It was the February half term school holidays and older son had gone off skiing with his school. I thought it would be a good idea for the rest of us to go check out a new country. It had been raining such a lot in London that I wanted somewhere a tad warmer. I thought Portugal would be a good fit as I had not been there before and the flight cost was reasonable. British Airways had a deal whereby the car rental was only £1 and we ended up with a truly luxurious executive car. The excess for any damage on the car was a terrifying Euro 3,000. Note to self – Do not scratch or bump the car at all!
This was a road trip through Portugal, making quick stops at various towns just to get a taste of the different places. My philosophy for the trip was to make the journey count, and not bombing it down to our destinations in the shortest possible time.
So we started with Lisbon, the capital city. To our delight, Lisbon was indeed warmer than London and the bright blue skies and warm sunshine cheered us up. We spent our first day exploring the sea front and wandering around looking at the shops and the handicraft stores set up around the beautiful historic buildings.
On the next day, we had a leisurely drive south to small seaside town called Sines where one of the first Portugese explorers discovered the way to India. We drove through extremely narrow cobble stone streets with frequent glimpses of the sea between the buildings.
We then drove along the coast stopping every so often to admire the landscape and to watch the surf breaking over the rocks. We also came across an isolated little sandy beach which can be reached by climbing down a steep windy stairs set on the cliff edge. If you can read the words on the sign in the picture, you will see that this is a naturalist beach. Yes, of course I peeked but there was no one there.
“Is that a nuclear plant?” David asked. No, it was not but it did look pretty dramatic with the tall red chimney stacks. We saw some wind turbines on our journey which I thought was rather graceful and a much better source of energy.
I must admit I am constantly thinking of my energy source ….. is my iPhone charging? How about the wifi hub? Where is the USB port on the rental car? Why? Gone are the days of the paper map and balancing it on the steering wheel whilst driving. Travelling is now much easier with Navigon and Google Map…. provided your phone is charged.
Quiet and Motorways are 2 words I did not ever think could go hand in hand together. But here I am – we were travelling on a quiet motorway with hardly any cars in sight. Even the smaller roads were pretty isolated. According to Google, Portugal does not have many speed cameras. However if the police catches you speeding, the fines are pretty onerous. That brings a halt to ideas of flooring the accelerator.
“Yay!” David exclaimed ecstatically when we said there was a tunnel ahead of us on the motorway. I was rather perplexed with his happy reaction. Poor kid – the car journey is proving to be very boring for him if the thought of a tunnel will make him so deliriously happy. After a couple of minutes, he chirped up, “So, where is this McDonalds?”
Mystery solved – David misheard “a tunnel” for “McDonalds”. There is now a tunnel in Portugal which we have renamed as McTunnel in honour of David.
The journey today has taken us past a bridge spanning a dam, views of numerous castles on the top of hills and a rather interesting section on the motorway whereby a notice came up with “Test your brakes”. And then soon after, we started descending the mountain and at various points along the road, you will see a special turn off which slopes upwards steeply ending with a wall of tyres. So if your brakes fail, you can use this special section to end your journey. I thought that was pretty amazing!