Never having been to Portugal, when someone asks you “Do you want to come to Portugal for a few days to drink beer and eat food and little else ?” then the question would normally be worthy of consideration.
When they then add that the flights will cost you just £85 (return) and that you’ll be staying at their apartment and so no accommodation costs then by this time you are definitely starting to think “This is a viable alternative to work and/or staring out the window at the rain in the UK”.
So I said, “Yes”
And so thats why I found myself sitting in Leeds/Bradford Airport with my old schoolchum Richard last Wednesday afternoon waiting for the 16.40 Ryanair flight to Faro, equipped with just one small backpack to avoid the Ryanair luggage charges, five days break, he to do some work (he designs houses on The Algarve for extremely wealthy people) and me to sit on my arse, eat his food, drink his beer, and do some painting – I couldn’t think of a downside really, still can’t.
We’ll gloss over his work for it is of a confidential nature and I’ve only known him for forty four years and so value that confidentiality but lets just say, I’ve seen some private houses in the last few days that I actually thought were hotels, I’ve seen some properties that if I could somehow borrow the deeds for every single house in my street (and its a long street) and offer those deeds up against a mortgage, then I still wouldn’t be able to raise enough cash to buy just one of those Algarve properties, I’ll just say that the people who own those properties are seriously loaded, seriously, seriously loaded, so seriously loaded must they be that those Algarve properties that I couldnt afford even if I mortgaged every house in my street are not even their first choice residence, they live elsewhere and just visit occasionally.
So we’ll gloss over the seriously loaded clients that my old mucker Richard has as his clients except to say this – you lucky bastard.
And instead we’ll consider the food, and the beer, and the weather, and how its not fair that The Algarve has the food, the beer and the weather and England doesn’t.
The Ryanair flight out there was uneventful, as every flight should be, it left on time and it arrived on time and thats all you hope for, Ryanair make a big thing about being punctual, they tell you as often as they can how punctual they are and they were punctual when we flew with them out and back and they play a little fanfare when they land if they land on time and then tell you how punctual they are again and you can’t help but wonder if they are a little flexible with the truth about the flying time to their destinations just to make it look as though they arrive early EVERY time, its just a coincidence, thats all I’m saying.
Leeds/Bradford Airport needs sorting out though, I know they are currently sorting it out, but really, it needs sorting – this is how badly it needs sorting out, I live just one mile away from the airport as the crow flies, when we arrived back yesterday I was quite happy to have walked home (until I scrounged a lift), so you could say that the airport was conveniently located to me – I’d rather travel the extra 30 miles to Doncaster Airport, thats how much Leeds/Bradford Airport needs sorting.
So, food then, an early evening arrival means that food is on the agenda right from the start and so the “Mr Chicken” restaurant it was for an introduction to a Peri-Peri Chicken dish that didn’t come out of a bottle or a Nandos franchise, and frankly, it was bloody excellent, little did I know that it was a mere snack, a taster of things to come, I’d have been happy to eat at the roadside Mr Chicken for all of our meals in Portugal, but there was finer dining to come.
The next day for instance, for the very next lunchtime we were treated to clams and sea bass at Antonia’s on Vale do Garrao beach, being very much a haddock and chips man myself and having an unjustified but perfectly understandable aversion to any sort of shellfish, come on admit it, who would deliberately put a muscle or a cockle inside their mouth, do you eat slugs too, hmmm, hmmmm ?
Clams in a garlic sauce, local clams, dug from the Algarve probably that very morning, mopped up with a coarse bread, just scrummy, followed by a whole seabass between three, so much seabass that we left some, gorgeous creamy white meat with a few spring potatoes and veg, wonderful on its own but taken to another level by the view from the restaurant decking where we dined, what, yes of course I took a photo …
…and that was just lunch.