So on the morning of my fourth day in Lisbon I went to the train station to buy myself a ticket to Albufeira on the Atlantic Coast.
“Not possible,” said the man at the ticket counter.
“Why not?” I said.
“Strike,” he replied.
Strike? I had left strikes behind in France only to find the same in Portugal.
“So how am I supposed to get to Albufeira?” I said.
“Bus or airplane,” was the reply.
And here’s the big beautiful beast that took me there. For only 19,50 euros, it was a beautiful and relaxing two and a half-hour ride.
As I sat in my comfy seat that sunny summery morning, the open road stretched before me like the prelude to a glorious journey, I felt the urban stress melt from my neck and shoulders. I really felt like I was on vacation … summer vacation. We passed through gently rolling fields, orchards, vineyards and even a few rice paddies. After Italy, Spain and Greece, Portugal is the fourth largest rice producer in the EU.
In some ways Portugal reminds me of a simpler life from a past era, the era of my childhood or teen years, for example. It was relaxing to distance myself from the city and venture into the countryside. Here, I was trading the noise and air pollution of Paris for the clean ocean breeze of the Algarve; trading the metallic whine of scooters and motorcycles for the sound of birdsong; trading the closed and sometimes surly faces of the French for the pleasant friendly faces of the Portuguese. This is why I travelled to this coastal hotel. It was an escape, of sorts.
Nothing but flowers, lush foliage, hummingbirds, warblers and bluebirds, magnificent cloudscapes, sunshine and always a cool breeze blowing in off the ocean. I was in heaven. The resort hotel has several restaurants and swimming pools. On my second night I dined alfresco in this Italian restaurant overlooking gardens and a pool.
“Oh, my goodness!” I exclaimed when that gorgeous tomato-mozzarella salad was placed before me. It was almost too beautiful to eat. The woman told me the flowers were edible. Two different kinds of ravioli: spinach and ricotta followed by pumpkin and cheese. In Portugal they serve a sort of generic vinho verde (literally ‘green wine’, green meaning ‘young’) which is far too light and spritzy for my taste. With the help of the woman manager who spoke perfect English and was super-friendly, I chose and drank several glasses of a crisp, dry, lightly herbal white wine which complemented my meal perfectly.
“This is bliss,” I thought as I sipped wine and nibbled flower petals. I thought of my parents and wished they were with me (sadly, they passed away in the 1990s). Because I was eating early, I was the only patron there. The peace and beauty of the place coupled with the food, friendly waitstaff and evening light glinting off the swimming pool was a memorable moment. This is why I take photos and blog: to preserve those special life moments.
You could actually smell the fragrance of the wild thyme, lavender, sage and pine trees. Afterwards I went to sit by the pool to write in my journal, take some photos and watch the sun set.
More to come … this hotel and then onwards to Faro.
Oh, here’s the link of the hotel –