~ 2023 ~
How About 3 Months in Portugal?

The Plan:
    The past two years, thanks to the nasty pandemic we all fought so valiantly, my wife and I restricted our travel to St. Petersburg, FL, where our eldest, bachelor son resides. We had super winters, avoided the dreaded virus, and spent quality time with our son, though we lived in AirBnB apartments not far from his home. He works from home and our use of his spare bedroom for the entire winter would have been a major distraction. We shared some great experiences with him several days a week, however.
    This year we will venture back on the international scene with a three-month trip to Portugal, one of our favorite winter vacation destinations. The first month will be spent in the Algarve, the southernmost region of Portugal, in the city of Portimao. After a month of soaking up the warmer temps of the Algarve, we’ll head 175 miles north to Cascais, a gorgeous little town on the outskirts of Lisbon and only a 20- minute commuter train ride from the nation’s capitol.
    We’ll stay in AirBnB’s rented on the internet. Years ago, when I started these international adventures, I would make no reservations and find lodging as I went along through much more adventurous itineraries, whether by bus, train, or motor scooter. These days, the old bones prefer a one or two-location stop with occasional day trips. The days of riding a little motor scooter from Bologna, Italy, to Portugal, or driving from home down the Baja and on to Costa Rica are gone for good, but the memories remain.
    Gone, too, are the South American explorations with my friend, Lorenzo, or my ever-present travel buddy, Schim. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Schim show up in Portugal this winter, though he claims a lack of interest in returning to countries he’s already visited.


January, 2023
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* Photos added 01/28/23 *

01/01/23 - Portimao, Portugal
    Some New Year’s day this turned out to be, but we are safely huddled in late afternoon in a gorgeous, 10th floor, penthouse apartment in the Algarve of southern Portugal. An exhausting catastrophe on our first day involved lost luggage, lost adventurers in a huge, confusing airport undergoing extensive renovations, a taxi ride to a seedy-looking train station, a national train strike canceling our train reservations, discovered at the station with the help of a helpful, young translator we met on a train bench, a three-hour, $250 Uber ride, and a locked apartment building on arrival whose manager was unreachable because our cell phones lacked a European SIM card. Nothing, not the ticket offices, restaurants, coffee shops, or stores were open in the early morning, 5:15 arrival, because of the holiday. Did I mention that our first day was something of a catastrophe for these two adventurers who had almost no sleep on the flight after a 5:00 a.m. wake-up to finish packing for the long, foggy ride to the Newark Airport? It was just that, a catastrophe, albeit with a happy ending!
    My only piece of checked luggage was lost in the bowels of Lisbon’s Airport for a panic-stricken 45 minutes after the direct Newark to Lisbon flight. Where could it have gone? The airport, now under a major remodeling project that required departing the plane down a long stairway with a long ride to the terminal on a jammed bus. With poor, temporary signage, what followed was two sleep-deprived adventurers wandering in search of our checked bags at a hidden carousel. Finally finding one bag, lonely and all alone on its scheduled carousel, my tightly-packed bag was nowhere in sight. Without much help from the woefully-inefficient, lost-luggage clerks (who originally insisted that my bag was flown to Paris) until the lost bag miraculously appeared on a distant luggage carousel, we were off on the rest of the catastrophe with five pieces of heavy luggage, including the wife’s purse stuffed to overflowing in tow.
    On to the seedy, Estacao Entrecampos (train station) by cab, where no ticket booths or cafes were open and with many, large staircases to traverse up, then down, on escalators that were also apparently on strike. A kind, young man labored up three floors with our bags to the track after we negotiated the initial downstairs and received our blessings and a 5 Euro tip. After learning from both of the security guards, the only workers in the large, old station, that there was a strike, we had to decide whether to wait the three hours to see if our train showed up or lug the suitcases back down three flights of stairs to try to get a taxi to a bus station.
    Fortunately, I engaged Michael, a handsome, 26 year-old, Cape Verde native, in conversation about our dilemma. Turns out, he was a recent university grad with excellent English skills and a huge heart. He used his cellphone to verify that our train was not going to run and then assisted us in booking an Uber driver to take us on the 175 mile drive to our AirBnb. Michael was astounded that we would pay that much, but it wasn’t a tough decision. Both of us were exhausted and famished (I never eat airplane meals) and, while it sounds impossible to believe, we didn’t have enough energy left to carry the bags down to the street, let alone load them into and out of a bus on arrival in Portimao. Not to worry, Michael carried the bags down (and up at the entrance) after we firmed up the $250 Uber pick-up. Michael got a 20 euro gratuity and was thrilled. The $250 was about what a one-way rental car would have cost had we found an open rental car company that would rent to a frazzled old timer. Besides, I was in no condition to drive and even fell asleep in the car while Pedro (Uber) got us to the Algarve.
    Of course, finding the 10-story apartment building was no easy task on the ancient, narrow streets, but Pedro persisted. He unloaded the bags on the front steps of the locked building while I frantically communicated (now using the unpacked iPad) through AirBnB with the owner, obtaining the codes to enter the building and get the keys. Whew, what a day!
    Exhausted, we hit the sack for a three-hour nap, then walked a short block in the rain for a very good dinner at a crowded local dive. Others were having coffee, dinner time being much later than 5:30, but we were hungry. A couple glasses of red wine each, a big, delicious, roast pork sandwich for her, a plate of cold, garlicky, small, sardine-like fish for me, along with a small, hot plate of chicken offal in a delicious red sauce capped off our day. Early to bed tonight, that's for certain! Boa tarde!

