Last night we stayed near Portimao at an Airbnb which cost about 30E - It was a loft at the top of home - very impersonal stay. The host just pointed the way to the door and that was it. Carmen even had to go down to get our bath towels - It was very cold all night, the sunset from the Terrace was very nice. We were up early, the bed was very uncomfortable - they placed a king size mattress over a small box-spring and if yu would get to the edge of the bed you tended to slide sideways - We did go into Portimao and got some coffee and a pastry at about 8am. I had found another boot-sale in Barão de São João - We did make it early and were there even all the dealers were set up -It was a very nice small village, at the sale there were many people speaking English as well as many expats and some dealers we had seen before. I found a small soccer chess game with many pieces missing and Carmen found the vase for a small Dutch lamp which we will bring back to life once we are back home.
We decided to drive to Monchique on the advice of our host a couple of nights ago. It turned out to be a magnificent drive and great village. Before getting to the village we took back roads that led to a community that was very exclusive and had their own solar power farm at the entrance to the huge Villas/Quintas. The properties were all surrounded by large trees, tall cactus and flowering vines. Once we arrived to the center of Monchique, we had lunch after the boot-sale in this new place at a Bike theme restaurant. - I had avocado toast with a soft boiled egg and pieces of bacon on toast - Carmen had a Salmon salad - while sitting in the restaurant I looked for a hotel nearby and found one through the Capital One app a great hotel called Villa Thermal Spa outside of Monchique - great price of 62E for the night with breakfast, We did the Thermal Bath option for about 20+ E more. We did have to buy a swim cap to go into the bath. This is a beautiful hotel in a valley where thermal waters run thru. Since we had bought both Breakfast and lunch we bought sardines and octopus with some breads and cheeses to eat in our hotel. Tomorrow we return our car rental and head east to Spain on a bus.
After coffee and conversation with out host with Booking.com - we headed of to the Tavira antique market. Not a very big market more like a boot-sale, but it as a nice way to spend a couple of hours, I found a few small items for my mini-car art project and a couple of small pieces from past Portuguese players to add to my office collection - just a few Euros total spent, but very nice to add to my soccer collection from different countries - For Brunch we had the Bifanas, a small pork steak sandwich with a couple of Sagres beers for a total of 7€ - from there we got back on the N125 and headed towards the town of Silves, were we had a late lunch and spend a small amount of town inside a Castle. We got an Airbnb for just about 30€ and called it a day, a little worn out. Carmen colored her hair, she had been wanting to do this since the trip begin and this evening had some down time.
We woke up early, knowing we had to get to the car before 9:00 am before the time they start charging. We were the only guests on our floor so it was quiet and the kitchen was all open for us to make coffee. The guest house Ti Maria was very clean and a new experience for us. It is an old building that has been totally renovated to have individua rooms with tiny showers and sinks inside the rooms. The restroom/toilet, kitchen and eating area with TV is a shared space. After moving the car to the public parking lot we walked the castle walls and then settled for a cafe where the locals were sitting having coffee. We ordered our pastry and coffee and sat outside. We then walked to the market area and to some of the Ferreteria shops, because Carmen is looking for the typical hand knocker/door knocker to take back home. The Mercado Municipal was very clean and had the christmas tree already up in the center of the indoor building. We entered an Antique shop where the owner shared that he was having a sale. I found some tiny scenery prints that matched some that we had bought in Mexico during our honeymoon so we bought the set to take them home. We left Faro and started our drive to Tavira, using the backroads. We came across a beautiful church on top of a hill that Carmen stopped to take pictures of. For lunch we pulled over off the main road when we saw a large group of local men entering a restaurant for lunch. Our traveling has taught us that where the locals eat....thats where the food is good! We entered and were surprised that the building was much larger inside that it appeared. There were several rooms leading deep into the building. We both had the fish of the day, it was a grilled fish with sides of potatoes or fries with a small salad. Dessert was a coconut custart or a dish or fruit salad and we did not have the house wine, we had water. All this for 20 Euros! The locals were all having their daily glass of wine and enjoying their conversations ....ending with a coffee before returning to work. We then looked for an @airbnb for the night and found that the prices in Tavira were a bit pricey. We opted to stay at a location that was not so close to town, but was ok for us because we have a car. The @YogaFarm was an excellent choice. We ended up having great conversation, drinking wine and watching the England vs. USA world Cup match with our hosts.
