September 28: Home Sweet Home

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As we write today’s blog entry, we are on a plane on the way home from Toronto to Regina. The journey is almost over, and it is hard to believe we started the day at 5 AM, 22 hours ago. We still have 3 hours left and then a bit of a drive when we get to Regina.

Travel days, especially those across the ocean can seem like marathons. Today was made considerably easier because Lou had 8 Air Canada Lounge passes, and we used them in London and Toronto during our layovers. The lounges are a nice, quiet, comfortable alternative to the hustle and bustle of the airport waiting areas.

As travel days usually are, today was somewhat uneventful. Unfortunately, we could not book our luggage through from Lisbon to Regina, so each time we landed, we had to clear customs, pick up our luggage, get our boarding passes, and go through security. We have all had enough of lining up for one day!

It has been a trip of a lifetime! Seven countries (Canada, England, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia, back to South Africa, back to England, Portugal, back to England, and finally back to Canada). We have used 5 currencies (Canadian dollars, British Pounds, South Africa Rand, American dollars in Zimbabwe, and Euros). Keeping enough of each currency and all of the separate conversions to the Canadian dollar has been quite a task!

For those faithful readers out there (if there are any left :)), this will be the last blog entry. We have been pretty faithful in writing it, even in those days when we couldn’t post it because of Internet availability issues. We hope you have enjoyed it, but we have really enjoyed putting it together. It will be a really good record of what we did for us. We would certainly recommend blogging for future travelers.

It is nice to be home. Canada is such a great country to come home to. We are all ready to get back to our old routines for a bit. As is usual, we need some rest to recover from the holiday!

There are so many interesting places in the world to travel. We would certainly recommend those visited on this trip. If you are considering visiting one of them, don’t hesitate to give us a call as we would have some suggestions.

Next stop … Russia? South America? Panama?

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September 27: One Last Tour!

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We woke up to thunder, lightning, gray skies and drizzle and questioned whether we would be going on our walking tour at 10:00. Irene had found a free walking tour called Chill-Out in Lisbon, that started about 100 yards from our apartment in the center of the Chiado district. 10 people from various countries braved the weather to go on the tour. The guide was a young Portuguese fellow who did a fabulous job. It was informal, informative, humorous, historical, personal, and a little outside of the standard tourist walking tour box. And it was 3 1/2 hours long!! We were not at all bored, and we covered a large section of downtown and the old section of Lisbon. He did a great job of explaining the history, as well as providing insight into current Portugal’s political situation. We even got to taste some homemade booze, from a local lady as we wound our way through the narrow narrow streets of the Alfama section. It was the only section of Lisbon not destroyed in the earthquake of 1755. Although the tour was free, everyone tipped quite generously, so the young man did quite well. The weather improved greatly, and by the end of tour we had shed layers and were looking at beautiful blue sky!

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Look at the cobblestone mosaic on the street

Look at the cobblestone mosaic on the street

This is a statue of a lottery ticket salesmen that were apparently very common in Lisbon in the 70s.  They sang, shouted, entertained, and flirted as they sold the tickets.  Notice his hand is on Irene's bum :)

This is a statue of a lottery ticket salesmen that were apparently very common in Lisbon in the 70s. They sang, shouted, entertained, and flirted as they sold the tickets. Notice his hand is on Irene’s bum 🙂

In the Alfama area

In the Alfama area

Look at the tiling on the building

Look at the tiling on the building

This is one of those codes you can scan with your phone, right in the mosaic

This is one of those codes you can scan with your phone, right in the mosaic

This is a hotel - 500 a person a night

This is a hotel – 500 a person a night

In the Alfama area

In the Alfama area

Our guide and the ladies who made the 'home brew'

Our guide and the ladies who made the ‘home brew’

Cheers!  It was a cherry brandy type thing - quite good

Cheers! It was a cherry brandy type thing – quite good

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Modern Lisbon in the background

Famous Portuguese writer -

Portugal loves Facebook so much that they dedicated a statue to it.  Actually this is what our guide tried to tell us .  The statue is of a famous Portuguese writer, Pessoa

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This where we are staying - 2nd floor - very central, great location

This is where we are staying – 2nd floor – very central, great location

After the tour, we found a typical tourist area restaurant, where the waiter tried to fudge the bill. We learned that here in Portugal, they bring some bread, olives, cheeses before your meal. In Canada, they do the same with bread. But here they charge you for it, even though you didn’t order it. We had caught on to that, and the guide had reminded us of this practice during the tour. But at this restaurant, they charged us for what we didn’t eat. We had a bit of an argument with the waiter; he said some unpleasant sounding things in Portuguese, with result a bit was taken off the bill. Not enough, we still got overcharged, but we felt a bit better, and we didn’t leave him a tip!

