August 31, 2010

Water Wednesday - Horseshoe Falls, Niagara Falls, Canada

I spent two days just enjoying these magnificant falls!

Yes, I did take a ride on that boat!
And this was the view from the front of the boat!

Visit "Watery Wednesday" to enjoy some more amazing pictures!

August 29, 2010

It's Carnaval in Portugal!

"Carnaval" is Portuguese for "Carnival".  And today, February 15th, we need to figure out what we are going to dress up as for tonight's festivities!

Carnaval traditionally is the time for frivolity and feasting before lent begins. In this area, the Portuguese take the preparation quite seriously! It’s a show of the best of the best and there is a fun element of showing each other up in costuming.  And as you will see in the photos to follow, there were some pretty great costumes.

Here is a photo of part of our group before we headed out on the town for some food, drink, and dancing!

can you name these characters?
We arrived at "A Nossa Tasca" where about another 70 people where ready to celebrate the night away!  Tables where set up end to end in a U-shape so that everyone was able to visit while the pitchers of red wine and the endless trays of food kept coming. 

Yes, I'm going to talk about food again!  I learned quickly that the Portuguese are always thinking of their next meal, typically during the one their eating at the moment.  And I know why......the Portuguese food is sooooo very good!

Of course already on the tables were the traditional green olives and bread.  Tonight we enjoyed a bean stew with carrots and squid with rice, a salad, and platters of thin slices of pork.

I found that everyone was very friendly...........................

and others seemed to want to take control.............

But when the Pope entered the room everyone was on their best behavior!

It was a fun night as we danced the night away until 4:30am!

See more pictures by clicking "Where's Debbie" and then click on the album "Carnaval"

August 27, 2010

Romance in Ferragudo

After such a busy day exploring the "Monchiques", we decided to just relax and enjoy each other's company on this Valentine's Day.

As evening drew near we walked to the "Square" to have a drink before deciding on where we would eat tonight to celebrate St. Valentine's Day.

"Ferragudo" is such a wonderful place to just walk and explore.  We walked along the waterfront and tried to make a decision on which restaurant we would like to try tonight.  There are only 3 restaurants to choose from along the waterfront, and at the moment they all looked closed.  But you see, Europeans eat much later in the evening, and me, as an American can't seem to get used to this.

But I popped my head into "Restaurante A Ria" to ask if they were open and he said, "of course".  We were alone here for almost 30 minutes before other couples started to arrive for their romantic dinner.

We had a nice private corner table and our waiter started us out with some green olives, cheese, carrots with garlic and some really great bread!  We then ordered as an appetizer the Camarao Frito (fried shrimps) and Liguerao A Ria (Razor Clams "A Ria" style!)

Wow!  I had never seen a razor clam before!  And oh my goodness were they good!

We decided on the House specialty "Cataplana A Ria" for two.
"Cataplana" is a Portuguese seafood dish, popular on the country's Algarve coast.  Cataplana is also the name for both the recipe and utensil in which you cook it.

This takes about 45 minutes to prepare, but oh my goodness, it is worth the wait!

Filled with shrimp, clams, octopus, and vegetables....I'm in Heaven!

I wouldn't have wanted to spend my Valentine's Day any other way or any other place then right here on the romantic Algarve coast with the love of my life, Stijn!

Click here to see more pictures if you like.

August 26, 2010

Beautiful Monchique - Part II

As we drove into the little mountain village of Monchique, we could see that the town has retained a rustic sense of simpler times.  It's narrow cobbled streets took us past traditional whitewashed houses with frames of doors and windows painted in bright colours.  But yet when we pass by the main square we see modern water features.  I just love how the Portuguese use so many hand painted tiles on their buildings. 

Just about 1 mile on the Fóia road from Monchique, we have finally made it to our lunch destination "O Luar Da Foia".  Alice says this is a place where you won't see a lot of tourist going to have a meal. So what better place to eat than a good traditional grill with local fare I say!

I love eating outside, and this little place had the most spectacular views!  However, it is February and the temperatures up here are quite a bit cooler, so we opted to eat inside.

Alice takes over and starts ordering us some very traditional Portuguese food.  For lunch today we start with some green olives, goat cheese, and a plate of thinly sliced boar.  And of course some great Portuguese red wine for the ladies and a Sagres beer for Stijn!

Okay, here comes the food!

Here you see a platter of some pork with a mashed bread that reminded me of stuffing, a pot of various sausages and a plate of rice and potatoes.

And to add to all of that, we had a pot of boar with cooked plums.

No meal is complete without some dessert, right?  And of course we need to try as many as possible!

It's time to get going and see some more of the Monchiques!
We arrive at "Fóia", the highest point of the Algarve at 2,959 ft above sea level.


There is a spectacular view from here looking down on the coastline.  In fact they say that on a clear day you can see from Cape St. Vincent in the west, to Faro in the east and to the Serra da Arrabida, near Lisbon, to the north!

Unfortunately the landscape at Fóia itself has been rather blighted by an array of military communications installations, as you can see in the background of one of the pictures below of a farmer with his burro and grazing goats.

 And of course there was the typical souvenir shop where we picked up some items made of cork!

It's time to start heading down the mountain, and on the way we come across one of the many spots where you can just get yourself a drink of the pure spring waters of the Monchiques.

As we continue down the mountain we take a small detour into the spa of "Caldas de Monchique". This is where the Romans built baths to utilise the natural spring waters which are still in use in the current 'thermal treatment centre' for treating rheumatism and respiratory illnesses or just plain relaxation. 

There are several walking paths here and we took the opportunity to take a little walk to a small waterfall.


The architecture here is quite different then what we saw earlier in Monchique.  I get a feel of Victorian maybe.

