As it’s a package tour you sort of get used to flights at horrible times, and this was no exception. We were in the car at 6:30 am, scheduled for a 9:55 am take-off from Faro Airport. It was so early it was still dark when we got in the car.
By the time we got to Faro it was light. The return of the rental car was very easy and we managed to get checked in really quickly, however “Oh oh!” the plane’s going to be late.
So we went into terminal and had some breakfast at a coffee place. We then sat around for a couple of hours doing sudoku and getting bored. And then we went into Costa Coffee for another drink. The service was really slow but it’s not like we were in any kind of hurry. I got bored enough to try to photograph a few planes coming and going.
We meandered in through the passport control and got inside to start looking for our gate. It changed while we were waiting in the departure lounge and we actually saw our plane coming into land. It’s not going to leave for at least another hour then…..
Once the plane finally got off the ground the flight home was fine. Birmingham Airport was no trouble and the car was where we’d left it.
On the way home we stopped for one geocache in Northampton, just so we could fulfil all the criteria for the final one of this year’s August souvenir jamboree. It was a puzzle cache. All we found was a bag with a log sheet in it. No container. Still, it was definitely the cache, and it was in the right place.
By this time though it was getting late and we’d been up for quite a long time, so we asked the Burlaces if they’d keep the guinea pigs for one more night. We eventually reached home at about 7 pm, so 12 hours after we set off, and began the usual “night home” jobs of unpacking and ordering takeaway curry.
We got the girls into bed around 8:30 and then I watched the highlights of the Test Matches that the Sky+ box had recorded. I then fell asleep on the sofa while Match of the Day was on.
We had no particular plans for today other than to chill for a while, pack, and empty the fridge of food and beer. The food wasn’t too much of a problem as we’d had a go at it the previous evening, but the beer was definitely a problem. There was a fair amount of it.
We got off to a lazy start before the girls decided that “lazy” was definitely going to be their theme for the day. That’s not really my scene (man) so I headed off for a bit of final-day caching. It proved to be a bit frustrating, as these things often can be.
I started off by heading in the general direction of Guia, finding a handful of caches there (with more than a handful of DNFs too), but then got bored of the constant driving down rubbish unsurfaced roads and decided to head for Albufeira instead to look for a series of caches stuck on the various roundabouts on the main road that runs around town. I found all five of them but couldn’t do the bonus because a couple of the bonus codes were missing, so I had no coords.
Apparently, Albufeira is twinned with Dunfermline. I can’t help but think that the twinning was initiated by the town council members of Dunfermline, hoping to get somewhere sunny to go to on official trips.
From there I drove up to the top of a hill overlooking the marina to find one final cache. It was another rubbish road and I parked somewhere that I would not normally park, if I’m honest. The view from the top was good, but the housing around the way up was not so nice looking.
By this time it was getting towards late afternoon, so I decided to scoot off home and get on with the packing and the beer consumption. Packing was easy because we’d been washing and ironing as we went along. The beer consumption was hard work.
We weren’t really sure what to do today so we decided to go back over to Sagres and The End of the World to get a new gift for Ami (after Izzy had accidentally broken the one she got last time) and to chase down a puzzle cache that I’d been working on but only solved after our first visit.
We set off fairly early and arrived in Sagres just after 11. First stop was to go to Sagres Fort to find this puzzle cache. It was a bit of a hike around the outside of the fort and practically over the cliffs, but it was an easy find once we got there.
After that we went over to the end of the world to get a replacement starfish necklace for Ami. Sadly though, we couldn’t get one because that stall wasn’t there. So Ami grabbed some earrings and a little brooch else instead. She takes a little while to decide, but when she does decide, she has pretty good taste.
After this we went through Vila do Bispo and then took a hair raising road down to the nearby Praia do Castelejo, which was probably the most beautiful stop of the whole holiday, if only because it has a very windswept, remote feel much like the west coast of Cornwall. The scenery was similar too, except hotter and with less greenery.
