Lagoa…aaa…finally!

Our first ever visit to Portugal was way back in 2015. We’ve mentioned this before, but seriously, it was love at first briso do mar. We arrived at our favourite resort a few hours later than planned because our flight was delayed, and it was dark. The no-street-lights-to-heaven dark. The we-are-miserably-lost kind of dark. We had the people at reception calling us every two minutes to find out if we’re okay and also trying to navigate us to the correct roads. So we had the nav-thingy continuously recalculating and quasi chasing its own tail because we were not on a real road, and the resort staff encouraging us not to fear, okay yes, the roads are very narrow, no problem, there are a lot of stones, no problem, we will not fall down a cliff, no problem. So don’t worry ma’am, you can stop screaming now. No problem.

In the six times we have travelled to Portugal, we’ve only stayed at this one five-star resort in the Lagoa area. The quietness and close proximity to the ocean, their large two-bedroom fully serviced appartments, with a big kitchen, and their out-of-season prices is what sold us from the beginning. It’s also in the central part of the Algarve, with fantastic opportunities to walk along the cliffs, going either east or going west. After so many years we got to know the staff and to us it felt like visiting family. We felt at home. Our last visit was a bit sad as ownership has changed, and renovations were in place. Apparently some of those big and beautiful appartments have been chopped up and turned into hotel rooms ūü•ļ

Here are a few photos taken on different occasions of the amazing area in and around the resort.

We love…the cliffs and the ocean, even on cloudy days

We love…the secluded beaches

We love…the nature at the resort

We love…the cute animals greeting us every single day

but most of all…WE LOVE…the romantic sunsets

Vila Nova de Milfontes

Let’s try this again…Lagoaaaa, here we come! In just about two hours we’d finally be able to put derriere-on-couch and sip something sporting a toothpick parasol. YAY! Oopsy! We. Did. Not. Get. Far. Sheesh! At least we were in another district. So redo YAY number one! YAY! Little steps. Then we entered a roundabout and saw the name Vila Nova de Milfontes, so took the exit with two wheels kissing the kerb. Phew! Wha-aat?

The advantage of travelling out of season is there are quite a lot of places to park, it mostly does not cost anything and spots directly in front of the beach are many. Not here though. Tis the time for fixing things, like roads. The whole area in front of the beach was being re-tarred or something, but we found a very dusty-cough-cough-spit spot somewhere behind somewhere. Whatever. We were happy anyway. Beach! Water! Asphalt perfume!

Vila Nova de Milfontes lies at the mouth-delta-estuary of the Mira River, so has this wonderful and huge river beach, the Praia da Franquia, as shown in the above photos. The weather was lovely, the sand not too hot, so we got naked. Hey, we only took our shoes off. ūü§™ What a geez this is strenuous lovely walk all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. Well, we tried, but there was a sort of cliff blocking our way, so we had to walk all the way back again, or hopefully just for a few metres, please pretty please, until we could find an easy and safer climb back up to the street. Heh. Heh. Ha! There was no way we were going back, so the only thing to do was to ape ourselves up on little cliffy. Cliffy, the slippery sand dune, cough-cough-spit, with a huge parking lot on top. Hoo-rah-rah!

The view from the parking lot is also amazing. A short walk and there it is, right there in the middle of a little roundabout, big, bold and quite odd, the Est√°tua Arcanjo (Archangel Statue). It stands there facing the town with its back (wings) towards the Praia do Farol and the Atlantic Ocean. We thought it was an alien, but it’s a metal thingy constructed with all sorts of other metal thingies like spoons, nuts, bolts, chains, wires and we even saw a horseshoe! It looks like a serious message to us earthlings because he seems to be angry or screaming, but we’re not so sure. It’s fascinating though.

To the right of the statue one can walk down to the Praia do Farol and a beach hut eatery. Here the beach is a bit rougher with huge splashing waves. Keep going until you reach the Praia do Carreiro da Fazenda which is opposite to the river beach. It’s a stony walk, but easy peasy.

Talk about stones. Between the hut and the Praia do Carreiro da Fazenda lies a huge area filled with cairns. It’s not sure who or why this started, but ooh, the temptation to stack was so great that I made TWO! Mission accomplished! Here they are, Mighty and Shorty. Drink? Anyone?

