Sunday, 27 October 2019

Day One proper in Figueira. Hotel gripes making me feel like a real bourgeois!

When we finally arrived at Figueira da Foz in the early evening yesterday we set off walking from the railway station, way out on the edge of town, far up the estuary. We were headed for the hotel where we knew that the opening ceremony for the chess tournament was taking place. Some way along the road it occurred to us that maybe we should have got in a taxi but by then it was too late; we were well on our way and besides the taxi rank was back at the railway station.

As it happened we probably took the right decision, for the lengthy speeches that our friend the organiser of this event arranges for the opening ceremony were still going on. Not that I have any intrinsic objection to long speeches. It’s just that when they are in rapid Portuguese, thanking various sponsors and town dignitaries, and you understand maybe three words out of ten, then they are something of an endurance test. That said, even if you understand every word, I feel that these speeches do ramble on and on and on.

The speeches were followed by a very nice music and poetry event, a tribute I was told to a recently deceased poet, a relative of the organiser. Now that’s the kind of thing that does not usually go on at British chess events!

We sneaked in at the back with our bags and were mildly chastised by the lovely Patricia, some kind of assistant to the organiser, because she had been to Coimbra to collect us and we, of course, were not there, having missed our train. Our messages and emails and voicemails to the organiser had not been passed on to her. Next time, we decided, she must make sure I have HER mobile number!

We waited and waited for the excellent music to come to an end, hoping that we could at least greet our friend the organiser. But it was not to be and so we left our bags in the room of another friend, staying at the chess venue hotel and went off to get something to eat. After some fine fish soup and a decent salad, accompanied by several glasses of white wine, we eventually got into a taxi to go to our hotel at the other end of town, checking in late in the evening.

We have stayed in this hotel several times but this year it has been, or is perhaps still in the process of being, refurbished and has changed its name. It all looks very swish and modern and tasteful. However, when we went up to our room the door key-cards refused to open the door for us. I went down to reception where a charming young lady reprogrammed the cards. Which made no difference at all. So Phil went down, perhaps to see if he could be more efficient in explaining the problem, perhaps to put the frighteners on the charming young lady! By then the door to the room was keeping up a shrill beep beep beep and still nobody could open it. So the charming young lady programmed some key cards for another room and when they did not work, resignedly gave us a proper key, an old-fashioned metal gadget - okay I exaggerate - it was a perfectly modern key but a proper key nonetheless.

This morning we need to go through the rigmarole of handing that back and getting the modern wave-me-at-your-door key-cards.

The room is perfectly nice but has only one chair. As a rule there is a sit-up-straight chair and some kind of easy chair. Ours just has the first. Clearly only one person is expected to sit at a time. The bathroom is nicely refurbished, the shower is splendid, but there is a decided lack of towel rails. This is the mind of thing that leads to towels dumped on the floor and being washed more often than is good for the environment. But, more annoyingly for me, there is no hairdryer. Now, when I was packing I debated long and hard about packing my hairdryer and finally decided, in the interests of space in the suitcase and weight of the same, that any hotel calling itself a 4* would surely have a hairdryer in the rooms. Straighteners are a different matter but hairdryers are a given these days. Not so, apparently! And now I am going to have to ask them to find me one, not immediately but within the next few days! What a pest!

Oh, and the hotel wifi is still wobbly! Last year they blamed the difficulty of accessing the internet in the bedrooms on the storm that had caused so much damage only a week or so beforehand. This year they simply told us that the best place for internet is the lounge and that most bedrooms have problems logging on.

Other than that, everything is fine. The weather if fine and mild. I ran along the promenade and back along the boardwalks on the beach. The breakfast is everything you might expect from a nice hotel. The staff are friendly and cheerful. We’ll see how it goes!

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