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
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
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.
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.
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
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.