A Travellerspoint blog

December 2012

Taking a Break / Kicking Back in Luz

By Hannah and Ben

semi-overcast 14 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Taking a Break

My parents decided to separate themselves from Abby and I today, and we both enjoyed our breaks from one another. Abby and I rose very late, as the whole family had stayed up past one o'clock the night before, and were up and about for less than an hour before Mom and Dad headed out the door. We enjoyed our lazy start, reading and chatting and eating breakfast, and finally decided to get out and about by taking a look at the pools that are located at the back of the apartment complex. Dipping our fingers in, we found the shallower of the two to be mildly heated, while the other was rather frigid. In the end, we decided to go out on a walk up the cliffs by the beach, and maybe even take a small tour of the town. The view from the top of the bluffs was just as incredible as it had been before, though the sky was a little cloudier, the wind a little nippier. We sat there for awhile, looking down at the grey-blue waves and quiet village below. It's not a view that grows tiresome quickly.

Algarve: on top of the world

Algarve: on top of the world

Eventually, we headed back down the cliffs, and meandered for a bit, stopping to watch a sand sculptor and looking for an open shop to take a look inside. The only stores that seemed to be open for business were a pharmacy and a cramped shop selling various odds and ends, like jewelry and hairpieces. On the way back home, we stopped to take pictures of some of the colourful blooms outside people's houses, and only took one wrong turn. When we arrived, we were saddled with the task of preparing dinner, which I think we did well and without complaint. No dishes for us, at least.

By Hannah

Just Kicking Back in Luz

When we first planned to visit the Algarve we were only going to stay for four days, but after having the kids input we decided to extend our stay to a full week—why would we leave sun and luxury prematurely? Today and tomorrow are to be our lazy days. Muriel and I promised to leave the kids to their own devices until dinner today and we would do our own thing. I slept until after 9:00 and enjoyed some coffee on the balcony and then got caught up on some international news. We are on the Sky cable service in our apartment which gives us news channels from around the world and many are in English. I watched Russian News, Chinese News, South African News, French News and British News. It was very interesting to see the differences.

After Muriel got up we had a fruit salad made from fresh pineapples, mangos, and a few other fruits. It seems that frequent trade between Portugal and Brazil make for some very inexpensive prices on mangos and pineapples so we are taking full advantage.

Algarve: overlooking Luz

Algarve: overlooking Luz

After a leisurely breakfast Muriel and I went to hike up the lower and upper bluffs above Luz, which Hannah and I explored a few days ago. The sun was warm and the view free of any mist. We lingered up top for a long time just sitting on the rocks and enjoying the view. We sauntered down into town to look for a cafe for a lunchtime snack. I was nudged out of my laid back state when I found out I had left my sunglasses on top of the bluff. But since time was not really an issue I just took it as second chance for a work out and jogged up and down in about 20 minutes.

Algarve: Yum

Algarve: Yum

I now felt entitled to a Sagres Beer.
We found a homey looking sidewalk cafe and sat outside. Even though it was getting a little cooler it was still comfortable to sit outside. Muriel had a coconut milk shake and tomato soup complete with an egg floating on top (standard practice for Portuguese soup as we recalled from 20 years ago). The bowl of soup was just 2 euros. I ordered my beer and a bifana, which is a pork sandwich. I remember these sandwiches fondly from visiting Lisbon 20 years ago when every street cafe served them for about a dollar apiece. I was not disappointed, although the price had gone up a fair bit.

We wandered the streets a bit, finding most shops closed for the Christmas season. Muriel talked to a local and found that there will be no increase in tourists here over Christmas vacation and that the area really only fills during the summer months, when the town population increases tenfold. It seems that the price of our accommodation goes up proportionally as well. We are paying 63 dollars Canadian, and in the summer our place goes for about 325 dollars Canadian. We are really enjoying the benefits of the off season.

Abby and Hannah cooked us a salmon dinner with wild rice and sautéed carrots and peas. It was delicious! It is so great having the kids doing their share of the cooking, dishes and shopping. They really are growing up and are great travel companions.

