Wednesday, April 10, 2013
The southernmost region of Portugal, the Algarve has a reputation for being a retirement home for wealthy British pensioners.
While this is partly the case, the Algarve has moved into the 21st century with a more varied outlook on tourism.
Thanks to golf-mad Brit retirees, the region has become a serious golfing destination, winning awards as Europe's best place to swing a club.
But this delightful area with southern and western Atlantic coasts, and more than 300 warm to hot sunny days each year, has more to offer than the most maddening game ever invented.
The Algarve is a haven for sailors, with seven marinas along its southern Atlantic coast; a world class surfing destination; and a great place for swimming, deep sea fishing, body-boarding, diving and kite-surfing.
On land there's motor racing, tennis, athletics and skydiving. Many of Europe's top soccer teams stay in the Algarve for pre-season training.
When I stayed at the Hotel Quinta do Lago, the Libyan national soccer team was there preparing for a friendly match. OK, they're not Barcelona or Manchester United, but the Libyan team proves the area's worth on the national football circuit.
There are more than 100 beaches along the 200-kilometer coastline and a plethora of luxury spas.
Local heritage reflects the various peoples who have inhabited the Algarve -- Arabs, Romans, Greeks, Phoenicians, Carthaginians and Celts.
The Algarve also has a reputation for some of the best seafood in the world, reflected in the excellent restaurants in the region, which has the highest number of Michelin stars in Portugal.
It's also a place for environmental tourism, centred around the Ria Formosa Nature Reserve, with its 60 kilometers (37 miles) of islands and channels creating a birdwatchers' paradise.
For a completely back to nature eco-tourist vacation, you can get away from modern civilization and backpack along the Via Algarviana.
The 300-kilometer (186 miles) footpath begins in Alcoutim near the Spanish border and ends at Cabo de S?o Vicente, where the southern and western Algarve coasts meet. The path travels through towns that still live according to the traditions of the rural world.
You can pitch your tent wherever you want or stay in local tavernas.
There's plenty of nightlife, especially in Vilamoura, the largest resort town in Europe, and Faro, the region's capital.
In the Algarve seafood is king.
Caught daily in the Atlantic, crab, clams, king prawns, sea bass, sea bream, cod and other ocean delicacies are guaranteed to be superb.
Reflecting the region's Moorish heritage (five centuries of Islamic occupation),?Moroccan restaurants serve chicken couscous and traditional lamb tajine.
There are restaurants for every budget, from fast food to Japanese and, of course, Mediterranean.
As Dunas, Martinhal Resort: At the excellent As Dunas restaurant at the Martinhal Resort in Sagre, two people can have a lovely dinner including wine for less than ?40 (US$52).
Seafood, fresh fish and traditional Algarvean dishes adorn the menu; set among the sand dunes of Martinhal beach,?the location is superb.
Martinhal Beach Resort and Hotel, Quinta do Martinhal, Sagres; +351 282 240 200; www.martinhal.com
La Bella Vita: This Italian restaurant does the usual pizza/pasta along with more elbarorate dishes, like scallops with king prawns and rice. Ravioli and dishes featuring truffles are also a speciality.
Algarve Club Atl?ntico, 20 Alfanzina, Carvoeiro; +351 282 358 556; http://bella-vita.pt
O Costa: With panoramic views across the Ria Formosa lagoon and close to the Algarvean capital Faro, O Costa serves a mix of traditional Portuguese, Spanish and other Mediterranean recipes.
A great selection of tapas is available.
Avenida Nascente, Praia da Faro, Faro; +351 289 817 442; www.restauranteocosta.com
Golf: The Algarve has a justified reputation as mainland Europe's finest golf destination.
From Onyria Palmares in the west through the five superb courses at Vilamoura, San Lorenzo and the Laranjal course at Quinta do Lago, to Monte Rei in the east (where you can see Spain from the fairways), there are more than 30 championship courses in the region.
For details go to www.algarvegolf.net.
Surfing/kite-surfing: Nowhere else in Europe offers year-round great surfing waves in the morning and steady kite-surfing winds in the afternoon like the southwest tip of the Algarve, between Cabo de Sao Vincente and Sagres.