We had some lunch at the only restaurant on the beach, then girls retired to beach while I went caching. I didn’t get to go where I’d planned, mainly because the satellite view and maps don’t give a sense of quite how steep and unpleasant looking the cliffs are. I found an earthcache on beach then two traditionals up the cliffs, but it was dangerously windy on the cliff top so I decided to beat a retreat rather than continue on for another headland. It wasn’t very nice up top.
So we got back in the car and drove down an even worse road to a nearby miradouro/viewpoint above the southern end of the beach we were just on. Whilst the road down to the beach was a bit steep and winding, but covered in tarmac, the one to the viewpoint was dirt track most of the way, and I was very glad that it wasn’t my own car.
The view from the viewpoint was absolutely spectacular. I grabbed a further 2 caches on the cliffs but again the access was a bit dodgy given the state of the wind, so I decided it was better not to risk anything.
On the way back through Vila do Bispo we grabbed three caches, but the girls were looking a bit drained, so we plumped for finishing the day off on a beach. We drove into central Lagos and parked up, then retired immediately to the nearest cafe for ice cream and coffee. The cafe was on the beach, so the natural next stop was a cooling dip. It was late afternoon by this time and it was a bit windy and cloudy, so the temperature was not too bad.
As it was our next to last day we drove home and had a “fridge clearance” for tea, including pizza, nachos, Pringles and various fruits and other stuff.
This morning was meant to be an early start, but we had an attack of not being bothered and eventually didn’t leave the house until nearly 11 am.
Our plan for the day was to visit Zoomarine – a nearby theme park based roughly on marine life, but actually also containing a lot of birds of prey, wave pools and over-consumption of not-entirely-healthy foodstuffs.
We bought our entry tickets from tour rep, which I have to admit I wasn’t so sure about, but when we arrived it all worked just fine. We didn’t have to queue to get in at all.
When we arrived it was late enough that we could justify it being time to go for a drink. After this, we retired to the tropical bird display, which I personally thought was the best bit. There was a bit of a presentation, some audience participation, and some brightly coloured avians of various persuasions.
We had an interesting lateish lunch in one of the cafes. It involved a fair amount of queuing and some fairly mediocre but somehow still expensive food.
Most of the shows were done to a strict timetable, so after lunch we hurried off to grab an early seat at the next performance of the dolphins, or “golfinos” as they call them round here. They were sleek, grey, shiny and wet.
We then had an hour before the next scheduled show of the sea lions, so we went to see the crocodiles and alligators and then went for a ride around on the big wheel and the swingy pirate boat. And we had ice cream.
We arrived early for the sea lion show too, but I was quite disappointed in this. It didn’t seem as impressive or well planned out as the similar event we’d seen at Deltapark Neeltje Jans the year before.
After the sea lion show, we went for a quick look at the queue at the aquarium, but it was so long that we decided to give up. It was hot and none of us fancied standing around waiting for the 45 mins or so it was going to take to get in, so instead we went to the Zoomarine Beach area for swimming, splashing, fountains and lying on the grass. It’s like a whole beach, with a wave pool and everything, except most of the onshore area is grass not sand, so you don’t get abrasive stuff stuck in your orifices, which I personally find to be a good feature. We must have spent an hour and a half here with various phases of the girls getting wet, wanting drinks, wanting toilets and getting wet again whilst Kas and me tried to chill. It was pretty busy in this area too. It seemed to be the place everyone went to calm down a bit after spending the earlier part of their day queuing up for things.
On the way home we stopped off at the supermarket for more provisions, mainly of the snacky variety, and then when we got back the kids went off to bed quite early.
Honest opinion? It was OK but I wouldn’t rush back.
This post might well have been another in the series of “Not a Lot Happened” entries. I’m writing this retrospectively and just had to chase up which geocaches I found on this day to try to get some form of memory about it.
