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.
THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF THE PAST
An April Tuesday, the weather was rather wintry; it was sunny in the morning but with hail showers in p.m. My sister had a letter from the A.A. – she hasn’t joined this year. I got up early, as did sister Tiggie, which made her tired later. For breakfast we had fried egg and sausage. We took the dog out to Spur Lane on the way up to the city. Tig drove me to Norwich railway station and then went to work where she had (by her account) a dull day. She did have a phone call from the Estate Agent to say he was sending someone else to view the offices that we were trying to let.4 At lunchtime she walked Fido along the riverside at Whitlingham.
Meanwhile I was on the train to Colchester. I had bought my reading matter at W. H. Smith’s to keep me occupied on the journey. I bought the Eastern Daily Press, which I had finished by the time the train rolled into Colchester, so I left it in case anyone was interested in reading it. It takes just over a hour for the train to get from Norwich to Colchester. I had already begun my lunch on the train, although it was only 10.45, so I had to take the rest with me to finish it later.
My first call was at the Castle. Construction of the keep began in 1076, probably under the supervision of Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester, who had built the White Tower in London. William the Conqueror ordered a castle to be built at Colchester on the strategic route between East Anglia and London. The building makes extensive use of Roman materials, especially brick, so it is quite different from another Norrman Castle, that at Norwich, which is made of imported freestone.
The collection at the Castle museum has a fine assortment of Roman artefacts. Colchester was the first capital of Britain before Londinium. Colchester was destroyed by Queen Boudicca in her Rebellion and in its rebuilt state it ceded its place to London.
Then it was to the Castle Bookshop, where I spent a couple of hours browsing. I found two 17th century pamphlets which I bought for £6.50. Right at the end of my stay I came across a little volume of songs of 1820 The Music Cabinet which cost me £24. I called at the George for a drink of Fosters. In the afternoon I found another two bookshops, the Trinity Street one was particularly good with lots of lovely books. I got a First Edition of Grove’s Dictionary of Music. I walked past the Goat and Boot to the Book Exchange where I bought a biography of John Barbirolli for 75p.
On the way back to the station I got caught in a hail storm and got wet. I had to wait about 50 minutes for the train but at least I had plenty of books to read in the waiting room! Luckily the train was made up of old coaching stock, so I had a nice comfy compartment to snuggle down in. Just as I had left an EDP on the way down, someone had left a Telegraph at Colchester, so I had that to read as we sped homewards. The purchaser of the paper had begun (but not finished) the crossword.
This was before the line from Ipswich was electrified, so my train was diesel hauled.
My sister met the train and took me home; someone had hit a cock pheasant on the road, so we stopped and picked it up. This will make us a pleasant meal for us later. We had game soup for supper and in the evening I lit the fire. We watched Hinge and Brackett on the TV.