Thursday, November 12, 2015

Nov. 6 - Rotterdam.

This morning Leonie and I set off to explore Rotterdam. Most of Rotterdam especially the harbour area was destroyed in WWII.  Therefore unlike other cities in Europe Rotterdam is a new city with innovative and sometimes weird buildings. There is a lot of new sculpture some of which makes you ask " Is this art or can I cart it away?" I took lots of pictures until my camera died and then Leonie took some. There are still some on their way.
The highlights of the day were the new Market building, the poffertjes and the marine museum display of boats in the water. We walked along the Maas, we watched the water taxis going at break-neck speed. I investigated the cube houses. They were very strange and topsy turvy. All the rooms are weird shapes and windows can look down on the street or up but rarely straight across to your neighbour. I think that some of the corners woul be hard to clean and the stairs are quite steep, but it is an innovative idea.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Nov 5th last day in Portugal

I saved the best for last. Today I travelled back in time. At one o'clock in the afternoon I left Spain by zip line and landed one mile later in Portugal at 12:01 p.m.

Ana and Paulo had been keeping me busy all week and it was lovely. Ana asked me what I wanted to do. I checked all the brochures and found that there was a way to zip line from Spain to Portugal. What a thrill!
This morning we left for Alcoutim. Ana checked and we could take a local boat across the river and we would be right at the office for Limitezero, the zip line people. We were fitted with safety gear and helmets. Paulo and I and two people in charge of sending us off the hill got in a Jeep and drove almost straight up to the top of the hill behind the office. We received a number of safety instructions and had the gear tightened.  The guide took our picture and Paulo shot a movie as I was launched into space and flew from one country to another. I travelled back in time. I left Spain at 1:00 pm and landed in Portugal 59 minutes earlier at 12:01 pm. It was the thrill of the trip. I am so glad I did it.
Ana had my camera and took some pictures but I also bought the official one.

After the adventure we walked around town and then headed for Mertola a town farther north which has a beautiful restored castle.  Mertola is farther up the river and is the first bridge across the Guadiana River since Castelo Marim. The distance between the two bridges is 62 kilometres. This castle is quite old but it has been renovate quite a bit. There is a one section that has been excavated to show the ancient ruins. The gentleman at the site was very pleased to talk to us about the site and the history. We climbed the walls and took pictures from each side. The amazing thing is that attached to the Castelo is a cemetery that is in use today. In order to get to the castle all roads led upward. I was a little worried about the cobblestones going down as they can be quite slick and there are no railings or hand holds. Paulo went down and brought the car up as he saw cars coming up to the castle. 
We thought we were fine for time to get me to the airport early for the flight to Amsterdam. Paulo and Ana decided to take a route across country which would be a bit shorter but slower as there was no highway. After a few miles we decided to pretend we were in a video game as the roads resembled Mario-kart. It would say winding road for 600 metres, then it would be windy for 2 kilometres, straight for 600 metres and then windy for two more kilometres.  Every five kilometres it would announce winding road 600 metres. Paulo would say - what do they think the rest of the winding road is?
All of a sudden partridge would run across the road. Ana would laugh and more partridge would waddle fast across the road. We stopped because we saw deer very close to the road and of course partridge running between them. Ana said there was a partridge festival in Alcoutim - maybe they were running away. We also saw cork piled by the side of the road and Paulo stopped so I could take pictures of the trees. They peel the bark (cork) up to the first branches which makes the tree two colours. All this starting and starting made me a little late but European airports and schedules are different from Canadian. I dropped off my bag and said goodbye to Ana and Paulo. I went through security and had about 1O minutes before boarding. If I was in Canada I would be hurrying and worried. In Europe the waiting room hadn't opened yet. People were sitting in the hall waiting for the attendants to arrive and open the doors. Finally we boarded and my row was the only one with an empty seat.  We arrived without incident in Amsterdam and caught a train to Rotterdam and a taxi to Leonie's house. Quickly to bed after a long day.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Nov 4th, Sevilla Cathedral, Real Alcazar, and Spanish Square

