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The day finally arrived. On Wednesday 4th November, my wife and I pulled up outside Gatwick airport, no longer in possession of a house, car or anything tying us to England. It marked the start of a very surreal period in our lives which is currently ongoing….
I loaded all of the cases and bags onto a trolley and my wife left me there to take the hire car back. I struggled across Gatwick with everything and checked into our hotel.
For the next couple of hours I explored the facilities Gatwick airport has to offer (surprisingly few to entertain you after an hour or so, as it happens, and I was almost glad of the frantic thirty minutes I wasted retrieving my mobile phone which I managed to drop in the amusement arcade!) By now, my other half should have arrived back and I made plans to go for a celebratory drink and take my wife shopping for beach attire at the few shops in the airport.
Unfortunately my wife, despite having lived in London for around ten years, is not a seasoned rail traveller – she usually drives, and the chaos of Clapham Junction had served to give her one last London story to tell. Whether she got on the wrong half of the train or fell asleep and missed Gatwick is still being debated, but she ended up zooming down to the South Coast to a place called Barnham, about 5 miles from Bognor Regis. She had to get off, wait for another train and then begin an hours journey back to Gatwick airport, during which she stood up to ensure she stayed awake. Sadly the shops were by now shut, so no beach-wear shopping. There was just time to have one last bit of junk food from Burger King before getting a few hours sleep ready for our early flight.
The morning came and it was time to start our new life. As a treat we had booked “speedy boarding” with Easyjet, which entitled us to a separate check-in desk and allowed us to board the plane first. I have to say that unless I run out of money, I will always do this in the future. The £16 it cost allowed us to feel like we were travelling with a civilised airline rather than a budget one and it avoided the whole “Boarding Group A or B” scrum that always ensues and highlights the very worst parts of human nature. We secured seats on the exit row with good legroom and had an uneventful flight into Faro.
It was an incredibly strange feeling, flying into Portugal on one-way tickets and I almost wish I could have been more aware of what was going on. It was surreal and overwhelming and all my wife and I managed to keep saying to each other was “this is so WIERD!”
We arrived in Faro and, after an interesting experience with the automated gates I can now use with my high tech biometric passport (I got trapped inside the gates alongside two other passengers – hurray for technology,) we retrieved our cases.
We were met by the car hire man, who we recognised from past trips and told him we were here to stay. He offered two pieces of advice to us; firstly he said that we would really struggle to slow to the pace of Portugese life and secondly that we would, in the coming months, keep doubting ourselves and our decision. Just ten days on, I have already come to see the huge wisdom in these pieces of advice, but more on that in future posts!
We drove into Tavira, and once again I wished I could take more in. We were almost silent, overwhelmed by the enormity of what we had done and at the same time, more excited and alive than I had felt in years. After some fun and games getting our head around Tavira’s one way system we got to the estate agents, and within an hour, we had the keys to our new home.
It is funny how things change in your memory, as the living room and kitchen were smaller than we remembered, and the roof and ground floor terraces were bigger – still, given our plans to spend a lot more time outside this was the right way around!
We went on a small expedition out to the town and came back with our first takeaway meal – piri-piri chicken, duck rice (arroz de pato,) chips, salad, 4 Sagres beers and 2 desserts – all for the bargain price of 11 euros. The general consensus was “yep, we are going to like it here.” The eating was good, and full of excitement and anticipation for the future.
The rest of the day was lost to excitedly exploring our new house, and we also visited our local bar. We introduced ourselves as having just moved in and were welcomed warmly by the owner of the bar who insisted on giving us our second drink on the house. We then had a rather stilted conversation, due to the fact that no one could understand each other, but this gave us the determination to learn something new to say to him each time we visited.
By the time the time came to turn in for the night, the fact we lived here had still far from sunk in, but we were here. A most exciting day.