Portugal and Islands - 2019

December 2018 - April 2019
A 96-day adventure by Ladyandtramp Read more
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  • A Dedication

    December 1, 2018 in Canada ⋅ ☁️ -1 °C

    This book is dedicated to our two daughters, Amy and Caitlin, their husbands, Tim and Matt, and our loving grandchildren, Audrey (6), Cal (5) and Nathan (2) who were able to join us for a week in Sao Miguel Island in the Azores, Portugal.

    “It is never too early to begin exploring the world.”
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  • Writing this Blog

    December 11, 2018 in Canada ⋅ ☁️ -3 °C

    Welcome to our 2018/19 travel blog. No photos yet, but there will be, soon enough.

    During the next few months, Chris and I will try to post entries and photos on this NEWish blog site as we travel to Mainland Portugal, Madeira Island and the Azores. This is our second year using Finding Penguins as our travel writing template for blogs. We can write, post photos, show our location and at the end of our trip, we can order a hard-covered book of our blogs. Also we can work on the blog offline - a big bonus when we are in places with limited or no wifi. Last year, when we went to Uruguay and Mexico, we had our blogs made into a hard-covered book that was awesome. Yes, we had a bit of a learning curve when writing the blogs, but once we were used to it, all worked out very well.

    We have realized that writing a blog is a great way to provide ourselves with a record of our travels, a place to store some of our favourite photos, to give family and friends some information of where we are and what we are doing, and maybe to inspire a few 60+ year olds who want to try long term traveling with only a carry-on bag, a day pack, (and maybe a ukulele or puppets) while trying to keep to a budget. We do try to travel economically - shopping for and cooking most of our own food and staying in small local hotels/guesthouses that have been recommended to us by other travellers. In all of our adventures, we have always come home ahead of the game, in the financial area. It's a fact. It has been cheaper for us to travel than it is to stay home over the winter! And what wonderful places we have visited!

    Finding Penguins has some good little features. It has been designed as a place to record ‘Footprints’ or special moments. So we can write a little or a lot and each blog has room for 6 - 10 photos that can be viewed in a slide show. If you click on one photo, it enlarges and you can scroll through the others. Last year, we did not take a camera. We used our phone’s camera and at times the iPad’s camera and the photos turned out fine.

    You can choose to LISTEN TO OUR BLOGS! Highlight and copy the text, then paste it into the left pane of Google Translator at this address ...


    When you do this, it will automatically appear in the right pane (I.e., English to English translation). Then, just click on the little speaker icon at the bottom of the right pane and you'll hear it.

    We always love receiving short comments and we especially like the questions that some of you have asked about the countries we are in. If you click the "post a comment" button at the bottom of our entries, you can easily send a short message. Remember that the blog is available for anyone (in the world) to read, so be mindful of what you say. Over 30,000 people have read our past blogs. You can still send us an email at chronny80@gmail.com, if you want to.

    Before we head out on December 27th, we plan on relearning how to use this site by posting a few entries from home which will include our itinerary and our packing list. Then, we'll be ready to go!

    By the way, if you don't want to receive these pages, please ignore the notices from Ladyandtramp or take yourself off the list. We won't be offended!

    Have a wonderful holiday and keep in touch. Your little comments keep us connected with home. We love getting them.

    Connie and Chris
    a.k.a. Ladyandtramp 2018
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  • Background Info About our Winter Trips

    December 12, 2018 in Canada ⋅ ☁️ -1 °C

    Fergus, Ontario, Canada

    Each of our travel blogs have included an introduction similar to the one below with a new add-on at the bottom regarding new plans. This introduction has been growing and growing but I like to keep this going as a summary of our adventures. This year's winter trip is number 14.

    Here's how we caught the travel bug...

    In 1999, after taking a one year leave of absence from our teaching jobs, selling our house and purging most of what we owned, Chris and I packed our bags into a van and headed to Zamora, Michoacan, Mexico, to teach English to Mexican students. Our youngest daughter Caitlin had already left home to perform for a year with a traveling group called Up With People. Our other daughter, Amy had studied Spanish at school, so she traveled to Mexico with us, helping us navigate our way to Zamora. Shortly after we got to our destination, she flew home and started her 3rd year of university. She lived in a townhouse, with two other students, that we had purchased to store 1 roomful of our valuables and to have a place to 'come home to' when we returned. During that year that we taught in Mexico, we fell in love with its daily blue skies and sun, and the latino lifestyle. We promised ourselves, that in our retirement we would return.

