the view and declined many times to have our photos taken with an owl, a hawk or an eagle. We must have tourist painted on our heads. The live music was very good but “No we do not want to own the CD”.