Vacationing in Portugal

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Typical house façade in Alentejo

Portugal is home, more specifically, Algarve. We don’t visit as often as we would like, but try to go at least every two or three years to visit family and friends. The last time we visited was in 2016. Time to start looking at flights!

Portugal had remained the lesser known of the european countries, until about ten or so years ago, when Portugal was highlighted on several american travel publications. These articles went on to list Portugal on the Top 10 Best Places to Retire and Visit. Of course, it’s been the vacation hot-spot for british citizens for many years, as well as other european nationals. But now we have noticed more american tourists, especially in the larger cities like Lisbon and Porto.

Algarve has over 100 miles of coastline with wonderful sandy beaches, small fishing villages, and many golf resorts. The weather is mild in the winter months. Temperatures start to warm up in March, but July and August are the peak summer months. My favorite months are May and September, before and after the crowds.

But, there is more to Portugal than the beaches. I love to visit the Alentejo region everytime we travel to Portugal. To me personally, it has the best wines. The terrain is hot and dry; perfect for those earthy dry red wines that we favor. The cuisine of Alentejo is rustic and delicious. Pork and lamb are abundant in the area. Should you stop at any of the roadside restaurants, you are greeted by the warm and friendly locals, and great regional dishes. I especially like to stop in the “tascas”; small snack-bars.

Of the many wineries we have visited, we keep going back to our favorites: Esporao, Rocim and Ervideira are just a few. Esporao and Ervideira are close to each other just outside Reguengos, Rocim is a bit more south, a couple of miles from the town of Cuba. This area is rich in history, dating back to the roman times. Well worth visiting.

It seems that two weeks just isn’t enough to do everything we want to do. I think we need to retire so we can travel more. Work gets in the way…

We try to sneak to our neighbors in Spain if time permits. On our last trip, we visited Jerez de La Frontera, were we enjoyed the local sherry and the spanish hospitality. Had a great time golfing at a small golf resort just outside of town. After a few days, we drove down to the coast for some beach time along the mediterranean sea. Stopped in the small town of Estepona, were we enjoyed great sangria and paella; I like to try it in different places to see who makes it the best. (Best sangria: bartender at the beach shack @ Playa de Isla Canela) On our way back to the Algarve, we drove over to Marbella for a quick stop, knowing it would be busy; it’s always busy. It is the place to be and be seen! Next trip over the pond, we want to spend more time in Spain. Trying to plan something in the Basque region. Maybe plan it around the Vuelta!

Spanish countryside outside Jerez de La Frontera

Having grown up in the Algarve, there are many different places I consider “my favorites”. If you are travelling to the area, drop a line. I’ll be happy to share some of my many favorites spots. When is your next trip to Europe?

2019 Camping Season Has Begun

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Blue Heron along the Green River bank

The snow in Northwest Colorado has finally melted enough for us to get our RPod – travel trailer – out of the back yard. It’s always exciting to get ready for that first trip of the season. Getting all the gear back in the camper. Trying to figure out where to go, since the high country is still snowed-in. In the end, all it matters is that we go, somewhere, anywhere! Last year we logged 40 camping days for the season. Let’s see if we can beat that number in 2019.

My first task: organizing the storage space. I had baskets, I had dividers, Command strips – I believe Walmart stock is up due to my obsession with getting the camper organized and my quest to be more efficient this year! Having a smaller camper makes it a bit more challenging to store things. The use of the space is essential to being able to find “stuff” once you packed it all in. After much thought and some rearranging, I think I got it. I was so efficient that I have an entire shelf that is now empty. I question what was there before. Am I forgetting something? In the past couple of years since we purchased the RPod, every inch of it was filled with “stuff”; what I deem important stuff. A home away from home.

“Camping, where you spend a small fortune to live like a homeless!”

Vegetation along the river bank

So, off we went to the Green River, middle of nowhere Utah. The weather was beautiful; cool nights, warm days. This part of Western US is the perfect spot for one to disconnect from everything. You have to travel 60 miles either way, East/West, to find civilization. We set up camp at Indian Crossing, BLM campground, just along the river. It’s normally not too busy of a spot. We only had about 4 or 5 other camp sites occupied. The Green River is very popular with both rafters and anglers. Normally you will see outfitters drop off their trailers during the day. Otherwise, it’s a low key spot. I don’t fish; either spend my time reading or taking photos. Bill is the fisherman of the group. Several attempts were made to bring in a nice big brown trout. The one time Bill actually hooked one, it was too big and took off with the fly and the line. I probably don’t have to tell you, he was not very happy! I kept reminding him it’s called “fishing” not “catching”; I laughed, and laughed… he didn’t see the humor. Early morning the river flow was about 900 cfs, but by early afternoon more than doubled. 

