Vilamoura to Lisbon

IMG_0737Helen and the girlfriends went for their usual morning run and seemed to cope better this morning as it was not as hot as previous days. The rest of the morning was just spent packing and doing some last-minute sun tanning (in the case of Helen who now looks Portuguese after a week in the sun). Lunch was made up of eating all the leftovers and then after lunch we hit the road back up to Lisbon. It is about 250kms on motorway the whole way up to Lisbon. It is a fantastic road (which you pay for the privilege of using – €20) and at times it seemed we were the only car on the road. We must have driven for 20-30 minutes without seeing another car on our side of the road (and it is a 2-lane and sometimes a 3-lane highway).  There is also really not a lot to see. Some farming and pretty much nothing else. It does look remarkably like parts of South African landscape though. Part Mpumlanga, part Karoo desert, part Malmesbury.

We arrived at the hotel at about 5pm. We are staying at the airport hotel again (same one we stayed when we arrived) as our flight is at 6:45am tomorrow morning. We didn’t get the executive floor this time but the rooms are still quite nice and comfortable. As we had the evening to kill here we decided to head in central Lisbon for a walk around and then have dinner. It was quite a nice evening (around 24 degrees) and being a Friday night it was very vibrant. Taxi’s are also quite cheap in Lisbon and it only cost us €10 to get from the hotel to the city centre. IMG_0740We had Ayrton Senna as our taxi driver (and if he keeps driving at 100km/h in the city centre – not kidding – then he will end up like Ayrton Senna too) and Helen reckons they had Sylvester Stallone driving theirs!

There is a large pedestrian zone in Lisbon and we got the taxi’s to drop us at the start of it and then we ambled down to the sea and back up again. We had done this in January when we were here last and there were a lot fewer people and it was a lot colder too. There aIMG_0746re people playing music (someone playing the panpipes this time) and a few fire eaters even. At the sea there is a Plaza and they were setting up for a concert and doing sound checks etc which added to the atmosphere. It also seems that we stopped at every store selling sunglasses for everyone to try out some new glasses. This seems to have become ‘a thing we do this holiday’ though I haven’t yet seen the attraction or tried on a pair yet. Everyone else has and today Lara (yes Bryan I assume this is another essential living item) and Helen bought themselves a pair.

IMG_0745There are numerous side-walk restaurants and everyone tries their utmost to get you to come to their restaurant. Everyone has the freshest fish, best cuts of meat and today someone even offered us a free bottle of wine. We eventually selected one and everyone was very unimpressed by the pictures on their menu – they were quite off-putting. However, as we had already ordered drinks we just stuck it out and the food was (fortunately) much better than the pictures on the menu. Someone needs to give them a hand on selection of pictures for the menu!

Taxi back to the hotel and hopefully an early night for everyone. It is amazing that even in the taxi’s we have kept the same groupings – Michael, Oli & I in one vehicle and Stephen, Lara, Chloe and Helen in the other.

Until tomorrow

P, H, S, L, M, O & C (no particular reason for the order today and everyone finally behaved themselves and didn’t offend me)

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Last Full Day in Vilamoura

IMG_0723Today was our last full day in Vilamoura. Lara & Oli went for a run this morning and Helen chose to remain in bed (for the first time since we got here). It was again a little cooler this morning but by mid-morning it was mid twenties and by the end of the day it was just touching 30.

Michael and I had another round of golf this time at Oceanico Pinhal. It was the first time Michael and I had played it.  We have now played 4 courses in Vilamoura and still at least 3 to play. We prefer playing by ourselves but today we were paired with another father & son from Scotland. He was an ex-professional soccer player (played for Dundee United) and now works for Scottish Football Association. His son was about 10 or 11 years old and pretty small but he played remarkably well for his age (he out drove Michael on the first few holes). Michael played significantly better than the round earlier in the week and had numerous birdie opportunities (unfortunately he converted none). His best chance was on Par 3 (picture included) which was only about 1 meter away and unfortunately he missed the putt. IMG_0725

We got home to find the rest of them hadn’t left the house and spent the day tanning, swimming, watching TV, reading and sleeping. This evening (it being our last evening), we headed to the Marina for dinner. There are numerous restaurants at the Marina so the choice is whether you want to walk further or just take the first place you walk past. Given we were hungry we took the latter option and had dinner at the Mayflower Restaurant (not a very Portuguese restaurant name). Three of us at least had seafood (you can’t really sit on the Marina and then have steak but 3 of my family managed that) – the girlfriends at least know how to order seafood at Marina restaurant.