We have made plans for leaving the day after tomorrow. We are heading for Tarifa, Spain for a night and leaving from there the next day for an overnight trip to Tangiers, Morocco. We will leave our car and most of our gear back in Spain. It should be quite an adventure. We will return and spend one more night in Tarifa, head off to visit Gibraltar for half a day and then go to Granada. We will visit the Alhambra there and make for Valencia for a three night stay before we go to Barcelona for a weeklong stay over Christmas.

by Ben

Posted by KZFamily 13:14 Archived in Portugal Tagged cliffs beach walk portugal algarve luz Comments (6)

Beach Hopping in the Algarve

By Abby


View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Algarve: Fishermen

Algarve: Fishermen

Today we had a brutally early start...8 o'clock. When my dad came in to wake us up I was so tired...Hannah couldn't even get out of bed for at least 20 minutes. But somehow we did it, and we were all able to be clean, fed and out the door before 10:30. We decided to go beach hopping today, so we stowed our flip flops in the back of the car and started off towards the west coast. When we got to the first beach we were astonished to find two other cars in the small parking lot. This was the place that all the tourists had been gathering and so many of them too! We decided that instead of checking out this beach we would go see the cliffs that were overhanging the water, as there were many people standing on them and it seemed like it would be an interesting experience with a wonderful view. But when we got closer we noticed that they were probably all locals, and every one of them was fishing. Most were dangerously close to the edge, especially one man in particular who was hunched over with his toes almost over the overhang. He looked to be one of the older ones there, and he stayed without a catch for the duration of our stay. We then got back into our car and drove further down the cliffs, passing many packed parking lots as we went. At the end of the road we came upon a short boardwalk, at which the end had a great view of the water. We walked down, enjoying the sun, but also feeling the wind as we huddled in our sweaters.

.Algarve: drinking a boca doce

Algarve: drinking a boca doce

The second beach we went to looked like a popular camping spot. There was a group of campervans parked in a circle around the edges of a parking lot. It was a little chillier here, and we only stayed out in the wind for a couple minutes. Then we opted to drive up the hills a little more to get a better view of the ocean. One we had our fill of that area we headed down to another beach, and continued our drive towards the south, as we wanted to get to some more sheltered and warmer beaches. At our next stop we still hadn't managed to get out of the wind so we chose just to stand on the landing above the water, and watch the surfers for a few minutes. Most of the waves weren't very big, but when a larger one came along, almost everyone in the water was trying to get up. Some of them were quite good, while others seemed to need a little more practice. We were starting to get a little hungry so we decided that we should look around for a place to eat. As we looked we went through the common ritual of dividing and eating a chocolate bar. This is a part of our daily family bonding for those of you who aren't aware. But in the end we did find a small place to eat, called 'Snack Bar Zig Zag'. I've been noticing that many places use English, but not all seem to be phrased quite right. Like when we visited a castle garden and a sign said "Visitors may walk throuhgt the forest". But whatever the name, the food was good. My burger wasn't completely to my liking, but my dad and my mom enjoyed the one they shared, along with their pork sandwiches, which Hannah ordered as well. At the end of our meal my dad ordered a galao (I think this might be spelled wrong), which is basically a special coffee with cream. Personally, I don't see what makes is so special about it. Hannah ordered a boca doce, which is, and I quote, "a coffee cream thing with sweetened condensed milk". I enjoyed the sip I had of that, and of my mom's, which was a chocolate caramel hot chocolate

Algarve: Luz resort

Algarve: Luz resort

After our lunch we went out to another beach, but at this one we were not very thrilled. It was extremely small, and it was still windy and cold. So we decided to just go to the beach we knew and trusted... the one that was a ten minute walk away from our home. We enjoyed strolling back and forth along the beach, deep in conversations about what we want for Christmas, and which book series are our favourites. It was quite pleasant, as the wind was soft, and not too cold. We went barefoot in the sand and enjoyed the feeling of relaxing on a warm beach in Portugal, in the middle of December. But we did realize that we had no food for dinner, and that it was nearly five o'clock. So we decided to do a two-day grocery shop at the Inter-Marché in Lagos. We bought our goods and stowed them in our car, all in the time frame of one hour. We were very happy to find that on our way back to our house there was a rotary all lit up in Christmas lights... a sight we have waited a very long time to see.
For dinner we cooked up a large pot of macaroni and cheese, with my grandma's recipe, and sat down to enjoy comfort food and a large salad. It was the beginning of a very nice evening. But then Hannah decided to go and ruin it by playing Puff the Magic Dragon and making me cry. But I was cheered up by the fact that our clothes that have been rack drying in our hallway were clean... as well as the cup of caramel pudding that was brought to me by my fabulous father. So the day was a good one... but compared to way I spend yesterday (doing homework), almost any day would be.

