Around the World... One Journey at a Time. Around the World... One Journey at a Time.

Portugal: Day 11

by Kathy 11. April 2011 20:32

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<< Day 10: Roman Ruins and Bones in Évora | Day 12: Rest and Relaxation in Burgau >>


Seaside Caves of Portimão

Yesterday, after our long walk through Évora, we had melted into the comfort of our (to us) quite posh set of rooms, where we stayed for the rest of the evening. We had eaten a late lunch and weren’t hungry at dinnertime. We cavalierly decided, "Let's just skip dinner tonight and have some light snacks instead." At 7:30 p.m., we nibbled some energy bars from home, and broke out the nuts from the little refrigerator in our room. By 9:30 p.m., however, we had devoured the nuts, as well as all of the crackers, cookies, chips and chocolate from the mini-bar. It was an expensive lesson, let me say. We were also on junk-food overload and had dreams of opening the fridge to find some fresh carrots or even a stalk of broccoli.

In the hotel’s breakfast room this morning, fresh fruit, yogurt and cereal had never tasted so good.

Last night while Genevieve and I were snuggling on the sofa in our sitting room, she had noticed that the mirrors behind us and across the room reflected our image in a bizarre manner. Before leaving this morning, we tried to capture that reflection in a photo:

Our plan for today was to drive about 3 hours south to the famous Algarve area along the coast of Portugal.

Once we checked out of the hotel, Ben set out on his own adventure to retrieve our car from behind the hotel, and find his way back to us through the narrow one-way streets. This was not an easy task. Let’s just say that while waiting out front, the kids and I had plenty of time to admire the beauty around us.

Next door was the Loios Church, which was locked tight. Here is Genevieve in front of the massive doors:

We were right next to the Roman Temple, which was as spectacular as ever. Genevieve and her well-traveled companion, “Mr. Bear," waited patiently:

Still waiting:

One final look at those gorgeous Corinthian capitals:

At last we were on the road, leaving historic Évora behind. A modern red and chrome sculpture sat in the middle of a traffic circle:

The outskirts had modern apartment buildings in neat rows:

Then we settled into miles of rolling green hills scattered with small trees:

Passing the town of Portel, the castle looked very intriguing . . . should we stop?

A quick look in the back seat, and we knew the answer was “no.” We just didn’t have the heart to wake Genevieve:

Forty-five minutes later, however, her eyes were open when we reached the castle-town of Beja. The town looked too enticing to pass up. We parked next to the castle, which had a graffiti-covered modern sculpture in one of the side yards. 

The Beja castle was built in the 13th century, on top of Roman and Moorish castle ruins. It now holds a small military museum. The castle tower (called Torre de Menagem) is the tallest in Portugal, standing at over 130 feet high:

The top of the tower had small spikes topped with pyramids, a design that we hadn't seen before on any other castle.

We didn’t have a town map, but we set off walking, hoping to find a small café for some refreshments. We headed south, away from the castle, passing large homes covered in beautiful azulejo tilework found throughout Portugal. Ben and Genevieve stopped in front of a tiled wall, which had the same pattern as the tiles that covered the larger home next door from top to bottom:

In the more modern part of town, we finally found a spot with outdoor tables.

Genevieve chose an ice-cream cone:

Sebastian had a lime, icy push-up:

As for me, I saw a basket of apples on the counter and picked one up. The man behind the counter then took my apple and disappeared into the back room with it.  I thought perhaps he was going to wash it off, but then he returned to the counter without it. I was wondering, “What are they doing back there with my apple?” So I asked. It turns out that they were going to wash, peel, and slice it for me. I motioned that I wanted to eat my apple whole, off the core. Although the man’s eyes grew big with disbelief (was I committing a breach of etiquette?), he rushed into the back and rescued my apple from the knife. It was tasty!

After our rest, we looped back toward the historic district.

Beja had some large modern sculpture:

Much more artistic, to me, were the layers and colors found on the old buildings:

The 15th century convent, Our Lady of the Conception (Convento de Nossa Senhora da Conceição), is a national monument that now houses the Museum of Queen Dona Leonor (Museu da Rainha D. Leonor).

