Our Portugal Adventure: Day 6 Lagos

On our last morning in Odeceixe, we woke after a somewhat late night at the Odeceixe Cafe, packed up our belongings and hit the road to Lagos. Our hosts met us after breakfast (we went to Cafe Luna for coffee & Brie, honey and walnut toasts – amazing!) we bid them Obrigado, and left the sleepy beach town for the southern coast.

Our plans for the day were loose, as the drive to Lagos wasn’t very far from Odeceixe, about 40 minutes. We put in Ponta da Piedade as our destination, a lighthouse overlooking the beautiful golden cliffs of the Alagarve. Oh, the descriptions do not give it the proper justice!

Parking, with little problem even though it was relatively crowded, we hopped out and spent the next two hours hiking around, taking a private boat tour that we just stumbled upon, following a staircase with a sign that said ‘tour the caves and grottos of the Algarve.

Without any restrictions, guards or railings, you could hike and climb on the jagged rocks at your own free will. Most of the paths were navigatable, with stunning views of the turquoise waters and jaggy rocks below. Of course Mike had to climb up a particular section that had a zero fall zone….and almost gave me a heart attack.

Although there seemed to be quite a number of tourists about, the place wasn’t unbearable, and following a steep staircase down to the water, we found ourselves next in line for a private boat tour. Two men stood on the rocks, while the captain motored up to the Rock and passengers would jump in and out. No talk of money or cost occurred until we were on the boat….and we were told, as we were motoring away, to pay the captain 20 Euro each. Dang, they get ya!

The small motor boat took us in and out of the crevices, explaining the local names for the rock formations (elephant, iceberg & titanic, Arc de Triomphe) and we even pulled into some of the grottos and caves, watching the waves roll in and out of the cavernous walls.

Totally worth the money – the views were spectacular and to be able to look up, to see where the water had worn a perfect holes rom years of waves, well, it was one of the most unique things I’ve ever seen.

The boat tour had satisfied our water craving for the moment (I had literally said prior to finding the hidden dock, ‘we need to get on a boat!’ Which se ms to be my luck – I put it out in the Universe and the Universe responds!) so we set off to find the secret beach – Praia da Balanca – our captain had pointed out. Mike quickly changed into his swimming suite and we were off. Not 300 hundred feet from where we parked, we found the path leading down the credits that spit you out onto the secret beach. The hike had been described as difficult, so I had changed into my hiking shoes and we shimmied down. In all honesty, it wasn’t that difficult, although Colorado may have dulled my senses to such things.

Stunning blues pierced our eyes and we emerged onto the small beach. What an amazing place Lagos was proving to be already – and we had just arrived! We shed our clothes and dove straight out into the Atlantic (much different than what our view of the Atlantic is back East!). It was mid-October, way off season, and yet here we were, splashing about as if it was the high summer months. Absolutely amazing!

For not having had any of this planned, we sure felt lucky to have landed in an amazing experience! The swim got our appetites yearning for Portuguese food, so we headed to our Airbnb, which we found extremely easily, parked right in front of the house, knocked (it wasn’t ready yet) then headed to grab lunch at a local spot, Calhou, Lagos,  right around the corner. I was able to connect to our Airbnbs WiFi, even though we hadn’t checked in yet – score! Before heading to lunch, we popped into a windmill cafe to join the locals who were sitting around smoking, talking and drinking Sagres or cafe. We felt very European.

We were staying in the middle of town, close to the city center, as well as the marina, which we’d be heading to later that evening and tomorrow for a kayaking tour.

Lunch:  Sea Bass, Potatoes, carrots & broccoli, with Portugal wine (verde) to go with the meal. Delicious!

After lunch, we hit up the grocery store, grabbed some beer and wine, cheese and bread, and headed to check in. The apartment studio was perfect – it had been converted a few years ago our owner said, so had modern upgrades and a beautiful balcony (which we would enjoy many a glass of wine on over the next three nights!). We poured some wine, unpacked a bit then headed out to explore the area and water.

The Marina was beautiful, and we watched the sunset, enjoying some Sagres, and cheersed to our first night in Lagos. Deciding to stay in, we headed back to the flat and poured more wine and ate olives and bread!

Our Portugal Adventure Day 5: Hiking Rota Vicentina

Morning broke on Tuesday and we were ready to hike! The weather looked overcast, which was perfect, as I didn’t have much sunscreen! Day 4 of our Portugal adventure had been pretty low key, so I was ready for more exploring. We set out with our gear, packs and water looking for coffee and pastries. Passing a few cafes, we choose one closest to the end of town, ordered two Americanos, two croissants (which weren’t very good, nothing compared to Sintra’s Gregorio’s!) and headed to start a section of the Rota  Vicentina.

Noted as being one of the best coastal hikes in the world, I was more than excited – like a kid on Christmas!