    Four years later, after retiring from teaching, we went back to Mexico. We spent four months on the shores of Lake Chapala in Mexico, in a beautiful house where we made lots of wonderful friends. The second year we backpacked through Central America from Guatemala to Panama taking a puppet theatre and puppets with us. The third year we focused on learning more about the Mayan culture by spending a month in the Yucatan Peninsula, a month in Guatemala, a month backpacking from San Cristobal, in the Chiapas, up the Pacific coast of Mexico to Puerto Vallarta. Along the way, we had several visits with friends. Finally, we ended up once more in Ajijic on Lake Chapala, where we stayed for a month.

    The fifth year, we felt that we wanted to venture a little further south so we did something a little different. We headed to South America following a three week layover in Guatemala where we spent Christmas and New Year's eve with our daughters and one of our future son-in-laws. We took and distributed 300 pairs of reading glasses, continued to learn Spanish and volunteered for two organizations in needy communities in both Guatemala and Ecuador. We helped to paint a huge mural on the side of a coliseum with artist, Susan Shanley. The highlight of our trip was the creation of a Grand Circus of Puppets which was performed by all the children in a Biblioteca (library), as well as 25 volunteers, in Banos, Ecuador.

    Year Six was a favourite of ours. We spent a month in Peru, three months in Bolivia and then returned to Peru to see Machu Picchu. Because we had enjoyed volunteering in the Arte del Mundo library in Ecuador the previous year, we looked for another library to help out in Bolivia. We were able to find another wonderful, non-profit organization called Biblioworks, based in the capital city of Sucre.

    <a href="http://biblioworks.org/&quot; target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://biblioworks.org/</a&gt;

    The North Carolina group who runs this project provides disadvantaged Bolivian communities, in the vicinity of Sucre, with access to books and learning materials. Since 2005, they have been able to build 12 community libraries, support teachers and students, and put countless books in the hands of adults in both North and South America. The eighth library opened when we were there and we took part in an exciting inauguration with our amazing 'boss' from South Carolina, Matt Lynn. What a wonderful organization.

    Our very good friends, Pat and Gail, who we met in Mexico in 1999/2000, joined us in February and March. Due to the generosity of many of our good Ontario friends, we took down 6 puppets which were used in a puppet show, puppet-making workshop materials (so that 200 children can make simple rod puppets), an educational parachute for games, and 200 pairs of
    reading glasses. Four classes at Greensville Public School, near Dundas, Ontario, prepared artwork which we took to Bolivia as part of an art exchange. Fun!

    The next three years were spent back in Mexico. Year Seven was in Ajijic, helping at the Tepehua Community Centre. A fantastic lady, Moonyeen King, was trying to help out the extremely poor people in this part of Chapala by forming a centre where people could eat a hot meal and have a shower once a week, get medical aid and feel that they were part of a community. We helped out by distributing food, playing with the kids, performed a Xmas puppet show and organized the painting of a huge mural on the side of the building, once again led by artist, Susan Shanley. We also travelled to the beautiful Sierra Gorda where we met two very special people, Margarita and Juan, as well as a traveling group of puppeteers. Two hundred pairs of reading glasses were also distributed.

    Year Eight saw us in Queretaro, Mexico - a beautiful old city, just on the west side of Mexico City. There we studied more Spanish and helped out a young puppeteer, Diego Ugalde. Once again we traveled into the amazing Sierra Gorda and then went north to ride the El Chepe train in the Copper Canyon in Chihuahua.

    Year Nine. Back to Mexico, but this time in a city south of Mexico City, Cuernavaca. We stayed in a lovely house with beautiful gardens, hidden behind high walls. We started this trip by flying to Manzanillo and spending a week on the ocean with our friends, Pat and Gail. Then off to Cuernavaca where they joined us for a week. We flew to Puerto Escondido for Chris' birthday and saw our friend from Panama, Scott, as well as cottage neighbours, Dale and Michelle. We helped out a young artist who was setting up a business in Cuernavaca. From him we learned how to make traditional Papel Piedra dolls. In March, we flew to Los Angeles and did something that we have never done before. We rented an ESCAPE campervan for a month and camped through South California, Arizona, Utah and Nevada. Fabulous!

