Home sweet home
19.12.2012 - 20.12.2012 12 °C
After our long drive back from Lourdes to Chaves we had one last day in Portugal to fill. Erin and Allanah were still chasing a mineral spa so our first stop after breakfast at the hotel was a place called Vizela. We drove in, found the spa and went round to the entrance. It obviously wasn't meant to be as they closed for 2 hours starting 15 minutes after we got there. Disappointed, we softened the blow with a coffee and pastel de nata, a refreshing change after the cigarette butt coffee in France.
Back on the road we only had the energy for one more stop and that had to be Ponte de Lima, Erin's favourite town from our last trip, one we are quite familiar with now after lots of browsing through the Remax real estate website. Erin is determined to retire here and personally I have no arguments. It is a beautiful little spot and according to the sign on the outskirts of town is the oldest town in Portugal.
We parked in the centre of town, had a light lunch of sopa de legumes (vegetable soup) and sandwiches and then went for a walk through the old town streets and across the bridge. Being very tired we decided the best thing to do was to get back to Porto to find our hotel by the airport before it got dark. It took a couple of goes but we finally parked and checked in, collapsing for a pre-dinner nap. Around 8pm Erin announced she had found a place to have dinner. Allanah and I were dubious and wanted to opt for ordering in but it just so happened that the receptionist had highly recommended the restaurant next door. Still dubious we bowed to Erin's research as TripAdvisor had very positive reviews for this place.
At this point I should give a rap to both the hotel (Hotel Aeroporto) and restaurant (O Fernando). The hotel wasn't that much to write home about but was cheap, very close to the airport and surprisingly pleasant. The man on duty at breakfast is possibly the most cheerful person in Portugal, if not all of Europe judging by our experience to date and overall our last stay in Portugal was made a lot nicer than it could have been due to these 2 choices.
We had a 10:30 flight with EasyJet and having seen the TV show we knew we had to be on time. They suggested arriving 2 hours before the flight so we planned for a 7am breakfast, pack, drop car off and get across to check-in. That went out the window as both Allanah and I slept in. On top of that I was a bit paranoid about the baggage restrictions on Easyjet so I re-packed everything to make sure the weight was distributed between our 2 suitcases. The temperature in Paris was 4 degrees so that at least meant Allanah and I could carry our heavy coats on the plane and Erin was wearing every piece of clothing she had in preparation.
It turned out the Europcar station was just around the corner (another plus) and they had a shuttle to the departure terminal so although we rushed through breakfast we made it to the check-in counter about 10 minutes before our flight opened. Being an intra-European flight we only had a security check to go through so we went right through to the departure gate and waited.
I wasn't sure what to expect from EasyJet but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. The plane was clean, the staff were helpful and on such a short flight there was no need for refreshments so it didn't matter at all the it was low service. I had reasonable leg-room too which was good. I can only imagine having flown with them that they show the absolute biggest idiots on the TV show. We left 20 minutes ahead of schedule and arrived 35 minutes ahead of schedule too!!! I didn't even think that was possible.
One thing that I had forgotten and Erin and Allanah had never experienced was that the Portuguese break out into spontaneous applause when the pilot successfully lands the plane without crashing. This is somewhat disconcerting (and not a great advertisement for TAP - the Portuguese national airline which the Government is currently trying to sell) if you haven't experienced it and drew a laugh from us.