Portugal Cruise travel blog

Our laundry drying system. Maids don't come for another day, so need...

Sunrise, looks like it is going to be a great day!

Our first view of the Monastery of St Francis

The other side of the monastery, sad to see all the destruction...

Looking down the breakwall at the harbour marker

Mike watching the sailboats as we eat lunch. Note all the big...

Looking across the mouth of the Arade to the other breakwall and...

View of the Fortaleza de Santa Catarina from the beach side, note...

Leave it to Mike to find the weather office, on top of...

View of the beach, see all the boardwalks, restaurants and a bit...

Our view of Castelo De Sao Joao in Ferraguo from the top...

The RV park, with a bit of the marina

The center of a roundabout, statues of working women. Nice big roundabouts,...

The Jesuit College, no fancy name, no saints involved I guess

Our Lady of the Conception Church, the Mother Church

An old building being retrofit with new windows and a garage door....

Restaurant chimney, can you see the storks nesting on top?

Typical street, don't know if I'd park there. The bus certainly wouldn't...

Another typical street, you can see all the way down to the...

Found it, Chapel of Sao Jose. Tiny little thing, between bars, businesses...

The Santa Bernarda, a pirate ship docked at the river's edge

Michelle has found her new place of work!

Waiting for the bus, a big shipyard/storage/repair across the river in front...

Firestation for Volunteer firemen in Lagoa, don't they have paid ones, or...

On the drive home we passed either orange or lemon groves and...

The last few days have not been busy, relaxing by the ocean, reading, drinking wine, enjoying the beautiful sunsets/sunrises and the Hunter’s full moon. Haven't posted any of the sunset, sunrise, moonrise pictures as we have a limited number we can post and want to save them for things we don't get at home.

Michelle took the resort shuttle into Armacao de Pera one day and treated herself to a mani/pedi at the salon recommended by our organizer’s wife. And one of the sunny days was Laundry Day 1, only a little rack so we split it into underwear and socks on one day, and all else on Day 2. Between trips, tours and a cloudy day we are still waiting for the second sunny day, good thing we have lots of shirts!

On Monday, the 17th, we were adventuresome and travelled like a local. We hopped on the regional bus that stops outside the resort (after Mike double and triple checked the times with our reception desk!) and headed to Portimao. On the bus, the driver actually has a mini computer that allows him to punch in where you are headed to and prints your ticket right there. He also has a change drawer, no ‘Exact Fare’ here! It wasn’t cheap, 4.10€ each, about $6.15 for the half hour ride. It wasn’t the milk run as we didn’t stop every two streets, but we did go through a lot of the smaller villages on the way. We were both glad we didn’t have to drive our bus down some of those streets, typical, European, tiny streets!

Portimao (pronounced Port e my o) sits on the edge Arade River, and just 1 ¾ miles south is Praia da Rocha (Beach of the Rocks), a beach town on the ocean and the river. Actually, they seem to have grown together, but you can see that the beach town more recently, a result of the tourist trade with more modern buildings.

We had a little map Michelle had copied out of one of the tour books from the library back home, which had a few sights marked on it. Amazing how little we can find on the internet about the history of Portimao, everything says a line or two then goes on to talk about Praia da Rocha or other nearby towns, frustrated Mike the eager historian for sure!

The bus drops you off right at the edge of a waterfront park, in a central part of the older part of town. They have a huge (in most places) walkway alongside the river, with a bicycle path through it. The bike path is not in cobblestone like all the other walking areas, so it would be a much smoother ride. You shouldn’t walk on these, as it seems to be slightly rubberized, making the bikes almost silent and they sneak up on you and scare the daylights out of you!

After getting ourselves oriented with the map, we decided to walk along the river, towards Praia da Rocha before we headed into town. Since the return bus wasn’t until 4, we had lots of time and wanted to see all we could. On the river’s edge, all the docks are floating and moored to piers that were sticking way out of the water. We passed the Portimao Museum but thought we’d see it on our way back. We kept wandering along the river walk, seeing the industrial port, which didn’t seem very busy. Portimao was the leading fish canning center in the Algarve but it seems most of the colourful fish boats have moved to a terminal across the river in Ferragudo.