We decided to stop into a little wine bar here before heading back to Ferragudo, O Tasco.  I just loved the cut off stumps that double for tables and seating on the cobble patio.


But inside was amazing!  It was like walking into a cave with the rock walls and brick ceiling.  A roaring fire was perfect as everyone gathered around to watch soccer on the tv while enjoying their drink.

What a fantastic day this was back on February 13.  Starting with a morning walk on the beach, a Galão  on the square, a fabulous lunch in the beautiful Monchiques and a glass of wine next to a roaring fire to reflect on our day!

If you would like to see more pictures of our day, just click here "Where's Debbie" and then on the albums  "A Morning Walk in Ferragudo" and "Beautiful Monchique - Part I and II"

August 25, 2010

Beautiful Monchique! - Part I

As we sat on the square enjoying the sun after our walk on the beach, Alice arrived ready to show us some more of her beautiful country!  Little Sergio and mama Lucy also joined us for the trip up to the mountain village of Monchique. 

"Monchique" is a town and mountain range approximately 31 miles north of Ferragudo in the western half of the Algarve.

As we cross the Arade river we have a fabulous view of our little village, "Ferragudo"

(see the Portimão lighthouse way back there on the right?)

I saw Storks for the very first time while we were in Alsace France (click here for story) this past October, so how excited was I to see them again here in Portugal!  Here the storks love to make their 500 pound nests high atop the old brick chimneys of the now deserted sardine factories.

As we make our way up the mountain we learned about 3 types of trees that grow here in the Algarve.  The first being the Orange tree.  The Algarve produces about 70 per cent of the country’s annual yield of over 350.000 tonnes of citrus fruits, with more than half the total of the country’s citrus groves being located in this region. 

(Laranjeia means "Orange" in Portuguese)

And the orange trees are everywhere!

Next, the Cork Oak tree.

Portugal is a major cork-grower; in fact, nearly one-third of the total cork oak area, estimated at 5.3 million acres is in Portugal, which produces approximately half the cork harvested annually in the world (about 310,000 tons).  And the best quality cork comes right from here, in the province of the Algarve!

I found this fascinating, so it was really exciting to see a cork tree. 

Portuguese law prohibits stripping the trees more than once every nine years in order to protect the species.  So the numbers you see on the trunks are representative of the year that the cork was last harvested.

And lastly, the Eucalyptus tree.

Eucalyptus around every corner and as far as the eye can see!
Why?  Well, the Eucalyptus has an incredible growth rate and can grow to almost 200 feet in height if left.  They are relatively easy to grow and harvest.  They grow quickly and need little care and attention during the intervening years.  Cut them at the base of their trunks, and they will simply re-grow.

Okay, I'm hungry!

But this post is becoming quite long. I mean this is already the second post of our day on February 13th!  So I will finish up telling you about our lunch and the rest of our day in my next post.


There are a ton more pictures of this part of our day! If you would like to see them, just click here "Where's Debbie" and then on the album "Beautiful Monchique-Part I"

August 24, 2010

Watery Wednesday - St. Pantaleon France

While on a home exchange to Provence France ( click here to read that story) we came upon this quaint village, St. Pantaleon.

In the town center was this wonderful fountain with just two spouts.

So what do you think......ducks?

I am participating in Watery Wednesday and I hope you will take a look at some of the other wonderful pictures that are being shared!

August 17, 2010

Watery Wednesday - Fiji

This is a picture I took while visiting Fiji after a home exchange to Australia in December 2006.  I took a day trip to Bounty Island and there in the background you see what's left of the set from "Celebrity Love Island". 

I know, I never heard of it either.

A Morning Walk in Ferragudo

It's February 13th, and it was an absolutely beautiful day in "Ferragudo"!

Our penthouse is only about 400 yards from the Praia Grande beach, so we took a walk along the beach before meeting Alice later in the morning.

As we walked down the stairs that lead to the sand we discovered a nice beach cafe, Restaurante Praia Grande .  In fact there are a total of 3 little cafes along this small beach.

I just love these twin lighthouse's that sit at the mouth of the Arade River where it goes into the Atlantic Ocean.  The lighthouse on the left is in Ferragudo and the one on the right is in Portimão .

From here you can also see the city of "Portimão" on the other side of the Arade River.

Now I've seen a lot of castles in my travels, but this is a first for me.  A castle on the beach!

São João de Arade, sometimes referred to as "Castelo de São João do Arade" was actually a fort that began it's life in the 15th century as a lookout tower which was then extended during the late 17th early 18th centurys to play a part in the fortifications protecting the mouth of the river Arade along with the fort of Santa Catarina that is straight opposite on the bank above Portimão's modern marina. 

(That's Portimão in the distance)

After enjoying our stroll on the beach we walked over the hill to the other side of Ferragudo. On our way we had a nice view of the other side of  Castelo de São João do Arade from the other beach in Ferragudo, Angrinha. 

We walked along some narrow cobblestone streets to the town square and saw some beautiful hand painted Portuguese tiled homes.  

We picked our spot on the square which in the days to come, became our favorite place to hang out.

I ordered my two new favorite's....a Galão and a Pastel de Nata!  Remember the Pastel de Nata is that great little tart filled with custard I had the morning before.  A Galão is a Portuguese hot drink made of espresso and foamed milk served in a tall glass.  I don't like coffee, but this is made with only one-quarter coffee and three-quarters milk......YUM!

Well, Alice has just arrived and it's time for us to head up into the mountains of the Algarve.  The Monchiques!

There are so many more pictures of our morning at "Where's Debbie".  Just click on the album "A Morning Walk in Ferragudo"
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