A detail of the roof-line:

We ventured under the side arches and discovered some intricately carved Moorish capitals:

In front of the museum was a statue of Queen Dona Leonor:

She was known for founding various hospitals, as well as charitable organizations to provide aid for poor people and abandoned children.

Sweet Genevieve:

As we got closer to the castle, the streets became more narrow, and we pressed ourselves next to the walls whenever the cars passed:

(Notice the beautifully tiled façade of the building on the left in the above photo.)

Rising above the surrounding homes was the bell tower for St. Mary of the Market Church (Igreja de Santa Maria da Feira):

Originally built in the 13th century, the church underwent extensive renovations in subsequent centuries. The tower has bells on top and on the side, as well as clocks from two different time periods.

This red-tiled rooftop was sprouting a miniature garden of sorts:

Back at the castle walls:

Looking up:

Another view of the castle tower:

Continuing our drive south, the land flattened out:

Then we crossed the Serra de Monchique (Monchique Mountains), a forested mountain range that separates the Alentejo area of Portugal from the Algarve. The highway through the mountains felt like a winding 2-lane road on steroids:

Tonight we would be staying in a resort complex along the ocean, on the outskirts of Portimão. Normally, we shy away from resort communities, but I chose this place for two reasons: (a) the beach, and (b) the washing machine. That’s right—I actually wanted to spend my vacation time doing laundry. We travel light—2 fairly small bags for the 4 of us. We had done laundry in Nazaré, and now we were wearing our last set of clean clothes again. I welcomed the transformation into a washerwoman (extremely thankful, as always, that I didn’t have to squat next to a river and pound the wet laundry with rocks, as we have seen so many women have to do in our travels through other countries).

There is something about the ocean that makes me feel as if I can breathe more deeply and freely:

Our 2-bedroom apartment had a lovely view out over the complex:

Ben and the kids headed for the pool, while I sorted laundry and began the washing. The pool area:


The kids also enjoyed the small playground:

After every single inch of outdoor furniture on our deck was draped with drying laundry, we headed down to explore the large beach area. It was beautiful:

We loved the red and orange colors of the sea cliffs and the different shapes of the formations:

The cliff walls were made of sandstone embedded with small and large chunks of seashells:

Sebastian and Genevieve had a blast exploring all the small caves that had been carved out of the base of the walls.


Sebastian found various treasures, such as this feather:

And this rock:

Genevieve and Sebastian, inside a narrow slot:

Looking outside from the same slot:

We had the beach practically to ourselves. With so much space and freedom, the kids had fun running, rolling in the sand, climbing high, and just “being.”

This sandy wall had been reinforced with stones:

Ben climbed up one segment with Genevieve and peered into a big open space:

Here is Ben pointing at a small crevice into which Genevieve and Sebastian disappeared:

They went in here?!

Oh, there they are—in an open-top cavern!

We nick-named it the “Sky Cave.”

Looking up at Ben, who had climbed around the side of the cliff:

Here I am pointing to the narrow channel we had crawled through to enter the Sky Cave:

Out in the water were small “islands”, evidencing the severe erosion that has occurred in this area.

The small rocks on top appeared to be miniature houses at first glance—like something you might see off the rugged coast of Maine or northern Europe.

This tall arch dwarfed Genevieve:

We came across a small wooden building that might have been a refreshment stand during the busy summer months, but today it was boarded shut:

Genevieve crawled under the building and gathered some empty plastic bottles that had been tossed aside:

Then she hunted for a garbage can—not so easy to find!

We spied a trail that led up the cliffside, and walked along the edge back to our resort complex.


The beach play had worn Sebastian out, and he opted for a piggy-back ride:

For dinner, we drove a short distance to the touristy area called Praia de Rocha (Rock Beach), where we tried a new dish--chicken with flaming hot piri piri sauce, a Portuguese specialty.  Very spicy!

Here are Genevieve and Sebastian waiting for the food to arrive:

Sebastian had a lot to say about our adventures today, which had included a castle, a pool, the sandy beach, and small dark caves--all things one might find on a child's list of "top-10 favorite things."

And for me, there was all of that plus the added bonus of clean laundry!

We would all agree that it had been a great day indeed.

