Chapter 25

Active Retired Members

OSSTF

Ottawa-Carleton/Limestone/
Renfrew/Upper Canada

 

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Some of the ARM folks at Sra. da Rocha on March 19/08 The ARM folks at Sra. da Rocha April 9/08 The beach at Sra. da Rocha
A street scene from Lagos in the western Algarve One of the historic sites in Evora in the Alentejo A street scene in the Algarve
A town in the Algarve Evora A Moorish castle in the Alentejo
The Saturday market in Armacao de Pera Gibraltar--one of the tours available from Sra. da Rocha Evora/Alentejo (a world heritage site)
Vila Sra. da Rocha--the Chapter 25 ARM destination in Portugal. Reception at Sra. da Rocha Sr. F. Soares, our host at Vila Sra. da Rocha

(click on each picture to see a larger image)

ARM members three day two night tour 2015

click here to see a short video of Vila Sra. Da Rocha

Click here to watch Peggy and Mike Desjardins pictures from October 2010 (Flash needed)

 

 

Chapter 25 has developed a unique arrangement for holidays in Portugal.

Why Portugal? Portugal remains one of the least expensive, if not the least expensive, holiday destinations in Europe. It is a country with a long history going back to the time of Julius Caesar.

The weather in the Algarve region of Portugal is excellent The average temperature in October is 22 degrees, November 19, December 16, January 15 degrees, in February 16, March 17, and April 20.

There are no language problems in Portugal since virtually everybody speaks English. Also the Portuguese are especially welcoming to Canadians.

The towns and villages are wonderful places to explore or just enjoy a day in the town square with a glass of wine.

Our Chapter 25 ARM destination in Portugal is Vila Senhora da Rocha. Sra. da Rocha is located in the sunny Algarve region between Albufeira and Portimao. It consists one, two and three bedroom vilas and apartments.

Sr. F. Soares, the owner/manager of Sra. da Rocha provides Chapter 25 members, the families and friends with benefits that cannot be matched by any tour operator, travel agency, or travel wholesaler.

First, the rates charged to ARM members are unmatchable. There is no advance payment or cancellation fee. There is no single supplement. There is no extra charge for additional people in an apartment. There is five day a week housekeeping included. ARM members have free use of the recreational facilities such as the pools (three with one indoor) and tennis courts. Folks can take advantage of the destination anytime between October 1 and April 30 rather than being restricted to dates set by travel organizations. This is only a small sample of the benefits.

Sra. da Rocha has its own private beach. Locations such as Albufeira and Praia da Rocha have beaches shared by dozens of hotel.

Because of the unique features of this program it is restricted to 35 reservations. That’s not 35 people! Two people sharing a one-bedroom unit is one reservation. Six people sharing a three bedroom unit is one reservation.

This opportunity is open to all ARM members, their families and friends.

For further information you can contact taller"@”storm.ca or 613-592-5137 (delete the quotation marks around the @ character when you email). All of the details are on two DVDs (not CD). When you do make contact (preferably by email) please leave your name, address, phone number and email address.

Portugal 2016
Kim and Tom Towne

Igloolik, Nunavut to Senhora da Rocha, Portugal

How could two communities, 5541 km apart, possibly be connected... one being in the land of the midnight sun and the other being in the land of the continual sun?  Therein lies a tale.

Our daughter, Lauren, had accepted a teaching position way up inside the Arctic Circle in the small hamlet of Igloolik. Of course,  we took the opportunity to visit her in this last bastion of unadulterated  nature and while there met many of her friends, amongst them,  Andrew.

One night,  while enjoying a sociable evening,  it was mentioned that we had always dreamed about going to Portugal.  Andrew said that his mother, a retired teacher, often went to Portugal with the ARM group. We fit the criteria and thus started the relationship between Vera,  Anne, Terry, and ourselves. Needless to say, one year later, we found ourselves fulfilling our dream at Senhora da Rocha.

 We flew into Lisbon so that we could experience the train system in Portugal, going down to Tunes before moving on to Senhora da Rocha. It was a seamless transition from the airport to the train station via the metro. Two hours after landing, we were on our way to Tunes.  When we arrived at the resort, we were pleasantly surprised at our accommodations.  Along with the beautiful landscaping,  our unit was better than what we were told to expect.  Roomy, well stocked with the appliances and cutlery we would need, and extremely clean. We would come to realize that Portugal is very clean country- from the beaches to the streets to the restaurants - everything is just "so".

Much has been said in earlier testimonials about the beauty of Portugal.  The cliffs are spectacular, the countryside is astounding and the beaches are breathtaking. Much has also been said about the wonderful Portuguese people, the amazing food, the markets and the great weather.  The highlight of our trip, however, was the opportunity to meet so many different, special people who made each day and evening so much fun. There weren't many nights that went by that Anne and Terry weren't introducing us to new friends in the restaurant. What an opportunity to meet so many people of such varied backgrounds yet with  common interests. We have made friends for life.

We came to learn that the restaurant became the central hub for all things social, whether it was our Fado Night, Easter Luncheon, Liqueur Tasting Night or just getting together with friends for a drink at the end of a busy day. Of course,  the restaurant staff made our time there even more enjoyable by their personable, and often humourous service.

By design, we had decided that for the first part of our stay, we would walk and use the daily shuttle, then learn the local bus system, and then eventually rent a car. This worked well for us as we were able to explore the local countryside at a slower pace until we were zipping along in our "five on the floor" Skoda. Having a vehicle certainly changed the dynamic about how we saw Portugal.

The cliff walk into Armacao de Pera  cannot be adequately described and must be experienced firsthand in order to enjoy it to the fullest.  Learning the local bus system can be bit of a challenge but once mastered,  it opens up whole new areas to be visited, including the Algarve Shopping Centre.  A broken tooth necessitated a visit to the Health Clinic at the shopping centre and after a 15 minute wait, the tooth was professionally repaired and a teeth cleaning performed for the total sum of 80 Euros- about one third of the cost in Canada. To date,  the tooth is holding up fine.

We took four tours...two with the group as organized by Anne and Terry and two with a local tour company. The tours with the ARM group were spectacular in that they gave us the opportunity to see parts of the country that we wouldn't have been able to see on our own. We learned about the history of the various areas we visited and enjoyed the knowledge shared by Anne, Terry, Jose and Fernando. It is truly astounding to see how a country can be centuries old and have that much history when compared to our relatively new Canada.

 The local tours took us to many places that we visited briefly. This helped us learn the "lay of the land" and we were able to revisit those areas that were of interest to us, at a greater length of time, once we had our own vehicle.

The only drawback to our visit was that local golf was expensive. The cheapest eighteen hole round would have been in the neighborhood of 100 Euros each (after green fees, club rentals and a cart).  It really wasn't an issue when you  consider our home course in Kapuskasing was still under 10 feet of snow at the time and we wouldn't have been golfing anyways.  Might have to plan the budget a bit better next year.

Of course, every visit is always too short. To our many friends that we met in Portugal, we look forward to seeing you again next year (oh yes! we do plan on returning) and perhaps if we are lucky enough, we may meet some of you  this summer during our many travels down south.  To the truly adventurous,  the north can be really quite nice in the summer and you would always be welcome.

