Browsing: Portugal & Spain

Leaving the Algarve-Highlight on the Pestana Dom João II Beach Resort

February28

We were absolutely delighted with our hotel.

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Smack on Alvor Beach, the location of the Pestana Dom João II Beach Resort was perfect for us. As was the hotel itself.

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We spent many hours on the elevator lobby of our floor, as did many other groups, especially golfers from the United kingdom.

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The cozy spot was perfect to catch the setting sun.

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We also spent a lot of time on our balcony which had a southeast view of the ocean.

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Some days we enjoyed the sunrise and others like this day, the mist rising off the cliffs.

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I loved the bathroom and not just because it was my favourite colour! It had a big soaker tub as well as rain shower and if you wanted to leave the blind up between the bathroom and the bedroom, you could see the ocean from the shower.

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In addition to the comfy beds there was a chaise where we would read, write and share a sandwich or a glass of wine.

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This was the outdoor bar/dining room when the weather was warmer. BTW we quite enjoyed the moderate weather, but remember we travelled from the centre of Canada and escaped -50 wind chills.

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On rainy or chilly days, the lounge was often filled with readers, card-players and beer drinkers.

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The green grounds were well taken care of and absolutely lovely.

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I have already written in detail about how much we enjoyed the breakfast buffet each morning.

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The front lobby was stylish and spacious and the front desk staff spoke perfect English and were extremely helpful.

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If I had to pick my favourite place on the property, it would be here-with the beach house in the foreground, one of 3 swimming pools to the right and the most beautiful beach I think I have ever been on.

I took many of these photos on the morning of our departure. We were picked up by a comfortable shuttle, whisked off to Faro, where we connected to Lisbon. We had enough time to head into Lisbon for the afternoon. Stay tuned for my last post.

Kath’s quote: “There are no goodbyes for us. Wherever you are, you will always be in my heart”. -Mahatma Gandhi

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Love never fails.

 

 

 

Alvor Trip Report

February26

The day we returned from Seville, we were kind of pooped so we had a very early dinner in town at Ciao Baby.

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D’s pizza was pretty good.

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My seafood pasta as compared to the version that I loved at the Windsurfer right on the beach was okay. Our server who was also the owner’s son was exceptional.

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The next morning we realised that time was escaping us very quickly, so we took advantage of the sun for a couple of hours, then drove to Portimao. For me the town was a lovely surprise. I had only heard other hotel guests say that it had a shopping mall which I wasn’t interested in quite frankly.

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The streets in the old city were cobblestoned and narrow.

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We walked until we could find the church and the town square as that is typically where all the action is (but not on this day).

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We circled back and discovered many locals enjoying the sun by the harbour.

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We hadn’t yet found a place to savour one of our favourite drinks back home-sangria!

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The trip was winding down and we sat and reflected about the wonderful time we had together.

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Upon our return to Alvor, the sun was still brightly shining so we had one last beach/sunset walk.

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The evening was lovely and quiet as we strolled along enjoying this new place (to us) in the world.

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We lingered until the very last moment, and then begrudgingly went and packed our bags, as our wonderful last evening was still ahead.

During our busy time in and around Alvor, we would be in daily contact with Canadian friends Jana and Kristy. They had recommended a Tascado Taberna Restaurante to us and we had such a lovely dinner, we wanted to return for our last supper.

We had a designated time to meet at the hotel and walk with them to the restaurant. A little past the appointed time, one of the women dashes into the hotel to tell us that they were still at their 4 pm spa appointment. We went on ahead of them and they joined us later. The crazy thing about this spa was that it was so affordable and the staff came in on their day off to take care of services. Amazing hospitality in Portugal!

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When we arrived, we scooped up the last table that had not been designated for a reservation. The restaurant was certainly busier than the Sunday previously.

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We were content to share some wine while we waited for our new friends. But there came a point where we decided we had better something into our tummies as we were certainly feeling the effects of the wine.

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We started by sharing Shrimp Vol au Vent which was lovely and rich and so delicious when mopped up with the bread from the basket.

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Clams in a garlicky broth were named after Bulhao Pato, a 19th century Portuguese poet. They too were amazing.

