Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Food of Lagos

Wild figs growing in Lagos
The food in Portugal was amazing. We have had very good and very interesting meals on our vacations, but unfortunately you sometimes get really bad recommendations and eat at some nasty places. This was not the case on this trip. Over all the meals we had, there are only one or two dishes that we disliked. We used TripAdvisor a lot to find places and had good luck searching out restaurants based on a quick look at the menu. Some of our favorites are here.
Sangria, Octopus salad, smoked ham with yukon potatoes
Diablo mussels
There was a street in Lagos where we found a few wonderful places to eat and shop. The first was called Meu Limao Tapas. They had really nice smoked ham and Bachalau (a cod dish with potatoes and eggs), diablo mussels and a nice outside seating area in front of the white church. It was very nice and we ate lunch there twice under the shade of the trees.

Just down the street we found a wonderful little place called Hortela-Pimenta. Locally owned and operated, they had good Tapas and amazing raspberry Sangria. The best thing that we ate on the trip was the Grilled Octopus. So wonderful that we returned for dinner another night, just so we could each order our own plate of it. The sweetness of the wine and potatoes went wonderful with the perfectly cooked octopus. We ate a lot of octopus on this trip, I don't think either of us expected that. No wonder Papu liked Portugal so much, with that much great food, who wouldn't!
Grilled octopus with sweet potatoes and wine

Blood sausage and sweet potatoes

Portuguese Bread pudding
There were other nice Tapas places in Lagos and overall, we had some of our best food there. The many restaurants do make it difficult to navigate, but where ever the fish is fresh and the people work hard, you will find good food.
Grilled shrimp and Monkfish

Monday, August 27, 2012

Beaches of Lagos

Pria do Camilo
We arrived to the south of Portugal, Lagos, by train after leaving Madeira island. This part of the country is known for its beaches and rock formations. We stayed in a hotel right above Pria Dona Ana. Almost every day we would go down to the beach and sit out in the sun. It got very hot, so we tried to cool off in the ocean, but the water was so cold, you could only be in for a short while before your muscles would start to freeze up. 

Pria Dona Ana
We found a hiking trail which lead us to Pria do Camilo and above some other, clothing optional, beaches. Near the point of the island we wound down a stone staircase to find a docking area for boat tours through the grottos. We did this on one of the days and the next day did a kayking group for a closer look. The arches and stones are amazing, the water so greenish-blue, and the beaches sandy and perfect looking. Here are some of my favorite pictures of the beaches in Lagos.

Grottos and arches

Boat tour through the caverns
Morning in Lagos
Pria do Camilo in the morning
Hiking above Dona Ana

Getting on a boat for the tour

Dona Ana beach on saturday

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Last days on the island

Morning view of Madeira beaches
Our last full day in Madeira we decided to rent the cab again and hike to the east point. While the Lavadas were less than spectacular, the hike and the views from the point were very nice. My thighs were killing me by the end, since we had just climbed the peaks the day before. 
Hike out to the Lavadas point
We were lucky again, to make it out early in the morning so we could beat most of the travel groups. Plus it got very hot as the sun got higher, so we were happy to get our workout in, our pictures taken, and meet Pedro for our ride back to the hotel.

I - O - W - A

For lunch we went across the street to Monumental Grill for lunch. We had gone there on the recommendation of the cab driver the day before and watched another couple get the rice and seafood dish. It was very good and easy to eat after the morning excursion.  After we went to the black rock beach down the harbor and then to Real Canoa for the second time. So amazing!

Seafood and rice at Monumental Grill

Black rock beaches

Video of the Mixed Fish on the Stone dish at Real Canoa restaurant.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Pico de Arriero

The cab driver we met up with on Madeira offered to drive us to any place we wanted to go during our stay on the island. He seemed very knowledgeable and his English was very good, so on our third day we booked him for a trip to hike Pico de Arriero (second highest peak) to Pico Ruivo (highest peak).

Unfortunately his van broke down the day of, and he had to reschedule us with a different driver. This new guy was fine, not as talkative, but he would take us to the peak and pick us up 4 hrs later on the other side of the mountain. We drove up to the peak where he explained how beautiful and lush the island used to be, before a forest fire burned most of it away. Great....

Past the burned fields and forests, through wild eucalyptus trees, everything ringed by light purple and blue agapanthus flowers, he kept talking about the forest fires. I was getting a little disappointed and worried that the hike, which I had only briefly researched, was going to be a bust.
Top of Pico de Arriero
But it was amazing. The hike and the views were breathtaking. These pictures really don't do justice to the distance you could see. Most views showed the ocean at the very end, with valleys and peaks between. The wildflowers were amazing, they even have my favorite flower, the foxglove, growing wild along the hills.
Valleys to the sea

Mike enjoying the view

Wild flowers, sheer rocks, and mountains

Portuguese bee, hard at work
We got to the mountain early in the day, trying to beat most of the tour groups that we thought would 'clog' up the trails. There was one group of Australians that we stuck with most of the hike. The 'Mike' from their group took this picture after both our groups decided to take the longer route around the mountain. It was a pretty steep climb. At this point all of us were very out of breath from the kilometers of stair stepping we had to do over the boulders and up the trail. The whole trip was about 12k from start to finish.
It was especially good to get out early so that the clouds, which come in from the sea in the afternoon, were not out, giving us a clear view.
Mist starting to roll in

More mist rising
Wildflowers near the top of the mountain
Burned trees from the wildfires
View to the sea and villages on Pico Ruivo
It was very interesting at the end of our hike when we got to Pico Ruivo. There was a small house and many people walking around, but we couldn't find the taxis. We figured it had to be there somewhere, but we just couldn't see a road! Finally we found a guide to ask and he said it was still another mile away, down another trail. We had to speed walk to make our pick up time, but we made it! 

Down and up and up and down

An amazing climb!