Monday, April 23, 2012

April 23, 2012 Portugal - Lagos

This morning we awoke in the hill town of Monchique. Actually, by European standards, this is a mountain area because it is over 1000 meters high. We were served a big breakfast - omelleto, plus buns, mueseli and a small piece of pound cake. As usual - way more than we could possibly eat. So - using my hunter-gatherer skills - I took most of one omelet and stuffed inside a bun to take for our lunch.

Pete arrived at 9:30 and drove us down to the railway station near Lagos (La gosh) on the coast. We could see the Picota in the distance - partly hidden in cloud. We met Julie at the railway station and went for about a 2.5 hour walk with her around the river estuary. There were 5-6 local clam diggers digging for clams in the wide sandy beaches and we met some European birders at the beginning of the path along the dikes. I think Julie called them "twitchers" and said they were hard to take on a walk because they want to stop all the time and look at birds. The walk was very pleasant and ended with a ramble through fields of poppies and wild marigolds (yellow daisies). Julie told us that the estuary had been filled in with sand by the tsunaimi that followed the 1755 earthquake which destroyed most of Lisbon. We had some good chats about the politics of the uS and France - we all seemed to see things eye to eye. After the walk Julie drove us to our new hotel in Lagos - where we ate our picnic of omelet, bread and cheese and tomatoes in our very nice room. We even have a balcony which looks out over the bus depot - not quite the rio but very entertaining.

Then we headed out to have a look at Lagos. The hotel is called the Marina Rio and is across the road from the huge pleasure craft marina. Along the river from the marina is the fishing fleet moorage area and a replica of a caravel which was the type of boat which the Portugues used to explore the down the coast of Africa and all the way to India and China. Lagos is the first safe moorage that boats come from when the come in from the Atlantic going towards Gibralter. There is foot swing bridge across the river to the marina which allows  boats and big cruisers to get into the rio and out to sea. We bought our train tickets at railway station - which we will use to go to O Porto on April 27 - so are ready for that fairly long trip - after our walks in the Algarve are over.

We wandered along, what in Mexico would be called the malecon beside the rio, and were invited by many boat tour operators to take a boat ride out to sea. There are caves and grottos and small sandy beaches west of Lagos and the boat operators take tourists out for a short cruise and a look. We declined and walked out to the mouth of the river and then along the coast past huge condos and along the coastal path out to a small cape. It was a lovely sunny and breezy day on the path - with great views out to the Atlantic and along the rugged coastline. By the time we got to the cape, we had walked another 6 km for a total of more than 18 today.  

On the way back to the hotel we went through the old city part of the Lagos where we saw the original slave market - the first that was established in Europe. Later we ate our dinner in a large restaurant not far from the hotel. The restaurant was set up with many very long tables and was very busy. We had the "touristic menu" - couvert of bread and olives, salad and soup, grilled chicken and French fries finishing up with fruit salad. Along with that came a jug of red wine - all for 9.90 euros each - very tasty and good value. Hunting and gathering again, I took some of the chicken in my handy plastic bag to have for lunch tomorrow. We have a small fridge in the room so it will be fine overnight - along with olives, pastries, and cheese which we bought at the small nearby grocery store. Our waiter was a very jolly fellow and by the time we left, the whole place was full of tourists and local Portuguese families with big TVs in every corner showing soccer. Soccer is a real mania here in Portugal.

Now we are back in our hotel and watching the ITV News (which is in English) on a small flat screen TV - a bit of change from the totally Portuguese TV on the small old fashioned in TVs in some (but not all) of our earlier hotels and B&Bs.So good night for today. 

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