The Alcobaça Monastery… tragic love and the fat check myth

This will be a short one, as the blah-blah will not do any justice to all these wonderful photos taken of an amazing UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the seven wonders of Portugal. Afonso, the first king of Portugal, established the monastery almost nine hundred years ago and gifted it to the Cistercian Monks as a thank you for defeating the Moors in Santarem. The monastery and the church were the very first Gothic structures built in Portugal. The church is still the largest Cistercian Gothic Church in Europe.

Walking through this imposing structure can be quite jaw-dropping. The pillars, the arches, the domes, the windows, the rooms. Oh, and the kitchen. The monks did not have a dining room, so had their meals here. There’s a ginormous chimney in the middle of the room, like geez, what were they cooking there, and a very large basin is on the other side. The basin is more like a pond. At first we thought that it was for washing feet or for something else that we won’t tell, yep, imagination running wild, but nooo, it’s just a basin. They’d channeled water directly from the river into it. So not only did they have an abundance of fresh water, but plop-plop, fresh fishies! There’s also a funny story, myth, or whatever about this kitchen. Apparently there was only one way in, through a narrow door. Narrow, as if you-don’t-fit-then-you-starve kinda narrow. It has since been closed off, so no thoroughfare, but you can still stand in the opening. Did that! Would definitely have starved to death. Bums and boobies. Whoops!

Below are some photos of the altar depicting the Death of Saint Bernard, Gargoyles, intricate carvings and a renaissance water basin which is also mentioned in the Internet as “fountain where monks washed their hands before meals”.

The most famous tombs are that of King Pedro I and his mistress Ines de Castro. Pedro, the only surviving son of King Afonso IV, had an arranged marriage to Constanza, a Spanish royal. She was married before but it was annulled after only two years because her then husband, Alfonso XI of Castile, wanted to marry someone else. It has to be said that this first marriage was on paper only because she was still a minor when the powers that be married her off. The marriage was never consummated. Her second marriage was more a “revenge alliance” between her father and King Afonso IV. Her and Pedro were married by proxy and it took quite a while before she was able to travel to Portugal. Politics. Kidnapping. Man ego. Constanza arrived in Portugal with her lady-in-waiting, Ines. Ines, the daughter of an affair between her father and his mistress, descended from very influential Spanish and Portuguese noble families and was also related to Constanza. It was not long before Pedro fell in love with Ines. This affair lasted for many years and caused quite a scandal. After Constanza’s early death due to complications after childbirth, Pedro asked, expected, wanted, Ines to now become his wife. His father refused and tried to match him with other eligible partners. Pedro was having nothing of that. He wanted Ines. End of story. They were already living together, with their children. Afonso IV feared for the future of the monarchy, so took matters into his own hands. About nine years after Constanza’s death, Ines was murdered. Pedro raged and went into battle against his father. He lost, but not long thereafter his father died, so he ascended to the throne. Now that he was King, he exhumed the body of Ines and declared her as the Queen of Portugal. Apparently he dressed her up in finery and jewels and placed her on a throne. He then forced everyone in the royal court to kiss her hand. Apparently. He had two tombs made, one for Ines and one for himself. They are facing one other so that they will see each other on the Day of Resurrection. Constanza is buried in Coimbra,

Constanza and Pedro had four children, two of them died not long after birth and their only surviving son later became King Fernando I. Ines and Pedro also had four children, one of whom died after birth.

Just thinking. Romeo and Juliet was written two centuries later. Okay, it’s not exactly the same, but did Shakespeare know about Pedro and Ines? And…a personal opinion…the story of Constanza is more intriguing. Watch this space!

Amazing sculptures and artwork!

Look at the beautiful azulejos, typical Portuguese blue tiles.

The town, Alcobaca, is very vibrant and oozes history.

Street art in Alcobaca.

The name of the town derives from the Alcoa and Baca rivers.

Even the birds are in love in Alcobaca. Kiss-me-baby!

