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What a difference a 2.5 hour flight makes. This time last week I was shivering my way around a -3C London and now I’m back in Portugal it’s 19C outside and bright enough to give me a migraine!
Our trip back to England was the usual mix of good, bad and ugly. The good = Christmas meals and drinks with family and friends. The bad = coping with city crowds and being sneezed over by those with colds and bugs. The ugly = negotiating weather delays and engineering works on public transport.
After a fantastic start to our UK trip, when we visited family in the country, our first 24 hours in London provoked in us the kind of strong feelings of anger and frustration that we
moved to Portugal to get away from. In retrospect I’m glad that I resisted the temptation to post on the blog to relieve my annoyance last Sunday evening, as I fear I may have offended everyone I know who lives in England’s capital!
After the initial anger subsided, which was primarily caused by a public transport journey of epically crap proportions, we relaxed into London life for a few days, and, as always, had some good and memorable times with friends. We also destroyed the majority of the good work our Weightwatchers stint had achieved by tucking into vast quantities of fish and chips, cider and curry, along with a plethora of pastry-based products.
After a rather expensive check-in back at Gatwick airport, thanks to Easyjet’s kind decision to massively reduce the weight limit for our suitcase, we boarded our plane back to Faro, and spent a bumpy couple of hours being entertained / annoyed by a gaggle of hen party visitors, before arriving back in Portugal.
As we have to return to the UK at regular intervals, the moment we arrive back from one visit is always fantastic, as it means there’s plenty of time before we have to think about doing it all again, and our travel plans this time round meant we arrived back with a weekend ahead of us.
After a Saturday of unpacking and settling, my Outlook calendar bleeped and reminded me of a Christmas market in the beautiful hamlet of Cacela Velha taking place the next day—a reminder I had set a long time ago when I heard about it on one of the expat forums.
We gathered the family on Sunday morning and spent a wonderful morning browsing stalls of local handicrafts, cakes, jams, plants and wine. We left having indulged in artisan quiche and honey pastries, not to mention a couple of freebie glasses of local wine, and by then had a few carrier bags between us containing treats which may well appear on the Christmas table or in certain family Christmas stockings…..
After the market we took the family to show them the town of Vila Real de Santo Antonio, right on the Spanish border. We are fans of this very likeable town, which, unusually for the area, is built on a grid system, just like downtown Lisbon.
The town boasts a number of individual shops which are great for a browse, including kitchen stores, large linen emporiums, and even a large shop dedicated to Christmas decorations. We alternated wanders around the shops with sit-downs and rest stops at a couple of cafes – a fantastic way to spend a Sunday.
An extra treat was coming across a huge model village that had been constructed specially for Christmas. This free-to-enter exhibit was truly impressive with a breathtakingly intricate level of detail. I heartily recommend that anyone in the East Algarve area go and take a look.
Our relaxed weekend was the perfect antidote to the frenetic pace of our time in the UK, and served as a perfect reminder of why we moved to Portugal. Later that evening, as I sprinkled lemon thyme over our roasted vegetables, procured cheaply from the market that morning, I felt ever so happy. Home sweet home.