01/03/23 - Portimao, Portugal
    After the travel day debacle, the next couple of days have gone spectacularly well! We love the small, two-bedroom, penthouse apartment with balcony and an awesome view! Our location is in the heart of the old town, two blocks from the Arade River, and within a couple of blocks of many, many, local restaurants. Only two, short, blocks from a large Pingo Doce grocery store, we have ferried small bags of necessities like soap, bottled water, iced tea, shampoo, orange juice, Coca Cola, etc., in two trips to the interesting place.
    On the first floor of our 10-story, older, apartment building there is a medical clinic, a gift shop, and two coffee shops, one a French bakery and the other a local establishment that we have yet to try. We passed by the coffee aisle in Pingo Doce, deciding that, with delicious, freshly-made coffee as close as an elevator ride away, we’d pass on ever making coffee in the Netspresso maker in our apartment’s well-furnished kitchen.  
    We must have 20 restaurants within a five or ten minute walk, including local seafood and steak places, and others offering Italian, Japanese, and Spanish fare, and we’ve only covered a few blocks around our location. Thank heaven, I still haven’t spotted a McDonald’s in this town that has the same population as our home town. The food prices are very reasonable in both the grocery store and in the restaurants. Perhaps, we’ll have enough cash left after the Uber ride from Lisbon to enjoy dining out for a meal or two. Actually, small local restaurants are so reasonable that I doubt that we’ll ever “eat in!”
    According to my pedometer, I strolled 2.5 miles yesterday, my spouse about 2 miles less as she crashed most of the day in recovery from the previous day’s ordeal. I used a nearby bank’s ATM to secure more euros on my exploratory stroll for lunch and should have enough to last a considerable time since most transactions will be done with a credit card. At Pingo Doce this morning, they asked for a PIN number with my card and I needed to explain, in what halting Portuguese I possessed, that we don’t use pins in our credit card transactions; that problem was quickly overcome.
    Last night’s dinner in a Spanish tapas restaurant was one of the most enjoyable I have ever experienced in my travels! We were seated at a very small table for two right next to another small table for two occupied by an extremely attractive, young Swiss couple (photos added to album). We started out quietly not wanting to interfere in what looked like and was a romantic dinner date, but the quiet and privacy didn’t last. We had a remarkable inter-cultural dinner conversation with these two Swiss school teachers that will stay with us forever. Many laughs, many shared travel stories, and fine food accompanied by live music from an acoustical guitar-playing vocalist. It was the perfect first dinner night of our vacation. To make it even more spectacular, Brian, our new Swiss friend, who was born in Brazil and fluent in Portuguese, picked up the entire check! Hopefully, we can stay in touch with the couple so that we can one day repay their generosity. Who knows what wonderful experiences today will bring? Ciao!

01/05/23 - Portimao, Portugal
    As we continue to allow our bodies to adjust to the new time zone, it takes me a little longer than most, we are keeping our out-of-apartment ventures close-by. Yesterday, I ventured a little too far out in search of a SIM card for my phone that would permit international calls. Three shops had cards for calls within Portugal, but none for international calling. The third shop told me that Continente, a supermercado, sold them and it was only around the corner. Turned out, around the corner was up a hill about four blocks to what turned out to be a one-building shopping mall. Half-way up the hill, my legs noticed that by my body’s clock, it was the middle of the night. I barely made it to the front of the mall. Completely drained, I sat on a traffic stanchion to rest, then entered the building. Fortunately, there was an elevator to carry me to the second floor, since the up escalator was still on strike, and, on my third, shopping stop in the mall, I got what I was looking for after standing in line for 15 minutes. I now possess a phone with 500 minutes of “free” calls in Portugal, but only 50 minutes of calls to the USA. Yes, just the opposite volume that I needed, but the best I could do after 20 minutes of discussion with the clerk who spoke decent English.
    My legs carried me back out to the stanchion, but there was no way they could have carried me home, not even down hill. I was as exhausted as I’ve ever been in my life and hoping it was caused by jet lag. Not panicking, although I considered an ambulance, I used my phone with the new chip to call an Uber. Five minutes later, a black, brand new, all electric Kia pulled up and took me home. Four euros with a one euro tip to cover the mile or so and I would have paid a hundred! A two-hour nap that my body demanded took me, then I was just strong enough to accompany my wife to a nearby seafood restaurant for dinner.
    Tamboril (monkfish) rice for me and escallops of veal for my wife and the meal was fantastic. Monkfish is used in mock lobster dishes at home and this presentation came in a pot with enough scrumptious stew to feed three, hungry teenagers. I ate it all! I’ll return to that restaurant for sure! Oh, Joan really enjoyed her veal, too. We also shared a half-bottle of Vinho Verde, the so-called green wine for which the Douro region of Portugal is well known. Then, she had a cappuccino and I had a little room left for a small, gelato with caramelized pecans. What a meal; we were stuffed! The check would have easily topped $100 at a good restaurant at home, but was only $54 here, counting the exchange rate difference. Tipping is optional here, so a couple of dollars in coins left the very attentive waiters very gratified.
    This morning, legs mostly rejuvenated, we ventured a little farther, taking a local, randomly-selected bus on a 45-minute circuit that took us to the fort in nearby Praia de Roca, a famous (in Europe) beach resort with many tall hotels and apartment buildings overlooking the spectacular beach known for the beautiful rock formations, some with caves, jutting out of the water.
    Upon return to the same bus stop, we sat at a table in the large public plaza for a cool drink and made plans to venture even farther tomorrow. We got information at a ticket office and plan a bus ride to Albufeira, a beach town where I spent a winter after riding Leonardo, my small scooter, from Bologna, Italy, a few years back. Well, maybe it was more than a few years ago. Ciao!

