Tuesday, June 28, 2005

HIATUS

I will be temporarily “off” from the blog world due to important things that I need to focus on.

It is a pity making this decision since I have learned to love blogging and enjoyed meeting and exchanging hellos and ideas with the beautiful people in the blog world. But my time and efforts, previously devoted to this exercise, must be spent efficiently and effectively to new challenges (hint: career).

I don't know how long this hiatus will take but I will be back.


Cakes and Picnic at the Voorveldse Polder in Utrecht, just fresh from the Portugal beach and culture holiday trip. My sister in law took this foto with their camera and mailed it to us last weekend.

I will leave you with some “quotes and the most recent foto of me taken a few days ago during the day when I turned 35.

Envy is an insult to oneself - Yevgene Yevytushenko, Russian Poet

Envy is a symptom of lack of appreciation of our own uniqueness and self worth. Each of us has something to give that no one else has - Unknown Author

Let us learn to appreciate each other... shall we?

Visit Period: June 2005
Destination: Utrecht North (Utrecht), The Netherlands

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Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Lovely Old Albufeira

Albufeira, a small fortified town existed 2,000 years ago. It was previously called, Baltrum by the Romans. Centuries later, the Moors claimed the area and renamed it to “Al-Buhera”. Trading with North Africa flourished in Al-Buhera under the Moors.

In 1250, the christian Knights of Santiago re-conquered the town but failed to maintain its trading port. A succession of earthquakes in the 1700’s destroyed the town. It was only in the 1970’s that Al-Buhera, now Albufeira regained its importance in the industry form of TOURISM.

The typical Albufeira whitewashed buildings, a mix of old and new... shot taken from the outskirts of the Centrum, in the upper part where we parked the car.

The “Albufeira Old Town and Centrum” is just 3 to 5 minutes drive from our hotel in Praia da Oura.

By daytime and also nighttime, the streets leading to the main square are filled with gorgeous shops, cafes, and restaurants. In the evenings, it is transformed into a jovial place, and the main square is crammed with people eager to watch all the variety of entertainments such as puppet show, the Inca’s dance, fire show, mime show, and many others. Yes, all of this happening right in the main square.

Shopping and café lane in the Centrum which leads, on the other direction, to the tunnel that exits to the Albufeira beach.

The small tunnel, flanked by sellers, leads to the Albufeira Beach.

Albufeira Beach and the City… Ah a refreshing combination so to speak.

Cobbled stairs are very typical Portuguese. I sometimes have the feeling that the streets here are an extension to your living room! Hehe.

And these too! The tiny cobbled streets and corners full of fascinating shops, ah just what I adore! I don’t mind getting lost in this kind of maze. Those ubiquituos wrought iron lanterns are typical Portuguese too.

A corner of the Albufeira main square, the side streets brimming with vendors.

I am taking a rest here by the Albufeira main square, relaxing my feet from too much walking.

The view right across where I was sitting.

Whitewashed houses and apartments hanging above the Albufeira main square.

The sun setting low in Albufeira main square.

Having a glass of red wine, Proost (Cheers)!

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Algarve, Portugal: Loule Mountain Village


Loule is a rural administrative town in the mountains of Algarve. The town produces different kinds of tourism souvenirs made out of copperware, cane, wood, and leather.

Loule` also has a few castle ruins dating back to the 12th Century. This medieval moorish castle has been virtually destroyed leaving only some of the original walls still standing that are now surrounded by much more modern architecture.


A shopping street in Loule town centre.


We stopped by a bakery cafe for some coffee and local rice muffins, Bolo de Arroz.


A rusted typical Portuguese veranda.

Travel Period: June 2005
Destination: Loule (Algarve), Portugal

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Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

Friday, June 24, 2005

Portugal V: LISBON the capital


Dutchman and I decided that we will pay for a 1 day Lisbon tour than driving ourselves and going through the hassle of parking nightmare, getting lost in the crowded city, and missing the important places to see.

We woke up early, we had to be at the pick up place 6:40AM. I let the Dutchman study the map. 6:40AM sharp we were standing in the highway that slices THE STRIP but it looked like it’s not the meeting place. The Dutchman panicked! I grabbed the map, studied it quickly and lectured Dutchman that he missed the first crossing which is before THE STRIP. Ugh, we ran back, as fast as we could muster since it’s a little bit over a 5 minute walk.

My mind is running wild, “Shit I don’t want to miss this Lisbon trip. You Dutchman must drive me there if the bus left us!

And in the Dutchman’s mind, “Damn € 90 (US$ 109) down the drain!

