Monthly Archives: March 2018

It’s Hard To Believe…

…many, many things. However before I get to some of those things, and with the forbearance of those who are FaceBook friends let me bring blog readers up to date with our last couple of days in Portugal. Grab a cup of coffee or glass of wine first. This may be the longest post I have ever written. FaceBook friends, please jump down a little.

From Facebook:

Post #1

Our last hotel in Portugal.

1. Basic

2. Clean

3. Near the aeroporto

4. Has a balcony and a view (?)

5. Lacks a second wine glass for Terry.

Home to our own bed tomorrow night.

Post #2

Ha! Last laugh’s on me!

1. Wine was off.

2. After a mostly sleepless night, wake up at 3:50 to discover our flight has been changed to tomorrow.

3. Get to airport to discover they don’t have a flight crew for our flight from Faro to Lisbon so another sleepless night will be in order.

4. In rebooking tomorrow’s flight, we have lost, at least at this point our premium economy seats Frankfurt to Vancouver and our flight Vancouver to Penticton. Stay tuned – I’m sure more drama will unfold.

Post #3

And the saga continues. After being told that the flights were delayed/cancelled we were sent to the “colleague “ ( in Europe everyone is a colleague apparently) in customer service. At first the woman is less than pleasant, but to be fair she wound up being most helpful. We are told that they can’t do anything to get us out of here today and that they can’t do anything about the premium economy (that’s Air Canada and not TAP) or Penticton ticket (that’s not on our itinerary.) We are sent back to the ticket agent to get our boarding passes for tomorrow’s flight and our meal voucher for today and then to return to her area at 6:20am – it is 5:40 to be delivered to the 4-5 star hotel they are booking. We get our meal voucher and have breakfast and return to the aforementioned area. We are told that they now have arranged premium economy seats for us – something they couldn’t do half an hour ago and that there will be no charge for my golf bag. Nice. Then we wait. The first story is we are waiting to see how many people will be going to the hotel. The next story is that it is difficult to find a hotel because we need it right now. The last story is that it is busy in Faro because of Easter and they are having a problem finding any hotel. Finally, at 8:00 she comes over to tell us that the driver is here. Four of us load into the van and he takes us to Hotel Eva, rated #5 out of 28 in Faro on Trip Advisor. Looks really nice. Located right on the marina in the historico centro of Faro. Great place to spend the day. He drives off we go in and are told yes, the airline called but no they did not make a reservation, so no room. They call the airline who say he dropped us at the wrong hotel and he will come back and take us to the right one. Back he comes. “I will take you to the right hotel. It is by where I live”. Is it nice I ask. “Not as nice as this one and you cannot walk to town, but it is okay” He’s right. It isn’t as nice, but it is clean. I ask the front desk what time the airline said the driver will pick us up in the morning. 4am for a 5 minute drive to the airport to catch our 6am flight. I doubt either Terry or I will live to see Penticton again. Good bye all PS Just looked up hotels for today in Faro and there are lots available- admittedly they are more than the $75.00 Cdn TAP Airlines is paying for this one but still…

End of Facebook posts

Here’s the Hotel Eva – where we almost stayed

The harbour in front of the Hotel Eva where we didn’t stay.

A wall in one of rooms the Hotel Monaco where we did stay.

