There is a hidden waterfall “in” Villa Nova Milfontes – its location is a well-kept secret. It can be accessed in two ways – the first way being a long walk over farmland and, finally, down a steep hillside. Various permissions should be sought before crossing land and you have to be “in the know” as to how to get there.
The second way is to be given a key to a certain gate and be told to “follow the track” which meant we could visit by four-wheel drive car. Our neighbor and landlord has the magical key to the gate and agreed we could visit – they own the land around there. Even then it is not simple as you will find out.
When it comes to souvenirs the most famous apart from the obligatory Gondola keyring is the Venetian mask. These are sold in their thousands to tourists from stands and hawkers at every opportunity. I can understand the Venetians fascination with the mask because Venice itself is the ultimate mask.
Venice hides in its lagoon, behind its waterways, it hides behind the faded grandeur of the Grand Canal.
Venice hides behind its Baroque facades and Gothic mansions.
We were up, breakfasted and out of the hotel on schedule. First stop, petrol station to fill up the car before leaving it at the airport. Go to the airport petrol station which is unmanned at that time on a Sunday morning and refusing to take foreign cards of any description — which means cash only. One problem with this — it only takes 20 euro notes — the five euro note slot is blocked — wonder if someone else tried to put their card in it?
We are told of several other petrol stations in the area and make our way to the first, the second, the third — all have the same problem — one petrol groups computers have obviously crashed overnight or are off-line for some reason. There is utter pandemonium as people get more and more frantic trying to fill up their cars — at the end there is a convoy of about 30 cars all trying to do the same thing — all of them with flights to catch.
We fill ours up until it will take no more — pass two and a half Euros credit on the pump to the next guy and make our way to the airport — our valuable time is ticking away. We park the car and run for the ferry terminal. The English woman in a hat is about to take on Venice!
Mr P loves horses. He is with horses the way I am with cats — luckily, he has enough common sense to know that, at present, owning even one would be untenable. We had hoped to go to the famous riding school while we were here but knew in advance that they close for six weeks in the summer and the stallions are moved to a summer camp where they rest from their daily rigors and get some “R & R.” They also get to service suitable mares to provide the next generation of stars.
So instead of watching the horses being put through their paces I decided to offer Mr P his horse fix in the form of a horse and carriage ride around Vienna. I have to say that in the balmy sunshine the whole experience was most delightful.
We chose our carriage with care. Most of them are veteran, if not antique, and offer seats of varying comfort. As most of the inner city is cobbled, and we are both prone to the odd back ache now and then, we looked for a carriage that had well padded seats. Mr P was also keen on choosing one that was drawn by healthy looking horses who were well-groomed. we also wanted someone who looked as though they had made an effort — no jeans and T-shirt for us!
There are standard fares/charges in operation — these were 40 euros for 20 minutes, 80 euros for 45 minutes and 120 euros for 90 minutes. You also have the option to hire for the day or half day. Note this charge is for the carriage itself — not per person. Most carriages will sit four people — sometimes a 5th can sit up front with the driver. Some only sit two.
Let me introduce you to Wolfgang Fasching or Georg Fasching — otherwise known as the “Fiaker Baron” — our driver for the next 45 minutes.
However you travel, be it by land, sea or air, you need money. More money than you would probably need for the same amount of time at home following your daily life. There is always the unexpected to deal with — The Emergency Fund — and money to pay to get around, pay for hotels, and such.
Here are some of my observations after my latest foray into foreign territory where the European-wide cash card/debit card I carry was fed into the wrong slot of a ticket vending machine and promptly swallowed up along with all my Euros.
A lot of people advise credit cards for travel. This is usually because the conversion rates can be more favorable. There are, however, transaction fees on many cards as well as the exchange conversion rate. Some cards do not charge for transactions in the same currency which makes traveling around Europe a lot cheaper if you are European. Credit cards are also favored because, even with the charges incurred, they cost less to use than old fashioned travelers cheques.
We made our way back to the hotel intending to have dinner at a little restaurant we had spotted at the bottom of the road before turning in for the night. Our trip on the underground took us to THAT STATION — the one where my card got eaten and we thought we could go to the security offices and check for an update.
In the end, we did not need to make that detour — as we met our friendly helpful security guard who gleefully informed us that our card had been found — and would be posted to our home address in Portugal. SIGH ( Sigh here means much muttered swearing under breath and sheer desperation). We double checked it had gone to our Portuguese address and not to the hotel — but, no, he said it had definitely gone to our Portuguese address. We said thank you as gracefully as we could under the circumstances and rapidly changed our dinner plans for the evening.
We decided to dine in. I always travel with crackers of some kind in case I need something to eat quickly. We had a bottle of duty-free champagne saved for our night in Venice as well. We stopped off at the supermarket in the station and bought some pate, cheese and some fruit and bottled water and headed back to the hotel for the night.
The sales pitch on booking.com who we use for all our hotel bookings:
This historic Vienna hotel features a health club with gym, indoor pool with sunbathing lawn, sauna and steam room. Guests reside in a 19th century Imperial Riding School in Vienna’s diplomatic district, while enjoying the lush 2,000 m² private garden.
The boutique style Imperial Club offers uniquely designed rooms and suites with elegant furnishings. Standard features include flat — screen TVs, high — speed Internet access, safes and air conditioning.
Organic Austrian cuisine can be enjoyed at the hotel’s Borromäus Restaurant with a winter garden or on the beautiful summer terrace. The Arsenal Beer and Wine Pub proposes typical Austrian dishes and seasonal specialties of highest quality.
Guests may discover hidden gems only a local would know with Renaissance’s In-The-Know recommendations, personally curated weekly by the hotel’s Navigator.
The Ringstrasse and the city center, the opera, concert halls, theaters and museums are within easy walking distance. The Rennweg Train Station is right behind the hotel and provides a fast and direct connection to the airport (22 minutes). Various tram stops are only a few steps away.
We paid in advance last year and got an exceptionally good room rate — around 75 euros a night.