IMG_0732We had the mandatory after dinner ice creams on the way back to the car. We also spent 2 weeks here last time and despite my Dad telling us about the ‘Old Town’ we could never find it. He emailed this morning to say not to forget to visit the ‘Old Town’ so we figured we better give it another try. Thank goodness for Google Satellite because we used that and found it immediately. IMG_0734The biggest issue is that it is called the ‘Old Village’ and not ‘Old Town’ and so we had been looking for the wrong thing the whole time (thanks Dad). But we did find it tonight and had a quick walk around the area. There are some restaurants and pubs and interesting architecture. Now that we have found it we can give it a try the next time we are back. What was quite funny is that it was right next to the golf course that Michael and I played today.

Until tomorrow …

P, M (because he played golf with me and found the Old Village), H, S, L, C, O (while others tried, I think she was only the one that managed to insult me today)

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A loafing day

IMG_1130Helen went for her early morning run as usual (10kms) at some early time in the morning. It was partly cloudy the whole day and a lot cooler today as well (got up to 26 degrees only). It kept looking like it was going to rain but it never did (and doesn’t look like it will now) – though the sunset is quite beautiful with the reflection off the clouds (that is the view from our top balcony).

IMG_0718We didn’t do a lot today. We all went to the Algarve Mall again this morning. I just wanted to buy some ‘hardware’ items like light bulbs, super glue etc so that we could do some maintenance around the house. However, Helen and the girlfriends wanted to do some more clothes shopping and so they stayed on until about 3pm and hopefully completed their Portuguese shopping. Not sure Lara could have any money left after today.

We really didn’t do much else except lounge around, watch TV episodes (in the case of the S, L, M & O), read and lie around the pool. I did some work including having a telephone conference call but that was about it.  Isn’t that a sign of a good, relaxing holiday – just doing very little and unwinding? Michael did have a 30 minute (at least, not kidding) conversation with the gardener (who spoke impeccable English – or at least so says Michael). The gardener told him the previous owner paid €1.5m for the house and then went bankrupt (hence why he had to sell). He also persuaded Michael that we need to trim the trees, put cork into the garden (only in Portugal would you put cork in the garden), change the irrigation system and make various other garden improvements. Michael told him to put it into writing and send it through for my approval!

We had bought what looked like lobster tails for dinner tonight. They turned out to be Lobster Surimi – looks like lobster but made out of a meat paste (and who knows what meat and feels like rubber i.e. not really edible). That is the problem of not being able to read Portuguese and only using a translator on the key word (in this case lobster).  Fortunately we had sausage and chicken as well. Only Stephen and Oli ate any significant amount of it (and well done to them and for that alone they are worthy of a promotion on the blog order of merit).

Until tomorrow …

P, O, S, H, M, L & C

 

 

Loule

IMG_0663Normally Stephen would sleep to around midday while on holiday but the value of having a girlfriend on holiday with him drove him to get up early and join the ladies on their morning run. They went to Quarteiria this morning for a run along the promenade and Stephen joined them on his skateboard. It was overcast this morning and much cooler but quite humid. In fact the whole day was much cooler and didn’t get above 27 degrees (and most of the day was 23 degrees).

After they got back and had breakfast (and fortunately showered), we decided to visit Loule which is about 25 minutes drive from Vilamoura. It is a major town in the area. It is known for its market which is open every day and is situated in a renovated 19th century market hall. They sell fresh produce (fish, meat, fruit and vegetables) and also other types of things like port (very important – bought a bottle or two for next week), spices etc. IMG_0668

After a leisurely stroll around the market we headed toward the old town center of Loule which has a Castle from the 7th century. We did a quick visit to the Castle and the museum next door (the museum was much more interesting than the Castle). It is interesting to see how your view of history can be altered by who writes it. One of the history pieces said the Moors built the defenses to keep the Christians out. Most often when you read Western European history it is from the perspective of the current occupants and not that of the Moors.

IMG_0665Loule’s old city has cobbled streets (as most old European city’s have) and a significant amount of it is only accessible for pedestrians. They put ‘sails’ over the streets which keeps it cool and is quite beautiful as well. We walked the streets and did some window shopping and then stopped for an early lunch at one of the sidewalk cafes.

A leisurely afternoon of napping (for some), swimming and sun tanning. Stephen and Lara came with me to get some food for tonight. I have been mocked mercilessly because I like the butcher in the supermarket in town.  IMG_0717Even though he is situated inside the supermarket, he runs his own business and you pay him separately. He is very helpful, speaks English and the meat is pretty good. It also amazes me that it isn’t that expensive when you compare it with South African prices even. All of this gets me mocked mercilessly because I like the guy and want to support him. It has now become a standing joke and it is generally the reason why Stephen is always at the end of the list of people on the blog. He takes it to another whole level.

