Browsing: Portugal & Spain

Algarve Portugal, Trip Report, Day Three, Part Two (Silves)

February9

We didn’t actually tour the entire castle of Silves. With the rainy weather that day we asked how much of the tour was under cover. When the helpful guide indicated that the greater majority of the tour was outside, we made our decision.

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We got a good feel for the rest of the tour by just being inside the vestibule.

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We were awed by the thickness of the walls and the engineering fetes that went into erecting them.

The walls and towers that today represent the Castle of Silves came from the campaigns of the 11th century and public works in the 12th and 13th centuries.

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Outside the main doors of the castle, we were invited to tour the beautiful Silves Cathedral. We researched the Cathedral on Wikipedia:

The details about the foundation and building of Silves Cathedral are unclear. In the process of the Reconquista, Moorish Silves was conquered in 1189 by King Sancho I of Portugal, but since the city was retaken by the Moors in 1191, it is unlikely that a cathedral was built at this time. Only in 1242 was Silves definitely reconquered by Christian knights during the reign of King Afonso III, and it is believed that this king was responsible for beginning the construction of Silves Cathedral as the seat of a newly founded Algarve diocese.

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The artistry of the stone masonry and tile work was lovely.

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I had not been in an ancient church before where the statues were “dressed” in real fabrics. The effect was very dramatic.

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I was particularly struck by the madonna near the exit. Not only was she draped in real clothing, her rosary was made of what looked like roses. Additional research unearthed this:

So is this where the “rosary comes from? It would be easy to assume that the word comes from the fact that rosaries have so long been made of rose petals; but in fact, the word “rosary” is derived  from the Latin word, “rosarium,” meaning rose garden or wreath. Joined with an old English word … “bede” … meaning prayer, the term “rosary beads” came to be.  Throughout the centuries-long existence of the Catholic church, the Catholic faithful, devoted to Mary, “The Mystical Rose,” have used the rosary for prayerful devotions to Her.   The circular rosary with its many beads is symbolic of a  rose garden, and praying the rosary by saying the “Hail Mary” at the touch of each bead is a symbolic gift to Mary of a bouquet of roses given one rose at a time.

So now you know. Even though we had GPS, we got pretty lost on our way back to Alvor. We needed to use the rest rooms and we were running out of gas so stopped on what we would later find out were the outskirts of Alvor at a gas station. The story of the amazing food we enjoyed there as will be in the next post.

Kath’s quote: “I enjoy art, architecture, museums, churches and temples; anything that gives me insight into the history and soul of the place I’m in. I can also be a beach bum – I like to laze in the shade of a palm tree with a good book or float in a warm sea at sundown”. -Cherie Lunghi

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Love never fails.

Algarve Trip Report, Day Three, Part One (Silves)

February8

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The view out of our window on day three was pretty dismal. But being the optimists that we are, we told each other that the rain and clouds might clear. I inquired at the front desk for a good rainy day suggestions and we were off to the Medieval city of Silves. We fould Silves quite easily tucked just above the A22 motorway, not far from Lagoa and Portimão.

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As we approached Silves, we turned a corner and suddenly there she was – visible even in the mist and nestling on the hillside, topped off with the most authentic of castles.

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We circled the town a couple of times, not exactly sure how to ascend to the castle. The architecture reminded me so much of Cinque Terra in northern Italy or Nice in Southern France.

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You can see the steep ascent to get up to the castle and church.

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This is the King Sancho I statue outside the castle. The Portuguese won Silves back in 1253 and it was the capital of the Algarve until Faro took over in 1534.

