London Day 4 & 5

Monday was back to work for me (unfortunately). So while the others were out touring, shopping and relaxing, I was back at work stuck in meetings and my emails. So my view of days 4 onward in London is slightly different from what everyone else might have experienced.

Monday was the day that we all started doing different things though.  M & O took a train down to my parents who live in the New Forest.  For those of you who don’t follow UK news, the UK trains have been a disaster recently.  After numerous years, some bright spark decided he could improve the train timetable and so changed it.  That resulted in major issues across almost all train lines in the UK. One train that was meant to go to Reading ended up in Birmingham (not kidding) … driver said he got lost! About a month ago I took a train down to my parents and what usually takes 1.5 hours ended up taking 3.5 hours. Fortunately M & O didn’t have that problem and their train journey down seemed to go without a problem.

S, K & C went to the British Museum.  If you’re ever in London it is one the museums you should definitely go and visit. Entrance is free and you get to see all the treasures that the British have managed to plunder in their various colonies in one place. They regularly change their displays and apparently have 10 times of what you see on display, stored in the back rooms not on display. A guidebook is essential otherwise you get lost in the detail and miss the important items.  A lot of artifacts and displays link to Biblical times. The best way is to use Through the British Museum with the Bible by Brian Edwards (https://www.dayone.co.uk/products/through-the-british-museum-with-the-bible).

I did manage to do something I hadn’t done yet and that was go up the Shard. I had a client dinner and we ate in the Obelix restaurant (https://www.the-shard.com/restaurants/oblix/). The views are incredible (though I was with clients so unfortunately didn’t take any pictures); the price even more incredible (fortunately the company paid).

On Tuesday M & O went with my parents to Hope Cove on the south coast of England. Only thing we got from them were a few selfies and lots of photos of the food they ate. I am assuming they had a good time down there with my parents.

It was the last day in London for S, K & C. S & K took a boat that goes under the London Zoo (again no other details or photos so you’ll have to ask them directly if you want to know more). They all seemed to also do some last-minute shopping including K buying a Kitchen Aid to take back (a fraction of the price of what she would have paid in SA). Early evening they had to head for the airport – taxi to Paddington station and then train to Heathrow. Their flight left 9:40pm and was pretty much on time.

Finally H and I were alone …

P, H, C, S, K, M & O (because she supported Djokovic)

London Day 3

Sunday was S’s 22nd birthday but as it was Sunday we planned to go to Church first and have a birthday dinner celebration only in the evening.  In between there was time to watch the Wimbledon final and World Cup final. What much more could you ask for a birthday than that!

As some of you may know, C is planning to start studying in London in September.  She has actually been accepted (provisionally) to two universities in London.  Before we went to Portugal she spent the weekend in London and one purpose was to write an English competency exam (which encouraging she passed quite comfortably – not surprising as her one A-level is in English literature). The other purpose was to try find a Church to attend and she did manage to do that too – Christ Church Mayfair (http://www.christchurchmayfair.org/). Our plan was to take the bus there (only 20 minutes) but it turned out that when we got to the bus stop we had just missed the previous bus and the next one was 11 minutes away.  It meant that if we wanted to arrive in time that we had to walk.  It is a nice walk though passed Buckingham Palace and through Green Park. We arrived with 5 minutes to spare.

The Church seats about 250 people and is in a traditional old building with stain glass windows that are quite impressive. The service was led by the Assistant Pastor and was quite informal. They sang similar songs to what we would at TCC. The singing did sound particularly good though as the acoustics in the building were excellent. One of their previous members who is now studying at Oakhill College preached and for a young guy in training he preached very well. The guy clearly has the gift of preaching. A reasonable number of people introduced themselves to us (including the assistant minister) and made us feel welcome.  I reckon Chloe has found the right place for her to attend when she is studying in London. We walked back again to the flat and picked up some lunch at Itsu (sushi/Asian place) on way back.

The afternoon was spent watching the Wimbledon final and then the end of the World Cup Football final. Unfortunately neither of the underdogs won those events. We had a reservation at Gaucho’s (Argentinian steakhouse) at Piccadilly Circus for S’s celebratory dinner. The taxi dropped us off just short of the Circus because the roads around were closed off as they had been screening the football final. The French supporters seemed to be everywhere and were celebrating non-stop. They had climbed up the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain and had covered it with people. By the time we left from dinner (at 9:30pm), they were still on the fountain celebrating.