Thursday, we picked up the rental car before 11:00 am and were given an upgrade. The rental car site was a short walk from the Airbnb, so we picked up the car then returned for our luggage. Getting out of the busy area of Albufeira was not as much trouble as we thought it would be. We drove to Loule, which was a very nice village town. There were less tourists, and less speaking of English. We parked the car in an area where we did not need to park. We then walked to the market area to see if there would be a place to eat. Once at the market we decided not to eat at the market, because many of the restaurants were closed. We decided to keep walking. We found the small little chapel that was completely covered on two sides with blue tiles. The front altar was completely covered in gold. this chapel was built over the site of a Roman building. There was a lady stationed at the door that spoke some Spanish a that shared history of the chapel as well as history of the town. She shared that Portugal people are suffering due to the current war on Ukraine. That the prices for tourists were also prices for the locals and they don't make a decent living wage. After the church we continued to look for a restaurant and found one in a renovated convent a very small place with a very nice owner who did not take credit cards , but did walk out to show me were to withdraw from an ATM. There was the Plato del dia. Carmen had the fish and I had the pork dish. Both were very tasty and filling. After lunch we drove on, using the back roads and avoiding the toll road A22. We found the Mireu Roman Ruin site, we stopped to take a walk and check out the ruins. The guy at the desk was not very informative, he was too busy watching the world cup game on his laptop.
The ruins were definitely a worthwhile stop. It was amazing to see how the ruins were preserved and in such good conditions....the tiles are exposed to the elements. We found an Airbnb accommodation in the town of Tavira. We dropped of our luggage and went walking looking for a place to watch the game and eat a small meal. After much walking around we settled on a small place that was near the loud young crowd. We ate at at Aperitivos, eating 3 appetizers and drinking a small pitcher of sangria. The sangria had apples and was very delicious. We left before the game was over so we could make it back to the guest house without getting lost.
We had looked at doing the boat ride info yesterday and really did not think much about it, but after walking the town a little further than the previous day, we stopped off for a beer and down below us we could see the Marina, we walked down to it in hopes of getting on one of the tours. We could see one boat tour just leaving the port and another one loading up, but we were far away and thought we would never make it. Luckily they had to return to pick up a late passenger that had pre-paid. So we were able to pay cash and get on the tour. We ended up saving a few euros each by bypassing the sellers in town. It was a very simple tour with Grutas de Benagil e Costa down the Algarve beaches going past several small villages and very impressive cave formations which were only assessable by boat. There are many tour companies in this area as it seems it is the main thing to do outside visiting the city. They told us they normally stop so people can have a quick swim on the beach, but no one on our boat was dressed to go swimming.
Afterwards we had a snack at a more local restaurant then the tourist areas with prices to match. We also had our second beer for the day!
We spent the day walking the town, even though it is almost winter the temperature is in the mid 60's, there are plenty of foreigners like us walking the streets and visiting the few shops that are open during the off-season.
We are somewhat disappointed in this town, we expected to see a more charming town but it seems like it is all tourism. We did walk the beach a little, all the establishments have the World Cup games on TV. It is nice that the restaurants and shops are not in your face to come inside or have a meal at their place, it is a very relaxed atmosphere. We had a difficult time deciding where to sit for a meal and to watch the soccer match. We try to avoid the busy tourist filled restaurants. We finally settled on a smaller café that made hamburgers. The game was not on so I asked the waitress if she could change the channel for us. She did and we watched the game and ate our meal. The burgers were perfectly cooked, pink in the middle and had great flavor. Carmen had the Popeye burger with spinach and brie cheese with onion rings. We drank our daily dose of beer and then moved on to the grocery market to buy some items for our morning meals for the next few days. At the end of the day we watched the Mexico World cup game, Carmen manage to find a Sombrero.
