Lagos was our place to relax and settle in one spot for a while. It has a population of about 25,000. There is something for everyone, you’ll find backpackers, surfers and families. You can’t get many places with more sunshine than here. The temperature stays very comfortable throughout the winter. The day we left at the end of October it was 30C.
Along with the rest of Portugal, Lagos has a rich history that dates back as far as 2000 BC. Originally it was used as a seafaring port by the Phonecians. This was also the base for the voyages of discovery. Prince Henry the navigator traded between Portugal and Africa in the 15th century. This brought a great deal of wealth to the area.
There was a fortress built in the 17th century to protect the harbour called Ponta da Bandeira, it still stands today and part of it serves as a museum. Across from the fort is St. Goncalo’s gate along with the Governers’ Castle.
In the 16th century the city had walls built around it. They extend intermittently with 6 bastions for about 1.5 km’s around the central town. There are also many churches that were built from the 14th through the 16th century.
Navigating The Old Town
The town center of Lagos is quite small but is can still be easy to get lost. The main square is Praca de Gil Eanes. A statue of King Sebastiao stands in the middle. He set out on a voyage to conquer North Africa and never returned. This is where you can quite often find evening entertainment such as live musicians. The streets lead off from the square in all directions. These cobblestoned streets are a great place to wander. There are a mix of old buildings in traditional style amongst ones that have been renovated into funky shops and cafes.
We Find A Great Apartment To Rent
We stumbled into a lucky situation finding an apartment for rent here. Jack walked into a real estate agency, as many of them deal with property rentals as well. He asked the lady if they had any apartments for rent. She said they don’t deal with rentals, but she had just sold an apartment to an owner who wanted to rent it out. He lives in France, but he left her the keys in case she knew of anyone wanting to rent it.
It was a vary spacious apartment, it may have been bigger than our house. It had two bedrooms, a large bathroom, living room and kitchen. It was fully furnished and we even had a washing machine. We can’t tell you how much we appreciated being able to wash our clothes anytime we wanted. After ten months of traveling we were tired of washing clothing in sinks and having to find laundry mats.
The best part of the apartment was the view. We had a huge balcony off the living room and another one off the bedrooms. We got a spectacular views of the city, the old city wall and the beach. The location was also a bonus, it was only a few minutes walk to the town center. We really enjoyed being able to go to the grocery store and being able to cook our own meals.
A Very Laid Back And Safe Place
The lady that rented us the apartment is a realtor. She goes to work and puts her car into a car park that has over twenty vehicles in it. There is limited space for parking so people are parked in behind each other. They leave their keys in the car all day. If you need out and a car is blocking you, you just start it up and move it out of the way. This is the kind of place where people leave their house doors unlocked and young children can run around their neighbourhood without concern.
It was really nice to see the different pace of life here in Lagos, to spend a good length of time in one place and experience the community. Kids are like real kids here, there are not a ton of toys, not even a dent of what is available in North America is here. Kids spend their days playing outside, we saw them building tree forts, running, laughing and having fun on their own accord, they have to use their imagination still, they don’t have all these things to entertain and stimulate them like video games.
Apparently You Can Get Locked Inside An Apartment!
You just never know how things are going to work differently when you travel to other places. One morning while I was still sleeping, Jack left the apartment. We only had one key. He didn’t want to leave the door unlocked while I was asleep, so he did what most people would do and locked the door as he left.
I got up a bit later and got ready for the day. I decided I would go to the internet cafe and leave Jack a note to come meet me there after he got back to the apartment. I was going to have to leave the door unlocked since it had to be locked with the key and I didn’t have one. I wasn’t too concerned, Lagos is about as safe a town as you can get. To my surprise when I went to go out the door I found I could not get out.
When you lock the door from the outside it is locked inside too. There is no way to open it without the key. At first it didn’t bother me too much. Then I started to think about it a bit more. The other issue was that we were on the top floor, which was the 7th floor. The buzzer for our apartment does not work, so no one can buzz to see if I am in there and we have no phone. What if there is a fire or something?
I dug around the place and found a screw driver and started to try and take the lock device off the door. There was no use, it was mounted right into the door and was not coming off. So I sat and waited, and waited and waited. I tried not to think about it too much, it was a strange feeling to think you were locked inside an apartment. Finally Jack got back home. He felt horrible that he had locked me inside. We joked about it later, but seriously that is such a dangerous situation had there been any kind of emergency.
Take A Walk Along The Waterfront
The waterfront area of town is a lovely place for a stroll. You can cross over a footbridge to the marina where you can walk along and enjoy looking at the boats. Browse through the shops in this area and then you can stop and have lunch at one of the many cafes.