The steaks at Gaucho’s are very good (some might even say phenomenal).  Accompanied by a good Argentinian Malbec. It was a lovely dinner and evening with good company as well.  At the end of the evening the restaurant brought Stephen a ‘Happy Birthday’ plate of truffles which was a nice touch to end the evening. 5 of us walked back to the flat with the two boys taking the tube. It was a lovely evening for a walk (probably still around 25 degrees at that point). We even managed to walk park two places H is currently reading about. London is filled with historical places and they have ‘Blue plates’ on the walls of homes where famous people lived.

P, S (because it is his birthday), H, C, K, M & O (because I still can’t believe that she supported Djokovic over Anderson)

London Day 1 & 2

The weather in London has been amazing. K (who is here for the first time ever) unfortunately is getting the entirely wrong view of what London weather is usually like.  The temperature has been in the high 20s (Celsius) for the last few days. There was a thunderstorm on Friday night but that didn’t really affect the temperature at all.

Friday I spent the morning catching up with emails and doing some work while the rest of them headed out for breakfast, shop and museum view. S & K went to see the Tower of London (where the crown jewels are housed and Henry VIII held various people in prison and then beheaded them). I take it somewhat for granted as I see it everyday I am in London as it is very close to my London office.

In the afternoon, all of them went to an ice cream museum/exhibition which included the opportunity to make ice cream. None of them seemed very enthusiastic about it so probably something you could skip if you’re in London in near future.

Of course, we are not the only people visiting London at the moment. Donald Trump is here as well and there are a lot of people not happy with him being here. It amazes me that a country that are struggling to govern themselves at the moment have so many people willing to protest about another government’s President. Numerous streets are closed off and there is a visible and large police presence. On Friday the protesters all ended up at Piccadilly Circus and they estimated that there were around 100 000.  Even though Trump left on Friday afternoon to go to his golf course in Scotland, the protesters continued on Saturday as well.

On Saturday, H, C, S & K went to the Museum of Brands (http://www.museumofbrands.com/) in London. They spent over 2 hours there so it seems they liked the museum. M & myself stayed in the flat and did some grocery shopping and O went to meet a friend. I spent most of watching sport on TV – cricket, tennis, football & golf – enough to keep you occupied the whole day. After dinner we all went for a walk in St James Park and to have a look at Buckingham Palace. S & M (aka twins – see photo!) skated while the rest of us walked. It was a beautiful warm evening and with the sun setting at after 9pm at the moment it made for a lovely late evening walk. In addition, the closure of most of the roads closed around Buckingham Palace, made it very easy to cross what can sometimes be busy roads.

Lots of walking done by most people (Helen recorded over 22000 steps on Friday alone) over the 2 days.

P, H, C, S, K, M & O (O gets this for support Djokovic over Anderson in Wimbledon final … amongst over things)

Last day in Vilamoura & travel to London

Wednesday was our last day in Vilamoura. Another round of golf seemed to be the obvious thing for Michael and I to do. We played another different course – Pinhal (https://www.dompedrogolf.com/courses/pinhal-golf-course/). I forgot to take a picture (concentrating too much on the golf playing) but if you want to see what it is like go to the link and the first picture that comes up sums it up. Lots of trees! Unfortunately Michael and I seemed to be able to find places next to and behind trees on a regular basis which didn’t help with low scoring. However that didn’t spoil the enjoyment of the round. Helen and Chloe went out for a one final shop at the other mall – Algarve Shopping Mall – and managed to buy some more things they wanted. The other 3 loafed around the pool and in the house.

I had a work telephone conference call in the afternoon and of course the ‘its coming home’ semi-final was taking place over dinner time. We had bought sardines at the market on Saturday and we put those on the BBQ along with some chops & sausage for dinner. We left the TV on to hear any roars or groans (we could actually hear them from the neighbourhood even). We did watch the extra time and saw ‘its not coming home’ goal from Croatia.