Speaking of the north, the true irony of our visit  is that  last year when we first found out about Vera, who was instrumental in getting us to Portugal, she was at Senhora da Rocha while we were in Igloolik, Nunavut. This year, while we were at Senhora da Rocha, she was in... yes,  you have it ... Igloolik, Nunavut. Next year, hopefully, we will be enjoying a wine with you all in Portugal... along with Vera.

 

Portugal 2015
Joan Lang

My husband Nick and I first heard about Terry Taller and his ARM trip to Portugal in 2013. We were at a New Year’s Day party and a teacher friend had been on this trip the past February and enjoyed it. We signed up for March of 2014 but due to health problems we had to cancel in January. So we tried again for 2015 (March 18- April 15) and this time we made it and loved every minute of it.

We had a good flight from Toronto to Faro and we were met by the transfer driver who took us along with about 14 others to Senhora da Rocha. There we were met by Terry and Anne. While waiting for our rooms to be ready, Anne took the ladies to the nearby Inter Marche grocery store to get a few items to tide us over for the next day or two. The men had a tour of the complex.

We had an upper one bedroom apartment. It had a well stocked kitchen and had two balconies— one facing the east the other the west. The views of the ocean were amazing. The grounds on the complex were well maintained and, since it was Spring, the trees and bushes were all coming out in bloom.

The complex has three swimming pools—one indoors and the other two salt water ones were outside and were just cleaned and ready for use the first week of April. We had beautiful weather 20-25 degrees with one day getting up to 30. We did have the odd day of morning rain (so much better than the folks at home –12 etc.) There was also a mini mercado grocery store on the grounds. It had fresh bread each morning. The pool side restaurant was a great place to eat or go for morning coffee or an after dinner drink. The staff was really friendly and helpful.

We arrived on Wednesday morning and on Friday morning at 7 am Terry took a bus load of 50 ARM folks on a three day trip to Porto and Lisbon. The first stop was Vila Viçosa where we toured the Ducal Palace. Since 1461 this had been the main base of the Dukes of Braganza. However, when Duke John became King John IV in 1640 the House of Braganza was moved to Lisbon and this became the summer palace.After having lunch we left and travelled to Tomar to tour the Convent of Christ (Templar Knights). There was so much to see!

We arrived in Porto early evening and Terry had made arrangements for us to go to a nearby restaurant for dinner. This gave everyone a chance to meet others who were on the trip. The next morning after breakfast we travelled to the river front to board a boat for an hour long tour of the "Six Bridges of Porto". The riverfront was beautiful with all the old colourful buildings. The commentary was very informative and gave you a lot of the history of Porto.

We then went into the heart of old Porto—Praca de Liberdade---for lunch and had some free time to relax or shop. Then we were off to tour the Ferreira Porto Cave. This is one of the few port producing facilities that is still owned by the Portuguese—most are British. It dates back to 1715. This tour was very interesting and informative and ended with a tasting of some of the ports.

We then left Porto and headed for Lisbon. Here we were on our own for supper. We found a very good Italian one Mamma MIa close to the hotel. The next morning after another good breakfast we set off for Belem which is just to the west of Lisbon. Here everyone was on their own to explore. We saw the Jeronimo Monastery, the Belem Tower, the Monument to the Discoveries, the Coach Museum and of course the Pasteis de Belem—home of the famous pastal de nata custard tarts.

In the afternoon those who wished to do so toured the Gulbenkian Museum.

There was so much to see in Lisbon. However, we were given a taste and could come back another time to explore other sights. We left at 5 pm on the Sunday night for our return to Senhora da Roacha. We had seen so much and Terry was a great guide. We all appreciated all of the time that went into organizing this trip.

We rented a car-a Nissan Micra-from Auto Roacha for the remaining three weeks of our vacation. We were able to do this at reception and the car was delivered to us that afternoon. This is just another perk for the ARM group. The driving was easy as the main roads are good and the signs are excellent. We met a couple from Arnprior—Shirley Stevenson and Roger Chenier-- who were interested in seeing some of the places we wanted to see, so we travelled together. I drove and Roger had the Google maps on his iphone so each day we set off on a new adventure. We went to Silves, Monchique, nearby beaches of Carvoeiro, Lagos, Portimao, Lagos, Sagres and Cape St. Vincent. We also visited the small fishing town of Salema near Sagres.

We went to the gypsy market in Loule as well as some of the other small town markets. We went to Alte—a quaint old town from the 16th century. We stopped at a lot of really good restaurants and had what the "regulars" ate. We visited the small town of Guia to have their famous piri-piri chicken. We loved the fresh fish and prawns. The Portuguese food is made fresh daily and meal time is a time to relax and enjoy. We also enjoyed the wine and the waiters poured it so freely. At Senhora da Roacha they use water glasses!!

Nick and I took a bus tour—Eastern Algarve and Spain. This trip was arranged at reception and again. because we were part of the ARM group we received a 10% discount. We were picked up right outside reception. It was an excellent trip that stopped at a lot of small and larger towns along the eastern Algarve.

We found the people in Portugal to be extremely friendly and helpful and most could speak English. They are very proud of their heritage.

The shopping was excellent also. There was a huge modern mall just outside Guia with all the name brand stores. They were many pottery places with beautiful wares. Again as part of the ARM group, if you shopped at Casa Grande Hand Painted Pottery Shop, you received a discount and they package everything so well for your return home. There were stores selling beautiful jewellery, purses, shoes and hats all made from Portuguese cork.

On Easter Sunday Terry and Jose arranged an Easter lunch at the restaurant—soup (vegetable or fish), salad, lamb with potatoes and vegetables, dessert, wine and coffee. It was delicious and was only15 euros.

We enjoyed everything about our month long trip. We met so many people both within the ARM group and other travellers. Everyone was eager to share where they had been and restaurants that you just had to try. There is so much more of Portugal to see so we want to come back again next year to Senhora da Roacha. Come and join us.

 

Portugal 2014

Tony Bellissimo and Barbara Love

             Friends (retired teachers) shared stories of their 2013 Portugal adventure and enticed us to spend the late winter of 2014 in their "winter hideaway"—Vila Senhora de Rocha. It was everything that they and Terry Taller promised, except 'they' were unable to be with us because of health issues. 

            Such an easy holiday! A direct flight from Toronto to Faro and a pick-up at the airport that took us directly to the Vila Senhora da Rocha. Our personal accommodations were more than adequate with two bedrooms and a wee kitchen open to the living and dining area. We quickly discovered that Marie-Eugenia who ran the mini-mercado, baked croissants each morning so croissants and galhao (caffe latte) began each day. Then the beach or indoor swimming pool. In the afternoon we shuttled to Armacao de Pera, the village nearby.

            Saturday morning at the village market seemed to be a ritual for many of the Vila’s residents. Dinner was often at the on-site restaurant, where fresh fish was a specialty but there was a genuine attempt to appease anyone's palate.

             The Tallers (Anne and Terry) hosted language and "bingo" classes, a welcome party, and shared their enthusiasm for Portugal, its people and language. Terry was the resident trouble-shooter and constantly available with advice.

             Terry and Anne were our hosts on a wonderful three day trip through central Portugal. They prepared us well with language and history classes and ensured that there were site updates available on the embarkation date. We saw Tomar and Fatima, Nazare and Obidas and everything in between. It was a wonderful mix of cathedral and chocolate, cheese and costumes. Fernando Soares, an owner of the resort, provided insight into Portuguese culture and the recent socio-economic crises. On our return to the Vilas, Fernando and his wife provided an in-depth culinary arts class, sharing family recipes for fish and sweet rice.

