Benagil Cave/Cliffside Boat Ride

There are a gazillion (true word – fact checked!) tours from many parts of the Central and Western Algarve to the Benagil Cave. It’s one of the most photographed spots in the Algarve and our boat tour operator tells us, the default photo for Windows 95! Dating ourselves, are we?

It was a pretty warm, humid day in May. Portugal has just opened up I went on Airbnb Experiences and found a boat tour from my current hometown, Portimaio, Portugal, to the coves nearby. The Benagil Caves are world famous. Most of this Southern Portuguese coastline is lime cliffs, coves and surf. I am not a particularly sporty person. I love being by the beach, hearing the waves, looking at the coast, cliffs, etc. I’m not a good swimmer and somewhat fear the ocean. So, you are not going to find me surfing or swimming. I would go out on a kayak as long as I have a life jacket!

This tour only cost me about 20 Euros, or just under $25 USD at the time of this writing. Well worth the cost. The tour departed at 11am and was roughly 2 hours total. Just enough to see what you would like to see. It also gives you an opportunity to see the coast from the ocean perspective. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I must point out that the tour company was Atlantis Tours, I want to give them some props. They were very professional and, as almost everyone I’ve come in contact with in Portugal, very friendly.

Check out my quick film of my day out.

Thank you for your SERVICE!

Today is Memorial Day in the U.S.A. Vice President Kamala Harris sent out a Tweet on Friday and people went ballistic. I suppose given her station/title/position within the U.S. system, she should have thought twice about the post but regardless, this is a holiday to celebrate, and maybe more poignantly, remember that many have died and are currently serving or have served in the Armed Forces to help further the belief that people have certain freedoms, or what on the U.S. Constitution are “inalienable rights”.

I am a child of the 80’s and remember when I couldn’t travel to “Eastern Europe” or “Russia” because they didn’t want to allow it and their citizens were not allowed to travel outside the “Bloc”. That luckily ended in 1989 when the Berlin wall fell. I have since only been to a couple of former Eastern Bloc countries and I can tell you, those that remember the restrictions are not fond of that time when Communism ruled their lives.

What do I want to say about this? First, 2 of my 3 my brothers and cousins served in the U.S. Armed forces. One of my brothers went to the Air Force, one to the Navy and both of my cousins served in the Army. One of them made the 82nd Airborne and nearly made Ranger status. What did I think when I was young and saw this? I was one of those “elitist” that thought you went to the military because you didn’t have other options. I was wrong and that elitist idea is still around today. I suppose as you grow older and rely on your own wits and try to succeed, you realize that the world does not revolve around you and that you need to consider other points of view.

Our family is white, Cuban immigrants and although my aunt had a good job in the U.S., she was fluent in English, albeit with a heavy accent which she has and is proud of to this day; my immediate family grew up on welfare. We were a one parent household, my mother did not speak English, I had the tickets at school for lunch, we didn’t have a car and I didn’t have one until I was 26 since I just didn’t have the money for a car and my priorities were to go to college and travel in the summer. Towards the end of my high school it was just my mom, my grandmother and myself since all of my brothers and cousins were gone. They were all serving during the whole Muammar Gaddafi Mediterranean “conflict”.

So, in a round about way, I want to thank my brothers, cousins and my “brothers and cousins” in the military that serve and give me the luxury of the life I’ve led and continue to lead. Thank you for your service!

Silves – Moorish Stronghold in the Algarve

Today was the second day that monuments were allowed to reopen in Portugal. In honor of being able to go do some touristy things, I went to the town of Silves which is about 20 minutes door to door from my spot at the Quinta dos Vales. The town of Silves was settle by the Romans but the influence of the Moors is evident in its most famous attraction, the Castle at the top of the old town. The Moorish stronghold had its heyday in the 1100s during their occupation of the Iberian Peninsula.

Parking is easily accessible. It’s located next to the public market which lies by the Arade River just south of the old town. Or just have Google maps tell you where the Lidl Silves is and the public parking is almost right in front of that on the river side. From the parking, if you are an able-bodied individual, you should get up to the castle in probably about 10 minutes. My iWatch said it was .30 miles. I turned on the exercise app and thought I was going to get a half mile or more in and was sort of disappointed. 😦

Castle interior
Castle interior

The cost to enter was just 2.8 euros. A very reasonable price for such an imposing fortress. Within its walls the structure has a bar, not yet open as of this writing, bathrooms, these were open, a nice garden area with several fountains several benches and also an area which appears to be currently under archaeological excavation but which I believe is no longer being excavated. And, impressively, there is a cistern which currently is holding an exhibit on the Iberian Lynx. The views as you might expect of the surrounding area are pretty impressive.