    Year Ten had a big change... Where did we go, and why? Well, I happened to read a blog entry entitled, "Ten Reasons You Should visit Namibia" by fellow Canadian travelers, Kevin and Ruth, and I was hooked.


    I easily convinced Chris, and without much effort, in the way of coaxing, enticed our friends, Pat and Gail, to join us in Windhoek, Namibia? We went off on a camping safari trip extraordinaire in Namibia and Botswana! Of course, we took puppets for a travelling puppet show, ukuleles and a parachute to give away to a needy community. Pat and Gail flew home in February and we had a few weeks to kill so flew to Capetown, South Africa, where we rented a car and drove a couple of thousand kilometers along the beautiful Indian Ocean coast staying in guesthouses along the way.

    After that amazing trip, we had to rethink where we would like to spend a winter and we came up with a crazy plan.

    When we were in Ecuador, we heard stories from travellers about the thrill of sailing through the San Blas Islands in Panama and the rugged beauty of Colombia.

    So Year Eleven in 2015, was the year that we saw for ourselves what others have been talking about. But Colombia wasn't the only place we visited. The Yucatan and Cuba were also in the picture!

    President Obama recently made the decision to allow Americans to legally visit Cuba and we know that major changes will take place. We wanted to see the real Cuba before those changes took place. It was an eye-opener.

    So, as we ask ourselves every summer, "Where will we spend our winter this year?".

    We are in good shape, physically, and are still up for some adventure so for Year Twelve in 2016, we decided to go back to Colombia and see some of the beautiful areas that we did not get a chance to see on last year's trip. The difference will be that we will meet up with our good friends Pat and Gail and do some parts of this trip together. Ahhh, more Colombian coffee, birds plus the Amazon and good times with our travelling friends.

    Year Thirteen, 2017. We have missed visiting Mexico but still want to continue heading south in South America. So this year, we will spend a month in Uruguay (and a few days in Buenos Aires) and then fly to Mexico City. We have rented a beautiful house for 3 months in Patzcuaro, Mexico. Dear Texan friends live there. We haven’t seen them for at least ten years. It will be a wonderful reunion. Pat and Gail may also come down for a visit and we hope our daughters will have the time to come down too. (These plans sadly didn’t happen.)

    Year Fourteen, 2018/19. A big change in plans this year. We are heading to Portugal! Not just the mainland, but also to the lovely islands of Madeira and several of the Azore Islands. In fact, our daughters and their families have already bought their plane tickets to Sao Miguel in the Azores and will be joining us during the March Break. What fun we will have!

    NOTE: The blog will be written and left in draft form. The way that you see it, is the way it was written.
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  • Packing List for 3 Months

    December 13, 2018 in Canada ⋅ 🌫 0 °C

    Before we go on our longer trips, we have a routine that we follow. We always get our hair cut, get flu shots, then head to the dentist who checks for loose fillings or potential problems. Then a visit to the doctor to get prescriptions for antibiotics for stomach, ear or respiratory issues. Our long-time doctor retired last year and the new replacement doctor won’t do this for us ... hmm.

    It seems that we always pick up a cold about a week into our trip (the flight?) and we are never ready for it, so...I packed Benalyn tablets for day/night and Cepacol Ginger cough candies. We have found that a good night time decongestant or cough suppressant has been hard to find in some countries.

    This year, we want to try something a little different for our plane personal item. Chris will still take his back pack but I bought a packable tote bag. I usually take a small daypack that I rarely use as we already have a good daypack and we really only need one. And we take a packable duffle for laundry and a small foldable bag for groceries. I think that my tote bag can do everything - plane personal item, laundry, groceries, souvenirs, etc.

    From what we have read, the weather in Portugal is best described as “mild but unpredictable. A holiday during the winter could have glorious bright sun but equally it could be wet and grey. In the big cities and coastal resorts, the day time maximum is 10-15C and at night drops to a chilly 3-5C. Rarely does the temperature fall below freezing, the exception is the Serra da Estrela, where the exposed mountains are covered by snow and skiing is popular. The south of the country tends to be drier and warmer than the north. The Algarve will always offer the best weather of Portugal.”

    Conclusion: There is always the chance of poor weather of Portugal, but it will always be significantly much better than back at home.