We had a lazy morning at the apartment and headed out at a sort of late lunchtime.
Kas dropped me off above Praia do Arrifes then took the kids to Praia do São Rafael. I was off to do a bit of caching.
There was one right by where I started and then another to the east which required a scramble down some rocks onto a beach. After far too long a walk along that beach I reached a headland that I couldn’t pass because the tide was in, so a DNF there then. On the way off that beach I tried a set of steps halfway along, to avoid the scramble I’d done earlier, but the steps went nowhere and I had to go back down them again and return to the scramble.
From here I walked west along the coast to meet the girls, continuing to search for caches with mixed fortunes.
By the time I arrived Izzy seemed to be confidently paddling around on a body board all on her own, which was a major step forward in confidence.
We packed up late in the afternoon and went home to get cleaned up before heading out to Albufeira town for dinner. We ate in a small restaurant at the end of Fisherman’s Beach – the service was quite slow but the food was good when it arrived.
We were quite late getting back home.
This morning we got up quite early because Kas and Ami had an appointment with some parasailing. Izzy and me planned to go caching for a while. So we arrived down at Albufeira Marina without having breakfast.
The caching was on the hill up above the marina mainly, with one cache being out on the jetty on the south side of the marina. Getting to this last one involved a very dodgy bit of road and a scramble down a bit of a cliff. Izzy did well. However, when we got to the end of the jetty we couldn’t find the cache.
Before we could say “how’s yer wotsit” Ami and Kas were on their way back in from parasailing, so we figured we’d better get back to the marina. When we got there it was well past breakfast time, so we found a cafe and ate something that was well past breakfast.
After breakfast we went back to the cache on the jetty, except this time we stuck to the reasonable roads, parked outside someone’s house, and proceeded to walk through a boatyard and around the edge of the headland at sea level (well, slightly above sea level) rather than scrambling over the rocks. It was significantly easier.
When we got to the end of the jetty again the cache was an easy find, partly because this time I decided to ignore the hint and just follow the arrow on the GPS.
We didn’t do much in the afternoon – just some chilling and some swimming. And we had dinner at home, ready for another day.
We got up fairly early, had a quick breakfast and got onto the road by 9:30 am. We were on a mission to go to another country. Spain if you must know. We were heading to Seville for the day, partly just so we could say we’d been and partly because it’s somewhere both Kas and I have always wanted to go. Partly also because I wanted to do a few caches there so I could “get another country”
On the way we stopped to put on suncream. Somehow the previous day in Carvoeiro I’d managed to get myself seriously sunburnt through the armpits of the shirt I was wearing, and to put it mildy, I was in some discomfort. I have no idea how I managed to achieve that.
The journey along the motorway towards Spain was pretty uneventful until we decided to stop for fuel. We had several problems. We couldn’t figure out whether we had to pre-pay or not (we had to), and we also couldn’t figure out how to get the fuel filler cap open. There was no lever like my car has, and it didn’t lock with the key. It took us ages, having pulled up to a pump, then pulled away again to allow the queue behind us to clear, and so on. Eventually we enlisted help from the kids. Sure enough, within a minute or so, Izzy had got it sorted. The fuel filler cap on a VW Golf is spring loaded apparently, and you just have to press the cap inwards to make it pop out properly. D’oh! I’m sure this foreign driving game is easier in your own car.
When we got into central Seville it was about midday Portuguese time, but we’d completely forgotten that Spain is 1 hour ahead. The phones remembered, but we didn’t. We thought we’d just wasted an hour somewhere without noticing.
So we parked up (eventually) and grabbed a fairly leisurely (but relaxing) lunch at a cafe just outside the Plaza de España.
The Plaza de España is apparently a landmark example of the Regionalism Architecture, mixing elements of the Renaissance Revival and Moorish Revival (Neo-Mudéjar) styles of Spanish architecture. Whatever that means, it’s pretty impressive, consisting of a very wide semi-circular promenade with big towers at each end and in the middle. Within the semi-circle is a series of canals with little squares, fountains and bridges. It’s really pretty. The whole place gets a bit of a fairytale look from the fact that many of the surfaces (especially around the waterways) are ornately tiled in bright coloured ceramics.
