A Travellerspoint blog

Malta

April 27th to May 3rd

sunny 25 °C
View 2013 on Claire.Miller's travel map.

Heading to Malta I had all these people chatting to me at the airport! Getting there about 3.5 hours early the check in hadn't even opened yet so I started chatting to an elderly couple in front of me, and ending up going to the same place for my airport dinner as well. They apparently go to Malta every year and the guy went on and on about what to see and people and how I would either love it or hate it, while his wife kept telling him to be quiet and let me eat my dinner. It was hilarious, but great they got me really excited. Then heading to the gate started to talking to some other guy who proceeded to also tell me how amazing Malta was and the life stories of his three children, one of which moved to Australia which is how the stories started. But hey, it was nice to talk. When I got on the plane though I had the row to myself which was good but also bad in that I was totally psyching myself out about flying and was fairly convinced of my impending death and if there had been someone to talk to it would have at least distracted me.  

I arrived there at about 1am on the 27th, but had organised a pickup with the hotel so I felt all cool because I had one of those people standing there with Miller on a card. He didn't have a hat though, so that was a little dissapointing. He was also quite chatty and was talking about how brave I was travelling alone and how his son had done it but he could never do it etc. At this point I was way too tired to make conversation and was like just get me to the apartment!  

I only had the apartment, which was in Bugibba, for three nights and then was going to work out my plan. I ended up staying for a week and changing to a place close to Valletta for the rest of the time. Both times I managed to find apartments which was nice as it meant I could cook, although as usual this meant I got ingredients and ended up pretty much eating the same thing all week. I initially made beef stuffed eggplants, which then turned into a beef and eggplant pasta. The first place had a pool on the roof, apparently this is pretty common in Malta, but I never ended up checking it out as it was not warm enough for swimming. Although in saying that I was so happy to see sun and not have to drag a coat around with me all the time!  

My first day was spent sleeping in, getting food supplies, skyping Alana, and wandering around Bugubba. It was a nice relaxing town on a small peninsula so lots of bays. I say bays as there was little to no sand. It made it quite pretty but very much had a resort feel to it. The other side of the town, St Pauls bay, was a lot nicer area so it would have been better to stay there, but my apartment was so cheap I really wasn't that fussed.  

The second day I decide to go to Gozo, the second largest of the three islands. Problem was by the time I got myself organised it was already past midday and I didn't want to be too late back as I was planning on going to the fireworks festival that night, although this didn't happen in the end as I discovered that the last bus back was at the start of the fireworks. But anyway, I hadn't realised how long it would take to get there. This being because the bus and the ferry are terribly matched because they arrive at pretty much the same time the other leaves. So on the way there my bus arrived as the ferry was leaving and on the way back, the bus left as we were trying to get off the ferry. I say trying because there was some kind of issue with the exit and we couldn't get off for about ten minutes. So this meant in each case about a 45 minute wait. In the end I was gone for about 7 hours but spent about 5 of those hours trying to get there and back. This wasn't so bad when actually on the bus and boat as they were nice trips, it was just the waiting that was irritating.  

Gozo itself however was a really nice place. Lots of churches. The capital is Victoria and the main attraction is the old Citadel. There is also a church but it was closed. The citadel sits at the top of the hill which means walking around the wall you get great views over the island. It really was wonderful. And sunny, so mebeing me, finally see some sun in Europe and immediately burn. I did have sunscreen with me but it didnot seem to survive the plane trips. And by that I mean I put some on and about 5 minutes later I started to get a stinging sensation wherever I put it. Needless to say that got ditched! But I am wandering around and I thought to myself, 'way to go Ellie for being related to such an awesome place. Respect.' Then I remembered I wasn't street and probably don't sound as cool as I thought I did saying respect. Then I realised noone gaves a rats as it was all in my head and I could be as cool as I want. Then I decided I really needed to stop having weird conversations in my head like this, I am probably going crazy. (I know everyone, you are all thinking 'going?'). But anyway, Ellie, if you read this, good work on the Maltese heritage thing.  

