All this in one country – Portugal
When we did our first trip in Portugal in September 2013, little did we know that it would lead to another three visits between July 2015 and March 2016.
That first fortnight saw us flying in and out of Lisbon, spending time in the capital before heading to Sintra for a couple of nights then Evora, Tavira, Sagres, Lagos and a slap-up meal in Lisbon city centre before getting the Metro to the airport for a restless night in the airport seating areas and a 5am check-in the following morning.
Every trip has been done on hand luggage only, something that’s phased check-in staff at Manchester Airport, raised the eyebrows of fellow Brits in Tavira when they saw the size of our bags as we were checking out of our hotel and comments from a resident of Hawaii as she trundled her rather large wheelie case and matching hand luggage towards that same hotel…
So, why Portugal? It’s all down to a throwaway line (“Port comes from the port of Oporto in Portugal.”) from my geography teacher back in the 1970’s. There’s not much that I remember from my course, but the reference to Portugal alway stuck in my mind, hence that first visit years later.
And why have we gone back so many times? Probably because we’ve felt at home over there. Yes, we’ve had some rain in Sagres and weathered a storm in Porto, but there’s only been the odd couple of days when the temperatures have got the better of us.
We’ve used public transport to get around rather than hiring a car (haven’t done that out of the UK since the 1980s…) and haven’t had any problems.
Trains have been on time, as have both service buses and long distance coaches too. Feet have played their own part in exploring towns and cities, as have rechargeable travel cards such as the Viva Viagem card that’s available for use in the Lisbon area.
Eating out or getting things in to eat in a hostel dining area or our room in a guest house hasn’t been too difficult either. Yes, there was Cheekgate, but there’s only been a couple of times when we’ve been disappointed by what’s been put in front of us after we’ve ordered.
I did wince as one kitchen smothered a salad with olive oil (I prefer my salads to have no dressings) and whilst there was a lost in translation moment over chips being crisps in Portugal, it wasn’t a biggie and self and server both saw the funny side of things!
My use of Portuguese has got better over the years and I can now order coffee, drinks and food without too much difficulty.
Sometimes I’ve got a large beer instead of the small one that was ordered, but I’ve only become unstuck once when I tried to get a couple of beers in a cafe in the back streets of Aveiro last year. I got the beers, but there was a lot of pointing at bottles as a way of getting my message across.
Anything else? Just the small matter of forgetting about having some loose change on me to pay for coffee, ice cream, beer or bottles of water in a cafe or mini market. There were times when a €5 note wasn’t appreciated…
Only one person got really stroppy with me though as she couldn’t understand why we hadn’t got any change – it was something to do with having just landed at Lisbon Airport and we had notes, but no change!
Although we’ve made four visits to the country in three years, there’s still unfinished business across there. Out visit to Porto was hindered by the storm that hit the city last year, ensuring that a) we got wet – very wet and b) spent more time indoors or in the hostel than we would have liked.
So another visit to Porto and the Douro Valley is on the cards at some point, along with a week or so exploring the Atlantic Coast between Lisbon and Porto. Obidos during the Chocolate Festival sounds inviting too.
When will this take place? Who knows as whilst we want to head back and see some of the places we missed, there’s also a few other countries and areas we want to explore.
Some are in the UK and some are in Europe.
Where are they?
Some clues will be given out on Friday morning!