Our trip into northern Portugal took us to the very top of the country, to a region that has the Spanish border both to the north (which follows the Minho River) and to the east (marked by the Peneda-Geres National Park). To the west is the Atlantic ocean while the Lima River forms this region’s southern border. Through the middle flows the Vez River from the north until it empties into the Lima River.Continue reading
Well, after a few delays caused by a couple of dreaded the “C” diseases (Cancer and Covid), we have finally been able to venture out of our apartment and do a little exploring once again. It seems that our travels for awhile will be limited to Portugal as the borders in Europe are not all open yet and flying anywhere right now is not only a little risky but downright complicated. So we’re happy to just take this time to get to know Portugal a little better.
Our first trip out from quarantine was only 40 minutes south of Lisbon to the Setubal Peninsula. This region has been formed by the shores and estuaries of the Tejo and Sado Rivers, which then juts out westwardly into the Atlantic Ocean.
This large stretch of land encompasses a number of landmarks that are worth seeing and visiting. The most impressive is the 30 km Caparica Beach that makes up most of the peninsulas’s westerly shore. It’s a long, wide sandy beach that’s perfect for walks, surfing and swimming, and is pocketed with small beach clubs and restaurants.Continue reading
Making the movie above nearly cost me my drone. On the last day of this trip to Cinque Terre I got perhaps a little too confident in my flying abilities, and that of the drone.
Although I own a drone, I don’t consider myself as one who “flies drones”. Some like to race them, performing amazing maneuvers or tricks, but that’s not why I have a drone. I see it more as a camera that has wings. Getting the camera away from me and up in the air has opened up a whole new approach to taking pictures. With the drone I can place my lens in places where previously I could only accomplish with a helicopter or plane.
A photographer is always trying to find a new angle, searching for a new way to express themselves or their subject via still images or video. It is what has driven me to climb mountains, rock faces, to go to places where if I didn’t have a camera around my neck and an idea in my head of what a great shot this could be, I would never otherwise have done it. Good photographers are always pushing the envelope.
When I got a drone, I was quite conservative with my flying as I learned how it functioned and flew. I kept close to shore and away from potential objects I could run into. But the more I used the drone, the more it opened me to new possibilities. I’d start thinking, “Well, what if I were to…” I soon learned that if you aren’t getting into a little trouble with your drone, well then, you aren’t pushing yourself to get some really great shots.
But that’s also when I started getting into trouble. Continue reading
The week before we were to head to Cinque Terre from Nice, the weather forecast said it would be raining the whole time we’d be there. And the day before we left it did, indeed, rain. But then the skies opened up, the weather Gods looked fondly upon us, and we ended up with clear blue skies during our whole trip, until we returned and the clouds started rolling back in. Lucky again.
We drove over, stopping for lunch in the seaside town of Alassio. The drive should have been about 2 1/2 hours, but with the collapse of the Morandi bridge in Genoa, traffic was so bad that it added 40 minutes to our trip. We could see the bridge as we drove through, and also see the effect it is having on the city. It is making life terrible for the residents of the town. Unfortunately there is no good alternative route, so everyone that’s traveling on the coast freeway has to detour and drive through the middle of the town. It’s a mess and it will be for awhile.
Cinque Terre is situated on the eastern shore of the Ligurian Sea, a sea which has Italy for its northern and eastern borders, France for its western, and Corsica for its southern border. We had thought it would work out best for us if we had a hotel in the middle of Cinque Terre so it would be easier to access all the villages we wanted to see. We felt somewhere up high, near the village of San Bernardino would work best, and found a wonderful B&B called Ca de Ventu just above the village. And because of the clear skies that we had, we could see basically all of the Ligurian Sea from there.
We’ve been wanting to venture farther from the coast with our bikes, but not having a car to take them has made that difficult. So we looked into taking a train and found one that goes leaves to Tende, a small town that sits alongside the Italian border in the national Mercantour park, and allows bikes on board. The train follows what was the old “Route de Sel” or salt route.
Salt production and trading has been carried on in the Nice-Piedmonte region for over two thousand years. It was transported by boat along the Mediterranean coast to Nice and then brought inland through the mountains by mule. Salt was an essential part of the lives of those living in the Piedmonte/Savoy region, known as “white gold,” used to preserve foods during the summer in order to last through the winter, and for nourishment.
