Saturday, October 3, 2009

Sun Holiday - Cheap and Cheerful!

I love Portugal. Love it, LOVE IT!

Sigh... this is actually kind of a hard admission for me to make because Portugal has been my travel bugbear for years. The one western european country I'd never been to. Ever since - gulp, I'll admit it - I was kicked out of there years ago.

Yes, I was expelled from a foreign country! Sigh again, I can hear my friends shrieking with laughter right now. This is an old story, one they've heard before.

Short story, sweet... 19 year old girl enjoying semester abroad in Scotland makes plans for Spring Break with friends in Portugal. Neither she nor travel agent (this was *shudder* decades ago... remember travel agents?) think to check on whether someone traveling on a Jamaican passport would need a visa. The border agents at the Portugal airport were happy to enlighten me and not at all dismayed by my buckets of tears.

But, all things work together for good. Because I was deported back to London, I got to meet cousins who'd been estranged from the family and triggered a cascade of family reunions. Now it's just a funny story from my college days and a cautionary tale to always, always check the details!

Anyway, enough with the distractions. Here's what you're really here for. Pictures! I just got back a week ago from 7 days in Lisbon and the Algarve coast (Lagos and Faro) where I took over 300 of the darned things. There was a bounty of really great ones to choose from, but I chose only a handful of the best to subject you to. You can thank me later.

One of Lisbon's main squares - Rossio aka Praca Dom Pedro IV

Approaching one of Lisbon's main scenic lookouts, the Miradoura Santa Luzia

Amazing tile work in the Palacio Nacional da Sintra. Sintra was the summer retreat of Portugal's kings and aristocracy. Gorgeous architecture and colors, like a Disney fairytale town.

Fonte Mourisca (Arab Fountain) on the outskirts of Sintra, where many of the locals come for fresh spring drinking water

Church of Santa Maria on the long uphill hike to the Castelo dos Mouros that overlooks Sintra

Inside the church at the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos in Belem, a suburb of Lisbon

Sentry outpost at the Torre de Belem, an offshore fortress built in the 1500's

One of Lisbon's trams climbing the hill from the Baixa to the Bairro Alto neighborhoods

Street art along the tram line - too beautiful to just call it graffiti

Street in Lagos, a town in the Algarve coastal region

Huh?? Art installation in the entryway to Lagos' fortress museum

House detail in Lagos

Cliff detail at the Ponta da Piedade cliffs outside Lagos

These trees are all over the place. I wonder what they are?

Cliff detail at the Punta da Piedade beach outside Lagos. Beautiful place!

Punta da Piedade beach

Faro is usually only a quick stop for people flying into the Algarve and then moving on somewhere else, but it's worth a day's look in it's own right. This was a beautiful little corner inside the walls of the Cidade Velha (historic old town)

Almost tropical scene on the walk around the city walls of the Cidade Velha of Faro

More views along the walls of the Cidade Velha

They certainly know how to set the stage here. Who could resist taking a picture of this scene?

Just inside the main gate (Arco da Vila) of the Cidade Velha

Street scene in the center of Faro

Did I mention that I fell in love with all the colors? Oh, and the music. And the amazing (and amazingly cheap) food! I almost overdosed on fresh seafood. Not to mention the port wine. This place is definitely on my "must return" list.
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jamie (aka afro) said...

great pics, i especially liked the [ponta da piedade]. that water is soo blue
that's the thing about being in europe; you're sorrounded by so many other countries and it's super easy to go on holiday...

i must study/travel abroad sometime!

jamie (aka afro) said...

sent u a request on twitter

Viajera said...

Hahahahaha! Sorry to LOL at you, just that I thought all of us are pretty damn aware that that there big electric blue book of ours is an automatic "have to get a visa" for a gazillion countries in the world. I have no European travel stickers in mine and I think tha damn thing is probably expired. LOL! Sorry, I'm still the story, not you (well, maybe a little at you). That travel agent! Grr... I would've been so pissed!

