If you read the account of our Big Fat Greek Holiday Disaster, you’ll know things started to go wrong the morning of our departure. Disturbingly, this seems to be developing into a pattern.
In the 24 hours before we left for Portugal in early December 2022, it wasn’t that we had a disaster. We had a litany of them.
We had to spend the night in London before our early morning flight to Lisbon. The internet at the flat, where we were fortunate enough to crash for the night, had itself crashed.
No big deal, except that’s how you control the heating which, obviously, we couldn’t do because the internet was down. And trust me, it was cold.
This is what London looked like in early December 2022. I have never been more graetful for an electric blanket.
What happened next? Oh yes. I decided to be really efficient and double-check all our travel details. You know the sort of thing: have we got passports, and boarding passes? Have I confirmed the car pick-up at 5am to get us to Heathrow in time for check-in?
Tick, tick and. . .holy crap! The car was confirmed for 5am alright, but not for the next day. It was coming two days later. Crisis averted and car re-confirmed for the right day (thank God I checked), we moved on to the next near miss. Although it wasn’t a near-miss. It was a hit.
Russell had had a minor altercation with another car a couple of weeks before. The damage was so minimal, we managed to buff the small scratch out of our car and Russell said it was even less noticeable on the car he hit. Trouble was, the car owner took it to a car scratch repair thingy-place, who wanted to charge her £750 for the pleasure (of course he did). This was according to the text we received from the owner asking us to cough up the money, as we shivered under the doona in the cold London flat. And, coincidently, this was almost the exact amount of spending money we’d allocated to our week in Lisbon. Oh, joy!
Not to be detered from having a bloody brilliant time in Portugal, we were cruising through the relatively empty streets of London the next morning on our way to Heathrow when I get a call from my brother. “You need to ring Mum. She’s really worried about you.” Why, I asked. “Because of the text you sent her,” he said.
What text? I didn’t send her a text.
Turns out, Mum was one of the unfortunate recipients of the ‘Hi Mum’ scam and was in an anxious head spin about my predicament the other side of the world. Several phone calls to Melbourne later to persuade her not to transfer five thousand dollars to someone else’s bank account, another crisis averted.
By now, we’d arrived at Heathrow, checked in our bags and breathed a sigh of relief that we’d made it. What else could go wrong?
How about a three-hour flight delay.
Living it Large in Lisbon
We had decided to go to Lisbon to catch up with our Australian friends Paul and Leslie, whose daughter, Amelia, is married to a Portuguese man called Rui. Amelia and Rui and their two children live in an elegant apartment in the middle of Lisbon, and Paul and Leslie were visiting them for three months. We stayed in a lovely boutique hotel across the road and started our Lisbon adventure.
What a great city.
We began with a burlesque cabaret on the night of our arrival, explored the old part of Lisbon, ate wonderful Portuguese food, visited markets and shops, castles and galleries, and enjoyed the blissful warmth of the winter sun.
Cities come alive when you know someone who lives there. They take you to all the right places, point you in the direction of the ‘must-see’ destinations, and guide you to the best places to eat and drink. Thank you, Amelia, for making Lisbon even more special by sharing your knowledge, time and effervescent self. You are such a treat.
Our hotel was in a former nunnery on a narrow cobbled street, opposite a church. It was a beautiful building, but its crowning glory was the view from our bedroom window which we only discovered when we woke up on our first morning there.
The rain from the night before had disappeared, the sun was shining and we could see right across the rooftops of Lisbon.
Doing it Tough in Tavira
For our second week in Portugal, we’d rented an AirBnB in Tavira, a small town near Faro on the Algarve. Leslie and Paul came with us. Or rather, we hopped in the back of their hire car and got a free ride down south.
My AirBnB superpowers, discovered during our recent trip to Provence, had not deserted me. The little two bedroom house in Tavira delivered everything it promised, including a rooftop swimming pool, which sadly we didn’t use. It was December, folks!
And for the next week, the four of us explored the Algarve from Sagres in the west, to Vila Real de Santo Antóni in the east, where we stood on the castle battlements and looked out across the Guadiana River to Spain. We ate in the local restaurants, visited nearby beaches and towns, poked around ruins, and enjoyed the notion of wintering in the Algarve so much, we think we’ll come back again in January 2024.
It beats the snow in London with no heating!