The Runway with a Pedestrian Crossing

The Runway with a Pedestrian Crossing

 If you’ve never flown to Gibraltar, it’s almost worth it for the airport alone. We initially arrived by car, from Spain, and were very surprised when we had to stop and wait for a plane to land. The road, and path, go right across the runway, and all traffic and pedestrians are stopped before the planes can land. Football matches in the nearby stadium also have to be paused, just in case a ball should escape and roll into the pathway of an incoming plane.

It is both bizarre, and rather wonderful. We weren’t there long enough to walk across it (my family were keener to see the wild monkeys) but it’s on my ‘one day’ list.

When we left Gibraltar, we managed to experience the little airport from the inside. I checked the Google ratings before we left, as I wanted to see if there were cafes. I was interested by the one-star ratings (they’re always the most interesting reviews to read, and often tell you more about the person writing it than the establishment being reviewed). Most of the one-star reviewers for Gibraltar airport were Spanish and based their rating on the belief that the airport was on land stolen from Spain, so shouldn’t exist anyway. (Not getting into the politics here, but am tempted to whisper the names of the cities in Morocco owned by Spain even though they are clearly within a different country.)

There was also however, an interesting review by someone who admitted that they had never actually landed in Gibraltar—as every time her flight had been diverted to Malaga. We investigated further, and discovered that unless the pilot can clearly see both ends of the runway, they will abort the landing and fly to Malaga. Which means of course that the aeroplane is then in the wrong place for the departing passengers and they all have to be bused to Spain. This caused a little consternation for Husband who tends to arrive at the airport 16 hours before the flight (just in case) as the family (all strangely strong-minded given their submissive parentage) were not easily persuaded to travel hours before the flight to a little airport which we could walk to in twenty minutes.

All was fine though. We arrived at the airport a couple of hours before the flight, and the check-in desk was actually open (a rare novelty for my family). There was then an excited few minutes when the boys spotted the price of the alcohol in the duty-free shop (I didn’t know it was even possible to buy Vodka in bottles that big!)

We walked from the airport to the plane. I was lucky enough to be sitting between chatty daughter and chatty husband, so it was quite difficult to finish reading my book. Daughter then looked at her holiday photos, and spent a happy hour deleting all the selfies that the boys had taken when she left her phone unlocked for a few minutes.

Final checks were done, the crew took their seats, and I concentrated hard on my book as we hurtled down the runway, trying to not think about all those cars and people who had been crossing a few minutes earlier, or about the length of the runway and the deep blue sea that was waiting at the end. Then we were up, Gibraltar was falling away behind us, and our holiday was finished. Thank you for sharing it with me.


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Lisbon to the Algarve

Breakfast. Boys only 10 minutes late.

We did a quick trip to the supermarket. After the trip to E.coli Service Station, everyone is a bit sensitive about where our food is from. Bought a range of breads and crisps and plastic looking cheese slices. My bread rolls have a use-by date of Jan 2019, so I’m not convinced they have much that’s natural in them. But hopefully that includes bacteria.

Left the Sheraton, Lisbon, at 11:30. The resort in the Algarve only had a P.O. box address, so Husband looked on their website and entered the town name—Praia da Falesia—into the SatNav. All seemed fine.

After driving for about an hour, the SatNav directed us off the motorway. J checked, and said he thought it was probably avoiding the traffic queues which were ahead. The roads grew smaller and smaller. When we were directed down an unpaved road, we began to suspect something was wrong. Could the SatNav have been tampered with by a gang of criminals, who were waiting to rob and kill wealthy tourists they had led to remote Portugal? No. There is another Praia da Falesia, a farm, in the middle of nowhere.

We found a very long route back to the correct motorway (some of the roads needed tarmac, but Husband didn’t comment). We passed several trees, which we worked out were cork trees, as all the lower bark had been removed.

We stopped at services for petrol and washrooms (not food). There were many queues. Husband had to queue before he could fill with petrol, then fill the car, then queue again to pay. This took 20 minutes, Which meant the people 3 cars behind had an hour’s wait. Crazy system. The washrooms were awful—over used and under supplied.
J touched a remaining half-Twix which was bought at the food-poison services. Why? Why do we even have an E.coli-Twix in the car? Is this normal? We showered him in hand sanitiser.
I’m not sure what happened to the E.coli-Twix. Sometimes I block things.