After talking and showing pictures to the hotel front desk about the mold in the shower, which he investigated. He apologized and explained that it was due to the high humidity. Maybe after I write a hotels.com review they will refund the nights rate. We took a Taxi back to Caldas to get the Flixbus. Cost of 25€ for both. Flix is widely used all over Europe by people of all ages. We use both the buses of the country, in this case Rede and Flix which we have used in past years. Two years ago our Flixbus broke down going from Strasbourg to Lyon, France and they got us to the nearest station where they then reimburse you for any additional cost you may have to get to your destination.
As we're riding south towards the Algarve we could see more and more sun. Arriving in Albufeira at about 6pm, we pretty quickly found our Airbnb. We took an Uber to it and thru Carmen's reservation got a very nice place for about 45€ a night for 3 nights - For the past 6 months of non travel we had been buying Airbnb gift cards at discounts and loading them to Carmen's account - so we have about $900 in credits. Moving days are always a little stressful, but today was one of the smoothest. We did stay in for the night to catch up on our writing and cleaning pictures off the phone. We took advantage of the very strong wi-fi at the Airbnb.
Moving day again, after 3 days in Caldas and missing the big Sunday market in Caldas we were told that there would be a Sunday market in Foz weather permitting, unfortunately the forecast was 70% chance of rain, but we still went just to go see a new town. We caught a 15€ Taxi to Foz which took us straight to our hotel Aguas d' Alma - we arrived very early around 10am and were told that we had to wait till 3pm to check in. We left our luggage at the front desk and went out to the village. The weather was nice, a little cloudy but no rain, right away we found the Antique Fair, but with just a handful of dealers. We walked all the way down to the Lago do Obidos, walking along the shore for about a mile, since this is almost winter time, there were few people on the beach. After walking the beaches almost 2 hours we headed back to the market were I bought a small car for my art project at home. Now back in the village we went to a restaurant, had a really delicious thin pizza with a couple of Super Bock Beers. Mostly locals in the restaurant. They all greeted each other as they arrived in to the café.
We walked to the hotel and still could not check in, I had a long talk with the front desk manager and at about 1.30 he finally let us in. There was a total of about 5 rooms being used, but their policy is to not let anyone check in till 3pm because they do not want to have the guest have to see the cleaning people. The hotel was very clean with a wonderful breakfast of many hot items. Foz is a small, quiet village where everyone is helpful and knows each other. We tried buying a battery at the corner store, but they did not have what I needed. The guy at the store called other shops for me then called me at the hotel to say he was not able to find what I needed.
The Bicycle Museum opened up at 10am, we were there within the half hour. The entrance is free. A very nice girl gave us a lot of info on the museum and even helped us out with info of the surrounding area and events going on. Since we were the only visitors, she walked along with us and allowed us to take photos at the end. The first floor of the museum is dedicated to movies, movie posters, film equipment. Lots on the American Classic movies and actors, which is what they were able to see before the 1960's here in Portugal.
The bike collection had a large range of different bikes including a tandem bike which both riders had control of the steering ( it did not work out well) .
Lots of history of the Portuguese riders in Le Tour, La Vuelta de Espana and Giro di Italia as well as their own national competitions.
From the bike museum we walked over to the ceramic shop and the ceramic museum. At the shop we bought 2 very nice looking candle holders. The ceramic museum holds very valuable and beautiful pieces made by Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro, the famous artist and potter, that resided in Caldas for years. We were amazed by the ceramic tiles and other items in the old Quinta. The old home was a treat to visit to see the old style kitchen and rooms. We walked back into the park and at a Kiosk bought a couple of pastries and our usual espresso and Hot tea.