Unfortunately we did not have time to visit the town itself, but that’s okay, there’ll hopefully be a next time! Next stop…really now…cross my heart and all that…Lagoa…

Porto Covo, a dreamy harbour hideout

Yoo-hooooo! Lagoa, here we come. We were quite chuffed that we planned it all so well. The last stretch to our “home” quarters was only three hours away. One of us even had two cups of tea for breakfast because in three hours the pee-bag would only have to be emptied once and then squeezed a bit until we got there. Easy peasy, and then it happened. A roundabout and a hand-written sign. So we do another round contemplating if we should go there. We were only twenty minutes into our journey, but whatever. Round and round and round we go, do we do or do we not. After roundabouting (yes, it’s now a word) four times, we exited at Porto Covo. A dizzy business, but the breakfast stayed put and the nag-bag sat-nav with its please-turn-around-please-turn-around German rant could successfully be ignored. Speak to the hand because we see the sea, baby.

It’s a straight road right into the village with the sea always in front of you on the horizon. The fun started when we needed to find a parking space. It was jam-packed but we spotted one, and…oopsy daisy…did we just drive into the wrong end of the one-way road? Yep! No problem. A toot-tooter with flashing lights and head-shaking gave way and let us pass. Friendly people, these locals. The next problem was that the parking space was way too tight for our car. Someone had parked like a ninny. One of us got out and the other one burnt the clutch and smoked the brake pads, but we were finally in. African style. Just then the ninny came and removed his car. Life.

With burning smells in our noses, we locked up and walked towards the village. Oh my word! What an amazing and unexpected surprise. You enter a huge main cobbled square, the Pra√ßa Marqu√™s de Pombal, and see lovely blue rimmed white houses with doors and shutters painted in red all around you. This is what one thinks of when they say fishing village. It’s like wham! dreamy houses to the left and to the right, and the sea in front of you. We did not know what to expect here, but this was out of this world. A quaint kind of out of this world. The diversion was absolutely worth it!

We expected a lot of touristy people seeing that the car park was filled to the brim, but no, here were mostly locals. They seem to frequent here especially during lunch times. There were long queues at all the restaurants after we ended our visit. Yes, we stayed quite long exploring because it was so beautiful. There are many beaches to explore and you can also take a lovely walk along the coast. You might see one or two who are brave enough to skinny dip in the ocean. Keep your eye on the path, it’s steep. After walking around for almost two hours, we sat on a bench and simply enjoyed the fantastic views.

Our three hour trip to Lagoa was now longer, but we were happy and thankful to have visited Porto Covo.

Sines…the beauty within

You sit and watch the sun go down, kiss-kiss and count all your blessings and then realise that you still have to get to your new place for the night. Sigh. Then you enter the GPS co-ordinates into the sat-nav and it calculates that you will reach your destination in about one hour and ten minutes. No, not accepting that. It’s pitch dark and you need to get there pronto, so you “ask” your smartphone. The little so-and-so is not smart at all. It adds another seven kilometres and eleven minutes to your route. So you switch that little smarty-pants off and hit the road. Sat-nav shows that the road is straight and long. Very loooooooong. Alrighty then, let’s go! Hopefully no zzzz-ing behind the wheel. Did I mention the pitch darkness? It was worse! Every kilometre was as exciting as watching paint dry. No town, not even a village or two. Lights? Helloooo! Anyone out there? To the left and to the right, nothing. Nada. Zilch. Wait! There was one little round-about though. Wooo! Weee! Then silence. The only noise to be heard were two rr-rr-rr-rumbling stomachs. We were famished and also worried that we’ll have nothing to eat for the night. You can’t go to bed with a tummy full of oranges. You just can’t. Tried that once. Spent the whole night eliminating citrus waste. We hoped to dine at the hotel restaurant, but we had to be there before eight. We were also tired, but we stifled our yawns and pushed them pedals. Go, go, go! Ten or twenty so kilometres over the speed limit was okay, or…? Just asking for a friend ūüėá   

To cut a very long story short, we reached our destination with fifteen minutes to spare before dinner. Those minutes were used to get into the basement parking. It was like dipping down from a rollercoaster, with lots of African screaming. The time actually didn’t matter in the end because the staff were very kind and accommodating. The manager thought it was more important to show us the hotel. We loved it! The view over Sines by night (see the above photos) was simply amazing! We checked into our cosy, (okay, a bit tight, but comfy) room, freshened up a bit then hit the restaurant. Fried fish please, and wine. Even though we gobbled it all up, the meal was disappointing. We had high expectations considering that the restaurant was highly praised. Whatever. The wine and lots of cocktails and sparkling water made up for it…and the disco afterwards. Tired??? Noooooo…ūüíÉūüŹĽūüēļ 

