October 25, 2003 GMT
Hello Portugal !!

Okay, it is October 25th and we have made it to Albufeira in the Algarve. Ahhh, sunny and warm and ocean and ....... tourists.

But I well get to that.

After leaving Salamanca (a city we both liked) we head for Portugal and a city called Coimbra ( pronounced queembra) We decide to stay in a chain hotel near the centre of the city. We arrive a bit late in the day and just crash in the room. This city has a bit of a rough feel to it. Not sure why.

It is Thanksgiving in Canada and D and I are missing our families and friends. After about 4 months on the road we have yet to find a place as nice as our home. I guess most folks feel that their home towns are the best. We both phone home to say hello to the families on the day. Not sure if this helped as we both feel kinda low. Next day we can't seem to find the supermarket. Things are not going well. We talk about how we feel and come to the conclusion that we are just a little homesick. Weird after so much time has gone by.

We wander around Coimbra, check out the university district and discover something that will be a theme for Portugal. Every city seems to be built on a hill. Or several hills. Coimbra is not a bad spot, I think I just got a bad first impression.

A word about driving in Portugal: Maniacs. That is the word.

After a little planning we decide to head for a town outside of Lisbon called Sintra. Just to remind you, it is built on a series of very steep hills. Nice spot, lots of trees and palaces and castletype deals. Moorish invaders blah blah blah. You get the idea.

Sintra is good for a base to see Lisbon. Has a skytrain sort of thing that takes you right downtown for about 1.25 euro.

First day in Lisbon offered hash twice and almost had some drunk expose himself on the train. Ahhh just like home!!! I almost shed a tear. Lisbon is built on a series of hills (go figure) and has brutal traffic. We find a bookstore and see some sites.

Next day we find the giant mall and watch 2 movies back to back. We have not had any English language for weeks so the movies were great. Pirates of the Carib. and League of extraordinary Gentlemen. Go Sean Connery Go!!

Our hotel in Sintra is in an old manor house. We loved the look but hated the fact that the entire place was damp. Not to mention the ants.

On to the Algarve. The ride down was very long in high winds and thunderstorms. Arrived very tired and needing a drink. Found our place and we have settled in.

This is a very touristy place and after so little English we are a little shocked to hear all the accents from England and Germany. The whole place is set up for all the package tours.

Will update again soon.

Posted by Patrick Harkness at 01:57 PM GMT
November 04, 2003 GMT
Last week in the Algarve

Well it is November the 4th and we are on our last few days of having a home base for a while.

So I will take some time to give a quick overview of Portugal since really for the last 2 weeks we have been drinking and sitting in the sun.....

First of all the North of Portugal is much different from the south. In the north it is the real Portugal, meaning although there are still tourists running around, you know that you are in a different country.

Here in the Algarve you donēt have to speak anything other than English. It really is a resort for the English and the Germans so you feel that you could be in any country that has nice beaches.

Overall I find the Portuguese friendly and easy to deal with. It is cheaper here in Portugal then the other countries we have visisted so far BUT even then with our Canadian dollar it can still be pricey.

Gas is over €1.00 per litre and more like €1.07 once you are in popular areas. Going to the grocery store is your best bet for eating as the restaurants are pricey in the tourist areas unless of course you hit a McDonalds.

The road system on the toll highways are in good condition and you just have to watch the speed of the other drivers and stay out of their way. We were passed when we were doing 120 kms like we were standing still. The side roads and smaller highways do need some work and the road signs are a little confusing to say the least. We also saw the damage done by the fires this summer and there is a lot of cleaning up that will have to be done in those areas.

We have had fair weather during our stay but not the best. We actually had quite a few days of rain and storms off the Atlantic ocean and people are saying that this is not the normal weather for this time of year. We didnēt mind too much since itēs not snowing and doesnēt get below 9 degrees.

The way we ended up getting our 1 bedroom apartment was through a tourist agency in Toronto. So we booked through the internet and phone and payed in Canadian dollars. So we ended up paying €40 per night for this place called Pateo Villiage a new aparthotel in the Algarve. Our private patio is bigger then the living room and kitchen combined which we are calling high luxury but I would say itēs about a 3 star.

During our time here we met some great Canadians also from B.C. so hello Evelyn and Allan. I also dragged Patrick on a BUS TOUR - I know it almost killed him !!, and we met Ken and Deb from Ontario who we will hopefully run into when we head back home next year.

Banking in Portugal is a little tricky. The ATM´s here want a 6 digit pin number not 4 and will only give you €200 euros at a time. In order to master the pin number you put in your pin and hit the continue button. PLEASE NOTE that not all machines like this and if it doesnēt work then try a different machine so that you donēt lose your card.

So we are now trying to figure our route through Spain and southern France in order to get to Italy. We are also doing laundry and sending out the mail to my parents of maps and such get the luggage down to the bare minimum. I also had to buy a thermal undershirt and wool leggings for my motorcycle gear as I was getting quite cold up north.

So next update will be from Spain..........

Posted by Danette Harkness at 01:56 PM GMT

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