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)

Home to Portugal

We left Sunday afternoon from Cape Town to London. If you live in Cape Town you would know that the weather was horrendous on Sunday and I suspected taking off would not be fun.  As it turned out the take off was slightly bumpy but really not an issue. However, the real news was that while checking in we saw the First Officer of the flight and Helen and I knew him. He didn’t see us but when we were on the plane, he spotted our names on the manifest and came and said hello to me and asked whether we wanted to move to First Class.  How could we possible say no?! So he organised it with the chief cabin controller and Helen and I changed seats. M & O were in economy and on hearing M asked whether they could have our seats.  We felt it was pushing our luck asking the First Officer for another favour but Helen took a chance and asked the chief cabin controller and he said yes after they had served supper. So everyone ended up having a good nights sleep!

We arrived on time into London, cleared passport, got our luggage and headed out to find our driver who took us across to Gatwick airport.  We were flying to Faro, Portugal and BA only fly from Gatwick. The car journey took just over an hour.  We checked in without any issue and went to lounge to kill about 4 hours (as our flight was only at 1:55pm). As Chloe was already in London, she planned to join us later by taking the Gatwick Express. She had left plenty of time to do that and check in but then she message me to say the train was delayed and then 15 minutes later to say there was a fault on the line and the train was cancelled and what should she do.  I told her to get a taxi ASAP as it was a 1 hour 15 minute drive to Gatwick from Victoria Station and she needed to leave immediately to make the check in time. She fortunately got a taxi immediately and ended up sharing with someone else who was on the train (Cambridge lecturer) so they split the £130 cab fare.

Now the race was on as the predicted arrival time gave her just 10 minutes before check in would close. Michael was tracking her on Google Maps and updating the arrival time almost minute-by-minute, Helen and I were following her on Find-my-Friends and she shared her location on whatsapp so that everyone else could follow her to.  Chloe was tracking herself on Wayz and her arrival time eventually reached 13:02 (and check in closed 13:10).  She arrived just before 13:00 and worriedly called me while she was taking the lift up to check-in.  However, she managed to run to check in and in the end even made it through security by 13:10! We were all relieved to see her and we headed straight for the gate.  It is such a small world that I bumped into a Gen Re colleague (Martin Leitch for those Gen Re people reading) at the gate – he was heading to Valencia for a week.

The flight over was uneventful and we cleared passport easily. The luggage took an age to come off though and after 15 minutes of so we were missing bags still. They eventually told us some bags were delivered on another carousal and so we headed there, found 3 more bags but were still missing one.  They then said the rest would come out back where we originally were and so headed back again and found the last one we needed. We had two cars reserved (7 of us with 10 bags including 2 golf bags) – M, O and I had to go offsite to get ours and we ended up driving half way to Vilamoura (where our house is) to get our car.

We arrived at the house to find Helen not being able to unlock the front door.  I tried with my set of keys and they also didn’t work.  I called the agent who looks after the house and she got someone to come and check and it turned out they had to change the lock and simply never told us! They went to fetch the new key.  Very irritating especially since it was 7pm and we had been traveling for over 24 hours at this point. We finally got in and H, C & myself headed to the shop to buy dinner and breakfast. We ended up eating dinner at about 8:30pm and we all headed to bed just after 10pm.

Glad to be here (all together)!

P, C (because of the all the stress she endured yesterday and because she is my only daughter), S, K (first time on a blog and she was one of the few not to insult me yesterday), H, O & M (the three of them deserve to be on the end lumped together due to all the abuse I took from them)