Boo-shoe

What a difference two trips can make. The first leg to Portugal was supposed to be close to nine hours until our first stopover in France. Ha! We opted avoid the toll roads, so though it was a very interesting drive through the countryside, especially in France, it was way too long. Lots of farming chugga-chugga’s. The second time we hit those toll roads. There. Are. Many. La France ka-ching ka-ching. We did not save much on kilometres but wanted to get there fast. We did. 

We were about three hours into our journey, the first one, just having crossed the border from Germany into France when the mobile phone rings. Boo-shoe Madame or something like that. Madame was snoozing and that is what she heard. Boo-shoe. In a very heavy French accent the owner of our overnight stay tells us, in his version of English, that they must cancel our stay because one of them had just tested positive for covid. 

Uhm, okay, sooo?? 
So, Madame, you cannot stay with us. 
Wait, what? Where are we going to stay then?
We book you in hotel in city so and so. 
We do not want city, definitely not that city, that’s why we chose you. 
His accent got heavier and his sighs louder, and madame was getting nauseous. Mobile and moving car, big problem. 
Oh alright. Whatever. Send the details. Bye, and thank you.
Ow Riv-waa, good-bye.

Madame did not like.

He sent a message a minute later. We were cancelled. Nothing to do, he’d booked us in city so and so. How nice of him. A cheap hotel in a big city. On top of that we now had to drive an extra unplanned hour. Oh well, what’s one more hour if you still have two thousand more to go. Felt like kicking something with that boo-shoe, but whatever.

It was quite difficult finding the hotel underground parking, so we parked illegally on some blue line, but again, whatever. Madame ran into the hotel to ask, but…

Who are you, we do not ev your booking! 

No, no, NON! We called your hotel a few hours earlier to confirm.

Geez, like it was fun being in the middle of nowhere with limited mobile reception and those buzzards circling overhead while we were wetting the grass. All this stress and still we called the hotel. They said every-zing izz alright. Now nuzzing was alright! Where’s that boo-shoe…After clack-clacking on his computer for what seemed like forever, we got the last and only room available, yeah okay, but where do we park. 

Just go around ze corner. 

Oh, thank you, sounds easy, merci (clasping hands as if in prayer).

Should’ve saved the merci because the around ze corner was a very narrow lane and the bays inside the garage were not made for modern cars. Okay, BIG modern cars, but oh, look, there’s a biggish bay, so quick, park there. Lots of French toot-tooting because of driving in the wrong direction. Toot to ze hand. We were in. 

The covid cancelled room had two large twin beds. We know how small the beds in most countries are, that’s why we mostly prefer twins. What we now had was one modest bed with not even enough space to the wall on the sides for a big bum to turn in. As if that wasn’t enough, the toilet was the lowest we’ve ever come across, with not even a single handle or bar thingy to hold onto. Plonk! Gravity and lots of ouch. Oh, okay, so the toilet paper holder is supposed to hit the head then. Might as well also start practicing those squats while at it. 

Very low toilet in French hotel
Very low toilet in French hotel

We were tired, hungry and the telephone conversation we could hear from the neighbouring room didn’t bother us at all. Thin walls are not as bad as low toilets. Whatshisname next door was chatting to his partner, wife or girlfriend. It was a very l’amour kind of chat. Click, end of call. Then we heard him l’amouring again, but this time with a woman in his room. Ooh-la-la! Time to play. Let’s just leave it at that hee-hee. The French women we met here looked like a million dollars. Them ladies carried chic to another level, even in this cheap hotel. One elderly lady sat there with such a beautifully made-up face, sipping her coffee, that someone scrambled in her handbag for her lipstick. Red them lips. 

The other French thing that is so amazing is the language and the accent. It’s like when they shout at you and all you hear is a love declaration. That’s why Madame loves it when beard-man throws out those French words. Shyoo are so crayzzeee. Shmoe-shmor-mmm

We slept well. The breakfast buffet was lifeless and meagre, with no black tea, only one of those machine thingies, so one of us had a milk coffee and the other one settled for hot chocolate. It was a hot and brown concoction because le chocolat had left the room. We were in France, but those long fresh crispy baguettes and fluffy croissants decided to stay in Paris. What we had were ice cold boiled eggs. Tap. Tap. Crack. Oh. Oops. What, they’re not boiled yet? Aah, look, there’s a big boiling pot (swear it wasn’t there before) next to the eggs. We plopped two in and waited. It took too long, so we left. Someone else might like blue boiled eggs. We were happy and ready for the next leg to Spain. 

