July 10, 2008
Today is the day that will determine if I am going to be succesfull at driving inPortugal. All of the tourist books say it is the worst place to drive in the EU. However, we must first decide where we are going once we get the car. The general direction is the Algarve’s, but Bob only has a list of the beaches he wants to hit, but not where to stay in the Algarves. I make the executive decision to stay in Albefuria, which is in the middle of the Algarves. This way the furthest distance is only 1.5 hours to each end of the region. I utilize David’s special tool, Google Earth, to map our trip.
We strapped on our bags in a similar fashion as those most noble animals, the pack mule. Given the number of bags, Bob’s back, and the distance to the Hartz office, we hailed a cab. 10 minutes, and $10 lighter we arrived at the office. Our next task is to wait in line to receive our car. We witnessed a couple of people be turned away, but we were lucky we had reserved our car.
My driving experience has not been a problem. Who believed that last statement? Ok, that re-affirms my faith in all of you. Getting to Sintra, our first destination was no problem. In Sintra we visited the Palacio Nascio, which was closed the day before. This was the palace that Joseph really wanted to see after he read the books on the plane. It turned out to be wonderful inside, although as Bob rightfully pointed out, it was quite plain on the outside. The inside had wonderful decorations and furniture, and Joseph really enjoyed the tour. We had lunch at an adjoining park to the palace and ate with it in full view. Back to the roads in our spacious little car, truthfully it really does have lots of inside space.
Once back on the road I made my first driving error, we got onto the toll road to only get off at the same spot. They charge you 3 euro for that stupid little mistake, I guess I am not as charming as I might think I am. Once we finally got on track with the map, it was a simple 2.5 hours to Albefuria. Amazingly we made it straight into Albefuria. Next we had to locate the Tourismo office. An Avis rental agent was able to help us with this task and we were face to face with an agent in less than 10 minutes.
She had no problem in suggesting the Villa Branca as the place to get a room, althought that is not where we ended up. It appears that Villa Branca also owns Casa Mitchell. The room for 3 there was booked on Saturday, and we wanted 4 full days. Lucky for us the establishment also owned Vila Emilia. We are now in room 9 at Vila Emilia. Joseph got a kick out of this. The room is great, it has AC, TV, private bath, wardrobe, refridgerator, and 2 twin beds and a futon. We settled in quickly, because I wanted to get in my swim workout before the sun went down. I got 2o minutes in before the sun dropped behind the mountain, and the water got to cold for me to keep going. Although we are in the Mediterranean Sea, the water is very fridgid. I think it is because we are so close to the Atlantic.
Once my short work out is done, we all realize that we are starving, because we have not eaten since our stop in Sintra. Thus we walk out of our hotel and find a very close place. This is my usual style, an establishment where we are the only English speaking patrons. The owner had to get her daughter to take our order. Bob ordered sardines, which he has never had outside of the can, and both Joseph and I enjoyed the grilled salmon. We all loved our food. Joseph made friends with the owners dog, which he patted all the way up to dinner, and then following dinner. The only problem with the restaurant is that we sat outside and the wind picked up, that really chilled us to the bone. OK, chilled the old folks, me and Bob, to the bone. The establishment was great and we could not have had a better meal.
Having a full day of driving, stayed up until 2 the previous night, engaged in some heated political discussions, and completed a workout, I was out like alight before my head hit the pillow. Stone cold asleep until 6 am. Just resting up for the next 3 days of intensive Triathlon training.
We miss you all, thanks for following us around Portugal and Morocco.