On the day that we are high tailing it out of the Port capital of the world (one has to smile - Bordeaux, Cognac, Rioja, and now Porto...some healthy walking tour this is turning out to be) I am dropping a quick line, as I am not sure when the next internet cafe will be. We have been here for longer than anticipated due to the first serious rain Portugal has had since October. Excellent timing. Our tent has been far too wet to pack up for a few days, but this morning dawned clear - if a touch on the firkin side - and we are on our way once more.
We are finally getting a grip on Portuguese food and wine (particularly the port). The local speciality of Bacalhau, fish cured with salt, is never going to do it for me unfortunately, but there are plenty of robust, homestyle dishes which are great. It is suprisingly expensive after Spain. Used to both of us eating out, with full three courses, for well under twenty euros, we have found it more like thirty here. Hence, we are back to self catering on the campstove as much as possible. Ah, the joy.
Sadly our wonderful long lunch hours have also disappeared. In Spain, nobody eats lunch before one o'clock; and, really, it is considered rather barbaric before about three. We could still go into a restaurant and be sure of ordering lunch at four. Dinner starts at around eight, and runs anywhere up to eleven. The shops shut between about one and five, and open late into the night. Bizarre as it was at first, we had become not only accustomed to it, but major fans of the whole late lunch, tapas and wine for dinner kind of set up. Now we are back to normal hours it all seems utterly indecently early and quick. Racing to grab lunch between twelve thirty and two is enough to give one indigestion.
Every country has it's oddities; in France it was the complete close of business on Mondays which took us a while to adjust to, in Spain the mad hours, and now in Portugal, it's the phone system. Which is fine - if you want to call a fixed landline inside Portugal. Try doing anything else, and you had best apply to Donald Trump for a wee bit of pocket money to fund it.
On the upside - pig ignorant though I realise this comment is - life here is made immeasurably easier by the fact that English speaking is so prevalent. Either people speak English, or I can get by in French, which is a major bonus given how non-existant our Spanish and Portuguese is. Even better, there are loads of camping grounds. And they are all open. After our recent encounter with Gun Wielding Psycho Cop, we are heartily relieved to be spared illegal camping for a while.
One thing which seems to have remained the same between here and Spain, though, and to which I am in danger of becoming heartily addicted, are the unbelievably cheesy, camp-as-a-pitched-rubber-tent soap operas. Trust me, daaahhling, you can have no possible concept of how truly, appallingly bad these things are, until you find yourself in a cafe somewhere over lunch staring at the vaseline smeared lens shot of some scantily bikini clad page three girl rolling around in a pseudo pornographic manner whilst speaking on the telephone to a Burt Reynolds circa 1970 lookalike lounging in a wicker chair and silk dressing gown revealing chronic chest hair. The opening credits to these things make the start of Home and Away look like Tarantino at his finest. Every bad cliche you never knew you had seen, combined with muzak so bad even Michael Bolton would heave, means that even without understanding a word which is being said I am becoming familiar with who is bonking who, which sex god is currently in a coma and being fought over by rival bonkettes, and the Mr Nasty behind the shady drug deal. It's definitely time to keep walking. It's not my fault, you must understand, it's the fact that it has been raining, and hence we have been eating in cafes, and due to the stupid lunch hours we are always in them at the same time, and, and, and....
We are heading down the coast now and don't plan on stopping until Lisbon. Given the utter rubbish in this post, I think it's best, don't you?