This time was much, much better. No calls. No stress. No surprises. Okay, one or two. Nice ones. The hairy one had booked us into a hotel in the countryside of France not far from that city so and so. As we drove through the imposing gate and crunched over a gravel path, we could not stop ooh-ing and aah-ing. What was this please? Ample parking and a distinguished gentleman waiting to welcome us. He took us up to our room. Whoa! This place oozed history. We were spending the night in a medieval castle. Ooh-la-la-le Chateau.

We walked around the property that is surrounded by a forest, got followed by a dog that did not seem to bark, and eyed by two horses wondering what we were up to.

Later that evening we had a scrumptious meal cooked especially for us by the owner. Oh, and local wine. We sat in a huge dining room, with a table fit to seat at least twenty.

They explained some of the history of the chateau and allowed us to take some photos of the inside. It is after all, also their private home. We slept well, ate well, and ooh yes, there were croissants for breakfast.

Vive la France! 

Moving is exciting, until you see a box

Do we really want to move? That’s the question we kept on asking ourselves when we tripped over boxes scattered all over our entire place, and this for months on end. Exciting? Uhm, yeah. It was like completing an exercise course. Course one: ow toe (kick a box). Course two: balance (avoid a box). Course three:  butterfly sit-ups (fall over a box). Course four: meditate (avoid looking at boxes). The other question was where does all this stuff come from? It’s amazing how much two people can collect over the years. Some things we forgot we had, others we didn’t even know we had, and then there were those that drew complete blanks, like seriously, did we really buy this? The whole preparing to move to another country process is not for sissies. Been there, done that, got the beer and the Weiss Wurst, but somehow this time it was, oh em gee, overwhelming. The last time was spontaneous and simple. Squeeze your whole lives into two suitcases, take your little child’s hand, say your good-byes, then sit in a plane for hours on end. This time there were a lot more decisions to be made. We had a new house to fill up. We were also keeping our current one indefinitely. Most of our furniture had to stay, but we tried to divide some other things between the two. There were lots of other things. Geez! 

Packing boxes for moving to Portugal

The first thing we did when we bought our house in Portugal at the beginning of the year was contact a few removal companies to get some quotes. The first one was astronomical. Okay, there’s currently a crisis going on, but we only wanted to move a few stuff, not buy the truck. The second one we streamlined our take-with items, but this too was expensive, so we cancelled the others and decided that it might be better to just post some boxes. Lots and lots of boxes. We fortunately also had a car with a large boot space, so when we drove to Portugal in July, we packed everything delicate and personal in it. We did the same when we finally moved a few weeks ago. Oh, and the posting of boxes idea was absolutely super. They were collected directly from our house, and four days later they were delivered in Portugal. 

The last six weeks were the busiest. One still had a very busy full-time job, the other one was helping to unpack in another appartment, then there were farewell dinners and parties, and…and…and. We also used the opportunity to re-organise the cellar, sell some stuff and still find the time to breathe. By the time we left, we really needed a holiday lol.

But first we had to get to Portugal. We wanted to drive all the way. Oi. Oi. Oi. Four countries, three days, two stopovers. Crazy yes, but we needed our own vroom-vroom. This whole moving business added some serious kilometres to our tachometer. We first drove over during summer, then back again after two weeks, then a few weeks ago, finally to Portugal. 

Introduction

It was a little more than eight years ago when we visited Portugal for the very first time that we decided, sort of, that it would be nice to live here one day…a long, long in the future one day…as retirees. Seed planted and life carried on. We continued to travel the world, also spending a few weeks in Portugal, our annual break from those very long winters further up north. Bye-bye brrrr…

Just over three years ago we seriously started scouting for a property to buy. An agent chauffeured us around and explained more about the areas we were looking at. After a few viewings, we found one we liked. As we had at least many, many more years to go before retirement, we considered offering it as a holiday rental during those times when we were not using it ourselves. Another couple were apparently more desperate to buy it than we were, so they offered way too much for what it was worth. We stopped bidding. You can have it darlings. 