            We had several visitors during our five week stay: friends from England and all of our daughters so time flew by with day trips and restaurant testing. Terry's daily update on weather at home was a plus. We knew that we were where we should be!

 

Portugal 2014
Donna Edwards

I'm back in Ottawa, glad for the melting snow and the gift of the heat in the spring sun. I am ridiculously pleased with any warmth this Canadian weather can give me. My trip to Portugal, to Villa Senhora da Rocha, seems like a dream that lingers in the mind and resurfaces without provocation. It was warm, and vibrant...a heady mix of powerful sensual experiences. The bright-sun colours, the sounds of birdsong and surf, the warm smells of plants, the sea, and hot earth shook me awake early from the Ottawa winter I left behind. In short, it was a paradise.

My first thought of going to Portugal with ARM was when I heard Heather Anderson talk about her experiences there. Who could doubt her honesty in recalling her multi-year visits, when her eyes were twinkling like a child about to open a Christmas present. In her mind, I could tell she was already there, and that, perhaps, I should find out more about this experience. My E-mail to Terry was promptly followed by his DVD set of information being delivered in the mail. One viewing and I knew this must be a good thing! But who to go with? It took only the vaguest of invitations to snag my good friend, Janet Thomas, and before we had time to think, our Transat flights were booked and we were buying Portugal travel guides. As winter was throwing its weight around, and I was shovelling snow like a sparring partner, the days drew not fast enough to our departure date. We left on March 4th, and returned 3 weeks later on March 26th. Twenty days of continuous sun! Each morning Janet would wonder what the weather was going to be like. After a week we relaxed and took the sun and heat for granted. I bought a wide-brimmed sun hat in Armacao de Pera, and slathered on the sunscreen. Were we even on the same earth?

Portugal is a wonderful country. We met only friendly people, both the Portuguese and the other tourists we met everywhere. English was spoken by most people, and smiles were the universal language. A classic moment was when Janet and I got off a Eva bus in Portimao and started walking uncertainly towards where the bus driver told us to transfer for Alvor. He actually opened the door of the bus as he was driving away and pointed to the next stop and followed slowly in the bus until we walked more confidently.

We never felt alone or unsafe, or singled out as tourists. We only once saw someone begging for coins. The other tourists in the Vila and Armacao were all our age--a mixture of Germans, Dutch, English, and others. You could always include others in conversations or even meals. We met some lovely people--one man we met was taking a stray dog back to Amsterdam with him (a dog he had bonded with over previous yearly visits). A British woman that moved to Portugal 20 years ago bought a piece of property and built a home that she is still living in. A lovely Dutch man that told us all about his experiences at the end of the WW 2 when he was a young boy; his whole family (parents and 7 children) all slept in one bedroom so that if they were bombed they would all die together. He loved Canadians! So many conversations, so many 'friends' to greet with Bom Dia every day.

You are probably wondering, 'What did you do?' Every day was an adventure. We took two excellent day tours with 'Follow Me' (arranged and paid for at the Vila Senhora da Rocha office). They were great value and service. The Historic Algarve tour and the Eastern Algarve tour gave us a fantastic overview of the area.

Janet and I can't say enough good things about the three day tour organized by Terry and Fernando. What an adventure! We saw the vegetation and landscape change as we drove north. Then visited multiple sites of interest: Batalha Monastery, a small cheese factory run by George (a childhood friend of Fernando's), Fatima, the charming medieval town of Obidos, the Convent of Christ in Tomar, the university in Coimbra, Sintra and the Pena Palace, and on the way south again drove through Cascais and saw the Atlantic Ocean and it's huge waves. Thank you so much, Terry, for taking care in putting together such an outstanding experience. Now we know why you love Portugal so much!

Janet and I did not rent a car, but we did use public buses and walked, walked, walked! Walked into Porches twice, the second time along a back road, and into Armacao de Pera along the cliff path with increasing bravery (on my part!). We soaked in the new experiences of shopping for groceries in the Intermarche, buying sun-ripened stawberries at the Saturday market, swimming in the ocean (Janet, not me!), and exploring side streets and meeting people. We lay on the beach and tanned. I swam multiple times in the heated pool. We ate outdoors often and always had crumbs for the birds that came to our patio as soon as we opened the doors. I drew pictures everyday and tried to capture the new world I was in on paper--always a great souvenir to take home.

Going home! Memories of stuffing our suitcases with pottery, olives, salt, tea towels, cork belts, purses, and sea shells. The weighing, repacking, reweighing. Ah, the good times come to an end. The same Carlos that met us at the airport three weeks ago was at the Vila at 6:00 am to take us back. It was difficult to leave, but it will be easy to go back. Thank you, Terry, for making this experience possible, and for being such a warm, cheerful host.

CHRISTMAS IN PORTUGAL, 2013- 2014

Gwyn Davidson

We were at Vila Senhora da Rocha from December 15, 2013 to January 13, 2014. Harmon and I have been married for over 46 years and so we were surprised to find ourselves falling in love again! After this trip we find we are “head over heels” in love with Portugal and its people!

Our vacation was a relaxing, pleasant adventure and we feel that Portugal was well worth the trip! ;-) We found it to be fun, interesting, safe, sunny, clean, AND the best value for money holiday ever!

With Terry’s advice and Senhor Fernando’s help, we rented a brand new Nissan Micra for the entire 4 weeks, for just one example! This only cost €500. That was about $150 a week! We were given a lovely new little gas sipping car with no hidden surcharges, like mileage. This included all taxes, full insurance coverage with road side service, a truly bumper to bumper deal.

At this time of year, Christmas, we found the driving to be especially easy as we had almost the entire Algarve to ourselves. Relatively speaking it was like driving in Melfort, Sask., (Pop 6000). There were very few people on the roads and virtually no one on the A22, the toll highway. From Vila Senhora da Rocha it's an easy drive to many interesting sites. But we rarely started going anywhere before noon!

I guess we could have pushed ourselves to cover more ground so we could say we had ”been to” but, as we sipped our morning coffee, around 10 am, on our beautiful sunny patio, with flowered branches hanging over our heads,  we asked ourselves “why?” Why stress over unimportant goals, when we could just relax and enjoy?

We considered taking a guided bus tour but Sr. Fernando encouraged us to try it on our own. He drew us a map and carefully marked various spots to explore. We had planned to visit Spain and maybe even Gibraltar but we found so much to see and explore from Faro to Monchique to Sagres that we never left the Algarve. I wish we never had to!  It would be great to be there now, as it is -25C outside today in Ottawa!

 Everyone, from Sr. Fernando to Carlos, Hugo, Tanya and Ricardo at the resort and all the many, many Portuguese we met on our travels in the Algarve, every single person we met, did their best to make us comfortable. Many went out of their way on several occasions.

Surprisingly, everyone spoke at least a few words in English and were able to assist us with things like menu choices! The food was delicious, especially the seafood. If you like Chinese, we had the best Chinese food we have ever eaten at Happy Talk in Armacao da Pera. The Duck Chop Suey was outstanding. Citrus fruits were plentiful and oh so sweet. You could buy a huge 1 or 2 kg bag at roadside edge for less than a Euro.

One thing I will say though, is that many restaurants and shops were closed because it was Christmas, family holiday time. The two restaurants at the resort were closed as was the onsite Mini Mercado and Bakery. Our accommodation was clean and comfortable but not luxurious. The beds were more firm than mine at home and took a bit of getting used to.