End of Facebook posts and on to the new stuff

And now for those hard to believe things (HTBT). (Ed Note: Terry says the “HTBT” is distracting, but I’m leaving them in since I think they add a little literary flair) After a couple hours of sleep for Terry and rest for Geoff it was time to change our Vancouver – Penticton flight from Monday to Tuesday. HTBT#1. After many failed attempts on my phone and via Skype, I finally figured out I could use the landline in the hotel to call the toll free number. With only a 5 minute wait I get through to real live person who asks how he can help. Ha – help – Air Canada – what a lie. I explain our predicament and he says that yes, he can get us on the same flight on Tuesday, but because there are only 3 seats left on that flight and because this is a – wait for this – a “voluntary change”, there will be an up charge. I explain again that this isn’t voluntary – we didn’t want to stay in Portugal for another day. He asks if it was part of the itinerary getting to and from Portugal. I say no, I just want to use today’s ticket tomorrow- how hard is that. Now I am not totally naive – I expect there will be some cost involved but I am very happy I was sitting down. He tells me that because there are now only 2 seats left on that flight, the cost will be $487.00 – EACH! This includes any credit he might give me for the already purchased ticket. I’m floored, but he says he’d like to help me out. If I want to take the 11:00pm flight – we arrive at 2:25pm (God willing), it will only cost $245 – EACH! I say I will discuss it with my wife – “Well, please remember there are only two seats left and that price may change as we get closer to flight time.” How the #$%& does that work? I hang up, check Westjet and see that for $480 the two of us can fly into Kelowna. Plus we leave Vancouver 3 1/2 hours earlier. Thanks Bill for agreeing to drive up and pick us up. Thanks Lynne for suggesting we may be able to get some money back since we bought the tickets with Visa. I’m not one prone normally to profanity, but #$%& you Air Canada.

With that settled, we decide to while away our afternoon in downtown Faro. We asked the woman at the front desk how far to walk and she said 20 minutes. “Just follow this road down and just before the Hotel Ibis and the train tracks you can follow the walking path right into town.” HTBT#2 She neglected to mention the two right turns and two left turns you need to make to get to the road which leads to the road which leads to the hotel, train tracks and walking path. Neither did she mention that at a particular point you must leave the path, cross over the tracks and follow the road into town. If you don’t cross there, you walk another mile or so only to discover you can’t cross the tracks anywhere and so you must walk all the way back to the one crossing point. Luckily for her Terry and and I made the right choice and didn’t follow that track to the end.

We had a nice afternoon wandering Faro. There isn’t a lot to see, and all the Trip Advisor reviews said the same thing – a lovely morning or afternoon stroll through quaint lanes. We did have lunch, but I will save that for later. The walk back did provide some photo ops.

These two buildings are right across the street from each other – literally. Talk about scared straight.

HTBT#3 We arrived back at the hotel and asked if the front desk (a different, and very helpful colleague) could check with the airline to see if it would be possible to have the shuttle pick up time changed to 4:45 instead of 4:00 since we had our boarding passes, were only 5 minutes from the airport and all we had to do was drop off our luggage at the drop off luggage point. Nope, it has to be 4am. Sigh.

We take our pills, set the alarm for 3am turn out the lights at 7pm and are fast asleep by 7:15. With everything we have been through we both sleep right through until the alarm rings and we get a wake up call that wasn’t even requested. How or why I’ll never know.

Into, out of the shower, get all tifforated up and down to the lobby we go to catch our must be 4am shuttle. HTBT#4 4:10 – I ask the very nice gentleman on the front desk if he could call and see where our ride is. He calls and is told “It will be here at 4:30”. So much for must be 4am. 4:40 I ask the very nice gentleman on the front desk if he could call and see where our ride is. “They will call me back in 2 minutes” They call him back and ask him to call us a taxi which we should pay for, get a receipt and present it to the TAP Airline desk for reimbursement. Right. I take the receipt to the woman who arranged the shuttle and hotel yesterday and she says, “Oh no, we are Portway, not TAP. When you get to Lisbon, just take it to the TAP transfer desk and they will reimburse you. You don’t even have to go outside security.” Right.