    Because of the big range in temperatures, we will take clothes that can be layered.

    By the way, just for some interesting information, here is a basic starter list of clothing which just about covers everything:


    2 long sleeved shirts
    2 short sleeved shirts
    2 tank tops (shells) for layering
    1 lightweight sweater, preferably merino, or cashmere
    1 fleece or down vest
    1 pair jeans
    1 pair long pants
    1 pair capri/shorts
    1 pair leggings
    1 skirt/dress
    7 pairs underwear
    3 pairs light socks
    1 pair heavy socks
    3 bras
    bathing suit
    waterproof travel jacket and fleece

    -------Connie's Packing List-----

    Main Pack: eBag TLS Mother Lode Weekender Junior Convertible (3 lb 11 oz)
    Margaret Ann's red ‘Joy' purse #4 in a Travelon Packable Crossbody Tote


    Eagle Creek Pack-It 1/2 Cube #1 - Contents
    1 sleeveless top (green) (light-weight, loose-fitting, quick-dry)
    3 short-sleeved t-shirts (black, grey, green)
    Silk scarf

    Eagle Creek Pack-It 1/2 Cube #2 - Contents
    1 black long sleeved T-shirt
    1 blue thin cardigan sweater
    1 Eddie Bauer skirt

    Eagle Creek Pack-It Cube #3 - Contents
    7 pairs of underwear (Fruit of Loom mesh)
    2 bras (black and beige)
    1 pyjama bottom and long sleeved T-shirt
    2 pairs of light socks
    1 pair of Smartwool hiking socks

    Mesh Bag
    1 2 piece bathing suit - bottom works as short shorts

    Bottom of Pack

    1 pair of quick-dry hiking pants
    1 pair of black lightweight pants
    1 pair Kuhl capris/shorts (grey)

    In the pack pockets

    Marmot Precip rainshell
    Skechers Gowalk sneakers
    Small gloves
    iPad Air 2 and keyboard
    Led Flashlight (Mark’s)

    Toiletries in a Toiletry Bag or a Clear Bag

    3 oz of shampoo/conditioner
    Neutrogena moisturizer with SPF 30 sunscreen
    Toothpaste, toothbrush and cap, and floss
    Small bar of soap/soap and container
    Razor and blades
    Finger nail clippers
    Makeup (eye shadow, mascara, blush, eye liner, lipstick)
    hair clips,elastics
    Safety Pins, 2 clothespins, rubber bands
    Laundry soap, line and flat stopper

    Wear on plane

    1 grey long-sleeved T-shirt
    1 pair of lightweight jeans
    1 blue Packable down vest (works as a pillow)
    1 light black fleece jacket
    1 pair of compression socks
    Trail shoes ON Cloudventure (new - waterproof)
    Passport pouch - Baggalini Bryant pouch

    Note: I didn’t wear the Skechers shoes but did buy slippers which I wore all the time. The ON shoes were fantastic!

    Personal Item - Packable Travelon Crossbody Tote (new)

    Joy Purse #4
    Small packs of kleenex and a change purse
    Alarm clock
    Luggage combination locks (no keys!) and a few plastic zip tie wraps
    Passport, ID Photocopies of front and back of all cards and page 4 of passport
    Health Insurance cards
    Eyeglass prescriptions
    Money (Euros)
    ATM card/VISA cards (Note: 4 digit ATM pin)
    Guidebook and a small map; trip information
    iPad mini

    Addresses and phone numbers on ipad
    Family and Ontario photos on the ipad
    Mini calendar and small pen
    2 Moleskin books
    Extra Pens/pencils
    Door stopper (for security)
    Ziplock freezer bags
    Airline Tickets
    Italian spices

    ----------------------Chris' Packing List ---------------------

    Main Pack: eBag TLS Mother Lode Weekender Junior Convertible (3 lb 11 oz)
    Day Pack: Onsight 15 L Daypack (1 lb 1oz)


    Eaglecreek Pack-It 1/2 Cube #1 - Contents
    4 short-sleeved Icebreaker Tech T light Tshirts (light weight, loose-fitting, quick-dry)

    Eaglecreek Pack-It 1/2 Cube #2 - Contents
    1 short-sleeved shirt - Columbia
    1 blue plaid long-sleeved shirt

