Molly and I took our two children to Portugal for a one week break on Wednesday 20th Jul 2005. We flew put by Ryanair from Stanstead to Opporto. We stayed at the Holiday Inn there, a dreadful place; there was no tea or coffee making facilities (very unusual as this had been standard in the UK since at least 1980 )and breakfast was charged extra (contrary to what we had been told on booking). It was the first time that any of us had been in that country (naturally the children had not been anywhere abroad without us at that age, but neither Molly nor I had been to Portugal either).
We spent a pleasant morning sampling the Port that they hold in warehouses by the Luis I Bridge across the river Douro. The youngsters were only teenagers, but we must have thought it suitable to let them each taste a glass of wine; Port is very sweet and they enjoyed it. In the past they brought the wine down the river from vineyards up country by sailing boat, and examples of these craft were still moored by the quayside.
Another expedition was to the football stadium in Porto, it was almost new built. No matches were held in July of course, but the trip was essential as far as Peter was concerned. Not so much for me, but at least I was able to see round the empty stadium! In contrast to the splendor of the new football stadium I was rather shocked to see the living conditions of the poorest Portuguese people. Several of the buildings in the deprived parts of the city of Opporto had no running water (this was under twenty years ago) and the women had to fetch it from the many public drinking fountains in the streets.
I did not appreciate the attitude of some of the Portuguese. I know we must have seemed rich tourists to the natives, who are only now just catching up with the rest of Europe after centuries of poverty, but the attempt to do us down when we caught the bus to Lisbon left as nasty taste. The journey south took as through miles of burnt countryside, which had just suffered from a forest fire. Such fires happen frequently in hot dry Portugal, and they have strict laws about lighting of flames in an attempt to prevent them.
Lisbon is a very different place from Opporto. It has the feel of a capital. We stayed at a hotel outside the city in a town called Oerias. The area the hotel was in was being developed at the time, and it was quite a way from the railway station. Moreover it was in a desolate landscape, with rabbits as the only residents. The town proper is along the seaside, where the estuary of the river Tagus debouches into open water of the Atlantic. We reached it by railway, the Linha de Cascais. This is a pleasant journey along the coast. from Lisbon. We spent a day exploring the towns and villages along the routes of the railway. Despite some drawbacks it was all in all a lovely holiday as far as I was concerned, but my son had just fallen in love for the first time. His enamored was back in England, and he really didn’t want be all those miles away from her.
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