Connie and Chris, a.k.a. Ladyandtramp, are retired school teachers, and happy grandparents, who live 2/3 of the year in a cottage on beautiful Lake Belwood in Canada and the other 1/3 traveling to ‘off the beaten track’ places with beautiful nature.
Living in: Fergus, Canada
  • Jan16

    The Milreu Roman Ruins, Estoi

    Today in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 13 °C

    We had heard that Estoi was known for three things - the Pink Palace, the Milreu Roman Ruins and a little basket shop called Loja Canasta.

    After spending time wandering around the beautiful palace and its grounds, we walked the 1.2 km west to the ruins of a large 1st or 2nd Century A.D. Roman villa near the river, which was part of an agricultural settlement. The site has a long history of changes.

    From what we understand, in the 3rd Century, the site became a luxurious villa with a large bathing complex fed by water springs. The ruins of the Roman villa are so large and grand they were originally thought to have been the ruins of a town!

    And then later (3 to 6 A.D.), it became a water sanctuary. I read that it was a place where water, or nymphs, were worshipped. The whole place had mosaics with fish and sea creatures. I think that there was a kind of a cult there which was later banned and then the main temple building was converted into a Christian temple with a baptismal font.

    We were impressed by all the mosaic tiles everywhere. But they are open to the elements and not covered up. Not protected in any way - from the sun and rain or the school kids that run over them.

    In the 16th century, a very large farmhouse was built using many of the stones from the ruins. In 2001, the farmhouse was fixed up as a museum showing and protecting the ruins that are under it.

    After trying to figure out the information regarding the ruins, we walked back into town and visited the little basket shop. The owner was very open to telling us about the cacao, almonds and figs that sustained life in this area. His shop had jars of preserves made from these three products as well as hand-made baskets that a local man made.
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  • Jan16

    The Palace in Estoi

    Today in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    Before we came to Portugal, our Quebec friends, Diane and Claude, sent us some beautiful photos of a palace in the small village of Estoi in the Algarve that they had visited a few years ago. It looked like a mini pink, yellow and blue Versailles with beautiful gardens and we thought that if we had the time and the means to go to Estoi, we would do a day trip to this town to see what our friends had seen.

    Well, wouldn’t you know it, we had the time and means, so we went!

    Estoi is only a 1/2 hour drive from Faro. We left the city and drove through citrus orchards loaded with oranges, lemons, and mandarins, hothouses with tall tomato plants, and olive and flowering almond trees to get to Estoi. The whole area is a fertile agricultural area.

    We thought that the palace would be out in the country, but no, it was right in the town, and down a small cobbled side street. And it was pink.

    Beautiful things take time to build, and this is perhaps especially true for the Rococo palace. In 1840, a local Algarve aristocrat, of the Carvalhal family, started building the palace. However, by the time of the aristocrat’s death – several decades later – the palace was still nothing but a beautiful ruin, a half-made dream.

    In 1893, the unfinished palace was bought by a wealthy landowner, Jose Francisco da Silva, from Beja. He spent a fortune finishing the estate, and in 1909 the palace was finally completed.

    It’s opening was celebrated with a massive party that took place in May the very same year. The celebration was apparently so wild that people spoke about it for years after. Rumour is that he used the house as a place for his friends to come and stay. He would organize parties where these men could meet women away from the watchful eyes of their wives. The small summer houses and gazebos in the gardens would have made it easy for illicit rendezvous.

    Unfortunately, only a few decades later, the privately owned palace closed its doors and the wealthy family moved away for good. The palace was once again a beautiful ruin.

    It wasn’t until 2009 that Pousada Palacio de Estoi once again opened its doors – and this time as a small luxury hotel in Estoi. The interior salons are lovely with period furniture, panelled walls big chandeliers. Beautiful paintings and tile work decorate the walls and ceilings.

    The 24 acre property outside is beautiful, with its orchards and formal gardens adorned with columns, statues and busts of famous people. There is even a grotto, a little grotesque, but definitely an interesting little space.

    We understand why our friends loved it. We did too. Tres chique!
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  • Jan15

    A Concert - The Portuguese Guitar

    Yesterday in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 14 °C

    We were fortunate to notice a sign advertising a concert and talk about the Portuguese Guitar in a former, very old chapel. We just had to go. The price was right, €5 each, and what an interesting subject.

    The Portuguese guitar is a pear-shaped plucked string instrument with twelve steel strings that are strung in six groups of two. It’s used for solo music as well as accompaniment.

    It was first used in the 13th century, amongst troubadours and minstrels. Since the 19th century, the Portuguese guitar has become unmissable in fado, Portugal’s best-known folk music. Outside Portugal, the instrument sometimes is used in Celtic and western folk music.

