Faro

Even though I have been to Portugal numerous times now, I still don’t understand the place. You drive around and there is a really nice home or building but right next door is total dereliction with graffiti sprayed all over it. It seems a real mixture between first world and third world even though they would only consider themselves to be first world only.

Yesterday we needed to drop off our expired residency cards at our lawyers office in the Algarve (so they can issue us the latest updated ones). Their office was in Almancil (about 15 minutes from our house) and as we hadn’t been there before so we all decided to go and then go from there to Faro (again because we hadn’t really been there).

Faro is rated as the number 1 attraction in Algarve region. Not only does it have the biggest shopping centre (Forum Algarve) but it also has an Old Town and New Town area, the airport (where we landed), a marina and also a wetlands. We first went to the shopping centre and did a little (fortunately it was a little only) shopping. Stephen entertained himself by making crosses with the pool noodle (probably the effect of being an intern for 6 months at Church).  We then drove into Faro itself. It did feel a little like SA when we arrived because we had two people ‘helping’ us find a parking (in a free parking lot with plenty of free spaces). When we didn’t pay them on exiting our cars we had a slew of words shouted at us. No idea what she said because we don’t understand Portuguese – probably fortunate we didn’t because I suspect it wasn’t wholesome.

The Old Town area is what you would expect of Portugal. White washed buildings generally in good shape and cobbled streets. We walked around a bit and then found our way down to the sea and wetland area and walked along the coast until we found a restaurant on the waterside to have some lunch. On the way back to the car after lunch we passed an exercise park (which everyone amused themselves on for some time). The wind was blowing quite strongly especially near the sea

We were back to the house early afternoon which allowed time for everyone to have a nap or just relax around the pool. A dinner done entirely on the braai (lamb kebabs; chicken wings; zucchini, sweet potatoes & asparagus) by Stephen & I was how we finished the day.

Until tomorrow

P, H, M, S, C & O (she deserves the last place and she knows why …)

Vilamoura Day 2

Michael and I had a tee off at 7:39am on Pinhal Golf Course (http://www.dompedrogolf.com/our-courses/pinhal-golf-course/). Vilamoura has 6 golf courses in the town and Michael and I have played all of them besides one so far.  We have only played Pinhal once before so we decided to play it again as our first course this trip. It was a mistake – there were more pine trees on the course than there are descendants of Abraham (well obviously not quite but it felt like it). You miss a fairway and you’re behind a tree. And while it is said that trees are 90% air, Michael and I seemed to find the 10% all the time if we went for any sort of ambitious shot. The highlight of the round was that on one whole we both almost drove the green (that’s the picture). These were 280 meter drives (and if you know anything about golf you’ll know that’s pretty far). The rest of the round we will just forget about though! The other positive was that as we teed off second, we actually were back home by 11am.

The rest of them decided to go shopping at the Algarve Shopping Mall. We needed some things for the house but really they wanted to buy clothes. While we might have been quick to get back, they only made it back at around 3pm (might have even been closer to 4pm). Stephen apparently had the most successful shopping trip – much to the irritation of the 3 ladies. But they seemingly all found things they liked. Clothes in Portugal are generally quite cheap as well (well at least that is what they tell me).

Everyone was itching to get into the pool and sit outside but unfortunately the gardening service had decided to come to trim the hedges, weed, etc. They eventually left well after 5pm and then we did have some relaxing time in and around the pool again. I needed to be in because I played Michael at Table Tennis and was pretty sweaty by the time we were finished (no aircon in the garage!).

After dinner we went for a quick walk around the neighbourhood (Stephen was on his skateboard and Helen gave it a try too – not with much success though).

Another generally relaxing day.

Until tomorrow

P, M (because he played golf with me), H, C, O, S (because he slept while the rest of us enjoyed ourselves in the pool)

Vilamoura

Yesterday was our first full day in Vilamoura. It was pretty warm when we woke up even though it was overcast. You could tell it was going to get quite hot. In the morning we went to do some grocery shopping at Pingo Dolce (one of local supermarkets). It seems though that everyone else in Vilamoura had the same idea because the shop was packed and everyone (admittedly like us to) had brought their families along. The aisles of the shop can barely have two shopping carts pass each other. We loaded up the cart with all the essentials (including the essential chocolate salami & Pasteis de Nata … specialties found in Portugal). Portugal prices are pretty reasonable at a supermarket.  Somethings are cheaper than in South Africa (like chicken which cost €1.99 per kg (that’s about R30 per kg), veal cutlets €6.99 per kg (about R100 per kg), somethings are similar in price (like fruit and vegetables) and only a few things are more expensive.