Thursday AM we were up relatively early as we had to leave just after 8am to ensure we got to the airport on time. Even though we had spent 10 days in Vilamoura, it felt like the time had flown by. The weather was perfect over the time we were there – around 28 degrees most days, never more than a light breeze. The picture is from our bedroom balcony on the morning we left. It is a good illustration of what it looked like for all 10 days.

The travel to the airport went smoothly – dropped the cars off, checked in, cleared security all in relatively good time which left us with about an hour before boarding. The flight was pretty empty – probably not more than 1/3rd full. I guess most people aren’t leaving Portugal at this time of the year – they are arriving! We left early and landed early.  We landed at London City airport which is as close to the centre of London that you can get. As it is a really nice day, we had fantastic views of the city as we came in to land. The other big advantage of City airport is how quickly you can clear passport, get your luggage and get out of the airport.  It probably took us about 15 minutes. We had a car pick us up and take us to our flat in London. We arrived by 3pm which gave enough time for those wanting to go shopping on Oxford Street the chance to do so. Within minutes of arriving, Helen and I were the only two left in the flat! Chloe was first back saying there were just too many people for her liking.

After dinner, Helen, Chloe and I went for a walk around and through St James Park. It was a lovely evening with the temperature around 20 degrees. The park was looking incredibly dry and the lawns are brown from the heat wave that London has been experiencing. In all my years of traveling here, this is probably the brownest I have seen London. The bird life was incredible though in the park – more than I have ever seen including swans, ducks, coots, seagulls, doves and even heron. A nice finish to an easy traveling day.

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

Vilamoura Day 7 & 8

I take abuse when I post the blog and I take abuse when I don’t post the blog. Can’t win with my family whatever I do! As we didn’t do much on Monday, it didn’t make sense to post a blog. Michael and I played another round of golf in the morning at Laguna course this time (https://www.dompedrogolf.com/courses/laguna-golf-course/). A lot more water on this course (I guess the name is a give away) and my ball seemed to be attracted to the water. Still didn’t play terribly and shot a reasonable score (and so did Michael). It was well into the 30s C by the time we finished.  We found all the rest of them around the pool when we got back (which is where they stayed for the rest of the day as well).

Yesterday we went to Olhao which is a small town to the east of Vilamoura (also east of Faro).  It is only about 35 minutes drive from Vilamoura.  It is a fishing village and has a fish market (like many of the other towns in the area). The is also a large marina with yachts of every shape and size. We walked down to the ocean and along the coastline and then back again and into the old town. The streets are a pedestrian only zone with numerous sidewalk cafes. We found one and had a late morning drink and then wandered our way back to our cars. It is a pretty little town and worth a visit if you ever come to the Algarve.

The afternoon was spent napping, sun-tanning and swimming.  I also had a game of table tennis against Stephen and maintained my superiority over both my sons at table tennis. The only downside of playing against him was that I sweating at the end and so had a quick dip in the pool to cool off.

Last night we decided to have dinner at the Waterfront.  We usually go on our last night but given the semi-final football tonight we thought it would be better to go yesterday.  Given how many English are here in the Algarve and in Vilamoura in particular, we figured best to avoid the area tonight. Besides we can more comfortably watch the game on our TV in the house. We ate at one of seafood restaurants overlooking the marina.  Beautiful evening, beautiful views and good company. We topped off the meal with another gelato.

Until tomorrow …

P, H, C, M, O, K & S (S is getting cheekier as he approaches his 22nd birthday)

Vilamoura Day 6

It being Sunday, we decided to try out the English service at the International Evangelical Church of the Algarve (https://www.iec-algarve.com/en/).  My parents had visited the Church last year when they were here in Portugal and had commended it to us.  They were about to commence 3 weeks of summer camps and so they had a team of young people at the Church involved in that and they had a visiting preacher from Ireland (from Milltown Church, Belfast). They had mixed English and Portuguese in some of the songs (well-known English songs with a Portuguese verse). It was a great reminder that you can have fellowship with Christians from a totally different country and we all found it encouraging to be there.  We will definitely go back again in the future.

The rest of the day was spent relaxing – sleeping, lounging around the pool, reading etc.  Stephen and I have been playing a strategy board game (called Twilight Struggle) over the last few days.  It is a game you don’t have to finish in one sitting and so have been playing over 3-4 days.  Yesterday afternoon we finished it and when it came down to the final analysis of points, it ended in a tie.  We have played it numerous times previously and never tied the game so this was quite unusual. Felt a bit like a test match ending in a draw after 5 days.  Will need a rematch at some point.