However, Sr. Fernando took us shopping to help us find the best places to shop nearby and gave us good advice about nearby restaurants and places to visit in the Algarve.

The pool restaurant opened in early January in time for us to enjoy good food at really good prices. And the Vila SdR Mini Mercado & Bakery finished a makeover and prepared to open the day we left. We will have to go back and sample their wares.

 We were told about the amazing tostas at the Porches Pottery, only to find the pottery shop was open but the Cafe closed until mid January as the family had gone to England to be with family at Christmas.

So instead, we found amazing tostas on the beach boardwalk in Ameraco da Pera. El Polhatra Café provided us with many fine tostas, lobster salads and Harmon’s hamburgers. We sipped Galao (milky espresso in a tall glass with foam) while the waves rolled up the beach at our feet. Sitting on the Cafe balcony patio one day, we observed two children playing in the sand, dressed as children at home play in the snow with tuques and winter coats! That made us smile. We were reminded that seasons are relative! This was our early summer and their winter! They found this cold. We were in shirtsleeves!

The only fly in this perfect ointment is that, in the beginning, we frequently got lost as we explored the less travelled roads through some lovely small villages.  On occasion, we found ourselves on a 6 foot wide road which came to an abrupt dead end!  But that was only because we kept choosing "the roads less travelled by!”

Harmon is now master of the stick shift, driving backwards up some pretty steep hills! Ever the helpful wife, I got out to wave him on and shout encouragement!  Monchique, a famous mountain village, was especially exciting with lots of twisty roads!  Silves was another beautiful ancient town, complete with a walled castle and a Pirate exhibition. Arrifana, surfer’s paradise, had breathtaking views and a wonderful restaurant at cliff’s edge, just beside the very old ruin lookout. The amazing ancient Roman Villa at Milreu was inspiring with its hot tub, heated baths and colourful mosaic floors.

Walking was always fun too and we did lots of that as well! We got to really see the beaches, boardwalk, coffee houses (not one corporate chain) churches, cathedrals, restaurants, fishing huts, orange & lemon groves laden with the most delicious fresh fruit, vineyards, shops, and lots of beautiful pottery, handicrafts. Christmas mass at Midnight was another exceptional experience.  The Algarve is a lovely place to explore! I counted over 15 golf courses nearby, and then I just stopped counting! The guide book we bought says “the Algarve is a golfer’s paradise.” I can believe it!

Yes, it was the depth of winter in Portugal, in December and January. It was sunny and +18 or 22 degrees C., not hard to take at all! All during Christmas and New Year’s there were very few tourists!

We'll be coming back! We’ll save Spain and Gibraltar for next time, maybe! ;>)

 

The Algarve, Portugal 2013 ... Frank Cedar


In March and April of 2013, I "lept" at an opportunity to join three women (!!!) on a five week trip to Vila Senhora da Rocha, Armaçåo de Pêra in the Algarve area of southern Portugal ... I flourished (more like, survived !!) sharing those experiences with my three travelling companions and had a most extraordinary initial visit to Portugal. Even though the Spring of 2013 happened to be the wettest year in 50, that circumstance did not prevent us from enthusiastically participating in all that was offered.

My orientation to Portugal started with the staff and hosts at the Vila Senhora de Rocha resort ... staff and hosts were most helpful and assisted us in all our requests for information on day 1 until day 37. In the interim, Terry and Anne delivered well-prepared "lectures" on the Portuguese language and on the history of Portugal ... these lectures increased my comfort levels and familiarized me with the "environment" and the culture. We experienced no communication problems anywhere in Portugal throughout our 5 weeks.

What worked for me? Having a rental car for the 5 weeks ( and three navigators !!!), narrow challenging roads, comfortable safe accommodation, abundant wonderful inexpensive wines, the abundance of fresh seafood, plenty of fellow Canadians with whom to socialize in the resort and "at home", the feeling of personal safety and security throughout the country, fresh in-season oranges, interesting farmers’ markets and the Moorish architecture & history ... to name just a few of "my favourite things".

With our car, we were able to extensively explore the Algarve region ... visiting nearly every mountain village and every small fishing port, searching out Gypsy markets, shopping malls, pottery stores and big supermarkets. I particularly enjoyed driving the narrow roads (city and country), inhaling the scenic vistas, re-imaging the old castles, drinking the stories of the 1000's of vineyards and discovering local restaurants for "tourist" menus. We truly relished many of the local foods ... the olives (I fell "in love" with the small local black olives), the black pork, the wild boar, the garlic shrimps, the fish soups, the unique local pastries, the fresh breads and the salt cod dishes.

I could not get over the profusion and variety of fresh fish in all the supermarkets local and national). The quantity of salt cod was particularly pertinent and poignant. My grandfather was a Newfoundland cod fisherman. I grew up eating salt cod fish cakes. Subsequently, I have visited Newfoundland for a number of decades ... but have never witnessed the abundance of salt cod that was available in Portugal. It definitely is the staple of the Portuguese and I hypothesize still caught in the north Atlantic off our coast, just east of the Grand Banks. (Note re:Portuguese cod: Portuguese cod comes from Norway)

Portuguese wines ... another fascinating chapter !! We know!! They were terrific!! We sampled a healthy representative sample ... every day! They were plentiful, inexpensive, readily available in all grocery stores and there was an impressive selection from which to choose. Grape vines grow everywhere throughout the country. I do not think that I have visited a country with more vineyards per square mile of land mass than Portugal. My personal pleasant initiation was "vinho verde" ... green wine.

I like to cook when I travel. Although it took many exciting search and discovery missions to virtually EVERY store, regardless of size and location (Iris’ "editing"), I did find everything I needed ( read "wanted"). Here are the names of the larger ‘grocery’ chains: Apolónia (gourmet foods ... nearest one in Galé), Jumbo & Continental (in large shopping centres), Iceland (British & Canadian foods ... near Guia) and Pingo Doce & InterMarché (local smaller food markets). InterMarché, the closest and comparatively smaller food market ... a 17 minute walk from Senhora ... stocks virtually a bit of everything that is truly required. [Also, a secret bonus, on the morning of arrival, Anne graciously volunteers to drive new Canadian guests to InterMarché where basics (cereal, milk, eggs, etc.) can be purchased and luxuries (beer, wine, seafood, glasses, etc.) can be procured.]

In addition to our daily adventures, Terry and our Portuguese co-host Fernando, through ARM, organized a 3-day / 2-night group bus tour of virtually the entire country with a focus on historic Portugal ... driving all the way north to Braga and Porto ... wonderful and most informative. Along the way, we made numerous relatively short stops, with the last one being the world famous Our Lady of Fatima shrine. There were many highlights of this most wonderful and informative trip.

The "3 women & I ( or Frank(ly) & 3 women) organized our own 3-day excursion ... destination Lisbon; transportation by bus; duration ... approx 3 hours from Armaçåo de Pêra to Lisbon. Information regarding how best to do this trip started at the front office of Senhora, another example of the breadth, depth of knowledge and flexibility of the front office. Lisbon was a great city ... fabulous for walking, despite being situated on 7 hills, and well-structured for getting around using tourist and public transport. We utilized the "hop-on hop-off" buses. If there is a next time, I would love to travel to all corners of the city via its small street cars and narrow steep cobble stone streets. I understand day passes are available for purchase.