    Eaglecreek Pack-It Cube #3 - Contents
    5 pairs underwear (Saxx)
    1 pair of pyjama bottoms
    4 pairs socks
    Small gloves

    Mesh Bag
    Bathing trunks
    Ball cap

    1 pair of black, lightweight Arterex pants
    1 pair of green Arterex quick dry pants
    2 pairs of Kuhl shorts
    Marmot Precip rain jacket
    Haviannas flip flops

    Wear on plane
    1 pair of Levi 541 denim jeans
    1 Belt
    1 Icebreaker t-shirt
    1 black Packable down vest
    1 fleece full zip jacket with zippered pockets
    1 pair of Smartwool socks
    ON Cloudventure Waterproof trail shoes
    Passport pouch
    Motorola G5 Plus phone

    Travel Necessities

    Wallet and Change purse
    Luggage combination locks (no keys)
    Passport, ID and Photocopies of fronts and backs of all cards and passport
    Health Insurance card
    Prescription for eyeglasses
    Money/ATM card/VISA card

    3 oz containers of shampoo/conditioner
    Small packaged hotel soaps were put in Pack-It bags (keep clothes smelling nice)
    Toothpaste, toothbrush and cap, and softpicks
    Razor/blades/tube of shaving creme
    Eye glasses prescription

    Gear organizer bag
    Flash Drive (2/4 gig), Memory Stick (16 gig)
    Mini Anker portable battery charger
    Sony mini bluetooth speaker (love it!)

    Personal Backpack

    Small First Aid kit (with only a few of each of the following) - Tylenol, Ibuprofin, Aspirin, Peptobismol, Gravol (Dramadine), Imodium, Hydrocortizone, Bandaids, Chapstick, Alcohol Prep Pads, Polysporin, Eye drops, Ear drops, Vaseline, Benadryl night, Sudafed, Cepacol lozenges, allergy pills, Magnesium for sleep, Small Sewing kit and Eyeglasses screwdriver

    LED flashlight
    iPad mini
    Snacks - Coconut chips, nuts, chocolate
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  • Our Projected Itinerary

    December 14, 2018 in Canada ⋅ 🌧 1 °C

    This year, we are heading in a different direction - east to Portugal. The plan is to spend 9 weeks on the mainland and another 3 weeks visiting Portugal’s islands of Madeira and the Azores. Every week, we will be in a different town or city. Our friend, Donna, who lives in Elora will be joining us for a week in the Algarve and a little later for a week in Evora which is in central Portugal. We are hoping that another old friend of ours, Vaughan, will take time from his trip to Germany to visit us in Porto. The icing on the cake is that our daughters and their families will meet up with us during the March Break in Sao Miguel in the Azores.

    Why Portugal? Years ago when our youngest daughter was involved with a performing group called Up With People, she came home from a year’s worth of travelling and performing and told us that Portugal was her favourite country. Well, that was 20 years ago and we still remember how excited she became when talking about it. Her enthusiasm stuck with us and now we are going to find out what created all that excitement.

    We do know that there are lots of pluses to visiting Portugal. First of all the history, followed by the nature and the people and culture. We have read about whales and dolphins, caves, hot springs, beautiful beaches and the mountains. Fairytale palaces and old castles as well as the Harry Potter connection intrigue us. Then comes the wine and the food, especially the pastel de nata. How can we forget the Fado music in Lisbon and Porto. And finally, from what we have read, Portugal is a tranquil and peaceful country where it is still inexpensive to travel.

    Anyone who has already travelled to Portugal, loved it so ... that’s why we are going there.

    Here is our plan so far. We will fly from Toronto to Lisbon and then on to Faro on December 27 with TAP airlines. At the airport, we will rent a car from Luzcar for 2 out of our 3 weeks in the Algarve.

    December 28 - TAVIRA - Apartamento no Coracoa de Tavira (Rita) - Air Bnb

    January 4 - LAGOS - Lagos Uptown B & B (Fernando) - Booking.com
    - we will be meeting Donna who will spend one night in our Bnb and then move on to a beach resort for a week
    - at the end of our stay here, we will return the rental car.

    January 11 - FARO - Sunlight House (Telmo) - Booking.com

    January 18 - EVORA - Evora Inn (Diana) - Booking.com
    - we will be meeting up with Donna here and possibly renting a car with her.

