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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Bienvenue à Portugal

God has a sense of humor. Or at least He has a way of drawing contrasts in order to amplify our appreciation of certain creature comforts that we may have been taking for granted.

Saturday morning, my friend and I packed the car with our suitcases and the dogs and began our seven-week sojourn with a four-day amble down to the southwest corner of the Algarve in Portugal, spending our first two nights at Saint-Jean-de-Luz, by Biarritz, followed by another overnight seven or so hours south of that, before arriving here in Lagos yesterday evening.

Biarritz is always lovely in the winter although rain threatened, as they bend the rules barring dogs from the beaches and it's one big play date for all sorts of breeds. Despite it being late January — we have admittedly had a milder than normal winter — the surfers were out in force while we tourists huddled in our scarves, sweaters and rain gear.

Monday we had breakfast in France, lunch in Spain and then arrived just before sundown at our overnight stop in Lageosa do Mondego, Portugal, at a six-room bed and breakfast, Casa do Brigadeiro, in the 19th century family home of our host, Fernando, who lives next door (for good reason we soon realized). In typical old-fashioned style, the interiors were all darkly paneled, including the ceilings. From the booking.com site, it looked charming. However, the advertised central heating radiators were barely lukewarm to the touch (and went off during the night as we later discovered) and, according to my travel clock, our room's interior temperature was a chilly 50 degrees. Our room was huge, with high ceilings that stole what little warmth might have been afforded, with the dim glow of two ceiling-mounted fluorescent bulbs that barely threw off sufficient light to navigate the equally dark furniture.

Despite promises of hot water for the showers we'd hoped to take before bed, that also never materialized. Instead, we donned two sweaters apiece and huddled in our beds desperate for warmth. (Thank God we economized by springing for only one room with twin beds; we'd have had a fit if we'd had to each pay $100 for such miserable accommodations.)

Breakfast consisted of cold rolls with rock hard butter, no doubt at room temperature based on our visible breaths, and a pot of weak instant coffee that became cold as soon as it hit the frigid coffee cup. Needless to say, our nerves were frayed and tempers short, as we wasted no time escaping the place. It took fully a half hour with the heater on full blast in the car for our fingers and toes to finally stop stinging. Even the dogs, good travelers but understandably tired of hours upon end in the car, were anxious to jump in and hit the motorway.

Our arrival last night at the villa which we will call home for the next six weeks was a distinct relief. White airy rooms furnished with beautiful antiques, sufficient hot water for both of our delayed and eagerly anticipated showers, and walled-in gardens for the dogs to safely scamper around unfettered, had us starting to relax. The pool looks lovely and we look forward to heating it next week. Temperatures here are in the low 60s with lots of sun
the best winter they've had in a long while, we were told by the ownerand we're just a short walk to the beaches.

My one challenge will be to find a work surface sufficiently high enough that I'm not hunched over the laptop, but one that gives me privacy to work in peace while my friend enjoys herself without worrying about disturbing me. Right now, we're eyeing the patio table on the terrace outside my bedroom.

All in all, I'd say we've fallen on our feet. These six weeks will no doubt fly by.

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