Gaps: no opportunity to swim in the Atlantic (too cold & wet and too much cooking and adventures!), did not take trips to Spain (a separate trip next time). Bonuses: I lived a "survey" course of Portugal in 37 sleeps, enthusiastically and eclectically sharing it with three, equally enthusiastic and eclectic travelling companions ... Vera (an ARM colleague of yours and the "ring leader" of this group-of-4), Iris and Zena. However, I saw nearly all of Portugal and shared that experience with three wonderful travelling companions ... Vera, Iris and Zena.

Special tacknowledgement to Vera, who knows Terry, who is married to Anne. Thanks for making it all happen. With fond memories, loads of photos and lots of gratitude.

P.S. ... A note from Iris.

Frank’s factual statements are accurate. There are a few gaps ... here are two.

(1) The facilities of Vila Senhora da Rocha and the surrounding community are comfortable, modest and safe. The Vila is situated on an estate (formally British owned) ... no building more than 3 stories; comfortable ... modestly appointed accommodation with furniture that has many happy stories to tell; safe ... there is a night guard on duty every evening ... his presence is visible.

(2) Frank’s skills: overall as stated, he is modest. Not only does he cook (solo); shop (solo, even with 3 female type Sherpas); drive / chauffeur (solo, ignoring all suggestions of navigation tips); but. He also cleans up and does the dishes after each meal. Now, who else had a great adventure??

Final P. S. Frank’s coordinates are available ... bidding auction ... date to be determined!


Jan Hines

2013                                                           

Senhora da Rocha- Trip One of Many

I was an accidental tourist for my first trip to Portugal. My sister and husband were visiting Senhora de Rocha, in the Algarve, for the first time with ARM and invited me to be their guest as an add on to my European vacation. I arrived March 18 and left April 3 and was so happy that I acted on this serendipitous invite.

 A shuttle service is provided from Faro airport to the resort for approximately 20 Euro per person. It is approximately a 40 minute drive to the area known as Armacao da Pera . I met the friendly staff in the front office and a talkative little fellow named Tita (parrot). You are provided with a package of materials pertaining to various bus excursions, the most popular being the three day two night trip to Seville, Gibraltar and Tangiers. I found the trips to be very economically priced.

Brenda and Rob rented a three bedroom villa. The accommodations were extremely clean and the two bathrooms accommodated all 5 of us comfortably. The five days a week maid service during the week was an added bonus. The beds were very comfortable after my long day of travel. The porch at the front of our villa made the coffee taste even better each sunny morning.

The next morning we were up early and off to northern Portugal on a bus tour organized by Terry and Anne Taller and Fernando the resort owner. It was so nice to leave for a trip by simply rolling your luggage a short distance to the bus that arrived at the resort, to begin our journey.  We were introduced to a group of wonderful, fun loving people that we would be travelling with for the next 3 days.  Little did we know that the friendships we made on that tour would enhance the rest of our stay.

 Terry and Anne kindly provided us with a loosely stitched itinerary and an information sheet pertaining to each stop on our journey. They had optimistically planned 11 stops over 3 days of travel.  Terry and Anne made wonderful selections when planning our itinerary. The Renaissance, Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque architecture provided stunning back drops for each of the cities we visited. Beja, Portalegre, Guarda, Guirmaraes, Braga, home of the oldest Christian archdiocese in the country and oldest in the world.  The UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Porto on the Douro River  and Evora a beautiful walled city where we visited a magnificent gothic cathedral contrasted by the  gruesome chapel of bones created from the remains of 5,000 monks; Coimbra, home to one of the oldest universities of Europe and Fatima, known worldwide for the Marian apparitions.

Terry provided a commentary as we arrived in areas of interest while still allowing us to enjoy the company of others, complete a card game or enjoy the vistas, terraced gardens, aqua ducts and winding rivers. Time was estimated and adjusted according to sites and what they had to offer. The trip was designed to be a reconnaissance trip and to develop an appreciation of how Northern Portugal differs from the Algarve. A goal they accomplished.

Once back from our three day tour, we rented bikes from a local company and enjoyed a bike excursion through the country side and along the coastline to see the many private beaches and scenery postcards are made of . All of this for 15 Euros and a tour guide who took us out for 4 hours of biking. Our tour guide was disappointed that the winery wasn’t operational and he returned to the resort the next day with a bottle of wine for us to taste.

 Senhora da Rocha was a wonderful springboard to so many travel destinations.  Commercial bus tours allow you to venture off  to discover how the climate, culture and scenery are very different throughout the various regions. There wasn’t really a need for a car and in fact we avoided the lineups at Gibaltar by taking the bus tour.

There were lots of activities at the resort. Bingo games were organized to learn Portuguese numbers, trips to pottery factories, tennis and golf courses . We enjoyed the cliff walks into Armacao de Pera and there was a shuttle bus back as an option for the weary. You could eat at a restaurant at the resort where Claudia , Issa and Ricardo were always welcoming. There was also a restaurant on the beach where you could find the catch of the day prepared to perfection and a wonderful Italian restaurant a short walk down the hill from the resort. Fisherman could be seen bringing in fresh seafood or working on their nets at 11:00am. minutes from Senhora da Rocha. Lord’s Bar attracted those interested in a solo guitarist. Aqua fit classes with Jorge in a heated pool each morning was a pre-requisite to the fresh baked pastries at the General store.

 Portugal was a well hidden secret for me. I will be planning other trips to this resort as Terry and Anne made my experience such a positive one. We were provided with an in-depth information package before we left Canada.  Terry was available for “Terry time” should one have any questions about trip availability or anything else Portugal. Special thanks for their huge effort in managing their first bus tour. Their devotion to the Portuguese people shines through in all that they do. I understand why so many of the people I met at Senhora da Rocha have returned numerous times. I will be doing the same.

One thing always remained the same as I ventured through this beautiful country, the warmth of the Portugese people.

Portugal 2013
Carol Stonehouse and Russ White

Carol 

My trip to Portugal was a wonderful experience, the beaches were spectacular as well as the castles and magnificent countryside to explore 

The peak season for Portugal is from July to September so if you want  some quiet time and not too many crowds try to arrange your trip about January thru April as the weather is still very pleasant at this time. 

The region that was recommended was the Algarve at the Senora Da Rocha complex in Armacao de pera.  I have to say the accommodations were outstanding and all I had to get was food as the suite came with everything.  If you are looking for a place to relax and see the sights of Portugal, this is the place to be.  You can be as busy as you want, bus tours are available to enjoy the many areas, or you can walk or take the free shuttle bus to the heart of the city. 

Please try to go to the “Blues and Cues” bar, Kim is the proprietor and serves a mean fish and chip dinner with mushy pea. 

Rented a car for two weeks to see all the sights and quickly got used to the many “roundabouts” in the different nearby towns, so having not too many cars on the roads helped when I sometimes got turned around but then got to see another nice town with wonderful shops and outdoor patios. 

I especially would like to thank Terry, from Ottawa, Chapter 25 ARM, for allowing me to come to see Portugal for the first time. 

I encourage you to consider going, I know that you will have a wonderful time and Terry will provide you with a. set of cd’s that will give you everything you need to know to have a wonderful vacation. 