    January 25 - T.B.A. TRAVEL WEEK - Evora to Douro Valley

    Jan. 25 - Jan 28 - in the area of CASTELO BRANCO
    Feb. 3 - Jan. 31 - in the area of GUARDA
    Jan. 31 - Feb 3 - in the area of VISEU

    February 3 - LAMEGO - Apartamento da Serra em Lamego (Manuela) Air Bnb

    February 10 - PORTO - Feel Porto Historical Flats (Ana)

    February 18 - T.B.A. TRAVEL WEEK - Porto to SIntra

    Feb. 18 - in the area of AVEIRO
    Feb. 20 - in the area of COIMBRA
    Feb. 22 - TOMAR - Tomar Story Hotel (. )- Booking.com

    February 25 - SINTRA - Cinco BnB (Carole and Stuart) - private booking
    - we may meet up with our friend,Vaughan, here

    March 1 - LISBON - LX4U Apartment’s - Expedia.ca
    - Carnival weekend

    March 3 - fly to FUNCHAL, MADEIRA ISLAND on Easy Jet

    March 3 - CANECO - Oceanic Apartment ( Dulce) - Air BnB
    - Carnival continues

    March 9 - fly to PONTA DELGADA, SAO MIGUEL, AZORES on Santa airlines

    March 9 - PONTA DELGADA - Hotel Alcedes - Booking.com
    - one night here and will meet Amy, Matt, Audrey, Nathan, Caitlin, Cal and possibly Tim on Mar. 10 (6:30 a.m.)

    March 10 - LAGOA - Atlantic House (Manuel) - Booking.com

    March 16 - T.B.A fly to FAIAL ISLAND (or stay on Sao Miguel)

    March 16 - T.B.A TRAVEL WEEK - Faial, Pico and Sao Jorge Islands

    Mar. 16 - Horta Faial Island
    Mar. 18 - Madalena, Pico Island
    Mar. 21 - Velas, Sao Jorge Island
    Mar. 23 - Horta, Faial

    March 24 - fly to LISBON

    March 24 - April 1 - LISBON - Belvedere Interdente Balcony Apartment - (. ) - Air BnB

    April 1 - fly to TORONTO
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  • The Adventure Begins

    December 28, 2018 in Canada ⋅ 🌧 3 °C

    Well, here we are once again in the Toronto International Airport, ready to head to Europe.

    At 3 p.m., I downloaded our boarding passes.

    We left our condo in Fergus at 4:30 p.m.

    At 5 p.m.,we were eating pizza at Amy’s house in Guelph and watching the kids opening their gifts to each other.

    At 7 p.m., Red Car promptly pulled up and whisked the two of us to the airport. We were the only passengers.

    Shortly after 8 p.m., we arrived at the airport, went through the inspection and by 8:30 p.m. we were settled and waiting in E70 for our 10:20 p.m. boarding on TAP airlines.

    How easy was that?

    Now I have a little bit of time to play with this blog site.
    I can write this blog offline but Wifi in the airport is free so I am writing online.

    No photos. Airports are all the same... or are they?

    A Spanish newspaper had this to say about the airport:

    “Desperate queues and shambolic scenes at Lisbon airport over the festive season have prompted Spanish daily paper El País to say the capital’s overworked airport should be renamed “chaos”.”

    And it was!
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  • To Tavira

    December 28, 2018 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 15 °C

    We landed in Lisbon at around 10:30 a.m. The flight was okay, but sleeping on the plane wasn’t that great. It was cold! The air blowing down from the ceiling was bothersome. We took the blanket that was given to us and draped it over our heads for the night. Brrr. A warm scarf or hat would have helped.

    A meal was served at midnight but few people ate it. In the morning, we were served ham sandwiches but it was too early for us to eat so we passed on that. In hindsight, I should have brought some egg salad sandwiches and fruit.

    Going through the Lisbon immigration line was something else. There were hundreds of people and we moved in a Disneyland style line to get to the front. I think that took us about an hour. Back and forth. Back and forth in a moving line.

    Now we had to wait for the connecting flight. It was fairly warm and the sun was shining through the windows so it wasn’t all that bad.

    At 3 we caught the flight to Faro and arrived by 4 p.m. it is a tiny airport so it was easy to find our way out.