We arrived at the pick up place 6:50AM and true enough, the bus left us. We were sitting in the street pavement arguing like little kids about our predicament. We didn’t know what to do!? I was angry and the feeling of hopelessness started sinking in me. I wanted to shake and hold Dutchman guilty for the next 10 years for reading the map wrong, GRRR! But after 10 minutes, our hopes were renewed, a tourist bus came by but it was not the tour company we signed up. A little over 3 minutes came another tourist bus, AH FINALLY the right bus, OUR BUS!!! Ecstatic, we hopped into the bus and apologized to the tour guide for being late. Well they actually came back for us.

With the group tour, the woman in red pants and white shirt is our Portuguese tour guide. She made a red flag just in case we get lost then it would be easy for us to find her back.

The journey from Albufeira to Lisbon was a 3.5 hours drive, with a 15 minute drinks and muscle relaxing stopover. We were lead by a tour guide who spoke alternately in 2 languages, English and Deutsch, all throughout the tour. Many of the holiday goers were English, Germans, and Dutch. We the Dutch counterpart didn’t mind that there is no translation in Dutch, after all the Dutch are fluent in English and they can understand Deutsch.

MOSTEIRO dos JERONIMOS

That’s me posing in front of the extensive and intricate façade of the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos (Jeronimo’s Monastery) in Belem. It took a century to build this monastery which is referred to by historians as the JEWEL of the “Manueline” style.

This is the imposing marble altar of the monastery's cathedral. Its walls and dome ceiling are adorned with the paintings of Jesus Christ. I think the walls flanking the altar were tombs of some of Portugal’s nobles.

The Cathedral’s intimidating grandiose ceiling interior, an example of the “Manueline” architecture. The arches loomed right in front of us and it actually gave me a goofy feeling.

Sitting under the lighted candle chandelier… and check the background, though the details are not clear, the doors you see are the church’s confession cloisters, I think.

A little bit of PORTUGUESE HISTORY

This is a replica of the plane that FIRST traveled the South Atlantic route in 1921.

Sacadura Cabral” and “Gago Coutinho”, Portugal’s pioneer naval aviators first flew the route, Lisbon, Portugal - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1921. They say it is one of the world’s historical and remarkable flights, having flown with only a small single engine wood and fabric seaplane, and without a radio.

The “Tower of Belem” facing the river Tagus. If Paris has its “Eiffel Tower”, London its “Big Ben”, then Lisbon has its “Tower of Belem”.

The “Tower of Belem” is part of the 3 pronged fortresses, Cascais, St. Sebastião da Caparica, and the Tower of Belem, forming as Lisbon’s defense, spearheaded and outlined by King Jao II (1455-1495). King Manuel I finished the project after succeeding King Jao II’s death.

The construction started in 1514 and was finished in 1520 under the leadership of Francisco da Arruda.

The Tower of Belem was built in memory of its patron saint, St. Vincent.

Padrao dos Descrobrimentos(Monument of the Discoveries) in Belem by the river Tagus.

The monument was constructed in 1960, during the 500 year honorarium of “Henry the Navigator”, as a remembrance of the height of Portugal’s “Age of Discoveries” in the 15th and 16th centuries. Carved in the monument are Portugal’s maritime heroes and royalties.

There is also a compass which is part of the monument. It was a gift from the Republic of South Africa to Portugal in 1960.

Ponte 25 de Abril (The 25 of April bridge).

This 2,278 meter long bridge was opened in 1966 and used to be named as Ponte Salazar, after the president dictator Salazar. Right after the Portuguese revolution in 1974, the bridge was renamed to “Ponte 25 de Abril”, as a commemoration of the “day” and the “place” the revolution took place - when the Portuguese people regained its democracy from hard grip of its president dictator, Salazar.

This bridge actually resembled like the Golden Gate Bridge of San Francisco, USA.


ROSSIO

Rossio” is the charming square in the heart of Lisbon. In the middle of the square is a statue of “Dom Pedro IV” and at its foot are the four female figures representing justice, wisdom, strength and moderation. He was born into the Portuguese royal family and was the first emperor of Brazil (1822-1831).

The “Rossio Square” with Dom Pedro IV’s monument.

IHere’s a close up view of the fountain and a menagerie display of windows from the opposite building as its background.

THE CENTRUM

The shopping areas of Lisbon are right in the smack of its Centrum. The streets are beautifully formatted in cobbled stones with lovely inviting terraces and cafes, the perfect resting place for any thirsty and hungry tourist.

The street “Rua Augusta”, one of the popular shopping lanes of Lisbon, is bordered by 2 magnificent squares, “The Rossio Square” and “The Commerce Square” which is behind the “Rua Augusta Arch”.

The grand “Rua Augusta Arch” that leads to “The Commerce Square” also known as the Palace Square.

Rua da Prata” (Street of Silver), another shopping lane in the Centrum parallel to Rua Augusta.

A newspaper and magazine stand in the heart of Lisbon, this I think is a very typical sight in the South of Europe.

Paintings for sale! This foto reminds me of “Montmartre Square” in Paris. Click here for a foto of me in Montmartre.