We finally get to the airport and are checking our bags in. There is some kind of supervisor there who was also there yesterday when we were told about the delay. HTBT#5 He says to us “I understand you were very upset yesterday, but it wasn’t our fault.” Why would he do that? You are free to ask Terry for clarification on this point. We were never very upset, but let me explain yesterday. The fellow in front of us had a couple of bags and a golf bag. When he finally got up to the check-in person he was told he had to go somewhere else, pay for the extra bag and then come back and check in again, after standing in line again. I’m smart. I ask the woman who is arranging our hotel if I will have to pay for my golf bag, thinking that if I do, I’ll do it beforehand. She tells me she doesn’t know, only the check-in guy knows and we have to go back to him to get our meal voucher and boarding cards. (Getting confused yet? Remember this is all happening at 5:30am, on very little sleep and no food or coffee yet.) We go back. He tells me he doesn’t know if I must pay, but if I do, it is usually €37. I say I don’t care the cost, I just want to know IF I will have to pay. See bold type. See italic type. See bold type. See italic type and then see Geoff step away with very black clouds around his head and see Terry finishing the conversation. This is the “very upset” Bozo is referring to this morning. Yes, my voice grew taut and the look in my face could have peeled paint but at least my voice wasn’t raised.

Now where was I?

Oh yes. We get off the plane in Lisbon and head for the transfer desk for our reimbursement. HTBT#6 The woman at the transfer desk looks at us like we have two heads – well, four heads since there are two of us. She has no concept of what we want. We can either go out of security to the TAP customer service desk or we can fill out a complaint and TAP will look at it. She shows us the printed form, in Portuguese, and tells us we can fill it out online and shows us how to change the online into English. I’m not holding my breath that we will receive the taxi fare.

Normally when I write these things I am calm and rational and can even chuckle, if not laugh outright, at the situations I/we find ourselves in. Not as I write the part starting with this paragraph – I’m bordering on livid. We are on the plane at 35 000 feet and about 1 1/4 hours into the flight. Indeed, due to to TAP Airline’s screw up we are indeed jammed into regular economy as they didn’t rebook us properly and premium economy is full. To add salt to the wound, rub mud in my face and kick me when I am down, we are just two rows behind where we should be so I can see all the extra leg room, as well as the choices in menu and wine. Right now the pilot is asking those in regular economy to adjust their seats to the upright position in order to accommodate the serving of some blankety-blank meal to the people behind. It just keeps getting better and better. Given TAP’S incompetence, inefficiencies and general overall stupidity it will be an interesting process to deal with the fallout from this. And oh yes, the curry dish premium is getting smells damn fine!

And now the final (?) chapter of this saga. We land in Vancouver 20 minutes late leaving us just 60 minutes to clear customs, collect our bags, get to the Westjet check-in counter, clear security and get to the gate. Doesn’t happen for one of us. I send Terry off to catch the flight since the priority bags haven’t got to the carousel by 3:10. I get the bags at 3:25 and get to the check-in counter at 3:35, missing the flight. No surprise. But what is a surprise that since Terry made the flight but I didn’t, they don’t charge me for my 6:30 flight. Plus, since Terry didn’t check a bag, the lovely young woman only charges me for 1 extra bag instead of two. So here I sit, waiting for my flight home. Whoa, just had a young woman ask me about my tattoos – that sure has never happened. Guess I still have it.😂😂😂

And now for something completely different.

HTBT# Lunch in Faro – remember Faro? It is hard to believe that such a simple food as pizza could provide such an exquisite range of flavours as we had yesterday at Osteria Restaurant. I looked up best restaurants in Faro and it was #1. It was a beautiful warm sunny day (an HTBT in itself given the weather we have had in the last month)

and we sat on the patio. We started with the two best wines we have had in the entire trip and yes, Jan that includes El Conde and they were VERY healthy pours. Then the pizza, The Pugliese. A mere skiff of tomato sauce on an ultra thin crust. Mozzarella cheese used judiciously with cooked onions, capers, olives and whole anchovies. One bite and you are in heaven, I kid you not. We also ordered a tomato and onion salad which consisted of the freshest tastiest tomatoes we have had in a long, long time. Years ago, Terry and I had a at Mulvaney’s which the server described as “a circus in your mouth”. This pizza was exactly the same. Despite feeling almost full, we had to sample the hazelnut chocolate mousse. It was amazing. I have never had such a creamy, silky dessert – and I have had a lot of dessert. Then came the bill. HTBT# €41 or $65.00 Now I know what you are thinking but that wine would have easily been a $10 glass at home and it was half that. The salad, pizza, water and dessert made up the rest. After we pay the bill the server asks if we would like limoncello or port to help with the digestion. What could we do? It would be impolite to refuse.