01/07/23 - Portimao, Portugal
    An expensive meal at a gorgeous restaurant recommended by the realtor who manages this apartment followed a 15-minute Uber ride to a neighboring fishing village. The place was gorgeous with a wood-fired stove/fireplace only a few feet away from our table in the small dining room. The service was impeccable, the wine spot on, the presentation lovely, but the food was only so-so. We had much better food at local, less expensive restaurants and will remember that lesson in the future.
    The following morning, we rolled out of bed early (for one of us), caught a quick breakfast, famous pasteis de nata (egg custard pastry) and coffee, while sitting outside in the main plaza, then boarded a bus for a 20-mile trip to Albufeira, the beach town where I spent a winter many years ago. That year, I arrived in Albufeira sick with the flu after riding a small scooter from Bologna, Italy. This year wasn’t nearly as much fun on the bus, although I didn’t miss the four-day flu, but I got to show my wife the apartment in which I spent that winter. That apartment was next door to a huge resort, Praia d’Oro, where we lunched while watching six or eight soccer teams disembark from buses right next to our outdoor patio table. Quite the diversion from lunch and the twenty or so beer-drinking, very-portly German men sitting at the tables next to ours. Maybe they were soccer fans or coaches, but with their physiques, they certainly weren’t soccer players or officials, though they were almost all dressed in black pants and tee-shirts. Those physiques made me feel better about myself, that’s for sure!
    We sat for a time drinking Cokes overlooking the beautiful beach, took time for my wife to buy a small, all-cork purse for daily use here, taxied back to the bus station, and took a local bus home over many of the same back roads I had traversed on my scooter 20 years earlier. Joan’s turn to select a restaurant and neither of us very hungry, we wound up in an Italian pizzeria where a small, Margarita pizza and a bottle of wine served as dinner. A short walk home with pedometers reading 2.5 miles walked for the day and we were tuckered out! A good night’s sleep followed.
    Today, with light rain forecast this afternoon and tomorrow, will be laundry day, if we can figure out how to use the washer whose instruction booklet is in both Portuguese and Spanish, yikes! No dryer here and few in the country, but there is a drying rack on the balcony where we hope to get a head start in the process before the rain begins. The sun is shining brightly now and we needed a weekend of rest, anyway, so this might just work out fine! Ciao!

01/08/23 - Portimao, Portugal
    The waiter said it was a typical Algarvian appetizer, so I ordered the fried Moray Eel, a dish I hadn’t tried before and one of which I will never knowingly partake again. “You can eat the whole thing,” he said, “crispy skin and all.” Crispy, yes, and much more fishy tasting than other seafood dishes in which I have indulged this year. Even a couple tiny bones that I guess I should have chewed up, too, but I laid them aside and even left a small portion uneaten. Needless to say, my dinner partner wouldn’t even taste the dish, especially after I showed her a photo of a Moray on my phone.
    Fortunately, the fresh, rare, tuna steak and mixed vegetables that we shared afterward were very good; we weren’t very hungry at dinner time and her appetizer of scrambled eggs with asparagus was fine and we were full. The sangria was delicious, though.
    Saturday and Sunday were forecast to produce on and off light rain showers, so we took that as an opportunity to do our first laundry of the trip. That turned out to be a struggle with knobs and dials in Portuguese and the owner’s manual also printed only in Portuguese and Spanish. My years of Spanish study helped very little; I’m guessing that knobs and dials will be in my next course of study. Not to worry, after lengthy study and a lot of trial and error, my wife saved the day and got the new machine started. More than two hours later, bells rang, whistles blew, horns sounded and the laundry was done.
    It has been my experience that few homes in Portugal or Spain have dryers and this newly-renovated apartment is no exception. There is a drying rack outside, attached to a balcony wall, however. In a steady breeze and a little sunshine, our laundry mostly dried before it rained, but we brought jeans and slower drying clothes inside and hung them on kitchen chairs to finish the drying process before the raindrops fell. So much for the dark-clothes adventure, tomorrow, we’ll attack the whites!

