We’ve been enjoying some small towns around the Algarve coast. The ilha Deserta, a short boat ride from Faro, is likely our favourite spot though. The channels in Tavira, the gypsy market in Loule, the bike ride through the salt pans of the reserve area of the Ria Formosa, and the boat tour out to see Ponte Piedade were all remarkable.
On our last afternoon, we are laying low in Faro and enjoying bifana, steak sandwiches, and a view of the Ria Formosa from O Castelo.
Tomorrow, M is heading home. I’m off to PhD camp aka a summer intensive seminar in Tilburg, Neatherlands.
Two months gone in a flash!
A few months ago I stumbled upon a photo of a beach with turquoise water surrounded by tall rock formations posted on Pinterest. It read, Lagos Portugal. Would it be a mistake to visit a country based on one photo? My advisor later joked about visiting Portugal before attending PhD camp. And, of course, we live in little Portugal…. So, Portugal.
Yesterday we went on a boat tour of the coast. The tour guide cracked jokes, pointed out animals and faces in the stones, and lead us through grottos. He also took us by Potato beach, the beach in the photo, and the adjoining beach, Student beach. After our boat tour was over, we walked down to Potato beach for a swim the super salty, but warm and calm water. The water in Lagos is completely different from Cascais and Faro, the waves aren’t strong, the water is calm, and the water is really warm.
Going to the ends of the earth with someone or for someone is a strange cliche. I’m a fan of making things literal, if only to dismantle their meaning. So, we went to two ends of the earth, or at least of Portugal: Cabo de Roca near Sintra, the Western most point, and Ilha Deserta, the Southern most point.
Cabo de Roca had a spectacular view of the ocean. We hiked down the trail, then climbed past onto the rocks as far as we could. We spent a few hours staring out over the water.
Ilha Deserta is an island about an hour south of Faro. The island is “deserted”or uninhabited, but features a gorgeous bio restaurant run by solar power, and a sandy beach dotted in shells. We spent a lovely day lounging on the beach, and had an incredible lunch of xarem, a starchy polenta with prawns and clams, and clam rice.
Having traveled to a deserted island, I guess we answered the proverbial hypothetical question: what would you take to a deserted island? The answer: gf cookies, towels, bathing suits, a kobo glo with Game of Thrones (him), a print out of a Levinas article (me), and our phones ( how else could we share pics?). What would you pack to a deserted island?
I never really understood the t- shirts that said (name a city) is for lovers. What does that sentiment mean? what city discourage love? I have a strange fondness for the ’70s typography that usually accompanies that wonky slogan.
We love Lisbon. So much that we’ve neglected updating this blog. If in Barcelona we sought after tradition, in Lisbon we are steeped in it. Tins of seafood are not the only things preserved here.
Last weekend we went to the thieves market, a huge outdoor market with antiques, factory seconds, junk, and cheap goods. It was enormous! Huge! The biggest open market that I have experienced. We were tempted by vintage meat grinders and 100 year old tiles, but in the end we walked away with two smurfs for my sister and a vintage Portugese Communist Party change purse for my brother.
We walked, quite far, to the north end of the city for the ultimate seafood treasure. We had watched the episode of No Reservations about Lisbon (since M does research for tv it made sense to trust their researchers), and were determined to find O Ramiro. Thankfully we did. We ordered a dozen oysters, a plate of barnacles, a whole crab and had the traditional steak sandwich for dessert. It was incredible! Every morsel was amazing! The barnacles resembled a compound of shells, bone and electrical tape, more art project than food, but inside was a crimson almost fuchsia soft ocean flavoured morsel. Not to mention the ridiculously delicious thinly pounded garlicky steak. All that food, and we paid 55eu, our most expensive meal yet!
Sintra was perhaps the coolest of our experiences. The castle was interesting, but the walk up to the height cross took us into the clouds. My ears popped as we walked up the winding passage ways. The view was amazing, but perhaps the video speaks for itself. (Sorry, it costs $60 to add video, I promise to show you when we get home or you can see it via Instagram )
There is so much colour on the streets of Lisbon. The streets are all neutrals–typically at least three shades–but the houses are coated in bright plaster or decorated in patterned tiles from street to roof. There is little other decoration on the houses. Mostly just one pattern of tile or one bright colour. Joyful elegance.
There is lots to love about Lisbon: the constant surprise of steep elevation in the streets; the vintage trams that people run up to and jump on the doorway, holding on for a couple streets before jumping off again; the local markets that overflow with fresh seafood (we bought two large pieces of tuna belly for 5 eu), veggies, and bouquets of herbs (we bought a huge bag sized bundle of mint for 1 eu); the local boutiques that offer bespoke clothing; the waterfront that features cheap and quick service to the points along the river (1.20 eu and service every 10 mins); the restoration of buildings–a local shop has a baroque interior original to the building; the people walk slowly, sit in public squares without food or coffee and chat with friends, and they are kind and helpful and interject when waiters don’t quite understand why you don’t want bread and slowly pronounce the Portuguese word for lupini beans; and generally, it feels very relaxed. Lisbon has its own elegance that does not need comparisons to other European cities (I loathe it when cities are compared to Paris, as if Paris is only elegant European capital).
This character from Wim Wender’s A Lisbon Story moves through some of the sounds of Lisbon:
Yesterday we took the ferry across to Almada. It was a quick 10 minute voyage that offered a beautiful view of the city. We walked through abandoned warehouses, took an elevator up the side of the rock, visited an art gallery, and took a short pilgrimage to visit Christo Rei. The temperature was at least 35 celsius yesterday, and so the uphill walk was gruelling. The visit to the top of the structure was well worth it. After the walk we were both ready for dinner on the shoreline at Porto Final. The slow service gave us time to rehydrate and relax, and enjoy the view of the sun moving across the surface of the water.