transplanted goose

Postcard from Portugal #2

September 12, 2005 - 4:17 PM

The warm, sunny, and (not always so) lazy days continue here in Olhos d'Agua. We continue to alternate our travels with lazy days at home, with Janice sunning herself on the beach and me spending time on our balcony, watching the waves crash on the rocks as the tide surges and recedes. Today I decided not to clamber over the rocks to walk along the beach, choosing instead a completely lazy day and the chance to catch up on my postcards.

But that's about to come to an end. Tomorrow morning (early!) we leave on our overnight excursion to Seville & Gibraltar, then pick up our rental car on Thursday. We'll have it for a week, allowing us to explore the rest of the Algarve. Originally we had decided on three days, but sprung for the whole week so that we could take our time. I'm looking forward to seeing the black cliffs along the west coast of the Algarve, a contrast to the ochre-topped cliffs we see around here on the central south coast.

Last Thursday we took a sunset cruise on a catamaran, heading west from Albufeira to see the caves and rocks dotting the coastline. Some of the caves are large enough to accommodate a catamaran, although we weren't fortunate to have that experience on this trip - that's reserved for the all-day cruises. I've got my eye on another cruise, if we can fit it in, this time on a sailboat. It's amazing how every coastline seems to have its own personality; I've explored coastlines in Oregon, B.C., California, South Africa, and now Portugal, and each has been stunningly beautiful in its own way. Not to mention that there's nothing more calming or mezmerizing than being out on a boat on a beautiful, sunny day.

On Friday, we walked to Montechoro, a much busier tourist spot about halfway between here and Albufeira. It's only about 3km, but we evidently took the long way there, and added about 2km to our trip. The main attraction in Montechoro is "The Strip," a street filled with shops, restaurants, and services that starts at the Hotel Montechoro at one of town and descends about 2-3km to to beach at the other end. We walked the strip, had lunch at Senhor Frog's (OK, we were looking for something familiar, and Janice's hairdresser, who's Portuguese, knows the owners, except that there are two Senhor Frog's restaurants, as we discovered later), explored the occasional store looking for goodies to take home (but finding nothing inspiring), and ended up at the beach, where we chatted with an older British couple for a bit before beginning the long hike back up the hill (and it was steep!). Janice and I then parted ways, she heading down the road for home, and me heading off to find a bus headed in the right direction.

Buses here are interesting. As far as I can tell, there are 4 kinds, and all except the local city buses travel our route, making it difficult to know when our bus is coming or not. I've finally figured out how to tell which are the charter buses, but still get confused over the long distance buses that stop only at certain places and the local "service normal" buses that get us from Point A to Point B ( i.e., from Olhos d'Agua to Albufeira, Vilamoura, or Faro). They don't run very often, and, as we learned, service on the weekends is kind of spotty, so all considered, we've done quite well.

On Saturday, we had a lazy morning, after which I took a short walk along the beach. I didn't want to take too long, because I started out after the tide had already turned, and wanted to be able to get back over the rocks - we haven't yet figured out the cliff route. Then we headed into Albufeira to check out the Fisherman's Festival (Festa do Pescador) on the beach we'd visited last time we were there. We were a little early - the entertainment didn't start until 8pm. As one might expect at a festival like this, there were plenty of food booths, but we'd eaten earlier at a restaurant, so only took advantage of some of the local sweets - and sangria. I enjoyed the music, but it was late by the time the traditional dances started, so we only stayed for a bit of it before grabbing a taxi back to the apartment - neither of us are really night people, and I'm finding that the sun really takes a lot out of me.

Yesterday we headed in the other direction, to Vilamoura (the end of my long, long beach walk on my first day). It's a pretty little town surrounding a vibrant marina. There were many fancy yachts and a few sailboats berthed in the marina - we saw only one sailboat heading out. About 1/3 of the yachts had London registrations, the rest were mostly local. Edging the marina are hundreds of stores, restaurants, and booths offering cruises, deep sea fishing, and dolphin- and shark-sighting expeditions. And on the rocks along the marina, as well as on the jetties protecting its entrance, you'll find dozens of fishermen of all ages hoping to score dinner, although I didn't see many showing signs of success. We walked the entire perimeter of the marina, checking out a few shops, but mostly just enjoying the view. It wasn't very crowded, which made it a nice place to spend some time. I think one of our highlights was lunch at McDonald's; Janice had been craving chicken nuggets for at least two days. The menu here is quite different from the menu at home - much healthier. For less than $3 I had a good-sized mixed salad and hamburger.

So tomorrow morning, early, the bus will pick us up at the stop on the main road (a short walk from our apartment), and we'll head to Seville. I'm very much looking forward to the change of scenery. Other than walks on the beach, I think I've seen most of what I need to here. And when we return, the low tides will be occurring early in the morning and late in the evening, which will make those afternoon walks difficult. I'm going to have to start getting up early, I guess, to take advantage of the low tide; at least the beaches won't be crowded at that time of day. But then we'll have the car, and can spend our days exploring, returning in the late afternoon to spend some time on the beach before dinner. That will take us through the end of our stay here, then it's on to Lisbon.

So stay tuned for more...


© 2005, colleen bell about / words