We found Pine Cliffs Resort in Algarve. Had rather more trouble finding reception. Drove 47 loops of the resort. It looks very lovely, with white buildings and fountains and beautiful gardens. Shortage of useful signage though. Eventually we found the reception, and received the keys for our ‘villa’.

We are staying in Pine Cliffs Residences, which is a little flat with hotel services. We have 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a lounge/dining room, and a kitchen/utility room. They clean and change the towels and replenish the toiletries, just like in a hotel room. It’s pretty.
Unfortunately, it also has quite a lot of ants.

Family went to one of the swimming pools, Husband and I went to the Intermarche to buy food for lunches. And ant powder.

The resort has several restaurants, but they were very expensive (we were quoted €40 per person). A short walk away, there are several restaurants and a supermarket, so we used those. They were much cheaper, and still nice—in many ways they were better, as the resort is full of English people, and it was nice to eat in places that Portuguese tourists ate.

We had dinner in Ristorante Pizzeria S. Martino—a nice Italian restaurant with a good selection of pizzas. I had a nice gnocchi dinner, followed by a horrible marshmallow ice-cream (which tasted of bubble-gum).

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A Day in Sintra

A Day in Sintra.

On a clear day, you can see Sintra from Lisbon. Husband suggested that we spent a day there, but a quick perusal of his guidebook, and we all declined, as it looked boring. The following morning at breakfast, M said his Portuguese friend had said we should definitely visit, and he’d checked on the internet, and it looked really interesting. He showed us exciting pictures of deep wells you could walk down, and fairy castles, and we all decided to go. Husband said very little.

Most online reports about Sintra said you shouldn’t drive, as there is nowhere to park and the walk to the palace is very steep. However, most online reports were written by tour companies, who earn their living transporting people to the palace, so we ignored them and drove. Parking in Sintra was something of a challenge, because although there was a massive car-park (where a person could lose their car for several days) there were not many spaces. As people returned to their cars, a man rushed to stand in the space, and his friend then guided arriving cars to that space and charged a fee. We managed to avoid both scammers and a fee, by following a returning parked pedestrian, and then parking in their spot.

R then led us down lots of hills, and then up the same hills, to Quinta da Regaleira. This had very pretty grottos and follies, and way too many tourists. The best thing was the Tower of Initiation, which was the deep well we’d seen in pictures. It looked better in the pictures than in real life.

I wore practical clothes/shoes for the trip. I avoided full-length photos. However, as our next task was to walk up a mountain, I was quite pleased I had worn my big trainers. We walked up (a lot of up) a narrow cobbled road, diving into bushes to avoid the coaches which filled the whole space, and tuk-tuks whizzing down, so you hoped the 10 year old driving had good brakes. I think these are the people who wrote those reports.

We reached the palace, and more long queues. There were queues to buy tickets, then queues to enter the grounds, followed by a super-long queue to enter the actual palace. To increase the challenge further, there were two queues to buy tickets—one to a ticket office and one to a machine. Quick family discussion to decide strategy (not my genes) then family split; satellite group going to machine queue, main group staying in line for ticket office. Can life get more exciting? (If you prefer a less exciting trip, you can save time and buy tickets online at home.)

The castle was amazing. Ferdinand Ⅱ built it as a summer palace for the royal family. He commissioned Eschwege, a German architect who was well travelled and wanted to incorporate lots of different elements. It has parts that show Islamic influence, as well as Medieval elements. He said he wanted it to be like an opera—and it sort of is. It was completed in 1854. The last queen of Portugal, Queen Amelia, spent her last night here before she fled to Brazil. It really is amazing—sort of Taj Mahal meets Disney.
However, there were too many people, and too many queues. Some rude people managed to push in and not queue (clear psychopathic tendencies) so I took their photographs.

The inside of the palace was pretty, but with so many visitors it reminded me of the slow shuffle through the Vatican, and it wasn’t as worth seeing. The best part is the outside.

There is lots more to do in the area, like the Castle of the Moors, and of course the palace gardens and Sintra itself. But we were tired by the time we’d seen inside the palace, so we returned to the hotel via about 25 different motorways (car has a weird SatNav).

We rested at the hotel for about 3½ minutes, then went back into Lisbon. J bought a fridge magnet, then found a better one, so bought that too. I bought a cork cushion cover for way more money than I’d planned.
We ate in Figu’s. Husband and J shared a ‘seafood rice’, which was a sort of paella with massive prawns and half lobsters. It looked fun. The boys drank 1L beers, so everything looked fun to them.