Sines really surprised us. It is beautiful, despite its large industrial port, a power plant and the oil refinery. These add a certain charm to the city. The marina and the huge Vasco da Gama beach with its soft golden sand puts the cherry on the top. Eating breakfast with a city panorama at your feet is a wonderful way to start your day. Oh, and eating all those delicious pasteis de natas too. Sugar rush. Our hotel was perched right on top of a hill, so exploring on foot was the better option. The rollercoaster ride was still talking to the knees. Thank goodness for custard pies ūü•≥ Camera? Check. Water? Check. Natas? Check. Check. Check. It went downhill from there, teehee ūü§™

It is very pleasant to stroll along the beach. Now and again a dog would snarl and show you its pearly whites while trying to mark his territory. Then it’ll give up to go and pee on a brick wall. It was Sunday, so it was very quiet…and hot. It was also out of season so we were like the only ones huffing and puffing ooh-ing and aah-ing and taking lots of photos. Lots. The weather was lovely too. Sunny blue skies and a bit of humidity.

Then the uphill battle started ūüßóūüŹĽ‚Äć‚ôÄÔłŹūü§£. There is an elevator thingy but seeing that it was the day of rest, it was locked up. Seriously though, the up-up-up was not as bad as the one that hates walking up anything expected. Easy peasy, especially after a night of hip-shaking…The views from up there were absolutely rewarding!

Sines has been around since the middles ages. The Visigoths, the Moors, the Romans, they all at one time or other settled in Sines. Vasco da Gama, the famous explorer, said to be the first European to reach India by sea, was born here. Yep, he’s the dude who landed in South Africa many moons ago, and who also named one of the provinces, Natal (Portuguese for birth of Christ). It has since been renamed to Kwazulu-Natal. How fascinating it was to walk on those same cobble stones that ole Vasco might have stepped on centuries ago, maybe not knowing that he would be making the world more spicy. Good spicy and bad spicy. They had the salt, but they needed some pepper, so off to India he went. One of his ships that sunk way back in early 1500 was found and excavated only about six to eight years ago. The Esmeralda! How fitting! ūüėá A Vasco monument stands on the grounds of the castle where he was apparently born, looking over towards the vast sea and beyond. Sines is rightly proud of him because his explorations brought a lot of wealth to his country. History. We enjoy. We move on. Life is good. Te amo Portugal ‚̧ԳŹ

We peeped into a quaint little church, !OOPS! Sunday mass, do not disturb, enjoyed the sights and sounds of the old town, saw some ruins, then finally sauntered our way back to the hotel. It was time to move on. Sines, you are a wonderful city. Obrigada.

Bathtub on a beach (Setubal – Troia)

It was time to leave our palace and head off south, and to new adventures. We had to drive back to Lisbon. Ooh-wee! It was peak hour and we still had to cross the Ponte de Abril bridge. We heard “stories” about the traffic but, believe it or not, it was green lights all the way. We sailed through to the other side of the Rio Tejo (Tagus river), throwing an air kiss or two towards the Cristo Rei statue and hoping that this would be the last high, long and scary metal thingy we would have to drive on. ūüėĪ

It was a warm and fabuloso morning as we reached the ferry port in Setubal. We chose this route to our next destination, Sines, because we wanted to hug the coast all the way down. From Setubal it’s a thirty minute ferry ride across the Sado Estuary to the Troia Peninsula, then another hour from there to Sines. Sounds quick, but then there’s so much to see on the way. Let’s just say that we arrived at our hotel late at night. Dark late. Oops!

We had to wait quite long for the ferry in Setubal, so used this time to explore a bit, and eat ice cream. Slurp! A pity that we did not go into Settable town, but we did see the little marina, the dock, and also strolled a bit on the promenade.

A lovely day for a ferry ride, no wind and no choppy waters, just blues and greens all around. Blue skies. Blue waters. Green ferry. Green face. Yes, one of us has a problem. ūü§Ę. Whatever, we arrived safe and sound on the other side. No upchucking, and no dolphins. We hoped to see at least one! We did see a few cargo ships, and the view towards Setubal is also interesting.

Okay, so we were a bit “surprised” about the Troia Peninsula. At first there’s not much to see other than dunes and trees all along the road leading to the town itself. Troia is small but very popular as a holiday resort, with fantastic beaches and a lovely and informative wooden boardwalk. We picnicked on the marina then strolled along one of the beaches.