As this was the second day of Portugal opening its monuments, I was one of very few people in the structure. On my visit I only saw about five or six other tourists. On my way back down, I stopped over at the Cathedral da Se which unfortunately was closed for lunch!

I meandered through some of the streets. There were several restaurants allowing outdoor seating and of course the groups were small, as per regulations. Before departing, I took a nice walk along a riverside path which was adjacent to the parking area. In the parking area there is a municipal market, exposition center, campground, a skate park with a couple of skate ramps, and a few cafes along the river. Again, the cafes along the river and the municipal market were following current protocols and only allowing outdoor seating. As not much was still open, I only spent a couple of hours in the town before returning to my home base at the vineyard.

If you want to learn more about Silves, it’s history, and the Algarve, check out some of these links:

https://www.algarve-tourist.com/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castle_of_Silves

https://www.portugalist.com/things-to-do/silves-castle/

Voyage Toujours Tales – Concerts – U2

Combining travel with other passions is something I’ve been doing for a while. Many others do as well. Foodies want to go to that special Michelin starred restaurant in Paris, oenophiles want to travel to Champagne, Burgundy or Bordeaux, car enthusiasts to Porsche’s home in Germany or Ferrari’s in Italy. You get my drift. Since most of my favorite childhood bands came from the U.K. and as a child I longed to travel to Europe, once I did the usual tourist “Top 10” here and there, I started thinking of what I could do when I returned to my favorite city in such and such a country. One of the things I combined was taking in a concert of one of my favorite bands. I had an accomplice in my high school friend. She and I met by our high school lockers when she commented on my Police poster! We had one class together our entire high school career, but what brought us together was music. The Police, U2, INXS, Depeche Mode, New Order, Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, etc. If you are from the L.A. area and were a teen in the early 80’s and listened to KROQ radio station, you know all these bands and several more, too numerous to name here. She didn’t have the exact tastes as I. For example, I don’t think she was into DD or Spandau, but we were generally into what was called the second British Invasion.

My first ever live concert was in L.A. at the L.A. Sports Arena. It was a concert for Amnesty International in 1985. U2 was one of the bands and they were and still are one of my favorites. My friend and I were recently reminiscing about our concert travels and I relayed to her the first time I heard U2 on the radio. “The first time I remember hearing U2, I think I was 13 or 14 and listened to the Unforgettable Fire Sunday night on KLOS’s 7th day, where they play the whole album, if you recall.  (My brother and I) were listening to it.  The sun was starting to go down and it was dark by the time they finished the album and we listened to it there in the twilight. One of my favorite tunes is the title song.  It’s haunting, melodic – and I’m not sure that I even know what it’s about.  I think the sounds stir my soul more than its content.  The mixture of the strings, the drums and even Bono’s voice all get me.” U2 would tour a year after Amnesty to support their own album, the now legendary, The Joshua Tree.

So when I started traveling to see bands, it was magic. The first show I saw outside of my area, was U2. They had set up a couple of shows at Sun Devil Stadium just outside of Phoenix. They wanted to film some live shows for their upcoming movie, “Rattle & Hum”. Boy, talk about going on the cheap. I think 6 of us piled into a five seater car, drove from L.A. to Phoenix, stayed at a Motel 6 and I’m not sure what we ate, but I’m sure it wasn’t very nutritious! The tickets to these 2 nights of concerts was $5 for each night. I think my cousin paid for my tickets and the hotel. I don’t remember too much about the trip but I can remember both concerts. The lights going down and all the lighters lighting up. Yes, kids, before the lights of cell phones, we used lighters! Even those of us that didn’t smoke had one when we went to a concert. A beautiful sea of sparkling lights like you were in the middle of the desert watching the sky. Those concerts would be immortalized on Rattle & Hum.

I like a lot of U2 music that is not considered their “hits”.  I even liked some of their funky stuff like Zooropa, Achtung Baby & Pop.  After Unforgettable Fire, I went back and listened to War, Boy & October and was really hooked on them.  I was really into the whole new wave of British/Irish/Scottish/Australian music in general.  Videos were big and although we did not have cable/MTV, there was, speaking of Richard Blade, MV3!  I think it was on Channel 9 if I remember correctly.  I liked the exotic locations and artistic value of those videos and it fell in line with my view of wanting to go see the world, which I had had since leafing through the pages of the Encyclopedia Brittanica and the country pages which always started off with a map of the country.  I always loved geography.

I would go on to see U2 many times. I believe the last time was during their 360 tour at the Anaheim Stadium in 2010. I have yet to see U2 outside of the U.S. My dream would be to see them in their native Dublin. There’s still time as the band is still together and, I’m sure, have another world tour left in them.

Later on, I would often consciously coordinate my travel around concerts. More tours to come. Stay tuned!