Then the world got crazy. Pandemic. Lockdown. Isolation. It was also a very emotional year for us, as we both lost our mothers within three months of each other. The next year wasn’t rosy either. Twenty-twenty sucked real plenty! Twenty-twenty-one, that’s it, we were done! It was time for drastic changes. Some super-duper fertilizer on our planted seed and yay, decision made. One put in a request for early retirement and the other flew to Portugal to buy a property. 

There were still some strict pandemic regulations to adhere to, but after seeing at least fifteen properties, a beautiful house made the heart go boom-boom. We made an offer and let our lawyer check the legalities. Arghhh! We had to let this one go too. Madam beautiful was mostly built illegally. Bye-bye to the house and thank you to our very sharp lawyer. 

To cut a long story short, we both spent weeks looking for another house. The one we ended up buying was not on our must-see viewing list, but when we’d finished looking at it, we decided that this is the one. Boom-chucka-boom-boom! Deal sealed. Six months later we travelled to Portugal, by car, in the middle of a very hot summer, to properly introduce ourselves to our new house. Hello baby, what’s with the flies? Three months after that, we moved in. Now here we are. Yippee-yay-yay! We will be telling you a bit more about our life in Portugal, including, as usual, our travels wherever we may be.   

Ao vivo. O amor. Seja feliz. 

Gratitude 2021

We would love to express our gratitude to all of you who have taken the time to read our blogs over the years. There are so many we still have to write, and we promise to do more in the coming year. We also greatly appreciate each and every view, comment and like. We would like to take this opportunity to show you some of the amazingness we have on our doorstep. Yes, all the photos below have been taken from our house, or from our walks around the block, or from the fields in front of our house. Yes! We live in a very beautiful area, and for this too we are grateful and blessed. Enjoy!

Let it snow!

Ice-ice baby

Blooming beautiful

Our Animals

Our Moon

Our morning Sun

Rainbows

Bursting with colour

Those flying thingies

Monchique, our green little mon-chic

Monchique is the name of a municipality in the Algarve, as well as the name of the town therein. It is in the Serra de Monchique mountains and is probably the greenest part of the Algarve region. We’ve visited here many, many and many times over the years, and always have the urge to go back. Yep, we really love this part of the Algarve. Could be because it’s mostly cooler than down at the hot-till-you-drop coast, or maybe because the spirits are friendlier up there, them wild strawberry spirits. Slurp! Hic!

Our first visit, way, waaay back then, was to escape the big bake. It was hot. Sweltering hot. Even though it was late November, the month of autumn-chilly-bite, or so we thought, it felt like we were thrown into the village wood burning stove and left to sizzle, shrivel and ssZZttTT-crackle-pop. We decided to head for the mountains. It was either that, or swim in the ocean, and we all know that yours truly will never ever put feet into water where all sorts of thingies are crawling, floating, nibbling, whatever. So up the mountain we went. The drive from our quarters took about an hour, okay, much more, but only because we stopped many, oh so many a few times on the way to admire the storks, the views, also because the roads are very curvy and we got stuck behind a tractor. Chugga. Chugga. Chugga.

The first little obstacle was finding somewhere, anywhere, to park the car. The streets in the town are mostly narrow, with a lot of one-ways, and the pavements small, so finding a spot near the centre of town without vroom-vrooming into someones living room is quite difficult. So we did a few roundabouts in the town, no not those roundabouts, but the kind where you drive through the same square over and over again until you finally pluck up the courage to ask the only person we thought would understand that we no-speaka-portuguesa. Eh, Ola, pardough, excussi mi, I no speaka Portuguesa. Por favor. Carro parko? Did he just try not to laugh? In perfect English he told us where the car park was, suggested that if it was full, we should go up that other road, turn right and park on the side of the street. Now that we’re Englishing, where’s the toilet? That third cup of tea wanted out, but first, park. We squeezed into the only space available, yay, a space at such a gradient that our car had its bum in the air. We had to crawl walk all the way up, up, UP, to visit a convent that was recommended in a travel brochure. Did we mention that the whole town is hilly? Phew! But we made it. What an amazing view over the town from up there!