Back to Portugal Index Page

<< Day 10: Roman Ruins and Bones in Évora | Day 12: Rest and Relaxation in Burgau >>


Map of Our Journeys

(click the map to enlarge)
Our travel map

Places We’ve Been, w/Quick Links

   Bumthang Valley
   Gom Kora
   Paro Valley
   Punakha Dzong
   Sangdrup Jongkhar
   Wangdi Phrodrang

   Janko Marca
   La Paz
   Laguna Colorada
   Laguna Verde
   Salar de Coipasa
   Salar de Uyuni
   San Pablo
   Santa Rosa
   Sud Lipez
   World’s Most Dangerous Road

   Banff National Park
   Battle Hill Nat'l Hist. Site
   Boya Lake Prov. Park, BC
   Burns Lake Bike Park
   Canyon Sainte-Anne
   Dawson Creek
   Eastern Townships
   Fort Nelson
   Jasper National Park
   Kluane Lake, YK
   'Ksan Historical Village
   Lake Louise
   Liard Hot Springs
   Niagara Falls
   Quebec City
   Thousand Islands
   Vancouver Island
   Watson Lake

   Forbidden City
   Great Wall at Mutianyu
   Hong Kong
   Summer Palace
   Terracotta Warriors
   Tiananmen Square
   Yungang Caves

Costa Rica
   Arenal Volcano
   Finca Corsicana
   Hanging Bridges
   Manuel Antonio
   Poas Volcano
   Proyecto Asis
   Sky Trek Zip Lining
   Venado Caves


   Amazon Rainforest
   Chaquiñan Bicycle Trail
   La Mitad del Mundo
   Napo Wildlife Center
   Papallacta Hot Springs
   Proyecto DCR
   Yasuní National Park


   Baja California
   Frida Kahlo Museum
   Hierve el Agua
   Marietas Islands
   Mexico City
   Monte Alban
   Oaxaca City
   Puerto Angel
   Puerto Escondido
   Puerto Vallarta
   San Agustin
   San Martin Tilcajete
   Santa Fe de la Laguna
   Santa María el Tule
   Studio of Jacobo Angeles
   Teotitlán del Valle

   Dead Vlei
   Elondo Village
   Etosha Nat'l Park
   Hippo Pools Camp
   Hoba Meteorite
   Khowarib Camp
   Moose McGregor's Bakery
   Mowani Camp
   Ngepi Camp
   Nkasa Lupala
   n'Kwzi Camp
   River Dance Lodge
   Seisriem Camp
   Treesleeper Camp

   Cañón del Pato
   Cerro de Pasco
   La Oroya
   Machu Picchu
   Nuevo Jaén
   Tingo Maria
   Yungay Memorial


South Africa

   Rock of Gibraltar
   Santillana del Mar

United States National Parks
   Arches National Park, UT
   Badlands National Park, SD
   Bandelier National Monument, NM
   Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
   Cahokia Mounds (UNESCO site), IL
   Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
   Canyon de Chelly Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Cape Hatteras National Shoreline, NC
   Capitol Reef National Park, UT
   Civil Rights Memorial, AL
   Death Valley National Park, CA
   Denali National Park, AK
   Devil’s Tower National Monument, WY
   El Morro National Monument, NM
   Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.
   Glacier National Park, MT
   Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
   Grand Tetons National Park, WY
   Great Basin National Park, NV
   Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI
   Joshua Tree National Park, CA
   Kaloko-Honokohau Nat'l Hist. Park, HI
   Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks, NM
   King's Canyon National Park, CA
   Martin Luther King Jr. Nat'l Hist. Site, GA
   Mesa Verde National Park, CO
   Montezuma's Castle Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Monticello, VA
   Mount Rushmore National Memorial, SD
   Mt. Rainier National Park, WA
   Olympic National Park, WA
   Petrified Wood National Park, AZ
   Pinnacles National Monument, CA
   Pu'uhonua o Honaunau Nat'l Hist Pk, HI
   Pu'ukohola Heiau Nat'l Historic Site, HI
   San Antonio Missions Nat'l Hist. Park, TX
   Tuzigoot National Monument, AZ
   Walnut Canyon National Monument, AZ
   Washington Monument
   White Sands National Monument, NM
   Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, AK
   Wright Brothers National Memorial in NC
   Yellowstone National Park, WY
   Yosemite National Park, CA

