Hastings Battleaxe is back from Portugal

Eh? Back from Portugal? Last time we heard from Battleaxe she was languishing in A & E at the Conquest Hospital… Well, that was part of the panic, we were supposed to fly out the very next day and eye-doctor kept saying it was ‘touch and go’. Well, fortunately it was go! Look, Battleaxe is a sensible woman. She does not broadcast news of our impending departure from home on here or social media in case gangs of robbers come round in our absence and sack Battleaxe Towers. Anyway, as ever we had a good time, including lots of lovely sun – the weather is just horrendous in Hastings now, and I gather it has been the same during the time we were absent. Anyway, here’s all about our stay – Faro, Sao Marcos da Serra and this time, Albufeira.

Sao Marcos da Serra

As now has become usual with these trips (see this post from last time), we started off with a night in Faro, staying yet again in the excellent Hotel Faro. Next morning we were greeted by lovely sun, which lasted non-stop throughout our stay in Portugal. Had to voyage out to the shops because, totally unprepared for hot weather, I hadn’t even brought a sun-hat. Turned out such a simple thing  was hard to find – the Portugese were still in their winter clothes, and the shops were full of cosy felt hats and wooly beanies! The town was very busy – it was the day of the Children’s Carnival. Their costumes were wonderful – so much effort had gone into them.  Every small schoolchild in the district must have been there, including some really tiny ones. Here are a few pictures:

Took the train inland to Sao Bartolomeu de Messines, the nearest station to Sao Marcos, and son-in-law Steve met us at the station. Had a nice three days with Clara, Steve and grand daughter Eve. Weather was just gorgeous – it is a bit cooler up in the hills. It is so peaceful up there – Philosopher said it was covered in a blanket of peace and quiet. One day we went for a walk, the wild flowers are just beautiful. Steve described the place at this time of year as the ‘garden of Eden’. Everything is growing like crazy, including their vegetables. But soon, it will all dry up.

We stayed in the same house we have stayed in before – fine, but pretty darn chilly at night, when the temperature drops to around 2 degrees! This time, we knew enough to bring thermals, hotties etc. It is a lovely large house, three bedrooms, pool outside, but hardly ever used, which is a shame. It felt a bit unlived in. Clara still had her wrist in plaster following a slip and trip in their muddy garden – apparently they have had loads of rain recently. It did’nt seem to be affecting her much, though, and she was due to be rid of the cast the day after we left.

‘Our’ house is on the right.

The storks had moved back to their usual home on the pole near our house’s garden… just getting reacquainted with much beak-clattering and posturing.

One day we went to the Orange Festival in nearby Silves – full of local interest to us foreigners. Talking of oranges, it was peak citrus season in Portugal – apparently they have two seasons per year – who knew? Anyway, suffice it to say for now that much orange was consumed throughout our stay – loads of fresh juice, fruit… Here are a few pics:

Anyway, all seemed well with the little family. Clara’s job is going well, Steve has plenty of work, and Eve is engaged in her own ‘activities’ whatever they are. Only snag was car problems – theirs had broken down, and second-hand cars are apparently prohibitively expensive in Portugal. (Stop Press- have heard this afternoon that they have just secured a car!)

The family casa…

On the last day, Steve drove us down to Albufeira. Philosopher and I had wanted to sample the full Algarve experience. We had been to Quarteira and Villamora on our first visit, and I thought Albufeira might be nicer. After considerable research I had booked the Hotel Sol e Mar for a two-night stay, right on the beach and also in the Old Town. Location was very good – the main floor was in the upper level of the Old Town, and all the rooms were on the floors below, facing the beach. It was right beside the tunnel which led from the lower town to the beach. Of course, it was out of season, and the hotel felt a bit dead at the times of day when we were out and about. Our room was fine, with  great view of course, except we had a slightly clammy and crackly waterproof undersheet on the bed, which gave it a slightly Care Home feel. The hotel advertised itself as ‘Adults Only’, but our fellow guests were a mix of ages – certainly not incontinent geriatrics.  We found a near-by Italian resturant, Alfredos, and liked it so much we ate there both nights.

Our balcony
View from the balcony
Beach side of the hotel. It is the modern building in the middle
View up towards the hotel from the lower street. Tunnel to beach straight ahead.

Albuferia? Sorry. No. Done it once and not again. Look, I’m going to sound snobby here, so forgive me, but even though the Old Town had  picturesque patches, you didn’t have to stray more than a few metres before you were in Brit holiday-land. Crowds of them. Overweight – over-loud, such bad clothes… Tacky souvenir shops… bars, endless ice cream and pizza places… ugh. The place felt soulless. And it was hot… boiling hot, sun-burningly hot, much hotter than Sao Marcos.  There were people swimming in the sea…  On our first full day we went for a walk. I planned to pass a marina to reach what looked like a nature reserve, but we soon realised we couldn’t do it in the heat.  The beaches were huge expanses of sand – then with big Atlantic rollers surging in, which would have made proper sea-swimming a bit difficult.  Some people were surfing… Sure, we appreciated the sun after the grim weather back home… but we couldn’t actually do much.

The Old Town looking attractive – for a hundred metres or so!
Again, quite attractive

Then, just before we came home, Philosopher developed a cold, and I started to feel ill. Before I left, the doctors had prescribed me steroid drops and also large doses of ibroprofen for my eye-inflammation with omeprazole to ‘settle the stomach’. I said I didn’t want it, but they were insistent – said the benefits outweighed the risks. Anyway, the poor omeprazole must have given up the ghost on being swallowed with a nice big glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. Then there were beers, campari sodas. The overdose of acid plus the ibroprofen was lethal – I got the most horrendous heart-burn, abdominal cramps, too nauseous to eat, felt incredibly weak, light-headed, feverish. To be honest I dunno if it was acid or a stomach bug, but it was utterly evil. Fortunately Philosopher found an ancient packet of Gaviscon in his luggage, which was a life-saver. To make matters worse, we didn’t get home until 2am! Fortunately there were no massive queues at Gatwick for passport control, and the gate wasn’t the usual half mile away…

Have given up the wretched ibroprofen and my eye is much better anyway. The myriad of tests they did at the hospital are all coming back clear… A couple of days of rest on a diet of Gaviscon, omeprazole, paracetamol and herb tea is doing the trick. My poor stomach is settling down, but I still feel washed out.

Philosopher is better too, doing some volunteer driving for contestants of the Hastings International Piano Competition, which is on now. At the end of this week we are going to the finals…

Enough of this….

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