By the time we got back the boys had finally woken up (they never came with us as they will still asleep) and then we just relaxed around the pool, had lunch and killed some time until the cricket started at 2:30pm.  We watched that until about 6pm (or at least some of us did while Helen and Chloe watched the inside of their eyelids) and then we again just relaxed around the pool (or in the pool for some) until supper.

Being the first night in Portugal, it seemed fitting to have roast chicken for dinner (chicken must be the national food of Portugal … if it isn’t it should be). After dinner the plan was to go to the beach to watch the sunset. Unfortunately we arrived about 5 minutes late for the sunset but we atmosphere on the beach was still quite nice with music blaring out of one of the local restaurant/clubs. Generally the beach is quiet already at that time of the evening (just before 9pm) but not last night.  We paddled in the water, spotted some crabs and a star fish and just walked along the beach watching the sun slip away completely.  Stephen and Michael needed a re-run of their 50m dash along the beach from about 2 years ago which ended in a reversal of previous years with Stephen winning. Stephen says his speed has picked up over the past 2 years because of all the running I make him do while playing squash!

Helen, Michael and Stephen decided to jog back down the beach to where we parked while the other 3 of us ambled back at our pace. It was a very relaxing finish to the day. A quick stop at the Burger King for chocolates sundaes and then back to the house and into bed.

Until tomorrow

P, H, C, O, S & M (because the two of them did so little yesterday)

Portugal here we come

I left last Sunday night for London (to work for a week) but the rest of the family + girlfriend left on Friday night to join me for our mid-year holiday in Europe.  They flew over to London and then had the day to kill before we flew on Saturday afternoon at 4:25pm to Faro, Portugal.

Chloe (who is considering studying in the UK) wanted to attend the Kings College open day (that’s the photo) which happened yesterday and so her and Helen came in to London. They got to the flat around 7:30am and so had time for breakfast, a bath (novelty now because of the severe water restrictions and shortage in Cape Town, they haven’t bathed for a long time … don’t worry they do shower occasionally though) and some downtime (read nap) before heading off to the open day.  The rest of them decided to stay at Heathrow for the day.  They had to transfer from T3 to T5 and then spent the rest of the day in the BA lounge in T5. By the time we joined them at 2:40pm, Oli seemed bored out of her mind (not surprising when you have Stephen and Michael for company for that long).

We boarded and left on time and landed on time in Faro too (even with the obligatory 20 minute taxi around Heathrow runways). The most stunning thing of the day was that Helen and Stephen (sitting next to each other on plane) spoke for about 2 hours solid on the flight.  If you ever travel with Helen you will quickly realise she switches off from everyone else on a plane and it seems to be her and her book traveling together (which is why I generally sit next to my favourite daughter rather who is a good travel companion).  Add to that Stephen who we sometimes forget still lives in our house (we see him so seldom sometimes), it was quite surprising to see them speak for 2 hours.  Stephen might have been updating Helen on the last 2-3 years of his life – that could explain it!

It was overcast in Faro, but on landing at 7:30pm it was 35 degrees. Passport control took some time (Oli the EU citizen was sent ahead to get the luggage … making herself useful) and by the time we were all through the luggage was almost all out. Then came the biggest time consumer – getting the rental car.  We had rented two cars (6 people and golf clubs) and from different car companies so Helen went to one queue and me the other.  Both queues were ridiculously long – mine was out of the rental agency kiosk.  It is simply ridiculous how long it takes to rent a car in Portugal.  This is not the first time it has happened.  They must love paper as a nation and I had to sign 4 documents to get the car – even individual printed especially for me.  It took me about an hour. Helen managed to do it in less time so 4 of them headed out with whatever luggage they could fit in and Stephen and I waited patiently to get our car.

We eventually arrived at our house in Vilamoura at around 9pm. Fortunately my sister and brother-in-law and family had been staying in it until Saturday am so they had kindly left us some food and probably more importantly a very nice bottle of port (thanks Jeff!). Everyone was pretty tired from the traveling and so by 10pm we all headed to bed (or were already in bed).  I’ve been up since 6:30am and its now 8am – not seen anyone else yet and I’m getting hungry so probably not going to wait much longer to make myself breakfast.

Until tomorrow …

P, H, C (because she complained she is always last on the blog), S, M, O (because she deserves to be there – already insulting me on the plane)