The following day I had to change hotels as mine only had availability til Monday. This turned out to be a good thing as I moved to Msida, a place about a 10 minutes bus ride from Valletta, the capital. Loads easier to explore the Southern side of the island and Valletta. Spent the afternoon in Valletta going on whim rather than following a map. It is truly a beautiful city. Everywhere you look there are cathedrals and harbours. It is absolutely stunning, and full of history. Although hot. Very hot. The fact it is on a hill and populated, so few places for the breeze to get through, can make it quite stuffy.  

My second day was also spent in Valletta, however I had a plan of where to go this time. That morning I actually thought to put sunscreen on, only to discover that something had happened to my sunscreen in the plane and about 5 minutes after I put it on, my skin started to sting... Needless to say it got thrown.

In Valletta I started off with the Upper Barrakka gardens where they fire off a cannon at noon. Only just got myself organised in time to see it! I then headed down the market street to the National War Museum, via some jewelry shops to see some Maltese Filigree that is. The museum was very interesting and went into detail about Malta's place in the two world wars. The Maltese seem to be quite a hardy and proud people. For such a small country the amount of bombing they received in world war 2 was ridiculous. However they of course are in a very difficult position being a bridge between central to eastern europe and northern africa. There is a strong british influence here. One of the stories I enjoyed (I apologise if my facts are slightly off, I am writing this a week later) was the British allowed the french to use Malta as a defensive port, however discovered that the French were using it to protect their own coastline, while the british wanted their shipping routes defended. The french were booted out within a couple of years. I swear all you ever hear about in the UK is 'this wall/fortress/whatever was built to stop the French', and even when they were supposedly allies they couldn't get along!  

Because I spent so long in the war museum, by the time I had walked back up along the scenic road by the grand harbour, St John's Cathedral was only open for another half an hour, and I had no hope of getting into the art gallery. So I did a quick look at the cathedral, although in the end time wasn't too much of an issue as the cathedral museum was closed. To say that the cathedral is elaborately decorated is an understatement! It was almost blinding. However in saying that I didn't find it tacky, as I have found many other cathedrals with such elaborate decorations to be.  

That night was the last night of the International Fireworks Festival held in the Grand Harbour. So I went home to grab dinner and then headed back into Valletta to get a spot. I headed in about half an hour later than the guy I was renting from recommended, and it was probably still a little too early. I was sitting there about an hour and a quarter before it started, and got quite cramped legs. Firstly there were traditional fireworks, which were good, for about 20 minutes. Then the next 20 minutes were a singer and presentations. With regards to the singer, she was rather terrible. Can I just say, I am sick of people thinking if they slow down a song, it becomes their 'artistic' version of it. Particularly when the song she chose was 'You Sexy Thing'. I mean come on, in what universe does that work at a slower tempo! It was horrible, particularly when people tried to sing along and just kept going too fast. Then there was obviously a technical error as it was about 10 mins of nothing. I know nothing on event management, but I even I would know never to let there be silence! Everyone was going, umm was that it. Finally the main fireworks happened and they were amazing. About another 20 mins of fireworks matched to music, absolutely amazingly done. Although can I just say the name 'pyromusical' is not the best, if I didn't know the details that would mean someone setting things on fire and singing about them...  

The next day did not work out so brilliantly for me to be honest. I headed down to the blue grotto, which involved a half an hour walking in the rather hot sun as the bus I got didn't go the whole way, only to discover when I got there that the 'daily' boat trips were cancelled for no apparent reason. So I hopped straight onto the arriving bus, which I only just got, it luckily stopped for me even though I was about 50 metres away from the stop still, to Rabat. On the bus I saw all these people get off at the next stop, which was at the bottom of the hill, to see the blue grotto. Slight idiots as you could not see it from there, rather up the hill, and that was the boat trip stop. I wonder if any of them actually worked that out...  