Paulo and Ana decided that today was the day to go to Spain. We are going to Sevilla and we will visit the cathedral, Alcazar, the Spanish Square and IKEA.
I am a little disappointed with the European Union. I don't end up with passport stamps.
When we arrived in Sevilla we drove around looking for the underground parking. It gave me a chance to see the city which is a mix of old and new. Strange round skyscrapers and old bull fighting rings. We parked in the underground in the centre of town and started our tour.
There is a very old large post office with concrete decorations that are mailboxes on the side of the building. Opposite the post office is the beginning of the cathedral. We walked around it and I discovered that just like Salamanca, graduates of the University had written their names (400 years ago) on the side of the building in bull's blood. You can still see the writing today. I went inside and took a few pictures. The outside was more impressive then the inside. It was beautiful but I expected the nave to be bigger.
We walked around the old city which included some of the outside walls of the Alcazar. We found a lovely restaurant. Ana and Paulo shared a variety of tapas but I missed having Paella when I was in Spain before so I had a seafood paella. It was delicious. Now it was time to go to Real Alcazar. We rented audio guides. Mine was in English. We travelled together for a few rooms and then we split up. Room after room opened to new splendours. The ceilings were gorgeous. The gardens were lovely. I got pictures of the peacocks, the fountains, the tile work, the ceilings, the carved walls. I loved it all. I decided it was time to make my way to the exit to find Ana and Paulo. Then I got lost. I kept heading in the right direction and ending up back where I started. People told me to go straight and turn left. I did it again and there I was again, back where I started. Finally a man told me to go straight through two doorways before I turned left. I made it to the exit and found Ana and Paulo. There are almost a hundred pictures of Alcazar on Facebook, I just couldn't stop taking pictures.
We had to walk about a kilometre to the Spanish Square but it was worth the walk. It is a beautiful half circle of building with an impressive square that was big enough that there were several bridges and a canal with boats in it. There are horse drawn coaches giving people rides around the centre of the square. Another wonderful attraction.
We headed back toward the old city and the car.
We had to stop for churros and chocolate before heading to IKEA. All IKEAs are so huge and you must follow around in a circle to find the exit, I was not surprised when Ana said that we had walked 11 kilometres over the whole day.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Nov. 3, Bone Chapel, Estoi, and Cerro de S. Miguel

November 3rd
We decided to go back to Faro because we discovered that the Bone Chapel we visited was a small one and not far away was one with the bones of 1245 monks. The first gypsies I had seen were sitting in the entrance to the Igraja do Carmo. We entered through the church and I took pictures of the altar and the organ. We went out into the walled garden and found the chapel (s) as there were two of them. One large with bones in the walls and ceilings and one small with only one wall facing you and the bones inserted in it. This is a way to respect the dead and preserve the bones that are found in unmarked, ancient or mass graves. The tombstones of some of the bodies have been preserved as paving stones.
Outside the church was a carob tree and strewn on the ground were carob pods. I knew people substituted carob for chocolate but I had never seen carob before.
We headed for the little town of Estoi. There is a castle there that is more modern than the ones we have been looking at. It is probably more like a rich estate than a castle. It is a heritage building but it is now also a hotel. E hotel has to preserve the outside and integrity of the building but they have turned the inside into hotel rooms. We walked all around it and I took pictures of the gates and towers. The last picture is of a room off to the side at the back. It appears to be a public laundry area. The blue tile portrays a woman with her laundry and there is still water in the various pools.
We now headed to Cerra de S. Miguel which is a height of land in the area. On the way I took a picture of cork trees. We found better ones a few days later but these were the first I got pictures of. Paulo drove up the hill and it was quite steep and windy. On top there were aerials and phone and TV towers. We parked and walked around and took some pictures of the valleys and of sunset. While we were there, Ana and Paulo did a Geocache which I signed onto as well. Will report it when I get back to Canada.
We drove back down the hill just as the sun was setting on another wonderful day. Off home to send a few postcards and then to bed.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

November 2nd Silves Castelo

When I woke up this morning I was happy to see that there were patches of blue sky, even if there were still grey clouds when you looked different directions. We were not going to stay inside today. We were off on another set of adventures. Ana and Paulo would tell me that we were going one place but we usually end up seeing several things along the way. I never know what the adventure will be.