For details on all watersports available in the Algarve go to www.algarve-watersport.com.
Sailing: With the Portuguese history of seafaring and seven marinas along its southern Atlantic coast it's no surprise that the Algarve has sailing in its blood.
Bring your yacht, hire one or just take a pleasure boat cruise along the 200 kilometer coastline.
Land and water sports: Other water sports include kayaking, deep sea fishing, swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving.
Land sports include ample tennis courts, motor racing at more than 300 kph (185 mph) on the Algarve racetrak, skydiving or soccer at a variety of sports complexes, horseback riding at the Vilamoura equestrian center, mountain biking or trekking through the Algarve mountains and ordinary road cycling.
Culture: Various peoples have inhabited the Algarve -- Arabs (five centuries of Islamic occupation), Romans, Greeks, Phoenicians, Carthaginians and Celts.
The Algarve is home to 13th-century castles, 16th-century churches, modern museums, local arts and crafts, markets and music, from old folk through new wave.
Nature: From stunning Cabo de Sao Vicente, where the west and south Algarve coasts meet, to the Reserva Natural do Sapal de Castro Marim in the east on the Spanish border (and home to one of the largest flamingo habitats in Europe), the Algarve is awash with nature reserves.
The most beautiful is the Parque Natural de Ria Formosa around the region's capital Faro. You can leave civilization behind and rucksack along the 300-kilometer (186 mile) Via Algarviana, a great way to take in the Algarve's natural beauty.
Spa: Here SPA means Sanus Per Algarve ("Health through Algarve") and spa lovers can indulge in aromatherapy, thalassotherapy, sports and therapeutic massages, hot stone therapies, reflexology, yoga or reiki.
You can also visit Caldas de Monchique, a natural spa since Roman times when it was known as Aguas Sagradas (Sacred Waters).
Beach: The Algarve has more than 100 beaches along its 200-kilometer (124 miles) coastline, many of them usually deserted.
Hotels and resorts
The Algarve is filled with five-star hotels and resorts, plus options for those on a tight budget. For a complete list of accommodation in the Algarve go to www.visitalgarve.pt.
The Conrad: Opened in September 2012 and the only Conrad hotel in Portugal, this luxurious residence, created in the form of a Moorish palace to reflect the Algarve's Moroccan influence, is already winning awards.
Voted the World's Leading New Resort at the World Travel Awards in December 2012, it's spa includes a Caribbean storm shower complete with piped-in birdsong and thunder and lightning effects.
Quinta do Lago, Almancil; +351 289 350 700; from ?209 (US$272) per night; www.conradalgarve.com
The Pine Cliffs Resort: Voted Portugal's Leading Family Resort in 2009 by World Travel Awards, the Pine Cliffs Resort includes a Sheraton Hotel and 280 apartments, town houses and villas.
Its restaurants serve seafood, Portuguese, Italian, Moroccan and Mediterranean cuisine.
There's also a 7,000-square-meter Kids Club and almost every leisure and sporting activity known to man.
Praia da Fal?sia, Albufeira; +351 289 500 100; from ?66 (US$86) per night; www.pinecliffs.com
Vila Gal? Ampalius Hotel: Located 10 meters from the marina in Vilamoura, the Vila Gal? Ampalius is a four-star beauty.
It has two outdoor swimming pools, great views from room balconies and is ideally situated to explore Vilamoura, the biggest resort town in Europe, loaded with nightclubs, restaurants and a casino.
Alameda Praia de Marina, Vilamoura; +351 289 303 900; from ?68 (US$88) per night; www.vilagale.co.uk
The Hotel Quinta do Lago: This beautiful hotel has a gracious staff. The rooms are good, food is great and views from the upper floor rooms across the Ria Formosa Nature Reserve, the Atlantic Ocean and coastline make for spectacular sunsets.
Quinta do Lago, Almancil; +351 289 350 350; from ?335 (US$435) per night; www.quintadolagohotel.com
Quinta Monte Serra: This charming farmhouse in the eastern Algarve, close to Tavira, is owned by?Jean-Jacques de Coninck. He's transformed four of the farm buildings into beautiful cottages, retaining the old rural exteriors while completely modernizing the interiors with kitchens and bathrooms.
