PORTUGAL - April 2009
Apr  8th        Our limo ride to Newark Airport went incredibly well, and our direct flight to Lisbon on
Continental was exceptional and on time.  Then the frustration began.  It took forever to get through
customs and by the time we got to baggage claim our flight was no longer on the arrivals board.  We finally
found our bags and then got in another hour long line to pick up our rental car.  I chose Budget because it
had the lowest rate, but was that ever a mistake.  In order to get the rate I was guaranteed on the Internet I
would have had to allow them to put a $40,000 hold on my credit card!  I finally agreed to a higher rental rate
including insurance and will have to straighten this out with Orbitz - but our initial impression of Portugal
was not good.  We drove to the Algarve area, where we are staying for five nights, without a problem
thanks to the portable Garmin GPS we use when traveling.  The roads were first class and the countryside
very pristine.  We took a couple of breaks at rest stops as we were both getting tired.

Apr 9th        Our treatment at the
Le Meridien Penina made up for the frustration at the airport yesterday.  
This is a hotel we would recommend in an instant.

Apr 10th to 13th        We found it extremely easy to find our way around (in large part thanks to our GPS) and
we have visited many small beach front towns and beaches.  People are all friendly, helpful and most speak
English.  The Algarve is a favorite vacation spot for all of Europe, especially the English.  All of the villages
are comprised of white houses with red roofs and spotless.  We were surprised to find oranges, and other
citrus trees bearing fruit so early in the year.

Our hotel was near Portamao, which is the site of a new race track.  20 different countries were
represented for a Ferrari race over the Easter weekend - we think the first race at the course.  Several of
the teams were staying at the Le Meridien.  

Be sure to view my
photos of the Algarve area.

Apr 14th        We enjoyed a leisurely drive back to Lisbon via the western coast.  We stopped off at some
amazing beaches.  The airport was deserted when we arrived in Lisbon, and there were no further
surprises when we turned in the rental car.  The Lisbon Airport is in the northern part of the city and only a
short taxi ride to the hotel we have chosen - the
Eurostars Das Letras - which has turned out to be a
wonderful find thanks to
Trip Advisor.

Apr 15th to 18th        We have really enjoyed Lisbon even though the weather has been rainy and cool.  It is
a fun city to walk around.  We have taken advantage of the tourist buses that tour various areas of the city
with commentary.  There are a couple of small local Portuguese restaurants within a few blocks of our hotel
where we have enjoined dinner.  Lots of fish on the menu and the prices are very reasonable for Europe.

Between the showers we did have sunny hours.  Here is a
link to my photos of Lisbon which I hope show
the variety of architecture, from very modern to traditional.  The Moorish influence is evident throughout
the regions we visited.