Category Archives: Portugal

Seven Deadly Sins: A Travellers Guide to national firewaters

As seasoned travellers we are always willing to try new things, be it leaping off of bridges with a bit of stretchy cable lassoed around your ankles or jumping out of a perfectly sound airplane, even being chased by bulls through the streets of Pamplona seems to be okay for some. However one thing that makes me shiver with dread is the after dinner shot that is often served up by well meaning waiters, usually in a plain container with no reference to its origin and strength, or the hooch that is passed around as a local specialty and ends up giving me the mother of all hangovers.

I am currently in Crete dealing with Raki but have endured some equally throat constricting liquors through my travels around the world. What follows is a short guide to some of the more popular firewaters and their origins.

1. Raki /Tsikoudia: Greece, mostly Crete
This awesome kicker is made from the waste products of winemaking and is very strong, served often in little decanters it will give you a good throat burn so is best drunk with the melon or other fruits that accompany it. The Greek/Cretan Raki is different to the Turkish one as it is colourless and has no anise added. It seems that this drink has been drunk in the region though the ages in some form or other which would explain a lot!
Pain factor: 9/10

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My Top Five Beaches In The World

Now this is obviously very subjective and, of course, I haven’t been everywhere however I love beaches and prefer sand over shingle or rocks and I have been very fortunate to have seen quite a few great ones in my travels. The list below are my favourites so far although by the time you read this I may have found an even better one, I am always looking!

What makes a great beach?

The first thing I think of is clean sand, nothing is worse than rubbish piled up on a terrific beach. Fine sand is, for me, the best with powder white coming right at the top but soft golden sand will work just as well.

Next is the water; clean, clear water with at most a little surf is ideal. Being able to laze in the water and relax is much more preferable than being pounded by surf and churned up like a washing machine, surfers would of course disagree. I don’t surf!

What about beach facilities? Well it’s nice to be able to get a cold beer and a bite to eat but apart from that I am not too worried. A nice sunset bar is a plus though and beach chairs with shade can sometimes come in handy.

Location is awkward, too close to town and the beach can get busy but if the beach is far away transportation can become an issue. Some beaches are really remote and that can be great as well but getting back to your room or hotel after being in the sun all day can be a bit of a slog.

Okay, I have outlined my main preferences so let’s get to the contentious issue of the beaches themselves, in reverse order of course!

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Travelling Lisbon – A Budget Gem in the Pricey Eurozone

Lounging in Lisbon

European cities don’t come cheap; however one city that breaks that mould and comes in at a great price point for the budget traveller is Lisbon.

A modern city with a great transportation system, cheap hostels, castles and cathedrals, a host of bars and a hopping nightlife Lisbon is rapidly being discovered as a budget gem in the pricey Eurozone.

Many low cost airlines fly into Lisbon from all over Europe, www.skyscanner.net is a great aggregator for finding cheap flights on the Internet. Trains also make it here direct from San Sebastian in northern Spain but from the south you will have to come through Seville to Faro and up from there.

torre de belem

Two choice areas to stay are either the Baixa, in the more modern quarter at the foot of the castle, or in the old section of the Bairro Alto. As long as you are not in high summer it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a place in either area. If you are after a hostel try hostelbookers.com or hostelworld.com but if you are looking for a pensão it may be better to call ahead and let them hold a booking as, for a couple, it could work out at a much better price.

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Cliff Walking in the Algarve, Portugal

Breakfast starts at the hostel at 8:30 am. The troops were all massed ready for a leisurely scramble along the cliffs between Lagos and Praia da Luz. Scramble yes, leisurely well…..

The Route along both the south and west coasts of the Algarve is covered with terrific walking paths and visitors come from all over Europe to wander along the scenic walkways. Our journey was just seven kilometres in a straight line however I had neglected to mention how much up and down there was.

view towards bay of lagos

We took the road route out to the lighthouse at Pont de Piedad that was easily covered in twenty minutes by all the team; a mix of Europeans, Aussies, Canadians and American students from the University in Seville. The views at this point are stunning and some Australians have compared the landscape to the twelve apostles in Victoria.

The road slopes gently uphill, eventually leaving the confines of the town and opens up into the flat plateau of the jutting coastline. To the left the views pan out all around the bay of Lagos, you can see the small range of hills above Monchique and all along to coast to Portimao and on a good day perhaps Albufeira.

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