    We had heard that we could get a Vodophone chip for our phone a the airport and we easily found their kiosk. The girl was helpful and we paid €20 for 5 mg data and local and long distance calls. A good deal.

    Walking out into the sun and 18C weather was great. Ahhhh. Almost to our destination.

    We picked up our 2 week rental car at the Luzcar kiosk. It was all pretty easy and straightforward as everyone spoke English. They gave us a toll monitor which tracks any road tolls that we may encounter. We set it up with €15 to start.

    Then we filled up at a local gas station. The tank was empty. Why they do this, we will never know.

    Our 31 km drive from the Faro airport to Tavira was an easy one. Not like the 401 in Toronto at all. It was a little country road with careful drivers that wandered through fields of carob and almond trees. Our google maps app brought right to our apartment in less than 1/2 hour. It was great.

    Tavira is a small town of 26,100 people. Our apartment is perfectly located in the historical area close to a seven-arched Roman bridge that crosses a river with two names (Gilao and Segua) depending on which side of the bridge the river is on. Why two names? We read a legend about two lovers, one Roman and one Muslim, who would meet secretly. One night, they were caught on the bridge by members of their armies and knowing that the consequences of their tryst would not be good, they decided to jump into the river to their deaths. He jumped on one side and she jumped on the other. Thus the two names of the river.

    During the Moorish era (10-12th century) Tavira was an important defensive and fortified town, and the castle and ancient city walls date from this period. Later, in the 17th century Tavira was the largest port of the Algarve and the grand mansions, funded by the trade wealth, were constructed close to the river. Along with all of the historic buildings, there are over 36 churches, a series of scenic viewpoints and a lively daily market. Tavira may be relatively small, but it is full of character and is a pleasure to walk around.

    Our apartment is very sweet - a one bedroom apartment on the second floor of a row of houses. It has everything that we need including a t.v., microwave, washing machine and an expresso maker. The sun pours into the apartment all day and when we open the doors to the bougainvillea covered balcony, we can watch the daily happenings on the walking street below. It is very peaceful and relaxed here. What a great find in a wonderful location.

    The building is very traditional - whited-washed walls with a tile roof. We have two decorative wrought-iron balconies which are topped with pine cone finials. The doors on the street are all different colours and are adorned with fretwork. Our door is green.

    Once we settled in a bit, we walked across the street to a small restaurant called Tonel and had a lovely dinner of an bread, olives and tuna appetizer, green salads, main courses of sea bass and steak, and big glasses of wine. That was the best way to end our travelling day.

    We were thrilled with the comfort of our bed and enjoyed a great sleep on our first night in Portugal.
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  • Praia do Barril Trail

    December 30, 2018 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 16 °C

    On Saturday, our first day in Tavira, Chris woke up with a nasty cold. We also were somewhat jet-lagged so we just took it easy and tried to get used to our surroundings. As I mentioned it is a lovely little town.

    We did walk across the Roman Bridge though and had a coffee and pastry in a little cafe. Then walked around the square and through a pretty park. We bought some roasted chestnuts from a street vendor and then walked back over another bridge. We found a Pingo Doce grocery store and enjoyed trying to figure out what we wanted to stock the fridge with at the apartment. We are in Tavira for a week. Roast chicken, cheese, salami, salad stuff, wine, granola, milk, yogurt, eggs and coffee were good starters.

    The rest of the day was low key as Chris struggled a bit with his cold.

    But on Sunday, we were ready for a walk. We had heard about a nice trail though a salt marsh in the neighbouring town of Santa Lucia. We drove the car to the trail head and joined several others who were out walking their dogs or jogging.

    The trail starts on a beach, then crosses a bridge and passes through an extensive salt marsh area to sand dunes and former fishermen’s huts, now converted into beach facilities and a restaurant/tuna museum.

    Anyone who didn’t want to walk on the trail could take a little train to the beach and back. The kids really seemed to like the ride. We walked beside the tracks.

    This is an interesting trail for observing water birds such as flamingoes, egrets, terns, herons, cormorants and plovers in the salt marsh and watching the fiddler crabs, particularly at low tide.

    When were there, the area was really like a giant mudflat. There were areas of sea rushes and apparently the curry plant grows here.

    On arriving at the huge beach, the trail divides into two: to the right, there is a protected area and to the left, there is an “anchor cemetery”.