01/09/23 - Portimao, Portugal
    Seagulls sail by our windows, sometimes even below our 10th floor balcony. It makes me wonder what will happen if one’s guano scores a direct hit on our drying laundry while flying at a higher elevation. Ah, well, we’ll just endure another two-and-a-half-hour session while we run the soiled garments through another wash cycle.
    While the dark laundry went pretty smoothly on Saturday, the whites encountered a bump or two on Sunday. It rained off and on, a light mist usually, so hanging clothing outside was not a good option. Early in the day, however, the sun shone and my wife headed to the balcony with an armful of clean, damp laundry just out of the spin cycle. We wondered about the stiff breeze, but found a dish-drying rack under the sink that I suggested might hold the clothes in place since we had no clothes pins. As Joan placed the first item on the drying rack, it happened to be a brand new pair of her panties purchased just for the trip, a sudden gust of wind picked up the garment and she watched it lift over the balcony wall and float gently down to a much larger, second floor patio. One can only wonder what passersby or the patio owner thought as they saw the panties glide by: “nasty storm, it’s snowing panties!”
    I tried in vain to retrieve the panties by knocking on a second floor door and describing our plight. A young fellow with very good English skills checked his side of the patio, but couldn’t find them. We can see them from eight floors higher, but they must be too close to his patio wall for him to spot. I’ll bet they had a lively discussion over dinner last night. This morning, the panties are still lying there in our plain sight, so I’ll have to knock on a different door today to try to retrieve them.
    Our apartment was covered in drying, white laundry yesterday and through the night. Cotton shirts and white socks hanging over every chair, the corners of the TV, on artificial plants, on door knobs, and draped over the edge of the kitchen counter. They’re everywhere and still not dry this morning. Fortunately, we packed enough clothing, even panties, so we can wait for our laundry to dry.
    Joan ate breakfast in this morning - a Starbucks Frappuccino and a remaining pastry from the pair I brought home for her yesterday. I, on the other hand, wandered out to the local pasteleria (bakery) and coffee shop where I waited in a 10-person line with Portuguese folks on their way to work. Sitting at an outside table to eat my pastry and coffee, it’s 63 degrees, I shared my cinnamon toast with a begging seagull. It was almost a replay of the sparrows I share with at home. Afterward, I strolled to a nearby store where we had previously purchased a bath mat to avoid falls on our slippery shower floor and found, after a search I thought would never end in the giant store, CLOTHES PINS. That should eliminate future clothing loss, but the really good news is that the store also sells panties! I couldn’t make this stuff up! Ciao!

01/12/23 - Portimao, Portugal
     First, a panty update: the flying panties have disappeared from the patio below and have not reappeared in the common areas of the building so that they might be reclaimed by a resident who could now be going commando. Apparently, the new garment fits somebody else in the building more in need of a new pair of panties. We’ll just write them off as expendable and I’m wondering if we can claim a tax deduction for them; it would certainly be fun to discuss if audited.
     The laundry problem has been resolved; Joan has the new washer’s dials and knobs figured perfectly and a load of laundry has now been done almost daily, since the machine’s capacity is very small. We have enough clothes pins to hang laundry for the entire Portuguese navy, because a large number of bright-red pins were discovered under the laundry basket located beneath the kitchen sink. Who knew?
     The last couple of days have been rather routine with me out in the morning for a breakfast stroll, returning with a pastry for Joan as her mid-morning repast. I’ve tried several pastelerias and coffee shops, several morning pastries, and am narrowing my favorites from the shops and the many choices displayed in glass cases. With limited Portuguese, I find that pointing my desires to the baristas works well. I enjoy sitting outside, like many locals, enjoying the mid-50’s to mid-60’s temps wearing a short sleeve shirt and a windbreaker, and watching folks hustling off to work or out walking their dogs.
     Lunches and evening meals have been selected much the same way, strolling the streets and searching for a different restaurant in which to dine. We’ve now had an Italian meal that required a $4.00 Uber ride one way, a Brazilian lunch, and a late Spanish tapas lunch, but most meals have been in local restaurants that specialize in seafood. Not only did they specialize in seafood, they all seemed to have the same menu, although I guess maybe that could be said about our restaurants at home, too.
     Since I mentioned food, I should include some food photos with this update and I will attempt that shortly. At the tapas place I had morcela, blood sausage, flamed table side in a unique dish designed just for that purpose (see photo). I love morcela! For lunch at the Brazilian Grill, I had the opportunity to finally try what is called the most expensive seafood in the world, percebes. I’ve watched both Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern attempt to harvest these tiny, mollusks from oceanside rocks where they cling in dangerously-crashing waves - that’s what makes them so expensive. The waiter said that the Spanish and Portuguese believe that percebes, a barnacle-like creature, are the best food in the sea; I found them briny, tasty, but an awful lot of work for a small amount of food. I was able to try a generous plate of the creatures for 12.50 euros.
     We’re planning an overnight trip to Seville, Spain next week and I’ll explain more about that in the next update. Right now, it’s time for lunch. Boa tarde!

