You should be used to the pattern by now – every second day, a round of golf. Michael and I had booked our last round in Portugal for 7:30am. It was a bit colder than previous mornings as evidenced by the fact that all the staff at the golf course were wearing jerseys. It was a bit cool but neither Michael nor I would have even considered wearing a jersey. It was an average round of golf for both of us. We both were hitting the ball a long way off the tee and Michael and I pretty much match each other in distance now (photographic proof that I am still longer than him off the tee though).
The ladies went off to the beach at Albufeira called Praia dos Arrifes. The beaches along the coast are generally very pretty but the water is often too cold to swim in (people think the Algarve is on the Mediterranean but it is in fact on the Atlantic ocean). So sun tanning is the thing to do on the beaches and none of the men are inclined to do that. The ladies seemed to enjoy themselves and they got back at around lunch time. The afternoon was spent just relaxing in and around the house again with a braai for dinner (lamb chops & chicken wings). Helen and I went for a short walk around the neighborhood after dinner.
One week almost down … it went past very quickly.
Until tomorrow …
P, H, C (because I promised to move her up and she is my favourite daughter), M, O & S (because he beat me at table tennis yesterday)
Spending the day doing very little is the definition of holiday. That is pretty much what we did yesterday. The whole morning was spent around the house (either inside or next to or inside the pool). Michael cooked us some burgers for lunch which was probably the most active thing done the whole morning (except that Oli and Helen went for a run in the morning).
In the afternoon I needed to buy printer ink (yes I do have a printer at the house) and Michael, Oli and Stephen came with me and then we tried to drive along the coast heading west. I say tried because you cannot actually drive along the seafront because they don’t build roads that run along the coast. Instead they build hotels and resorts. You cannot even access the beach unless you go through one of these hotels or resorts. We spent about 20 minutes trying to at least see a beach and we eventually managed to find one. Some grocery shopping on the way back to the house to buy food for the next day or so and then back home. I know I have said this before, but I really can’t believe how cheap chicken is in Portugal. We bought 9 chicken wings for €2 from the butcher. That really is very cheap. I reckon you can buy chicken than pretty much anything else including fruit and vegetables.
Last night we decided to have dinner at the Marina and we had chosen out Prime Steakhouse from the previous evening when we walked around and had ice creams. It was a very chilled meal and even though the steaks (we all had steaks) weren’t the best I have ever had, the company was good and that always makes a meal.
P, H, S (because he moaned a lot about not being high enough in the order), O (because Michael was Christ-like and offered to swap his position for O’s earned position … substitutionary atonement in action), C, M
On Monday after our shocking round of golf Michael and I immediately booked the next round at our favourite course in Vilamoura – The Millennium course (http://www.dompedrogolf.com/our-courses/millennium-golf-course.html). While it still has a reasonable number of trees it doesn’t have nearly as many as Pinhal and both Michael and I really like the course. We had the first tee off time of the day at 7:30am. It was 16 degrees when we drove to the course and the word ‘cold’ was actually used for the first time on the trip. Turned out to be perfect golf weather (very little wind) and because we were the first group off, we finished by 10:30am. I didn’t start well but fortunately by the end of the round I had gotten my ‘golf mojo’ back while Michael started well, lost it in the middle and got it back again for last few holes. End result was that we scored exactly the same score and it was considerably better than Monday. We did also see an automatic lawnmower (no operator needed) cutting the lawn of one of the homeowners next to the course. First time I have ever seen (that is what the picture is of).
The other bunch were planning to go to the beach but because the weather was ‘so cold’ (23 degrees by the time we got back at 10:30), they had decided not to go and so we spent the morning in the house (too cold to sit outside in the sun even apparently). Some people watched The Iron Lady (the movie about Margaret Thatcher starring Meryl Streep) – quite a good movie giving you a good sense of who she was and how unfortunately dementia finally took over.
The ladies went back to the Algarve Shopping Centre after lunch to do some more shopping though it seems that Helen was the most successful shopper this time. The men stayed behind and played some table tennis and I also had a chat to our gardening service about what needs to be done in the garden before winter comes.
After dinner we decided to go down to the marina for a stroll and a gelato. The marina is the place to be in the evenings. Every English person who is staying anywhere near the marina is at the marina at that time of the night. The ladies are all dressed up but the men don’t dress up at all – they’re just in shorts and T-shirts. It is the funniest thing to see but every time we are here it strikes me. The other thing that strikes me are the yachts you find in the marina. The bigger ones are very impressive. Michael found a place selling them and the prices for the larger ones are around £1m each. Add to that the mooring fees, the need for skipper etc and you have to be seriously wealthy to own one of them. Stephen says that one day he is going to own one of them … he better start working soon then because he’s almost past his prime. Steve Jobs founded Apple at 21; Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook at 19. It’s only a few days now until Stephen’s 21st birthday so I’m looking forward to seeing what he’s going to invent in the next 2 weeks.
P, M (because he plays golf), H, C, S & O (the insults just keep rolling in from her …)
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.
P, H, M, S, C & O (she deserves the last place and she knows why …)
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.
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)
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.
P, H, C, O, S & M (because the two of them did so little yesterday)
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)