Yes, Algarve is on my list. It's a pretty hot destination for Canadians, and I love the fact that they have all-inclusive hotels there. I almost convinced my girlfriends to go one year, but they chickened out. One day...

Nice post.

Sirmelja said...

Jamie, it was pretty amazing. Being able to travel so cheaply to Europe almost makes it up for the expensive flights back to the states :-)

Give me a break, Viajera, I was 19! Plus, in 1988 I don't think european travel agents had ever seen a Jamaican passport :-)

tpe said...

Magic, Sirmelja.

I think, apart from certain areas of Scotland, some of southern Germany, The Wire and coffee-flavoured beef jerky, Portugal is probably The Best Thing Ever. I'm delighted that you seem to have fallen for the place and pleased, too, that you take time to mention the fact that Faro is worth more than merely passing through. (It always annoys me when people treat it this way.) And Lisbon, of course, is sublime.

Beautiful, beautiful pictures. Can't wait to see what you got me as a present. Well?

Kind regards (and a little bit of envy),


Sirmelja said...

I love you TPE, you know that, but coffee-flavored beef jerky? Are you insane?! Oh wait, yes you are a little bit but that's why I like you :-) Present... hmmm. How about the one bottle remaining from the sample box of port I got at the airport?

Beth said...

The colours! OMG the colours! Glad you had a great time!

tpe said...

The colours are simply gorgeous, aren't they, Beth? Our host(ess) did well to capture them.

Sirmelja, hello. You plummet from "love" to "like" in under three seconds. I feel relieved that you ended your note quite quickly, in fact, otherwise who knows how you may have been feeling towards me by the end? Outright enmity and loathing, perhaps? Worrying stuff.

Anyway, although I don't drink alcohol, I feel sure that (on some level) I deserve a present and so, with a heavy heart, I must accept your gift. (I may sell it on to my girlfriend, in fact, as she drinks like a fish. A thirsty fish. A fish, come to think of it, with absolutely no self-control. I digress.)

And hey. Don't be slagging off coffee flavoured beef jerky, Ms Jamaica. It's wonderful (in a sick, why has my life come to this? kind of way). You'd love it (no, you wouldn't).

Right, I need to get on with stuff (I'm in Edinburgh - busy busy). Only good things to you, happy traveller, and thanks again for the lovely pictures (and sensible words).

Kind regards etc...


Sirmelja said...

TPE, no I would almost swear on my life that I wouldn't like it! :-) I may have to keep the port for myself since your girlfriend's fish-like palate definitely wouldn't appreciate the top-notch quality (I bought it in the airport duty-free shop, but that shouldn't matter, should it?)

Have fun in Edinburgh!

Kim said...

Lovely photos! Glad you had wonderful time!

Sirmelja said...

Thanks Kim!

Maya said...

Loved your pictures of Portugal. We lived in Southern Spain for 5 years and used to go to the Algavre Region often--such a lovely place.
My in-laws came to visit us in Australia several months ago. They never even thought to look at Visa requirements. Lucky for them, that Australia allows Visas to be issued at the airport, or they wouldn't be making the long trip.

rhonalala said...

Wow, looks gorgeous. Portugal looks spectacular.

Sirmelja said...

Ouch, Maya, that would not have been a happy trip!

Jamdown said...

What were the people like? I've heard there are a lot of Africans living in Portugal.

Love your blog, by the way. I'm Jamaican, but now living in the US.

Sirmelja said...

Thanks, Jamdown! :0 I did see a good number of Africans during my trip there. But, I think that's true of much of southern Europe, actually. There are a good number here in Ireland as well.

Anonymous said...

The tree you wonder about is actually the flower of an aloe - the same type of plant that tequila is made from - strappy, broad leaves with spiked margins, grey-green and drought-hardy, often planted in clumps as security barriers or as highlights in large gardens. When they flower they push up a towering mast that carries those orange-golden flowers...must have arrived in Portugal from the central americas...