On our walk we viewed the ruins of Castelo de Sao Joao (Castle of St Joseph), also across the river in Ferragudo, which was built to protect Portimao from English, Spanish and Dutch raids. We walk beside the ruins of the Monastery of Sao Francisco (St Francis) built in the 16th century, founded in 1530. It is sad to see something like this in ruins, but it does take money to maintain them, and there are so many older buildings in Europe that need help, wonder how they choose what gets kept up and what doesn’t? Mike found something on the web that says the city is trying to buy it from families that own it, but so far nothing is happening and it is just falling further and further into disrepair.

We could soon tell that we were getting close to Praia da Rocha as the modern marina was next in view. Lots of fancy apartments and the marina had some huge yachts and sailboats ($$$). As we got closer to the beach area we could see remains of Fortaleza de Santa Catarina, which was also constructed for defense purposes. Built in the early 17th century and overlooking the mouth of the river Arade, it is a fantastic viewpoint as you can see across to Ferragudo in one direction, all along Praia da Rocha in the other direction and the modern Portimão marina just below it.

Before exploring the fort we walked out to the beach and down one breakwall to the harbour marker. Think of the river as a thick base of a Y, with the breakwalls being the two arms, but they bend in towards each other, to make a safe harbour. On each end of the breakwalls was a minilighthouse, which is a huge permanent channel marker for all the ships. The cement walkway is about 15’ wide and then another 15’ of huge rocks on either side to protect it from the ocean. Fishermen were all over the rocks, most using rods and reels, but we did see one guy jigging in a hole in the rocks. We walked out to the very end and sat against the marker and enjoyed the sandwiches we had brought with us for lunch, a slightly windy, but sunny, peaceful place. Mike was having fun watching two sailboats, one whose captain was obviously learning to steer in the wind, waves and tide, and not being very successful.

Once our tummies were satisfied, we walked back to the beach and into the Forteza de Santa Catarina (Fort of St Catherine.) It was as the guidebook said, a fantastic viewpoint of the river, the beach and breakwalls and the modern marina. We are still surprised at how small all these forts are, but with one on either side of the river, it probably wouldn’t take many men to keep it going. There are no monuments, no decriptive plaques, just the place to wander in and around. The one plaque Michelle found translates to ‘Viewpoints of Santa Catarina.) On the very ground floor, stores have been built into the side of the fortress! On the very top, Mike found the weather office and Stevenson Screen (little white box with louvers on the sides, has equipment inside like therometers) which he says was totally in the wrong place (too close to buildings, etc.) and he should know as he installed these for Environment Canada all the time!

Once we got our fill of the beautiful scenery, we headed back towards Portimao, hoping to go around the other side of the monastery to get some different pictures. Nice try, despite wandering up some steep roads, it was just a wall, no view at all. But we did get a great view of the fancy (NOT!) RV park that was just before the big, fancy marina. The worst spot we’ve ever had was so much better. This was just a parking lot and it didn’t look like there were any connections or a sewage dump! But, during the high season we’re sure it is packed. We saw a group of C Class (like we used to have) from the Netherlands that must be touring together and off they were going on their bicycles to explore. Hey, we’ve done that!

Next we headed back to the museum, only to find that they are closed on Mondays :-( Oh well, off we went to find the old churches that were on our map. They are the only things marked on the map by the way, guess they figure that is all that is of interest!

We wandered through typical, tiny, cobblestone streets and didn’t even get lost. First up was the Jesuit College in the center of the old town. Its building was ordered by the end of 17th century, by a nobleman named Diogo Gonçalves, who is buried inside. By far this is one of the biggest of any of the older buildings and churches around, with a huge square in front of it, making it appear even bigger. The College is one of the most important religious buildings in Portimao, along with what is called the Mother Church.

From the square we could see the steeple of this church, the Igreja Nossa Senhora da Concepceicao or Our Lady of the Conception Church. We walked the short way only to find people walking around, trying to get in, again it wasn’t open :-(, guess Mondays are not the day to visit places in Portimao! The church is the biggest of Algarve and has been declared to be of Public Interest whatever that means. Its façade is impressive. The church was built towards the end of 15th century. However, it was damaged by the 1755 earthquake; therefore, it had to be rebuilt and, again, during the 19th century. A gothic hallway with golden capital and a gargoyle are the only remains of the original building.