My Attempt To Make A Birthday Cake Didn’t Work Out So Well
We spent Jack’s birthday here so I tried to bake him a cake in the oven. First of all I have no idea what the temperatures 1 to 6 mean on the oven dial. Secondly everything to buy for the ingredients is not quite like at home. The first cake turned out more like a pancake. I think it was partly to do with having improper measuring instruments and putting in too much baking powder. It cooked way too fast, the gas must have been too high. It was full of popped bubbles. I made a second one that turned out marginally better, it was at least edible.
Canadians In Portugal At An Irish Pub, Surrounded By British People!
We went out for the evening to celebrate Jack’s birthday. We had a nice dinner and then ended up at an Irish pub.
It was quite funny. We (Canadians) were in Portugal sitting in an Irish pub drinking Guinness, surrounded by groups of British people and listening to people sing Karaoke. What a mixture of cultures! We watched a tiny man get up to the microphone, he couldn’t have been 5 feet tall. We weren’t expecting much, then suddenly a voice came out of this man that had our mouths hanging open in awe. He was belting out Smoke gets in Your Eyes. His voice was amazing and had to be ten times bigger than he was.
The owner of the bar was very particular. Jack ordered a Guinness. The waitress sat it on our table, it was not there for more than a second when the owner snatched it up and took it back to the bar. It had been poured incorrectly. He made the bar pour another one. It was brought back with proper Guinness standards and it and my drink were on the house to compensate for the mistake. Needless to say, the owner is an Irishman.
We had to laugh at the names of a few of the bars here. Just around the corner from the Irish pub is the Juicey Boobie and the Scabby Goat. There is even a Canadian Bar! You can gather with fellow Crazy Canucks and party the night away at Calypso Bar Canadiano.
Many of the bars stay open well into the night. You will get approached often by touts from different bars offering you a free drink. They are quite harmless and legitimate. It can be a good way to check some of the places out. They will lead you right to the bar which is nice because some of them can be quite difficult to find.
It Doesn’t Rain Often, But Look Out When It Does!
We had a day of major rain and a wicked thunderstorm. The street in front of the apartment had a flash flood. Cars were having trouble moving through the water. At the same time Lisbon was having major flood problems. They were having to evacuate parts of the city, there were even a few fatalities.
Incredible Beaches And Rock Formations
One of the reasons we chose to stay in Lagos for an extended period of time was because of the beautiful beaches. Lagos has some of the best beaches in all of the Algarve. There are several to choose from. One of the ones with the longest stretches of sand is called Mia Praia.
Another feature of the area is the cliff walk. It goes for about 3 km’s along rugged multi coloured bluffs. Down below are many beaches. Some of them are very quiet coves of sand with no people. You can have them all to yourself. Each beach has access from the cliff top.
Along many parts of the beaches there are rock pinnacles jetting out of the water. Some areas have huge rocks along the shoreline with caves and tunnels through them. The views along this walk are amazing. Being well into October we were not expecting the sun to be so strong. After a day of walking around the beaches we both had a good burn.
Dude Looks Like Lady
As we were walking on the bluff up above the beach we could see a person making their way along the beach in a sundress. We didn’t pay too much more attention to them until they got closer into our view. Suddenly it became quite apparent that this was a man wearing a sundress and a straw hat, there was no mistaking it. I couldn’t get a picture from the front with out being obvious, but the guy had a full beard.
Trying Out Some Lagos Restaurants
Although we enjoyed having our own kitchen and cooking meals for ourselves, we did eat out a few times in Lagos. They have lots of selection for restaurants. We ate a few times at a great Indian place, we would stuff ourselves with all the tasty spicy vegetable dishes, naan bread, samosa and dips.
We ate a lot of fresh grilled fish while here. Sword fish and Sea bass were two of our favorites. The wines here are amazing, there are so many vineyards in Portugal. You wouldn’t believe the selection of wines just in the grocery store, none of them are really expensive, in fact there are dozens of them at less than 2 or 3 euros, that’s 3 to 4.50 Canadian. They are actually good, not like something you would buy at home for that cheap.
Jack has tried a few ports, and reds, he was told to try one called Madeira which comes from an island of the same name. It is very similar to Port, but made differently. It is not aged like Port, but actually cooked to slowly carmalize the sugars in the wine and bring out the flavor. Jack really liked it. The shame is that many of the wines are only available locally. We won’t be able to get them back home. Portugal has not become a big world exporter of their wines, they are very underrated and just starting to get the recognition they deserve.
A Day Trip To Portomao
We took a day trip by train to a nearby town called Portomao. We got up in the morning and decided on the spur of the moment that we would go. We looked at the train schedule and discovered we either had to rush like mad to catch the next train that leaves in less than half an hour or the train after that was not until one o’clock in the afternoon. We thought that was a bit late in the day.
We decide to try and make the train even though it takes almost 20 minutes to walk to the other side of town to the train station. We ended up having to run and we were covered in sweat by the time we got there. We had about 2 minutes to spare before the train left. We were in Portimao faster than the time in took us to run to the station. It is so easy to get from one place to another along the Algarve.
