Still adjusting to both time zone and mega exercise from Lisboa, we slept late. The sun was high in the sky when our bodies decided it was a good time to rise. We enjoyed delicious bacon and eggs – bacon in Portugal is smokey and lean. The plan for the day was essentially no plan – so more walking to explore our reason for being in the Algarve – the beach.
An easy downhill walk, minutes away, and we had contact – breath-taking views atop the coastline. We walked around ooooo-ing and awwww-ing at the vistas 100 feet below. We are reminded of our trip to Newfoundland and our impression prior to docking is one of truly ‘The Rock’. After all, there’s only a lake between here and there.
We explored a tiny chapel erected, it is believed by the Visigoths. The Holy Roman Empire made it to the end of the western world (at the time).
This is predominantly family vacation time in PT, and the first most easily accessed beach is typical – very crowded, very commercial. However an anxious walk through a tunnel in the cliffs took us to an absolutely unspoiled beach – we decided to hang out and take it in. It’s so hot, but so delicious – swimming in this cozy cove on the Atlantic is incredible. I putter looking for rocks, my Beloved snorkled looking for beautiful violet coral. It’s challenging at times making the decision to look at life in real time or through the lens of a camera. My Beloved’s penchant for persistent photography seems predominant, but I know during the next Canadian winter, I’ll be so grateful for the reminder of this day.
more beach walking, rock picking and photos worked up a bit of an appetite so we made our way home. along the path we stopped and picked fresh figs, smiling at the thought of Daughter number 2. Eating a freshly picked fig was like grabbing a sugar coated sunbeam – unbelievably delicious and definitely dessert.
We did some normal post beach things like lunch and siesta and decided to take our VW convertible out for a spin. How such small plans can make for a big detour! the top of the car would not cooperate with non Portuguese manual readers. No way – no how. with the amazing race team belted in, we went in search of a Europecaroffice to resolve the issue as the price the car is at a premium. Like seasoned locals, we wielded our stick shift through traffic to Portimao, a seaside town that is very commercialized, over worked and way too busy. My Beloved hopped out to find the attendant, I decided to push, not pull the button and within 5 minutes, problem solved, now to get out of the cramped area and make our way back home.
My reward is Continente – a Superstore style place with a small mall. We are feeling confident and decided to take a break and walk around. We meandered through the stores, stopped for a quick bite at the food court and explored school supplies, groceries and household goods.
At this point, I am going to pause my account of the day to say a few things about my observations of visiting in Portugal so far – there is wide open space. you do not feel like you are competing with goats for roads. The highway infrastructure is 80’s vintage, so actually more modern and definitely in better shape than most Canadian highways. It is most like the 407 (so far) with electronic toll collecting. Secondly the people speak some English and are very welcoming. They work very hard – long days, but don’t get in their way! They have things to do and slow down because you are in the store. They do not have a concept of personal space. Thirdly, they are reasonably good drivers. Okay, so they don’t indicate where they are going in the roundabouts, but they follow speed limits, they slow down, and give way and it’s not nearly as stressful driving in Portugal as it is in any North American city (name one). This may seem like a strange comment, but it is practical and nice to know for anyone making their way here – the bathrooms (labelled WC) are VERY clean. The public ones are clean – the private ones (the type where you pay .50 euros, because you’re going to…..well you get my drift), are all marble and you feel like royalty having been allowed entry (I’m talking central Lisbon, even). It’s quite amazing. The Portuguese are a proud, hard working people and it shows.
Another useful piece of information is that even at siesta, food (and better yet COFFEE) is available in pastelarias (bakeries) In Italy you felt the need to stockpile your caffeine intake as it was a closely controlled substance. you felt like asking for a second cup met with great disapproval or disappointment that the first one was in some way insufficient. Not so in ‘down to earth’ Portugal. If you want a sandwich or some delicious pastries and coffee at any time of the day – you are welcome to indulge. I think the portuguese need the ongoing fuel to make the hilly climbs.
For me, even though Portuguese is a romance language like Spanish, French and Italian, it is still difficult to navigate the most basic phrases. i’ve nailed ‘thank you’ and ‘excuse me’, and ‘cod fish’ apart from that I don’t try. I do take the phrase book purchased at Barnes and Noble, Delaware, with me everywhere. So my final observation for today about my life in Portugal is that I understand nothing as I eavesdrop on conversation. E a vida ‘that’s life’.
Finally, one of my favourite things so far is the all bran. Yes, you read it right – chocolate all bran. We are so behind in Canada. All bran in the sun, looking at the ocean, palm trees blowing – have you booked your flight to Portugal yet?