Along the Algarve Coast, Or One of the Poorest Guided Tours I’ve Been On

Portugal is the 54th country that I’ve been to in my life. I have amazing experiences from so many places around the world (although I still have a lot more to discover), but it also means that I have done many guided tours of varying quality. On the bottom of my list was a tour in San Francisco a few years back with Andreas. The “guide” told us absolutely nothing of interest and made so many bad jokes that two people actually left the trolley at a stop at Golden Gate Bridge and took the bus back into the city.

A competitor was Kennedy in Grenada, who took Jonas and me around the island for a day. His tour was very scattered, with a lot of information and dates but without any story real story. He also cracked a bunch of sexist jokes, trying to bond man-to-man with Jonas. It went so-so… And then there was my island tour on the Dominican Republic, where 2/3 of the tine was spend on the bus picking up or dropping tourists at hotels, or waiting for a boat.

Jonas and I agreed that this tour ended up among those on the bottom of our list. Scattered story telling through which we learned very little (essentially nothing about the explorers and Portugal’s interesting history, which was actually the topic of the tour), and poor sexist and racists jokes, with a lot of bitter comments about politicians and wealthy people. Both Jonas and I had an uncomfortable knot in our stomach when we got off the bus in the evening. On top of everything, our guide/driver dropped us at souvenir stores every chance he had (which I know from my days has a travel guide gives commission ). So I can’t recount interesting stories and anecdotes about the beautiful places we saw. Here are some photos instead:

Algarve Coast

Lagos Portugal

Lagos Portugal

Church Algarve

Silves Portugal

Silves Portugal

Mount Fóia

Westernmost Point Europe

Wild landscapes on the Algarve coast // Lagos with a statue of Prince Henry the Navigator, who is considered the main initiator of what is referred to as “the Age of Discoveries” // Lagos’ picturesque streets // in memory of Silves‘ Arab history // The “Top of the World“, at least according to Algarve’s inhabitants. Pile three stones on top of each other on one of the rocks up there and your wish will come true! //The Western-Most Point of Europe, from where the explorers took off with

Under The Bridge

LX Factory under the 25 de Abril bridge: Lisbon’s Williamsburg or Stockholm Söder, with restaurants, cafes, and sustainable fashion and interior design stores. The 25 de Abril bridge has gotten its name from the date of the Portuguese democratic revolution, which incidentally started the day I was born!

LX Factory

LX Factory

LX Factory

LX Factory

Two Days in Lisbon

Two Days in Lisbon was just enough to take a tour around the town, and see the main sites as well as the Marine History Museum. The explorers have always fascinated me since I learned about them in school, so what better museum to visit than that coveting the early voyages around Africa and across the Atlantic!? Even though I no longer dream of sneaking on board a ship and hiding among the cargo until reaching an unknown destination,  their journeys and the trade that developed after interest me because of the impacts they had on the food system and what we eat today.

Jonas and I were not the most organized tourists and with only two days, I think we may have missed quite a bit. Neither of us felt when we left that we really had a feel for how Alfacinhas (people from Lisbon) live their lives or how they enjoy spending their free time, and that we therefore didn’t really get a sense of the real Lisbon. However, we did stumble upon a very cool area under the 25 de Abril bridge, with restaurants, cafes, and sustainable fashion and interior design stores. And we ate a lot of seafood and tasted a Pastel de Nato at Patisseri Nacional, and had a wonderful lunch at a terrace in Alfama with a splendid view the city, and an equally wonderful seafood dinner at Doca 6. So event though we may not have gotten the full Lisbon experience, I think we covered at least some its highlights.

Lisbon View

Lisbon Palace

25 de abril bridge

Maritime Museum Lisbon

Lisbon

Patisseri Nacional

Patisseri Nacional

Lisbon View

We stayed at a really nice, very affordable boutique hotel (Internacional Design Hotel) right by Parca da Figueira in central Lisbon, which I can really recommend. It was cozy, the breakfast restaurant was pleasant (not the least the room), and the staff was super nice!

Two Nights in Havana Vieja

We spent our final two days taking in Cuba’s complex history at Hotel Inglaterra where colonialism meets communism, strolling around Havana Vieja, unsuccessfully trying to avoid Calle Obispo and all the souvenir stores, feeling overwhelmed when stepping inside Hemingway’s favorite bar El Floridita and quickly stepping out again, listening to a great band at Café Paris, admiring the beautiful architecture and artworks on the buildings along the narrow streets, and having mojitos at Hotel Nacional.

Hotel Inglaterra HavanaHotel Inglaterra HavanaHavana Vieja Cuba

Havana Vieja Cuba

El Floridita HavanaHotel Nacional HavanaCafe de Paris Havana

Our favorite dinner may have been at Paladar Los Mercaderes – relatively expensive but great food, lovely ambiance and really nice staff!

Surprise Stop in Cienfuegos

On the way back to Havana, we made a surprise rest stop in Cienfuegos – the regional capital of Santo Spiritus. Less of an outdoor museum and more of a buzzing town, I thought it was more interesting than Trinidad if one would stay there. It may also be because I found my dream hotel there….

Cienfuegos CubaCienfuegos Cuba

Cienfuegos CubaCienfuegos CubaHotel La Union Cienfuegos CubaHotel La Union Cienfuegos CubaHotel La Union Cienfuegos Cuba

Last three pics are from Hotel La Union. Perhaps a stay there next time… 

La Boca

While on the southern side of Cuba, we stayed in the little fishing village La Boca, right outside of Trinidad and 10 km from Playa Ancon. According to Lonely Planet, La Boca is “off the beaten track” but really it seemed like a quite well-established tourist destination, only for Cuban tourists. But casas particulares are popping up all over the village, seemingly targeting foreign tourists, and although many seemed open to just check in at, we found our room on Airbnb. Lively, and filled with Cubans enjoying the boardwalk and the sea, we thought La Boca was so much better than the idea of staying at some secluded hotel over at Playa Ancon or up in Trinidad.

La Boca Cuba

La Boca Cuba

La Boca Cuba

La Boca Cuba

La Boca Cuba

La Boca Cuba

La Boca Cuba

Thee were only a few restaurants around town and they are very simple, so our hosts fixed us dinner one evening. But even as I am from a fish culture, I had some my best fish and lobster to date here!

Reaching Waterfalls

A hike through a tropical forest, passing by wasp nest formations, crossing streams on hanging bridges and little rocks,  and walking through a blossoming field. And then, there it was! Cool, playful, and surrounded by hanging vegetation and rocks that had been shaped and polished by 1000s of years of water pouring over them! Beautiful and soothing!

Salto de Javira

Salto de Javira

Unfortunately, it was difficult to capture the beauty of the Salto de Javira waterfall.