    There are two different fado styles, the Lisbon and the Coimbra style, and there are also two models of the Portuguese guitar.

    The Coimbra model is usually of simpler construction. It has a longer string length and its head ends in a tear shape decoration. It is tuned a whole tone lower as it is traditionally only used by educated men.

    With the Lisboa model, the ornament on the head of the guitar is spiral-shaped like the top of a violin. This model has a larger soundboard, a narrower neck profile and a brighter sound. This is used by men and women in the bars and streets.

    Playing the Portuguese guitar is traditionally played with only the thumb and the index finger; the other fingers rest below the strings, on the soundboard.

    The strings are only picked with the corner of the fingernail, not with the fingers themselves. After crossing the string, the index finger changes direction and hits the string with the back of the nail. Instead of their finger nails, some players use a pick. These guitar picks were originally made of tortoiseshell, but nowadays they’re usually nylon or plastic.

    Portuguese guitars are still built in Portugal in the traditional way. Families have passed on their knowledge and craftsmanship from generation to generation of guitarreiros. Instruments made by the Grácio family and Álvaro Ferreira are considered to be the best.

    Some famous musicians who’ve played the Portuguese guitar include the late Armandinho, António Chainho, Artur Paredes and his son Carlos Paredes, who was probably th3most internationally known Portuguese guitar player.

    The fellow who gave the presentation was an amazing musician and the whole show was very educational. He gave the talk in both French and English and we were impressed. A smart and talented man!
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  • Jan15

    Old Town Faro - The Cathedral

    Yesterday in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 12 °C

    We up this morning and had quite the breakfast served to us at 8 a.m. on the terrace. Mario did an awesome job. Telmo is his partner and handles the business side of running a bnb. There are about 12 people of all ages staying here from England, France, Germany and Italy. Everyone is friendly.

    Our ‘ first day in Faro’ plan was to wander through the old town. We really didn’t know what to expect but actually there is a lot to see in a small area once you go through the old city gates.

    Faro has a long and interesting history. Here in a nutshell is what the Lonely Planet guide has written about it:

    “After the Phoenicians and Carthaginians, Faro boomed as the Roman port Ossonoba. During the Moorish occupation, it became the cultured capital of an 11th-century principality.

    Afonso III took the town in 1249 (the last major Portuguese town to be recaptured from the Moors), and walled it.

    Portugal’s first printed works – books in Hebrew made by a Jewish printer – came from Faro in 1487.

    A city from 1540, Faro’s brief golden age slunk to a halt in 1596, during Spanish rule. Troops under the Earl of Essex, en route to England from Spain in 1597, plundered the city, burned it and carried off hundreds of priceless theological works from the bishop’s palace, now part of the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

    Battered Faro was rebuilt, poking its head over the parapet only to be shattered by an earthquake in 1722 and then almost flattened in the 1755 big one. Most of what you see today is postquake, though the historic centre largely survived. In 1834 it became the Algarve’s capital.”

    Not far into our walk, we came upon the large Se, cathedral. I had read that even though most of the present building dates back to the 13th and 14th centuries this site has considerably more history. The oldest records show that there was a Roman forum built here around two thousand years ago. Following this a mosque was built here. With the Christian reconquest of Faro in 1249 the mosque was torn down and the Sé (cathedral) was put up in its place. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary the cathedral is also known as the Igreja de Santa Maria de Faro.

    The cathedral was made a lot bigger in the 15th century as the population of Faro increased, although the main doorway, Gothic tower and two chapels are all from the original building.

    In 1596 the interior of the cathedral was destroyed by fire when British troops lead by the Earl of Essex ransacked the town. Over the years the interior was replaced and now consists of some gorgeous 17th and 18th century tiling and gold leaf gilding. The Baroque pipe organ is a work of art as you’ll be able to see in the photos. I must say that I definitely wouldn’t want the job of dusting all the carvings in the church!

    In 1755 the cathedral was damaged again, this time due to the devastating earthquake that shook all of Portugal, followed by the tidal wave.

    We paid a small entrance fee and were able to explore the beautiful cathedral and its museum, and climb the 58 steps to the top of the tower where we had a great view out over the city and the harbour, and ... more storks and their huge nests!
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  • Jan14

    Three Days in Faro

    January 14 in Portugal ⋅ 🌙 14 °C

    Today was a travel day, a 1 1/2 hour meandering drive on the non toll road from Lagos to Faro. The traffic wasn’t bad and we were able to see the little villages on the ocean that we had read about when making the decision to come to the Algarve.

