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Driving to Lisbon on the week of my birthday
By Hill Roberts

Part 2:

It was a great first day for me: there were no hitches, the road network was fabulous and the car behaved. Why shouldn’t it when it’s only over a year old. Still, I love this little car: it’s so reliable, cheap to run, and consumes less fuel. Above all, it moved like a real señorita on the motorways. At least, that’s how I felt for the car.

We left Faro, Algarve’s main resort town, just after noon. We had a sumptuous breakfast of bacon, cereals, egg omelets, coffee/tea and some croissants and typical Portuguese bread. It was covered by the hotel bill so it was a good arrangement. We loaded our stuff—one suitcase, anoraks*, and a hand luggage. You see, it pays to travel light, whether you’re flying or driving. There’s nothing worse than taking too many clothes and shoes when you don’t get the chance to wear them anyway. As for shoes, if you’re travelling in Europe, proper walking, sensible shoes are always a requirement since cobbled surface is common. Besides, why wear silly shoes when you can enjoy the sights and sounds without being uncomfortable?

This time, we left Faro without any mistakes. John, my navigator and partner in crime, was very attentive and this time, he made sure he prompted me long before the turning points/road signs  could be found. I was more than pleased since we had a good breakfast, a vital part of a journey.  When driving long-haul, I recommend strong coffee instead of tea because coffee makes you alert while tea soothes you and even makes you sleepy. I had four medium size cups; the Portuguese, like the Spanish, make one of the best coffees in Europe. Forget about the Italians boasting that they make the best coffee. It’s a lie, ha ha ha! Anyway, leaving Faro was a relief since we decided not to make stops in other Algarve towns like Portimao and Villamora, two popular places for northern Europeans where the British rule. We skipped Algarve for many reasons: too many tourists already, we’ve been there many times, and the cost of staying in another hotel, dragging our stuff with us, was such a waste—a needless hassle considering that we could drive straight to Lisbon.

My husband and I made sure that the car was always refilled with petrol each time we stopped for a meal, a drink or—as we say over here, when it was “loo time.” Petrol in Portugal is a lot more expensive (something we didn’t know about) and as you drive along the motorways, there’s hardly a service station, unlike in the UK where Services abound. The countryside seemed desolate but that’s because when the motorways were built between Spain and Portugal, they had to cut through valleys, rivers, streams, mountains and hills. Still, these two countries have made an excellent job on the road network and for Europeans living in these countries, this has made travelling a worthwhile effort. 

When nature calls, driving becomes an inconvenience, especially when you are right smack on the motorway and there’s nothing to see but greenery, barren open fields, and olive orchards. Still, after driving sixty kilometers, we found our first petrol station and there we refilled our car and stomachs before moving on.
*An anorak is a usually pullover hooded jacket long enough to cover the hips.

(To be continued)

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