During the Bronze Age these were simple paths that followed the Roya River into upper Italy. Later, the Romans built roads, but by the 9th century they had disappeared, mostly destroyed by locals to protect themselves against invading barbarians using them. In the 14th century trade began once again as the Count of Savoy took control of the salt trade and improved the route. By the end of the 16th century the route was a road once again, linking Nice and Turin, and upwards of 30,000 mules loaded with salt made the trip each year. The train route followed during the 19th century.
What a surprise was in store for us, for not only was it a comfortable train and ride, with plenty of space for our bikes and us, but there was also a guide on board who provided a running commentary, in French and English, about the history of the places the train passed through on its journey north.
The train departs the Nice station daily at 9:17, from June until the end of September, (on weekends only in May and October), arriving in Tende at around 11:30. One can go the whole distance or get off at any of the 14 stops along the way. And the tickets prices are reasonable, our one-way tickets cost us together just 13 euros.
We were in for another surprise for as soon as we got off the train it began to rain. We rode into Brei-sur-Roya, but it only started raining harder so we stopped at a cafe for strong cappuccinos. After a half-hour the rain eased up so we decided to try our luck. Continue reading
After six years of living in Nice for close to six months of each year, our time is coming to an end. We’ve very much enjoyed the Cote d’Azur, and are not ruling out that we could be back sometime down the line as Nice just has so much to offer. The weather may be the best in Europe. The location, just next to Italy, with the Med in front and the foothills of the French Alps behind, is exceptional. There’s Old Town, the port, and amazing markets such as Saleya. Restaurants are wonderful and plentiful. The transportation system with the buses and trams works very well. The airport has more connections to the outside world, (136 direct-by-air destinations, at usually great rates, to places throughout Europe and elsewhere), except for perhaps Paris. The promenade is superb, as is the Pavillon park that runs through the middle of the city.
Most of our outdoor activities have involved walks, hikes, and biking. We’ve walked most of the coastal “sentier” trails along the Cote d’Azure, which I covered here and here and here. Once we had done those we started hiking up into the hills, which I covered here and here and here. When we were done with that we started biking, first along the coast and then up into the hills, which I covered here and here and here and here . And there are just so many great hilltop villages to visit, such as St. Paul de Vence, Gourdon, Eze, St. Agnes and so many more. In the winter (when we were in Europe) we went skiing in Auron or Valberg. Although we’ve done a lot, we’ve really just barely touched upon all that there is to do in and around Nice.
As our time was coming to an end, we had just started traveling outside of the Cote d’Azur by car, into Italy and Provence, short trips that that only took a few hours, and which I covered here and here and here and here.
We’ll miss our daily swims in the Med from late spring until early fall. Will definitely miss the fresh food markets and the many wonderful events held annually, such as the Nice Jazz Festival, Monaco Boat Show or Grand Prix.
But there’s a lot going on in Lisbon and we look forward to discovering all there is to do there. More of that to come…
This past winter I bought a drone (Mavic Pro) so I could update the aerial images we have on our MLS real estate website back in Mexico. On our return to Europe I brought the drone with me as I really wanted to film one of my favorite bike rides and take advantage of the “tracking” the drone can do. By that I mean you can launch the drone, select a target on the screen, (in this case, me on a bike), and it will follow you.
It can get complicated as I ended up being the producer, director, camera man and actor in this short film. After many takes, many false attempts, many days where filming was called off because of bad weather, I finally managed to shoot all the shots I wanted and then spent some time putting it all together in iMovie. Not the greatest program for working with film, but then I’m not the greatest film producer either. It does enough to get the job done and not get me in trouble.
There are so many great bike rides around Nice. Some I enjoy on my road bike, but this particular trip involves both on and off-road, so my Moustache Dimanche electric-assist was definitely the best call.
I few people have asked how I used the drone to make this video.
Except for the first and last shots, (someone else did those for me. The drone could’ve done it but I refrain from flying it in the city), otherwise every other shot was done by the drone. For some shots, I put the drone in the air, set it at an angle of view that I like, start filming, then put the remote down and get on my bike and drive through the scene. I then return, stop filming, bring the drone back and move on to the next shoot.
When the drone follows me, this is called “active tracking”. To set this up I “show” the drone where I am on my iPhone by circling myself so it identifies me as the “target” to track. And then it does just that. There are different modes to tracking:
- It follows behind me
- It follows beside me
- It follows me but makes circles around me as I move
- The drone stays still but follows me wherever I go
It can get complicated and time consuming as I have to launch the drone, target myself, ride the bike, etc. Sometimes it loses me, for instance if a tree of object comes between us. As I ride I’ve learned to listen for the whirl of the blades to know if it is following me or not.