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When the girls finally did arrive, they quickly caught up to our wine consumption and added grilled chorizo to the tappas selections. There were others but I neglected to get their picture.

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D opted for a grilled tuna steak with salsa verde which he enjoyed very much. I can’t for the life of me remember if I ordered my own entrée.

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I do know that one of our friends selected the house specialty -Shrimp Atascado. All dishes were piping hot and perfectly prepared.

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They were oohhss and aahhss when we all tasted the brownie with chocolate ice cream. We also imbibed in our first tastes of Port along with a treat from the server -fire water with honey. The combination of all of the above, made me very happy that we were walking home.

Kath’s quote: “The great thing about new friends is that they bring new energy to your soul”.-Shanna Rodriguez

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Love never fails.

 

 

 

 

 

Trip Report- The Beach at Alvor, Portugal

February23

I am a beach junky! I need my regular beach fixes. My heart literally aches to be by the water.

I have been to many beautiful beaches: In Tel Aviv, Sicily, Southern France, Majorca Spain, Galway Ireland, Veradero Cuba, Paradise Island on Cozumel, Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres, Torfino Beach on Vancouver Island and Grand and Lester Beach on Lake Winnipeg where we have our summer home. The beach at Alvor, Portugal is not the nicest beach I have ever visited because the colour of the water is not like the Caribbean, but it certainly ranks high on my list!

The surf is beautiful, the water crystal clear and the sand like a fine brown sugar. The cliffs and grottos at the far east of the beach or picturesque as well as the grasses and low furrows of sand. The walkway at Alvor is brilliant and means the maximum number of beach walkers can enjoy it including those who are mobility impaired.

All of these photos were taken on my hour’s walk along Alvor Beach.

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To appreciate the enormity of the beach, can you see the figures walking along the water’s edge in the middle of the shot above?

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This pic is my personal favourite.

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Our hotel was smack on the beach. Our room was second from the end on the top floor.

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Kath’s quote:

“for her

the ocean

was more than a dream

it was a place

she needed to visit

to find herself.”-Jose Chaves

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Love never fails.

 

Trip Report, Seville Spain, The Real Alcazar

February22

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The next morning we walked around the magnificent cathedral again. This time we were headed for the Real Alcazar right when their gates opened for the day. D had been given a great tip about purchasing on line tickets for the tour which included the part of the palace where the Spanish royal family stay when they visit Seville, called the Cuarto Real Alto (Upper Palace). This also got us past the crowds waiting for admission.

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These three arches link the Patio del Leon to the Patio de la Monteria.

 

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From the moment we entered, we were enthralled. The second floor of the photo just above is where we awaited our private tour.

 

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The artistry of the architecture was exquisite as well as the juxtaposition of styles.

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The House of Trade was established to regulate Indies travel between Spain and the New World in the 16th Century.

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The Palace of Peter the first.

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All of these photos were taken through the milky glass of the second floor vestibule. No photography was permitted during the private palace tour. But let me tell you that the rooms were absolutely splendid and well worth the extra money & time.

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I loved all the intricate tile work and discovered: “The geometric models used in Islamic art are not mere decorative motifs but the expression of a philosophical principle revealing divine beauty”.

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The Patio del Yeso with a beautiful reflective pool.

 

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The 12th century Almohad Palace.

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The side section of hall is formed with multi foil arches displaying diamond pattern panels.

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The Upper Gallery in the Court of Dolls added in the reign of Isabella the Second.

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The Pond of Mercury is so named for the statue of Mercury pictured here.

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Three views of the columns and arches adorn the windows (sorry about the smudge on the lens of the camera).

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A window seat in the sunshine drew me to linger.

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Rubber trees grew majestically in the palace gardens

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as well as these beautiful palms.

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Intricate iron gates were strategically placed in the gardens.

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From a second floor vantage you could appreciate the geometric hedges of the gardens

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My favourite views of the palace and gardens were through these archways. We had spent a splendid morning but by then it was time to check out and walk to the car park where we had stowed our vehicle. We were a bit peckish and decided to have a meal before we got back onto the highway but we discovered that most lunch spots did not open until at least 1 pm. Instead D ran back to the pastry shop that was right next to our hotel. This decadent treat held us why we began to navigate our way “home” to Alvor. We stopped for lunch just before the border of Portugal.