01/14/23 - Portimao, Portugal
     We were without television and the internet for almost 24 hours after the realtor/property manager brought the local provider (think Xfinity) to expand our TV menu. We didn’t miss the TV since the only English-speaking channel we could get was Bloomberg. We had streamed the Jack Ryan series to completion, but we were shut out soon after the Xfinity (here called MEO) man left and couldn’t even stream. Not having WiFi was an inconvenience and we were forced to talk and read, almost like the good old days!
     We texted the realtor about the problem and, the very next day, the property owners drove the 2.5 hours down from Lisbon to address our concerns. The owners were a delightful couple, he a carpenter who personally remodeled this apartment and she a high school librarian. Interestingly, he is transitioning careers, giving up carpentry and living his dream of becoming a sheep rancher on a little farmette they own outside Lisbon. He cut a hole in one of the cabinets he had previously installed to expose the cable box the cabinets had covered. Then, he and a different MEO man snaked a new cable across the apartment, installed a new cable box and, voila (I’m mastering so many languages here), we have WiFi again, as well as hundreds of channels, many in English, CNN, BBC, et al (wow, even Latin).
     I have reserved a car for Monday morning, a hotel room in Seville for that night, and invited my friend Elena, her husband, and four children to dinner at a restaurant of her choosing on Monday night. Elena was a wonderful waitress at a restaurant I frequented during the winter I spent in Seville; she mothered me that winter and even invited me to share a Sunday dinner with her family. We stayed in touch over the internet and when my travel buddy, Schim, and I passed through her city a few years later, she treated us to a sumptuous dinner at her house that had taken her days to prepare. Schim and I enjoyed many, local Spanish dishes that she had created for us to taste. The experience and food were fantastic and it was great to see how much the children had grown; I look forward to seeing that growth again, although one of the children will not be able to make the reunion. It will be another adventure, traversing the same road between the Algarve in Portugal and Seville that I have taken twice previously, although I won’t be on a small scooter this trip.
     Today, we’re planning to make the circuit on a different local bus, have lunch along the river, and find another, new restaurant for dinner. I’ll save the meal discussions and photos for a later update lest you tire of our culinary explorations. Boa tarde!

01/17/23 - Mairena, (suburb of Seville), Spain
     Fantastic day yesterday with a smooth trip in a rented, Renault Clio to Seville. A little more than 2.5 hours followed on a four-lane Autovia with little traffic, at least until we hit the heavy traffic entering Seville itself. The directions to the hotel given to me by my friend, Elena, did not include an address and that caused a few minor problems (for me), but a major catastrophe for Joan. It apparently made her nervous as we squeezed through the narrow streets of old Seville AND Triana, the town right across the Guadalquivir River. The side mirrors of the Clio never scraped any of the walls of the buildings although, I must admit, we couldn’t have put a piece of paper between them a few times. I spent three months in this beautiful, Andalusian town a few years back, so I was never really lost; I enjoyed everything but the heavy traffic and the screaming. I had never heard of the suburb of Mairena, though, where Elena had made reservations for us. It took a couple stops, one for lunch near the familiar train station, another to ask directions to the suburb, a few text messages to Elena, and a whole lot of good luck before we finally found the very tall, modern hotel. Whew, that had me going there for a while.
     Elena and her beautiful, not-so-little-any-more daughter (Blanca, 15) met us in the hotel lobby at 8:45 p.m. to head for dinner with Fernando (Nando), Elena’s husband and their two sons, Nando, Jr. (19), and Pau (17). We had a great meal of tapas, a fantastic dinner conversation, and a sad good-bye. I’ll describe more in another update but, now, I need to repack so we can start back to Portugal. Hasta Luego!