After lunch, we split up, to do some exploring on our own, agreeing to meet back at the apartment for cocktails before going out for a late supper. Well, an hour later, both couples were back. We had been on our feet, walking throughout hilly Lisbon for almost four hours, plus we have been going hard for about 40 days. We seem to have no energy left.

We went to Restaurante Super Mario for supper. It was recommended by our guide, and was certainly authentic Portuguese. We were the only tourists there. Our first mistake was to ask for wine glasses. LOL. Very reasonable prices for both food and wine. And unasked for. And we think free port to end the meal. Cool experience.

An update on yesterday’s march and placard waving – it was just for mayor, not president like we had thought. It seems that Portuguese politicians are corrupt too, similar to those in the other countries we have visited. These people make our crooked senators in Canada look pretty small scale!

September 26: Lisbon

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A last view of our place on the Algarve between Luz and Burgau

A last view of our place on the Algarve between Luz and Burgau

We left our place on the Algarve quite early and had an uneventful trip to Lisbon. Then the fun began! Even with a gps, it isn’t easy to drive in Lisbon. We had hoped Lou would have spent some of his money updating his gps, but … We didn’t really have an exact street address, but we only really took one really wrong turn, and no accidents – a few dirty looks and a few honks perhaps, but we got to where we wanted to go only about half an hour later than planned.

We looked around the Henry the Navigator museum (actual name is Monument to the Discoveries), Jeronimo’s Monastery, the Cultural and Modern Art Museum and other sites along the harbour. The mosaic on the sidewalks and streets in Lisbon, like the other places in Portugal we have visited are so pretty, but what a lot of work it must have been.

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Henry is VERY big in Portugal!

It was just a little windy at the top of the monument!

It was just a little windy at the top of the monument!

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View of the Torre de Belem

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Part of an Andy Warhol exhibit at the museum

Then, it was off to our flat in Chiado area, which is at the entrance to old downtown Lisbon. There are roads, but they are very very narrow, lots of hills, and lots of one way streets. It is the entertainment and shopping part of Lisbon. We are on the second floor overlooking all the action. We have 4 balcony views. We just saw a little political march for the upcoming election, we think. A little research is needed. But there was a band, placard waving, chanting, kissing onlookers, and lots of paparazzi! The president was center stage. He even waved to us. At least we think he was the president – our Portuguese political knowledge is weak, to put it mildly!

The boys on our balcony with our ocean view - look very carefully !

The boys on our balcony with our ocean view – look very carefully !

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Lou did a great job getting us here – a few close misses, but no contact. The guys took the rental car back to the airport, and then the subway back to the flat. No problems they say.

Lou says, despite the fact that Portugal is technically bankrupt, the people are fashionably dressed, the infrastructure is in excellent condition, and all seems well to us tourists. We did notice problems in the Algarve, though. There were some unfinished buildings, lots of vacancy, and holiday homes/complexes, like the one we stayed in that were having cash flow problems. Things just weren’t as nice or as well run as they once were.

We went to a museum that gave us a very interesting account of Lisbon’s history, then stopped for pizza and salad for supper. Seems like we have had our fill of seafood for now.

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It started to rain just as we got to the top for a great view of the city.

It started to rain just as we got to the top for a great view of the city.

Warren, doing his Peter imitation :)

Warren, doing his Peter imitation 🙂

September 25: mediocre weather in the Algarve

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Yesterday’s perfect day was replaced with showers about noon. We did manage to do some shopping in the morning, which Warren was very excited about. We went to Lagos, a city with lots of narrow cobblestone streets. Warren and Lou took in the slave market and the fish market, and came away thinking they were glad they were neither a slave nor a fish. Slavery is a big part of the history of Africa and this part of Europe. Vickie and Irene did some shopping. It is time to go home because we are running out of Euros!

The square in Lagos

The square in Lagos

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The Slave Market in Lagos

The Slave Market in Lagos

 

We had planned an afternoon sitting beside the pool, but it decided to rain. We opted to have a game of cards instead. Warren was way ahead, but due to the Lou’s Robert Mugabe-like rule changes part way through the game, Vickie is now in control of Warren’s farm :). Our experiences in Zimbabwe with its crazy awful ridiculous political/economic situation will influence our thinking for quite sometime. We have all sorts of new comparisons to make. For example, making crazy unilateral rule changes mid stream calls Robert Mugabe to mind.

Supper in Burgau, off to Lisbon for 2 days, leaving early in the morning. We have really enjoyed it here. It has been the relaxation we were needing. Even though it was a poor day here, it was still 23, and we are going to supper in shorts and sandals.

