This trip, spur of the moment, very little planning and was done on a chance spurred on by Skyscanner deals and in celebration of getting my Portuguese Passport.
DAY 1: SATURDAY
We flew TAAG airlines via Angola on Friday and landed in Lisbon on Saturday morning early. In transit via Angola is one disorganized mission and requires multiple security checks & patience. A WHOLE LOT OF IT.
We arrive at Lisbon airport and I simply walk thru scan my passport and VIOLA!
Bryan on the other hand had to wait for almost an hour in the immigration queue. We decided to skip the metro and walked to the train station where we would catch a train from Lisbon to Faro, then Faro to a small town called Castro Marim which is about 4km from where we stayed in another small town, Altura.
The train trip was easy going and more comfy than the plane. The Portuguese seem to number their platforms and train seats in the most illogical way but we found our way around. When a varsity student picked up his guitar and starting singing some Fado songs along with his friends I felt the music in my veins and knew I was indeed in Portugal. The youngsters were stopped after a while and later on in our trip we learned that Fado is a form of Old Portuguese punk music.
Arriving at Castro Marim station in a heat wave, we instantly regretted the 4km walk. Bryan, ever the gentleman carried both his backpack & my tog bag. Eventually reaching the town, we settled into my Avo’s flat with a spectacular view of the town and the ocean a few minutes’ walk away. The town itself was spoiled here and there with graffiti but the locals were very friendly.
DAY 2: SUNDAY
We explored the local beach front and walked 7km to the next town to collect the hired scooter. A much easier walk than the day before due to the fact that we walked along the beach and took various dips in the ocean while on our way. Monte Gordo was more tourist driven with international cuisine & definitely busier. We spent most of the time on the beach (on my aunt’s recommendation I tanned topless! PS The women there really don’t give a shit about their wobbly bits – they are there to enjoy their holiday and make the most of it) & watched the Euro Cup Final at a small Portuguese Bar. The atmosphere when Portugal won was amazing with people singing and drinking in the streets into the early hours of the morning.
DAY 3: MONDAY
The little town of Altura was dead quiet from the festivities the night before so we decided to head into Spain for the day – another country kind of ticked off the bucket list but not really. A pleasant ride into the smaller towns close to the border. Riding along farms of all sorts & vineyards, it reminded me of our own Boland. We explored a little bit of Lepe, & headed into Cartaya for lunch where we sat down at a Café. A Café with only a Spanish menu & no internet connection to help with translating it. Asking the waiter for Paella seemed like the easiest way to order anything. Stopping to put air into the tyres, Bryan makes some odd hand gestures & sounds while asking where the pump is. Huelva brings more old churches & buildings indicating that the Spanish have a distinctly different style of architecture. Before we head home, we quickly stop in Isle Christina for a drink & to check out their beach. The kids entertained themselves by burying a ball of some sorts in the ground showing off their back flips. The one thing that is evident from our whole experience is that the youths there really love being outside and away from tech.
We stopped at the super market for dinner goodies & there is Bacaloa everywhere. Dried, fresh, packaged, frozen meals, in every freaking form you can imagine. Off to Monte Gordo to experience the night life, walking through the promenade & I recall how I was there as child 20 years ago taking a horse carriage ride with my parents.
We tackled the ride to the western part of Algarve, all the way to Lagos, stopping at various beaches; to tan; to swim; to take in the breath taking views at Ponta da Piedade, Praia de Camilo, Praia de Marinha, stopping briefly in Albufeira.
Absolutely stunning views of the cliffs, rock caves & clear water. We took a swim where the boats collected the hundreds of tourists for their boat trips, being rebels by not adhering to the “no swimming” rule. Bryan also swam to the famous Benagil cave, leaving behind an envious me who was too afraid to swim in the fairly strong current. This was probably my favourite part of visiting Algarve.
NOTE: The scooter ride was tough, on the ears and on the buttocks!
DAY 5: WEDNESDAY
Our last full day in Altura. We explored the old town of Tavira with its tiled homes & I absolutely fell in love with it. I never realised the strong Islamic influence on Portugal that was noticeable through the architecture in certain places. Old buildings with loads of history, also indicating the poverty and heart sore that once and probably still are very much prevalent in Portugal. Finally heard some buskers in the square playing traditional Portuguese music. We hunted for the illusive Francesinha meal that Bryan want, we finally manage to find it in a mall of all places! The rest of the day was spent relaxing some more on the beach.
DAY 6: THURSDAY
We dropped off the scooter & walked to Monte Gordo Train Station. Forgetting to buy water in town, I ran to the nearest guesthouse and awkwardly asked for a bottle of water (there is no shops at the train station). The train ride was uneventful except for a school trip that joined at one stage before Faro. We arrived in Lisbon during peak hour traffic, picked up another scooter & it was absolute chaos. Finally arriving at our guest house right in the middle of old town Lisbon, walking distances from most places, we headed out to a proper dinner and rushed off to catch the Belem Tower at Sunset.
DAY 7: FRIDAY
Headed off to Sintra for the day. What an absolute darling of a town. Extremely old and charming, with too much history to discover in one day. First stop was the Moorish Castle, built in the 10th century. The castle ruins was massive and beautifully restored with MANY stairs and lookout points to view the beauty of the town and its surrounding areas. Next up was Palacio da Pena, a colourful monstrosity of a palace, built in the 15th century, followed by Quinta da Regaleira, built in 1697 , a gothic inspired and modified over the centuries. It had a massive garden with grottos and a deep as hell well.
That evening we walked around and explored the street of Lisbon, still sporting celebration signs from winning the EuroCup. We got pulled into a Marionette Museum; while still thinking whether it would be too creepy to check out, the receptionist informed us that it is free entrance, so we figured why the hell not. It was as even more weird and creepier than we imagined.
DAY 8: SATURDAY
We walked, and we walked, and we walked tonnes of stairs through what felt like the whole of old town Lisbon. Stopping at various look out points throughout the city, taking in the old European city’s history. Various monuments & statutes, some churches & the Castelo de S Jorge. The city really showed the true face of Portugal. Poverty and hardship can be seen on the faces of the locals. Walking through the tourist shopping district, we get offered dagga or cocaine multiple times.
We headed down to the Fado Museum and I finally put a name to the style of music that gives me goosebumps when I hear it.
DAY 9: SUNDAY
We packed up and left our luggage at the guest house for the day. Visiting Jerónimos Monastery which was built in 1517 was our first stop. The opulence of this building was overwhelming and made me pretty sad. We went to the Belem Tower again to view the inside, not up for going straight to the top due to both the heat and the extremely long queue. We headed off to the Moment of Discoveries which unfortunately was under construction but we could still take the lift up to take in more breath-taking views of Lisbon. Last stop on our trip was the Palace of Ajuda. Extremely quiet with not a soul in sight, we were convinced that we were at the wrong place. We definitely were not as we entered and saw the inside of the building. Pretty satisfied with some peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle of the old town, we walked slowly through the palace, appreciating the extravagance of each room. Absolutely fell in love with Lisbon’s old city charm and artsy vibe.