To the Algarve

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September 18th 2017
Published: September 19th 2017
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I sleep restlessly. I spend a lot of the dark hours thinking about how I am going to explain to the man at the rental car office how a concrete wall managed to run into the back of our car. Issy says that there is only damage to the paint work, but I'm sure the rental car company will take a different view. The term "write off" is the one that comes to mind most often.

We set off towards Barcelona. The snow that had magically appeared yesterday morning and then just as magically disappeared within a couple of hours has now reappeared. At least we think it's reappeared. We're now finding it a bit hard to distinguish snow from clouds. It wasn't at all hard yesterday when the sun was shining and there was blue sky everywhere. I am now starting to question my sanity. I wonder why we suddenly couldn't see the snow any more after a couple of hours yesterday, but we think we can see it again today. I think that maybe they do slip hallucinogens into the food here after all. I hope that I don't start seeing pink unicorns in the middle of the road. It would be really hard explaining to the man at the rental car company that not only had a concrete wall run into the back of our car, but I also had an accident when I swerved to avoid hitting a pink unicorn.

The speed limit on the freeway is 120 kilometres per hour, which is good because we're running short on time. I didn't realise that we were quite so far from Barcelona. The signs to the airport are excellent, but when we're nearly there the freeway suddenly splits into two, with one pair of lanes going to Terminal 1 and the the other pair to Terminal 2. We don't know which terminal is ours and there's no time to check before we have to chose. I chose Terminal 2. The road to Terminal 2 leads into an industrial wasteland and we see a runway that might just be long enough for a Cessna. Issy gets the documentation out and confirms that I should have chosen Terminal 1. We should have checked in by now, and I haven't even fronted the man at the rental car company yet. I wonder how long that will take. I hope he doesn't take me to the police station; if that happens I think we will miss our flight.

The man at the rental company surveys the damage. He asks us whether another car was involved in the collision. Issy tells him that we backed into a concrete wall. At least now I don't have to try to explain how the concrete wall backed into us. The man tells me that I should have taken the full insurance cover option. The urge to tell him that giving me this advice now is not particularly helpful is almost overwhelming. He tells me that he will need to charge me several hundred Euro to repair the damage. He is very apologetic.

Our flight is delayed, which is a good thing this time because it means that we don't miss it. We arrive in Lisbon, and collect our rental car. It is a BMW. I thought that BMWs were fancy cars. I'd rather we had a cheap car. That way it will cost less to repair if we back it into a concrete wall.

We do a complete lap of the airport before finding the road that we are supposed to be on. We cross the Vasco de Gama bridge across the Tagus River. This is an amazing structure. It is 12.3 kilometres long, which makes it the longest bridge in Europe, and it was opened in 1998. It has three lanes in each direction, and the speed limit across it is 120 kilometres per hour.

It is a bit over 200 kilometres from Lisbon to the Algarve along a very impressive motorway. It is again three lanes each way, and the speed limit is again 120 kilometres per hour throughout. The road crosses lots of rivers, and many of the bridges are massive long viaduct structures that all look like considerable feats of engineering. The quality of the road is even more surprising given that there seem to be virtually no towns between Lisbon and the Algarve, and not even many small villages. I hadn't expected this. We feel like we're driving through empty outback Australia. The terrain is gently undulating with scattered trees and the occasional olive orchard and vineyard. There doesn't seem to be nearly enough going on out here to justify the expense of such a high standard road. I wonder if the Portuguese Minister for Roads has a weekender on the Algarve.

We arrive in Albufeira. We have spent a long time travelling today, including more than 400 kilometres of driving, so we are very tired. We are happy to eat virtually anything as long as it comes with alcohol. We settle in on the hotel terrace, and enjoy what we assume to be a traditional Portuguese feast of nachos and hamburgers, given that these are the only items on the menu.

There is a large party of English hairdressers here for some sort of anniversary celebration, and they are all in 1970s fancy dress. We hope they realise that they're in fancy dress. If they don't, I think I'd be suggesting to their clients that maybe they should be looking elsewhere to get their hair styled. It is still early, but the hairdressers are already getting rowdy, and I think the hotel staff might be in for a long night.


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