The bird can be explained, but how did a bathtub get washed on the beach?? ūü§£ ūüßź ūü§™

This route to Sines is amazing! We spent a lot of time on the coast. The road is almost on the edge of the ocean, with only sand dunes between you and your car. Where the road did not meet the ocean, we detoured until the sand came through the air filters lol! Yep, crazy couple. We stopped quite a lot along the way, climbed over the dunes, more like stumbled hee-hee, and took the time to wait for the sun to set. Then it got dark quickly! At least we arrived at the hotel in time for supper…

Rattling americanos in Lisbon

BOA VIAGEM LISBOA ESPERA POR TI (Have a Nice Trip, Lisbon Awaits You)

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The first thing we were thrilled about was that the city of Lisbon was not very far away from our hotel in Estoril. The second was that it was cheaper and very easy to take the train rather than drive to the busy city. No parking problems, and definitely no driving stress. We chose well. Our hotel was not only fancy, it was just a few steps away from the beach (depending on who’s walking, or talking ūü§™ ), with the train station right next to it, and only a thirty-minute train ride away from Lisbon. We bought a 24-hour return ticket and only paid six euros each! What they don’t tell you though, when you buy the ticket, is to make sure you sit to the right in the direction of travel towards the city. We only chose that side because of the morning sun and were rewarded with a lovely train route along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean and as we neared Lisbon, we travelled along the banks of the Rio Tejo (Tagus river). Ooh-aah-ohh-wow! Yep, it was obvious who the tourists were.

We didn’t know where we wanted to start first once we reached Lisbon, nor did we have any concrete plans on anything special we wanted to see. The concierge at our hotel gave us a map and a few tips, but we ended up exploring it our usual way, by getting lost.

The final stop is at the Cais do Sodre train station. This not a spectacular building on the inside, even though there’s quite a few typical Portuguese mosaic panels (Azulejos) and artworks on the walls, but its plus point is that it sits next to the Rio Tejo, the watery introduction to Lisbon, and our orientation or focal point.

Another highlight is just outside at the front of the building, the most popular tourist attraction that squeaks, screeches, and rattles all day long, the one and only, rat-ta-tat-tat, electric americanos. These colourful historical trams haven been rolling, climbing and honking in Lisbon since the first one came over from America (Americano) way back in 1873.

The most famous one used by tourists and locals alike is the yellow number 28. It tends to get very full, but if you’ve managed to get at least a standing space, it is worth the noisy ride. They squeak, that ear-piercing metal on metal kind of squeak, around every curve (there are lots of these), or have to screech to a halt quite often when silly people cross in front of them. Then they honk. All. The. Time. As a “honk-honk-shake-rattle-and-roll-it-is-me” warning, or when a parked car has blocked the line. The rattling, well, it is what it is… ūü§£ Ouch! It is quite amazing how those drivers manage to move through all those narrow and curvy streets without hitting anything!!

If you stand with your back to the Rio Tejo, beautiful Lisbon lays in front of you, and yes, get your knees ready because it’s only uphill from there! ūüßóūüŹĽ‚Äć‚ôÄÔłŹ ūüėČ Worried? No! Why? If our patellas did not pop in Porto, then they will not limp in Lisbon, so bring it on! Haha! Seriously though, the area between the Cais do Sodre station and the Pra√ßa do Com√©rcio (Commerce Square) is very flat with an interesting and bustling waterfront promenade. Hmmm. Step to the right, step to the left, step back – one, two, three, now step to the right, step to the left, turn around and hop, hop, hop. Hee-hee! That’s what it felt like trying to decide which way to go as we did not want to miss anything. We zig-zagged. Promenade, little garden next to station, cross over to Duke of Terceira Square, back to Rio Tejo at the Commerce Square, promenade. And in-between all that, there was something fishy!

Keep your eyes peeled so as not to miss the Loja das Conservas, (photos below) a shop created by the ANICP – National Association of Canned Fish Industry, to highlight and sell the products from the Portuguese canning industry. An amazing shop if you’re looking for variety. There are hundreds of colourful cans stacked on two walls with information about each of the companies. There is a huge assortment and it’s difficult to choose only one tin to buy. We ended up with three. Oh, and there are also a few free fishy nibbles to try. This is not the only shop selling traditional canned fish in the area, but this one is more touristy, so tends to be more expensive. Whatever, enjoy and feel the holiday spirit!