01/18/23 - Portimao, Portugal
     We’re safely back in our temporary, Portimao abode after an exciting visit with our friends in Seville, Spain. The visit with friends that were made during an earlier winter in Seville and the drive there and back were exciting. Perhaps, Joan would call the search for the hotel in Seville even more than exciting, think nail-biting terror, but to me the search was part of the challenge of making the trip.
     The Renault Clio was part of the excitement and, should you think not, consider driving a diesel, stick shift, car whose rented GPS reverted to Portuguese instructions and maps every time the motor was shut off. Reprogramming the GPS to British English and to a new destination became a function every time we entered the car that, actually, performed flawlessly. Consider, too, street signs in two, foreign languages and a navigator who read nor spoke either of those languages and who feared that every turn on every street or highway, some a little narrow I will admit, would be her last. The trip to Seville also included a radio that we never figured how to turn off, but on which we finally reduced the volume. Did I mention that the Clio was a four-door hatchback whose rear doors had outside handles that we never located until I returned the rental and got a lesson on rear door entry, using the handles that were camouflaged as small, rear windows. Other than that, we had a great drive through the Portuguese and Spanish countryside.
     I neglected to mention that both countries have become roundabout CRAZY! Driving the back roads of the Algarve after leaving Faro where we enjoyed lunch overlooking the marina, we encountered roundabout after roundabout, some within each other and some not more than a quarter mile from the last. We got exhausted listening to the British male voice on the GPS announcing that we should, “take the third exit of the roundabout and please make an immediate left (or right).” Couple this with watching road signs and being alert for pedestrians because, here in Portugal, all traffic stops completely if a pedestrian enters a crosswalk to cross the street. Did I mention that we only drove up a one way street the wrong way once and that was a block from our condo before we (I) really got with the program.
     In the hotel where we stayed for the night in Seville, we were located on the 12th floor in a new, dark, cold business hotel near Elena and Nando’s home. The room was comfortable, but poorly lit and certainly lacked warmth. We spent a comfortable night on great beds, however.  We’re on the 10th floor here, so we’re getting accustomed to the view from above. Returning to our third floor condo at home may be difficult at such a low altitude.
     I previously mentioned the warm, wonderful greeting, hugs all around, but failed to mention the unbelievable hospitality this family accorded us in Seville. When we checked in at the hotel, I attempted to give my credit card to the desk clerk only to learn that Elena had paid for the room in advance. I argued mightily with Elena after she arrived to pick us up, but she insisted that we were “their guests!” Thinking I would try to make it up when it was time to pay the dinner check, Nando quickly refused and left the table to pay for the meal. I know he owns a fireplace and stove company in Seville and is a successful small business man, but this was overly generous; we felt like homeless vagabonds. Trying to do something to show our appreciation for their generosity, I did slip the three children a cash gift that all three tried to refuse, but finally accepted with heartfelt thanks after getting a nod of approval from their mother.
     We changed routes on our return trip to Portimao after reaching the Portuguese border, enjoying lunch in Faro before taking lovely, back roads and a thousand roundabouts to reach our home-away-from-home. I’ll include a few photos, many taken out the Renault window by my navigator at 70 mph (110 kmh). Boa tarde!