Mighty fisherman

We did some exploring in the area after lunch on Saturday. In this vast area, one can easily get lost. It’s easy to imagine outlaws in the 1800’s hiding out. It hasn’t changed much. Apart from some curious cows grazing by Red Dirt Creek, no living creature was around for miles and miles, in any direction. Red Dirt Creek was flowing nicely. We also stopped over at the Jarvie Ranch on the way back to camp; always fun to walk through those old building.

But, not everything is fun and games when you camp. It wouldn’t be a camp trip without some “issues”. This trip was no different. I turn on the water pump, and no more than 5 seconds later, I have water everywhere. It’s coming from the wall! What the heck!?! I’m fortunate to have a very handy husband. We investigate and discover it’s the fitting in the shower faucet. Of course, you can barely fit a tool through the opening behind the faucet. Who builds these things? How can they not think we will need to reach behind pipes and faucets. Anyway, after some work and yoga moves, we manage to get it fixed. Good as new!! Life is good again.

We now start planning our next trip. Summer is Colorado doesn’t last long. We have to enjoy every minute of it. Time is wasting. Where is your next trip? Do you prefer established campgrounds or dispersed camping? Drop a line…  Happy Trails! 

Diving Paradise

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Bonaire is a small island in the Leeward Antilles, off the coast of Venezuela. It used to be the less known of the ABC Islands; Aruba and Curacao are the better known ones. But I think the secret is out. Every year we return, it seems more and more people are visiting. You can also tell by the new construction around the island. 

Its landscape is mostly desert. But for divers and snorkelers, the beauty can be found under water.  The Bonaire National Marine Park has miles of pristine coral reef that covers the entire coast of the island. A smaller island, Klein Bonaire, is accessible via a 20-minute boat ride from the west coast of Bonaire. Between both islands there are over 90 dive sites, with 60 or so, accessible from the shore. As you drive around the island, you will see the bright yellow rocks with the site names. Parking is plentiful on most sites. Since the island is more coral than sand, the first few steps into the water can be tricky, sometimes even challenging. But, with many sites to choose from, you can always find one less challenging.

Andrea I – Site # 23

If diving or snorkeling isn’t your thing, many other activities are available. Several hiking trails are accessible on the north side of the island. You get to appreciate the desert-like landscape as you hike through cactus and yucca plants. Parrots can be spotted at times and even flamingos.

The island has long been known as a great destination for windsurfing. If you head to Lac Bay, you have the opportunity to watch both experts and novices enjoying the steady trade winds perfect for the sport. Jibe City has equipment you can rent as well as experts ready to teach you the sport. Also happens to be our favorite afternoon hangout. Jibe City has a great bar, right on the edge of Lac Bay waters. You can sit back, enjoy great food and a cold Polar or three, while watching the windsurfers do their thing.

It’s hard to pick a favorite site to dive or snorkel in Bonaire. But, if I had to, here are my 3 favorites: The Lake, site# 42; Red Beryl, site# 56, and Karpata, site# 9. The coral formation at Karpata is amazing.

There are many dive shops and resorts available to those visiting. We continue to use Buddy Dive because we love the dive masters and the ease of their tank drive-thru. Shout-out to Flavia and Fons!! Just two of the many great staff at the resort.

Fons and Bill on one of our boat dives

Another wonderful dive vacation comes to an end. It never gets old and there are always new experiences, no matter how many dives you’ve done. The most memorable on this trip has to be the 6+ ft. hawksbill turtle just off of Capt. Don’s site at Klein Bonaire. The ostracods on our last night dive were pretty special too. Hard to beat Bonaire.

Bonaire is very special. A slow-pace island with great people, wonderful food and amazing water. Did I mention the french fries?! Best in the world.

Until we meet again…

Some of our favorite places on the island:

Weekend Getaways Are The Best…

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Redlands Mesa Golf Course – Grand Junction, CO

This time of year we tend to get a bit “antsy” . We want green grass, sunny days and warmer weather. Most of us living in the Colorado mountains haven’t left our towns in months and just want to go…somewhere, anywhere!

