We did some sightseeing in the local area today. After everyone eventually got up and had breakfast we headed out at 11am. First stop was São Rafael beach. It took us a bit of a time to find the right road down to the beach. I haven’t yet fully understood Portuguese roads and road signs yet. They have traffic lights in the strangest of places as well. On the main road they will have a traffic light and a sign which says speed regulation (in Portuguese of course) so we assume it is to slow you down if you are traveling too fast. They just change at random times (or so it seems to me).
The beach was at the bottom of some sandstone cliffs with beautiful azure blue sea. The sea temperature is not particularly warm even though the outside temperature was around 30C today again. As you can see there was not a cloud in the sky and it was like that the whole day. We messed around on the beach with only Michael doing some swimming in the sea. The Portuguese obviously have no issue with being topless on the beach as a number of the woman were tanning (and walking around) topless even though some of them definitely should have known better. While on that subject, it is also amazing how many woman also wear thongs on the beach – and in most cases also should not be.
After the beach we headed for Lagoa but on route got sidetracked into another small village called Alcantarilha and ended up having lunch there at a local side walk restaurant. It was a late lunch as it was already 2pm when we got there and we only finished at 3pm. The Yellowers decided to head on to Lagoa while we headed back to Vilamoura via the Hypermarket to re-stock.
It was a pretty warm day and so a late afternoon sleep was rejuvenating. Helen went for a cycle down to the Marina and back again and then we had a late, light dinner of leftovers and salad while enjoying the beautiful evening outside by the pool. Helen said the Marina was alive and thriving and so we plan to head down tomorrow night to experience the vibe.
Another beautiful weather day in Vilamoura. The temperature got up to 30C today. Michael and I had booked to play our first round of golf in Vilamoura. Our tee off time was 11:15am. We brought our clubs over with us and when I went to take my clubs out of the golf carrier bag I found my driver’s shaft had snapped. Not a great start to the round and we haven’t even started playing yet. We played the Oceanico Laguna course (http://www.oceanicogolf.com/our-courses/oceanico-laguna-golf-course/) today. There are 7 courses in Vilamoura alone and they are all part of the same group (Oceanico). As you can tell from the name, the course is played around, over and through lagoon. Lots of water. Lots of lost balls. Fortunately we found almost as many balls as we lost. Not a particularly long course but without my driver it definitely became a lot longer. And then I added to it by hitting at right angles from the hole. Michael on the other hand seemed to be hitting his driver the best he ever had and at one stage managed to drive 250 meters which is undoubtedly the longest drive he has ever had. It wasn’t the best course I have ever played and at times it was like playing off concrete it was so hard but it was an enjoyable round all the same.
I had asked when we arrived whether there was anyone who could replace my shaft and they called the professional and he said he thought he might be able to do it. When we finished he hadn’t come back yet with my club so Michael and I had some lunch and when we were finished he arrived about 5 minutes later. Joaquin was his name and he basically told us his life history, about his sister who lives in Durban and that he knows another South African in Vilamoura and he wants to introduce me. Michael and I never thought we would actually be able to leave. He did fix the club though and he tells me that the shaft he put on is so good my handicap will now come down to 5! After we had loaded our clubs into the car and were driving out, he came running out to give me his card so that I could contact him again. I like him, he called me a young man.
Helen and Stephen went shopping at the Hypermarket again for some essential items – a new coffee machine (the one here was a genuine espresso machine which is a real hassle to make coffee with) and bikes. To rent a bike costs €15 per day and you can buy one for €75 so we figured that given we will be here regularly in future we may as well buy 2 bikes and leave them here for future use. Helen has already been on two rides today and so we already seem to be getting our money’s worth.
Unfortunately we did watch Portugal win today at the World Cup but still get eliminated. Now all the countries we are visiting on this trip have been eliminated from the World Cup. Given all the activity especially the cycling late afternoon, we only ended up eating dinner tonight at about 8:40pm. I think that is sort of a standard Portuguese dinner time so we seem to be slotting in to the way of life here.
The town and the country are really growing on us and we have only been here for 3 days now. Tomorrow we plan to do some wider exploring in the area.
No one was in hurry to get up this morning and by the time everyone was awake, fed and watered it was about 11am. We decided to go to the beach and Marina. We parked at the Praia da Marina which loosely translated means Beach at Marina. We went down onto the beach and paddled in the water and then walked across the beach and onto the breakwater and then around the whole Marina. The Marina is yacht (not the ones with sails – the ones with expensive multi-million dollar powered yachts) basin with numerous restaurants and shops around the edge. It doesn’t compare to the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town but it is still very nice. The predominant language spoken was definitely English. It is like being in an English speaking part of Portugal!