In the evening we went to the Festa Natal concert in the central area of town which was just a block from our hotel. AT 8pm all the Christmas lights for the city were turned on at the same time. The concert was a little crazy Rock and Roll some in Portuguese some in English. Now raining off and on we headed back to the hotel at about 11pm.
The older gentleman at breakfast was so nice, what this hotel lacked in newness it made up for the nice person in charge of breakfast. Always very attentive to our needs. He always made our espressos and would come around to see if we needed anything. This morning we walked in and out of the hotel, underestimating the weather. We came back for a jacket and then for rain gear. We caught a local bus to Lairia, then a transfer to Fatima. Fatima was just OK, with the rain on and off it was rush to one building or another. This Basilica reminded me of the Basilica in Mexico City -incredible wide open spaces for Mass when the Pope comes or for special events. Carmen bought and lighted two candles as she always does for Gabby and Jessy. On the way back to Caldas we caught the local bus to Laira then an Flix back to Caldas. The Flix is definitely a better price but both are easy to navigate. In Laira we got a few slices of Pizza with beers while we waited for our next bus.
Moving Day Today - I made reservations on Flix Bus yesterday to go to Caldas Da Rainha. We took the Metro, the last of our free Metro Ticket we got 6 days ago, after checking with the help Kiosk we were told we had one entrance each left. Our stop is Oriente, the stop for the bus station, This station is giant buses going all directions. The Flix Bus riders have a waiting area , but as with any bus station it is always a maze - Luckily the Flix bus app tells you which bus you are to ride by giving you a bus code. But there is a bus leaving every 10 -15 minutes and all the buses look alike, But we found our right away. There is always the lot of people congregating around the door as soon as the driver opens up the door, the waiting for people to get off, the waiting to load your luggage and making sure that your items do not get crushed by someone else's luggage.
The ride to Caldas was just over an hour, the sun finally came out as we were reaching Caldas da Rainha. Luckily (well planned) our Hotel Dona Leonor was less than than 2 blocks away in the center of town and the bus station. I say luckily , but there is always so much planning of hotels and buses as well as rental cars to come together without to much trouble once we reach each destination and we constantly have to do this on the move.
With cool air and not raining we went out for a walk in the center of town, lots of souvenir shops, mini markets, restaurants and specialty shops. I was impressed with the many small shops which offer sewing. Which reminded me that I need to have 2 of my pants fixed. Lots sell generic patches. We stopped of at a pharmacy to get throat lozenges for Carmen. Today it was me that was very tired, I got to bed at about 8pm with leg pain, took a strong pain pill at about 2am and put on the ear plugs and sleep till 8am.
Yesterday I found a Sports massage person online that would come out to the hotel, so it was scheduled for 9am this morning. The masseuse came and spent an hour and a half on my legs, mainly my leg that has been hurting from so much walking. Well 60E later, still in pain, another massage with no value to me. It wasn't exactly a turn on some candles and relax massage but not hard or deep enough to give me pain relief. He did give me a couple of stretches to do that I had not done before.
We went out to the Castillo de Belen, which is a small castle right on the edge of the River Tagus that was built for protection of the city. When high tide comes , the water rises to completely put the Castle surrounded by water. There are 3 levels that tourist are able to climb, but due to high winds today we were not able to climb to the top.
From the Castle we walked over to the Monument to Vasco Da Gama - The navigator who explored towards the Indies and many places in Africa which the Portuguese colonized to India and other places like Macau.
We walked the tunnel under the street to the Monastery, but the only way to get in is if we had pre bought online tickets, but we did visit the church just beside it. The church was magnificent and contained alternating chapels for altars and burial sites of the royal family and famous persons that contributed in high level to the country. There was one wall that was plain except for a row of brown doors. The ceiling of the church was one of the highest we have seen for a church! The columns that rose to the top resembled catacombs in a cave. From here we walked up the street a ways and stopped up for a sandwich, a snack and a couple of beers, always learning new ways in which we should order items to eat or drink. I wanted my sandwich warmed but the person at the bar said it is best eaten cold, which he tells me is the way he prefers it. We took an Uber to an area closer to our Hotel and wanted to visit a market which is mainly meats and vegetable, with a few tables for eatery but was almost dead due to the rainy weather. This time we had a couple of different pastries and espressos. We walked the rest of the way back to the hotel. How did people get around before Google? We did it many years ago, but maybe we just did not go as far or would take Taxis any time we felt lost and made sure we did not go to far away from Tourist spots. We are bolder and feel safe walking the roads that are quiet and with only locals. This town is extremely clean, calm and quiet.