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There is history on every corner in Silves, hinting at its affluent and colourful history as the Moorish capital known as Xelb, capital of Al-faghar, the Moorish province of the Algarve. The origins of the town can be traced back as far as 1000 BC, with a strong Roman history, however it was the occupation in the 8th Century by the Moors which brought a lavish lifestyle to the area. By the 11th century Silves was the capital of the Algarve and the Moors were reputed to have imported lions and other wild animals that roamed freely through the exotic gardens. It was ruled by the Seville-based Arabic ruler Al-Mu’tamid (Muhammad Ibn Abbad Al Mutamid) who became governor of Silves (known as Shalb) and Emir of Seville at the age of 13, and was known as the ‘poet-prince’.

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The area saw many battles between the Christians and Muslims in the 12th and 13th centuries; until Portugal’s King Sancho I and the Knights of Santiago captured the city in 1189 with the help of the Anglo-Norman Crusaders. It was recaptured by the Moors in 1191; and was finally re-conquered during the Christian occupation of 1242 to 1249 during the reign of King Afonso III, who also founded the first Cathedral, thought to have been built on the site of the former Mosque.

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I mentioned above that the day was rainy. As I walked over these cobblestones, I thought how ingenious they were at keeping your feet from getting soaked.

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Even though we parked as close as you could get to the castle, we still had to climb these steps.

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We happened upon these great little liquor and gift shops.

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More about the beautiful castle and church in my next post.

Kath’s quote: “If you are going to build something in the air it is always better to build castles than houses of cards”. -Georg C. Lichtenberg

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Love never fails.

Alvor Portugal, Trip Report, Day Two, Part Two (Adega d’Alvor)

February6

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Later that same day we found a bar to sit in the sun by the harbour, sip Surper Bock and wait for the sun to set.

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We invited our new Kingston friends to join us and had a lovely visit. At that time, the girls told us about another dish that they had sampled. We were intrigued by their description of cataplana and so we did some research on it. We discovered that there were a number of versions sold in restaurants including our own hotel, where clams, potatoes and beef appeared on the buffet our first night. We learned that likely the best cataplana in Alvor was served at Adega d’Alvor so from the harbour we walked uphill to dine there.

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It had been chilly by the water after the sun had set so it was lovely to warm up by their fireplace. Once again, the restaurant was virtually empty and we were invited to sit next to the fireplace. I guess visitors to Alvor must dine later in the evening. We tried to keep as close a schedule as we could, to that of home. I adapted very quickly and slept quite well. D would stay up half the night watching videos as it wasn’t his bedtime back home in the centre of Canada. Our sever explained that the area that we were seated in was entirely opened up in the summer time. We imagined it to be a lovely spot but in the mean time we were happy for the fire and the promise of cataplana.

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Our server poured us each a glass of sparkling wine while we settled in. We were asked if we would like to have bread and olives and all of this arrived at our table.

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We tucked into these beauties; removing the head and peeling away the outer shell. They were delicious. The research we did on cataplana indicated that it was both the name of the special pan that the casserole cooked in and the name of the dish itself. So you served cataplana in a cataplana pan.

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These are the pans. They look like a shallow wok but they have a hinged lid attached to them. This creates a tight seal for the food to steam in natural juices.

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Above was our dinner for two at Adega d’Alvor. I made shrimp and mussel cataplana for D’s birthday dinner when we arrived back in Winnipeg. Even though I didn’t have the same pan, I used a heavy dutch oven with a tight lid and the results were delicious. When we arrived “home” we shared some wine and watched the Youtube highlights of the Golden Globes which had occurred the night before. We were as content as two peas in a pod.

Kath’s quote:  “There has never been a shrimp that I’ve eaten that I haven’t been like, ‘I am so lucky that I get to eat this.’ I would eat a shrimp enchilada, shrimp burrito, shrimp cocktail, fried shrimp, shrimp po boy, shrimp gumbo”. -Isabel Gillies

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Love never fails.

Alvor Portugal, Trip Report, Day Two, Part One (The Town)

February5

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D was up with the sun with more energy than he had had thus far. Yes…(even though we were still grieving the absence of our travel companions), we were happy to be in this place.

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The rock formations at this end of Alvor beach are called Praia de Três Irmãos.