This is more than a healthy pour – particularly of an excellent port.

The Shoe Blog HTBT is that a woman (and not one of Chinese heritage) would be wearing these on these cobblestones.

Well that’s it for now. There may be some more Portugal posts once I recover, but please don’t hold your breath for awhile.

How Many $%^&ing Times Can I Miss the Sign?

After Sevilla it was off to Cordoba. Now Cordoba is a nice little city – nothing spectacular but interesting in its own little way. Lots of little alleyways to get lost in, a nice bridge to walk across, decent photo opportunities. You get the idea – nothing much to write about. They do have the Mezquita however. At one time it was a Moorish mosque but the Christians came to town and turned it into a cathedral. Then the businessmen came to town and turned it into a tourist attraction. It is really quite exquisite however.

The archways …

and pillars were spectacular.

The archways and pillars were spectacular

As was the ceiling.

The most interesting story was when I set up my 21″ tripod to get a photo or two – which is exactly what I managed to take before a very stern security guard was in my face, telling me to put it away and that if the security cameras saw me take it out again I would unceremoniously be escorted from the premises – at least that is what his tone implied. After that we just wandered the streets.

Puente Romano crosses the Guadalquivir River.

Terry poses on the Puente Romano crossing the Guadalquivir River.

Jan and Peter pose on the Puente Romano crossing the Guadalquivir River.

One of many tiny side streets

Another narrow passageway

Terry does her happy dance when the sun finally comes out – temporarily. Then we went into the cold Mezquita…sigh

Happy Happy

The smallest Hop on Hop off bus I’ve seen.

Some of the largest doors I’ve seen.

There are no words – except Ale-Hop is a store that just sells everything from toys to scarves to slippers to inexpensive and cheerful gifts to take home (not that we did).

Then it was off to Granada, home to the Alhambra. The Alhambra, for those of you who may not remember their grade 8 Social Studies, is a palace and fortress complex largely built by Nasrid emir Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar of the Emirate of Granada, who built its current palace and walls. It was converted into a royal palace in 1333 by Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada. As with most things in Spain, it was taken over by Christians and  the site became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella (where Christopher Columbus received royal endorsement for his expedition.) But before we got there, we had to get to our hotel, thus the title of this post.

When we arrived in Granada it was raining and I was driving. Granada has more one way streets than any city I have ever been in. The map doesn’t do it justice. Our hotel was about 15 yards off the street which has the little one way arrow. On one side of it was a street which was about 15 feet wide and dead ended at the hotel doors. Unfortunately it also had a wall which blocked the sign that said “Turn here”. On the other side of the hotel was a pedestrian walkway. If you missed the turn – which I did the first two times by, you have to spend 15 minutes to go out of the downtown area and return. Frustrated? Your call. In addition, there were all sorts of demonstrations going on which caused a large police presence. See below

“Women in Spain went on strike on Thursday both from professional and domestic work in the country’s first-ever general feminist strike. To coincide with International Women’s Day, ten Spanish unions on Jan. 14 called for 24-hour strikes and the country’s two most important unions have asked members to stop working for two hours on Thursday.”

Of course we would show up right in the middle of it.

On strike – sort of…

Would you expect Terry and Jan to sit on the sidelines?

After the demonstration we wandered off to – you guessed it – some little lanes and squares. This square – somehow I have lost the photos, had a statue of Neptune. This blonde must have had Chinese blood in her somewhere. She must have seen 15 minutes taking her photo, flicking her hair and just basically demonstrating she was a DIVA!

You’re beautiful – yes you are.