Russ 

Looking for a wonderful, inexpensive, and historical vacation in a warm setting that is extremely well organized? Well look no more. In March /April 2013, as a member of Chapter 25 of OSSTF ‘s ARM, I spent three weeks in Portugal in the Algarve at a very unique 3 pool  resort that had all the amenities of home. That’s right, our own 3 bedroom suite with 2 bathrooms, full kitchen and wonderful main room with fireplace and balcony overlooking the water. Included was housekeeping and a fellow ARM educator Terry Taller there every day at the office to help us when needed. 

This resort is close to a beautiful town—Armacao de Pera-- where there is so much to see and enjoy. I rented a car at a special reduced rate for ARM members and traveled to see so many historical sites that date back centuries. Driving is so easy and comfortable in this region and the roads are fantastic. With unlimited mileage and full insurance coverage we were able to travel on modern 4 lane highways to Madrid, Seville in Spain and the Rock of Gibraltar plus many other smaller towns. 

This well organized resort with all the extras that are there for you and has it all at an unbelievable cost. We stayed two weeks and got a third week for free. That’s right the third week at no cost..

I would like to thank Terry and Chapter 25 ARM for extending the invitation to me. As a member of the non active ARM District 19 Peel; this wonderful experience allowed me to follow the rhythms of my dreams. 

TNT ---Today Not Tomorrow. Contact Terry today and follow the rhythms of your dreams with a very special, wonderful holiday.

 

Glorious Portugal 2012 
Norma Thomas

In March – April of this year we were blessed with the opportunity to spend three wonderful weeks at Vila Senhora da Rocha complex in Portugal, a leisurely forty-five minute or a complimentary ten minute shuttle bus ride to Armacao da Pera. This was our second visit to Portugal and since we had such a wonderful trip the previous year our expectations were high. Believe it or not, our second trip was just as captivating.  

For part of our trip we rented a car and took day trips to neighbouring villages and towns. Here we would visit the sights, enjoy food at local restaurants (inexpensive but good) and take walks along the never ending and ever present coast. For two weeks of the trip we decided to leave the navigating to the locals who know the land best and we visited towns by means of public transport. The EVA bus service links many surrounding towns and has printed schedules for their buses. The Tourist Information Centre in Armacao da Pera is a stone’s throw from where the shuttle bus drops one off, so we visited the Tourist Centre often and consulted with the helpful staff (who spoke English well). Then we would walk down to the EVA bus ticket center just a short hop away to pick up the schedules and tickets for routes we desired. This way we were sure to be at the appropriate bus stop in time for the return journey. It worked very well with no anxious moments or surprises. 

We also took a number of motor coach tours. One was to the hidden villages of the interior of the Algarve. We visited Alte, Querencia, and Salir. Alte is a village that has been preserved by its residents to reflect a typical village in the Algarve the way it was a century ago. 

Another interesting trip was to Silves to visit its Moorish Castle and cathedral, then on to Caldas an old Roman spa town which still houses a spring water bottling factory. We then climbed the Monchique Mountains up to Foia. Enroute clouds enveloped our bus till we finally broke through to sunshine. At the summit there is opportunity to purchase honey and the locally produced fire water! A NATO radar station is located here.

The location of Senhora da Rocha in the central Algarve is ideal for side trips to exciting destinations farther afar. Tour buses pick up and drop off passengers right at the entrance to the complex, and the accommodations that Terry has negotiated cannot be beaten for value. 

We took a two day tour to Lisbon, Sintra and Cascais. The hotel in Lisbon was excellent and the sights were remarkable. A second tour we took was to Spain (Granada, Cordoba and Mijas on the Costa del Sol). Granada is the home of the Alhambra. Cordoba is famous for its cathedral (Mezquita) and the Alcazar (a former royal castle). Mijas is a tiny picturesque village with white washed houses that cling to the cliffs high above the Mediterranean. Beautiful! We stayed in a four star hotel (included in the tour price) and had a marvelous time. Generally tourists have to line up for hours to obtain entrance tickets to Alhambra because only a set number of persons are allowed to enter in allotted half-hour entry time slots. The motor coach tour supplied our tickets and provided a guide to boot. We were whisked past long line ups of waiting, harried tourists right into the Alhambra and Generalife gardens. 

There is so much to do and see and we had only three weeks to do it in. But, the beauty of the venture to Portugal was that we controlled the pace. We could do as much or as little as we pleased. Some days we just took it easy, took a leisurely hike to town for lunch and just soaked in the sunshine on the beach. 

In Armacao da Pera the Canadians could be found flocking to the restaurants that line the beach. Heras, A-Grelha were favourites for their tourist-menu lunches. The Water Dog pub offers a good roast beef lunch on Sundays. For dessert and coffee, Busiris on the beach, close to the Holiday Inn offers a vast selection of pastries, baked goods, coffee and of course lunch and dinner items. 

In the ultimate analysis however, the crowning touch of our winter getaway experience at Senhora da Rocha in Portugal was the excellent character of the people we encountered. The administration and staff of the complex are good and friendly people. They value us Canadians greatly and treat us a friends not as mere guests or clients. From the top boss, Fernando, to the office staff, the groundskeepers, the housekeeping staff and the restaurant personnel, we always received utmost courtesy and service. Space does not permit me to elaborate on the friendships we developed amongst the guests and staff who have led such interesting lives. The impromptu parties, the laughter, fun and regaling of stories with folks we met over dinner at the Poolside Restaurant or at Terry and Anne’s meet-and-greet parties are memories we will always cherish.

 

Portugal 2011 Bev van Vliet and Vera Seychuk

After months of anticipation we departed Ottawa for Portugal on a sunny but very cold March 2, 2011.  How wonderful to arrive in Faro the following day to sunny skies and spring temperatures!  Vilas Senhora da Rocha provides a very reasonable shuttle service from the airport to the resort – what an amazing spot!  It is in a great location just outside Armacao de Pera, to which there is a free shuttle service several times a day.  The grounds are beautiful and well-maintained and the white-washed villas and low-rise apartment buildings provide more than adequate accommodation.  The property includes a good restaurant (with an inexpensive and good value “turista” menu available most days), a tuck shop, a beautiful beach, swimming pools, resident masseur, aquatic program and a meeting room for ARM activities.  Service requests are dealt with promptly.

There are many sightseeing opportunities for day trips.  We enjoyed the resort and Armacao for the first few days, then rented a car for a week to explore the Algarve.  There are also many day and half-day bus trips available for those who do not wish to drive themselves – the Portuguese drivers are crazy!!  Most of the ARM group took an afternoon bus trip to Loulé for its Carnaval celebrations marking the beginning of Lent – very interesting parade of floats and performers making fun of Portuguese and European politics and politicians!!  Our car trips included delightful excursions to Porches (several visits to amazing potteries), Quarteira and its gypsy market, Sagres and Cabo de S. Vicente, Lagos, Silves, Salir, Alte, Monchique, Foia, Albufeira, Praia Grande and others.  We found it very useful to share our experiences with and get tips from the other ARM members there.  About twenty of us went on a three-day two-night bus trip to Sevilla, Tangiers and Gibraltar – well-appointed hotel in Algeciras, excellent guide and driver and good intros to the three cities.  On our return, we rented a car again for three days to continue our local exploring.  If you are planning a lengthy stay and want to experience the Algarve, it really is necessary to have a car at your disposal for some of the time at least.  Beware the narrow, steep, cobblestone streets……we have stories to tell!!!