A nice day, if somewhat exhausting. Thank you for reading. We plan to drive down to the Algarve next.
Hope you have a nice week.
Love, Anne x

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Anne E. Thompson has written several novels, available from bookshops and Amazon.

A Day in Lisbon

Lisbon in a Day (because everyone was ill for the other days!)

Everyone was better, so we caught a metro into the city. We walked through the old part of the city, saw some squares, found the castle. J couldn’t find a fridge magnet that matched his set. I couldn’t find a cork cushion cover. We did however, find a queue. We weren’t sure what the queue was for, but we’re British, we joined it. Turned out it was for the castle (8 euros) so all good.

The castle had great views of the city and very long lines for the washrooms.

We walked back along shiny cobbled streets, trying to not slip. Flat summer shoes are bit of a problem in Portugal, as they tend to have slippery soles, and most of the streets are shiny cobbles. Heels would be worse. I think the best footwear would be wellies really.

We ate lunch at Comidas de Santigo. When we sat down, they brought us bread, olives and fishcakes. Luckily, we noticed on the menu that each item, including the butter pats, were charged for. I am used to paying a cover charge when abroad, but an extra €20 seemed a little steep. We asked for them to be removed.

While waiting for our order to arrive, Factoid Boy explained that food cravings are actually due to the bacteria in the gut. So if, for example, you stop eating a food type (sugar) for 3 months, that bacteria (the sugar-eating bacteria) dies, and you don’t crave it anymore. This information enhanced our meal no end.

We went back to the hotel. The family swam in the pool, I did a quick Google search for postboxes in Porto. I can happily report that the sculpture where we posted our cards is also a real postbox.

R remarked that there are not many people in Lisbon. We caught the metro back to the city for dinner during rush-hour, and found them all. Lisbon has interesting metro stations, with sayings and gargoyles on the ceilings and walls. You can recharge tickets when they have expired, which is cheaper than buying new ones.

We walked through Arco da Rua Augusta (a big archway) to Praça do Commercio (big square). Saw a little beach.

Walked to a very nice Italian restaurant—La Vita e Bella, on Rua da Prata. The Portuguese waiter said he preferred us to speak English rather than bad Portuguese, as it was easier to understand! We ordered a starter platter, which filled us up so we could hardly eat our main courses, and sangria (and then picked out all the ice because everyone is being very sensitive about tummy health!)

I got a migraine, due to eating meals at weird times. We went back on the metro, and a blind man got into our carriage, begging for money. He had this weird metallic stick and instrument, and walked up and down the carriage making loud metallic tapping noises to attract attention. Was possibly the worst noise for a migraine ever.

Thank you for reading. Tomorrow we plan to visit the palaces at Sintra. I will tell you about it in another post.

Thank you for reading
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Anne E. Thompson has written several novels and one non-fiction book. You can find her books in bookshops and on Amazon.

Arrival in Lisbon

Left the Sheraton Porto after breakfast, and drove down to Lisbon. Husband had helpfully brought a supply of CDs to entertain us during the journey. There was no obvious CD player in the car.

We stopped en route at a service station. This was later to have great significance. It looked clean, so we decided the food hygiene would be okay, despite the rather disgusting toilets. Portugal has a lot of disgusting public toilets. In my travels, most countries have cleaner washrooms than England, but not Portugal—wear shoes and take your own paper, and try not to breathe in.

Arrived in Lisbon and booked into another Sheraton (Husband gets different perks with his travels too often with work card, so we like them). One perk is the use of the hotel lounge, so we dumped our bags and I sat in the lounge with the boys, drinking free beers (them, not me) whilst looking across the city. David and Rebecca went swimming.

We caught the metro into the city, and walked around. It seems grander than Porto, but not as pretty. We went to a burger and lobster place for dinner. In Portugal, the burgers don’t necessarily come with a bun.

M began to feel ill. Then J began to feel ill. I took them back to the hotel in a taxi, Husband and R caught the metro back. We all made it without incident. There then followed a terrible night for the rest of the family, and one of those days you would rather forget. They all had food poisoning—my bet is that it was from the service station, perhaps E.coli on the salad preparation area. I survived unscathed. Not sure if that was due to taking probiotics (I always take probiotics when we travel, because I have a naturally nervous stomach). It was such a shame.

