Where are we for Real?
OK, hows this for a footnote, its almost too much to believe, but I swear its true. Its 5:00 am Sunday morning, we're all awake as its noon in Europe, and there is a naked man running down our formerly quiet residential street waving his shorts in the air. Did someone arrange this as a homecoming or did we bring a bit too much of Europe back with us? (maybe thats why Liz's luggage was so heavy)
Location: Calgary, Canada
and looking forward to whatever comes next. It was an incredible journey, but the kids are very happy to be home and grounded for the 1st time in months. We have some catching up to do around here, 3 months of mail to review, and some planning for the future. Guess I'm going to have to grow up again, but I'm not getting a haircut till I'm forced!
There are a couple of fresh postings below describing our journey to London and lots of new pictures loaded up in London I & II, Family and Algarve Scenery, and a couple of new additions to Another Day, Another Beach.
Hope you enjoying the viewing and if you have ever been contemplating an extended vacation, we can promise you won't have any regrets, so Go For It!
We were up early and off again for our last day of adventure. First stop was Buckingham Palace where we got to tour all the state rooms and see some of the Royal Art and Sculpture collections. The palace is extremely overindulgent and elaborate and we couldn't help but think of the fate of the owners of the Chateau de Versailles in France, take note monarchy!
From there we headed down to the Tower Bridge area. We went on a tour of the HMS Belfast, a retired British Warship that played a big role in WWII and was stationed at Normandy for 5 weeks during the D Day invasion, guns blasting no doubt at the German battery positions we went to see in June. Very interesting to see all the rooms and activities that take place on a ship that size.
We continued on down the Thames, crossed over the Tower Bridge and walked around the walls of the Tower of London and accompanying fortress. Unfortunately, we were too late to get in but that may have been a blessing, as we had finally worn the kids to the point of exhaustion. Instead we hopped on a bus to Piccadilly Circus for a quick look around and then headed back to Victoria Station and boarded a train to take us back to our Horley B&B, where our 12 bags containing 245 lbs of assorted clothing, collectibles, gifts, and souvenirs was waiting for us. We'd like to think we brought a little slice (more like slab) of Europe home with us.
...and the forecast was good. We arrived at Gatwick airport Wednesday aft, had dinner at a centuries old authentic (you want something you go to the bar and ask for it) British pub, and settled in for the evening at a B&B in the little village of Horley.
Thursday morn we put on our walking shoes for the last time and jumped the train into London for 2 days of exploration in her Majesty's hometown. We even stopped in at her place for a visit but she wasn't around to serve tea.
Our 1st task was to ride the double decker to Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum, where Liz was caught squeezing Brad Pitt's butt. After prying her off of him and out of there we wading into the London Underground (metro system) and headed for Big Ben and the Parliament buildings. They make for some very good picture material, very articulately crafted buildings. Lots of police presence on the streets and in the stations, but no problems anywhere. From there we headed down the riverfront to the London Eye and went for a ride, great views to be had from up in the sky.
Next stop was the London Dungeons, where our memory meter got set to high again. While floating through the bowels of the dungeons on a horror themed, Pirates of the Caribbean type ride, the last thing we heard was a mechanical executioner yelling that we were all going to Die - then Boom, out went the lights. There was a large power failure and we sat in the pitch black for about 10 minutes wondering what was happening around us till someone showed up with flashlight and candles and evacuated us from the building. A ride the kids will never forget!
We continued on down the waterfront along the Queen's Walk and checked out an amazing exhibition of photograhs of the natural earth as seen from the sky or space. ( www.earthfromtheair.com/ ) Awe inspiring pictures!
Pack the bags!
Alas, our time has come. A very sad day is approaching as tomorrow we are starting our journey home. We have a 3 day reprieve in London but then its back to Calgary Aug 13.
Liz had a wonderful birthday yesterday at ZooMarine, a SeaWorld like park in the Algarve. That was lots of fun. The last few days we have been beaching, visting relations and starting to pack our bags. I´m off now to pick up some more luggage as we seem to have increased our cargo while here.
