There are 10 provinces and 3 territories in Canada and I felt after a recent visit to Cayo Santa Maria that Cuba could be at least be an honorary destination in recognition of the fact that Canadians love the country so much! At least 99% of tourists were Canadian in Cayo Santa Maria. One couple we met has just completed their 43rd trip to the same resort going monthly. When you switch on the television you get CTV Ottawa! That said, we have just returned from a first-time visit and enjoyed a beautiful week there. I had been told that the Cubans really appreciate any items left behind so when packing I made sure to take things that I would give and leave for them to use. Some said just tip them but this is a country where everything is very expensive and nowhere near the choices we have, we heard many stories, one woman told me she had to pay 14 pesos for a plastic laundry basket and it cost her two weeks’ pay! It does not matter that things have been used although if you are giving something away make sure it is something you would be prepared to accept yourself. Any sort of tote bag is popular as the Cubans work very hard and long hours often traveling long distances to get to work. A day after I arrived my beach bag was admired and I said if she wanted it I was leaving it behind, she did. I also gave out jewelry, bags, fragrance, and clothes. I was fortunate that I had a checked bag as well as a carry-on so I was able to take quite a lot. I was thrilled that my downsizing proved popular, even more than the tips. So if you are traveling to Cuba or perhaps a country that is underprivileged, declutter or if you prefer, purchase some items. Don’t worry if it does not fit as items are traded and passed on. The most popular items that Cubans want are babies and children’s clothes, fragrance and toothpaste.
Just one very early morning bus or the one I took at 2.30pm. This bus route runs along the western slope of the Serra da Groba , which does have fantastic views and a section is called the Magic Route of Oia. As usual, I showed the bus driver the address of today’s destination – the Hotel Restaurante Costa Verde in Oia (on the map looks nearer to Viladesousa) but discovered it really does not matter as it is just one road so it is hard to get lost. As luck would have it, there is a bus stop right outside the hotel. As I had left later than usual the guys arrived shortly after so we all sat down together for afternoon coffee. Dinner was in the hotel restaurant and again was good. The hotel itself was pretty dated, and even with a sea view, I could not wait to leave and John reminded me that our next stop was two nights at the Parador in Baiona. Yes!
Today was a little different; I had to take the train to Caminha, which takes just 10 minutes. You buy your ticket on the train, as there is no ticket office in Vila Praia de Âncora. As I waited I noted there was much fussing about what to do from the other travellers when the train did not arrive at the scheduled time. One traveller, Eduardo spoke English and said that this sometimes happened and as there was no one to ask, you just did not know. My only choice would have been to take a taxi, but after 15 minutes, the train rolled in. We exited in Caminha and Eduardo very kindly walked me to the ferry terminal; I think he wanted to practice his English as he is planning to study in London UK in the fall. At the ferry terminal, there is a bar where you can wait if you are early. We were to meet at around 11am to take the 11.30am ferry. We agreed if either one of us was delayed we would meet at the hotel.
Shortly after John and JB arrived, we bought our tickets and boarded the ferry which also takes vehicles and just 10 minutes to cross the Río Miño, almost as it meets the Atlantic from Caminha Portugal to Camposancos Spain, 2km south of A Guarda. Spain is one hour ahead of Portugal. Once we arrived the guys put me into a taxi to the Vila Da Guarda Hotel as there were no buses to A Guarda town and they took off walking. No English is spoken at the hotel but using google translator on the hotel computer we did just fine. The Vila Da Guarda is a very modern hotel and we had a lovely room.
A Guarda is a very pretty seaside town and fishing port with restaurants and bars overlooking a typical harbour setting, which is the oldest part of town near Praza do Reló.
With the Atlantic behind you can look up to Monte de Santa Trega, rising up just outside of the town. We were on half board but we were taken down to Puerto Guardes, a harbourside restaurant where all the locals where eating and drinking, we had a fine meal of swordfish with local wine.
After dinner, we took the walking path that hugs the coastline and watched an incredible sunset. We walked back to the hotel getting a little lost on the way. The shopping district is quite large and although a lot was under construction, it will be very nice when it is finished.
My husband is an avid hiker who has now walked the Camino Francés (French Way) from St Jean-Pied-du-Port to Santiago de Compostela twice. It is the most popular route of all and there are approximately 38 different Caminos according to the Museum of Pilgrimage and Santiago in Santiago de Compostela. The second most popular route is Camino Portugués, which begins in either Lisbon or Porto. John wanted me to come along to take in the sights but I am not a walker so although I could have cycled, I chose to take public transport, check in to the hotel and tour the daily destination. We would usually meet up at the hotel in the late afternoon or early evening. All our accommodation was pre-booked with bed & breakfast and we had daily luggage transfers hotel to hotel with Camino Ways.
Day 1-2 Porto.
After an overnight flight from Canada with a connection in Lisbon that was unfortunately delayed, we arrived in Porto late afternoon at the beginning of May 2019. We were booked into the Hotel Carris Porto Ribeira, which is located on Rua do Infante D. Henrique in the city center just one block from the River Douro. John had also booked taxis for airport transfer arriving and departing, although if you want to save some money, the Porto Metro service is easy and very efficient and the least expensive way into Porto’s city center. It takes about 30 minutes on the purple line and is less than E2.