Undeterred, we decided to head to the last chapel, Capela de Sao Jose, Chapel of St Joseph, the smallest of all of them. We passed a restaurant area, with a main bricked chimney that had storks nesting on it. Doesn’t their nest block the chimney? Our map didn’t show elevation, so we had to detour a little, after climbing a steep street, to get back down to ground level. We had gone up to bridge level, but didn’t want to cross over the river to Ferragudo! More tiny streets, and a tiny underpass later and we were beside the Capela. On the history of the Chapel of St. Joseph little or nothing is known. The temple was erected in the 17th century, but it is not known who ordered it built, why they ordered it, who built it or when the chapel was founded. Outside it is very plain, with a tiny little bell on one side. The interior space, which we couldn’t see, (again :-( ) including the chapel, is fully coated century tiles, blue, white and yellow. Would have been neat to see, but at least we found it.

After this we headed back to the riverside, to where the buses all stop. Walking along the river we came upon a tourist boat, but old galleon, tall ship style. It was a smaller version, but a wooden boat with some beautiful wood work on it. We've seen brochures for Pirate tours, this is the ship for them! We noticed that the river was much higher, the piers that were soooo tall before, were now not even 4 or 5'. The tide was in, and the river was flowing inland from the ocean, a very strong current.

Once back at the bus area, Mike double checked the time our bus departs. We know the bus at 4 goes directly back to Senhora da Rocha, but we could see there was a bus at 2:15. Our receptionist at the resort, a very patient lady, Rosa, had finally told Mike, “you want to come here, take the 4 o’clock bus!” but never said where the 2:15 bus went or stopped! So, he tried again with the lady at the ticket counter…nice try, “no, you want Sehora da Rocha, bus is at 4!” We bought our tickets, found where we catch the bus and headed to the grocery store. On the way we passed two ‘Chinese' stores. Yes, that’s what they call them, and one even had 'Chinoise' in its name on the sign! They aren't very politically correct over here! Think giant dollar store, very low grade Giant Tiger, with everything under the sun, but not only for a dollar! Tools, electronics, linens, beauty supplies of all kinds, toys...but still no men’s bathing suits, lol, probably the only thing they didn’t carry!

Finally, we arrived at the grocery store. Well, this put our InterMarche by the resort to shame. Now, not only did we have to find what we wanted, but decide which brand…way too much choice. And they didn’t have brands we’d seen before, making it even more of a problem! The worst part is, we only had about six things on the list, but of course came out with a few more items than that! Knowing we were dropped off at the gate of the resort made us buy a few more items, we didn’t have to cart them all the way down the hill! One thing we have discovered, they don’t have tortilla chips in Portugal, only potato chips! Since finding guacamole, Mike has been on the search, but hasn’t had any luck. This store did have Cheezies, but Michelle managed to resist. We paid, packed our bags and headed back to the river’s edge by the bus stop, to rest our legs.

Mike played with the delay on the camera, to get a shot of both of us together. People walking by must have wondered what was going on, this mad man running back and forth from the camera (on a little, bendy, bright green stand) to the bench, laughing crazily because he almost ran someone over and missed getting in the shot, or someone walked through the picture. It took a few tries to say the least.

Once back on the bus we again enjoyed the small town views (much better than the highway) which was good, as traffic was much heavier at 4 than it had been at 9:30 on our morning run in! Even though we didn’t get to see inside the buildings, we had a

great day, enjoyed the sights, scenery and glimpse of the old small town.

In the afternoon it had started to cloud over and by the time we got home it was cool. We relaxed, had a glass of wine and a snack, caught up on our electronic social network and transferred pictures onto the tablet. Since Michelle decided we weren’t cooking after a day of walking around, we headed to the restaurant for dinner. Good thing we weren’t in a hurry, two kitchen staff were off sick so it was a little slower paced than usual, even the co-owner was in washing dishes!

After dinner we watched a little British news, certainly a different way of presenting it. Even the weather, just this is what it is, and this is what the temps will be for the next day or two. Michelle finished sorting through the pictures, resizing and labelling for filing, and Mike kept falling asleep, trying to read his book. Our legs were certainly happy when we went to bed, Mike’s exercise tracker says we did 12 km of walking!

Today is a relaxing day, still clouded over, but a comfy temperature and the sun is trying to come out.

Tomorrow we are doing a tour of the Eastern Algarve, so we will have covered it from one end to the other. It will be an early start in the morning, pickup is 7:45 at the front gates! Looking forward to the sights (wonder how much the landscape changes as we head East), and Mike is looking forward to more history, of course!

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