We had chicken schnitzel for dinner (Stephen had Turkey because he wanted to try them out) and then after dinner the family went for a walk on the beach again. The club at the beach was “pumping” (and thumping). The beach is usually is very quite after dinner but not yesterday. They even had fireworks shot off from the roof. It seems Sunday night is party night in Vilamoura.  We walked down the beach about 1.3km and then turned around and walked back.  The sea was much warmer and Stephen even had a quick swim. I guess the 30 degree C weather is helping warm everything up. On the way back to the car I managed to walk into a hole in the sand and sunk almost up to my waist.  It was not noticeable until I was in the hole and Michael (while laughing at me) managed to also sink one of his legs into the hole. It was so deep that Stephen had to give me a hand to pull me out. Beside the sand all over my pants (inside and out), the damage was fortunately limited to my ego. It did give me a sense of what it would be like to fall into quicksand though (not something I would like to do) and how dangerous it could have been for a little child (they could have been in up to their heads).

It was a lovely evening – not a breath of wind and still around 25 degrees – and so when we got back Stephen and I both had a quick dip in the pool (me to get the sand out of my pants mainly!).

Until tomorrow

P, H, S (for helping me out), C, M, O & K (now taking abuse from K too … seems she has warmed up or been led astray by the rest of them)

Vilamoura Day 4 & 5

I get chided if I don’t post everyday so apologies for packaging 2 days into one (but then again I am on holiday!).  Friday was a golf day for Michael and I.  We decided to play our favourite course in Vilamoura – Millennium (https://www.dompedrogolf.com/courses/millennium-golf-course.html). It is one of 6 courses in Vilamoura.  We have played 5 of the 6 courses so far.  The round started terribly for both us but ended up being so good that it resulted in my handicap being cut by 2 shots. Michael had a decent chance for an eagle on a Par 5 as well (he did get a birdie at least). The big difference between playing here and in Cape Town is how hard the fairways are.  The ball rolls a lot and so our drives were often in the 260-280 meter range (and that is big for those of you who don’t follow golf).  I hit one drive 310 meters (which would be up there with what the pros drive).  The rest of them went shopping again to the new mall as they hadn’t yet finished their shopping.  The rest of the afternoon was spent sunbathing, reading & watching World Cup soccer and/or Wimbledon tennis.

Saturday is the day for the market at Loule.  Loule is an inland town about 15-20 minutes NE of Vilamoura.  They operate the market every Saturday at which they sell spices (paprika is the main one to buy), alcohol (usually only port and wine but this year they were selling craft beers as well), fruit & vegetables, meat (both fresh and cured), handcrafts (table clothes etc) and fresh fish.  Half the market is the fish market. We specifically wanted to go to get some fresh fish.  We ended up buying prawns (giant ones) and sardines (never cooked them before but pretty sure google will tell us how). The sardines are pretty cheap costing only R80 per kilogram and the prawns were pretty much what we would pay in SA (though much nicer and much bigger).

Saturday afternoon was spent watching England make it into the semi-final (first time since 1990). We are heading to England but unfortunately only on Thursday after the semi-final has been played.  I am sure it would have been a great atmosphere watching the game in England.  We did the Australian thing and did the prawns on the ‘barbie’ (and they were pretty good that way). By the time we were finished the last quarter-final was heading into extra time and so we were able to finish watching that and the penalty shootout that took Croatia into the semi-final against England.

Until tomorrow ..

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

Vilamoura Day 3

Yesterday we decided to explore Lagos – no not the one in Nigeria – the one to the west of Vilamoura.  It is about 50 km away and took about an hour to get there.  There is a motorway but it takes a little effort to get onto it using some back roads. What amazes me every time about Portugal is that when you’re taking back roads you feel like you’re driving in a 3rd world country.  You drive past fallen down buildings, half completed buildings, rubble piles etc.