They told me today that we were off to see a castle or castelo. Along the way we changed directions so that we could see Our Lady of the Rocks Chapel. In this part of Portugal the cliffs are a sheer drop down to the sea with a small beach at the bottom of the cliffs usually accessible only by many stairs. It was very windy and there were pools of water along the paths and the chapel was perched out on the farthest point on the cliff. The chapel itself was closed but I took a picture through the glass door. We walked along the path but turned back when the pools of water flooded the way.

Castelo Silves
On we continued until we reached Silves. We pulled over at a lookout point so I could get a picture of the castle silhouetted on the hill. On the way to the castle we stepped inside the Cathedral which is very close to it. The choir was practicing the hymns they would sing for the Mass and I took one picture with no flash because I didn't want to disturb them. In church the pictures always turn out better without flash. We toured the castle and climbed the walls. Some areas have been renovated and some are still being dug out. They have handrails in some places and none in other. Paulo offered help when we were going down wet staircases with no handholds. In the center of the castle courtyard there is a building underground that is devoted to Iberian Lynx. They have a breeding and release program trying to repopulate the area. It was very interesting. The battlements were very old but there were fantastic views of the surrounding city from the heights.

For lunch we stopped at a restaurant that people had told Ana and Paulo about. There is no menu. They serve Portuguese grilled chicken. Delicious, fabulous grilled chicken. Of course this is Portugal so first comes the cold starter - Olives, cooked spiced carrots, pickled cabbage and some peppers. Then the salad of tomatoes, lettuce, onions and a few minor veggies. The plate of chicken (one whole chicken split open and grilled on an outdoor barbecue type grill and then chopped in pieces) arrived with a large platter of beautifully done french fries. They were crisp on the outside and hot and tender on the inside. When we asked for the bill we were treated to a plate of fresh and dried fruit. We had figs with almonds in them, melon, and orange slices with cinnamon sprinkled on them. I think it was the best restaurant meal I have had in Europe. The bill was about $10.00 each in Canadian money. I love Portugal.

We drove to the town of Loulé and decided to take a walking tour. We found the local market. We had taken too much time over lunch so the stalls were mostly closed up but I took pictures of the building and the halloween decorations. There was a statue of an old woman representing the market sellers. We toured the old town and found historical plaques telling us about the designs of the windows and the arches etc, We stopped in a little cafe and had coffee and Portuguese custard tarts. The food here is wonderful.

Before heading home Paulo drove us to a modern round church on a hill overlooking the town. The church was not open but it is the outside architecture that is so interesting. The previous church was saved and is on the same property.

We headed home just in time as the sky opened up and it started to rain again.

Monday, November 2, 2015

November 1st Nanaimo Bars and visiting friends.

Early Nov. 1st Ana and I went grocery shopping to find missing ingredients for the Nanaimo Bars. We needed wafers to replace the graham cracker crumbs, icing sugar and more butter. We will use cornstarch and real vanilla from vanilla pods to replace the custard powder.

We had a wonderful time making the bars. She did most of the work and I supervised. Paulo was happy to eat them. The whole experiment has been declared a success and Portugal now has Nanaimo Bars.

We spent a quiet afternoon. I sent some postcards and Paulo and Ana were busy with the website. Around 4 o'clock we headed out to visit friends for a birthday. It had rained most of the day but we thought the worst was past. Half way to the friends we discovered that there was a road washed out and we had to detour to higher ground to avoid the flooding.

We arrived safely and I was made to feel very welcome. One of the couples had just returned from Calgary, where they had spent the last two years. There was lots of food including Ana's special carrots, quiche, leek pie, apple pie, potato chips, beetroot chips, roast chestnuts, olives, iberico ham, cheese, and regular ham. Everything was delicious and I learned to eat roast chestnuts by dipping them in coarse salt. I was treated to Mateus Rose and we finished off the night with Birthday cake.
The ride home was uneventful as no roads were flooded and the rain held off until we were safe and sound.