The Commerce Square is probably the most important square in Lisbon. Eavesdropping on one of the guides, he said that at the last New Year celebration, hundreds of thousands of people gathered here to welcome the new year. There are two long archways on each side of the square where you will find restaurants, shops and…a beer museum. Slurp! We only looked, even though one of us was starting to get thirsty, lol. We bought a take-away snack instead, the traditional Pasteis de Bacalhau or codfish cakes. It was lekker, BUT the price shocked us though. Oh well, tourists we are…

Now we start to climb. Up. Up. Up. Then, ta-daa, a church. Hallelujah! All those pews just waiting for weary feet ūüėá ūüėá This is a very special Catholic church. This is where Saint Anthony of Padua was born, a gifted preacher, teacher and patron saint of lost things and small miracles. His birthplace is accessible for everyone to see, though the room is a bit tight, especially when there are a lot of people. The Church of Saint Anthony is right next to the Lisbon Cathedral and has colourful ceilings with a very attractive altar. It is also much quieter, so easy to while away for a few hours. We did not have the time, so up and out! Lisbon Cathedral was waiting hee-hee…

The Lisbon Cathedral, or Saint Mary Major Minster or simply the S√© de Lisboa (below) is the oldest church in Lisbon and has survived many natural disasters in its eight hundred and seventy-odd year history. During this time many renovations have taken place that is why there are so many architectural styles to be seen, like Gothic, Baroque and Rococo, to name but a few. To visit the cathedral does not cost anything, but if you want to see more, like the cloister and the treasury, then it costs a few euros each. It was worth every penny because the view from the gallery is awesome! It’s also quite something else being covered in bright rainbow colours while standing under the rose window! The sun shone through the window for only a moment, covering the walls, and us, in beautiful colours! Ooh, getting emotional here…

Outside the Lisbon Cathedral is a tuk-tuk “terminus”. One of us had to empty the bladder, hop-hop-squeeze, so we asked one of the drivers where the nearest waterhole was. A few minutes later he had convinced us to take a ride with him. The most hilly part was still to come, he said. Just then an americano came by, seeming to drag itself up the hill, honking and squealing as if to say, take-the-tuk-tuk! We took the tuk-tuk. A very expensive ride! A one hundred euro adventurous ride. Getting in and out was not something for short legs. The only way was to do a bum slide, then drop. Don’t ask. Besides, the beauty of Lisbon can NOT be enjoyed to the full when you’re being tailgated by an angry americano! The 28! Yep, he was one of those always in the way. Honk-Honk! LOL! No problem, he said. It is normal, he said. So we’re not going to get bumped or pushed out of the way then? Nooo, everything okay. Alrighty then. So we wobbled our way up to Our Lady of the Hill viewing point. What a breathtaking view over Lisbon! The weather could’ve been better though…too many clouds…BUT, no rain!

Next stop was the oldest neighbourhood in Lisbon, the Alfama District. WOW! We were gobsmacked! It is a maze of narrow alleyways, cobbled streets, old houses, little squares, restaurants, cafes and what else, lots and lots of stairs. It survived the big earthquake, with subsequent tsunamis and fires, in 1755, so has retained its cultural and historical heritage. We really enjoyed our time here!

We tuk-tuk’d our way through many other interesting attractions. At some we asked him to stop so as to have a closer look, bum slide drop, and others were enough to see in passing. Our tour ended at the Baixa Food Market. YAY! We were famished! We said good-bye to Mr. No Problem and followed the smells of food. It is not a big place, but there are more than enough choices of meats, cheeses and other traditional foods on offer. We had the typical fried sausage washed down with a sangria. Dessert was past√©is de nata. They were created in Lisbon, so, when in Lisbon, nom-nom-nom, then eat what the monks created so many years ago, custard tarts!

Lisbon can be seen from many viewpoints across the city. One can take a boat ride and enjoy the view from across the Rio Tejo, or use a tuk-tuk (pricey), or the trams, or go up in a lift. There’s a metal thingy, the Santa Justa Elevator, with an observation platform presenting panoramic views over the Baixa District and beyond. This lift is also used as an easier way get from upper Lisbon to lower Lisbon or vice versa. It’s very popular, and only twenty or so can use the lift at a time, so long queues.

Below are some very interesting buildings, statues and artworks Lisbon has to offer. Click on the photo for more information. Enjoy!

There are only two bridges over the Rio Tejo in Lisbon, the Vasco da Gama and the 25 de Abril. The latter is the one you see from most viewpoints, and also has the Christ the King Statue almost next to it, but it’s a bit arduous to get there. A fifteen minute ferry ride to the other side of the river, then another twenty minutes with a bus.. Too much hassle for us, and it was too late anyway. Hotel!!!!!!