The tranquillity is disturbed only by the occasional sounds of the local wildlife.
Esti Rainanteus, Tavira; +351 961 142 562; from ?350 (US$455) per week; www.monte-serra.com
For more details on all the Algarve go to www.visitalgarve.pt.
Plumbing fixtures and appliances in your home use various quantities of water. If you want to be more energy-efficient, then there are various options that can be used to obtain a greener home.
FaucetsThe faucets in the kitchen and bathroom of your home account for up to 15 percent or more of the total water use each year. This means that water is wasted when it is allowed to run down the drain. You can be washing your hands or brushing your teeth in the morning. One way to conserve water is to have all the faucets replaced with a WaterSense labeled sink faucet. A WaterSense faucet reduces the volume of water by up to 30 percent or more without any noticeable drop in water pressure.
The reduction of water from a kitchen or bathroom faucet can be achieved by using faucet aerators that are designed to be energy-efficient. Aerators allow the air and water from a faucet to mix. This result is a reduction in the amount of water without a decrease in water pressure. Installing faucet aerators is the easiest way to use less water in a kitchen or bathroom. Typical aerators for kitchen faucets are rated for 2.2 gallons per minute. Aerators for bathroom faucets are rated up to 1 gallon per minute. These can be found at any home improvement store or plumbing supply store.
ShowerheadDaily showers by homeowners account for up to 17 percent or their yearly water usage. You are able to lower the amount of water being used when showering by installing a low-flow showerhead. If you use a low-flow showerhead, then a water savings of 25 to 60 percent can be achieved. These newer fixtures have a flow rate no more than 2.5 gallons per minute. Older showerheads can have a flow rate that is up to 5.5 gallons per minute.
The toilet found in all residential homes account of up to 30 percent of total water use each year. These fixtures also are the biggest source of wasted water in a home. Toilets that were made prior to 1992 are not designed to be water-efficient. They use between 3.5 and 5 gallons of water per flush. You are able to decrease water usage by replacing older toilets with a high-efficiency toilet or a dual-flush toilet.
Replacing a conventional water heater in your home with a tankless water heater can cut 30 percent off of your utility bill each month. This unit accounts for up to 25 percent a home?s energy usage. Installing a new energy-efficient water heater will significantly lower the amount of energy and water being used. If you choose to install a tankless hot water heater, then extra water does not need to be stored and heated in a tank.
A typical family will wash up to 300 loads of laundry per year. This is a lot of water when a home uses a regular washing machine. Switching to a high-efficiency washer will cut energy use by about 20 percent and use up to 35 percent less water. A typical energy-efficient washing machine will use up to 15 gallons of water for each load of laundry. Homeowners can save up to 27,000 gallons of water during the lifetime of the washing machine.
Newer energy-efficient dishwashers for the kitchen are more efficient that older models. A dishwasher that was installed prior to 1994 will use up to 10 gallons or more of water for each cycle. Models made today are designed to save you up to 1,300 gallons of water during the life of the appliance.
Benjamin Franklin Plumbing Minneapolis has a team of plumbers in Maplewood, MN that specialize in green plumbing updates and plumbing repair. Photo by?Steve Johnson
Tags: bathroom, green plumbing, home improvement, kitchen, plumb
ISLAMABAD (AP) ? Pakistan's top court on Monday ordered former military ruler Gen. Pervez Musharraf to respond to allegations that he committed treason while in power and barred him from leaving the country.
The Supreme Court acted in response to private petitions alleging Musharraf committed various treasonable offenses while in office, including toppling an elected government, suspending the constitution and sacking senior judges, including the chief justice.
If convicted of treason, Musharraf could be sentenced to death. The hearing is scheduled to be held on Tuesday. Musharraf could appear in person, or send a lawyer.
"People want justice, rule of law and implementation of the constitution," one of the petitioners, lawyer Chaudhry Akram, told two Supreme Court judges overseeing Monday's hearing.