We came back to the house for lunch and just spent the afternoon relaxing around the house. Some went to have an afternoon sleep, some swam and sun tanned and some played or worked on their computers. We also watched the first World Cup game but for some reason the internet kept dropping the whole day so it was a little frustrating.
After dinner tonight we headed to the other beach on the west side of the Marina. It is the Praia da Falesia and to get to it you have to drive through the Eco area which is a wetland with apparently very good bird life. Being a birder I would like to explore it a bit more but I didn’t bring my binoculars with me this time but will do next time.
The sun was setting and so we messed around on the beach taking photos and selfies. Stephen & Michael have also been arguing who is the fastest for about 2 years and so we finally got them to actually race on the beach. Michael was the clear winner but Stephen insisted that it was because they were running on the beach. On the way back to the car they raced on the tar and Michael was a Usain Bolt length ahead of Stephen when they crossed the finish line. Finally we know with certainty who is the fastest and so hopefully that debate is now settled.
Today was our first full day in Vilamoura. Given how late we were up last night, nobody made much of a move to get up early. Helen and I eventually had breakfast at about 9:30am and then we decided to try and find the better supermarket to get some real food. We had coordinates from Google Maps but even with those it wasn’t easy to find but we did eventually find it. Shopping at the supposedly best supermarket in Portugal was not an easy task though. The aisles were so narrow you could hardly pass another shopping cart. It is also hard to actually find things. The layout is strange and trying to read Portuguese labels is not easy work either. Chloe comes in handy as she knows Spanish and some of the words are quite similar so she is our walking translator.
It always amazes me that when I go to a supermarket anywhere else in the world how they have items we have never seen before. The amount of salted, dried fish available in the supermarket was incredible. Clearly a high demand item – not from us though! They also had some fruit and veg that I have never seen before and we still need to figure out what it is. The good news is that food is not particularly expensive here and is comparable to SA prices and in some cases cheaper. Chicken for instance is only €3/kg or about R45/kg and that is definitely cheaper than South Africa. We also noticed that shellfish (like prawns) are about 75% of the price we would pay in SA. I can see we are going to eat a lot of chicken and prawns! We had a full shopping cart and paid pretty much the same as what we would in SA for a full shopping cart.
Helen went for a run when we got home and we didn’t see her for the next hour. I thought she must have gotten lost (the roads are like a maze around here – thank goodness for a GPS) but it turned out she was just running a long distance in the rain (quite heavy rain for short while) and she did find her way back to us again.
Stephen, Michael and I then went out to the Algarve Shopping Mall. It is a genuine mall like we know them and included an electronics store and also a Hypermarket. The electronics store was essential as we wanted to get SIM cards but ended up with data only cards (Michael tried out his Spanish on the store assistant and it clearly wasn’t that effective) and also a telephone (we actually have a line in the house but they don’t supply a phone) and most importantly a printer (yes that is an essential item in any Temple household). It also turned out that the Hypermarket is really the best supermarket in the Algarve and so now we know we really to shop in future. We also got some essential items we needed for the house like a new dirt bin for the kitchen and screwdrivers (in case Helen wants to fix something).
We got back just after the football had started but in time to watch Suarez bite another opposing player (what is it with that guy’s brain?!). At about 5:45pm our friends the “Blacker’s” arrived. They are joining us for the next few days in the Algarve. They had a long day thanks to French airtraffic controllers. They went on strike this morning and will be striking for the next 7 days. That means all flights into and over France are disrupted. They were meant to leave just after 6am and they eventually left at 10:20am. They flew into Seville and then drove to us (about 2 hour 30 min drive).
We had our first dinner in the house – a braai of course (barbecue for everyone in the world who isn’t South African). We tried out some Portuguese sausage which was pretty good and definitely worth repeating. Also had some Portuguese wine – I bought the most expensive white wine I could find and it was €3 a bottle – it actually turned out to be passable as well. We have actually eaten/drunk a few Portuguese things already include Portuguese Rolls (at least that is what we call them in SA – just called rolls here!) and I have also had the Portuguese beer (Super Bock).
Helen and the “Yellower’s” went out shopping again for more groceries after dinner while we watched the ref rob Ivory Coast of progressing through to the next round. Now everyone is settled in (at 11:50pm) watching an animated movie (we came with everything needed to connect the TV to the internet so that we could stream off it). Only person not here is “Mrs Yellower” who is in bed and probably fast asleep despite the loud laughter from downstairs.