Grocery shopping is easy – the InterMarché is just down the road and the weekly local markets are colourful sources of excellent local produce and fresh seafood.  Ask us about the wonderful shrimp!!!  We had delicious oranges for breakfast every day – the best I’ve ever tasted!  Local beers and wines are inexpensive and quite palatable.  There are many restaurants in the area – we learned of good places from other ARM members and made a few discoveries of our own.  Favourite haunts are Teddy’s near the Armacao market and Pedro’s and Buzio’s on/near the fishermen’s beach.  We had a couple of very nice dinners at O Grelhador – wonderful food, hospitality and “ambience”!

We found the Portuguese people very friendly and helpful – most speak some English but are very appreciative of our “bom dias” and “obrigadas”!

Many thanks to Terry and Anne for being our “go to” people on site and for hosting the “meet and greets”, games nights and Portuguese lessons (Bingo!).

At the end of our three-week stay, no one in our foursome was anxious to go home.  We definitely plan to return for a longer stay – there are still many things to see and do……and beaches to walk………and more pottery to buy!!!

Portugal 2010 

 My husband Ron and I have been visiting Portugal off and on since 1993, and annually since 2003.  That is until 2009 when ill health forced us to cancel our trip.  We missed it a great deal and when Terry Taller came to Toronto to present his special arrangement with Sra da Rocha we decided to attend the presentation even though we didn’t yet have clearance to travel.  Terry’s presentation and pictures really cheered us up and we decided that we would book anyway.  As soon as we got medical clearance in January we emailed Terry to confirm our reservation and got seats on Air Transat Toronto to Faro and return for March 3 to return March 31.

 Unfortunately, Ron became ill a week before out departure and I contemplated canceling daily.  He kept saying no.  I arranged for a wheelchair for him at the airport but miracle of miracles by the time we checked in he didn’t need it.  I think it was the anticipation of going back to the Algarve of which we are so fond.

 Our flight to Faro encountered a great deal of turbulence – no one can control that but was otherwise unremarkable other than the 2 a.m. dinner service as the cabin crew had been forced to belt themselves in very often due to the weather.  Our arrival in Faro was great – ours was the only plane to arrive at that time and unlike other trips there Air Transat had a jetway.  Usually the charters from Toronto parked on the runway and passengers were taken to the terminal by crowded busses.  This was a much more pleasant arrival.

 After picking up our luggage (we always have too many suitcases) we found Carlos who was to shuttle us to Sra da Rocha.  This is a much more civilized way of arriving rather than picking up a car at the airport.  In the past that had often taken more than an hour.  It started to sprinkle just as Carlos was loading our cases into the van and by the time we arrived at Sra da Rocha it was a deluge. Instead of having us go in to register, Carlos went in, got the key for our apartment, drove us there and took in all the luggage.  He left us with the message that we didn’t have to check in until the next day.  What great service and compassion.

 Our apartment which was close to Reception ( a plus for us with our mobility issues) was a ground floor 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom unit which suited our needs to a tee.  There were lots of dishes, cutlery, pots and pans and wonder of wonders an abundance of white fluffy towels and linen tea towels.  It was by far the best accommodation we had experienced in our 10 trips to Portugal.

 Later that afternoon there was a knock on the door and there was Alice Roth, an ARM member from Toronto, inviting us to supper as she knew we’d be tired.  What a lovely way to start a vacation!

 The following day we went to Reception to formally check in and see about renting a car.  They immediately called AutoRocha and within 2 hours a cute little Citroen was delivered to the Reception area.  We arranged for the car to be picked up the afternoon before our departure.  That is so much easier than returning a car at the airport as that is usually off site and then the driver has to wait for a shuttle to get back to the airport.

 Of course we had to try out the car so we made our way to Algarve Shopping, a very large shopping centre about 20 Km. away.  The huge Continente grocery store was ideal for stocking up on groceries and wine.  I always say I won’t overbuy, but I always do.  But I’m not the only one.  When Alice and Norm were leaving they left us with a lot of their supplies and when we left we gave our over buying to other ARM members.

 During the first week the weather was extremely variable – bright sun for a while and then a shower.  In fact it was the coolest and wettest winter in the Algarve for more than 60 years.  From the end of January to the beginning of March there was rain on 40 days – a record for this region that gets very little rainfall in a normal year.  No matter, the weather didn’t interfere with our enjoyment and by the second week we were there the weather began to improve.

 Alice and I go to the same aqua fit class in Toronto and she had discovered there was daily aqua fitness or hydrotherapy as it is called there in the heated pool on the property.  I joined it as well and was at most of the 6 daily classes until we left.  Even Ron joined for a few classes.  The instructor, Jorge Nunes, a former professional basketball player is a registered massage therapist as well as a hydrotherapy instructor.  Ron and I enjoyed several massages as well.  The cost is comparable to Canada.

 We enjoyed having the car and returned to the village, Alvor, where we had stayed for many years.  Usually in the winter it would be teeming with visitors.  This year you could shoot a canon down the usually busy main street.  We went for dinner in one of our favourite restaurants which in other years was crowded.  This year we were two of the four people there for dinner. We always stop in at the local tourismo (tourist information office) to say hello to the charming retired teacher, Umbertro, who runs it.  He was commenting on the lack of British and Irish tourists this year and the number of closed businesses.  Umberto has been there for many years and a few years ago an Ottawa ARM member, Heather Doyle, happened in and wrote a charming tribute to him.  I took a copy to him and he was thrilled.

 Although we had a car we decided to take a couple of tours.  The first one was a half day trip – arranged by the obliging staff at Reception – to the Quarteria Gypsy market.  The markets are always fun and we had never been to this one before.  It was so handy to leave the parking to someone else!  We also visited the Vilamoura marina where the size of the yachts is fantastic.  This is the playground of the rich with its several golf courses as well as a lovely beach.

 We also took a tour of some of the remote villages in the Eastern Algarve.  Lots of mountain top Moorish castles as well a remnants of mosques.  How the full sized bus managed to get up to some of the villages was remarkable.  This tour concluded with a meal in Alte, known as the most typical Algarvian village.  There is a lot of evidence of the Moorish presence here.

 One of the most enjoyable aspects of this trip for us was meeting the other ARM members.  Terry kept us up to date on activities and the Bingos were a lot of fun as were other get togethers.  We had to miss one as we were too tired after our day of touring and a party hosted by Sr. Soares for all the people in the resort.  Never have we encountered such a friendly and caring host.

 We also enjoyed taking some of our fellow ARM members to some of our favourite Algarve places such as the boardwalk in Praia da Rocha, the city of Portimao and its new museum which traces its history, and of course, Alvor.

 As usual, Ron and I left the highways and had what we call “off road experiences” where we take country roads not knowing where we are going and find some delightful little coves and beaches.

 We also had to make the trek up to Monchique on a Sunday for a special luncheon.  We go to a restaurant O Fernando a little above the town, which we find exceptionally good. The portions are so huge we had leftovers for two days. We also enjoyed the restaurant O Grelhada just across the street from the Intermarche.

 The four weeks passed too quickly with our last day packing up things to leave in anticipation of our return next year.  Our farewell was to take the shuttle to Faro with three other ARM members, all of whom spoke highly of their experience in Portugal and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see them there next year.

