Newsletter January 2008


by: Carol Carpenter

I hope you all enjoyed your Christmas and New Year celebrations and are now fully recovered from the hangovers.

Unfortunately we were not back in Carvoeiro for very long during December, before leaving Portugal again to spend Christmas in the UK with the family, which means I have very little to report. We did however get time to enjoy Sunday lunch, at the Irish Times as guests of Graham and his partner Galia. Lunch was booked for 2pm and we eventually left about 6pm, the worse for wear after consuming numerous amounts of Tallymore Dew whiskey. The words “never again” are imprinted on my forehead - I must be allergic to it ! Thanks once again Graham for a really enjoyable meal. Sergio and Rachael from Rascals Bar were also there enjoying lunch and although they have not yet found a new venue, they are very happy enjoying their quality time together whilst decorating their home.

After the last newsletter some of you expressed an interest on hearing about our trip to Dubai so I will start there and continue with our horrendous trip back to the UK. I am sure you will find some of it quite amusing.
Our visit was certainly an experience and one that I would not have missed for anything. The main reason for going to Dubai was to visit my son who now lives and works there. I never realized what a vibrant country it is - I am sure they will build bigger and better than anything you have seen in America.
We flew out with Emirates and it was a superb flight. There was a small hiccup with the meals that we had ordered, but was soon sorted out by the stewardess who quickly supplied us with superb meals from business class. It was a 7 hour flight but time passed very quickly and the whole trip was very relaxing. On arrival we were due to be collected by limousine and taken to our hotel “Le Royal Meridian” - unfortunately our travel agent had not advised the hotel of our arrival time and therefore we spent an hour waiting to be collected. This was not a problem as we did not feel tired and were quite happy watching all the activities of this bustling airport. Eventually the limousine arrived and we were whisked away on a white-knuckle ride to our hotel. I never realized it was six-lane traffic and that they all drive like maniacs. Apparently the hotel was most upset about keeping us waiting and had told the driver not to hang around - very thoughtful of them, but as I was thrown all over the back seat and must have looked anything but elegant on stepping out of the car, I think I would have preferred to hang around.

Please find these photos and more in large formats here
[opens new window]

We had chosen a Tower room and on arrival we were shown to the reception area where we were welcomed with Champagne cocktails. They then advised us that because of the delay in collecting us (which of course was no fault of theirs) the management had allocated us a suite instead of the room we had booked. Included in this was our own butler, champagne or wine of our choice with canapés each evening, a fresh bowl of fruit each day and fresh flowers in the lounge and bedroom which were changed daily. The suite was absolutely beautiful with a huge lounge and dining area, squashy sofas and enormous armchairs. The bedroom was also huge along with the bed, which was just so comfortable almost like a feather bed you just sank into it. Both rooms boasted the latest technology in audio/visual systems and also a fully stocked bar, including chocolates, biscuits crisps nuts etc. Adjacent to the bedroom was our dressing room and next to this was the bathroom with floor to ceiling window (one way glass !!) with views of the beach. The sunken bath was also enormous it held both of us with plenty of space left over. The shower was also huge. There was a kitchen area and a smaller bathroom. The terrace was also huge with two very big sun lounges and very solid cast iron table and chairs. If you wished they would cater for a dinner party in your suite. This was not just class, this was Dubai class and very impressive it was. When all the staff had stopped fussing and disappeared I grabbed the champagne and headed straight for the bathroom, stepping out of all my clothes on route, followed quickly behind me by Roy with the canapés. Within minutes we were immersed in bubbles and drinking champagne - what a great start to our holiday!!

Please find these photos and more in large formats here
[opens new window]