United States, Cities and Places
   The Alamo, TX
   Alaska Wildlife Conservation Cntr.
   Alpine Loop in CO
   Anchorage, AK
   Antares Junction, AZ
   Arctic Circle, AK
   Barrel Oak Winery in VA
   Biloxi, MS
   Bottle Tree Farm in CA
   Calico Ghost Town, CA
   Canfield Mountain Trail System, ID
   Cape St. Vincent, NY
   Carson City, NV
   Carter Caves State Park in KY
   Chappie-Shasta OHV Area, CA
   Child's Glacier, AK
   Circle B Chuckwagon Show in SD
   City Museum in MO
   Cody, WY
   Corn Palace in SD
   Crazy Horse Memorial in SD
   Custer State Park, SD
   Dalton Highway, AK
   Dinosaur Tracks in AZ
   Discovery Place in Charlotte, NC
   Dry Falls (Sun Lakes-Dry Falls), WA
   Fairbanks, AK
   Front Royal, VA
   Gallup, NM
   Goffs, CA
   Grand Canyon Caves, AZ
   Grand Canyon Skywalk, AZ
   Grave Digger Monster Truck in NC
   Great Salt Lake, UT
   Hackberry General Store in AZ
   Hannibal, MO
   Hatteras Island, NC
   Hawaii (Big Island)
   Hickison Petroglyphs, NV
   Holbrook, AZ
   Hole in the Rock, UT
   Homer, AK
   Honey Island Swamp Tour in LA
   Hoover Dam, NV
   Hyder, AK
   Jim Gray’s Petrified Wood Co. in AZ
   John’s Peak OHV Area, OR
   Kailua-Kona, HI
   Keepers of the Wild Nature Park in AZ
   Kennecott, AK
   Kennecott Copper Mine in UT
   Kingman, AZ
   Lake Havasu, AZ
   Lake Tahoe, NV
   Las Vegas, NV (winter 2010)
   Little Brown Church in IA
   London Bridge in AZ
   Loneliest Road in America, Hwy. 50, NV
   Los Angeles, CA
   Lost Colony Show on Roanoke Isl., NC
   Lowe’s Speedway in NC
   Mardi Gras World in LA
   Mark Twain Museum in MO
   Meteor Crater, AZ
   Million Dollar Highway, CO
   Minnesota Zoo
   Mitchell, SD
   Moab, UT
   Moab, UT (dirt biking)
   Montgomery, AL
   Montpelier, ID
   Navajo Nation, AZ
   Needles, CA
   Nevada Beach, NV
   Newberry Springs, CA
   New River Gorge, WV
   New Orleans, LA
   Niagara Falls 
   North Pole, AK
   Oatman, AZ
   Old Faithful Geyser in WY
   Omak Stampede, WA
   Painted Desert, AZ
   Park City, UT (summer)
   Plymouth, NC
   Portage Valley, AK
   Portland, OR
   Prospect OHV Trail System, OR
   Resaca, GA
   Riverside State Park, WA
   Rock City in TN
   Rosa Parks Library and Museum in AL
   Roswell, NM
   Russian River, AK
   Salt Lake City, UT
   San Antonio, TX
   San Diego, CA
   San Juan Islands, WA
   San Francisco, CA
   Santa Catalina Island, CA
   Seattle, WA
   Sedona, AZ
   Shoe Tree in CA
   Shoe Tree in NV
   Silverton, CO
   Sonora, TX
   St. Louis, MO
   St. Paul, MN
   Talkeetna, AK
   Telluride, CO
   Route 66
   Twin Knobs Recreation Area in KY
   Virginia Beach, VA
   Washington D.C.
   Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park in IL
   Williamsburg, VA
   Winom Frazier OHV Area, OR
   Winslow, AZ
   Zion National Park, UT

Planning Our Adventures

For us, each journey begins with the initial heart pangs to venture to a certain part of the world. Then the ideas start coming together . . . ahh, the possibilities . . . and the dream evolves gradually into an actual plan. But, oh, the joy of the dream!  Click here to learn more about how we plan and prepare for our journeys.

Where Are We Now?

Click here to discover where we are now, as well as our uncoming travel plans.

Words for the Heart

“. . . and then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Anais Nin