From there it was time to stroll – ha ha – up to Albaicin to get a view of the Alhambra from above. Stroll – ha – how about mountain climb. It was a very healthy climb – my heart handled it – but barely.

A couple of views.

Unfortunately, on the way up we got separated from Pete. He wound up at a different viewpoint which has a fantastic view.

Great view.

After reconnecting we wandered back to the impossible to find in a car hotel. We decided to go to El Conde for dinner – a mere 5 minute walk. We arrived at 7:45 and they didn’t open until 8 and I mean 8. The wait was beyond worth it. There were about 8 of us when it opened and when we left you couldn’t move. As with most restaurants in Spain, it was tapas. They have a strange, but incredibly wonderful custom in Spain. Strangely I didn’t experience this when I was there with a group of grade 10s many years ago. If you order alcohol (which, obviously I would never have done as a responsible adult supervising little children) they bring you a starter. Our starter was a burger and fries.

I’m not sure how small the bird was that dropped the egg was, but it was small.

As most of you know, Geoff does not eat salad – “This was INCREDIBLE,” he said.

The patatas brava had an injected hot sauce. You move the “injector” around from patata to patata. We have discovered, however that spicy in Europe isn’t like spicy at home.

Patatas Bravas

The two guys working there were terrific.

Two great guys

So that was our first day. Next time – The Alhambra. See you then.

 

 

 

Our Spanish Inquisition

Eight days in and almost all we have seen in the sunny Algarve is rain and clouds. This is highly unusual and was nice right up until we got here. Go figure. Memories of San Jose, Cyprus, Budapest and likely many other places which hadn’t had rain until we arrived. We decided to take off to sunny Spain, plus I was going to do the Caminito Del Rey walk. “Caminito del Rey is an air path built into the walls of Gaitanes Gorge, Spain. It is one of the most impressive and dangerous mountain trails in the world.”

We are going to Sevilla, Cordoba and Granada.

Stop One. We arrive in Sevilla and after a bit of a delay we get into our AirBnB. We begin our wandering and wind up at Vineria San Telmo a tapas restaurant. The meal was wonderful, but we started with a drink. I had the wine – a bit of a short pour but Peter had a vodka and tonic. We got the owner, who was pouring, distracted and just kept going.

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There had to be 3 ounces in that glass.

We wandered through the lanes and alleys for a while looking for the cathedral – largest gothic church in the world, 3rd largest church in Europe and 4th largest church in the world.

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Interesting – The door on the right is the kitchen, the door on the left is the restaurant.

Rossina’s balcony, from Rossini’s Barber of Seville may not be as famous as Juliet’s in Verona, but it is still pretty cool.

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The cathedral is also home to the final resting place of Christopher Columbus.

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Cleaning the silver takes on a different meaning than it did when my Mom did it at Christmas time.

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After that it was back to the AirBnB for a rest before venturing out to dinner. I decided to check with the tour company to be sure they would be picking me up at 8 the next morning and was informed that no, they wouldn’t be since the walk was closed due to the weather. I was really disappointed – I had really wanted to do it – really.

Dinner that night was, well, I chose the restaurant and it was clearly the wrong one. I later discovered that the one I had chosen, which had a very similar name and was just across the street had closed and a new one opened.

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Terry thoroughly enjoyed her breadstick.

Next morning was more wandering. These oranges were just this way – no staging for the photographer.

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Square trees on a city square.IMG_1467

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Free oranges for the taking – you just may not want to try them alone. Perhaps as marmalade.

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Some very cool hats. I wanted to buy a bright red one with a flat brim, but was told no.

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They have some very interesting public benches. The design on this one mirrored the nearby bridge.

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The Plaza de Espagna was huge

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and the bridges reminded me of some in Venice.

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The flat water is a photography trick I am learning.

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Our final stop for the day was for our required tacky tourist photo.