Once there I had no map so had to steal one from the train tour, which was not particularly descriptive. First I went into the Mdina, which is an absolutely wonderful little place. It is an old town on the edge of Rabat, entirely pedestrian with tiny little streets. I found a cute little wine bar down one of its streets, with a guy playing, I think, a mandolin outside. There I had a lovely (overly generous) glass of maltese white wine and a 'maltese wrap', although the maltese sausage in it seemed suspiciously chicken-esque...   I then headed into St. Paul's Cathedral in Mdina, which was nice but nothing exciting to tell there. Similarly decorated to St. John's, but less richly. Heading back up to Rabat I then had my second fail. Turns out that St. Paul's church and museum were both closed which was a little upsetting. Feeling defeated, I headed home.  

The next day also didn't turn out so great. In the morning I booked my train ticket for Budapest to Sighisoara for that Friday, now that I had finally decided where to go. Somewhere during the payment process it decided to charge me for two tickets (an extra €70). I called them but apparently they couldn't cancel the order over the phone and as I was only at the station on the day of travel, would have to pay a €20 admin fee! I was rather irritated as I consider it their websites fault, not mine. Additionally, even though I have now filled out the form for the refund, who knows if I actually receive it!  

That afternoon, and I say afternoon because the morning was spent organising things and whining to my rents about how horrible it all was. You know, being in Malta is obviously not good enough... Anyway, that afternoon, my last afternoon in Malta, I headed to Mosta, which I actually planned to go the day before but figured when everything in Rabat was closed it was unlikely that I would have success in Mosta. So I went out, had lunch and headed into the Church, known as Mosta's dome. The story relating to this church is that 4 bombs were dropped on it in world war 2, with one even falling through the dome. At the time the church was filled as war had been declared and so everyone went to the church. Miraculously, 3 off the bombs never went off, including the one that went through the dome, and the one that did onflicted only minor damage. Can you imagine, sitting in a church and a bomb comes through the roof, yoj are frightened for your life, and then nothing! Apparently though, whenever a German visits the church they deny the possibility vehemently.  

Heading back into the capital I had little time left and so had to choose between the National Museum of Fine Arts and seeing a 3000BC temple. Although the temple would be interesting, as I was unsure how long it would take to get there I went for the gallery. This was definitely interesting as it contained Maltese art, European art, and items from the order of St John, which is why I went there. After I finished there, just before closing, I thought hey, I might as well head to the Tarxien Temples and see if it is possible to see them from the outside.  

In catching the bus there I discovered there is something worse than Adelaide metro, the Maltese bus sytem. I waited about 20 minutes for a bus out, which should have come 5 minutes after I arrived. On the way back I waited half an hour, during which 3 buses should have come I could catch, 2 came I couldn't catch, and 7 of the ones I could catch went past in the other direction. Sound familiar...?  

But I managed to get a fairly good view of the temple from outside the fence. There was a gardener there, who saw me wandering around to find the best view. I took one photo and he totally didn't notice. Then I found a better view point, but when I took the photo he looked straight at me and so I walked quickly away. But I still go my photo, so huh!

Posted by Claire.Miller 10.05.2013 02:57 Archived in Malta Comments (2)

UK

April 5th to 26th

As of yet these are not complete, but over this time I went to Stratford-Upon-Avon, Winchechester, visited my rellies in Bournemouth in England, then headed up to Swansea then Tywyn in Wales. Stay Posted!

Posted by Claire.Miller 02:54 Comments (0)

Lisbon

April 2nd to 5th

sunny 16 °C
View 2013 on Claire.Miller's travel map.

The train out of Lagos was a little dodgy and I was particularly watchful of my suitcase. The bad economical state of Portugal could definitely be seen in the people on the train. There was a really drunk guy who kept wandering up and down the train and trying to speak to me in Portugese which was really pleasant. Luckily that train was only an hour and then we changed to a better one. Also managed to save on the first ticket as the guy couldn't get the full ticket for us!  