One of the great features of the Plaza de España is the row of tiled “Provincial Alcoves” set into the inside ring of the semi-circle. There’s a little alcove for each Spanish province (all 48 of them at the time it was done), each of which is ornately decorated with a religious or historical scene representing the relevant province. Each is big enough to have a couple of tiled benches guarding its entrance and therefore allowing the opportunity to rest up a bit and appreciate the architecture. Due to the Spanish treating their provinces in much the same way we English treat our counties, a number of the alcoves now have the wrong name (for instance Oviedo is now called Asturias and Logroño is now called La Rioja. To make matters worse, having a single province for the whole of the Canary Islands was not sufficient, so the single alcove for Tenerife now represents the provinces of Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas.
While we were in the Plaza de España we found a few caches in the park and on the building.
From here we meandered our way past a couple more caches on our way to the Reales Alcázares de Sevilla – a substantial complex of palaces and gardens originally built by the Moorish kings. The current Spanish monarchy still uses the upper floors as an official residence when they’re in town. It’s quite impressive.
Next on the agenda was a walk towards the Catedral, where we bought souvenirs and mooched about a bit. The cathedral is the largest Gothic, and the third-largest Christian church in the world. It’s also (one for the pedants here) the largest cathedral in the world, as the two churches that are larger aren’t the seat of a bishop. Given that one of the larger two is The Pope’s Gaff it seems a bit harsh claiming to be the biggest on a technicality like that.
Anyway, by this time we were getting a bit hungry, as it had been a while since lunch. This is when we hit upon a bit of a problem. Sunday evening in Seville seems to involve restaurants not serving food. The first place we tried made sure we’d ordered and received drinks before telling us their kitchen was shut. We drank up quickly and moved on. The next place we tried left us sitting unattended for ages before we finally just got up and left. At the place where we had lunch they were still serving, but not food, just drinks. At this point we decided to cut our losses and start heading home.
We managed to get out of town with only one navigational error, and we drove all the way to the motorway services at Olhão before needing to stop for a drink.
Oooh look! There’s a cache in the car park.
When we eventually got home it was quite late, so we had some quick snacks out of the fridge for tea and then hurried the kids to bed.
Parasailing tomorrow for Kas and Ami.
We got up fairly late today and decided not to go to the nearby waterpark place, as this essentially would cost us €75 for something we were planning to do later in the same week at Zoomarine.
So instead we packed up some stuff for the day and headed off for one of the other trips on our hit list – the trip to Silves. We took swimming stuff with us too, as we had the chance to scoot down to the coast to a supposedly lovely beach (with Portugal’s only webcam cache) at Carvoeiro.
Meanwhile, back at the plot.
The drive up to Silves was uneventful and we parked up in a massive and apparently free car park at the bottom of the hill, right underneath the castle. There was a geocache in the car park.
We walked around the road to get to the top of the hill. There evidently used to be a convenient boardwalk route up the side of the hill which started at this car park, but the ticket office and fencing were dilapidated and obviously not open for business, so we walked around, generally following the crowds.
When we got to the top we were greeted by full-scale planning for a local medieval festival of some kind. There were wooden trestle tables and straw bales everywhere and the distinct aroma of roasting animals.
There was also an entrance to the castle, so that’s where we headed. For the purposes of this exercise, Ami was demoted to being a 10 year old. Well, she’d only been 11 for a few weeks.
Inside there were a lot of walls (presumably the same walls also appear on the outside, but you know what I mean), most of which could be walked around and upon. In the centre courtyard, there was an array of real fruit trees of various kinds – apples, pears, lemons, oranges, limes, figs, dates, and the like. Ami took a real shine to these. Maybe she’s not actually seen fruit in its native habitat before. Anyway, she was rather taken by them.