The small section we would hike boasted the most spectacular views of the entire circuit, which wound throughout south western Portugal. It would only be 5.6 miles on the Rota Vicentina and about 3 on the historical trails, following aqua ducts, past small farms and Portuguese houses. But first, the coastal section.

Although I didn’t have an international phone plan, WIFI at our Airbnbs had been spot on, and I was able to pull up AllTrails to get the map so we could know the general where abouts while hiking. It’s crazy how much I rely on technology, then to suddenly not have 100% access. Well, it’s primitive, but kinda nice. The trail was only steps away from the end of town, marked every hundred feet by green, blue, yellow and red markers. Super convenient, especially as we were initially walking through what seemed to be a pasture, which shot back onto the road.

The Tagus River runs through the edge of town, so while we were on the road for about a mile and a half, views looking back into Odeceixe and the river were truly beautiful.

Round the bend, we hit the most breathtaking view of Portugal we had seen thus far. The Western Atlantic coast, with jagged rocks, plummeting cliffs and ferocious waves. We were able to walk right up to the edge (and of course Mike had to do so) gazing down onto the rocky shores. There was a beach you could walk down to, but we vowed to come back for sunset, not wanting to get all sandy before our hike.

For the next two miles or so, the path wound through Sony cliffs, huge overlooks with sheer drops and grey, blue ocean. Colorado has my heart, but there is something that happens to my soul when I am near water – and Portugal was no exception.

The remainder of the hike was relatively mild, weaving through sandy wetlands, then curving back on the road, and finally meandering on the old part of the trail. We walked through pastures until we came to the top of the town, to the old wind mill.

We truly walked the whole town, up and down. Completely ravished, we went to Luna cafe where the chalkboard had our mouths watering with the advertisement of vegan burgers. I had definitely not been eating all plants here (I had dove into the the fresh fish and local cheese) so was much looking forward to the veggies. It was delightful!

After lunch (a 2pm lunch) we headed back to the house to rest, shower & drink some wine on our balcony. We decided to head back to Odeceixe beach for sunset, so grabbed the vino and headed in our Fiat to the beach. Oh am I glad we did – sunset was spectacular! Having made it just in time to see the sun tuck itself away, we bathed in the arrange glow that lingers after sunset. An absolute amazing night.

 

 

After having some wine, enjoying the evening, the glowing light and beautiful ocean sounds, we headed back into town for a small dinner at Odeceixe Cafe – soccer games were on and Sagres was poured. It was a good day in Portugal.

Our Portugal Adventure: Day 4

Our last day in Sintra had arrived –Day 1 , Day 2 & Day 3 had been marvelous  and the weather was terrible! Pouring down rain, we hurried to pack, knowing we had to catch a 9:40 train, but obviously wanting to have un Americano and a sweet at Gregorio’s first. But blast, Gregorio’s was closed on Mondays!!! So, we slugged our soaking wet selves and luggage to the train – to catch an earlier 9:16 to Oriente, where we’d change trains to get on the metro to head to the Lisbon Airport to pick up our rental car. It sounds like a lot of hoop-la and possible confusion, but it was extremely simple and I’d recommend to anyone traveling only a few days in Portugal to rely on the public transit – it’s really convenient and straight forward.

The only down side of all of this was the weather….but once we got on the train, we were able to dry off. A quick pop in to a cafe at the metro station allowed for a coffee and pastry – yum – and we were off to the rental car counter.

Our Fiat was ready, so we hopped in and almost 3 hours of Portugal countryside later, we found ourselves in the sleepy town of Odeceixe. I choose this area because the Rota Vicentina, a beautiful set of hiking trails connecting at different areas throughout southern Portugal. The section we’d hike was mostly along the coast – one of the most beautiful sections I had read about.

We pulled into town, parked, had lunch at one of the first restaurants we saw (big mistake) and ordered some vino, beers, and lunch.

Well, the beers never came, but a bottle of champagne did (huh?) so we drank and ate the whole fish that came out and hoped the town had more selection.

From what we could tell, with the narrow streets, and lack of people, it was a sleepy shore town, in the off season. Again, more our speed, just want of better restaurants! Our bellies were full, so we headed up the hill to our Airbnb- not knowing where to park our car on these narrow streets warranted an on-foot surveillance. The owners met us, an older couple who spoke zero English, and checked us in, showing me how to use the insta hot water, and were the two bedrooms were. One smelled a bit like my grandmother, so we opted to put our things in the other. We would call Odeceixe home for only two nights, mainly using the small town as a jumping off point for the coastal hiking.

Having had many a night out and about, we decided to head to the local grocery shop to pick up dinner – angel hair, bread, garlic & zucchini and two bottles of wine. I mean, when in Portugal!

The night was perfect – and walking into town to the grocery store showed us there was in fact more restaurants to try.

Our balcony view overlooked the whole town, so we headed back to relax, unpack and cook our first Odeceixe dinner in. Tomorrow, we’d hit the trail!