We arrived in Lisbon at about 9pm I think it was and headed to our hostel. On the map it seemed really close from the train station but we had decided to catch the tram. The lady at the tram stop said lucky we didn't try as apparently it is actually a fair distance and at the top of a massive hill. When we got up there we definitely agreed, doubt I would have made it! What is with the Portugese and building all their cities on massive hills! But annoyingly the tram apparently didn't run after 9pm so we ended up having to catch the bus, which we just missed as we discovered this. In the end we didn't get to the hostel until about quarter to 11. What made this worse was that I had read something on the train that implied that I may need a visa if I wanted to keep travelling in Europe, so you know, slight freak out, so I was wanting to talk to Dad but all we were just standing waiting forever at a bus stop!  

Talking about the visa, the theme of Lisbon was definitely Embassies! I spent half of my time in the city trying to see embassies about visas. I went to the Australian one on Thursday and she was very disapproving and said that I needed a visa and basically said I was an idiot but wouldn't give me any more information about it all, just saying I needed to go speak to the embassy of the country I wanted to apply for. Then on the Friday we went to the German embassy and had to wait ages as there was a queue. After much asking a question, and then sitting and waiting while they looked for an answer, they said I could apply for a six week extension from Germany and I needed to call immigration in the town I would apply in and do an interview. Of course they were closed by this point as they close at 12 and are an hour in front. Thursday night I actually just booked the cheapest plane out on Friday afternoon to the UK so I had a bit more time to sort it, as I had about 3 days left without a visa.  

But back to Lisbon. Turns out the two guys who we were sharing the room with were late night people, and one of them snored really, really badly, and another (or possibly the same one) talking in his sleep. As a result I did not get much sleep at all any of the nights. Not really my best experience.  I don't know if it influenced by all of this but, to be honest, Lisbon wasn't really my favourite place in Portugal. Nice enough, but every other town beat it really, although Carmen said she didn't like Faro so much but I did.  

Our first real day there we headed out to a small town called Sintra. This is quite near the coast and about an hour or so train ride out of Lisbon. Lots of castles. We visited a place called Quinta de Regaleira. It was like a fairy tale. There was even an underground labyrinth which meant walking through pitch black caves and attempting to feel your way along the walls. Loads and loads of fun. And also slightly scary. There were towers everywhere where we could obviously pretend to be royalty and Rapunzel, with my long blond hair. I mean everyone over the age of 10 does that and all.  

After going back to our childhood in that castle we headed up to the moorish castle on the top of this hill. This was slightly regretted at first as there were many, many stairs and after the last week with too many hilly towns, and our bike ride, our legs were over it. But it was absolutely worth it as the views were brilliant. And the fact we were wandering around a moorish castle was definitely nothing to scoff at. Although they were building an museum or info centre or something in the middle of it which seemed to me very out of place with the feel of the place. But hey, what do I know.  

The next couple of days were spent int Lisbon itself. We wandered round the town, parks, and Alfama, went to the Castelo de São Jorge, which again gave good views but was nothing exciting in itself. We also visited, and climbed the dome of, the Church of Santa Engrácia (now the National Pantheon), which was a nice, not too overly decorated, church and gave some great harbour views. This was also the day I went to the Australian embassy to get very little useful visa info from them. As a result I booked a flight dtraight out for the Friday to the UK so I could sort it out without stressing about using up my schengen time, for the tiny price of €180! Although that may be my fault as I don't trust easyjet so flew Tap, portugals main airline, instead. Turns out I really shouldn't have any trouble but that is a story for another post!  

After I saw the embassy I was supposed to phone Carmen but after calling my dad to hear his opinion, I discovered a lack of credit on my phone. So I ran around visiting hoteks and trying to find a payphone. I did find one but all that succeeded in doing was stealing my money. In the end, I decided to head back to the embassy in the hope that Carmen remembered where it was. She did and was sitting waiting for me, so I basically wasted my time and money but hey.  

Heading across to Belém I went to the Jerónimos Monastery which was really lovely and had a fairly indepth history section (maybe too indepth as I got quite bored of it after a while) but it seemed much of it was blocked off to tourists so in terms of the monastery itself you say only the refectory and the cathedral really.  