We have indeed had the time of our lives here and will be back, but for now, we will go home, count our pennies, try out our own beds for a few days and then see if we can prolong the fun a bit longer by heading out to BC! When the well runs dry, it will be time to think about the un-retirement thing, but thats going to have to wait a few more weeks.
Once home, I will update the photos page (including London) as this is a great way to get pictures out to everybody at once.
Adeus from Portugal, next stop London!
It happened last week, our 1st day of rain in Portugal. Our planned trip to Evora was off and we were left stumbling and confused, wondering what to do. We ended up doing a couple of day trips to see castles in the Algarve, one in Castro Marim and one in Silves. Both very nice places but basic castle and walls are all that remain, not the entire refurbished villages like we saw in Spain and France. Both of them have renovations and architectural digs underway currently though. Will have to return in a few years and see what the outcome is!
And what did I say before about being jaded with beaches. NOT!!
The day of rain followed up by a day of cloudy weather knocked some sense back into us, and we have been sunning and watersliding ever since. We obviously took this wonderful weather for granted, no more. We have 7 days left in Portugal and we will be enjoying the great outdoors as much as we can. Forecast is 35 and sunny till we have to hop on a jet and skip up to London Aug 10.
Celebrating Kyla´s birthday today so home now to help polish off the 3 birthday cakes sitting on the table.
We hope everyone back in Canada had a fantastic August long weekend!!!
Forgive me Father
In Law, for I have sinned. A sin far too serious for you to even contemplate. In your eyes, possibly even a crime.
I have thrown food in the garbage!
As you may have picked up, it is vitally important for Lizs parents to ensure everyone eats well, too well in fact. (Lest you think I may be exaggerating, Liz was making Tuna sandwiches and asked her dad to pick up an extra can in case she ran short. Look at the newest picture under Wheres the Fish for the result
Everyday there is delicious, fresh, home cooking prepared at lunch hour for twice the number of people actually eating. This is fantastic except that it is also vitally important to them that all this food gets eaten (i.e. there is no such thing as THROWING FOOD AWAY). Add the two together and you end up with a fridge brimming with leftovers that we dont possibly have a chance to get to.
We have tried to comply with the above ordinance but I confess that on a couple of occasions, I have said last rites to some of the more mature items in cold storage and planted them in the non-recyclable pile of the garbage bin.
I hereby promise to make sure it doesnt happen again. Boy, who would have thought being spoiled rotten could be so difficult!
On the Road Again..
A quick note to say we are heading north tomorrow to see the town of Evora, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We want to see a bit more of how Portugal compares with what Spain and France had to offer, and believe it or not, we are become somewhat jaded with the beach life.
Have added a new Beach picture page and there are some additions to the original Family Shots page.
Hope all is well in Western Canada. The countdown is on for our return to reality, Aug 13.
Bullfighting meets the Calgary Stampede!
WHAT A SHOW last night, Portuguese Bullfighting is worthy of Western Canadian pride!!! This is a must see for anyone visiting Portugal!!! We knew the bulls weren´t killed during the fight but we had no idea that a team of bull wrestlers would risk life and limb to try and subdue them. After the matador is finished with a few spears (which obviously didn´t slow the bulls down much) a team of men enter the ring and tackle the bull head on, jumping on his horns, shoulders, and back until he is too tired to gore any more of them. Thats when they claim victory and stop the fight. Amazing Stuff!
There were bodies flying, stretchers in use, medics at the ready, and I would have to say the bulls had a pretty good night.
Seven fights in total, 2 guys carried out by stretcher and at least 6-10 more beat up good. Kids nicknamed them the Dodo heads, but they are truly the stars of the show. Should have been how they settled the NHL strike, thrown Bettman and Goodenow in the ring. Check out the new pictures, they aren´t that clear but we have posted the best ones with a running commentary.
Location: faro, Portugal
July 22 update
We survived the motorbikes! All 35,000 of them. They even had a group ride through town that the kids and I watched. 1000s of bikes, some trikes, 6 year old kids riding their mini-choppers, a souped up wheelchair, and a Fred Flintstone era machine with barrels for wheels. The only thing missing was some ear plugs and were all a bit deafer now because of it.