On the way out it was time for lunch, so we stopped at the most touristy cafe possible and ordered ourselves some pizza and nachos. They were good though.
While we were waiting for our order I tried a quick walk to access another cache that was supposedly halfway down the old boardwalk I mentioned earlier. From the top of the castle though there didn’t seem to be a way down that side, so after a fruitless few minutes I retired to the cafe for lunch.
On the way back to the car I scrambled up the old boardwalk to fetch that cache, quite easily as it turned out, even though by now the sun was fierce and it was extremely hot.
We drove around the bottom of the castle and parked up in a car park so I could grab a puzzle cache I’d solved while the girls sat in the car with the air-con running.
From there we drove down to Carvoeiro. Kas got to drive down the narrow, cobbled streets again.
After a couple of fruitless laps, we drove up to the top of the hill at the east end of the beach and parked up right next to a cache that was part of a 3-cache mini-series.
The centre of Carvoeiro has Portugal’s one and only webcam cache. It’s right outside an ice cream shop. Ice cream o’clock then? It would have been rude not to.
From here we wandered over onto the beach, making a quick change and heading for a dip in the sea.
Ooh ooh ooh ooh cold!
After half an hour of beachyness I scooted off up the cliffs on the west side of the beach to find the other trad cache in that mini-series and its bonus puzzle cache. The view from the bonus was spectacular.
I headed back down to the beach for some shade, cliffs and incoming tide. It’s a really nice beach if you’re into that kind of thing. I would imagine it can get ridiculously busy at times.
We came off the beach at about 5:30 and grabbed a cold drink to sip at while Kas walked back up the cliffs to fetch the car. The kids were jiggered.
The drive back home was uneventful and we stopped off at our new favourite supermarket to grab some things for doing a barbie in the evening – some sausages and chicken/pepper kebabs. And some cold beers.
The apartment complex was busy with new visitors going through the normal first-day motions. Many of those motions involved barbeques. Some involved jumping in the pool after hours.
We had a fairly lazy tea then got ourselves all cleaned up before getting the girls to bed nice and early. We weren’t much later ourselves as we’d got a big day planned for the following day.
Every holiday we go on has to result in at least one blog post entitled “Not a Lot Happened” or something similar. This year I have decided to vary the theme and go with “Wotta Lotta Notta Lot”, but the general theme is the same. We didn’t do much.
I got up quite late. Ami was still in bed and Izzy had only just surfaced. Kas was just coming back in from her morning run.
So I had a lazy breakfast outside and the kids got their swimming cozzies on and went for a splash in the pool. Then I grabbed all the recent washing and ironed it. Well, someone has to.
The rest of my morning (up until lunchtime in the cricket) was spent listening to said cricket, doing sudoku puzzles and snoozing.
I then managed to snooze my way through most of the afternoon too. I spent some time pondering whether to go out and do a few caches, but eventually couldn’t be bothered.
Izzy managed to pick up another injury – something to do with one kid trying to save her from being pushed into the pool by another. She scraped skin off one shin. The girl who saved her was rather upset because she thought she’d upset Izzy by helping her, which wasn’t true. Kids, huh ?
So after a very lazy day we decided to go out to Albufeira for dinner. We stopped for puzzle cache on top of hill on the way in, then parked in big park above Fisherman’s Beach again.
We ate at a restaurant called El Rancho, right on the seafront by Fisherman’s Beach. Ami experimented with BBQ ribs, and decided she likes them.
We found some entertaining sand sculptures on the beach as we were leaving.
We got out of the house this morning at about 10am, and in our sights we had one of the things that Thomas Cook offer as a whole day excursion from Albufeira – we were going to go to Tavira.
It wasn’t that far away – just over an hour – but then I suppose if you go with your tour company then the bus travels more slowly, possibly avoids the toll motorways, and spends an hour at the start picking everyone up. Anyway, we arrived in Tavira late in the morning, a bit early for lunch but not by much.
