Part 1: Gemma, Gareth, Mum and Dad
Night Location: Albufeira, Portugal
Mumisode of the Day: "Yes it was lovely, thank you. Yes, thank you." Mum was doing her best to find an excuse as to why she hadn't finished her less than appetising dinner.
Today we have travelled from Lisbon, down to the end of the world and then along the coast to Albufeira. We still had a little more to see in Lisbon this morning and so after an early breakfast, we made our way over to the district of Belem. Belem is situated next to the river, a little further toward the sea. A magnificent fortified tower now stands on the banks of the river. At one time it was in the middle of the river but the course of the river changed following the earthquake in 1755. There is a single small spiral staircase that connects all the five floors so it makes passing a little challenging. Can't imagine what it would have been like in peak season. The view from the top floor was definitely worth the climb; the turrets and bridges make for excellent photo spots. A traditional wave was exchanged between Gemma and Mum.
After our visit to the tower, we decided rather ambitiously that we would return to the village centre to buy some of the famous Portuguese tarts. Our guide from yesterday had recommended this place to us. Turns out, crossing the railway line is actually really challenging. After about a half-hour detour and some screeching from Gemma and Mum, Dad found where we needed to go, ignoring instructions from trusty Claude. The pastries were fairly impressive: crispy pastry with a warm custard filling that just melted in your mouth.
Late in the afternoon, we saw the South Coast of Portugal. Following the coastline was a beautiful drive. We kept driving until there was water to the left of us and water directly in front of us. The land is very flat, rocky and barren. It makes a fantastic contrast to the sheer cliffs and deep blue water. A sign told us that we were now at the 'end of the world'. Unfortunately, a lighthouse stops you from getting to the true end, but we were fairly close.
Our little town of Albufeira is just beautiful. The houses are all white with really thick walls. Coloured strips of paint are around the windows and doors. With the lights starting to come on in the houses on the hill, the sun setting and the wide expanse of ocean, it is really magical. We think we are the only people staying in our hotel, which makes for an interesting change.
Albufeira really would be buzzing in the summer. Restaurants and tourist shops are just everywhere. As it turned out, even at this time of the year, things were far from shut down. Instead the restaurants remained open and they employed people to chase you with their menus to convince you to eat at their restaurant. Gemma was not overly impressed by this.
Gemma and Mum ended up eating something called a vegetarian catalana for dinner and it was far from impressive. The zucchini and eggplant were both raw and the other vegetables barely palatable. Mum tried to be as polite as possible to the waiter but it was difficult to explain why we hadn't eaten much.
Tomorrow we are on to Seville where Mum can hardly wait to be into the washing. Our last washing machine before London. The time is just flying!
Part 2 - Amber and David
Night location: London, England
Due to our decision to postpone our Egypt trip, instead of flying from Paris to Cairo as planned, we boarded a Eurostar train and left the Euro Zone for the first time in 2 months, headed to London. Before leaving Paris we had our first 'vegetarian breakfast' since leaving Australia, something that both David and I have really missed! Going to Zinc on Darby Street when we go home is high on our priority list, but this breakfast certainly helped to ease the homesickness pains a little! From here we made our way on the metro to the Gare du Nord train station and even though we had half an hour to spare we were told that we were late when checking in. In spite of this 'fact' we made it onto the train with relative ease. The train left soon after we boarded and roughly two hours and a long tunnel under the English Channel later, we arrived in London.
Our 'splurge' for London is a one-night stay in the Hilton Tower Bridge hotel. Fantastic location, and clearly my first 'sight' of London was the Tower Bridge built in 1886. As this is my first (remembered) time to London, I was pretty excited by this bridge that is still raised to let tall ships through every day and is painted red, blue and white. On the opposite bank we could see the Tower of London, which we plan to visit tomorrow.
Definitely one of the highlights for the day though was our Italian dinner in a swanky restaurant overlooking the bridge beside the Thames River. Since Italy, we have been missing our favorite beverage of choice 'Lemon Soda', and I was particularly interested to try the imported Italian San Pellegrino version 'Limonata' that turned out to be almost equally good! The food was also excellent. Take me back to Italy, I say!