We were very impressed with Dubai and what we saw. This was a very short stay of only 5 days but it gave us time to do a bus tour around the city, which included an Arabian Dhow Creek Cruise. On this tour you can get off at any of the shopping malls and then catch the next bus back. We visited “Mall of the Emirates” shopping mall, with the indoor ski slope - real snow in the middle of Dubai! Unfortunately we didn’t get to see the Ice city - maybe next time? The Jumeirah Palm Island is still under construction as is “The World” - apparently you need a big fat “cheque-book” to buy anything there. It all looks really impressive and everything is absolutely huge. Burj Al Arab was the biggest hotel shaped like a sail out in the sea. This now seems tiny compared with the “Burj Dubai” which stands no less than 2,300ft with a smaller one next to it a mere 1,900ft. We also visited the Gold and Diamond Park but unfortunately never had time for the Gold Souk, which was situated in the old city. Although this was a whistle stop tour of Dubai we thoroughly enjoyed our stay and are very much looking forward to returning. It is definitely a place I would recommend and is truly a worthwhile experience. We had a great time with my son and it was so good to see the country where he now lives and works. He was in the middle of moving to a new apartment on the marina, but still made time to take us around and also joined us for evening meals. I am sure he enjoys his life there very much.
Our trip home to the UK was not as enjoyable. We decided to return to the UK for Christmas and also take our car over for our Daughter and Son-in-Law to use. We set of on Sunday 16th December, very happy, relaxed and looking forward to the journey. We have done this trip many times before, normally during the summer months, and making it a holiday. After getting through Seville we decided to stop for some refreshment, this is where it all started to go wrong. The restaurant we chose was not a good choice, we waited ages for a simple omelette and a Tuna salad and the coffee was cold. Never mind it was only lunch so back in the car we got and off we went. Up until now the car was going like a dream we were chatting merrily whilst admiring the Spanish scenery, when all of a sudden- clunk! “What the hell was that!” I said to Roy. “I think we’ve picked up a stone” “Bloody big stone then” a few minutes later the steering was effected, we were over heating and had to stop on the hard shoulder. Putting on our “yellow jackets” we both got out and opened the bonnet. “I don’t believe it, the bloody fan belts gone, get the triangle out of the boot” This was easier said than done as we had a boot full of wrapped presents, food, 4 boxes of wine plus Champagne and spirits. It looked as if I was setting up a market stall on the hard shoulder and certainly amused all the other people going past. After finding the triangle I then managed to re-pack the boot.
With mobile in hand Roy dialled 112 but nobody spoke any English or understood Portuguese. We must have spent at least 30 minutes trying to get ourselves understood to no avail. Then Roy spotted a Guarda Civil going in the opposite direction and proceeded to do what to me looked like a war dance to attract their attention - it did and they acknowledged us by flashing their lights. It was at least another 25 minutes before they could turn around and get back to us. The Guarda could speak only a little English. On looking at the car and locating the problem we then had to wait for a breakdown truck to tow us to the nearest garage. It was not the fan-belt it was the water pump, which had completely sheared off and could have caused a very nasty accident. We are now going along in the break-down truck at a mere 40kph with the driver who again spoke no English, to the nearest town, as he could not go any further today because of his tachometer. The town we ended up in was Monesterio where again nobody spoke any English. The first hotel he took us to looked as if it belonged on the set of “Psycho” - fortunately for us there was no room. How very apt I thought being Christmas, but I was also very relieved.
In the end we found a hotel at the end of the town, where again no English was spoken although the menus were in English. Next day, we set of for Merida where there was an Opel / Saab garage. When we arrived they were very unfriendly and would not even look at the car. They were very rude to the breakdown guy and also to Roy. In the end he took us onto Caceras where we found a Saab garage, this time they were very helpful and friendly. After saying goodbye to the guy and also paying him 500 euros for towing us, we waited while they examined the car. The good news “Yes we can repair it” the bad news, “the part will have to come from Sweden and will take 3 days plus 1 day to fit it and will cost 900 euros!!!!!” We still have to get to the UK, are now really behind schedule and are in danger of missing the ferry” Oh no! We will have to rent a car. The mechanic then takes us to the Avis car hire and we choose a car. The cost for ten days was 950 euros - I will never moan about the cost of a flight to the UK again. After transferring all the presents, booze, food and luggage etc to the rental car we started on our way. What an absolute nightmare. We are now seriously late for the ferry and decide to ring and get advise on other crossings available to us. “We will not make Santander today can we have another crossing please, we also need a return as we have to bring the car back” “No this is the last Santander crossing this year.” “S—t” How about Bilbao? “Sorry no, but we can offer you a crossing from Caen at 4.15pm tomorrow.” Now all we have to do is leg it through France.
As this crossing is only 5hrs we arrived at our destination only 2 hrs later than planned. This was a very traumatic journey and was a hell of a lot of driving for Roy, as he insisted on doing most of it, with only short breaks, driving at 130k most of the way and was completely stressed out. He also got a tummy bug, which I think he caught on the ferry - he had to send one meal back as inedible and he was not happy with his second meal and refused to pay. This really spoilt his Christmas as he was also very tired and spent most of the following days sleeping. The bad luck refused to leave us as our Son-in-Law went down with a bug on Christmas Eve and my son who was also home from Dubai for Christmas nearly never made Christmas dinner. He spent Christmas Eve with his girl friend and found on Christmas morning their car was locked in the car park until 26th. It cost him £90 for a taxi to Gloucester from Birmingham and his girl friend £50 to Wolverhampton where she was spending Christmas day with her parents. Even though it cost us all a lot of money we did manage to spend Christmas day together. It was great to see them all and spend such an important time of year with them and of course spending quality time with the Grandchildren was an added bonus.
We had booked to fly back to Portugal on 27th but missed the flight as we now had to return by road. On coming off the ferry in Caen we were told by a following driver that our tyre was flat. Apparently, we had picked up a nail and it had punctured. Looking at each other and saying “Oh no, not again” we limped into the nearest garage, where it was quickly repaired costing us 20 euros. We arrived back in Portugal with the Saab on 29th having given us no problems at all on the return journey. I guess she never wanted to return to the UK anyway.

As we left on 16th we missed all the flooding. This has been on the forum so I know you have all heard about it. We thought our house had escaped the flooding, but according to our maid the hall was afloat. The rug apparently took 3 days to dry out and the floor was like a sponge. When we arrived back on 29th we never noticed anything and it didn’t even smell damp. I was lucky not to get an electric shock as the first thing I did when we returned was to switch on the tree lights. It was only after speaking to the maid that I found the extension lead to be soaking wet - OOPS! The floods were also a good test for the Lagoa Canal - it didn’t work, the fields are just as water logged as they were before they built it so I guess its back to the drawing board?

We really enjoyed our New Year Celebrations which more than made up for our disastrous Christmas. We met up with Sharen and Michael Crane and enjoyed a delicious meal at Ma-Ja’s along with my sister and her partner. We were a little noisy though but I think we deserved to let our hair down. Jan and Mark made it a great evening. After the meal we made our way to Charlie’s bar and danced the night away. Jan and Mark arrived later and we all watched the fantastic firework display. There were quite a crowd in the square although I still think it has been a quiet season here in Carvoeiro.

Please find these photos and more in large formats here
[opens new window]

I apologise for the lack of local news but hope you found this newsletter a little amusing. I would like to wish you all a very happy and healthy 2008.