Posted by KZFamily 14:59 Archived in Portugal Tagged algarve Comments (4)

Exploring the Algarve

By Hannah

sunny 20 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Abby and I awoke in much more comfortable beds than we had the night previous, and enjoyed our breakfast in the plush and well heated apartment we currently call home. I can't say we're missing our previous address. We planned to tour the coast and its beaches today, though Abby elected to stay home in order to get a start on her schoolwork. This will be my fate as well in the next couple days. Before we left, we had a sort of special lunch, trying a whole variety of new foods. Earlier, we'd purchased something that we thought might resemble our much loved and very Canadian Kraft Dinner, and decided to try it today. It didn't taste anything like it, unfortunately. The noodles were coated in an abundance of a sort of cheesy and vaguely chicken flavoured sauce that stopped tasting pleasant about halfway through. We also tried a persimmon and a tamarillo, two very different and not altogether appetizing fruits. The persimmon had a papaya-esque flavour and a mushy texture, while the tamarillo seemed to be some sort of pomegranate-nectarine hybrid with a bitter aftertaste. In retrospect, it was probably better that we didn't like them, as both were on the expensive side. Finally, we tested soft Portuguese cookies that tasted like Tai Tai, and not half bad after the other food related endeavours of the morning.

Algarve: South Coast Beaches

Algarve: South Coast Beaches

Our first stop was at one of the many beautiful beaches along Portugal's coast. We walked down some stairs hewn into the side of a cliff in order to reach the sand and surf below. Immediately taking off our shoes, we strolled along the water's edge, digging our toes into the unseasonably warm sand. It was a 20 degree day, and we had to remind ourselves that it was December. At the end of the beach, there was a little cave in the cliff face, and we cooled off in the shade for a bit. Though I could've lingered much longer, we eventually moved on to our next destination.

Algarve: St Vincent

Algarve: St Vincent

We arrived at the southernmost point of Portugal, and consequently Europe, and took in another spectacular view. The sheer cliff faces and miles of ocean make for stark contrasts in angles and colours. There still wasn't a cloud in the sky. Along the road, there were a few tables laden with woollen sweaters, jewelry and assorted souvenirs. Just imagining wearing the heavy ponchos in this weather made me pant. The jewelry ranged from blown glass pendants to wire rings to cute beaded bracelets, one of which I bought. They were called "Finno" bracelets, which I first took as a reference to the material. Upon further investigation, I have discovered that it has something to do with the cultures/languages of a few countries in eastern Europe. Heading back to the car, we saw a couple people on the cliff adjacent to ours casually walking along the edge, apparently unafraid of the massive distance between them and the water below. It was enough to send shivers up my spine.

Algarve: Ceramics

Algarve: Ceramics

As we drove, we came across a shop covered in decorative plates. It was quite the effect, and we stopped briefly to examine the wares. Most of the vases and assorted kitchenware was of the mass produced and slightly garish variety, though we did see a few pretty hand painted dishes whose decorations seemed to have a Mexican influence. However, we were generally nonplussed, and stuck to admiring the artistic exterior of the building. On our way back home, we saw another shop decked out with plate covered walls. Wonder who had the idea first.

Algarve: Salema

Algarve: Salema

We stopped at another beach that was surrounded by small fishing boats, vacation villas, and old fisherman staring out at the ocean, watching the world go by. It was quite the picture perfect scene, though we weren't actually able to get a picture, as we didn't want the men to see us photographing them. This is not for lack of trying, though. My mom and dad argued over which beachfront home had been theirs on their first European tour 20 years ago. We took a short walk on the cobblestones, looking at the rows of homes with their tiled and whitewashed walls. There was an abundance of stray cats, perched on doorsteps and rooftops and boats, lazing around in the sun. Most regarded us with disinterest, though one hissed and arched its back at a seemingly impossible angle. I refrained from getting too close after that. It was a quaint and very sleepy town, closed up for the winter and left for the locals to enjoy in peace.