Tomorrow we will hopefully actually start to have a proper look around the area now that we are sort of settled in.
We watched the football last night and fortunately in the dying seconds (literally) Ronaldo showed a little magic and kept Portugal in the World Cup. While it may be short lived as the mathematical chances of them making it through to the next round are slim, at least we are now in a country that is still in the World Cup even though it might not be for long.
We did start the day in London and most importantly it was my birthday. Birthday presents were severely lacking though – I did at least get one from Helen – fudge which I always like to eat while drinking Port. Now I just need to get a bottle of genuine Port (which I am sure I will do tomorrow). After breakfast Helen and I went for a walk around St James Park. It was another lovely day in London with a predicted high of 26C. We enjoyed the walk even though we had to dodge numerous tour groups who were all going to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. We walked past the Palace at about 11am and heard a band playing from the Horse Guard’s barracks. The changing of the Guard happens at 11:30am every day and so we wondered over to see what was going on.
It was the Royal Marine regiment and they had their band playing while the troops were being inspected. They normally don’t do guard duty at the Palace so we were not entirely sure what it was about. However, we later learnt that is was the 25oth anniversary of the Royal Marine’s and so as a special honour they would be taking over the Guard at the Palace for the next week and this was the change over. They went through a thorough check from the CO and then they marched out to much fanfare to go to the Palace to take over. I have seen the changing of the guard before but this was the most impressive I have seen (we took some video but at 12:46am I am not going to figure out how to upload it now!)
We had to leave for the airport at 2pm. We have a reasonable amount of luggage and so the easiest was for us to take a car to the airport. Unfortunately the flight was from Gatwick and given the traffic in London it took us an hour and 15 minutes to get there. Check in was relatively painless and we headed to the BA lounge for a quick afternoon tea and then onto the plane (which left from the furthest gate possible at Gatwick). We left slightly early and besides having a baby sitting behind me banging on the tray table for the first 20 minutes, the flight was uneventful. We flew in Faro (pronounced Far-O) – the flight takes 2 hours 50 minutes.
It is a pretty small airport and everyone on our flight was clearly coming on holiday. We have residency status in Portugal now and so when we arrived we were welcomed home. Quite strange being welcomed into a country as your home when it isn’t. The luggage took awhile to come out – we figured they might be watching the football. Collecting the rental car took up some more time and then we had the impossible task of fitting 5 people into a station wagon along with 2 sets of golf clubs, 5 suitcases and 3 backpacks. First attempt to put the golf clubs in the boot (trunk for the Americans reading this) was a failure and we quickly realised the golf clubs had to go on the kids laps. We put one set at their feet and the other set we slid across their laps but it was clear that wasn’t going to work either as we couldn’t close the door. Eventually we decided on two sets at their feet but Stephen still couldn’t put his feet anywhere. We worked out he had to sit in the middle so he could stretch his legs through the middle toward the gear shift. We were tightly packed in and we headed to our house in Vilamoura. (When I have the energy – it is now 12:48am – I will give some more details on this!)
We got to the house at about 9:30pm. Fortunately we had saved the location on our GPS from the previous time we were here in December (briefly) otherwise we might still be driving around looking for it. Helen, Chloe and I then headed out to see if we could find a shop open. After driving around for 30 minutes and finding everything closed, we eventually found a Lidl supermarket open and got some essential items for snacking tonight and breakfast tomorrow. Hopefully tomorrow we will find a better supermarket.
When we got back the boys had decided they wanted to rearrange the beds and so we (mainly them with a little bit of assistance and direction from me) moved two single beds down a floor and moved a double bed up a floor. Not easy work especially since it is quite hot and humid here. We also haven’t quite worked out how the TV works yet but I am confident that Stephen will figure it out and have the necessary cables to ensure everything is working. At least the WiFi is working and at 33Mbps we are operating at 10 times the speed we get at home (oh wait this is home as well now)!
Helen and Chloe arrived safely in London. Took them some time to clear passport control and Heathrow and they arrived at just after 8am at the flat. They were followed shortly after by our other SA friends (for those of you have read previous blogs – they are the Whiters). They were also on the same flight last night from Cape Town. They just dropped off their luggage for storage purposes and they headed out for Oxford Street. Helen and Chloe headed out a little later as well and met up with the Moyles’ ladies and went shopping. They were out most of the day and only got back at 4:30pm. Who knows what the state of the credit card looks like after that (actually I do know and it won’t be good news). They also managed to take the tube in the wrong direction and visited tube stations I didn’t know existed (Olympia!?).