Now a brief story of our AirBnB. On our first night the hot water seemed to be less than hot. Tepid is the best description, but we thought that perhaps it was a whole building issue and we would wait until morning to say anything to Jorge. Morning came and still no hot water. We sent an email to Jorge and got one saying we needed to turn on the “thermos” in the front closet. I did that but still no joy and sent another email. Later we got a very apologetic response saying they had had to change the battery in the instant hot water tank. Who knew.

Now on the last morning in Sevilla I ordered an omelet for breakfast. That egg is about the thickness of a drink coaster and almost as tasty!

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Now, it’s on to Cordoba.

5 Days In and…

I have my golf clubs and Peter has his clothes! He’s definitely smelling a little fresher. Jan and Peter arrived Sunday evening after their fascinating travel from Vancouver to Burgau.

I’ll try to summarize: they were on the plane a half hour late in Vancouver and then sat while the flights ahead were decided. By 6pm, they were still on the ground. At one point they were told that they were taxiing back to the terminal and those who wanted to deplane could and the others could just stay on board. Two people decided they wanted to get off but when they tried, there was an announcement that if just one person got off they would all have to get off which would cause further delays. The two kindly sat back down. One gentleman wanted to use the toilet, but was sternly told that wasn’t possible until they were in the air. When they finally took off. The flight attendant (American Airlines), announced they had 5 sandwiches and some containers of Pringles available for sale. Meanwhile the business/first class passengers were served their normal meal. I am amazed there wasn’t physical altercations all over the place. Anyway, they arrived in Dallas around midnight and were given vouchers for a meal and then breakfast- sadly the restaurant and store in the hotel were closed so no food. In addition, they weren’t allowed to pick up their luggage since it was checked through to London. They left at 5pm the next day, missing their flight to Faro and thus having to drive to the Algarve. Peter’s suitcase of clothes showed up 26 hours after he did and in the meantime, my missing golf clubs showed up.

Aahh, travel – ain’t it grand!

Anyway, we are now having a great time. The sunny coast is under the influence of “the Beast from the East” – a massive cold front out of Siberia which has had a huge impact on all of Europe. We are making do though. Terry and Jan have done a couple of good hikes, Peter and I have played a couple of games of golf and today we saw some incredible sights at the coast. We have had some wonderful Portuguese meals – Saturday night Terry and I went to a local restaurant after wandering around in a daze for the afternoon. Ate a fantastic meal of octopus, and roast potatoes, came back and slept from 8pm to 10:22am, catching up on some of our missed sleep.

Monday we went to Portmao, where we drove around and around and around until we found Dona Branca – a restaurant in a small square that housed three other open restaurants. Ours was the only one with a wait for a table. The squid was sublime and filling.

Peter and I played Vale de Lobo yesterday. How exclusive was it? The guy getting the golf cart for me said he didn’t think I would be allowed to play since my shorts were “beach” shorts. Right, I’m a big beach guy.

A few of the homes – photo 1 is two homes and photo 2 IS one home and photo 3 is just … well you decide.

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Anyway, the starter didn’t have any trouble with them. (By the way, the rate went way up today, so we didn’t pay so much). The wind did howl on the 15th and 16th holes though. The 16th is a 200 yard par three.

The ocean wind was blowing!

1. Neither of us put the ball on the beach. 2. Neither of us had the nerve to start it out on the left and let the wind carry it back. And 3. Neither of us parred the hole. Enough said.

Today we were off to Lagos (pronounced Lagosh) for a wander along the promenade and then around the old town.

It was a little breezy in Lagos

From there it was off to Sagres which is the western most point of Europe, where it was also very windy.

The three cuddled up. It was windy but not cold.

It was amazing to watch the water come off the cliffs and then go out again, meeting the incoming tide.

There were places where it was shooting up 50 feet in the air – and we figured we were standing 80 feet above the sea.

The surf was just incredible.

This guy was having way too much fun!

Just another massive wave hitting the cliffs.

That’s about all for now – we have to get our wine ready for the afternoon. Cheers.