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Published: September 16th 2019
And off to Portugal I go - Sue had booked us into this quirky hotel in Porto - Zero box lodge, where all the rooms were basic wooden cubes with a door through to a bathroom. Every room was the same and encased in what looks like Pine, all off a long corridor with a mirror at the end so it looked longer than it was.
Getting the key was interesting as they were all kept in a huge glass fronted fridge behind reception and hung over a bottle of beer which you got with the key. Opposite reception was a glass cube with a bed in it which you could stay in for free as long as you were happy with everyone looking on! Someone was staying there that night! A theatre critic, this wasn’t for me.
That afternoon I spent just wandering the town trying to get my bearings for when Sue would return the following evening. Some of the buildings were lovely with their tiled exteriors and in the case of the railway station, tiled interiors too. I also managed to find a craft beer place showing the football!
Sue arrived back from Hull late
in the evening so the next day with good weather we walked around the town, up and down it’s hills taking photographs of churches, tiled housing and some spectacular views before crossing the river. Then we found a small market high up near the convent where we could sit and look back across into Porto - a beautiful setting and very relaxing.
As the afternoon went by we walked along the river and came across a bar offering a flight of port which we shared 5 ports for 5 euros, a bargain & a good musician playing too.
The next day we headed over to Jardim de Serralves a fabulous garden and an Art Deco Villa built in the 1930’s & then of course we had to go on the Graham’s Lodge Port tour. As you would expect a story well told of the history of the port house and the families that have looked after it, followed by a tasting. Again if you come to Porto it’s a must.
We also found a free walking tour ‘an Irish guy in Porto’ / a good guy and entertaining. When he arrived in Porto 8 years ago it
wasn’t too safe but now it’s quite the place to be.
Then off to Lisbon where Anna was flying out to meet us that night before she started her new job.
The 3 of us had a couple of nights together wandering the town and doing a 4 hour bike tour which was good but a bit slow. We cycled on the roof of the modern art gallery & our guide managed to skip the queue to get us all a Portuguese tart at the famous cafe where they sell thousands of them every day. Sue then flew back to Hull to help with her dad who was coming out of hospital. This left Anna & I to explore the area including a trip out to Sintra which was beautiful if a tad busy.
We hopped in a tuk tuk and were driven up to the Palácio Nacional da Pena, a picture postcard of a palace painted yellow red and blue on the outside. The queues however were long so we didn’t enter but went back to the old town of Sinatra.
We visited the Quinta da Regaleira which was built at the end of the
19th century apparently in the spirit of romanticism and its ideals - notwithstanding that it had gardens wells and a house styled to represent ancient secret orders, with hidden tunnels which were fun to wander through.
And then our next housesit in Loule southern Portugal where Anna and I were met by a lovely couple Bill and Joan, and introduced to Toby, their rescue dog we were to look after for a week.
Anna stayed for a few days then went back and Sue flew out the same evening. The Algarve is a lovely part of the world ( assuming you avoid the obvious spots) and while we spent most of our time at the villa we did get out to visit many of the local towns and villages. We also met up with Sian, a friend of Sue’s from tennis and her husband Phil who had moved to the Algarve last year. They had bought an amazing villa at the top of a hill with fantastic views.
The night before we left Loule the town was taken over by a biannual festival called Noite Branca or white night where everyone ( including us) wears white and
there is food, drink, circus acts and music aplenty- a great evening and great timing for us. We ended up watching an Elvis impersonator.
As we left Loule we decided to drive to Europe’s most western point Caba da Roca before spending a few days wandering back along the Algarve including Carvalho where we walked the Seven Hanging Valleys trail along the coast which was spectacular and worth doing - https://www.walkalgarve.com/algarve-walking-sightseeing-birding-routes/seven-hanging-valleys-trail-lagoa-western-algarve
We visited Olhão a couple of times which was really nice and also managed to catch the ferry across to the islands. Initially Culatra which had an old working fishing village, then we crossed the island and walked along the beach to Farol - beautiful and hot.
Our final stop in Portugal was Tavira. Again we were lucky as starting that night was a major Mediterranean food festival with bands playing on stages across the town - the main band was excellent, a strange cross between Chris Rea and James Brown.
Next day we wandered round town then went back to the hotel and lounged around the pool all day finally deciding to head out about 5.00. Initially along the coast to a lovely little
place called Cacela Velha with interesting beaches.
We noticed a queue of people outside a basic fish place so got in line and after about 15 minutes sat down. A couple of American guys joined us at our table and we were soon chatting about our various journeys around Portugal. They had loved the Azores which was only a few hours flight from Boston.
At about 7.30 we thought we better work out where we were staying and thought ‘it’s late so let’s drive 3.5 hours to another country! And sure enough by midnight local time that evening we were arriving in Cordoba as part of our changed plan to and drive up through Spain and France and head back to the UK to see Sue’s parents.
We did have one full day there including another walking tour of the Jewish quarter. It’s an interesting place to visit and not too busy. Palácio Viana is lovely with its 8 magnificent courtyards, and the Mosque Cathedral which is now the Catholic Cathedral is a must.
Then back to Bilbao (well back for me Sue hadn’t been) and Sue visited the Guggenheim. We went back at night too
to get some photos and we both enjoyed visiting the old town and it’s Cathedral.
From Bilbao we drove through France and stopped overnight in Tours before catching the ferry back from Le Havre the next day.
The end of our travels was here and we have had a fantastic time. We have seen many great sights, visited exotic and not so exotic places and met some wonderful people as we have gone round. Given everything that is going on in the world at the moment it is heartening to meet so many wonderful people as we have travelled and to realise that the vast majority of people are good people and opening up to have conversations rather than arguments is so rewarding.
Hopefully this has given you some small taste of our adventures, but this is us signing off for now.
Unfortunately I sign off on a sad note.
Sue’s father Eric, went back into hospital & passed away peacefully as we were driving back. A wonderful grandfather to our kids he will be sorely missed by all his family.
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