Another of Lizs cousins and family from Montreal are visiting as well now so we were off to a big waterslide park and beaches with them the last few days. We have taken a much more relaxed pace of late as the hot weather takes its toll on us, and there is only so much sun that my freckled red Scottish skin can take. Our typical schedule is to laze around the house in the morning (except for the girls who are doing schoolwork), big lunch around 1:00 pm, then off to the beach about 2:30. Bronson has polished off grade 1 so he gets to play with our newest pet, a turtle named Franklin Arthur Reid that Liz picked up recently.
One really great thing over here is that there is always something going on. Last night we watched a funky dance concert that took place downtown by the marina, (a 3 minute walk) tonite we are off to see our first ever Bullfight in the town of Albufeira, tomorrow there is a big fashion show in the town square, the next night another dance concert and the day after that a singing concert at the mall nearby. One really bad thing over here is that nothing starts before 10 or 10:30 PM, so it means lots of late nights for the kids.
The most horrible thought imaginable came to mind the other day, I will soon have to start thinking about coming out of retirement. Oh what to do! Im not ready for that. Fortunately Ill have to let it simmer for awhile as lunchtime is fast approaching and I need a clear head to focus on finishing my usual family size portion.
Location: Faro, Portugal
Since being back in Faro we have been resting up and relaxing but we have managed to get to the beach about 10 times so far. After all, this is the Sand and Castles tour and its time to fulfill the sand portion of it. We met a new cousin from South Africa, and went to the worlds largest Sand Sculpture exhibition. (check Beach Shots, Sand Sculptures, and Family shots for new pictures) What can you say about a climate where they build the sculptures in May and have them on display till the end of September, thats how good the weather is here! The kids are getting so dark no one will believe their mine pretty soon.
Liz and I went out on our 1st actual date without the kids since we left Calgary in May. I took her to Luis Figos Allstar Soccer (futebol) match. She was enthralled to say the least. (Not surprisingly, we took the wrong turn coming home and ended up in a different town)
I was spoiled rotten on my birthday with yet another delicious seafood dish, (neighbour brought over freshly dug clams) and a roasted chicken, and 2 cakes. That evening for date number 2 Liz took me to the very romantic high end marina and golf resort called Vilamoura. Kids enjoyed their 1st European sleepover with their new cousin.
This weekend the largest motorcycle gathering in Europe will take place here in Faro, estimated 15,000 40,000 bikers so not sure we will be hanging around, might be a good opportunity for another short trip.
Home Cooking at Last
25 straight days on the road, 14 different accommodations, at least 20 cities, 5850 kms driven, and the worst traffic ended up being the last few miles coming into Faro. Busy little town and to top it off while we were gone they reversed the direction of some one way streets we need to take. Not enough to faze us though after all we had been through, especially since we could almost smell the fresh cooked meal we knew would be waiting for us when we arrived.
All in all, a fantastic trip, hot and sunny pretty much the whole time, saw tons of amazing sights, kids were excellent throughout all the driving, and even outlasted mom and dad on some of the long walking days.
We have way too many memories to bore you with (besides, thats what personal visits are for when we get home) but here are some of the oddities that stuck out,
There must be 6 different language dialects within Spain, and theyre all called Spanish.
There is something wrong with Europe, no one on this continent eats peanut butter!
McDonalds in France sells wine and beer, but you cant get a glass of milk.
The most crucial direction sign is always the one that is missing.
Picasso could actually paint at one time.
Lost is the most popular show in the world and Liz can understand it in 4 different languages.
The kids each had a hundred hilarious things to say while traveling, but these are the ones that I remember the best,
Mariah in Sitges, where a lot of people werent wearing a lot - Of her 4 private parts, I can see 3 of them
Bronson in Paris, very tired after a long, long day of sightseeing Dad, I need something really awful to wake me up, let me smell your beer
Kyla, after the incredible storm we watched at Le Mont Saint Michel Its a good thing we didnt film the lightning, it would be too scary for Auntie Melanie (Auntie has a reputation for wearing out the fast forward button on VCRs )
And so ends the traveling portion of our vacation (though a 2nd road trip through Portugal is still under consideration) Updates and more photos will continue though with events as they unfold in the Algarve where we will be spending most of the summer.