 Lynn Poth

ARM/OSSTF District 12

 

Ina and Manford Colbran's trip to Portugal 2009

Portugal 2009

Ina and Manford Colbran

After contemplating a trip to Portugal for some time, we decided this would be the year. The very thorough presentation given by Terry Taller is actually quite convincing. We chose the direct SATA flight from Toronto and were fortunate to have good flights in both directions. We drove to Toronto with bright beautiful sun for February on the day prior to our departure (Feb. 15) and checked into the Marriot Airport Hotel using their rate for long term parking—if you stay the night prior and after your trip. The rate was quite comparable and I believe cheaper than others even if you flew to and from Toronto on the days of your flights. Service here, and their shuttle to and from the airport, were excellent.

On our return , one of our coffee cups was unclean and we requested another. Response was immediate and 15 minutes later, to our surprise, the front desk called to sincerely apologize and make sure everything else met our expectations and to inform us that 20% would be deducted from our bill—a surprise and a substantial amount !!
We arrived in Portugal to find a sunny clear day with a warm breeze blowing , green grass, palm trees etc. and Carlos waiting to greet us and take us in the transfer to Senhora da Rocha. Taking the transfer allows one to assess the driving habits , view the roads and generally to get grounded while someone else drives and you relax after a lengthy night on the plane.

Arriving at Senhora da Rocha we were met at the office by Terry and Anne Taller who so graciously gave of their holiday time to meet new arrivals this year. After a short briefing they either oriented you to the grounds while the other took you in their car the short distance to the Intermarche to get staple groceries for the first day or so.
Kudos to Terry and Anne !! I believe after Terry left Judy Waddell and others carried on this endeavour. We returned from getting groceries to find that our luggage was already delivered to our unit by the genie Taller himself !!!!

The grounds at Senhora da Rocha are most appealing and it is so nice to step out onto the green grass and see flowers blooming, trees with singing budgies and black robins flitting about, hedges groomed and a glorious clear blue sky above. Although we did not have a view of the ocean (I would recommend an upper unit) our unit was very sufficient given a few minor details. One was heat that you need when the sun goes down. Thinking the wall mounted ceiling unit was A/C only we piled on the blankets for the first night. Next day we decided if this thing said Comf/air then Comfort must surely also mean heat!! After cluing in, we realized we had not been given the remote at check in time that made this thing work. After getting the remote we were warm as toast for the remainder of our stay.

We chose to use the free 4x a day shuttle service to Armacao de Pera for the first three days, allowing us time to explore and get a sense of driving, shopping, restaurants and the beach. On one of these days we happened upon Chinita’s Café and Internet service. We made many trips there to enjoy Jaime’s super size delicious café au lait and fish cakes. Here we also met many other Canadians, Brits and, of course, Portugese. Friendships were created and many pointers were exchanged on everything from local news to restaurants, places to visit and on it goes. We rented a car in Armacao after a suggestion over coffee and, with a bit of negotiating, found it cheaper than renting at Senhora da Rocha. From then on touring of the Algarve began.

We decided in that first week that bus tours would cramp our style having only one month to relax and sightsee. You do not have to do it all in one year or one holiday. There are lots of tours available if you choose to go that route. We restricted ourselves to the Algarve region for this visit.

After driving across Canada several times, you quickly realize how very small the Algarve is from west to east. As a result we made several forays in each direction to visit and revisit interesting places from Cape St. Vincent in the west to Vila Real De San Antonio at the Spanish border. Being centrally located at Armacao de Pera helped with decision—making for the next trip via highway 125, if you had lots of time, or the A22 if you prefer to get where you are going more quickly.

We walked, enjoyed the cliffs, the Moorish ruins, watched the fishermen casting from precarious positions on the point of a cliff in Carvoeiro,and observed the various terrain and terraced agricultural lands. We strolled many beachwalks, some being Praia da Rocha, Luz, Quarteira , Lagos and the Monte Gorda dunes. Monchique, Foia and Silves are not to be missed. We explored the castle at Silves and walked many narrow winding cobblestone streets, while climbing steep steps to get spectacular views. These activities help to wear off the good fresh produce found at the markets and notably the delicious fresh fish from the many excellent restaurants found throughout the Algarve. History and beauty abound. Tourists are drawn to pottery, lace, leather and cork products. One marvels at the repeated evidence of old and foreign civilizations.

We have many happy memories of our trip and I will elaborate on only a few here. Meeting so many friendly, helpful and interesting people and making new friendships was a bonus. Memorable dinners with new friends even if we did think we might be having Piri Piri Chicken in Lisbon (Les) after following one flying red car down A22 on a circuitous way to Guia after we had made the first directional mistake!! Dave, we will remember who got the bigger dessert even if you did order first and we did not notice . Fun times.

The Bingo nights organized by Terry and Anne and later by Judy were a source for meeting people and camaraderie. The object of the game was to learn the Portuguese numbers from one to 100 . Surprisingly, you very quickly catch on and put the knowledge to good use at the markets. The prizes were quite nice too.
Lastly, being Scottish Country Dancers we danced with one of the two groups in Portugal on Monday evenings at the International School in Porches. This group, comprised of Brits, Scots, Dutch, Scandinavian and Canadians, was most welcoming and a good time was had by all. They were preparing for the annual Iberian Ball in Spain near Barcelona at the end of March and we were privileged to be able to practise many of the ball dances with them.
Was it a good trip ? It goes without saying. Try it!!!!

Judith C. Waddell – reporting on Portugal 2008

Welcome to my experience in Portugal with a group of seven. Yes there were seven of us in the group. Named the Relly’s and the Outlaws. Four cousins and 3 outlaws.

What an experience it was. After a good 7 hour airplane ride we arrived exhausted as was expected. However the villa staff made us most welcome and comfortable. We settled in nicely . Our villa was fantastic because it

We had rented a car ( very affordable) and found the driving easy. Portugal loves its roundabouts. Everything in the Algarve is within 1 to 1 ½ hours drive so day trips were many indeed. We basically toured the entire Algrave in the 4 weeks we were there. My favourite places were the small country towns not mentioned in any tour book. Of the tourist sites I would return again to them all. No day occurred without great scenery, Roman Ruins, castles, churches and museums. Some of the best days were when we did not follow a map , basically got lost.

Eating out was a definite highlight for me. Especially trying to get the group of seven to agree on a menu and place. There were too many great places so will have to return to take in more of them. Every day we ate lunch in the sunshine ( took 1-2 hours ). Daily catch on the menu the best. If you do not prefer fish , there is still a lot of choice. Of course the wine and port helped. In fact the alcoholic beverages were very inexpensive indeed.

Shopping was the same as at home, but I preferred the local artisans, pottery shops and Saturday morning market especially Loule and gypsy stops along the roadside. Many tours are available if you do not rent a car. In fact there is a tour to all tourist sights mentioned in books. The staff at reception will look after you indeed.

Weather was the best. sunshine by 0800 am in the morning so one could sit outside on the patio for breakfast. Touring in the nice sunshine and seeing the all the beaches at their best was very enervating.

I personally would recommend this trip to Portugal to everyone. We will be going back next year for 6 weeks. Like my sister-in-law I had the privilege to be in Portugal in 1969 as a young girl hitchhiking as was the craze back then. It certainly has changed with no more borders to Spain and European countries. Only one currency to contend with now and everyone can speak a few words of English. In fact all the tourist service places are very accommodating.

It’s a good idea to try to get to Portugal before it becomes too commercialized. There are cement city places like Alburferia but there are more beautiful small towns and precious country side to make up for this.

 

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