Seniors on the march again, or as Sue M in Long Beach suggested- the blog should really be called T.O.F.T. Two Old Farts Tripping. We said a fond farewell to the Sardine Festival and headed in a hire car down the coast to a small village called Cercal. We spent our last HOT night in Lisbon drinking sangria high above the Rio Tejo.
We have never hired or driven a car in Europe before, and it was a big mistake. Automatic cars for some reason are not common in Portugal, so we were delivered a manual ( shades of Chris Lilley- my name is Daniel and I drive a manual ) which I stalled on the steep ascent in The Bica, trying to avoid a pole barrier which magically vanished into the ground as we approached, but I didn’t know that. We couldn’t work the GPS – think washing machine doors which confused us no end, traffic on the wrong side of the road and obscure road rules, and me stalling the car. It has been a long time since I drove a manual.
The poor Panama Hat had to drive out of Lisbon with no GPS and google maps which did not seem to recognise 1 way streets. We managed to get beeped and honked at a lot.!
Hours later after wrong turns, stalled crossing of tolls, toll cards that did not work, and travelling in the wrong direction with confusing GPS which weirdly started working half way down the Alentejo. We were still getting beeped and honked. I broke a much loved Moroccan necklace and the panama his glasses due to the panic at every toll booth where we did not know what to do, and cars were banked up behind us. At one tollbooth we were trying to put in money when all we had to do was take a ticket!
Finally hours later, and suffering from panic, delusions and hysteria we arrived at what we thought was a cute picturesque town of Cercal. The GPS decided to give us a circuitous route into the village via impossibly narrow lanes and shot us right past the address into a park. You have arrived..you have arrived. When we left we discovered a very easy route in and out of the village without the GPS.
Cercal was drenched in the Portuguese sun, it was an inferno.. Many of the locals looked seriously inbred and were openly hostile to strangers- lots of unemployed men hanging listlessly around the unappealing cafes. We could hear the twang of duelling banjos.
“You’re not from around here…!”
The funeral parlour one of the few businesses open and was doing a roaring trade.
The traditional Airbnb was a beautifully renovated by an obviously hipster couple, it was polished cement everywhere and not one bloody fan for the heat. He proudly informed me on the phone the there was no TV and no WIFI… Ahhhhh no wifi. No-one spoke English, German or Spanish, we had no WIFI and a GPS that did not work. Hmmmm. Most young people here learn English in school but we were left with the dropouts who had never made the second language class and were spending their days lounging around the Cercal cafe scene dribbling on their banjos.
We passed cork trees and huge stork nests on the electricity pylons and set off to find Porto Covo. However our fight with the GPS was far from over. We ended up an hour inland at Ourique which appeared to be as weird as Cercal. No-one knew where the Tourismo was, as they stared gormlessly at us through the hazy heat.
We drove home miffed that we had not found the beach, and parked the car outside the house in a narrow laneway.. At midnight there was a loud thunderous banging on our door- and there was an enraged Rosina Gonzales screaming at us in Portuguese, because her truck could not pass our car.. I ran out in my nightie looking amazing and The Panama looked stunning in his undies as we moved the car with a torrent of Portuguese abuse. Surprisingly we went back to sleep.
The next day I took control of the car and did not stall, and drove to Porto Covo a very pretty town, and old fishing village now a tourist destination. It was just 30 minutes away and it was huge contrast to Cercal. Friendly people who were able to speak to tourists.
Meanwhile the TOFTS were feeling the stress of driving, so we cancelled our other car hires, left Cercal early and caught the train for Porto. Not sure how other senior Australians cope with driving in Europe, but were confused and highly stressed. There are different rules which no-one seems to obey,,,and no-one obeys the speed limits.
So now it is Porto and the Festival of St John where young and old spend the night banging each other on the head with plastic mallets!