Até Mais (see you soon) Portugal!
Our last few days in Albufeira and Portugal have been bittersweet - we're torn between (selfishly) wanting to stay and getting excited about returning home to see friends and family - especially Adrian, Kate & the best dog in the world - Indy. We really do miss you all!
Most days we've spent quite a few hours relaxing on the beach - storing up on its sights, sounds and smells - gritty sand, sparkling (chilly) ocean and warm breezes that carry the scent of sunscreen. Since leaving Canada on June 7th, we've averaged over 10km a day..... so a few days without putting too many more miles on our over-worked joints will not go amiss! Truth be told, on many days we've continued to walk the 5km round trip to the Marina - an area that continues to be our favourite. With the background music of an acoustic guitar, there seems to be something very special and magical about watching the sun go down over all the boats there.
This continued walking also justifies the many trips to the pastelaria.....as the time to leave Albufeira gets closer, my morning visits have become increasingly more frequent! It's just too easy to walk out of the apartment and down a few steps to a place where I have become a "regular." The staff recognize me and know that I will be ordering "dois e dois, para levar" (2 & 2 to go) - which really translates to 2 delicious pastel de nata and 2 warm bread buns, take out....yum - breakfast has never tasted so good!
The remainder of the time we've wandered through the pretty streets of the Old Town, revisiting our favourite areas and cafés.....still delighting in the fact that we can discover some new ones. Two of the new ones that we've discovered are very different to each other and are at opposite ends of the town.
On our way to Albufeira Marina we always stop along the top of the cliffs to take a look down onto the old harbour, but we've never spent much time there. After once doing only a cursory walk around the edge of this harbour we decided to take a second look and (perhaps) have a drink at the unattractive, but well located, café at the side of the water. This concrete block of a place has some tables inside, but plenty more outside - all with great views of the old harbour and water. The service is friendly and the atmosphere is more traditionally Portuguese. "Porto de Abrigo" (roughly translated as a place of refuge) is open every day except Mondays and serves food from noon to 10pm. With some "snack items" it mostly specializes in fresh fish and seafood - with the Prato do Dia offering a couple of choices for €10.....on Saturday & Sunday it's €12 - when the meal is a bit more elaborate......quite a few local families seem to make this their weekend place and gather there for Sunday lunch.
We've spent quite a few tranquil hours, sitting at a table by the water, sometimes with only a couple of other people around - sometimes alone - watching the tour boats come and go through the channel from the Marina and through this peaceful harbour. With virtually no noise but the birds and the water, it's pretty close to perfect!
Walking away from town and in the opposite direction, we've enjoyed some time in a more attractive building - that also has great, but different views. Hotel Alísios, a four star hotel, also has friendly service and is favoured by a mostly Portuguese clientele. We first decided to take a look at this hotel when we were heading back to town after a long walk along the beach boardwalk - and although quite sweaty - we were warmly welcomed at the hotel's reception. Encouraged to take a look around, we were escorted, by a charming woman, to the restaurant. She then introduced us to the chef who in turn welcomed us.....how could we refuse his invitation to sit and have a drink on the terrace?!
Perched atop the cliffs, with large umbrellas to give shade, and glass walls to enhance the panoramic view, it's very peaceful - and another perfect spot! We revisited one night at sunset when, due to winds that were higher than normal, most people were in the dining room and we had the terrace to ourselves. Our only disappointment was when, after deciding one night to go and have an after-dinner drink out on this attractive terrace, we found the place pretty crowded and the musical entertainment less than we'd expected......it may be better for us to stick to hot afternoons or windy sunsets!
Now it's almost time to go.......our train ticket to Lisbon is booked, as is our night at an airport hotel. ....It's time to savour the last of the hot espresso or milky coffees - along with the delicious pastries. Time to drink the last cold beer, Portuguese wine or chilled white port. Time to have one last dip in the chilly ocean......and reflect on how thankful we are for these 14 weeks of adventure, and for all who make it possible.
Thank you to everyone who reads my blog and supports my efforts at telling our story.
We know how fortunate we are to have Adrian, Kate & Indy - who not only tolerate our nomadic natures - but so generously share their home & lives with us in between our comings and goings. Your unselfish love is appreciated much more than you know.
We're lucky to have Marjie and Glyn, who give us a home in Yorkshire and share our U.K. travels - what a wonderful time we had in Wales this year!......Marjie always supplying those extra (and often little known) historical facts. We love to be with you and share your space - along with Alfie, Cleo and Magnet.
While in Yorkshire, we spent many hours with Trevor's mum, Clarice - who at 103 is a joy and a treasure......how great is that?!
Our travels in Portugal - It's hard to mention everything we'll miss about this lovely country.....so here are just a few of the many things......
Northern Portugal with its almost perfect summer climate - hot, clear days with cool mornings and evenings. Small traditional towns like Caminha, Valença and Viana do Castelo - which we loved.....we'll never forget Maria - our favourite "owner" - the kindest of people. Our love of eating pastries for breakfast - fresh from from the local pastelarias - started here. We even learned to love the constant winds in this area that made the "wild" kite-surfing of Cabedelo beach so memorable.
Mid-country we were charmed by the canals of Aveiro and the Moliceiros that glided across them. We discovered the decadent taste of Ovos Moles and made friends with the owners of many of the local food stores. I was charmed by Felipe - our host in Aveiro - who "spoiled" us with his frequent delivery of clean linens. We rediscovered the charms of Porto - the 2nd city of Portugal - although, some would say it's number one! We visited Coimbra - twice - an ancient town that once seen can never be forgotten!
The Algarve pulled us back again this year - with temperatures so hot, it sometimes sizzles! Busy and sometimes loud, with loads of tourists, its beauty is still remarkable. High cliffs that glow in the early evening light, stretches of long beaches and sandy coves with a chilly ocean that always sparkles. We'll miss the unlikely combination of the sharp smell of pine trees paired with the sweet scent of honeysuckle......and the sight and colours of the bougainvillea which covers almost everything. We'll miss seeing the endless rows of grape-vines + miles of lime, lemon, orange & olive trees.
Most of all we'll miss the Portuguese people - the ones who work in the stores, cafés and restaurants, the ones who actually come every single night to pick up the garbage + the ones who drive the buses and answer the endless repetitive questions of visitors......all are polite, helpful, generous with their time and endlessly patient.....much more than a lot of us tourists deserve!
We thank all of you who made this an unforgettable summer for us......our love-affair with your country continues.......Até Mais (see you soon) Portugal!