Reflections from Portugal
Portugal is not a country that UK folks travel widely to. Maybe a trip to the Algarve or a cruising stop in Lisbon. After a short trip there I must report that this is a great country to visit and remarkably cheap. Arriving at Lisbon airport one is greeted by a slightly run down airport that is undergoing some sort of renovation but this is not Terminal 5. The facilities are a little jaded. Drving out of the airport one is in an industrial hinterland where some familiar and some unfamiliar names can be seen. But it is when one gets 30 kms outside Lisbon that the scenery becomes green and old castles can start to be seen. There are mainly toll roads so driving 130 kms from Lisbon to Batalha will cost around 9 euros. The Portuegese in fact have invented the technology that allows a little electronic tag on the car windscreen that means that queueing at toll booths can be a thing of the past. The striking observations are what a hilly and mountainous country Portugal is. Just all up and down. Everywhere. The people are friendly but not all speak English. Some understand a lot but cannot speak much, but most smile a lot. Most things seem cheap. Around £1 buys you a bottle of water in a hotel room that would be double that in UK. Generally everywhere is more relaxed. On arrival at the hotel there is no interrogation about credit card etc, in fact no-one asked. Another quaint difference is that food is often served lukewarm rather than hot. Scrambled eggs and bacon at breakfast were if I were kind warm. I only got to stay in one hotel Villa Batalha hotel in Batalha. An incredibly good hotel, friendly, comfortable and with nice chairs and furniture all around, so no need to sit in a reception area such as is the norm in UK. The most striking observation however is that there are so few people around, now to put this into context this was 130 kms from Lisbon. But few cars, few people, little noise, nice looking sports facilities and so on. A place that is well worth coming, however one night in Batalha would be enough. Finally back at Lisbon airport, the airport lounges are distinctly not UK. A moany sort of woman asked for some healthy food, the stern girl said “you can have an apple”, and meant it! A woman in Batalha was either dead or sleeping soundly outside presumably her souvenir shop, now that something we do not see in Primark or Costa!