Vilamoura & London

I can’t believe it has been a week already in Portugal. We arrived last Saturday and the week had simply flown by. Feeling like we should have had 2 weeks instead of only 1 week. Nothing to be done about that now though.

Saturday was our last full day in Portugal. Every Saturday there is a market at a nearby town called Loule. Helen had planned to run in the morning before we left for the market but the wind was blowing so hard during the night that neither of us had slept well. We had a constant high-pitched whistle which Helen figured out in the morning was coming from the door to the balcony (if only we had figured that out in the middle of the night). I eventually got up at about 2:30am and went downstairs and did some work on my computer until about 4am. Finally fell asleep after that but was awake at 6:30am because the wind blew over a chair or two and the outside umbrella (it really was blowing very strongly).

The market was very busy – much busier than we went the last time. It really is the place to go at the start of the trip not at the end. They have really nice looking fruit & vegetables; fish and meat. Hardly useful on the last day of the trip though. We had come for the specific purpose of restocking on smoked paprika. We have never found it anywhere else except at the market and Helen had used the last of her stock about 2 months ago. We found the same seller as previously and made sure we got enough to last us through to the next time we go (well at least we hope we did). It is a very pretty town and we walked around a bit before heading back to Vilamoura and the house for the rest of the afternoon and evening. Our last supper was a braai of veal cutlets; lamb kebabs & pork sausage.

This morning we packed up and headed back to Faro airport to drop off the cars, check in the luggage and head for our flight back to London. The weekend has got to be the worst time to travel out of Faro because the rest of England also seem to be traveling home then too. The airport was packed full of people. It took us an hour and 15 minutes from when we left home to be heading through security. A quick trip to the BA lounge for our last Pastis de Nata and then it was time to board. In fact we were sitting comfortably with an hour to go to the flight when the lounge staff came around and said the BA flight was boarding already. We still needed to get through passport control and by the time we got to the gate, the flight was on final call (about 45 minutes before departure time).

Everyone was on board about 20 minutes before departure time but that made no difference because the pilot announced there were severe restrictions on air traffic control over Europe due to the number of flights and so we couldn’t leave until 12:35pm (we were ready to leave at 11:35am) so we had rushed to the plane only to have to wait for an hour to take off. We finally landed in London at 3:10pm at Gatwick airport. It is a terrible airport – a close match for Faro. Unfortunately we came in directly behind a US flight and so the passport control line was quite long and it took us about 30 minutes to get through. Oli has a UK passport and so she was through in a few minutes and went to get the luggage. By the time we found her she had thought we had abandoned her with the 8 pieces of luggage. She definitely gets a blog promotion for getting all the luggage off before we got through passport control. Pretty impressive that she actually knew what all the luggage looked like and even more impressive that she managed to get the golf clubs off the belt.

We took the Gatwick Express into Victoria station. Of course the line that operates it (Southern trains) is on industrial action (there is always some transport company on strike in the UK at any point in time). Fortunately only one in every 3 trains was being cancelled and so we were able to get onto the 16:20 train (this after Oli and Chloe headed down the escalator without realising that we left a lot of luggage with only a few of us at the top. I was worried they would get on the train and it would take off without the rest of us.  Once we got onto the platform they had vanished (they came looking for us and had gone back up again). Fortunately they came back down again (thank goodness for whatsapp).

Our flat in London is about a 10-minute walk from Victoria Station but doing that with 9 pieces of luggage, backpacks, handbags etc is not as easy as it seems. It was also 24 degrees (heat wave in London) and so by the time we arrived we were all dripping with sweat. My sister and brother-in-law and family had been staying in London in the flat and the plan was to meet them and have dinner together before they headed to the airport (they fly home to the US tomorrow). We had booked at Jamie’s Italian (of Jamie Oliver) for dinner. The youth pastor of our Church in Cape Town was also in London and he came and had dinner with us as well (once we tracked him down). It was a great evening of catching up with family.

Now we’re off to bed because we also have an early morning flight actually.

Until tomorrow ….

P, O (she fully deserves the promotion all on her own today), M (because he dragged both sets of the golf clubs from the station to the flat), H, C & S (he deserves to be at the end for numerous reasons but his constant annoying of Oli would be reason enough)

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