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Weeks 6 and 7: Friends, felines and funtimes

November 14, 2021

Regular readers of my blog (hello to you both) will have noticed a distinct lack of waffle last weekend. Those of you who still haven’t got around to muting my feed will have been relieved at the absence of humble brag photos depicting sun, sea and sand, and will have no doubt hoped I was now home. I’d like to say that the reason for the lack of diary entry last week was we were having far too good a time – which is mostly true – but actually we were nursing broken hearts (more on which below) and weren’t yet ready to talk about it. 

Before all this our friend Karen joined us for a few days in the Algarve, and since Oma only sleeps two, we created a cosy nest in the garage, complete with blow up bed, several rugs and blankets, a lamp and a spider plant. Not everybody perhaps would be game enough to sleep in the “hold” but Karen took it in her stride and even claimed to quite enjoy her accommodation. 

The coastline around here is truly stunning. Azure ocean sparkles against ochre cliffs, jutting against a sky so bright and blue it hurts the eyes. The light is beautiful too and the whitewashed buildings with their terracotta roofs, tiled windowsills and brightly coloured doors soak it up and reflect it back. We paddled in the surf and explored caves, whilst I was the only one woman enough to brave the Atlantic and swim (it’s cold).

Further coast hugging took us to Europe’s most westerly point (that’s two points of the compass now bagged, the other two being in various place in Russia, and for another time), after which we started slowly heading north. 

And then we met Nugget. Within minutes of this little black and white scamp bounding into the bus and demanding tuna, we were smitten. We spent two nights in his company, during which time he barely left our laps, chests, shoulders – indeed anywhere he could get a cuddle. Abandoned six weeks earlier by people visiting the area (how?? Why?? It’s beyond belief), this little cat has made the campsite his home and feline-friendly motorhomers his prey. He ate us out of tuna, prawns and ham, and had us seriously looking into the bureaucracy of transporting kittens across countries (I think Brexit was less complicated). 

Sadly, it was not to be, and with heavy hearts and not a few tears, we bid him farewell, hoping it won’t be too long before a kind-hearted EU citizen welcomes him aboard their bus and to a new home. Yes, we are soft, and yes, we are missing our cats.

With Karen now departed we headed north to Vila Nova de Milfontes, a curiously named but delightful seaside resort where delicious food and a beautiful beach helped soothe our souls. Cocktails helped too.

From there we drove through miles and miles of cork forests (who knew that was a thing?!) before a quick stop off in Sesimbra and onward to Lisbon. We’ve been looking forward to this as it’s a real foodie destination.

In 2014, Time Out magazine created the first of its food markets in Lisbon (there are now others in London, Prague and several cities in the States), curating the best food and drink from across the city’s many hundreds of restaurants and bars to the delight of weary tourists confused by the array of choice (and weary of the city’s seven hills). It’s a brilliant concept and very fun, ordering as you do small plates from the 40 or so different vendors and then bagging a seat at one of the communal tables. We went twice – once on Friday night, when we definitely drank and ate too much, and again on Saturday, where we were slightly more restrained and needed something to cushion the hangover. All delicious.

On Sunday we again got an Uber into the city and jumped on to the iconic number 28 tram, which rattled its way (and our bones) up the tiny cobbled streets before depositing us at a gorgeous vista where the Tejo River sparkled invitingly below. Fortified by coffee, ginjinha (the local sour cherry spirit) and cocktails we wobbled our way around Alfama and towards the Santa Justa lift, which costs five euros and takes you about thirty feet to an area that can we reached on foot. Feeling somewhat touristed, we found instead a rooftop bar where at least you got a drink for your money, and the view was spectacular. The terracotta rooftops and the pastel coloured buildings glow with the setting sun – it’s truly beautiful.

It now being mid-November (how did this happen? How is it 25 degrees outside and there are Christmas decorations in the streets?) we now need to start to wend our way north fairly sharpish, stopping at some wineries en route, and come home. We’ll bring the booze.

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