Happy Hollinger Days

Trip Start Mar 02, 2009
Trip End May 25, 2009

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Flag of Portugal  , Setúbal,
Monday, May 4, 2009

I can't believe it is July 1st! 2009 and my dream vacation and Hollinger adventure is over, in fact for one month it has been over.  Today is my 48th birthday and Canada's 142nd. Happy Birthday everyone! I have "lived the dream" ;which was to travel with my family on a European adventure -the last big hurrah I would say-before this time next year when I expect my Son Ben will be packing, for university, and our family will change forever. But it's OK because we did IT! IT being the trip we planned forever. So I think that's why I have been hesitant to finish this blog. It will mean when I am done and that this trip truly is done and over. We had soooo much fun.

After the trip to Rota we arrived back in Portugal just in time to settle back into a routine of exploring on day trips. We then picked up my sister Kelly. We had 2 weeks of vacation exploring the area with Kelly-showed her the same places we took the Vospers but we found some wonderful new spots too! Before leaving home we had visited Sintra. The little Punto car almost didn't fit thru those narrow mountainous streets of Sintra. We spent some time in the toy factory. We also visited the coastline tourist attraction with the Portuguese translation of the "devil's mouth" a cave on the coastline makes dramatic crashing waves. We camped again in an orbitur bungalow N of Figuera da Foz at Mira. We realized the Rio do Sol was on the corner was a huge Mall with any and every modern convenience. I was proud that we didn't find or need to find this mall prior to our last few weeks in Portugal. We did manage to purchase a few good deals at the mall-mostly the replacement cord for the GPS which we used so extensively [and also I learned to find my way around Amora and area without it, but not till the last month or so. I only then discovered the more direct routes to the train station and the highway after I went "GPS less" in the last 2 weeks!] It was fun and tiring to drive in Portugal but  I only realized this when back home.
Driving in Portugal was stressful but we never would have been able to get by without the car [which was amazingly roomy for 5! but it did have a few problems like a light that fell off and a muffler, rad and tire replacement-but still a deal compared to a rental.]
I try not to regret lost opportunities but I was sorry that I hadn't made more of an effort to meet Maria and Manuel earlier. They are couch surfing friends who live near Amora and their family was similar to ours- with their three just about the same age as our kids -but Maria's girls were a little older than Emma and Ben. Sofia their youngest was Grace's age. Their son was Emma's age. We enjoyed a traditional meal of Bacalau [codfish] with them and I was so glad to have the comforts of home to try codfish-a must before leaving!

I was also sorry I hadn't met Daniel earlier. He was the surfer dude [his Dad owned one of the beach resorts; Hula Hula] and he gave the older two kids surf lessons the morning before we left! I suspect we could have been good friends!
We saw Palmela castle [on the coast only about 20 min from home base] with Kelly, and it was by far the best Castle we had seen so far. It was so traditional in it's layout and the view was spectacular! The signs were in English which helped us to learn that Palmela Castle housed [remnants of; including some original tiles] the first church in the area; a church of 1780. The first of it's kind in the neighbourhood. we also learned they had kept a bad bishop there in the keep for many years and he died there-Mike finding out from the literature that he actually drowned in the cistern! OOhh...yuck, not quite as romantic as I originally pictured! The view of the peninsula that travels south to the Algarve was spectacular. Before meeting up with Kelly, we had traveled across the mountain range on the ocean side [I drove!] and this is where we first saw this same view, from a different angle. Quite spectacular, but since almost driving off the side of a french alp near Chambray, France -I was more than a little nervous driving. The kids teased me for weeks for saying that I was having a panic attack [from driving on the side of the mountain]  but also that I was at the same time having Sooo much Fun! :)
We made many trips to the local market and to explore Lisbon-we shopped for souvenirs with Kelly. I found the salt and Pate to be the best gifts! I am enjoying my salts from the coast of France and from the Portugal salt flats. Fleur de Sel "flower of the sea" really is worthy of praise and I don't expect I will ever cook without it again. I learned to make "Camel drool" from Christina in Figuera da Foz [it sure tastes better than it sounds!] We took Mike's spaghetti sauce to Figuera and made dinner for them [they are the family we visited on the way back from France and they were kind enough to invite us back. The kids even were even treated to a surf lesson from their daughter Ines' friend.] We loved the Camel drool which sounds better in Portuguese "Babel du Camel" It is basically raw egg yolks and caramelized sweetened condensed milk with egg whites folded in.  We enjoyed dinner with our friends in Figuera. It felt like we have always been friends, they were so generous and amazing Hosts!. We traveled by motorway to Obidos-on the way to Figuera,  so I could try the cherry wine in the chocolate cups! The town of Obidos was simply spectacular. Like stepping back in time. We walked the esplanaded streets [barely wide enough to walk 3 abreast] and stopped for lunch after buying treasures; and wedding gift for our niece Tamara. It is a village 1000's of years old and still houses people in the same walled village that has been well preserved and enjoys now a steady stream of tourists. I really enjoyed the castle in Obidos. You can walk the outer original castle wall -which was a neat perspective to take. You can do this in the castle in Lisbon but in Obidos it is more original looking-maybe not having been destroyed as much by the 1755 earthquake that destroyed so much of Portugal. The town even had the phone wires buried to keep it's original look. We loved the liqueur but only bought a little as it was expensive [by Portuguese standards!] I only heard afterward about the Obidos Chocolate week in March. Might have planned the trips route differently just to fit that in!
After our visit to Christina's we drove straight home to pack and prepare for our return journey to Canada. I think this went fairly smoothly thanks to all the help and care we received from Cousin Paulo and his friends Joachim and Olga! They are kindly selling our car for us. THANK YOU for everything! 

 So.... hopefully you have enjoyed sharing our trip with us. Come and visit us a Sunnybreeze Farm in Fenelon if you get a chance! We have lots more stories and pictures to share with you.
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