How Sharon Spent Her Birthday

If you missed them, please see parts 1, 2, and 3.

Technically this starts the day before Sharon’s birthday but we needed to include a brief tale of shopping madness. First a little background. Sharon and I love to cook. As geeky as it sounds, we were actually fairly excited about the fact that we were staying in an apartment hotel with cooking facilities so that we could cook a few of our own meals. We were equally excited to see what grocery stores looked like in this part of the world. We had noticed that most grocery stores (supermercados) were very small, more like corner stores, so we asked the front desk where we might find a big grocery store. On our way down to the beach we had stopped at a little grocery store and picked up a map so we were quite a bit more confident in our ability to find our way around so with his instruction, we knew where to go.

We made our way out of town with the plan to go past the store on the highway to the small town of Guia for some dinner and then stop at the store on the way back. This pretty much went as planned. Dinner was pretty good but nothing to write home about since, as we were to discover, much of Portuguese cooking is very simple. Fresh, tasty and hearty but simple. On the way back we stop at the store which sounds easier than it turns out to be. First, a little context, courtesy of Google. Relatively innocuous looking map but it really doesn’t capture the overwhelming complexity of the situation. Traditionally in Europe, most traffic control areas are either roundabouts or, on busier highways, standard on-off ramps like you would see anywhere. Referring to the map you have on the top, the Portuguese equivalent of Home Depot and Costco. On the bottom is a fairly large mall that includes a grocery store. A grocery store as big as a normal one in Canada is not a supermercado but rather a ‘hypermercado’. Sounds very impressive but the store is not what we’re here to discuss.

Coming down the highway from any direction you have 3 choices in every direction. Go straight to continue past, go right to get to the store on the right or split the difference to go up over the bridge to the store on the left. Here’s the kicker though. The bridge goes over and turns back onto the highway where you have to merge not only with traffic coming from the highway but traffic leaving the mall. So you have a three way split that leads into a three way merge. Twice for each direction! They could have just built a bridge and then had on and off ramps but that would have been far too simple. Couple that with the fact that the entire parking lot is one way lanes that lead you around for a couple kilometers before you can get out and you’ll understand why we gave up. We saw the ‘Costco’ equivalent and then drove around for so long, nearly getting into accidents, trying to get to the other side that we gave up and went home. It turns out that the little supermercados are actually fantastic anyway because they don’t try to sell everything in the universe like Canadian grocery stores.

The next day is Sharon’s birthday so we want to make it mostly things that she wants to do. Clearly that means there must be a beach and potentially some shopping involved at some point. Off we go to Lagos. We took the smaller highway so that we could stop at all the little shops and see the small towns along the way. Lagos is a cute little fishing village with a good marina and nice markets and beaches. It’s not as built up with hotels and resorts as some of the other towns (ie. Albufeira) so it still has a small town feel to it.

Enough chat. Time for pictures. Here’s our parking spot in the old town. This is our first experience driving in the really narrow streets so we’re glad for the small car. We packed a lunch so we have a bite before heading off to explore.

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A better look at the streets. The little railings keep people from blocking peoples doors and windows with their cars. Note the mirror for seeing around corners.

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The waterfront.
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Colorful boats (barcos) down at the marina.

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The fish market.

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Detail of tile patterns. Don’t stare too long or you get dizzy.

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Lovely green tiles covering a building in a plaza.

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Stairway up through the streets.

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After a nice wander about the town, off to the Praia da Dona Ana, one of the nicest beaches in southern Portugal.

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Hey, there we are!

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After some fun in the sun it was back to our hotel to relax a bit before dressing to go to dinner. Our ‘Top 10’ book had recommended a restaurant in town as one of the nicest in the Algarve region so that seemed like a good destination for dinner. It was called ‘La Ruina’ and it was in an old ruined building that had been restored right on the beach. We took some photos of the outside which also shows the waterfront. The beach we’re on is called ‘Praia dos Pescadores’ (Fisherman’s Beach) and is also known as ‘Praia dos Barcos’ (Beach of Boats). This is where many of the fishermen pull their boats up after a night’s work and during the day you can see the colorful boats lined up on the sand.  La Ruina is the one on the point behind us.

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There are at least three or four floors in this restaurant including a rooftop balcony.

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The way one eats at this restaurant is to walk up to the display case where the headwaiter will describe to you what has been caught that day and how you may have it prepared. We each had appetizers and a main course, I the sea bass and Sharon the crab. I had grilled sardines as my appetizer and, come to think of it, that was one of the few times I had seafood that actually had their heads cut off. You make up for it though because you eat the whole thing, bones, fins and all. Really tasty. Sharon had a salad that was made with fresh tuna that was also delicious. The sea bass and crab were to die for. There’s something to be said for eating fish that was swimming just a few hours ago.

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Tune in next time when we find out how Sharon and Kris buy and cook their own fish.

Kris

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