The weather had been calling for rain but as it was dry upon arrived, we decided to explore the area. Ribeira’s historic area is narrow; with cobblestoned streets that have an abundance of small bars and restaurants. (Do make sure you have flat footwear to protect yourself from falling or worse). From the main entrance of the hotel, we turned right and right again walking down to the Douro River, through Praça da Ribeira square, which still has the colorful 18th-century townhouses. We had a much- needed coffee at a local café, a walk by the river before we set out to find a restaurant with tapas and new wines (to us) at Porto 4.
Day 2 The Twin Cities
It may be Portugal but practically everyone speaks English in Porto, so much so that it felt like a suburb of Britain! We had an excellent breakfast at Hotel Carris Porto Ribeira, complete with a glass of sparkling wine, we walked over the Ponte de D. Luís Bridge, which is an impressive two hinged double deck arched bridge from Porto to Gaia to stroll along the riverside on the Avenue de Diogo Leite and visit some of the Port wine cellars, some of which I had never heard of before, known here as caves. These are major tourist attractions offering tours and tastings. Most of the bars and restaurants will offer flights of port usually around 5 different ones too. Here down a side street, you will find the “Half-Rabbit” This large piece of street art has been created entirely out of garbage complete with a municipal road sign. Everyone takes a photo!
Another way to view the Port wine area in Vila Nova de Gaia is to take the cable car from the top located in The Jardim do Morro Park. It is near to the Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar that offers great views of Porto and is at the top of the cliffs on the southern side of the Douro River. Take the cable car down to Cais de Gaia, on the river bank or vice versa. You can also use the funicular to save walking up or down the hill before crossing over the Ponte de Dom Luis Bridge to Gaia or on your return. These both have fees although it may be worth it for anyone with mobility issues. You can also take a jaunt on the Douro on a Rabelo boat; these were the charming cargo boats traditionally used to transport Port wine from the vineyards to Vila Nova de Gaia. Today, they offer cruises for tourists.
Still, in Gaia, we visited the Monastery of St. Domingos das Donas, there was no charge to tour. There is the church itself entered through a long courtyard, with a well-lit alter, and seating which contrasts with the darker upper floor of choir-high seating set on two levels, in a “U” shape. The ceiling, decorated by 49 oil paintings, represents church themes.
Strolling back, we stopped at the Pink Market for lunch, so called for the reddish pink brick, which is like a big food court with many local specialties to indulge in. For beer drinkers, Super Bock is the Portuguese brand and it is good, also sold in flights, especially on a hot day. We also had the best pink sparkling wine by Mateus, not the original distinctive pink bottle sold everywhere, this Mateus, came in a champagne style bottle, kept in the Sandeman bar and patio. Sandeman appropriately serves a large selection of Port wine cocktails for lighter drinking. On a side note, many of the wines served in the bars, restaurants, and café are Vino Verdi or younger wines, which I do not see in Canada, they are light, refreshing, and very easy to drink. Surprisingly, they are less expensive, even in Euros.
Back in Porto, we walked up to towards ‘Estação de São Bento’ the railway station where our friend was staying, literally at the station at Passengers hostel. The station entrance hall is well worth a visit as it features over 20,000 tiles commemorating historical events. Another way to see Porto is by Tram, at this time, there are roughly a dozen vintage trams that track the last three tram lines. This is a fun way to see Porto’s cobbled streets in the city center.
In search of dinner, we found a restaurant populated by locals. JB was hungry and had the “Francesiha”, an enormous toasted sandwich made with an assortment of ham, veal, steak, sausage, chorizo, cheese, and an egg. It was set in a bowl of a rich sauce made with beer and peri-peri and came with chips/French fries. He ate it all and pronounced it very good. We had lighter, but tasty fare. The pastries are delicious and there is an abundance of them in all the bakeries. Pastel de Nata is Porto’s version of the Pastel de Belem from Lisbon.
For my wardrobe, I really like using monochromatic colour schemes where you take one colour and use various paler and darker shades of the same colour then pair with a neutral such as black or white. Here the earrings are the same colour.
I do the same in my rooms too. For example, a monochromatic room in green may include different shades of green on upholstery fabric, walls, and curtains, the neutral may be a white ceiling and woodwork.
Take a look at broke with expensive taste travel, a travel blog with really useful tips on how you can save money and NOT get bumped.
I found this photo by accident, it was one that had I had taken in Ottawa some years ago outside Sugar Mountain which is a candy shop selling all your childhood favourite chocolate bars and more.
The photo is not perfect so written out in candy wrappers (the capitals) it says.
GOOD NEWS it’s Father’s Day!
You are a huge NERD but you are full of SMARTIES. Mum thinks you are a BIG HUNK and a SWEETIE. You are MOUNDS of fun and you are worth more than 100 GRAND and we love you NOW & LATER. Our POP ROCKS!
Happy Father’s Day
Once we redid the Turkish room – an alcove off our sitting room, we had 8 matchstick style bamboo blinds left over! We gave some away to use as blinds and my daughter still uses one as a tablecloth/cover which simply transformed an ugly plastic rectangular outdoor table. The weight makes it very stable.
We also considered using it a screen to hide the air conditioning unit. Simply take bamboo poles, cut to size of blind plus 12 inches wind around each end securing with twine and press 12 inches into the ground.
Or use as
A sunshade hung up with bamboo poles, screws, hooks or clips.
Cut down and wrapped around large plastic flowerpots.
A potting mat to stand on in muddy areas which can then be easily hosed down.
As a curtain/blind to block out the sun on an open porch.