Lagos has a marina on the river mouth into the Atlantic ocean. Along the river they have market stalls selling clothes, cork items (Portugal is big on cork), clothes and other random things. After these stalls come the boat trip excursions – dolphins & caves seem to be the things to see.  There was also an indoor market selling fresh fish of every kind.  That made some of us want fish for lunch! We went over the river to the marina which had numerous restaurants and found a place for lunch (that served fish and chips).

After lunch, we headed back in the same direction we came from as we realised (thanks to TripAdvisor) that the Old Town was back where we parked the car.  The old town is cobbled streets and what seemed to be a pedestrian zone until a car came up behind us and pushed past us. After walking around we found a square with water fountains and messed around in the water (like a bunch of kids).  We then headed back to Vilamoura.

As we had a reasonably big lunch we decided to have a light dinner and then after dinner we went for gelato at the marina and a walk around. Every time we go to the marina we are surprised by quantity of British tourists (you only hear English being spoken) and how dressed up everyone is (especially the women).  It was 9:30pm when we headed back to house.  A relatively full and busy day.

Until tomorrow …

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

 

Vilamoura Day 2

Yesterday was a shopping day.  There is a new mall open in Algarve since we were last here.  It is attached to the IKEA which makes up 1/3rd of the mall and is 24000 square meters in size.  That is 6 acres (or roughly 4 soccer fields for those of you watching the world cup). It is near Loule and contains everything you might want in a mall – all the Portuguese clothing stores any lady in our group might want, 2 electronic stores, a food court, cinemas and even a grocery store.

We visited the IKEA first (a first time for all of us to an IKEA). What a great concept and so brilliantly laid out. As you probably know, there is only one way walking through an IKEA as they make you go through the whole store. But it is really cleverly done.  We were very impressed. We spent over an hour just wandering through. It was also very cheap for home goods.  As we needed additional plates, knives and a few other things we took the opportunity to buy them at the ridiculously low prices (not sure how you could make a plate for that price even).

The ladies and men then split up and we headed for the electronic stores and also went to one of the clothing stores. In the same time the ladies went to one clothing store only. We met up for lunch in the food court.  We had experienced Wok to Walk the last time in Portugal and some of us headed there again. You chose your noodle type (or rice), the ingredients (prawn, chicken, vegetables etc) and sauce type. Then they cook it freshly for you in a wok (not surprisingly). Very tasty and a really good size portion.  After lunch the men headed back home while the women continued shopping and they returned mid-afternoon.

Dinner of steak salad (steak bought at my favourite butcher in Vilamoura) and just a quiet evening at the house.

Until tomorrow …

P, C, S, K, H, O & M (H is improving in her chirping but the other two still languishing – though they have improved today finally)

Vilamoura Day 1

Yesterday was our full first day in Vilamoura. The temperature is currently quite mild – mid 20s – but significantly warmer than home where it seems that much of the southern part of the country is covered in snow! We definitely prefer mid 20s over snow.

We went grocery shopping in the morning. There are numerous supermarkets in the area and we went to one called Pingo Dolce. The Portuguese we have discovered have yet to discover wide aisles in a supermarket.  The shop was packed and the aisles are narrow. The price of groceries is not dissimilar to what we pay in South Africa. Some things (like chicken and cheese) are much cheaper (about R30 per kg).  Fresh fruit and veg are similarly priced and only some things are more expensive.  We paid much the same we would for a basket full of groceries in SA.

The rest of the morning was spent at home with some tanning next to the pool.  I think only Chloe actually got into the pool. The afternoon was much the same with people loafing around the house except for me as I had a 3.5 hour conference call with the UK office (so much for holiday).

As we are in Portugal we had roast chicken for dinner and then after dinner we went for a walk on the beach (Praia de Falesia). It is something we often do when here and getting a little exercise seemed to be a good option (especially for me after sitting for 3.5 hours). The sun sets at just before 9pm at the moment and so we walked until the sun set (we did about 2.5 kms according to Helen’s Apple Watch). We took all the mandatory sun setting on the beach photos and then headed back to the house just in time to watch the final few minutes of England v Colombia game and the penalty shootout.  Half the family rooting for Colombia and the other half for England – at least half of us were happy.

Until tomorrow …

P, C, S, K, H, O & M (the three of them at the end still haven’t improved in their behaviour much though O did improve slightly so I will move her up one notch today)