Worlds Away

Portimao Travel Blog

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On our way to a party!

How hard was it getting on the bus to leave Sevilla? Very hard but I felt that my short stay was another experience to keep the Camino alive for me. Now for the first time since 31st May, I would be in a country other than Spain. AND they speak Portugese, so all my hard work would be useless in this new world.

Just kidding of course; I was really looking forward to arriving in Portugal and meeting up with my lovely friend Gillian again. Remember we painted Bilbao and San Sebastian red!

The bus ride was only 3 hours and I was soon being whisked from the bus station in Faro by private taxi (yes, the drivers name was really Carlos Santana!) to a wonderful welcome at Casa Jacaranda by Gill and Ed.

The beach near Portimao
How spoilt was I - worlds away from my normal travel routine. I was taken to the villa which is right on the edge of a pretty golf course. After a glass of welcoming Veuve, we were off to a party (at a friend's house nearby) so the three of us squeezed into the golf buggy and off we tootled. It was a funny sight for me but I suspect quite normal for the residents here.

Guests were English, Australian, South African and Portugese but everyone spoke english. It was such a change from what I had been used to for the past 2 months, struggling to be understood with my rudimentary Castillano. After lovely food, great company, dancing and a little Liza Minelli we tootled back to the villa.

When I awoke the next day, I opened my shutters to a beautiful swimming pool, literally metres from my bedroom door.

Ed's 'boat'
Thankyou god!

 Portugal is a popular new home for English and South African retirees and the Algarve is one of the most popular holiday destinations. I could see why - the sun never stopped shining and the food here was divine, especially the seafood.

I spent a week with Gill and Ed and have to say that the generousity and love shown to me was so heartfelt. My life during that week was far removed from pilgrim life and I really appreciated the freedom to unpack my bag and take time to unwind, not having to think of the next bus station or pension. That is why my blogs were non-existent for this period. I was so enjoying being with Gill and her daughter (who arrived a few days after me) doing girly things and making friends with her friends.

So (apart from lazing in and out of the pool) there were highlights which I will share with you.

Poor me!

Firstly, I was intrigued to see Ed's 'old' yacht which was in dry dock having some tlc. I don't know anything about yachts but when I saw it, I thought it was gorgeous. It is 'big' with 3 bedrooms aboard (I think it is 55ft - does that sound right?). The interior is all teak, brass and chrome, including a very snazzy loo.

Gill and I visited the nearby village of Alvor for lunch by the sea. The seafront is packed with little cafes and restaurants all vying for the August tourist trade. The seafood I had in Portugal was so delicious and so fresh, the memory of some of these meals will stay with me and one in particular will go into the Golden Box.

It was a day out for the 'girls': Gill, Amanda, myself and our guide - Nina (aka 'Liza').

No longer a pilgrim
She picked us up by cab at 10.00 (shop opening time) and took us into the nearby town of Portimao to sample some of the local shops. It is a cute shopping area but the morning tea of Cafe and Pastel de Nata (or as we call them, Portugese tarts) was the coup. The pastry was more than melt-in-the-mouth - it was so delicate that you almost needed to eat the entire tart at once as it disintegrated on touch. The creamy filling was just the right level of sweetness and consistency and held the pastry together just enough to travel from plate to mouth. Heavenly.

We had arranged to meet another lovely friend (Paula) for lunch at the 'Tennis Club'. I had visions of something out of 'The OC' and was worried that I might be a little under dressed.

Simple pleasures
 A pleasant surprise awaited us as the 'tennis club' was definitely somewhere for locals to meet and mainly for the fantastic seafood barbeque restaurant - a large open sided room filled with long family sized tables. (and not a tourist in sight).

Before we had even ordered, our waiter brought two overflowing baskets of fresh bread, delicious virgin olive oil and little cans of famous Portugese sardine spread to curb our appetites. It was a meal in itself but I restrained myself to save room for the crisp local white wine and the main meal about to change the way I rate seafood forever!

The waiter described the various whole and filleted fresh seafood on offer and I selected baby calamari. Ohmgod, the tiny little juicy morsels were absolutely incredible.

Aussie girls go Portugese
They were barbequed perfectly and drizzled with nutty local olive oil, sitting atop a bed of lettuce and accompanied by fat hand cut fries, all eaten in the ambience of smoky barbeque aromas settling around us. Such a simple lunch but I was transformed to another place as I savoured each little calamari, willing the plate to be re-filled by an invisible genie. Unfortunately, that did not happen and I have been content to store the lunch memory in my Golden Box. It will come out often I think!

With Amanda's arrival, we celebrated at a lovely restaurant in Alvor. After a final glass of wonderful port, we were talked into finding 'somewhere to dance' by the vivacious and effervesccent Amanda (fresh from her Europe Contiki experience). We started off at the little casino but no live music so continued to the bar district in Portimao. What a sight we must have been amongst all the youngsters. Amanda fitted right in but the rest of us (over 40 and the rest . . .) were in our own league. That did not deter us from having a fantastic night dancing to the Spanish language covers and techno tunes. The time seemed to disappear and it was close to 5.00am by the time I slipped into bed. My last thought was the morning swim I would have - only 7 steps from my room!

I was a little spoilt and some of Gills friends took me for some sightseeing trips either side of Alvor. The coast is really pretty and I think that if I had stayed longer, I might have headed to some of the little villages for more exploration. They were different to my Spanish pueblos but just as quaint and alluring.

My last night in Portugal was a blast - Ed's Casa Jacaranda was host to a Barbeque dinner (ably cooked by Tony, watched by the other men). Gill, Amanda and I had a little fun treat in store for everyone. We had purchased matching Portugese aprons during our shopping trip. We had each selected a different coloured gingham, with pretty embroidered pockets (traditional design) and ric-rac trim. Quite kitsch but perfect for the first Aussie BBQ since Gill's arrival in Portugal. After slaving away all day on various salads, we had decided to make an entrance carrying our goodies and dressed in our traditional Portugese pinnies. It was a huge hit and a fun way to bring the two cultures together.

After dinner, the large loungeroom was the scene of lots of dancing (music from the 60's through to current), now a regular appearance at all social occasions here. I have realised just how uptight we are back in Australia. No-one dances at dinner parties any more (not in my neck of the woods anyway). I am now on a mission to change that.

I was not looking forward to leaving my lovely friend Gill but knowing that she will be back in Aus this Christmas is a little sweetener. Thanks to all my new best friends n Portugal - Obrigada!

Beijos, Grace

 

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On our way to a party!
On our way to a party!
The beach near Portimao
The beach near Portimao
Eds boat
Ed's 'boat'
Poor me!
Poor me!
No longer a pilgrim
No longer a pilgrim
Simple pleasures
Simple pleasures
Aussie girls go Portugese
Aussie girls go Portugese
22,140 km (13,757 miles) traveled
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photo by: gimpel