Having got up at the crack of dawn - well, 6:00am, which is the crack of dawn for us - we were on the road this morning by 6:30, en route for Stansted. Our son had offered to drive us there to catch our plane to Portugal. What a very kind person he is. We were very glad we were not travelling in the other direction along the motorway as the traffic was already beginning to get congested, even at that early hour. No doubt he had a slower drive back after dropping us off.
And so we sat around for a while at the airport until the time came to board the plane, a rather hot and stuffy plane. We dozed for most of the journey to Oporto. There we were met by another kind person, someone whose name I should have remembered from last year when he also picked up and drove us to Figueira da Foz.
For the duration of the car journey I proved to myself that my Portuguese is atrocious. I can read it well enough but understanding spoken Portuguese, especially at normal speaking speed, is clearly something I need to work at. And as for speaking it!!! Well, it tends to come out with all the little words, the prepositions and conjunctions, in Italian. French and Spanish do not interfere. I have obviously been speaking those two languages for long enough for the sections of the brain where they reside to be sufficiently well insulated for them not to mess with the Portuguese. But Italian is a more recent acquisition and pops up when I need a word in Portuguese.
Someone should do a study on this aspect of foreign language learning. When I used to teach adults Spanish in evening classes, far too many years ago now, people who swore they had never been any good at French at school found their French vocabulary banks reactivated by trying to learn Spanish. Curious!
Anyway, I somehow managed to talk about the weather (the easy bit), local versus central government, the advisability or otherwise of Scotland going independent and regional attitudes in general, as well as explaining that Ireland proper is not part of the UK although Northern Ireland is. Quite exhausting!
And now here we are in Figueira da Foz, with a room overlooking the amazing beach. In the wardrobe we found several items of clothing and a fancy box of Portuguese sweets left behind by the precious occupant. Someone had not checked the drawers carefully enough before departing. I wonder if they realised where they had left the present intended for someone or other.
We took ourselves out for a late lunch at a place we know called La Caçarola. The first time we went there I was convinced it was called La Caracola, which I assumed meant some mind of shell. In fact it is called The Saucepan, a much more appropriate name for an eating establishment.
We sensibly ignored the platter of stuff that was put on our table while we perused the menu: humous, cream cheeses, croquettes - all stuff you find added to your bill at the end of the meal if you are unwise enough to think it is a freebie. For the grand total of €23:30 (about £17) - that's altogether, not each - we had a bowl of soup and a plate of small fried sole with Russian salad, washed down with half a bottle of white wine. Not bad for a first day.
And the sun has been shining nicely. Fingers crossed that this continues all week!