The results, the programming DJI have done for the drone for tracking, is very fluid and smooth. It would be hard for a person to follow me that well, without jerking.
I made multiple trips up the mountain to film this. It takes over an hour to get there and the first two times I arrived just as clouds rolled in and I couldn’t film. When I could film I’d make 6-8 shots, but usually only one or two would be usable. Also, with each day of filming I got better. So at the end I was having more success getting good shots and the ones I wanted.
My next video will be paddle boarding in the Algarve of Portugal. Little more difficult as I’m on water and have to land and take off from my paddle board. Have to launch and catch from my hand. Tricky…
Our 20th anniversary was coming up so I decided to surprise my wife with a getaway trip to Lake Garda in Italy. I didn’t tell her about my plans, just let her know a couple of hours before we had to catch our plane. This would be our second trip to Italy’s northern lake district, as we visited Lake Como last fall. Everything went quite smoothly… until we arrived at the car rental agency in Venice.
If you are mostly interested in the places we visited (Verona, Lake Garda and Sirmione), you may want to skip down the page and not read about our travails trying to get to Lake Garda. Continue reading
I had thought once I’d gathered all the necessary paperwork and submitted them, that I would then be shortly be receiving my Portuguese driver’s license. That was back at the beginning of December of last year (2017). It is now nearing mid’ April and I have still not received the license. So upon returning to Lisbon I went and and checked in with the DMV (IMI in Portugal) to discover what may be holding it up. In my broken and very limited Portuguese, and after a few unsuccessful attempts at trying to find the right line I needed to be in, I finally found someone who told me that my original receipt letter that I received was my provisional license. I had a copy of it but she informed me that wasn’t good enough, I needed the original. For 30 euros I could get a new one. So I began to get my wallet out when she informed me that I’d need to go to another line to pay and get the letter.
Each time you get in a line-up, you begin by getting a ticket that is only available downstairs at the entrance. So I went back down, obtained another ticket (now for line “A”), and waited for my turn in the waiting room. Finally my number was called and ended up right beside the woman I had previously dealt with, and fortunately, knowing my situation, she explained it to the gentleman. He then took my money and printed out a new provisional license and then explained to me in good English that it was good for four months. I asked what was taking so long to get the real license. He said they have to check back with the country of origin in order to do the exchange (in this case, Canada), and that can take some time. Plus, he said, there’s so many ex-pat Portuguese who’ve been living in Brazil and who are moving back, that it has caused a 6-8 month backlog. Well, at least I had my provisional – although it was just for four months. Hopefully my original would arrive by then, or back to IMI and out another 30 euros.
We are finding that this is how the bureaucracy is in Portugal – slow. It is also difficult to get clear answers as to how things should be done correctly and in what order. We’ve spent a lot of time in government offices, only to find out that a new form is needed, or we needed something from another office before they could proceed in the one we were currently at.
Portugal’s Atlantic coastal highways are lined with numerous restaurants that specialize in serving fresh seafood. And they are very popular. Like all restaurants, there are good ones and not so good ones. Inexpensive and over the top. There’s so many that it’s hard to find the good ones from the bad.
On a recommendation we discovered a place that is both reasonably priced and exceptionally good. It is called Club Naval and it is situated at the bottom of a steep cliff just outside the small town of Assenta, about 20 minutes north of Ericeira taking highway #247. When you arrive at Assenta, turn right and drive right through it to towards the coast. At the coast you’ll come to a fork in the road, one to a lighthouse (left) and a sign for Club Naval directing you to the right. You’ll have to drive down the cliff on a very narrow road that zigzags back and forth until you reach the restaurant.
There’s nothing much there, other than a small port for local fishing boats, a few fish shacks built into the hillside (with some looking like they are about to slide into the sea), and of course, Club Naval. The restaurant is quite unassuming, with a small entrance with a few tables, but then two adjoining rooms filled with long tables.
The fish caught by the fisherman of this small port is what Club Naval serves each day. Matter of fact that’s all they serve. The menu lists all types of fish, but only that caught fresh will actually be available, sold by the kilo. Upon entering you find out what is fresh and then select what it is you’d like, and how much of it, from the display case.
The fish is exceptional, cooked perfectly every time we’ve been there, in garlic and olive oil, served with potatoes and salad if you so choose. There’s also shrimp and prawns when available, (and they usually are), and a decent wine list – in quality and price.
So if you happen to be exploring around Ericeira, be sure to save this as a place to stop for lunch. And if it happens to be a Sunday, get there early as it fills up fast.