01/21/23 - Portimao, Portugal
     A country’s culture consists of its history, language, architecture, traditions, religion, government, and FOOD. As promised, I think I’ll spend a little time today talking about the food we’ve experienced here. For the other parts of Portugal’s culture, I suggest trying Wikipedia, but today’s update will focus on its food. Portugal has been a seafaring country for many years and it comes as no surprise that these folks flat-out know how to prepare fish and other seafood. They were fishing our Grand Banks before we even knew they existed and returning home with their holds full of cod, preserved in salt. Bacalao, or dried & salted codfish, is still enjoyed here and is prepared in many different ways. Percebes, a mollusk that I discussed in an earlier update, is a real treat to locals as are many other sea creatures. I have enjoyed bacalao, percebes, mussels, clams, tuna, octopus, moray eel (didn’t really enjoy that), monkfish, salmon, sea bass, and probably several other species in fish stews and soups. Given a choice between a steak and grilled, fresh fish, most Portuguese would take the fish.
     Two days ago, we ventured two short blocks to the large grocery store, Pingo Doce, and its buffet cafeteria for lunch that turned out to also be dinner because we ate so much. I selected a large portion of a bacalao and spinach casserole, a carrot, beet, and tomato salad that I created from a salad bar, a sunny-side-up egg, a delicious lemon custard dessert, and a bottle of lemonade. Joan stood in line by herself, ordered, waited for, and paid for a pizza, cola, and found me already eating at a community table. I was proud of her, displaying a confidence in a foreign land that she hasn’t always displayed. Pizza can do that to a person, I guess. Her Margarita pizza and coke cost 5.68 euros and my full-sized dinner set me back 7.89 euros. Two meals and drinks cost a total of 13.57 euros. Food here has been surprisingly inexpensive. We did spend 85 euros at the expensive restaurant we tried in a neighboring fishing village that I described in an earlier update, but lunches for two have been in the 8-15 euro neighborhood. Interestingly, house wine and Coke cost about the same, so we have partaken of a glass of very nice wine for dinner on occasion, maybe even on more than one occasion. I will include photos of our cafeteria experience after I complete this dissertation on the food.
     If you haven’t eaten at a Brazilian chain restaurant called Fogo de Chao, you’re missing a great experience and a sensational meal. When many local restaurants were closed last Saturday evening for a holiday of which we were unaware, our neophyte Uber driver took us to three restaurants all of which were closed, then headed to the nearby beach resort town of Praia de Rocha and there, fortunately, the Fogo de Chao Restaurant was open for business. The “salad bar buffet” was an absolute work of art with cold and hot food, think spaghetti Bolognese, sausages, pork stew, peel-your-own shrimp, plus cheeses, salad makings, chicken and macaroni salads, and simply too many items to mention or remember. The “salad bar” only price was 12.99 euros. The waiters in gaucho pants brought freshly grilled delicious-looking, beef and pork skewers to tables and sliced off servings to patrons who had selected the skewer option on the menu for 25 or 30 euros/per person, depending on the cuts of beef. Not very hungry to begin with, we both selected the “salad bar” only option and each made two trips through the ginormous buffet which was colorfully decorated with pineapple tops, flowers, and other bright creations. We each had a caipirinha, a Brazilian cocktail I learned to love in Rio, and a glass of house wine. The tab (conta in Portuguese) was only 41.98 euros and we were stuffed. I recommend trying Fogo de Chao if you already haven’t. We have committed to doing lunch there again soon where we will opt for the freshly grilled beef skewers sliced table side.
     We also had lunch at a highly-Yelp-rated chicken restaurant where we were entertained, but not as impressed with our meal. The restaurant serves, you guessed it, only grilled chicken as a main course, but has sides of French fries, and salads. Those things, plus drinks, are the only thing on the menu. We shared a too-dry, but very well-flavored chicken, split a salad and French fry order, and called it lunch. We located the place after stopping at the local bus station and purchasing one-way tickets for Lisbon for the 31st of this month. We need to start thinking of packing our bags for the trip to Cascais in suburban Lisbon where we’ll spend the next two months of our winter.
     Oh, food! We had lunch yesterday directly across the small street where we enter and leave our condo building. Joan happened to notice the small place, which we never noticed heretofore, and we proceeded to find a table in the little, French cafe that only serves lunch. Our waitress who also owns the flower shop next door, demonstrated her fluency in Portuguese, English, French, and German while serving customers during our short time there - very impressive! Joan enjoyed a chicken fricassee, I had a tuna steak with onions, and we both enjoyed lunch and had a great time.
     This morning, I again visited the neighboring Riviera Restaurant, for me mostly a coffee and breakfast location, where I had my second breakfast sandwich of the trip. For some reason, I have only ordered coffee and a different pastry each day. Yesterday, for some reason, I went for a ham sandwich and tried to order it with double ham. I got, instead, two ham sandwiches with one slice of ham each. BUT, the sandwich was fantastic! I had one of the sandwiches, ham and butter, on a delicious, fresh Portuguese roll, wrapped to go and took it back to Joan for her enjoyment. When talking Portuguese food, one cannot forget BREAD! Joan loved the sandwich, I ate another this morning, all because of the roll. Crusty on the outside, fresh and soft on the inside, I could eat it for breakfast without the ham. I have several other food experiences to share, but it is after 12:00 and I’ve made myself hungry. I’ll share the other experiences later. Boa tarde!