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Our walky-talky-clickety-click-snap-slurp-munch-munch day in Lisbon was over and we had not even seen half of what is has to offer. We were tired, but happy. We spent the night rubbing shoulders with VIP’s and drinking cocktails. Tum-di-dum. Shh…

Getting beachy along the Silver Coast

We waved good-bye to the gondolas bobbing on the water as we headed off to our next destination, Estoril Cascais. Our goal was to drive as close as we could to all the beaches along the beautiful shores of the Silver Coast. This route would take two or more hours longer than the quicky on the highway, but whatever, talk to the sand! Someone’s ample gluteus maximus had just about moulded itself into the drivers seat when your beefiness wanted to take a quick look at the Aveiro Lighthouse (Farol de Aveiro), or mostly known as the Lighthouse of Praia Barra (below). Said! Done! Little beach walk! Awesome! ūüėĀ

We only managed to drive a total of twelve and a bit kilometres since leaving the hotel in Aveiro, so no, we did not get far. Oops! Shortly after leaving the lighthouse, these unusual and attractive candy striped houses (below) looked too interesting to ignore, so of course we had to stop. We’d never seen anything like this anywhere else in Portugal. Costa Nova is a colourful fishermans village on a strip of land with the Atlantic ocean and a vast beach at the back, and probably the widest part of the Aveiro river to the front. These colourful houses (palheiros) were once used by the fishermen as storage spaces, but have since been converted into holiday homes, restaurants or shops. Some of the other houses are painted in bright colours or adorned with beautiful local tiles. We did not spend a lot of time here, what a pity, and only stopped to take a few photos. Next time, baby! ūüĎć

Okay, let’s get outta here already! Vroom-vroom-screech! Geez, we’re such acquaholics! A bit of water and we screech to a halt. A dog sleeping on the grass jumped up and growled at us. Did we scare you woofy-woofy? Lake Barrinha, near the Praia de Mira, seems to be a much loved area for joggers, cyclists and dog-walkers. We decided to walk a few metres in, take a few photos, then be on our way, but someone’s camera was giving problems. She handed it over to the expert. He took the memory card out and !PLOP!, it fell through the slats of the wooden boardwalk, and right into the mushy ground below. That’s it, bye-bye, but he was having nothing of that. As calm as the sliced cucumber we’d just had for breakfast, two long legs with boep started to scramble over the splintered railing. !PLOP! Small space, wet ground, spider webs? No problem! He got the card! Ta-daa! A Knight in shining armour!

Happiness comes in waves, and we saw a lot of them along the Silver Coast. We stopped for a quick picnic at the Praia do Norte (North Beach) near Nazare. What a lovely way to nibble, and we were the only ones far and wide!

Next stop was the famous Nazare lighthouse and the Fort of Saint Michael the Archangel.  The crazy aunty was at it again. She navigated us on to a holier than thou dirt road, yes, there were potholes and bumps everywhere! Too much effort to direct us to a new tarred road through town, hey? Grrrr! Whatever, we know how to rock and roll, baby! So there! Wow! The view from the top over towards the town of Nazare is simply breathtaking! It was also very busy, and every Dick, Tom and Maria wanted to take a selfie with the red thingy. We walked around, waved at the fishermen below, admired the view and finally managed to get a few photos of the lighthouse, sans selfie sticks hahaha…

Modes of transport to the lighthouse, wink-wink. A horse-back rider or a tuk-tuk?

We left our car parked nicely on the side of the dirt road, but when we got back, some flipdiot (flipping idiot) had parked us in. Now really! All that space and he had to kiss the back of our car?? A lot of stinky brake fluid and clutch fumes later we managed to get the car out without dropping over the cliff. It was getting dark and we still had a long way to go. Bring us to the highway, you crazy thing. She did, but via, via, via! We found our hotel quite easy, BUT, we were at the wrong end. We went round and round like a merry-go-round around the block trying to find the entrance. We throttled the nutty aunty and one of us walked to try and find it. Geez, how complicated, but we eventually found it. A Valet and one of the Doormen took over the parking and baggage stuff while we checked in. It was another one of those old Palace Hotels that we love and so luxurious. The Palacio is also famous because a James Bond movie was filmed here. Kings, queens, spies, writers, famous actors, athletes and other celebrities have stayed here. Photos of their visits line the walls of the hotel. We were so happy that our top floor suite had a view over the bay, so we opened a small bottle of wine, and enjoyed this awesome sunset. A soothing end to a very long and eventful day. All the nights we were there, we took romantic walks in the gardens opposite the hotel, and loved these colourful dancing water lights. Ooh! Love!