The famous pastries of Belém obviosuly come from this area, they are like a small custard tart, and were quite nice. By this point were over it all though and headed back to the hostel to get another sleepless night due to our snoring room buddy. This is exactly why I hate hostels!  

That night we did head out into town, more to see what it was like than actually dance as we were way too tired for anything requiring effort. Lisbon seems like a pretty good place to go out actually, people were spread in bars, clubs, and even jn the street. There was only a small night area butmit was definitely buzzing as they say! We were so cool that we went into a lolly shop. It was pretty cool actually as you chose a pill bottle size (the theme of the shop was that the sweets were 'medicine') and filled it with all you could fit. However we realised after that neither of us actually liked lollies that much and we should have got much more chocolate and much less lolly. Me being unable to waste food I ended up eating most of them on my way to the airport the next day.  

The next day we went firstly to the German embassy, as dad and I figured that if I needed to get a visa I should go for German. We spent ages there, there were several people waiting. The funny thing was that the receptionist thought my passport was brilkiant, apparently it was the first Australian passport she had ever seen and she wanted to look at all the pictures. Getting the information also took a while as the guy kept on getting us to wait while he checked things. In the end he decided I could get a 6 week extension at an immigration office in Germany. Again this was not quite right, but another story, another day.  

That afternoon I wanted to head to a shopping area I had heard about. Unfortunately the map we had was useless, we had got fairly lost with it already on previous days, and weended up walking around a botanical garden the wrong way so it took us about 20mins to get there when the other way would have only taken us about 2 minutes. In the end there were very few shops on this street, but there was a Max and Co. where I got an awesome pair of boots!  

It was then time for me to head to the airport, so goodbye to Carmen which was sad as we really did have loads of fun. Stupid uni, it took both Alicia and Carmen away from me! I mean, who needs a degree and all!  

There was a slight drama with getting to the airport as the lady at the hostel said it took an hour so I left 3 hours, but it took two. This would have been fine if I hadn't got to the check in and had the lady say I had to get my credit card checked, I think because I booked it so last minute, and so after I found the place and did that they sent me to another check in desk who said no, you were meant to go to the first one. Luckily the lady there was nice though and said I could check in with her and said my luggage through the bulky items area, which sent it through faster. At this point it was 5 minnutes to boarding so I ran through security. Stupidly I hadn't sorted out my liquids but the info guy was like, nah don't bother with anything but the perfume. So I showed my perfume to the security guy and he decided it would be a real joke to go on about it being a gift for him and what would he say to his friends and family when he came home with a womans' perfume! I was like real funny dude, but I am in a rush here! He just kept going on and on about it. When I had run to my gate pretty much, it ended up that we were delayed half an hour, so it didn't even matter. We even started boarding and all got into the bus (you get bussed to the plane), only to have to get off again as we had to wait for passengers from another delayed plane to get there.

Posted by Claire.Miller 10.05.2013 02:08 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

Lagos

April 1st to 2nd

sunny 16 °C
View 2013 on Claire.Miller's travel map.

We caught the first train to Lagos so we had all that day there and could leave for Lisbon the next morning, but it ended up that Lagos was so nice and we were too tired that afternoon to appreciate it so we caught the last train out on the Tuesday to spend as much time as possible there.  

Hilarious thing happened on the train. As it was April Fools day I told my parents that we were stuck on a train in Portugal due to a blizzard (note that the weather was very sunny and at least 15 degrees). Later on the train I get a call from my parents asking how it was going. They totally believed it! And not only that, my Aunty and Uncle were there and totally believed it too! Brilliant! Laughed about that all day.  

When we got to Lagos the plan was to wait for the bus but Carmen was like oh no, there's a bridge over there we should walk, the bus is like another 15 minutes. So I was like whatever, and so 45 painful minutes of struggling up hills with all cobblestone pavement, which of course is so easy to roll a bag along, finally made it. Of course we had to pick the hostel at the top of the hill. And to make it worse, two minutes away from our hostel we saw where the bus stopped. I must admit, Carmen is lucky to be alive right now, I was so close to killing her, the only thing that stopped me was that even if she was dead, I would still need to find the hostel.  

