transplanted goose

Postcard from Portugal #1

September 7, 2005 - 9:33 PM

Dear family & friends,

Greetings from Portugal. It's a little strange typing on a Portuguese keyboard, but I'm going to give it my best shot. And sorry for the lack of pictures - those will have to come later (I've taken pictures, I just have no way to attach them to my email messages).

It is now about 9pm on a Wednesday evening, our 3rd full day in Portugal (for those of you not in the know already, I'm travelling with my cousin, Janice). We left Vancouver on Saturday at 8:35pm (closer to 9pm, actually) and arrived in London on Sunday at about 1:35pm (local time). After almost 6 hours in Heathrow airport, we left for Portugal, arriving in Lisbon at about 9pm. Our hotel in Lisbon was an interesting mix of seedy on the outside, but very nice inside - all wood. The room key also served as the main power switch - if it wasn't in it's cradle, there was no power in the room, so our plan to leave the air conditioning running while we nipped across the street to make a quick phone call was shot down.

In the morning we discovered that we had a great view of Lisbon rooftops from our window - a beautiful mosque to the right, the train station just across the street on the left, with the train tracks running right below our window, an ambulance station at street level along those same train tracks.

After an uninspiring breakfast served by the hotel, we decided to pass time until our bus to Albufeira by walking along the streets. Lots of shoe stores (just for Janice), a few churches, a McDonald's (all the tastes of home), a fabric store (intriguing, but I didn't go in), both low end and high end clothing stores, apartment buildings, hotels, and a few markets. We stopped at a supermarket to buy some food for the bus trip ahead, then returned to our hotel room to gather our luggage.

It took about 3 hours for the drive to Albufeira - lots of countryside, groves of trees (olive? almond? orange?) and hills. When we arrived in Albufeira, the bus let us off in the main town, right next to a taxi stand. After a lengthy wait we hopped into a taxi and arrived at our home for the next 2-1-2 weeks: Apartamentos do Parque ( http://www.eurosun.com/doparque.htm), at Olhos de Agua (or "water eyes" - explained below). A bit of a disappointment, since the photos don't show the apartment block they built right smack in the middle of our view. But we have stairs down to the beach (117 steps in all - believe me, I counted on the way up!), and plenty of restaurants, a post office, and at least 2 large supermarkets. We explored the beach (not a big one, but a very busy one), then found a place for dinner and headed back to the apartment. In spite of the building blocking part of our view, we still have a nice view of the cliffs outside our apartment and part of the rocks on the beach below. The water stretches forever, turning very dark near the horizon.

Yesterday we woke to grey skies, which doesn't bother me, but my cousin was disappointed. In the morning we met with the local representative for the company that booked our trip; she explained our excursion options. No Morocco excursions at this time of year, but one to Seville and Gibraltar, which we'll do in our last week, and plenty of local excursion, but we thought we'd just rent a car and do those at our own pace next week.

After meeting with Claudia, we took a local bus into Albufeira to explore the town. As we were warned (after we booked our tickets, unfortunately), it's very touristy. We stopped at the "gipsy" market, then started the long descent into town. In the main square, which was surrounded by souvenir stores, restaurants, bars, and the Hotel California, there was a beautiful fountain with titles depicting local scenes. I was surprised at how busy it was. We stopped for lunch, then explored more of "old town," as Albufeira is called, eventually landing at the beach, with its concrete pier stretching out into the South Atlantic. Then back up the hill to catch a taxi. After a home-cooked meal, we headed to the windy beach for ice cream and to watch the water - it's mezmerizing.

This morning was still grey, but we were determined to find a way to the long stretch of beach beyond ours. As low tide approached, we packed up jackets, sunscreen and cameras and headed to the rocks, which we were told we could climb over to get to the next beach. There were some dicey moments, as the rocks were kind of slippery, but we found what we were seeking, plus a bonus - the Olhos d'Agua after which our beach is named. They are fresh water springs that bubble up through the sand and from below the rocks, and they're quite fascinating to watch. After scrambling around 2 sets of rocks, we came upon the long stretch of sandy beach and headed down to the water to walk along its edge. Janice and I went at our own pace for about an hour, then went our separate ways - she to head back toward our own beach, and me seeking to find out what the next outcropping of buildings was. It took me about 3-1/2 hours, but I did eventually reach the marina at Vilamoura (5 km by road, at least that distance by beach), on the outskirts of a pretty little town that I unfortunately didn't have the energy to explore further - another day, because they had an archaeological site that's open to the public.

So, other than dinner tonight, that's all to report for now. Tomorrow we're celebrating Janice's birthday by taking a sunset cruise along the coast, which has some spectacular cliffs, caves, and rock formations. More in a few days...

Ciao,
Colleen

© 2005, colleen bell about
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