A Travellerspoint blog

Portugal

Resting Some More

By Muriel

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

I think we finally beat the kids at their own game: we let them sleep in so long yesterday that they felt they started too late and asked us to wake them up today no later than 9 AM. But waking up and getting up are two very different things for our eldest girl :). This week, as you can tell, has been a real wind down for us and we were conscious that today was the last day in this paradise. So, we made the most of it, moving very slowly and relaxing even more than we have of late. Ben and I got out for a promenade along the waterfront while the girls did whatever it is they do in the morning.

Algarve: Our cafe

Algarve: Our cafe

We enjoyed our repast at the beach cafe so much yesterday that we took the girls back for a leisurely lunch today. Abby and I had the ‘sopa da dia’ (green bean soup but there was no egg present this time) while Ben ordered his favourite ‘bifana’ (pork sandwich) and Hannah chose the classic bacon cheeseburger. We topped it off with milkshakes all around; they were just great (a bit thinner than Canadian ones) and as I had been hearing ‘Wanna milkshake!’ from Abby since we left home, I am hoping it assuaged some cravings. The coconut flavoured one is my favourite -- what a treat. We lingered on the terrace as long as possible before moving onto the beach, continuing to soak in the rays. We jousted with the waves, with a couple of us losing. Abby found a great use for the dry sand, using it to exfoliate her heels. (It really works!)

Many times this stay, we have walked past a sand sculptor who has spent a long time each day at the beach but hasn’t done much to repair the work ruined by what we expect are the many dogs about. We have contributed a couple of times to his pot but he can be a bit aggressive if he sees you staring too long or taking a picture. The only other novel event of the day was to see a single parasailor.

Algarve: Sand sculpting

Algarve: Sand sculpting

We celebrated my mom's 82nd birthday with her yesterday via Skype. It's a hard month to be away as there are a number of family birthdays -- Ben's brother's, my sister's, our niece's, and Abby's -- as well as Christmas and my parents' anniversary. We'll be thinking of all of you on your special days and hope to connect at least by email/Skype.

Algarve: poinsettia

Algarve: poinsettia

Tomorrow brings us back to Spain, the land of many extremely short, elderly women; infants swaddled in specially-designed baby sleeping bags (just great for all those evening walks through the city that the Spanish take with their families); and many a cafe/bar-goer enjoying cold beer sitting in the sidewalk seats with a heavy parka on. We anticipate more adventures in the week to come and are so grateful we have this opportunity. Thanks for travelling along with us!

Posted by KZFamily 10:07 Archived in Portugal Tagged algarve luz Comments (5)

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)

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