Algarve: Burgau Friends

Algarve: Burgau Friends

On our way back, we met an older man who seemed to think we were from Italy. Apparently it had something to do with our licence plate, which is red because it's a rental car, or at least that's what we presume. We have yet to see another one. When we told him that we were from Canada, he became very excited, telling us in broken English about how he'd worked in Toronto, and had a son living there as well. Though he was charming and very animated, we only understood about half (if even that) of what he was saying. Nevertheless, we enjoyed meeting him immensely, and had quite the conversation with him, though he did most of the talking. We learned that his family had lived in Luz for generations, and that he had another son who lives in Israel. He warned us about thieves and lamented the political and economic state of Portugal. Apparently even the level of tourism is dropping off, though we took the relative absence of tourists to be a result of the time of year. We thanked him for the chat and the information, and gave him a small red maple leaf pin with "Canada" printed on in. If he had been excited before, it was nothing to his reaction at the gift. He immediately pinned it on his hat, and even allowed us to snap a picture of him and his companion, who also happens to have a son currently living in Vancouver. It was a warm and friendly end to the day.

Posted by KZFamily 14:50 Archived in Portugal Tagged beaches cliffs cats portugal algarve luz Comments (7)

Two Eventful Days in Luz/Lagos

By Ben

sunny 17 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Lagos: Saturday Market

Lagos: Saturday Market

In the morning Muriel and I let the kids sleep and have a lazy start to the day. In the end they were quite industrious choosing to do a bit of school work while we went into Lagos to check out the Saturday market. The day was bright and sunny with the temperature easily reaching 20 degrees. The market is quite a busy place with an equal mix of Brits and Portuguese shoppers and sellers. There were all kinds of veggies, fruits, nuts and baked goods for sale along with the occasional live rabbit and rooster. At one stall we just wanted to buy a single onion so the farmer insistently waved off any payment for such piddlly amount. We were surprised by such an easy mix of cultures, you feel that at this time of year it is more a meeting of locals then a tourist event.

Lagos: Boat

Lagos: Boat

After spending a few euros for lemons, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, Portuguese donuts and a few other items Muriel and I strolled the promenade along the channel that connects the Lagos Marina with the ocean. At the mouth of the channel is the old fortress (or alcazaar) and a nice patch of beach with some unique rock formations. We were yearning to put on our shorts and flip flops which was at odds with what we saw: many Brits walking around in sweater vests and woolen dress pants and locals bundled up in expectation of sub-zero temperatures. We saw a young boy on his scooter wearing a toque, a hoodie and a winter coat over that and his dad wearing a thick wool sweater and warm jacket. It must get pretty hot here in the summer for people to think that 20 degrees was cold.

After our walk Muriel and I went to the Intermarche to get groceries to see us through until Monday. Muriel was feeling very adventurous and wanted to fulfill Hannah's desire to make an authentic paella. Muriel bought fresh mussels, clams, prawns and squid which amounted to only about 7 euros. We gathered all the other ingredients for our feast and headed for home.

Luz: Family Portrait on the Beach

Luz: Family Portrait on the Beach

After lunch we headed back to the beach in Luz with the kids. I put on shorts and we all were shod with flip flops so we could be ready to walk in the surf. We had a wonderful few hours strolling the beach and leaving evidence of Canada written in the sand. There were only a handful of people on the beach and a few of them were fishing in the surf and a very few were wearing shorts and short sleeves.

