Thursday, 3 March 2016
Cruise and Land Tour in Portugal - July 4th/15....
The breakfast buffet at the Pestana Vila Sol Spa/Golf Resort in Vilamoura offered a full range of selections, and was excellent.
The sites that we visited today were all in the Algarve, which is the southernmost region of mainland Portugal. Enclosed by ranges of hills to the north, the Algarve has a climate, culture and scenery very different from the rest of Portugal.
The first stop was Cape St. Vincent, which is the most southwestern point in continental Europe. The ocean waves have created long, sandy beaches and carved deep caves into the cliffs. The winds were not too severe on the day that we were there, however, sometimes the winds are so powerful that visitors cannot walk around safely.
A short distance from the lighthouse, we stopped for coffee at a restaurant. It was an interesting stop because the owner, who was a big game hunter in the Congo, displayed an interesting collection of stuffed animals.
The promontory called the Ponta da Piedade has a series of wonderful rock formations, caves and calm, transparent waters . Our tour director wanted us to see this because he thought this was a special site - everyone seemed to enjoy it.
The Optional Excursion included the city of Faro, the salt pans, and the Church of St. Lawrence for a cost of €36, and everyone went. I personally was not that pleased with part of the excursion - I just did not get a good feel for Faro. I think the tour guide could have done better covering the old city. The other two parts for the salt pans and church were done well and worthwhile.
Tour Guide Treat - a box full of marzipans so that everyone could try one - I had a turtle. One of the local specialties of Faro is small marzipan sweets shaped like animals, fruits, vegetables, and other things. For lunch, Gelato ice cream.
There is a city park called Jardim Manuel Bivar where there were several storks guarding their nests.
The Flor de Sal are large sea salt pans which are hand-harvested by workers who scrape only the top layer of salt before it sinks to the bottom of the pans. These salt pans have existed for about two millennia, and they have been worked in exactly the same way for their entire history.
Supper was on our own - I ate at the hotel and had a hamburger deluxe and a few Portuguese Sagres beers, which I thought was a good local beer.
Photos belong to Phil Bianco