October 31st. Market Day.

Market Day in Olhão

Today was Market day. Olhão is not far from here and has a beautiful fish, fruit and vegetable market. Outside the building there were people selling clothing and handbags etc and there were beautiful tile benches. Inside there was every kind of fish you could think of. Big ones, small ones, some whole, some in filets and steaks. Dorado, cuttle fish, Crab, salmon, tuna, octopus, squid, sword fish, eel and even shark. Then we moved on to the fruit and vegetables. Pomegranates, oranges, mangoes, apples, grapes, figs, sweet potatoes, avocados and many more. I kept asking "What is that one" Sometimes we could figure it out but one or two did not translate to English.

We stopped for coffee with Flávio and Ana and then had fun buying vegetables for dinner. Paulo bought some figs and I bought some raspberries and some churros which we shared as we walked around.
The weather had turned cold so we headed back home for lunch.  On the way we stopped at Canada- that is Rua da Canada and Edificio Canada which is an Apartment complex near here.  We spent the afternoon discussing places and food from Canada. We found there is a place called Faro in the Yukon but it is very far from everywhere. We also had a discussion about Canadian food and decided that we should introduce Nanaimo bars to Portugal. Late in the afternoon there was a beautiful sunset so we went up on the rooftop terrace to watch the sun go down.

October 30 Fishing Village, Salt Ponds and the Old Town of Faro

Arraial Ferreira Neto or Vila Gale Albacore
First thing in the morning we headed out for this site. it was a Tuna fishing Village originally that was only inhabited during fishing season. Once the tuna hanged their annual course and didn't come this way anymore the village was abandoned. Portugal made it a National Historic Site but in order to preserve it they have allowed a resort to renovate and renew the site. The resort allows people to visit; they have a small museum on the premises and all the fisherman's housing has been transformed into the hotel rooms.  When you walk through the area you are looking at the village as it was 75 years ag. The chapel is still there and the school is now the children's activity center. Except for the reception area everything is the same. the large anchors used to tie down the nets are still along the walls.

Salt Evaporation Ponds
Every day we had driven past large white piles along the roads and there seemed to be a lot of man made ponds beside the roadways as well. Today we went to get a closer look at the Salt Evaporation Ponds or Desalination ponds. Portugal gets quite a bit of its salt both for industrial use and for cooking and gourmet uses from desalination. The salt we saw is industrial grade. It reminded me of the salt piles we have for salting the roads in the winter. The salt water is pumped into the pond area and allowed to evaporate. The salt remains behind and is scooped up for use in industrial processes.

Back home for lunch. Delicious as always. After lunch we headed for the old town.

Old Town of Faro
The Old Town of Faro was established in 1269 and the main gateway is the Arco de Repouso or the Resting Arch which of course leads to Rua Do Repouso.
We followed the street past colourful tiles and beautiful ironwork balconies to the statue of Alfonso III and the town square. We turned to the side and saw Stork nests and storks on top of the church.
I love the decorative street lights as well. Even the doors are inlaid with metal work and lovely door knockers. We wandered past parks and a marina and the local firehall and found the New Gate which is only 400 years old. The flowers are all still in bloom.
We headed for the Faro Cathedral. This church was originally built in 1251 but redesigned when it became the seat of the diocese of the Algarve in 1577. At that time they modernized it and added the medieval elements including the bell tower and the two cross chapels.  We went up in the tower and saw the bells - some are still working but others have no clappers.
There is a marvelous view of the town and the sea from all sides of the tower. The chimney pot on the roof is quite ornate.
I took some pictures of the altars and the organ and outside there are two chapels. One is devoted to St. Michel and the other is a Bone chapel.
This probably sounds weird but the chapel is full of bones and skulls, probably of unidentified bodies that were buried in the area between 1269 and the 1577 date of reconstruction. At the back of the cathedral is a beautiful wall with Gargoyles at the top. I love gargoyles. As we walked back to the car we saw an outdoor public gym, so I had to take two pictures of that.