 

 

Aveiro, the Venice of Portugal

The rainbow over the wine barrels of Quinta da Pacheca must have been a very good sign that all will be well because we reached Aveiro without any dramas (thousands of roundabouts do not qualify as a drama…yes??) or nasty surprises with aunty GPS and her mid-life crisis. We would have liked to spend another day sniffing sweet wine barrel vapours, but we needed some vitamin sea as soon as possible. It was still cloudy but at least the rain had stopped. Yippee-Yay-Yay! In all the years visiting Portugal, this was the first time we experienced such a lot of rain in one go. Typical in the north, we were told.  We wanted to take the more scenic route through the countryside towards the coast, but sight-seeing and raindrops are not best friends, so we used the highway with many tolls and high bridges…gulp! A few hours later we landed on the Praia da Granja beach (farm beach…BIG question mark) in Espinho, and only because we took a wrong turn. We used this “mistake” to stroll along the boardwalk (below) and enjoy a mini picknick . Oh happy day!

Aveiro is a more than one-thousand-year-old lovely city with canals, colourful Moliceiro boats (gondolas) and interesting bridges, and this is why it is mostly compared to Venice in Italy. Okay, we don’t know how busy Aveiro is during the holiday season, or if they too have thousands and thousands of tourists squish-squashing one another, but we found it pleasantly quiet.

Aveiro boasts many historical buildings in all sizes, architecture and colours, one more interesting than the other. The Cathedral with its impressive bell tower, the New Art Museum and the Municipal Building, and not forgetting the little tiny houses seemingly hugging each other, as if they’re keeping each other from falling over. There’s also a shopping centre next to one of the canals. No time to shop. We walked everywhere, and were so grateful that it was not a too hilly city! We did not take a boat trip, nor did we go on the little choo-choo. Per pedes it was, that is how we found a little shop selling South African goodies! Yoohoo! Biltong!

As almost everywhere in Portugal, typical blue azulejos tiles adorned a few buildings. The old train station, pictured below, is currently being renovated so should look even more amazing once finished.

Wonderful street art/grafitti donning the walls in and around the city (below)

Many hours later our sore feet reminded us that we needed to put them up, so we made our way to the Praca do Peixo (Fish Market Square). We were also famished! The Square is the nightlife hub of Aveiro with its many restaurants and bars. During the day visitors are also spoilt for choice at the many eateries where one can try traditional Portuguese food, be it meat, fish or otherwise, or eating standing, sitting or on the go. We felt for something fishy, but without having to take our shoes off hee-hee, so one of us ordered eel stew ew eww…uhm…sorry…yumm-yummy…ūü§• washed down with a cold beer, glug-glug, and the other, the not so adventurous one, grilled sea brass. Hmmm…lekker! ūüėč

Okay, there was just one teenie-weenie little drama when we arrived at our hotel. The elevator was out of order so we had to use the stairs. We were on the top floor! Oh, okay! Thanks to their porter service we did not have to lug all our bags up ourselves, that’s why it’s only an itsy-bitsy drama ūü§™ūüėė

 

 

Springtime in Upper Swabia

Same procedure as every year … M√§rzenbecher und Kelchbecherling in der Schw√§bischen Alb (Brieltal, Lautertal, Wolfstal)

Ende März bei Briel (Brieltal) 

Ende März bei Briel (Brieltal)  Ende März bei Briel (Brieltal)

Im Brieltal: Fr√ľhlings-Knotenblume (Leucojum vernum), auch M√§rzenbecher, M√§rzbecher, M√§rzgl√∂ckchen oder Gro√ües Schneegl√∂ckchen genannt

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Brieltal: Scharlachroter Kelchbecherling (Sarcoscypha coccinea), auch Zinnoberroter Kelchbecherling oder Zinnoberroter Prachtbecherling genannt

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Sonnenuntergang im Brieltal

Sonnenuntergang im Brieltal

Im Lautertal:

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Im Wolfstal

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Wanna Kill Devil? Drink Rum!