The convent (Convento Nossa Senhora do Desterro) is actually a ruin. It used to be a Franciscan Monastery that was severely damaged by the big earthquake of 1755, somewhat restored then finally abandoned. At first we were confused and thought that we were lost, again. There was this derelict looking building in a forest full of cork trees, with unkempt bushes and beautiful blooms here and there. There were also a group of men sitting on the terrace. We presumed that they were farmers and that we had encroached on their land. A man came towards us and spoke a few somethings. Oh-oh! Sorry-no-understanda. He smiled and invited us to follow him. Only one of us did. No risk, no fun. I will follow you-oo-oo tra-la-laaa. This very personal guide took yours truly deep into the eerie building and nope, not scary, not creepy, just absolutely fascinating. He pointed at some walls and tried to explain but his words were beyond grasping. Like they say in Germany: only understood train station. Some areas of the ruin seemed to be home to some or all of those friendly men sitting outside and chatting. One gentleman gave us two of the sweetest oranges, together with a beautiful white rose! It stayed fresh for a very long time! Aah! Blessed!

Our second visit to Monchique had more to do with the spirits. There are churches, temples and a retreat somewhere in the area, but we’re not talking about those kind of spirits. This is about fire water, the traditional spirit made from the fruit of the wild Medronho tree, Aguardente de Medronho. This “tree” is actually a wild strawberry shrub. We first saw it while hiking through one of the Algarve’s natural parks. We were quite curious about this strange berry but also wary to taste it after the olive experience. Do not, repeat, DO NOT eat a green olive directly from the tree. You will keel over. Okay, maybe not, but you will wonder if you’d made a mistake thinking it was an olive tree but instead had just bitten into something poison. Bleh! Back to the shrub. After seeing so many of these red and yellow fruit-looking thingies, one of us decided what the heck, let’s eat. Wow! Sweet and juicy. We waited for the deliriums, tremors, coma, but after ten minutes of nothing decided to eat some more. When we got back to our hotel we did some research and found out that Monchique was the centre of the medronho production in the Algarve. In a small shop named Mel e Medronho in the centre of the town, there is a vast variety of this spirit. Many local farmers bring their products here to be sold directly to the public. You will also meet one or two of them serving in the shop, and they are very willing to explain the distilling process. There are also other shops in the town selling these products. The local Portuguese supermarket also stocks some, or the duty free at the airport, but we prefer to drive all the way to Monchique for our supply because the assortment is much larger, and you can buy in 10cl bottles. They fit nicely in the suitcase. If you’re afraid of 40% to 55% alcohol proof fiery spirits, then there’s also the honey flavoured milder version called Brandymel. We don’t like. You know how it is sometimes when you’ve eaten too much chicken piri-piri and your stomach needs a regmaker, (Afrikaans for bring the fixer-upper bottle 🤣🤪)?? Well then, Aguardente de Medronho is the one for you. Oops! Monchique also has spring water which is also bottled, but who needs that kind of healthiness lol 😘😇

Another visit to Monchique was to enjoy some traditional local food and buy medronho in a small restaurant called “Tradições”. OMG! Did we lick our fingers! Delicious tapas. Wonderful atmosphere. Tasty medronho. We had missed their very famous annual sausage festival by just two days. Oh well, next time…

All in all this is a beautiful little town in the mountains, with lots of hiking routes around it and depending what time of the year you visit, can be cooler than down at the coast. We like!

On our last visit one could still see the extensive damage caused by the previous forest fire/s that ravaged the whole area. Gone were the lush forests and green hills that we’d hiked through so many times before. We were quite shocked! The authorities have passed stricter laws for landowners, which as a good thing, but not all are happy with it. Oh well, bottoms up!

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 🥺

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. 🤪 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 Estátua 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 Praça Marquês 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 😇   

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…💃🏻🕺 

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 🥳 Camera? Check. Water? Check. Natas? Check. Check. Check. It went downhill from there, teehee 🤪

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 🧗🏻‍♀️🤣. 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! 😇 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 ❤️

We peeked 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.