A lot of rain today, we did not bother walking out of the Hotel till almost 5pm. Did have a great breakfast - lots of Salmon, Brie and double espressos. When we did go out we walked to the Principe neighborhood. A more upscale and calmer area than Bairo Alto - We had dinner at a very small pizza place with beers, trying out the Super Bock. It's stronger than Sagres beer, but again very nice taste. Did go into a couple of nice shops but most items way too big to take back in our luggage. The most remarkable shop was one that is inside an old Arabic castle. The shops are all inside what would have been the rooms, with the common center space that could have been a garden area was made into a garden type restaurant. The entire building is dedicated for local designers and artists to sell their items. There was also local artist's paintings on the walls. The walk around at night time allowed us to see a different side of the town. There is a slow, calm and happy pace to life.
After breakfast it was time to change hotels - after 3 nights on my IHG account at the Holiday Inn, it was time to move to the Intercontinental Lisbon - Carmen had 3 free Anniversary nights - our nightly hotel rate would have been 250E per night, but all were free. It came with free breakfast as well, a value of 35E per day per person. After breakfast we tried opening up a Portuguese bank account since we already had our NIF, but were turned away at 2 different banks - The bank manager said the rules for the Bank account had changed in the past year, Now we needed an address were we would be renting/living for one year. I brought all the paperwork over we had done in prior years now we go back home without a Bank Account,
In the afternoon we went to Castel de s Jorge, a little misty all afternoon made the walk like we had gone back in time, After the Castel we went into the church were Saint Anthony was born. From there we walked down the hill towards the center of town, had dinner at a very small restaurant. Carmen had sardines which is what she was looking forward to and I had lightly battered fried fish which had a great flavor with a couple of Sagres beers, Slowly walked back to the hotel for the past 40-50 minutes, Lots of walking today, knees and ankles very sore and tired, But we must move on.
Up at 9:00 am … felt rested after having twitching calves and feet last night from so much walking the day before. A group from Ghana another from Poland and a group of girls from an American University made the breakfast area very loud . The girls were excited and talking loudly. We took a very long Uber ride to reach the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga . The ride was long due to there being an Antique Car parade on our route and the police would not let us in their line.
Withing 30 minutes inside the museum, it was announced that the third floor was closed for two hours which was the floor with the Portuguese art that we wanted to see . We walked the other areas then went down to the garden area and decided to have coffee, tea with a shared pastel, all for seven euros. We sat outdoors under the trellis facing the Tagus river.
We then walked to Bairro Alto where we purchased a SIM card for my phone, the seller promised me it would last for the month. We sat down at a look out park, which overlooked the city and a view of the St. George Castle. After putting in the SIM card, the phone died. I thought the phone was damaged. Carmen sat and drank her Sangria, then we continued to walk. We found out later that the phone was just out of battery. On the way back to the hotel I stopped at an Auchan grocery store and purchased some Radler beers, cheese and a baguette. We normally try to have breakfast at the hotel a lunch out somewhere then a meal back at the hotel with things we buy at the mini-markets. When we are out on a trip and spending two, three and sometimes 4 months on the road we have to be a little frugal on our meals.
Once we arrived to the hotel, we had dinner at the hotel restaurant. The meal was not enjoyable. Carmen had chicken, potatoes and salad, I had a dry steak sandwich with fries. We returned to the room, still hungry we had a Sagres beer and enjoyed the cheese and baguette we bought earlier.