By the time we’d found somewhere to park we were somewhat closer to lunch, and were starting to wonder why we’d bothered coming. Eventually, on our second lap of the town, we found a single parking spot by the side of a narrow street that someone was just leaving. A-ha! It is ours. Although it was a bit tight, and I was still struggling with the car that had a button instead of a handbrake.
We decided it was time for a coffee break, if only because we also needed some loose change for parking and didn’t have enough. Kas sat down at a roadside cafe with the girls while I went off in search of some loose change. After a quick walk up the street and down again I ended up in the cafe where the girls were sitting. Unlike the response you’d likely get in the UK, they were very happy to change a €5 note into coins, so we decided it was a jolly nice cafe and stopped for our coffee.
From here we walked down the road to the medieval bridge over the river. It was here we noticed how very, very hot the weather was. Too hot. It’s a nice old bridge though.
We walked up the hill into the old town and sought refuge in a big church that had a small display of religious art (for a modest entry fee). It was cool inside. The church itself was quite pretty too, and also quite cool compared to outside. Eventually though, we had to brave the outside again.
It was a short walk around to the castle, and as seems to be the way around here, we found an interior almost completely given over to ornamental gardens. There was also a geocache, but that’s a whole other matter.
From the castle there was a steep staircase leading back down the road where we’d parked, and whilst descending here we decided it was far too hot in the town, so we were going to head for the coast to look for somewhere to get lunch.
This is where the disappointment started.
We drove down to the Ria Formosa from the town centre, which looked like it might be reasonably interesting, but when we got there it was a building site. It was difficult to park, and there were two restaurants which might have been OK if you could reach them, but you couldn’t. We plodded along a bit to a jetty that was the home of an Earthcache, but there were no further restaurants or cafes. The jetty was just a landing stage for a little boat that runs out to one of the barrier islands. We did have the kit with us to go beaching, but we needed a drink and weren’t sure if there was a cafe over there. Looking at the map in retrospect, there are a few cafes over on the island, but we didn’t realise at the time.
So we returned to the car park and left. At least we got out free because we’d been there for less than 30 minutes.
We drove in a westward direction along the coastal roads looking for somewhere that might offer the combination of a beach, a nice looking restaurant and a parking space. None of the places we drove through matched up to all three. In fact, most of them only managed one of the three. I guess this is why the coast around Albufeira is more touristy than here.
We made it all the way to Olhão before deciding to give up on that plan. We saw signs for MacDonalds so thought we’d go there for lunch, because at least they have stuff that all of us would eat, but somewhere in the middle of town we lost all the signs and couldn’t find it. Boo! And hiss! This day was not working out quite as we planned and I was suffering a major sense of humour crisis by this point, so we decided to just go home again.
We stopped at some motorway services near Loulé to get some lunch (and grab the random carpark geocache). The food was actually not too bad.
On the way into home we stopped at our new favourite supermarket for a few goodies and then retired to our apartment, where we were quite surprised to discover that England had bowled out Australia for just 60 runs on the first day of the fourth Ashes test match at Trent Bridge. The kids had an appointment with the swimming pool, as ever, and I decided that I’d now got an urgent appointment at a nearby sports bar that had Sky Sports. We all went, but Kas looked tired and the kids were getting a bit uppity, so after the (short) highlights of various Australians walking onto and then off the pitch Kas took Ami home. Izzy stayed with me while I watched the England innings and then we walked home and had a fairly early night.
Presumably if you take the full day excursion with the tour company they know the good spots to go to, and you don’t have to fart about looking for parking, and maybe they even know a nice restaurant or two, but we were both glad that we’d not had to pay to go there, as even with some better planning on our part I’m not convinced there’s a whole day out to be had in Tavira. It was quite a pleasant little town, but there’s not really a lot to do.