When we got to the hostel we had the room to ourselves which was great, and a proper shower that got hot! The lady who owned it lived down satirs and was always asking if we needed anything, even the day we left. They were so informal, we didn't need to checkout until we left at like 4pm and I am pretty sure that we could easily have left without paying as the lady's son who did what seemed like very little work at the hostel (a lot more surfing) was like to Carmen 'no pay later if thats easier, seriously I don't need it yet' and we didn't even see them later. So chilled, it was great.  

So we spend that afternoon going around the town trying to find a laudromat. We found one which was not self service and expensive so I wasn't particularly keen. I had seen one down the esplanade so we headed down there, and that was closed. At this point I am pretty sure Carmen was ready to kill me, we had been lugging our shopping around for a fair half hour. At this point I decided I was hungry and tired and so we headed back to a café where I had seen someone eating a ham and cheese toastie, which had made me massively crave one. After this and a cup of tea life seemed a lot better. It then improved when we went to the supermarket across from the café and found that it had a self serve Laundromat which was quite cheap! Success! I think the lady at the supermarket was really bored as she kept on coming over to try and help us. Carmen practised her English reading with the book ‘A Brave New World' which was sitting there, not the best book to practise on, rather obscure words… Mainly pertaining to fertility and science. We also ate a lot of chocolate, including kinder surprises for the win!  

After our washing was back in the hostel and hanging up all over our room, at this point it was extremely lucky no one else was in there, we headed off to the beach. Unfortunately, as I had washed all my jeans, I only had a skirt and stockings which aren't exactly beach appropriate, I ended up taking off the stockings when we sat there. But Lagos has some of the prettiest beaches I have ever seen. It is basically a merging of perfect white sand, blue water beaches and the great ocean road cliffs. Absolutely stunning. Even though it was not exactly warm there were still a few people on there, I can't even imagine how crazy it would get over summer. Not so great when we left though as we found ourselves in some kind of labyrinth of a resort or development area. It took us about 15 minutes to find which road led out and we were totally followed by the security guy, we look so suss and all.  

We made an eggplant, mushroom, and pesto pasta for dinner and managed to smoke out half the kitchen as I wanted to cook it on the grilling pan. But it was definitely worth it as it tasted amazing.  

The next day we went and had a proper, not exhausted, look at the city. It is a definitely a nice city, but I think that Lagos wins on its beaches more than anything. Although in saying that I found an awesome ceramics shop there.  

The city is pretty small so this only took us about an hour and then we headed straight back to the beach, a different one this time, just as stunning. Well, except for the old naked man who apparently decided that when you put clothes on after swimming (I think he was skinny dipping) you need to clean your feet and put your socks and shoes on before any clothing.  We found ourselves a little cove to go on, but the tide seemed to be heading up into it so just in case we went back round to the main area of the beach and stayed there. Carmen really wanted to swim so she went in and I just lay on the sand with my headphones, and sometimes my camera. I would definitely recommend this.  Although be careful if you have skin like me as even though I lay with a scarf on my face and made sure my neck was all covered and it wasn't that hot, of course I got sunburnt! Although Carmen got it worse I think.  

Made ham and cheese, and ham, pesto, mushroom and cheese sandwiches for lunch at the apartments and sat out in the sun eating our sandwiches (may I just say massive sandwiches, I could only eat half of my second one) and drinking our milk. Absolute bliss. Well, they were actually meant to be eggplant sandwiches but it was so tasty we had eaten it all the night before. Then we didn't have a lot of time til our bus (I was NOT walking again), we went for a wander along the cliffs. To be honest, I think this is when I got sunburnt more than on the beach. But that was really nice, we saw the surfers and some bizarre plants. And we saw where all the loaded people obviously stay.

Posted by Claire.Miller 10.05.2013 01:59 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

Faro and São Brás de Alportel

March 29th to April 1st

semi-overcast 17 °C
View 2013 on Claire.Miller's travel map.