Luz: Our Rustic Farm Home

Luz: Our Rustic Farm Home

Muriel and Hannah started working on our paella feast when we returned home. When Hannah was getting things out of the fridge she got quite an electrical shock. She thought it was a bad case of static electricity (very odd in the current damp coastal climate). A little while later Muriel also got a shock from the fridge and then a big shock from the microwave sitting on top of the fridge. The timer on the microwave was broken so we had just been vigilant about turning it off when we were done. I moved the fridge from the wall and disconnected the microwave which seemed to address the problem. Just another of a growing list of broken or dysfunctional equipment (many light switches only work sporadically and a few light fixtures cast light only at a fraction of their potential). Undeterred the two chefs moved on with cooking. It was quite the production with Hannah peeling prawns and Muriel steaming mussels etc. In the midst of the labors the cold water line under the sink sprung a large leak and a flood of water suddenly cascaded out of the kitchen cabinet. I was able to turn off the cold water valve avoiding a flood and we mopped up and moved on with the cooking. Looking under the sink I saw the sink overflow was only connected to a plastic bag so a good thing we never overfilled the sink.
With only hot water available in the kitchen and the possibility of either death by electrocution, gas oven explosion or smoke inhalation from the soaking firewood in the stove, we decided that maybe we had put up with enough rustic charm. I tried to track down our landlord but she was out and her somewhat deaf partner/live-in/renter (found out she has recently divorced) could only say that has never happened before. A couple of hours later Ruth did pop in looking quite apologetic and forlorne. We told her of the latest happenings and she was quick in offering another microwave but said not much could happen with the plumbing until Monday. We gently told her that we would need to be moving on the next day to which she said that not everyone was cut out for the rustic setting especially in the winter but she could understand. We said we would let her know in the morning if we were able to secure other accommodation.

Luz: Paella Masterpiece by Hannah and Muriel

Luz: Paella Masterpiece by Hannah and Muriel

All the calamity did not overshadow the incredible feast that Hannah and Muriel prepared. We were totally amazed by the adventurous tastes of Abby and Hannah who partook in all the shellfish and showed no fear of ripping off the heads of their prawns and pulling off the feet. Hannah showed a particular liking for squid tentacles. I guess the fussy eater phase is passing.

I played a game of Wizards with the kids while Muriel rested. She seems to be coming down with something-I guess it was only a matter of time. Muriel turned in early and when the kids went to bed I stayed up and searched for a new place to stay. I was quite delighted with some last minute deals that I found at some local self-catering resorts. The prices rivalled the camping bungalows we were first considering. I decided to sleep on it and show Muriel in the morning. It was not the best night sleep for me, perhaps I was dreaming about what other calamity could occur before daybreak.

In the morning I showed Muriel the places on-line and we choose one just 1.5 km from our rustic farm accommodation. When I booked the price had fallen to about 124 dollars Canadian for two nights which was less than what we were paying for the rustic abode. We got not quite a full refund for our remaining two nights as Ruth said she did not have any more cash on hand. Fortunately (unbeknownst to her) it was equal to the cost of our new place so we didn’t argue.

We headed off to church before settling into our new home. We dressed warmly because we suspected the church would be cold inside. We sweated outside for a bit but were proven right by the chilly temperature but warm reception by the congregation inside. They were selling preserves before and after the service as a fundraiser so we now have some nice strawberry jam and a delicious multifruit chutney. It seems that this church has a preference for Canadians since their last vicar was from Canada and the new one they are expecting in a few weeks is also from Canada. We enjoyed the service which was very similar to a Catholic mass. The fact that the Anglicans share the church with a Catholic congregation and have some joint services accounts for the closer association with Catholicism than we have witnessed in other Anglican churches we have attended.

Luz: Our Resort Home Baia da Luz

Luz: Our Resort Home Baia da Luz

We headed off after the service to check in at the resort. When we got into our apartment we nearly fell over. Our place is around a whopping 1200 square feet and very high end with all the bells and whistles you can think of for less than 63 dollars Canadian a night (kids have separate beds, we have a huge room with full ensuite, there is a gourmet kitchen and posh dining room). The only thing we lack is in-room WiFi, but we are willing to rough it. :) The resort must have somewhere between 100 and 200 units but we think less than ten may actually be occupied.

Luz: View from the Bluff

Luz: View from the Bluff

It looks like we got here just in time as Muriel seems to be succumbing to some sort of bug and has slept the afternoon away. Abby stayed with Muriel to be a nurse and do some homework while Hannah and I set off to explore and climb the bluffs overlooking Luz. It was a very rewarding climb. The fresh air and vista was breathtaking and the together time was special. It is slightly overcast this afternoon so the temperature is closer to 15 degrees down from 18 degrees in the shade this morning.

We will have a late supper and a quiet evening. We might take in some British television that is available here. I will pop out to the reception area to post this write up and start searching for places to stay when we journey to southern Spain in the next few days (or not depending on health, moods and weather).

Posted by KZFamily 13:33 Archived in Portugal Tagged lagos luz Comments (7)

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