    No one knows who placed the first of the hundreds of rusted anchors along the sand dunes on this beach. But locals continued adding the gnarled weights to honor the small tuna fishing community that once flourished in the area.

    The anchors were used to weigh down the nets for catching tuna. They’re lined up in rows and exist without any real pomp or officiality. Fishing in the area was a dangerous and difficult profession, but these waters, where the Atlantic meets the Mediterranean, were filled with bluefin tuna. The technique for catching them was unique to the area, and was probably invented by the ancient Romans who lived in the area.

    The Algarve thrived on tuna fishing for centuries, but local fisherman had to give up their occupation in the 1960s when the numbers of fish declined. Their anchors were just left on the beach to rust—until someone came up with the artistic idea of creating a cemetery for anchors.

    The beach is huge. We imagine that in the summer it is packed with sun bathers but when we were there, only a few brave souls found chairs to lounge on and were soaking up the sun in the cold wind. We spent some time on the beach watching the fishermen and the big waves and then had a coffee in the old housing. We also looked at all the old photographs in the restaurant showing how the fishermen caught the tuna using a labyrinth of nets. It was fascinating.

    Then the walk back to the car and home we went.
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  • Tavira - Preparing for New Year's Eve

    December 31, 2018 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 14 °C

    Chris spent the night coughing so we are taking it easy and only doing a little bit of exploring in the morning.

    Today is New Year’s eve and the town is busy preparing for the night’s festivities. Fireworks are being set up on the bridge and along the river’s edge, restaurants are busy preparing meals and a huge stage is being set up on the other side of the river in the main square. It is a glorious, sunny day and people are wandering around enjoying the day. So were we for a few hours.

    We went up to see the old remains of the Tavira castle and fortress and to see the view from the top of the towers. The castle dates from the Moorish rule of Portugal in the 11th century. Tavira was conquered by the Christian crusaders in 1242 and the castle was at the forefront of the fighting. The remaining part of the castle is a the partially ruined fortress that once guarded the fishing town from North African raiders and pirates. It is right in the historic centre of the town and is located at the highest point of the region and from the battlements there are wonderful views over the town and the surrounding national park. We were able to climb up and down all sorts of steeps stairs and wander through its well kept gardens. It was a peaceful place to visit.

    We spent the afternoon sitting in the sun on our apartment’s balcony, people watching. Tonight will be a big night for us, out on the town.
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  • New Years Eve - Tavira's Transformation

    January 1, 2019 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 9 °C

    Up until now, we have thought that a Tavira was a sleepy little town. It may be sleepy but on New Year’s Eve, it transforms into a wonderland of sparkly lights, music, fireworks and families ready to celebrate the beginning of a new year on the banks of the river. Magical!

    During the day, Chris and I wandered the streets and watched as a giant stage was put up in the Centro and fireworks were set up on the bridge. Restaurants prepared for a busy night.

    We thought that we would pass on staying up until midnight (party poopers) and went to bed after drinking some wine and eating a Portuguese Bbq chicken, salad and pastel da nata.

    But ... at 11 p.m., we were awakened by 10 seconds of booming fireworks! The town, including us, was being summoned to the midnight activities. Great idea.

    We dressed up warmly and headed the one block down an alley to the river where we saw our first view of the town’s transformation.

    Thousands of people with their kids lined the river’s edge which was lit with Christmas lights. So pretty. Across the river, a band played and colourful lights flashed. It was pretty civil, no silly drunks running around. Just people holding their champagne glasses and bottles waiting for midnight and chatting with friends a family - a really nice atmosphere.

    A countdown started on the screen on the big stage and then ... the amazing fireworks set to music started and champagne drunk. Wow!

    We walked the sort distance home and as we were unlocking our door, we wished the family next door, in our best Portuguese, Feliz Ano Novo (Happy New Year). They laughed and invited us into their house for a midnight traditional meal. They all spoke some English and several family members were teachers. They were happy to answer our many questions about life in Portugal and give us suggestions about what to see and do.

    We ended up having a wonderful time, eating chorizo, giant shrimp, sausage, olives, cheese, etc. followed by mango and pineapple slices and Portuguese pastries (sonhos, sugared orange peel, empanadas). All traditional Portuguese foods and red wine. Lucky us.

    We were so happy that we didn’t stay in. It was a special night and a great start to 2019!
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