We checked the weather forecast around us to see who had the best weekend forecast and jumped in the car for a quick getaway. Grand Junction won the coin-toss; the weather was warmer and golf was the activity of choice.

We stayed at Two Rivers Winery just west of town and near our favorite golf course; Redlands Mesa Golf. The winery has a chateau with 7 or 8 beautifully appointed rooms. The rooms are decorated in a french-country style. Comfortable and spacious. A wonderful breakfast is provided from 7:30 am to 9:30 am in their breakfast room. Staff is great and very friendly. If you are looking for a relaxed atmosphere, something more than the basic hotel chain, this is a place to consider.

On previous trips through Grand Junction, we had the opportunity to stop in for a wine tasting. The Two Rivers wines are wonderful; I’m partial to their reds. The tasting room is open every day from 10:30 am to 5 pm, and noon to 5 pm on sundays. I would highly recommend it; worth the stop!

We tasted their 2016 vintage on saturday; all the reds. My favorite was the Syrah: “This savory vintage offers complex aromas of coffee, cedar, baking spices and salted caramel. The rich, round mouth-feel finishes with an earthy minerality and flavors of molasses and vanilla. Pair with grilled items, game or rosemary crusted Colorado lamb.” The 2016 Vintner’s Blend was a close second: “This complex and well-balanced offering brings together two of our favorite grapes: Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Acids and tannins collide and mellow, creating an opulent red wine with earthy aromas and complex flavors of berries and spice. This vintage is highlighted by a delicious, creamy and fruit-filled finish. Pairs beautifully with caramelized foods; try roasts or grilled meats and onions.” Cheers!

While the skies were a bit cloudy early saturday, that didn’t stop us from heading to the golf course for our 10:30 am tee-time. For early spring, the course was actually in decent shape and surprisingly busy. For us, it was just wonderful to be outside. A couple of hours into our game, the sun made an appearance. Mother Nature was good to us! I did hit some great shots and some not so great… Basically a typical golf game for me. A quick bite to eat at the club house with a John Daly to celebrate our day out on the course, concluded our outing.

Views from the balcony @ Two Rivers
Views from the balcony @ Two Rivers

As we leave sunday morning, in hopes that we don’t hit another snow storm, we are grateful for this repreve from all the “white stuff”.

What’s your favorite weekend getaway? Drop a line, share your thoughts and keep on traveling!

Oh no, it’s time to pack…

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Packing, it can be easy!

I don’t know about you, but once I have a trip booked, I cannot wait to start packing. I’m like a kid going to Disney. Like the action of packing will make the trip happen that much quicker!

On any trip longer than a weekend, I tend to “stage” my items before I pack; normally several weeks in advance. (I sensed you rolling your eyes!) I start coordinating outfits, shoes and accessories, and all the miscellaneous items needed for said trip. Make a list of items I don’t have, must buy, really can’t live without, and so on. Nothing I hate more than packing for a trip and realize last minute that I forgot something important and have to run to buy it or worse, I don’t have time to order it online and now I’ll have to go without. The horror!!! Ok, just being a bit over dramatic here.

I’ve been reading a lot about the packing cubes, so I decided to purchase some and give it a try. My feelings so far, not bad. I used 3 of the medium size ones and one small for an upcoming week-long trip. I opted for having each cube hold a particular item; one for T Shirts, another for swimwear, etc. Everything fit nicely in my 22″ suitcase. Note that I was only able to add 2 pairs of shoes along with the clothes. I can see advantages: everything is nicely separated. Hoping for less wrinkles. Should TSA open the bag, I hope they don’t pull everything from the individual cubes.

Initially I had purchased the cubes to use on our travel-trailer adventures. Since clothes tend to shift while in transit, I thought this would be a great solution; have everything in place inside the trailer closet. Plus it will be easier to look for things. At the end of some of our longer camping trips, our tiny closet is a mess. Can’t wait to try it out. The smaller the space, the better organize you need to be.

So, here we are about a month or less from our next adventure and yes, I’m pretty much done packing. Just need to add the last minute toiletries to the suitcase, get some cash and we are set to go and have ourselves a wonderful time.

Are you a last minute packer? Or do you prefer to plan things out? Drop a line, share your thoughts.