    We passed orange groves and little unmanned stands with bags of oranges for sale. Three bags for €5. It’s orange season here.

    We got to the airport where we returned our Luzcar easily. It was great renting from them and we would recommend this small company. They only service the Algarve, and since we had made the big decision to rent a car to travel around Portugal more easily (btw, for the first time on our travels), we picked up a Budget car for the next month. We’ll return it when we get to Porto.

    The old city of Faro is more or less 5 km away from the airport. Our first impression is that it is a bit rundown with its old buildings and graffiti. We settled into our hostel-like bnb which is a short block to the old town which we will explore tomorrow.

    Our room here at Sunlight House is small but very clean and warm. It is like a dorm room for two. On the roof of the house there is a cozy indoor/outdoor terrace with cooking facilities that we can use. A full breakfast is included in the price that we pay. The owners are very kind and helpful.

    We walked a short distance to a mini mart to pick up our usual cheese, salami, crackers, olives and apple for an evening meal, and found a little diner, Mama something, where we ate a late lunch. We had the daily special of several plates of food. One of mixed grilled meats, another with rice, another with French fries and a lettuce, onion and a tomato, onion and lettuce salad. Very filling for about $8 each, including a Super Bock beer.

    We just chilled for the evening, read our books and made a few plans for the next three days - a day to explore the old town, a day trip out to the town of Estoi where our friends Diane and Claude stayed and another day to be planned.

    We are not sure about our initial decision to stay in Faro but feel that three days will be quite long enough.

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  • Jan13

    Pt 2 - Coastal Trail photos

    January 13 in Portugal ⋅ 🌙 8 °C

    Just more photos of the park...

  • Jan13

    Visentine Natural Park - Coastal Trail

    January 13 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 15 °C

    The Rota Vicentina is a long-distance walking trail, with several small loops, which opened in 2013 and was created to encourage low impact tourism in an area of Portugal that is relatively untouched. The trail connects Portugal’s most south-westerly point, Cape St. Vincent to the village of Odeceixe, where it splits into 2 trails. One is called the Fisherman’s Trail which hugs the coast and continues north and the other one is called the Historical Way which heads inland.

    This area which visitors rarely visit is lovely - full of beaches, dramatic cliffs and small authentic fishing villages. This region south of Lisbon, covers a third of Portugal’s land mass but only 4% of its population lives here.

    Donna has moved on to Tavira where she is enjoying telling tales with Irish travellers and drinking red wine. Haha. So, we temporarily lost our travelling partner but were happy to do a little more exploring of this area on our own.

    Our plan was to drive up the southwestern coast towards Lisbon and then get out of the car and walk parts of the Fisherman’s Trail starting in the town of Odeceixe.

    Odeceixe is a small village with a huge beach about 3 km away, in a cove sheltered by high cliffs. This is an area that surfers frequent, even in cold weather. We didn’t go swimming but we did walk up into the cliffs for the wonderful views. There were a few R.V.s parked in the parking lots, probably home for the surfers. We imagine that in the summer time this beach would be full and the little village restaurants hopping.

    We got back into the car and drove through pastures and vegetable gardens. There seem to be many small rivers, creeks and wetlands here. There are few trees but a lot of bramble bushes. I am sure that birds would love living in this area.

    As we continued south, pine and eucalyptus trees seem to dominate the hills.

    Before we got to Rogil, we saw a big old-fashioned windmill on top of a hill. The windmill, when open, shows the traditional process of milling cereals, and there are explanations regarding the techniques and machines used for that purpose. We were there on a Sunday and the windmill was closed. The views from the mill were beautiful.

    On we went to Aljezur, where the ruins of an amazing hilltop castle were situated. Aljezur is a small market town of small white houses and cobbled streets about 30 km north of Lagos. The town is on both sides of a fertile river valley, famed for its sweet potatoes.

    Overlooking the tiny town are the ruins of a 10th century Moorish castle which sits at the top of a narrow and very steep, rocky hill. The gate was open and entry was free so we walked in. The views were spectacular. On one side of the river, we could see the old town, which dates back to the time of the castle. In 1246, Christian armies conquered the town. Five hundred years later, the Bishop of the Algarve ordered the town’s inhabitants to move to the other side of the river to escape the malaria that was spreading in the village. That area was the new town. A lot of people didn’t want to move so the town has two halves.

    We could see a big beach in the distance so we drove 10 km on a small road to see it, Praia de Monte Clérigo. The countryside is wonderful and of course we saw many spectacular views of the Western Atlantic coast as we got closer to the beach. Already, the roadsides and the clifftops have lots of colourful small flowers and many of the trees and the grass are a bright green. In the Spring, it must be really is quite a sight to see.

