December 16, 2004 – January 31, 2005
For people who have been sitting
still for three months, our lives here have been
remarkably full. In the past month we have walked all
over this part of the Algarve, explored Sagres (Henry
the Navigator’s base), made new friends, attended
concerts, watched spectacular fireworks on New Year’s
Eve, and traveled to Sevilla for Christmas. Not bad,
for a couple of old stay-at-homes!
Life here in the Algarve is pretty
nice. I mean “really” nice. The weather, day after
day, is sunny and warm. The services in the marina are
first-rate; showers are clean and hot, bathrooms are
spotless, and security is tight. The city of Lagos is
charming, and all the stuff we need is close at hand.
Supermarkets are well-stocked, plentiful, and near-by.
Concerts and movies are at-hand, frequent, and good.
The main part of town is just across the footbridge from
the marina. It seems strange to see a footbridge open
for sailboats, but why not?
People are varied, friendly, and
interesting. Our days are filled with chores, friends,
and fun. We have found an English-speaking church not
too far away, and have made friends there. We are
either entertaining on-board, or being entertained, at
least four times a week. We are getting out to see more
of the countryside, and are appreciating it the more we
Lagos was all decked out for
Christmas, as we may have already mentioned. (“Gaudy
but Good”), and we enjoyed the festivities in the town.
The Christmas Concert given by the town band, town choir
and “Experimental Theater”, was a “sell-out” at the
Cultural Center; the place was packed with relatives and
friends of the performers. It reminded us of school
Christmas pageants, complete with the enthusiasm of the
children and audiences. Except that this time the
performers were a mixture of adults and young people.
Our fortnightly “walk” (or
“ramble”) went along the top of the cliffs to the west
of town for 6-8 kilometers, then back again (for some of
the heartier of us; the rest took the bus back home).
This tradition has been going for a few years; every two
weeks one of the boats in the marina organizes a “walk”
for the group. The walk, proper, is limited to 5-10
kilometers, depending on the difficulty of the terrain,
so that all can take advantage of it. Often, there is
an alternate way home, and some will continue trekking
as others ride back to town on the train or bus. It is
a great way to meet people, and have a chat along the
The trip to Sevilla for Christmas
was short, but interesting and fun. The bus ride is 5 ½
hours on the timetable, and on the way up we made it on
time. On the return, however, the GNR struck again, and
we were “waylaid” by the police for 45 minutes, as they
checked over the papers of the bus and driver. None of
the passengers were questioned, and none of us had a
clue about what was happening or why. Otherwise, the
trip was wonderful. Sevilla is a beautiful city, and it
was all lit up for the holidays. The orange trees that
line the streets still have fruit hanging from them, but
are now festooned with blue lights, from trunk to tip.
Streets are crowded with holiday shoppers, and they are
hurrying about with a festive air. The hotel Sharon
picked out was a gem; an 18th century mansion
converted to a small hotel. The rooms were furnished in
antiques, there was no TV, and the bathroom featured a
hot shower. What more could we ask? Oh, yes! It was
75 yards from the cathedral. (Half-way to the cathedral
was the most fabulous coffee/pastry/ice cream shop!) We
managed to spend a morning in the Alcazar, a fantastic
palace next to the cathedral. It was reminiscent of the
Alhambra in Granada, which we visited several years
ago. Most of the “monuments” were closed on Christmas
Eve and Christmas day, so we spent these two days
exploring the out-of-doors sights of the city. We
caught a few Christmas concerts, took in a big flamenco
show, strolled through the shops (if it is possible to
“stroll” through a Christmas-shopping crowd), visited
the major monuments, ate a few tapas, and walked our
little toes off. We had to keep on the move, as it was
a bit cooler there than in the Algarve, and the
monuments and churches are not heated. All in all, a
We returned to Lagos in time for
New Years, and were glad we did. New Year’s Eve is a
big, family affair here. And we were well advised to
participate. So, after a quiet dinner at home, we
ventured out into the cold at 11:00 p.m. to see the
traditional fireworks display. From our vantage point
along the esplanade, we could see down the coast, and
actually watched three displays simultaneously. The
Portuguese take great pride in their celebrations, and
New Year’s is no exception. We heard that the nearby
town of Alvor (smaller than Lagos) spends $500,000 on
their fireworks each New Year. So the displays, set to
recorded music piped out of giant speakers every 50
yards or so along the esplanade, turned out to be quite
spectacular. There were few people out at 11:00, but at
11:55 the place was packed! Men, women and children
were everywhere, enjoying the spectacle. Afterwards,
the dancing started. The whole town, it seemed, were
out dancing in the streets until after 2:00 a.m. It
really was fun.
One evening, some friends organized
a “Fado” at a local restaurant. The best we can
describe it, Fado is the Portuguese form of Flamenco,
without the dancing. That is, it is singing in a very
emotional manner. (I think it makes Patsy Cline sound
optimistic!) Once again, a good time was had by all!
There is a daily “Municipal Market”
in the center of town, and then there is the Saturday
Market at the bus station. On Saturdays the local
farmers come to town to market their fresh produce. The
quality can be variable, but the prices are pretty good,
and the sights and smells well worth the visit. The bus
station is just across the footbridge from the marina
(not too convenient: train station immediately behind
the marina, and bus station across the bridge). We buy
our olives here, and fresh carrots and cucumbers,
tomatoes, potatoes and onions, too.
We also have had the opportunity to
consider what types of vehicles we might opt for when we
“return to civilization” in the States. We have each
picked out something we think just might work. Picture
us in these in Litchfield, or Chatham. How about
The town center is lively and
charming. Streets are too narrow for autos much of the
time, and there are small plazas everywhere. The
non-vehicular streets are paved in stone, with patterns
in black and white. Each street has its own particular
motif, and adds a lot to the overall look of the place.
In one small plaza, just off the main shopping area, is
the loveliest carousel you have ever seen.
We have come across a few cruising
families, too. John and Kim, with little Hannah, are
from the USA. Mom and Dad have been out here six years,
and four-year-old Hannah has never known any other home
than their 36’ sailboat, Naia. Hannah is a treat, and
we’ve had a lot of fun playing with her. The family is
now farther down the coast into Spain; we hope to catch
up with them sometime next season.
Then there are the Collins’. Sean,
Loness, and the three girls: Kelsey (9) and the twins
Abby and Megan (7). All together on a Nicholson 35!
Whew, that’s a boatful. All three girls take turns
practicing rowing or sailing the dinghy around the
pontoon, and now and then Mom or Dad manages to get a
little work out of them.
This winter has seen us celebrate
our eighth wedding anniversary. We spent the day
visiting Cape St. Vincent, the legendary home of Henry
the Navigator (1394-1460). The cape is the most
south-western point of Europe, and many of the famous
Portuguese explorers sailed out of these harbors (mostly
Lagos, interestingly) on their way to their historic
discoveries. The cliffs are impressive, the wind
blustery, and the landscape barren. But it was a
wonderful way to celebrate our own discoveries and life
We also had the opportunity to mark
John’s chalking up of yet another decade. Who’d have
thought we’d be doing this at age 60?!
All is well. Supplies have, at
last, started to arrive, and work can begin in earnest.
It won’t be long before we set sail again; April 1 is
the target, and east is the direction.