IMG_0716We had another braai for dinner tonight (pork strips and rump steak) and then Helen, Chloe and I went for a walk around the neighborhood. The number of houses that are closed up in the area is quite remarkable. I can only assume that they are owned by people who live in Lisbon and maybe come down for weekends or a holiday period. They are quite nice houses and I am sure probably cost €1m (or more). That is the anomaly of Portugal though as you find properties of €1m or more and then right next door is what looks like a dilapidated block of flats. I will have to remember to take a photo or two to prove the point.

Until tomorrow ..

P, O (because she actually defended me today), H, M, L, C & S (he is probably going to be permanently there and disinherited soon too)

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Day 2 Vilamoura

Helen managed to persuade the two girlfriends to go running with her at 7:30am this morning. They ran to the beach and back and looked a little worse for the wear when they got back. It was pretty warm already by the time they got back and so they all went straight into the pool from the run.

IMG_0661Michael and I had a golf round booked today. We played the course that we both played quite well the last time we were here. Neither of us played as well as we did previously but we also didn’t play terribly. I haven’t played for almost 2 months so it took a little time to get warmed up and into the swing (same applied to Michael). I did get a birdie today which is something I haven’t done for a few months so quite happy about that.

The course was quite dry and so if you hit it well it really did go quite a long distance. As you can see from the photo, there was not a cloud in the sky and by the 3rd hole my shirt was pretty damp already. It was cooler than yesterday though I saw on News24 that the heat wave in Spain and Portugal even got a mention on the SA news site (http://www.news24.com/Green/News/Spain-Portugal-bake-in-heatwave-20150629). Almost 1.5l of liquid later we finished the round and headed back home.

The ladies took the day to go shopping at the Algarve Mall. Not grocery shopping – clothes shopping (in case there was any confusion). Stephen decided to stay behind the TV for the day. It seems everyone managed to buy multiple items and they apparently never even completed the whole mall (@Bryan – Lara said she only used her own money this time).

IMG_0658The rest of the afternoon was spent in the swimming pool. It seems at any one time there was someone in the pool until about 30 minutes ago. It really has cooled off a lot and at dinner some people even managed to wear a jersey. After dinner tonight the girlfriends went cycling and the boyfriends joined them on their skateboards. They came back relatively soon though as it got dark quite quickly.

The temperature is down to 21 degrees now and quite pleasant. However, I am pretty sure it will be back in the 30’s again tomorrow.

Until tomorrow …

P, M (because he played golf with me), H (because she didn’t spend too much), C, L, O & S (because he again insulted me over dinner … soon to be disinherited)

 

 

Day 2 in Vilamoura

It was a relatively leisurely day today and our first full day in Vilamoura. Helen woke up first and decided a run down to the beach and back was in order. What she seemed to forget was that even at 7:30am it was already 26-27 degrees and that it is about 9.5kms there and back. She did make it back though before anyone else (except me) had woken up. It was cooler today – only getting to about 32 degrees. Breakfast was a staggered affair because everyone woke up at different times.

IMG_0653After breakfast we headed out to the Algarve Shopping Mall. Fortunately the Portuguese are not like most of Europe in that their shops are open on a Sunday. We needed to do a serious food shop at the Hypermarket which is about 20 minutes away toward the west. It is situated in the mall (the only mall in the area for probably 100kms in either direction). With 7 people even shopping at a supermarket takes a little co-ordination and at times I found myself wondering if the other 6 had deserted me. After getting enough food probably for the next 2 days we headed back to the house for lunch and leisurely afternoon of reading, sleeping (it was Sunday afternoon after all), sun tanning and swimming in the pool. Only Michael and Oli ventured out for a walk around the IMG_0650area. Stephen spent most of the afternoon (and in fact day) behind the television fiddling with cables and trying to get Netflix working (it looks like we had banished him to the corner).

The girlfriends had offered to cook so we left the kitchen up to them this evening. Fortunately they have been well brought up and well-trained in the art of cooking. They did a great job and all the better for the fact that the rest of us could laze around some more after the extremely busy day we had.

IMG_0654After dinner we drove down to the Marina for a walk and ice creams. The Marina is impressive for a number of things. Firstly there are the yachts. These are not your average small sailing yacht.  These are the type which led Helen to say ‘more like a mini-ship’. There are some seriously wealthy people living down here because to own one of those yachts you have to be a multimillionaire (and not in Zimbabwe dollars).  The second that makes the Marina impressive are the tomato skinned English people. I suspect that the English have not heard of sunscreen. I suspect there are many sore people out there tonight. The other amusing things is how posh they are dressed. The women are all in short skirts/dresses with very high heels and the men in shorts/T-shirt with flip-flops. Big mismatch.