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D had a pasta craving and chose this monstrous portion of penne in a bolognaise sauce

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and I a “rock shrimp omelet”.  I was asked if I wanted fries with my omelette and that sounded like a lovely idea. It was the strangest omelet I had ever seen or tasted. It was mostly flour and I could not detect any egg. Apart from the embarrassment of ordering a mass of deep fried items, the “omelet” was actually pretty good. When we arrived back in Alvor, I really felt like I needed a very long beach walk to work out the stiffness from being in a car for 3 hours and that full feeling from all of the deep fried food. Stay tuned.

Kath’s quote: “The air soft as that of Seville in April, and so fragrant that it was delicious to breathe it”. -Christopher Columbus

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Love never fails.

Seville-Tappas & Wine Tour

February21
We only had one evening in Seville and so we very carefully considered our options. My husband did the research and thought our best bet was to be with someone who had extensive experience with the best local restaurants in the area. Michaela from “Devour Tours” not only had this experience, she successfully answered each and every one of our questions. On top of this, she was fun, warm, hospitable and is from a city which is a 2 1/2 drive away from our home in North America! She was the perfect host and tour leader.
We met in  a public square a short walk from our hotel. Michaela briefed us that we would be visiting examples of three tapas styles in this order: Traditional, Modern and Fusion Tapas.
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Stop one was at the bodega Maestro Marcelino on Calle Hernando Colón. 9.
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A bodega is a small food shop
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that may also sell sherry, vermouth or wine.
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Here we enjoyed a selection of a selection of superbly cured meats: Mojama, chorizo, chicharrones and caña de lomo
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that had been aged on site.
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In addition to Montadito de lomo (a grilled pork loin sandwich). Our libation of choice was a sweet red vermouth on tap.
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 For modern tapas we visited Las Theresas 0n Calle Santa Teresa.

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I thought that it was ironic that we sampled “modern” tapapas here because the restaurant in the Santa Cruz neighbourhood was the second oldest in Seville, originating in 1870.

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Michaela noted that we were now in the Jewish section of old Seville and the importance of acorn-fed Iberian ham (Jamón ibérico de bellota).

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We enjoyed the amazing ham with a creamy aged sheep cheese accompanied by a glass of dry manzanilla sherry and then another glass of amontillado.

I asked what I thought was an obvious question: “Why was ham featured so prominently in a Jewish neighbourhood?” She explained that after to Spanish Inquisition, Jews proved that they had converted to Christianity by publicly eating the meat forbidden by Jewish culinary rules. We were fascinated.

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As we walked to our next location, Michaela suggested we make note of the square of three crosses, pictured here. She indicated that the neighbourhood once had a high crime rate and that this square was particularly noisy. Interestingly, once the community erected the crosses, the crime and noise subsided. It was anecdotes like this that made Michaela the perfect host.

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Our final stop for fusion tapas was at Vinería San Telmo on Paseo de Catalina de Ribera for a selection of hot-off-the-grill tapas made with the freshest market ingredients.

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When this arrived at the table, I was content as we had eaten so much already but no….this was the amuse bouche before the eclectic tapas started to arrive.

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First up were these enormous prawns.

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Next was grilled pork belly on pumpkin puree

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and last but not least: Oxtail spring rolls. All three small plates were absolutely exceptional.

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The amazing food was accompanied by a tasting of three modern style local wines: D.O. Sierras de Malaga-Botani, V.T. de Cadiz-Barbazul and D.O. Rioja-Sonsierra Crianza.

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We didn’t want our time to end but Michaela had to get home to her boyfriend and our other new friend (a cricket playing Australian heading to Britain) had to tend to his sick wife who tried to start the tour with us but had to head home.

Upon reflection, we thought that this evening was the best of our sojourn, For sure the tastiest, if nothing else.

Kath’s quote: “Sharing food has always had a central place in civilized societies; it’s no accident that so many of our cultural, religious and patriotic rituals are involved with eating”. -Ruth Reichl

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Love never fails.

 

 

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