Michael had also gone out to Oxford & Regent Street. Regent Street was closed off today for a display of London buses from 1822 onwards. There were horse drawn buses up until today’s modern, part electric, part diesel buses.
Bryan Moyles went off to the Cabinet War Rooms (I highly recommend that as one of the best museums in London) as he had reached his shopping limit. I hit that a long time ago and avoid the shops unless absolutely necessary. Stephen and I just went and did some grocery shopping (mainly for lunch). The rest of the day was consumed watching cricket and football (and we still have the important game of Portugal v USA to come).
We went out for dinner tonight at a fairly local Chinese restaurant called Ken Lo Memories of China (http://www.atozrestaurants.com/kenlosmemoriesofchina/). We walked to it (about 20 minute walk there) as the weather was again perfect. The service, food and setting (and company) were excellent. Helen managed to bite into a chilli (thinking it was a red pepper). Hard to explain the reaction but maybe the picture does. That immediately kicked off hiccups. She finished off her water and then mine. When desert came she said her mouth was still burning.
I would like to blog about Michael and the toilet but I will just leave it there. Ask him yourself to explain. Pleasant walk back to work off some of the huge quantity of food we had eaten and then back to watch the end of Algeria beating South Korea.
Tomorrow we are flying to Portugal. I am just hoping they don’t get eliminated from the World Cup tonight as well. So far two of the three countries we are visiting this holiday are out and it would be nice to watch some football in a country that isn’t depressed!
We’re back on holiday. In fact Stephen, Michael and I left last Sunday already for London. While S&M were on holiday, I have been working and with a packed schedule so no time until now to blog. We traveled over last Sunday night along with friends (Stephen’s girlfriend and her parents – that’s them in the BA lounge at CT airport sipping champagne – photo used without their permission!). We arrived Monday morning and after dropping off my luggage and a quick change into my suit, I went into work.
While the Moyles and my sons were sightseeing and loafing (in the case of my sons) in London, I went to Edinburgh on Tuesday night and then to Dublin on Wednesday night. Wednesday was a client presentation followed by golf with clients and that was repeated on Thursday in Dublin. Fortunately the weather has been exceptional for the UK. Edinburgh on Wednesday was 26 C with clear skies (it was almost too hot & humid) and Dublin was 20 C and clear as well.
We played Dalmahoy Golf Course (http://www.marriott.co.uk/golf-hotels/edigs-dalmahoy-marriott-hotel-and-country-club/dalmahoy-country-club/5226098/home-page.mi) on Wednesday in Edinburgh. It was hard work as the rough was thick and lush and when you hit your ball into it (which I seemed to do regularly) you were lucky to find it because the ball just sunk into the grass. On Thursday we played at Portmarnock Links (http://www.portmarnock.com/golf-index.html) and it was a totally different proposition. The course was hard and the ball rolled for ever. I managed to drive 300 meters on one hole which if you know anything about golf is a massive drive (up there with the pros). The course had ups and downs and blind shots more than I could number and given we had never played it before it made it tough. But I really enjoyed the round as it required imagination and creativity. I definitely want to play there again. The picture is from my hotel room at Portmarnock when we arrived at 10pm on the Wednesday night. The sun was just setting. Got to love the long summer days in Europe.
There are two golf courses in Portmarnock and they shouldn’t be confused. The one we played has a hotel associated with it and is designed by Bernard Langer (the golf course that is, not the hotel). The other course is the famous old course but it doesn’t allow women members and frowns on women even playing on the course. How that fits in with the European gender regulations of equality for men and women is beyond me. Irish logic can be the only thing that could explain it.
From today I have been officially on holiday and so spending the day watching cricket, rugby and football is the way to consume a day. It has been really fantastic weather in the UK this week. The picture is the view from the flat this morning and it stayed like that the whole day.
Stephen is so addicted to the football he didn’t want to come out for dinner tonight so Michael and I went and Stephen stayed and ate who knows what. We finished dinner and were back before the football started so his decision making is about as poor as the Spanish footballers.
The good news is that Helen and Chloe are on the BA flight into London right now as I type. Flightaware tells me they are projected to land at 6:02am, they have 7 hours and 2 mins left and are currently somewhere over the Democratic Republic of Congo (though Democratic and Congo is clearly an oxymoron). Hopefully they won’t get through passport and customs quickly as we will all be fast asleep still when they arrive.
Until tomorrow when our holiday officially starts as the whole family will be here!