It has cooled down tremendously to 27 degrees now at 10:15pm.

Until tomorrow

P, H, M, O, C, L, S (he knows why)

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Portugal – Day 1

Despite going to bed at 1am, I was awake at 6:30am this morning. I can’t really complain about the hotel as it was quite nice and they upgraded us to the premium floor so we could all have rooms together. At about 8:15am Michael knocked on the door looking for something and that woke Helen up otherwise she may still have been sleeping (she was sleeping that soundly).

We had to fetch the 2 cars (we need two for the 7 people and 10 pieces of luggage) and at the same time we bought some croissants for breakfast to eat on the way to Vilamoura and the boys organized SIM cards for everyone. It all went quite smoothly. Thank goodness for mobile phones and Google maps because I don’t think we would not have found the route from airport back to the hotel otherwise (even though you can see the hotel from airport).

IMG_0638Fortunately they upgraded my car to a large station wagon as the golf clubs only fitted into my car. We then split up. First test of loyalties to see who would drive with whom. Michael, Oli with me (cool car) with the rest (boring car) with Helen. We then headed out for Vilamoura which is about a 2 hour 30 minute drive from Lisbon. It is a really good road made up mostly of a 2-lane highway but at times it is a 3-lane highway. It takes about 15 minutes and you’re out of Lisbon and you pretty much don’t pass another town again until you hit the start of the Algarve. Only place to stop is at one of the services along the highway. It seems besides Helen, Michael and me most people slept most of the way.

It was pretty smooth driving and we arrived at Vilamoura at 12:45pm and the temperature on my car was reading 39 degrees as we pulled into the drive of the house.  We offloaded and then Helen and I headed straight out to buy some food for the balance of the day. The nearest decent supermarket is about 2 kms away. Portuguese supermarkets take some getting used to. They are not like supermarkets you experience elsewhere in the world. They are pretty disorganized, have a strange lay out and most importantly every is in Portuguese.  It is a real challenge trying to figure out simple things like which what is sIMG_0648emi-skimmed milk and what is full-cream milk.  You also need to bring your own bags (which of course we hadn’t). Combine that with the fact they don’t really have supermarket trolley’s you can see how challenging it can be to buy food for 7 people even for only 2 days.

After lunch everyone except Lara and I seemed to fade off to their bedrooms and weren’t seen again until about 5:30pm. At that point the temperature had cooled down significantly to 31 degrees. Lara & Oli decided the weather was cool enough for a run and Stephen & Michael joined them but on their skateboards. Helen, Chloe and I headed for the pool and the others joined us when they got back about 20 minutes later.

Braai for dinner (lamp chops and sausage) and then out to the beach to watch the sunset. Last year when we did that it was us and one other group on the beach. Tonight when we arrived the beach was pumping. Music coming from a party happening on the pier and from a party boat slowing making it’s way up the coast. There were still hundreds of people on theIMG_0643 beach as well. We were trying to figure out what was different this year versus last year and could only conclude either (a) stronger European economy or (b) weekend (or a combination of both).

IMG_0646We also had to a rematch of last’s years 100 meter dash between Stephen and Michael. Unfortunately for Stephen it was the same result as last year (though he seemed to be closer this year). One could see the disappointment in Lara’s eyes. I was also disappointed to discover that Chloe had left her selfie stick at home (never thought that would happen).  We still managed to squeeze into a selfie on the beach (Chloe says she is the queen of selfies).

It is now 10:20pm and the temperature has cooled down further to 28 degrees now. I don’t think we will be needing jersey’s in the next week.

Until tomorrow …

P, S, L (because they both weren’t mocking me over dinner even though they selected Helen’s car over mine), M, O, C & H (because she was the chief mocker over dinner)

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Last day of work, first day of holiday for some, 4 day for others

Today was my last day at work for 2 weeks. I had to be in the office by 8am though for a telephone call with my SA office. I was on the tube earlier than usual which meant there were actually seats available. What does amaze (and annoy me) is that people play their music so loud that I can hear it even though they are using headphones. They must be seriously hearing impaired. This morning we had two people in our carriage with that particular disorder.