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In Burgau

In Burgau

September 24: Walk down Memory Beach

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The focus of the day was visiting the area Warren stayed at 31 years ago while backpacking. Sagres is the most south westerly point in Europe. The site which used to be a hostel is now a museum. It is the place where Henry the Navigator had set up a school in the mid fifteenth century to teach would be navigator. Henry and his navigators were central to Portugal becoming a world power at the time.

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Henry, himself

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The wheel-like thing was part of the school for navigators set up here by Henry.

The wheel-like thing was part of the school for navigators set up here by Henry.

We took a picture of Warren beside a cannon, a similar picture to one he had taken all those years ago.

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Then we went to the beach next door, where Warren got the worst burn he has ever had in his life. We did a better job of sun management this time, and had a great afternoon on the beach, doing some boogie boarding and just taking in the sights.

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This is one of the beaches Warren frequented when he was here 31 years ago. He says he has changed more than the beach has :). The coast is one beautiful beach after another.

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Driving home, we came upon a sign indicating ‘Monumentos Megaliticos’, which we thought must mean some spectacular sight. We turned down the road, and drove until we came to a similar sign and followed a path until we came to a pile of rocks, which must have been the monument. No sign, no plaque, no explanation. But we had a good laugh.

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Lou is our driver, and he manages to provide a daily adrenaline rush. So far no one has been injured, but you hear the click of seatbelts as soon as the doors are closed. He says he has lots of insurance! Seriously, he is doing a great job.

For supper, we went to a nearby restaurant that is known for Fado music, a Portuguese folk type of music. It was located in Espice, down some very narrow and certainly winding streets. The streets here have nothing in common with those in Canada. The gps works amazingly well. A sense of direction might help (Vickie wouldn’t know) but not much! The restaurant was a smallish restaurant run by a Portuguese family. It was a new dining experience for all of us. There was a set menu of 7 meats and we cooked it ourselves on a very hot stone that they set in the middle of the table. Interesting evening, both for the music and for the dining experience.

Our server and the singer.  Notice the meat selection she is bringing to the table.

Our server and the singer. Notice the meat selection she is bringing to the table.

Another great day!

September 23: a Quiet Day on the Algarve

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Warren and Lou headed into Luz quite early to get some famous Portuguese pastry for breakfast. They returned with some croissants and tarts that certainly did not disappoint! They were beyond delicious! It looks like our waist lines are going to continue to expand in Portugal.

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View from balcony

View from balcony

The weather changed in late morning, becoming cooler, a bit windy, and it looked to be raining off shore. Since it was very hot yesterday, and we had all taken a bit too much sun, we weren’t too bothered. We all agreed that the Zimbabwe sun isn’t as hot as the Portuguese. We were in the sun a lot in Zim, and none of us burned at all.

Despite the cool weather, we took a drive to Lagos, and walked down a steep set of stairs to Praio do Camilo, a beach Lou and Irene remembered fondly from a couple years ago. The red flag was up which meant no swimming, and the weather wasn’t great, but it was still nice to sit on the beach and take in the beautiful scenery. We hope our pictures can do it justice.

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Eventually we climbed back up the stairs and drove to a scenic lookout just up the road. It contained many grottos, some big enough for small boats to navigate through – simply stunning scenery!

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The Algarve, which is the area of Portugal that we are staying in. It is hundreds of miles of alternating cliffs and beaches, with warm Atlantic Ocean water. There is beach after gorgeous beach, some of which are very hard to get at because of the surrounding cliffs.

We returned home, and after an extended happy hour, we went to Burgau, a quaint little fishing town about a mile from our place. It has retained its fishing village character and isn’t quite as touristy as many. It has vey narrow streets. We enjoyed a very good meal at an Indian restaurant.

Another great day!

September 22: on the Algarve

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We were ready for a lazy day!! We slept in, had a relaxed breakfast, followed by a few hours in the sun reading by pool.

After lunch we walked a couple miles down the shoreline to Luz, a small fishing/tourist village. It was apparently a very typical little Portuguese village. We bought towels for tomorrow’s beach adventure, then headed home for happy hour. We are currently sitting at a restaurant called Fortaleza da Luz, a fort built in 1670 to protect the town from the Moors. We have a seat on the terrace overlooking the ocean and are listening to the waves breaking onto the shore. We all ordered fish, and it was great! We did notice the prices are about 2.5 times the cost of meals in South Africa. Yikes! But, it was a great recharging day.

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On our way to Luz

On our way to Luz

 

 

 

 

We decided to get dressed up for dinner – a rarity so we thought photos were called for.

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