    We continued driving though the park back to Lagos. Tomorrow, we leave to Faro. Away from the countryside and into the city.
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  • Jan12

    Lagos Saturday Market

    January 12 in Portugal ⋅ 🌙 10 °C

    Donna is leaving today and driving to Tavira for the week. She had a final swim at her resort and joined us in Lagos at the Saturday morning market.

    Every Saturday the local farmers come out early and fill the shed beside the bus station with their fabulous goods. From live chickens, to olives, to fruits, to hot chilli chains, to eggs, to homemade sweets and jams, and almonds and flowers freshly picked by old women in the fields. You can find everything here and its all fresh, local, cheap and served to you with a smile of a friendly Portuguese farmer.

    After buying some aloe hand cream and olive oil soap, we visited the nearby fish market.

    On the roof of the building, there was a restaurant where we had coffee and tea in the sun and said our goodbyes to Donna. We will meet up with her in a week in Evora.
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  • Jan12

    The Storks Around Lagos

    January 12 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 15 °C

    Oh how we have enjoyed looking for storks and their nests on the chimney stacks!

    Legend has it that in the old days in Portugal, it was considered very bad luck to kill a stork. The punishment, so the story goes, is that an offender had his hand chopped off. Now that really is bad luck.

    I read that for many years the stork has been a protected species worldwide. In Portugal they are almost revered. Unfortunately, these beautiful creatures migrate from southern Europe to the Near East and Africa where, despite still being protected under law, many countries do not enforce the law, or they have very light penalties, that do little to deter hunters. A lot of illegal killing of storks and other protected species still takes place when these birds migrate.

    Portuguese farmers appreciate and protect storks because the birds eat small mammals, lizards, snakes and large insects, thus saving the farmers having to use expensive pesticides on their crops. This in turn protects the bees that pollinate the crops for better harvests, as well as providing valuable honey and by-products produced from bees wax. Storks often build their nests close to marshlands or wetlands, where they can eat frogs and fish too.

    We have noticed that storks build their huge nests up high, perched on tall chimneys, telegraph poles, electricity poles and even church steeples. They return to their nests each year and we have seen places where there are a series of nests on neighbouring poles. We were told that the offspring choose to build their nests close to their birth nest. Fernando told us that it’s against the law in Portugal to demolish or disturb a stork’s nest. If a stork builds a nest on your roof, it’s a sign of good luck!

    Storks apparently divvy up their parenting duties equally. At this time of the year, storks are building their nests using sticks and sadly, garbage like plastics. The female lays her eggs in March or April and they take approximately 5 weeks to hatch. Once the chicks have hatched, both the male and female take turns in looking food for their new family and they share the responsibility of raising them safely. The stork has no vocal chords and, therefore, its sole means of communication is clacking its beak. The noise of the “chatting” is heard for quite some distance, especially in the mating season and while raising their young.

    There’s a story of a pair nesting on the tall chimney on the road from Faro to São Brás that never produced a baby. One day the male disappeared and the female went into a decline, to the point where she was taken to a bird sanctuary to help her recover. When she was deemed well enough, she was released back to her nest, to find the male had returned. Not long afterwards they had their first offspring and lived happily ever after.

    Many of the storks in this area migrate to Africa for the winter months and Fernando said that the skies above Sagres are filled with thousands of storks gliding on thermals until they suddenly take off, in one big group, to warmer areas. Watching these big birds with their huge wing spans soaring in the skies above is a fantastic sight.

    We have seen more storks but are collecting better photos to add to this footprint in the near future.
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  • Jan11

    Marinha to Benagil on the Ocean Cliffs

    January 11 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 14 °C

    We had planned on doing a boat trip in the afternoon to see the big Benagil sea caves near Carvoeiro but Fernando advised us against doing this today. The ocean had whitecaps and he didn’t think that it wouldn’t be a pleasant trip.

    Instead, he suggested that we drive to Marinha and walk on the trails on top of the cliffs to see the caves. So that’s what we did. It was a bit rugged but we survived.

    We saw more than caves. We saw a pirate ship ... or was it a junk ... or a caravel? We couldn’t identify what it was but it was interesting.

    We also saw three crazy young men jumping from rock to rocks on the cliffs. We couldn’t watch them for long though.

    The sun was starting to go down so we decided to drive back to Lagos.

    We have had a good time in the Lagos area. Donna leaves for Tavira tomorrow and on Monday we will go to Faro. We will meet up again on the following weekend, in the university town of a Evora.
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