Our ode to rum. This post is not a history lesson in rum, because no-one REALLY knows EXACTLY when rum was first produced nor where the name originated from. Is it pirate juice, or rumfustian, romani, kill-devil, demon water, medicine or something else, or was it first created in the east, or west, maybe somewhere south, or to fend off the cold on the north pole? Really very complicated stuff, that’s why for us it’s simple. We love it. Loooove! We drink it. Neat. Well, as neat as possible, or until one little sip starts killing all those devils gathered in your throat¬†ūüė¨.¬†A¬†very complex and high-spirited (pun intended) liquid in a glass. RUM.¬†ūüė欆That’s why we were quite excited to visit a distillery or two in Mauritius to try some homely spirits. Okay, so we’re also avid collectors…enough said.

Distillerie de Labourdonnais (formerly known as Rhumerie des Mascareignes)

One word. Magnificent! Impressive! Amazeballs! So who’s counting…eh!? We were there in June, winter time in Mauritius, when sugar cane harvesting starts, and also the time when probably most of the distilleries are not in full production. We were lucky to have a chat with the charming and very knowledgable Master Distiller of Labourdonnais, Mr. Dassa, who explained how they produce their rum. We really appreciate the time he took to answer our questions too. Let’s just say we were so impressed that we had to declare our extra bottles at the customs of our local airport. ūü§ó¬†Why buy only one? ūüėú¬†We also sat down at the rum tasting bar to sample a few of their flavoured and classic rums. We loved the one with lemongrass, what else, but to be honest, they all tasted good. Yes, we sipped all of them! After that we sat down to eat at the restaurant right next door where we had the most delicious fresh salmon. We went back to eat there a few days later for a buffet of local food. Hmmm…

The Chateau de Labourdonnais

On the large and impressive grounds is a large nineteenth century mansion/chateau that has been restored to its full glory of years gone by. This is how the better half lived in the late 1850’s. As soon as you step through the door it’s like going back in time, the wooden floors and polished furniture, the murals on the walls and the glassware. The mansion is smaller than it looks, and some rooms have modern arty stuff on display (for sale) but both¬†verandas, upstairs and downstairs, encircling the whole house are huge. From here one has a wide view the well maintained gardens with many old and imposing trees. It was very peaceful when we visited, but also busy due to some preparations for an event. We took the time to sit down and watch the videos about the history, the renovation of the property and also about the distillery. There is an entrance fee to visit the Chateau. The price includes the rum tasting. To visit the restaurant and gift shop no entrance fee is charged.

Labourdonnais Gardens and Orchards

There is a vanilla plantation, an orchard with many tropical fruit trees like passion fruit, mango, guavas, and lots of plants and trees. Some trees are very old, like more than one hundred years old, old. Wow! We meandered through the gardens and were delightfully surprised to find a few very big tortoises lazing in the sun. We were accompanied by a butterfly or two and many happy chirping birds. It was worth the visit!

As we walked towards our car we were met by this magnificent rainbow, the fourth one so far. An awesome end to a fantastic day!

Labourdonnais Gardens and Orchards

 

La Rhumerie de Chamarel

This was the furthest we travelled from our hotel in the north of the country and it was also the most adventurous, especially on the way back. This rum distillery lies south west of Mauritius and it took us about two hours to get there. The scenery was lovely though the weather was not so nice, with more bouts of rain than sunshine, and windy. It was also a bit confusing to find the distillery and we thought we were lost when it appeared as we were driving up the hilly road. The La Rhumerie de Chamarel seems to sit on top of a hill surrounded by acres of sugar cane fields which they cultivate themselves. From July they start harvesting, by hand, and the sugar cane is delivered to the distillery within four hours. We had a guided tour, in English, which is included in the entrance fee, together with a rum tasting. The tour was very short, just about twenty minutes. Unfortunately the rum producing plant was shut down, but we did get to see all the equipment they use. There was also a little video for more information if needed.

After a short walk from the main gate you arrive at this imposing entrance (below). The whole area inside is not big, sometimes overcrowded, but the stone buildings are nice.

There are about four rum tasting stations where each group gathers/stands around to sip from nine varieties of their agricole rums. The coconut one was delicious! We wanted to sample some of their special varieties, like the VO (very old) and single barrel, so had to pay an extra fee for this pleasure. Was it worth it? No comment. We bought their coffee…

Before leaving we had the most delumptious meal at their restaurant. Wow, the portions were generous and the highlight was dessert, Chamarel Gold Rum Baba. The best baba to papa and mama ever! A “doughnut” swimming in rum with fresh cream and home-made vanilla ice cream hugging it can get some hormones out of retirement. Shoo! After that glorious attack on our taste buds, we took a walk in the garden outside, then headed on the looooong road back home…but first with two more stopovers…