We walked from the town center for about half hour to the beach dubbed as one of the best in all of the Algarve, Praia da Rocha. It had a beautiful stretch of golden sand. This is one of the beaches to get the European blue flag. A beach must meet very high standards to get this recognition, including specific safety, environmental and water quality criteria.
You can walk along the beach on a wooden boardwalk. There are several places to get a bite to eat or sit and relax while having a drink and enjoy the view of the ocean. We passed by several cafes along the boardwalk that are built in a unique artistic design.
As we were taking some steps to get down to the beach we saw a large dark coloured dog laying on them. Then it suddenly dawned on us. It was a Portuguese Water dog, duh, we are in Portugal!
Portomao has a charming old town with lots of cobbled streets made into pedestrian only shopping areas. Other areas of Portimao have very modern buildings. We passed by several colorful and unique apartment complexes.
We found a Gelato shop that has its original shop in Venice. We have experienced Gelato a few different places while in Europe. There are a lot of places that call their product Gelato, but it is not the real thing. If you have tasted the real stuff and the fake stuff, there is no comparison. The real deal is to die for and is like velvet butter in your mouth.
We Found Portuguese Television To Be Comical
We had a t.v. in the apartment. It only got about 6 channels. The only English channel was a sport one. It was pretty much non stop tennis and race car driving. We got the occasional English movie or sitcom on the other channels. Two and a half men was one of the sitcoms broadcast here. We came across a show that had us cracking up. It is Portugal’s version of the Millionaire. It is called Pedro O’Millionairio. It was really cheesy. There was a Portuguese Soap Opera that we found quite humourous as well. Most of the characters had really bad hair! It was called Flora Bella and the actors were even more dramatic than the ones in our silly soap operas in North America.
A Shocking Surprise At Our Apartment!
One evening we were startled when the front door or our apartment suddenly opened and there stood a man just as shocked to see us. We had been there for nearly two weeks, but the owner in France had not been informed yet by the lady that rented it to us. I guess she was under the impression that he would not be coming to Lagos to use the apartment until February, so she was free to rent it out until then.
Some miscommunication had obviously gone on. Jack heard the door opening and had to run to it in his underwear. The owner was panicking and could barely speak. He must have been thinking we had broken into his place. Then it got really disturbing when we kept repeating the rental ladies name over and over and he was responding like he didn’t know who she was. We got her business card and gave it to him and he finally acknowledged who she was. No one really knew what to do at this point. The man made several phone calls on his cell phone. I ran down the street to a pay phone and called the rental lady. She was just as stunned to hear that he was there.
The owner ended up agreeing to let us stay and decided he would go to a friends house for the night. We would sort things out the next morning. He decided we could stay there for the next week as we had planned and he would continue to stay with his friend, but this wasn’t the end of the problems.
The Problems With The Apartment Continue
Unfortunately our great apartment deal ended with a sour note of problems. We had a bit of an issue with the gas when we first arrived. We had intermittent hot water for the first 4 days or so. A guy was sent to fix it. He said it was because the apartment sat empty for so long with out any one using the gas. No big deal it was solved quickly and we continued to enjoy our stay.
However, the next day after the owner had shown up we came back to the apartment to make dinner. I turned on the tap to get some hot water. There was no hot water again. We thought the pilot light had gone out, but that wasn’t the case. There appeared to be no gas at all. The stove wouldn’t work either. I had to go phone the rental lady again. She said she could not come over right away, but she would be there in a few hours.
She suggested we try asking someone else in the building to see if they were having a problem or if it was just us. I knocked on many doors until I finally got an answer. The lady I got only spoke a few words of English, so it was quite challenging to communicate. I pointed to the small doors on the wall outside her apartment that held the gas meters and asked if it was working. She understood and responded yes. I told her ours was not and she asked what number apartment we were in.
She couldn’t understand which one I was trying to tell her so she motioned for me to take her to it. She opened the door to our gas meter outside the apartment and we both stood in amazement! The whole gas meter had been taken. She spoke a hundred words a minute in Portuguese and was shaking her hands in the air. She couldn’t believe it. We both thought the same thing, someone has not paid the bill. Why else would they take the meter! She repeated over and over, no pay! No pay!
To make a long story short, the owner and the rental lady tried to get the issue resolved as quickly as possible. It was not over an unpaid bill. Apparently each time a place is sold an inspection has to be done of the gas to insure it is safe for the next owner. It had never been done, so the gas company cut it off and physically removed the whole meter.
The rental lady said she would demand it all be reconnected the next day. Three days later we still had no gas. The situation kept dragging on and on. We finally got fed up with it and asked for our money back for the last 3 days we had spent with no hot water, and no ability to cook. We wouldn’t be able to rent another apartment with such short notice so we decided we had seen enough of Lagos and had a good amount of relaxation. We would move on to Lisbon.