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D was researching something as I lingered on the beach.

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Before we walked into town we decided we needed sustenance so I made us sandwiches for our balcony lunch.

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Alvor is situated on the estuary of the river, Rio Alvor. It is well known in Algarve history because King João II died there in 1495. An earthquake in 1755 wiped out most of the traditional Moorish village.

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Alvor is a pretty Portuguese fishing town that is a relaxed and mature holiday destination. You can see the slope of the streets in the older section of town. Alvor has a distinctively Portuguese appearance with traditional white washed houses, narrow cobbled streets and small fishing boats pulled up along the banks of the river. Alvor closes down for winter in October and reopens for Easter, during the closed season the town felt very quiet as there is not a large permanent population or large ex-pat community.

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I Greja Matriz de Alvor is the name of the main church. It is the foremost example of Manueline-style architecture in the Algarve. Built in the 1520s, it has the most beautiful Manueline portico in the region, decorated with motifs alluding to flora and fauna, scenes of war and religious symbolism.

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Houses that weren’t white-washed sometimes were clad with beautiful tile.

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With some hunting we found an open shop for some souvenir purchases.

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This beautiful tree was situated in the round-about that we used daily to get in and out of town. I have seen them growing in the Quintana Roo area of Mexico as well.

Kath’s quote: “But Portugal has a peaceful feel about it. I sit on the terrace overlooking the vineyard there and I feel cut off from the world. You need that sort of thing”.- Cliff Richard

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Love never fails.

 

 

Daily Breakfast at Pestana Dom João II Beach Resort, Alvor Portugal

February2

We have been on many holiday trip packages that included a hotel breakfast and the range of the offerings have been varied to say the least. The breakfast buffet at our Alvor hotel was one of the best we have experienced.

All you had to do as you walked down the stairs to the expansive dining room, was leave your room number with the host at the door. From there you picked up your plate and strolled through the variety of food stations.

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First up was fresh fruit and yoghurt. There were always oranges and melon and then on a rotating basis would be apples, bananas, kiwi and pineapple. If you wanted fat or sugar free yoghurt that was in a different spot with Becel margarine and a couple of other items. You may also notice bottles of champagne in the foreground. This too was absolutely free but we actually never indulged. One of our hotel friends did and had to go back to bed for the morning. You could mix the champagne with orange juice if you desired. The juice as well as the coffee came out of machines. This struck us as odd because whenever we drove through the country side the orange groves were everywhere and absolutely laden with fruit.

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Next were a couple of fresh vegetable items, meat and cheese. I fell in love with the cheese with the red rind and then didn’t sample any further. There was an entire section devoted to cold cereals , breads, buns and croissants. I sampled each one of the breads and then keep going back to a dark bread that looked like pumpernickel but had a very subtle taste. It toasted up beautifully.

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From there you could enter another room with hot items: boiled eggs, potatoes, baked tomatoes (foreign to me as a breakfast offering), sausages and bacon-stacks of both.

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At this station the staff would make you crepes, custom made omelettes or this case, freshly made scrambled eggs as I am not fond of eggs that have been sitting.

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With all this selection it may seem strange to you that I had this simple breakfast almost every morning-toast, cheese and peach jam! I couldn’t get enough of it.

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Although I did sample the scrambled eggs once and I attempted to make patatas bravas on another occasion.

Coffee as I said came out of a machine and I didn’t notice until later in the week that when you pushed the cappuccino button you actually received 1/3 coffee, 1/3 milk and 1/3 hot chocolate. No wonder I liked the cappuccinos so much.

If we had eyes bigger than our tummies, we might take an apple or other item with us when we left. The hotel was full of golfers and at one breakfast I saw a gentleman sneaking boiled eggs into his pocket! The breakfast was more than enough to hold you over to a late lunch.

Kath’s quote: “When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?” “What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?” “I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet. Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.” ― A.A. Milne

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Love never fails.

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