Today for me was an unusual day in London in that it was composed of a full day of training on our new company performance management system (yes I know exciting stuff). My London team was chosen (and to be fair we part volunteered) to be in the pilot project before the full roll to the whole company. It was actually a good day (believe it or not). We got free lunch. Oh wait, we get free lunch every day in the London office.

IMG_1122I had already left this morning we the balance of the clan arrived. They landed at Heathrow at 6:30am and were in the flat by 8:30am. Not bad for a Friday morning. Not entirely sure what they did today but when I got back at 4:30pm they were all in the flat and almost ready for us to leave for the airport again.

We are now in total 7 people with 10 pieces of luggage (which includes 2 golf bags) and that excludes the laptop bags/backpacks. We had a 7-seater van to take us to the airport and it was fully loaded. It is also a bit of a process to get checked in at the airport. We had just over an hour to kill before our flight boarded and so (of course) the ladies managed to go off and do something in-terminal shopping (yes Bryan you should start to worry soon your daughter did not come back empty handed).

IMG_0637We flew to Lisbon tonight (our second home country – or should be soon enough). The flight left late because of how busy Heathrow is on a Friday evening and we eventually arrived in Lisbon at 11:15pm. As Oli has a British passport she went through the EU channel and the rest of us had to wait to get our passports stamped which must have taken 10 minutes for the 6 of us. The luggage came off shortly after we got to the baggage belt. Fortunately we have booked an airport hotel (within walking distance though crossing about 10 roads on cobbles with 10 bags isn’t the easiest thing to do). Checked-in and in our rooms by about 12:30pm. Now to get some sleep – it is 1am now (and probably about 25 degrees outside still).

Until tomorrow ….

P, C (because she’s my favorite and sat next to me on the plane) H, S, M, L, O

London Day 3

WestminsterYes you guessed it – work for me and holiday for Stephen and Lara.  Another lovely day in London today. It must have been around 25 degrees and was sunshine the whole day.

Stephen, Lara and Jason went off to visit some markets today. They walked along the Thames and visited Borough Market and then Camden MarkSt James Parket. It seems they had a good day but not a lot of details from the 3 of them so I don’t have much say except post some of the pictures.

This evening we went for dinner near the flat as I had some work to do.  We had planned on going to one of the local pubs but given the nice weather, every English person was standing outside a pub this afternoon & evening. So we ended up at a Spanish Tapas restaurant. It is usually impossible to find at table at the restaurant but it seems everyone was at the pub tonight and so we easily got a table.IMG_0633

The rest of the family also left tonight for London. This is the first time that the other 2 under 18 kids of ours have traveled since SA introduced the ridiculous new tight travel laws.  I had done the necessary Affidavit to allow Helen to take the two of them out of the country and they have unabridged birth certificates as well. Helen says they were asked to show the necessary documents 4 times before they got on the plane. They really are cautious!

They are safely on the IMG_0634plane and according to Google the flight arrives in 7 hours 29 minutes from now and it should land 6:01am tomorrow. Looking forward to seeing them all and starting the holiday.  I will only see them later tomorrow as I have to be at work early.

Until tomorrow …

P, S & L (with H, M, C & O on route)

Work continues, holiday continues

I was up at 6:30am this morning and surprised to find the bathroom occupied. My nephew (no Daniel not my favourite one) was already up. He is also staying in London with us at present and he had come in from San Francisco on Sunday and still seems to be jet-lagged. I didn’t see anyone else up by the time I headed for work.

I believe that Lara and Jason (my nephew) went for a run along the Thames and back to the flat. I say, I believe, because there is a little evidence of it occurring. Stephen (without much doubt) was still fast asleep. Stephen and Lara went shopping for 5 hours this afternoon. I doubt whether Lara has any money left after 5 hours (Bryan do you want me to advance her a line of credit?)

It was a beautiful, hot, humid day in London today. I know because the tube felt about 10 degrees warmer than usual and all the tourists were walking around in shorts. It is 9:25pm and it is still not dark and it is a lovely evening as well. This really is London at it’s best.

Stephen, Lara & Jason hawickedve all gone off this evening to watched Wicked (a musical). The theater is pretty close by (walking distance). The show started at 7:30pm.  The only evidence I have of them doing anything today is the photo of the stage before it started. They had researched the seats before they bought them and it suggested that short people should avoid the seats they bought – they bought them anyway it seems (hopefully Lara could see enough but at least she would have been able to hear it).

They did get back at about 10:30pm and seem to enjoy the show and said it is worthwhile seeing. Stephen’s first words were “I feel like I need to watch Wizard of Oz now”. Not words I was expecting him to say.

Sorry I forgot to push send last night before I went to bed.  Until later today …

P, S & L