Chris is a schemer . . and that is one thing that I love about him. He loves to surprise me, and my birthday was no exception. I guess the original plan was to tell me of our get-away the day before we were leaving, but each day Chris would come home to find one more thing on my calendar. Still trying to hold on to his plan, he started contacting the people on my calendar. They, in turn, would contact me and cancel our plans. My full calendar was starting to empty. On Valentine’s Day, Chris unveiled my birthday surprise early, to his chagrin. At that point my empty calendar started making sense! He had planned a wonderful 4 day get-away to Portugal, a country I had been wanting to visit. He had even arranged baby-sitters, which I always dread. He truly is wonderful!
All I had to do in preparation was get the grocery shopping & laundry done, finish up my Relief Society lesson for the day after we got back, and pack. For all that could have been going on, it was the least stressful get-away we’ve had as we left nothing undone!
As soon as we arrived in the small Faro, Portugal airport, life started to slow down. We rented our car and headed to the resort where we would be staying. We were met at the car and ushered into the reception area for check-in. Our room wasn’t quite ready so we were shown to a patio overlooking the ocean, while they brought us complimentary virgin fruit drinks.
First View of Resort
While we waited, we thoroughly enjoyed the view . . and our drinks. We truly felt like we were already relishing our holiday.
When our room was ready, the hospitality representative drove us to it in a golf cart. We were in the top floor of this little condo (furthest on to the right).
Living Room/Dining Area
We were mostly in shock of the closet area (4 times the size of our closet space at home!) and bathroom (which was bigger than our bedroom at home!).
Once we were unpacked and settled, we decided to go explore the rest of the resort area.
I could not wait to get down to the beach! Not that we are really beach type people, but there is just something about walking along the beach in warm sand during February!
Pathway Down to Beach
The sand was just the right temperature – warm, but not hot. The beach was also . . . empty! It was great to have it to ourselves and we just strolled along, looking for fun shells to bring back to the kids.
After the beach, we strolled around the rest of the resort complex and tried to get our bearings and understand what was available.
Panorama of Resort
Admittedly, after our exploring, we enjoyed doing nothing . . . we read, watched some TV, and napped.
Thursday, was a little more scheduled and productive. After breakfast, we went for a little hike around the cliffs surrounding the resort.
It was a great little workout and we enjoyed seeing the view from each new cliff. We were surprised to also see a number of fishermen out, probably getting the ‘catch of the day’ for the resort restaurants.
With being at the resort during the off-season, we enjoyed a round of mini-golf all to ourselves. This area is well-known for its golf courses, which the resort did have. However, mini-golf is much more my speed. Even then I lost to Chris by two-digits.
On Friday, my birthday, we were up and off just after breakfast. We had wanted to see more of Portugal so had planned a driving tour of the south-west portion, where we were, an area called the Algarve. As we retrieved the car from the reception area, Chris and I were both surprised when the hostess wished me a happy birthday. Chris said he may have mentioned it when making the reservation but didn’t tell them which day it was on.
We started in an old town called Silves, where there is an old castle from sometime between the 8th and 13th century. It was built by Portugal’s second king, Sancho I, when he took the town from the Moors.
King Sancho I
Walking around, there were many Moorish influences throughout the town . . . but also in the entire part of Southern Portugal. I learned a lot of history on this trip, as we learned how different northern and southern Portugal really are, as far as their history.
Beautiful (HUGE) Flowers
We then drove north, along many windy roads to an area called Monchique. This is where the highest point in the region is located. We didn’t go all the way to the peak, as there was a low cloud cover, but just stopping along the road, we had a beautiful valley view.
We then turned west, towards the coast, and drove to Arrifana. This is a rocky beach area, which may be why it’s so popular with the surfers. I’m sure there aren’t a lot of sun-bathers in this area, even during the summer. We were surprised to see about 4 surfers on the water while we were there, as we looked down from the cliff, shivering from the cold wind as we looked down from the cliff.
To finish up our Portugal tour, we headed to the most southwestern point of the country, Cape St. Vincent. The Romans used to refer to this spot as ‘the end of the world’.
Parked at ‘the End of the World’
This lighthouse is the second most powerful lighthouse in Europe and guards one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. It’s light can be seen 37 miles away.
St. Vincent Lighthouse
Standing on the Edge of the World
It was quite windy and cold while we were touring this bit of the coast. The waves were crashing against the cliffs below and it almost felt like we would blow away.
Waves Crashing on the Cliffs
As I was taking pictures of the cliffs, Chris pointed out the cliff fishermen on one of the cliff ledges. Talk about a dangerous job, especially in windy conditions!
Then we finished our round-about tour of the Algarve and headed back to the resort. It was truly amazing how much the landscape . . . and weather changed throughout the day as we drove. When we arrived back at the resort, it was all sun with no cloud cover.
When we got back to our room, there was a surprise from the resort staff. This also came with a chilled bottle of wine, which we felt horrible about and hoped that the woman who serviced our room could just take it as a tip. We decided to save the cake for dessert that night after we came back from the restaurant.
Birthday Surprise in Room
After dinner, we told the waiter we wouldn’t have any dessert that night and to just bring the bill. It seemed to take forever and we actually wondered how long it took to bring a bill, as this was out of the ordinary. Not 2 minutes later, the lights dimmed and our two waiters came around the corner singing ‘Happy Birthday’ in English (!) and carrying another birthday cake! Chris and I felt so bad as we had been waiting to eat the one in our room. They also brought us two glasses of champagne, which we left on the table.
Birthday Surprise in Restaurant
Chris and I were so full from dinner anyway, but ate about 3/4 of this delicious carrot spice cake (I fished out the cake from the chocolate icing) so as not to offend anyone. We saved the other cake for breakfast the next day . . and were surprised to find a delicious white cake with cream and berries underneath it’s chocolate icing.
Birthday Cheesecake at Home
It was an amazing weekend away, but my birthday celebration was not over. We got to celebrate with a delicious shish kabob dinner (starting to be everyone’s pick for their birthday dinners), cheesecake dessert, and gifts on Sunday when we were all together! It was the perfect weekend and probably my biggest birthday celebration ever. After two years of being 36 (or thinking I was anyway), I’m ready to move on and enjoy a year of being 37.