The train road down to Faro was rather long as we were pretty much heading vertically down the whole of Portugal. It went through Lisbon again so it was our second time in the city but still haven't seen any of it. Our hostel, Hostel 33, was conveniently located about 2 minutes from the station. It was a little funny and a little weird because it was apparently the first day the hostel had opened and the guy was rather over keen about us staying there. I think there was only one other guy there!

The first morning we went to the bone chapel, which was, as the name implies, a small chapel made completely from bones. Not weird at all... Then we headed into the old town which was quite pretty, although not overly exciting. On our way there we saw an ad for a boat trip out to the sandy island Ilha da Barreta and decided to do it that afternoon. So after a cup of tea and slice of pizza in the town centre, where we discovered the population of Faro, the rest of the city was dead, we headed out to the island. It looked rather tiny as we got there but we walked around it and it took about 2 hours. It was mainly beach and very flat but still lovely and uninhabited. With half an hour to kill we had some very tasty fries and hot chocolate at the restaurant, the only building there. It was very strange as it seemed some people came over on our boat, sat in the restaurant, and then went back rather than actually seeing the island, but hey, each to their own I suppose. Carmen and I spent our time walking and attempting to take photos of ourselves jumping on the beach, way cooler than sitting in a restaurant!

The evening was uneventful, we went and looked in the shops with no success, tried to find a laundry which wasn't open so again no success, grabbed some food from the supermarket to cook for dinner, and hired some bikes for the next day. They only had a microwave so we had microwaveable cannelloni and veg. Oh and I had a very tasty tiramisu and white chocolate with nutella icecream as well that afternoon, so I lied, not completely uneventful!

And I also lied twice because we went to an Easter Vigil in the old town cathedral that night, although we only lasted one and a half hours, til 11, not sure how much longer it was. It was quite elaborate, I believe of the Roman Catholic religion. Everyone stood outside the doors and the bishop and choir boys came out with his special hat and stick. Then something happened that I couldn't see and they walked back in with the Christ Candle, and so did the congregation, lighting their candles on the way. We didn't have a candle though sadly. So then we had to stand up for quite a decent amount of time as he chanted and the incense was all waved around. By this point it had already been half an hour. The next hour was spent with a reading, song (different singers sang and the congregation joined for the chorus), and then stand up as bishop did a small chant, with a different hat of course, then a reading, song, chant, and so on. After a while this got quite tedious and we were dead tired so we left. Although the singing was really good and the cathedral itself was very attractive.

So you didn't misread above, I did actually say that we hired bikes for Sunday. Reason was that I really wanted to go to São Brás de Alportel for a flower festival they have on Easter Sunday. So we headed off on the 15-20km ride to the town, an hour later than planned as we failed to realise that morning the clocks changed for daylight saving. I also failed to realise the hill situation of the ride. Started out massively keen but then, bit by bit the unused muscles in my legs made themselves quite known. Started a whole like 15 minutes into the ride. Carmen said the bikes we had were for short distance riding and I maintain that is the reason that as we got towards the end of the ride there I had to walk my bike up the hills.

Carmen was worried for my life towards the end as well as for the last bit we had to ride on the main highway and I could hardly manage to ride. This was quite funny as the night before I was convinced that if I didn't manage to get myself killed riding on the road, I would definitely do myself serious damage or cause a major car collision or something, I even checked the emergency number just in case. But then when I started riding I was like nah I'm fine, this isn't so hard. When we were only 30 minutes from the town, although we had absolutely no idea how close we were, Carmen thought we should turn back so I didn't die but I would not admit defeat, I had come this far! So I valiantly pushed onwards with the promise that if we didn't see anything for 20mins we would turn around. I pushed with every last iota of energy I had (ok I mostly walked), which was surprisingly little considering how much food I have been eating, and then suddenly, around the mountain we saw a glimmer of hope, a town! And joy of all joys, it was the right town! With renewed energy I continued to walk my bike towards the light, thanking the lord on this Holy of days that we had made it, if somewhat wetter than we started due to the rain, particularly our bums as the seats got rained on overnight.