After walking from one shopping lane to another, I begged Dutchman for some rest.

PORTUGUESE STYLE

Up and close with the magnificent aged Portuguese architecture. They are simply stunning, quite distinctive to what I have already seen in other European cities. See that carved Gothic monument on the higher left side of the foto? That’s the “Igreja du Carmo”.

Check the castle on top of the foto! CASTELO de SAO JORGE, an enchanting citadel nested on top of the hill overlooking the Centrum. Conquered by the Moors in 1147, later being used as a fortress, the castle and its surroundings are now a home to many families.

I have never seen such lovely transport as this. Must be the cutest tram in the world!

There were more beautiful and interesting places and historical things to see in Lisbon, but helaas, we didn’t have the luxury of time.


The photos are also not of the best quality since I have to reduce the sizes and pixels, because if not, this blog will cough up to oblivion with the traffic of pictures :-).

Coming Next:

Portugal VI: Lovely Old Albufeira and Silves

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Algarve, Portugal: Little Querenca

querenca algarve portugal

Querenca is a small village. A traditional Algarvian mountain village located in the north of Loule`. The main attraction is its 16th century church on the square.

We just quickly passed by here when we were visiting Loule. It is very quiet here.

querenca algarve portugal

Travel Period: June 2005
Destination: Querenca, Loule (Algarve), Portugal

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Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Portuguese Cuisine, Shopping, and Etcetera

Surprising things in Portugal:

1. The Portuguese speak good English. Even the waiters and shop girls will speak English to you which is an amazing thing since if you head eastward to big neighbor, Spain, you won't survive there without mastering a few Spanish phrases.

The only Portuguese word I knew was: OBRIGADA/OBRIGADO which means Thank You.

2. They have great coffee. I didn't expect it but the coffee there even in those tiny cafes were pretty good. I was impressed.

3. The region of Algarve is pretty much organized. And clean too. Dutchman noticed it and had to make a remark. Now that is something coming from the obsessive organized Dutch.

4. Everyone thinks I am Portuguese! So naturally they all speak Portuguese to me and I always end up saying, NO I AM NOT PORTUGUESE! They apologize and say they thought I was a local. Though a few Portuguese guys asked me if I am Portuguese or not. They were unsure. Funny.

5. Algarve is windy. Ack, just like Holland, but surely the weather is much much better.

6. The region of Algarve was more expensive than expected. You can smell the money there. It is twice or three times the price of Greece, and more expensive than Spain too. For example, you can eat for EUR 2 to EUR 3 (US$ 3.50 to US$ 4.50) English Breakfast in Greece. In Portugal they usually start at EUR 6 to EUR 7 (US$ 7.50 to US$ 8.50) and that is still without coffee or tea.

7. Real Estate too was relatively expensive. A 2 room flat (apartment/condo) in Algarve is worth EUR 120,000 - EUR 150,000 (US$ 144,500 - US$ 180,700). A free standing house starts at EUR 350,000 (US$ 421,6000). Many northern Europeans have 2nd homes in Algarve. But I didn't expect real estate prices will be that close to the market prices here in NL.

Samples of Portugues Cuisine:

'Bolo de Arroz', Portuguese Rice Muffin but they don’t taste anything like rice!

Very typical Portuguese, 'Sardinhas' (Sardines), usually eaten by the locals for lunch or as an afternoon snack. The best I have tasted in Portugal. This sardine plate was ordered from a café in Lisbon.

A fresh breath of change: PIZZA for dinner. This is taken in Praia da Rocha near Alvor in the western part of Algarve.

The 'Cataplana', a real Portuguese seafood specialty cooked in a copper pan. I missed this one because they are usually served for 2 pax in restaurants. The Dutchman doesn’t eat anything from the sea! *Cry*

Appetizers: Stuffed Mussels but I ate them as my main course meal in a cafe by the beach.

Having dinner here with shrimp in Portuguese HOT Piri-Piri sauce, unfortunately it is hardly seen due to the light.

We just need to have our usual Tomato ration...

Here are some SHOPPING Scenes in the country, in Algarve:

The 'Gypsy Market' at Quarteira. I didn’t buy anything here.

This is a typical tourist souvenir shop in Praia da Oura.

Shopping in Praia da Oura’s THE STRIP. This is the main highway or crossing that slices the THE STRIP.

And more scenes around the region...

How can we forget the Olives? This was taken in the mountains of Algarve near Alte`.

Slow train ride in Praia da Oura to Albufeira old town. This mini-train is very high-tech, fully equipped with a computerized cash register, and is the only public transport available other than the taxi cabs.

We passed through this town called “Purgatorio” which means PURGATORY in English!

How cool their ATM's in Praia da Oura, Albufeira.

Mix of OLD and NEW traffic directions.


Coming Next: Gorgeous Lisbon and lovely Albufeira

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