Musharraf seized power in a military coup in 1999 but was forced to step down almost a decade later under the threat of impeachment by Pakistan's main political parties. He left the country in 2008 and spent more than four years in self-imposed exile before returning last month to run in upcoming parliamentary elections.
Musharraf has experienced a bumpy return to his homeland. He was met by a couple thousand people at the airport in the southern city of Karachi when his flight touched down from Dubai, a sign of how little support many analysts say he enjoys in Pakistan.
The Taliban have threatened to kill him, and he faces a series of legal charges that he has denied, including some related to the 2007 assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
However, he registered a victory on Sunday when he was given approval to run for parliament from a remote district in northern Pakistan.
Judges rejected his nomination in several other districts, and lawyers have said they plan to go to a high court to challenge his right to run. Pakistan's political system allows a candidate to run for several seats simultaneously.
Musharraf's ability to run also could be complicated by the treason allegations against him, though it remains to be seen whether he will actually be charged and convicted. According to the law, only an official of the federal government could register a case against Musharraf for treason.
One of the petitioners, lawyer Sheikh Ahsanuddin, demanded that Musharraf be charged with treason, saying civilian leaders in Pakistan have been executed and sent into exile, but "nothing has happened to the dictators."
"If a precedent is set, a lot of the problems of this country would be solved," Ahsanuddin told the court.
One of Musharraf's aides, Saima Ali Dada, declined to say whether the former leader would appear in person before the judges or send a lawyer, citing security reasons.
The judges reaffirmed that Musharraf should be prevented from leaving the country while legal proceedings involving him are underway. The high court in southern Sindh province earlier ordered that the former military ruler be placed on an exit-control list to prevent him from leaving.
Musharraf returned to Pakistan to participate in the May 11 parliamentary election. But even if he is allowed to run, the impact of his party, the All Pakistan Muslim League, is expected to be minimal because of the perceived lack of support for the former military strongman.
The upcoming vote is historic because it will mark the first transition between democratically elected governments in a country that has experienced three coups and frequent political instability.
Associated Press writers Sebastian Abbot and Rebecca Santana in Islamabad contributed to this report.
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
All Critics (90) | Top Critics (30) | Fresh (83) | Rotten (7)
"No" is a picture that perches precariously on the cusp of a paradox.
A cunning and richly enjoyable combination of high-stakes drama and media satire from Chilean director Pablo Larrain.
A mesmerizing, realistic and often hilarious look at the politics of power and the power of ideas ...
A political drama, a personal drama, a sharp-eyed study of how the media manipulate us from all sides, No reels and ricochets with emotional force.
It's a funny look at the way the media warp public opinion, and a curiously hopeful one.
On every level, "No" leaves one with bittersweet feelings about democracy, love and the cost of compromise.
All historical and little drama.
Larrain does a fine job of making No look and sound authentic to its time period, although the VHS-quality photography, all washed-out with colors bleeding together as camcorders did in the '80s, is an occasional irritant.
Silliness is on the side of the angels in a brilliant and highly entertaining film that's part political thriller, part media satire.
It's clear that the language of advertising has become universal, and that political commodities can be sold like soap. But toppling a dictatorship? Now there's a story.
A reflection of a moment in time, made in the image of that moment.
Bernal deftly explores the layers of the character's complexity, including his political apathy.
"No" is filmmaking of the first order.
Old technology plus the packaging of a revolution add up to a Yes
Freshens up a decades-old story with vibrant humor and a good sense of storytelling.
No continually impresses for its slyness and savvy -- rarely has such an eyesore been so worth watching.
Larrain fashions an unlikely crowd-pleaser from a historical episode that has its share of tragedy as well as triumph.
Stirring as a celebration of voter empowerment, No may also inspire pangs of wistful nostalgia.
Fascinating work from director Pablo Larrain and screenwriter Pedro Peirano, who manage to slip into the skin of a beleaguered country and detail the urgency of a revolution, sold one jingle at a time.
Swims upstream against high-definition with a defiantly lo-fi approach that's also ingeniously evocative of the historical period.
Wildly colorful strokes, full of bitter humor.
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