Chapter 15    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 experience it. 


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 way.


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 charming trip.


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 Houston?!!



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 voyages. 



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.