Sunday, July 29, 2012

Helter Skelter

Kath and I headed out to Portugal last Sunday, we both had two weeks off work with Joe and Holly's wedding in the middle so we had decided to escape to the sunshine before the wedding.

I picked Kath up on Saturday from Liverpool airport at 2pm. I had spent the morning sorting out the house but had neglected to pick up a couple of items for the trip. I needed some new sunglasses and a pair of swimming shorts so we headed to the shops to get them. Fortunately for me Kath is the best shopping advisor and was able to help me find everything I needed.

Arriving in Faro about 6pm then a lengthy wait for our bags we finally got on board the airport transfer to Estoi. We were staying at the Hotel Pousada De Estoi, a converted Palace with a modernist extension. Guest rooms are situated in the grand designs style modernist building. While the Palace has been renovated and serves as a rather impressive location for the bar, salon, and dining area.

I had paid a little extra to get one of the superior rooms, it really lived up, and exceeded my expectations. The bed was huge, really huge like double kingsize! We were actually worried to lose each other in it.

The hotel wasn't near to the coast but fortunately made up for that by having an excellent pool with a spectacular view right out to sea. On the first day we spent a lot of time by the pool, it was a very relaxing place to soak up the sun read, and swim. I read some more of my book Life and Fate, and Kath surfed on the iPad.

The town of Estoi was a small place. According to the guidebook it had several cafés and a Roman ruin. The actual town was pretty small, but with plenty of character. The centre had a square, Church courtyards and a number of Cafés. We attempted to find the Roman Ruins, the guide book suggested that they were a 15 minute walk downhill from the centre. From the centre of the town three routes led downhill. We walked down the first route until the pavement ended and the amount of traffic made us decide to turn back. Next we tried the second direction this time we walked for 15 minutes until we ended up at an empty market in the middle of nothing. Finally we tried the last direction this took us into a load of apartments no ruins to be found. Given the heat we stopped to have a beer a sit down at a café before wondering back to the town centre still not having seen any ruins. On the way back to town we spotted a sign pointing us to the ruins down guess what the first road we walked down. Feeling hungry we decided to eat before visiting the Ruins. There was a small inviting café, a little run down but clean and somewhat homely. I had a Portuguese style steak, which was essentially a steak topped with ham and a fried egg. Kath had a steak with mushroom sauce. This was paired with a bottle of local Red wine. It was all very good and we enjoyed it very much however after the wine we felt ready for a siesta so headed back to the hotel.

On Tuesday we decided to go and visit Faro. Booking a taxi from the hotel a rather enthusiastic taxi driver took us to Faro dropping us off then saying that we must call him for a lift back no-one else.
We wondered around Faro finding a nice little restaurant where I had one of the best calamaris, Kath had tuna.

Wednesday we finally made it to the Ruins in Estoi. We were really glad that we finally made the journey. Though we felt somewhat silly that we hadn't walked the extra 5 minutes on the first day.  The ruins chart over 1000 years of development. Starting with the Romans then charting the different ages as new buildings were constructed on or around the Roman villa.

Thursday we headed to Olhão a fishing port about 9km form the hotel.  It is famous in that after the French were pushed out of Portugal following the Peninsular war some sailors set out for Brazil in a fishing boat, sailing there in three months without any navigational aids to tell the King the news. We decided that we fancied some spicy food. We found the Indian Hut five minutes walk from the beach. The waiter was extremely polite and the food was spectacular. I hadn't expected much from the décor however the chutneys were all home made, and the starters were very tasty; Seek kebab and chicken Samosas. By the time the main course arrived I was already thinking it was one of the best Indian meals that I had ever had. Even the traditional palate cleanser was special instead of a mint with the bill we were served a mix of spices and seeds, it was a real treat.

For our final night we decided to have dinner in Olhão again. Taking a taxi again we had the crazy driver from our Faro trip. He seemed offended that we didn't call him direct as he asked, but given he charged us an extra 5 Euros than the taxis the day before we were pretty glad that we hadn't! This time we had a Pizza from Docas' pizza on the seafront. It was a lovely pizza but we had to wait for ages to get them. After the Pizza we had a couple of drinks before heading back to the hotel.