Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Adventures in Portugal! Part I

Back from Portugal! It's been a few weeks since our return and I finally have all the laundry sorted, the souvenirs displayed, and my sketchbook/journal in semi-order. Now to process what the trip was all about. (Because every journey is always ABOUT something, right?) 

For my husband, this trip was basically a much-needed vacation, especially as he didn't get to go to Taiwan with me and hadn't taken any time off for the last two years, but we also had a second motive for choosing Portugal as a travel destination. For a long time we've thought about Portugal as a place to eventually move to. Maybe not "move forever and ever" to, but as a nice place to spend at least half the year every now and then. I'm not sure why we thought of Portugal above all other countries in the world, but after this trip, I think we need to reconsider. 

Which sounds far more negative than I mean it to--we had a wonderful time! We enjoyed our stay very much! The people were lovely, the scenery was pretty, the US dollar went far (great exchange rate at the moment), but there were just too many differences between our way of life here in Albuquerque and the Portuguese modus operandi starting with the fact we could never, find a single grocery store that was open (or really any kind of practical store at all), followed by having a lot of vegetarian-difficulties with restaurant menus featuring sardine, cod, squid, and piglet. In two-and-a-half weeks I think I ate my entire life's quota of vegetable soup, omelets, pizza, cheese and olives to certainly last "forever and ever."

So that was the small downside of the trip. But once we embraced those omelets and gave up on the idea of having to visit every real estate office we came across while wondering where we would shop if we "really did live here," we became happy tourists and simply fell into holiday mode. We drove down speedy toll roads, soaked up beach after beach, and somewhere in between I even got a little sketching done (a very little, thanks to my husband's obsession with racing down the luxurious and very empty toll roads as fast as possible while I tried to speed-view the countryside).

But rather than go on and on about omelets and "Slow down--I want to see the ruins. Oh, we missed them. They were back there . . . . No, don't turn around . . . ." I thought I'd just share some of my photos through a series of blog posts, starting with this one today.

First impressions: after landing in Lisbon, getting our rental car and zooming straight into Friday night rush hour, we headed for Copa Capricia, a twenty-minute drive down the east coast:

Crossing the bridge across the Tagus River with no idea of where we were really going other than vaguely south, we did arrive at our hotel in one piece, only to find they had no record of our reservation. No problemo, they just put us into a bigger and better room with a beautiful sea view at our original rate!

After settling in, we joined the locals for an evening stroll along the beach followed by the first of our delicious omelets for dinner. (Oops, forgot. No omelet talk.)

Early the next day we headed farther south again for the village of Quarteira, where we were booked in for two nights:

Sometime during the afternoon I lounged in the hotel lobby sketching the waves and these tiki huts while my husband went around the corner to get a haircut--a somewhat strange thing to do on holiday, but there wasn't time for him to get one before we left home.

Sunday morning found us on our way to Faro, a beautiful seaside town east of Quarteira, where we hoped to find not a castle or a museum, but a sports bar so we could watch the Formula One Singapore Gran Prix. (I tell you, this vacation just got weirder and weirder.) 

Faro Old Town:

Loved the colors and cobblestones. I'll be painting this scene soon:

Tiny little streets galore:

Still looking for that sports bar. We thought there would be one at the marina:

So we walked and walked and walked all around it:

Except there was no sports bar that was OPEN. So who would've thought the place to go was the Chelsea Tea Rooms far, far away from the marina and right in the middle of town?

Our only companions in the whole restaurant!
We sat behind these nice people who seemed to
 enjoy the race as much as we did.

And because there's no such thing as too many sporting events in a single day, as soon as we arrived back in Quarteira we were just in time to grab a seat in yet another restaurant with a giant TV featuring a huge football match between the cities of Porto and Benfica. Unlike Faro's apparent disinterest in F1, the whole of Quarteria was packed into the beachfront open cafe with us, including the local dogs, non-stop platefuls of teensy squid roasted on chains (seriously, they looked like they'd just come out of a medieval torture chamber), and lots and lots of Portugal's own Super Bock--my new favorite beer. Went great with my salad. A super way to end the day!

Stay tuned for Part II!