01/25/23 - Portimao, Portugal
     We’ve had several additional food experiences since my last update that I’ll try to briefly share for those of you not bored to tears with our previous food explorations:
     One evening I, with my customary research on where we can eat next, offered Joan three choices for dining, only suggesting sushi as a last minute throw away. Surprising my socks off, white no-shows the whole trip, she selected sushi, sharing that she wasn’t really hungry. We had eaten sushi previously right around the corner, but this time I selected one with an even-better Yelp rating, a place called FU, apparently named in order to save money on signage, but still only a couple short blocks away. It turned out that they served all-you-can-eat sushi for only 14.99. At home, two servings (four pieces) of the delicious Japanese delicacy can cost more than that so, hungry or not, we both had the special and ate to our hearts’ content, although I’m sure we didn’t destroy their profit margin. Freshly made to order, we had a couple California rolls, a spicy tuna roll, octopus, tuna, monkfish, and salmon servings of sushi, a miso soup, a generous serving of fried rice for Joan. and everything was delicious. The price is apparently that reasonable because the fish don’t have to be shipped, except from the nearby docks. It turned out to be a bargain and a great meal. I would do that meal again in a minute.
     On Sunday, we ventured via Uber to nearby Praia de Rocha, the beach resort town, headed for another restaurant I had selected because of the great view of the beach. Got there and learned that the place, like many others, was closed for vacation - this being a season of low tourism when restaurateurs take their holidays. Right next door, however, was a place called Red Rover, apparently named after the Irish song, to attract summertime British and Irish tourists. A middle-aged Brit from Nottingham was our amiable waiter. They advertised on their street side, sandwich, blackboard a Sunday “Roasty!” The view was just as good as the fancier place next door and Joan is a major fan of roast beef - this was an easy substitution. I’ll share photos of the very reasonable, “comfort food” we both ended up enjoying while rather loud American 50’s music played on the speakers. After dinner, we got some great photos of the beautiful beach with the striking cliffs, islands, and beach structures that I’ll share in a minute.
     Enough of this food stuff, but there aren’t a whole lot of other exciting tales to tell. We have had two visits by the real estate firm that manages this condo, both times to get the TV up and running. Apparently, the last time MEO (think Comcast) was here and installed a new box and cable, the guy put old or defective batteries in the new remote. We (Joan) spent a couple days hooking and unhooking cables, then boxes, using two remotes and getting nowhere. I suggested the batteries, but neither of us thought batteries in a new remote would have failed. Wrong! The realtor reasoned the same way, but finally changed batteries in the new remote and, voila (more French), we’re up and running again, have English speaking CNN with all their repetitious news briefs, and many Portuguese, Spanish, and even Asian stations. We seldom watch them, however, being semi-engrossed in a streamed, USA, TV series, “Blacklist,” having finally completed the first year of the nine-year-long, adventure drama.
     Joan is washing laundry daily now, preparing our clothes for the packing required to make our move on Tuesday to Cascais; our AirBnb lodging there has been confirmed. Wanting to avoid another transportation catastrophe moving heavy luggage, we opted to make the three-hour trip by bus. The moving plan involves taxi or Uber from here to the bus station with the driver’s help to load and unload the suitcases, a 50-yard, flat walk to the bus platform, and help loading the bags in the belly of the bus. Once arriving in Sete Rios bus station in Lisbon, another Uber or taxi to our new digs in Cascais with the driver’s assistance to load and unload the baggage at the front door of our new building. I thought I planned to travel smarter on the first leg of this adventure, but the lack of sleep on the plane, and the train strike threw me a curve. I’m looking to travel even smarter on the second leg. We shall see how the plan comes together. Ciao!

01/28/23 - Portimao, Portugal
     Having settled into a daily routine after the long trip across the pond, we now prepare to create the need for a new routine as we move to a new apartment in a different, though familiar, city in just a couple days. Our current routine finds me up around 7:00, completing my on-line Spanish studies, solving the daily Wordle game, doing the shower, shaving, bathroom thing, then dressing and crossing the street to the Riviera Restaurant for a couple galaos. I enjoy the galaos, a small juice glass with coffee and heated milk, and a delicious, ham sandwich on a Portuguese, hard-crusted roll while watching the locals have their espressos and rush off to work.
     I purchase a sandwich-to-go to take back for Joan who is customarily just awakening as I return. I sometimes alternate her breakfast sandwich with one of a variety of pastries for her to sample; she said yesterday’s pastry, made from pumpkin or squash, was the best yet. While she is showering and preparing for our daily luncheon sojourn, I’ll check to see if anyone at home is awake and, if so, I’ll respond to what has become very infrequent emails. Lunch at a restaurant, yesterday back at Fogo de Chao’s, then a return for the late afternoon review of USA news on my iPad, an afternoon of reading our novels, or a nap, if the need arises.
     If we opt for a large lunch, like yesterday’s where I opted for slices of beef from the skewers brought to our table, we have been either eliminating an evening meal altogether or going to a Spanish tapas place for a very light repast. Then back to the apartment, shoes off, curled up on the love seat for a few episodes of The Blacklist, a very violent, nine-year-long, TV series of which we have grown very tired; the violence, the foul language, and the impossible story lines have worn us out. We are searching for other evening entertainment on the tube, but we’ll sometimes revert back to reading the novels in which we are engrossed.
     And then repeat!
     We had a spectacular lunch the other day, venturing across the river to the upscale town of Ferragudo that is currently under significant, suburban development. The Uber driver told us that homes start in the 250,000 range, but most looked bigger and more grand than that. Our lunch was at a restaurant, Praia dos Caneiros, that was located right on the beach with a fantastic view of the sea (see photos) and the cliffs that protect the beach from gusty winds that can sometimes foil winter sunbathing on other local beaches. The food, the view, the service, and the ambiance were major league but, unfortunately, so were the prices - go figure. The final tab broke the record for this winter by 26 euros, but was well worth every penny. I doubt that we’ll return or make a habit of dining in such exclusive environs, but we had a great meal (see photos)!
     My spouse has worked wonders with the laundry; remember, she can’t read the dials or knobs, doesn’t know how much detergent to put in, what volume of clothing the machine holds, but still the laundry gets done and hung to dry on the outside rack on our balcony from whence the new panties took flight. The new apartment in Cascais contains a washer AND dryer, so gone will be the chore of hanging clothes outside. That will sadden us a bit; after more than 50 years of zoning laws or deed restrictions that forbade hanging laundry outside, we have both enjoyed the fresh, outdoor smell the sea breezes have imparted to our wardrobe. And there has been nary a single direct or indirect hit on our garments by the gulls or pigeons. Next update should be from Cascais, if moving day goes well. Boa tarde!

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