When we got into São Brás de Alportel it was absolutely worth all the effort it had taken. We got there after the procession started but it was very slow so we still had time to see some of the flowers in the street before they got there. So for explanation, in São Brás de Alportel for Easter Sunday they have a procession of people holding loads of different flower arrangements and the streets the procession takes are filled beforehand with flowers as well, it is absolutely beautiful. The procession is full of townspeople and one person would shout a line, I assume something like 'he is risen', and then all the people around them would shout Hallelujah three times, quite exuberantly! It was quite funny though as a lot of them had obviously been drinking, I saw one guy take a swig from a flask as he went along, and another guy having a quick smoke, but that just made them all the more louder in their shouting. The reason it was so slow was because they were all really keen to shout out and every time they did the group had to stop to shout the Hallelujahs and lift up their flowers for each one. The other funny thing was the minister who was wandering around organising everyone in his robes and carrying his digital camera so he could take pictures.

After the about 20 minutes it took to go past the one spot where we were we went over to see some stalls which were set up for the occasion. Awesomely there was one there which sold churros and farturas, so we got some plain churros, a big one filled with chocolate, and a f. It was all brilliant, especially the f, and gave us back some much needed energy for the ride back.

After wandering around the town, which was really cute and pretty, particularly with flowers put up everywhere, we got back on our bikes and headed down towards Faro with a stop at some ruins near Estói. On the way back we stuck to smaller roads only, which involved some very steep hills down so I am very glad we did not go up that way! Luckily most of it was down and I had managed to get some energy back so I could manage a little bit of the hills, though not much. Particularly after I finally managed to find the best gears to use.

Heading back Carmen had a small incident where she got chased on her bike by some barking dogs. She got all angry at me because all I did was laugh, although I maintain they were totally all bark and no bite. After that though whenever we heard dogs we would get off the bikes and walk. At one point we did see a nice dog which I gave a little pat, well until she went for a rabbit (I know, a rabbit on Easter, and that was the second one we saw that day!).

So we stopped twice on the way back, firstly in the town Estói where we found a nice view next to some really fancy hotel and so sat and had a little bit of the Easter bread we had bought the previous day. I really needed to use the toilet at this point so I went into the hotel to ask if I could use theirs. It was so fancy! And really funny because I come out of the toilet you know, dressed in my jeans and a navy poncho that is an XL and so massive and down to my knees, not to mention wet and fairly covered in the dirt from the ride, and there is another lady there in a skirt suit and heels. I was just like 'hi', trying not to crack up.

So we also went to the ruins just outside the town which were quite nice, beautifully green, and with some weird art exhibition going on. There were all these up-ended cones with their point cut off, they looked like skirts and I totally wanted to get into one. But they had been decorated with all this random stuff, like materials and the like, they looked like a child had done them. Don't ask me how that is art.

By the end of the trip I was like a zombie, I just kept on going with no feeling left in my legs whatsoever and it now actually hurt more when I stood up. We got back about an hour and a half before we had said we would return the bikes so went back and stretched my legs and thankfully showered. Too exhausted to do anything else we grabbed some quick maccas for dinner and lay on the bed the rest of the night watching 50/50. About halfway through, as well as the shooting pain in my legs every time I even slightly moved them, I started getting a throbbing headache, pains in my chest, and slight nausea. There was a slight possibility that I might have gotten a little dehydrated. Not my favourite night ever, I'll be honest.

The next day, very surprisingly, I was not sore at all! I don't know if the stretching and walking afterwards had gotten the muscles relaxed enough, or I just wasn't using those muscles, or they were so bad they were numb, but it was great. I had been dreading it all night and nothing! Then thought ok, probably will be tomorrow but still nothing! I did get a little sore over the next few days when we walked around or up and down hills too much but nothing at all like I expected, which was pretty much the need for a wheelchair.

Posted by Claire.Miller 19.04.2013 03:51 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

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