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Hello or should I say Ol. We are off to Portugal. Why Portugal? There are a few reasons. Firstly, we were thinking of revisiting some of the U.S. like Utah and this time going into Wyoming and staying in and near some national parks. On our last trip to the area we only got to see Zion as we spent a lot of time more south in Arizona. This time we would go more north. Since we are doing this in early April, we couldn't count on the weather so we ditched that plan. I also have to admit that we also want the U.S. to settle down a bit. I am writing this exactly 4 weeks into the Trump administration and the U.S. is one place we would like to stay away from for a little while. Crossing the border is never easy but it seems a little more stressful these days. My paternal family emigrated from the Basque area of France in 1795 so I am not sure that we would not be treated as immigrants by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Another reason we picked Portugal is that as of this writing (February 17), there had not been a terrorist attack on Portugal. We would have liked to visit Spain and we still may go to Seville as we have not really booked many places as of yet. I will get back to the booking issue a little later. Another reason for picking Portugal, is that we were able to get a direct flight to and from Lisbon. As you know, our airport, when compared to Pearson, offers limited direct flights to Europe. It just happens that Air Transat has a once a week (Thursday) charter to Lisbon and that is the only direct option. Call me crazy, but when travelling to Europe or anywhere East for that matter, I really hate flying there via Toronto. One criteria for this vacation was no layovers.

As you see by the heading, we are leaving on April 6th. For you people that have followed our adventures, you see that April is a month when we often leave on trips. A selfish reason for that is that my hockey season usually ends in the first week of April and the golf season usually only starts in late April. Judging on our latest snowfalll, golf 'May' only start in that month. The other by-product of travelling in April is that we are often in a very nice place for Myrna's birthday, Hawaii for her 50th for example. This year is a big one too for Myrna and we will probably be somewhere near Porto (* see update) on the 23rd as we will be winding down our voyage. More on that birthday in the travel log as we approach it.

Getting back to the booking of our stays. We plan to stay in Lisbon for 3 nights at the beginning, then rent a car and head south to get to slightly warmer climate in the Algarve. We have booked those first 3 nights on the road in 2 Pousadas. Pousadas of Portugal is a chain of traditional and historic hotels that was originally run by the state but in 2003 they were sold to the Pestana group in a public bid and are to be run by this private company for 40 years. There are 44 Pousadas throughout Portugal. Many people will be scrambling for hotels for the entire Easter week and maybe a few days after. As we get closer to our departure, we will definitely have booked many more places to make sure we have a place to stay.  

* Update (February 19th) - Our plans may have changed considerably as we just contacted our friends Miriam and Mark in Wales. We met Miriam and Mark on our Viking European River cruise almost 6 years ago in May 2011. Out of 148 passengers, I believe we were the youngest people by far. We had a great time with them and many great conversations. We have kept in touch since through emails and social media. Miriam turned 60 on February 19th. We sent her an email wishing her the best and I mentioned that it would be really fun if they could fly down to the Algarve around Myrna's birthday. They immediately responded that they would love for it to happen. The flight from Manchester to Faro in the Algarve is a direct non-stop and reasonably priced especially by Canadian standards. We have our fingers crossed that this will work out. So whatever I wrote about our route in the previous paragraphs will now be somewhat reversed. We will head to Porto right after Lisbon and then work our way down south in the days after.

Update (February 20th) - It looks like it's going to happen. After a few back and forth e-mails and a Face Time session Sunday evening every thing was booked by Monday morning. Miriam and Mark will be flying down to meet us on April 20th and we will spend the next 4 days in East Algarve in a little town called Castro Marim right on the border of Spain. We are staying in a small B&B called Casa Rosada which only has 3 rooms and comes highly recommended. We are delighted and excited that they will spend time with us and as a bonus they will be there for Myrna's 60th. We are really looking forward to this part of the trip.

Update (March 23rd) - Only 2 weeks until our trip. All our stays are reserved although many can be cancelled 48 hours before arrival. Since we are travelling around Easter we did not want to take a chance on looking for last minute reservations. Our planned itinerary goes somewhat like this: