Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Game, Set, Match To Ponta da Piedade

For about an hour yesterday afternoon, the walkway along the seawall out towards the lighthouse in Lagos was TigerBlog's favorite spot in Portugal.

Then he saw what was going on at the top of Ponta da Piedade. It was game, set, match to the Point.

It was Day 2 for the men's lacrosse team in Portugal yesterday.

Time, when you travel, starts to lose all meaning. It happens in the airport when you leave, especially if you're going really early in the morning or really late at night. It continues when you throw in some time zone changes.

Hey, TigerBlog couldn't sleep on the plane on the trip over. When the flight attendants came by serving dinner, he ate his. He's not even sure why. He wasn't all that hungry, and it happened to be 1:30 am or so Eastern time, which made it 5:30 am Portugal time.

With that in mind, it wasn't all that surprising that the Princeton travel party had already gotten up, had breakfast and made a 90-minute bus ride east to west along the Algarve coast to the ancient city of Silves and really couldn't fathom that it hadn't even been 24 hours yet since they'd been in this country.

Silves was the first of three stops on the day.

Francisco, the regular tour guide, was joined by Helena, who took the team through the narrow streets of the city and told of how it had been conquered and reconquered almost 1,000 years ago. And then how it was destroyed in a major earthquake in 1755.

There was a walk basically straight uphill to the castle at the top of the city. Then it was back down, and on to the next stop, Lagos, which is right on the Atlantic Ocean.

Oh, and there were about 20 women dressed as witches. It was Halloween, after all, and Francisco and Helena pointed out that 1) Halloween isn't that big in Portugal and 2) it's getting a little bigger as people realize there's money to be made from the holiday.

Like Silves, the second stop featured a town whose own history plays into that of the entire country. Because of its location on the coast and good weather, Portugal has always been an important strategic spot in Europe.

When TigerBlog travels outside the U.S., he likes to learn as much as he can about the country he's in. He got a really good feel for the entire country of Costa Rica four years ago, when Princeton did more than just go to the usual tourist resort spots.

Portugal isn't huge - Pennsylvania has about 1.5 times as many square miles - but the Princeton team won't be able to see it all. There's the first half of the trip in the Algarve, and the second half in Portugal. Still, that should be enough to get a real sense of so many different parts of the country, including its landscape, geography, people and of course history.

TigerBlog loves that kind of stuff, and he so he hung on pretty much every word Helena was saying. And he learned a lot, which is good.

He also loves the ocean, though. He gets that from his Jersey Shore roots, he supposes.

And so Lagos was a very good spot for him. Helena took the team through the town squares, crammed with shops and restaurants. TigerBlog checked out most of the menus he saw, trying to figure what he would eat if he stopped in. He possibly gets that from FatherBlog.

The Princeton group stopped off in one of the restaurants for lunch. It was, well, leisurely. The food was very good, especially the prosciutto and melon course, and TB had the swordfish, which was also very good.

After that, it was some free time in the town. TigerBlog, along with John McPhee, went the opposite way of everyone else, as they headed back to the square. TB and McPhee? They went to the seawall.

As you know, TigerBlog has never caught a fish in his life. As you know, Mr. McPhee has caught an ocean full.

The ocean comes into Lagos and is split by two walls that are separated by a longer distance than it looks. The side opposite where they were then goes off the public beach, which on this Monday afternoon was pretty busy.

Oh, TB should mention the weather. In a word, it was "perfect."

Anyway, there were a few fishermen on the side where TB and McPhee were. As the two walked, the conversation turned to fishing, and Mr. McPhee asked TB if he knew how to cast a line.

TB's response? He said that he knew what he was doing. It was the fish that John needed to talk to.

TB and McPhee spent about an hour looking out at the ocean. TB walked out on a concrete ledge towards a lighthouse. They sat on the wall. It was very quiet there, very peaceful. It was a great spot, and the views out at the ocean were very scenic. There was a gentle breeze and the great smell of the sea.

Eventually they saw a few players who came by to wait for the bus. Then it was back on the bus, presumably to go back to the hotel.

But wait a minute. Not yet. First, there would be an additional stop. At the top of the point.

It was sort of like the 2008 trip, when the walk to the Upper Lake at Glendalough, Ireland, didn't give away what was waiting for you when you finally got there. TigerBlog recently wrote about that one HERE.

This time, the bus backed into a spot, and it was off into a dusty parking lot. Then it was up a little hill - and then it was pretty much the same feeling as in 2008.

The wind whipped off the ocean and smacked you in the face, not in a way that chilled you but in a way that got your attention and made you focus on the enormity of what nature produces.

And what was there to focus on? The view. It was unreal. TB still will give a slight edge to Glendalough, but this was really, really close.

It was sheer beauty in every direction. The players continued to go up and out, to the very top of the point and down to where the ocean crashed in.

After that it was back to the hotel. There is practice this morning in advance of the coming three games against the English national team later this week in Lisbon, and there will be go cart racing in the afternoon. The players split up into teams of three. If there's a competition of some sort, TB will take the Canadians - Zach Currier, Riley Thompson and Dawson McKenzie.

Even a few hours later, though, TB was still thinking about the Point and what it was like. 

It was very similar to 2008, in that everyone took a picture with everyone else, in every direction. The only difference is that this time it was mostly with iPhones and selfie sticks.

TigerBlog stood back and watched it. He didn't need to go all the way up and out. He could see just fine from where he was, and he knew that this was his favorite spot in Portugal.

And one of his favorite anywhere in the world. 

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