This area of Portugal is so full of reminders of home that it easy to feel comfortable here, even while bemused by the contrasts. Here it is warm like at home, sandy beaches extend for over a hundred miles along the Atlantic, and more English is spoken than Portuguese.
There are oleanders, birds of paradise, palm trees, nopales-bearing cacti, fig and orange trees, oaks dot the hills, lantana decorate the yards and streets. And there are freeways, gated communities, lots of tourists and a sense of no longer being quite in Portugal.
As usual, we walked. In Lagos (“LAH-goosh”), we sauntered along the river on a wide promenade, past the yacht harbor, then the more modest fishing harbor, past the castle and ending at the beach. In Faro, we mounted steep tiny stairs to the top of the cathedral tower for a glorious view of the city, harbor and ocean beyond. We discovered the national park where the Ria Formosa meets the Atlantic in a blend of salt marshes, pine forests, sand dunes and ocean. We hiked to the top of the Rocha de Pena for a view of the mountains, ocean, and remains of an Iron Age wall built to keep out invaders. include a photo!)
And yet… travel just two miles inland, or find the side streets, and you’re in Portugal again: windy, cobblestoned streets (we got lost even with the map app, as Siri insists on giving street names, and such labels are almost non-existent here), the through roads are punctuated by roundabouts, the freeways are truly free, as we never encountered a back-up, and, as always, one may pause at any point on every excursion for an exquisite tiny cup of espresso, the purchase of which allows one any amount of lingering, unquestioned.
And we ate at back-street tascas, tiny, family-run restaurants featuring local dishes (I haven’t tried, and don’t plan to try, octopus but if Bob does, I’ll include a photo!
The days are settling into a sort-of routine: sleep in late, leisurely breakfast, blog/FB/read/plan travel, then set out at about noon for the day’s explorations. Break it up with cafes, perhaps a siesta, late afternoon, we get in some more activity, then a very leisurely dinner before retiring at about 10-11 pm. It has been a true vacation week.
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