I went into breakfast on my own the following morning. I took a book to read, for support. I am rereading JOANNA as I never read it after it was published—for fear of spotting mistakes I wouldn’t be able to change. (It really is, rather good!) The buffet was lovely—even better than the Porto hotel. But then I had one of those ‘car-park’ moments—I stood there, with my plate of food, and had absolutely no idea where my table was, and no tall boys to guide me back. Wandered around the dining room, trying to look as if I just fancied a stroll. Spotted my book on the table in the corner, and hurried back to my seat. I don’t think anyone noticed.

As the family were all too ill to leave the hotel, I set off on my own for the prison, which we could see from the lounge, and a park. (If I am honest, the prison interested me more than the park.) I found a building that looked like a church, and walked all round it, trying to find a way inside. Someone came out, so I went towards the door, but was shouted at by three policemen, so am guessing it wasn’t open to random tourists.

Walked through the park. There were Olympic wreaths atop tall pillars, and a fountain, and a view right down to the river. At the exact moment I went to take a photo of the fountain, it stopped running. Bizarre.

I made my way to the prison, unsure if it’s against the law to take photos of a prison wall. Next door is the court house, a huge building, with some very cool pictures in tiles all around it. They depict scenes from the Bible, and the scales of justice, and are not particularly friendly (but perhaps a courthouse is not meant to be friendly). As I walked around the outside, a man appeared, on a bike, with a backpack that was blaring very loud opera. He circled the courthouse a few times, the music fading and growing loud again as he passed me. It was very strange. Was he signalling to someone inside the prison? Was this a weird tourist attraction? Was he a security guard, surreptitiously spying on me? After about 6 loops of the courthouse, he cycled away.

I walked back to the hotel, but it had gone. Tried to find it on my phone, but the map had also gone. Sent text messages to the family, who told me to turn on data-roaming. Managed to find hotel.

Family were well enough to eat at a local Pizza Hut. It was surprisingly very nice. Especially the sangria.

Thank you for reading. I will post of more of my holiday diary soon. Take care.


Anne x

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Anne E. Thompson has written several novels and one non-fiction book. You can find her books in bookshops and on Amazon.

Porto, Portugal: Family Holiday Diary 2018

Porto – Sunday

Woke 7am. Weather is cloudy—hope no one notices.

Metro into Porto. Wandered down to the river, which is very pretty. Crossed the bridge to Gaia after lunch. Eating here is very difficult, as all the restaurants seem to be fully booked or closed. Which then makes you wonder why the ones with vacancies have vacancies.

On the bridge a young man was standing on the balustrade, wearing swimwear, waiting to jump. Gradually, a crowd gathered, waiting to watch. Would he plummet to his death? Be run down by one of the large pleasure boats passing beneath the bridge? Or dive spectacularly and emerge on the bank? I think none of the above. When a fairly large crowd had gathered, a group of his friends passed amongst them, asking for money. I never saw him jump and I think it was a scam. Later, a different young man was standing there, waiting to jump. Perhaps I should have pushed him in.

The Gaia side of the Douro river is the north side, so it gets less sun. It’s where all the port cellars are. We saw the signs for Taylor’s, Graham’s, Cockburn, and Calem’s. We had a tour of Calem’s. Tour guide was very witty. At the end, we sat and tasted three different ports ( a proper, small glass, of port, so a proper taste not just a mouthful). This was great fun, we each liked a different port, and one of us drank rather a lot by the time he’d finished off all the glasses that other people weren’t keen on.

We then left, via their shop (not stupid the port-making people). The port was much cheaper than you can buy it in England, and came in nice gift boxes and bags, so we all bought some as gifts. I’m not sure that it all actually made it back to England with us, but I won’t say any more about that. It was an excellent afternoon.

Portugal is one of the main cork growing places in the world. They are trying to increase the popularity of cork by using it for products other than wine stoppers. So as we walked around, we saw lots of shops selling postcards made of cork. We all bought one for our mothers/partners who are back in England. We passed a postbox with a fun sculpture next to it, so took lots of photos and posted our cards. Then we worried that the postbox was just part of the sculpture, and not a proper postbox at all. Tried to retrieve cards, but it was impossible. All the post-offices in Portugal seem to be yellow–so why would there be a red English postbox? I fear we may never see those cards again.

Walked back to the metro and stopped for ice-creams. When the train arrived, there were lots of people, so I quickly jumped onto the train, the doors shut, and the train set off. I then realised I couldn’t see any of my family, and I had no idea of which station I needed to get off at, or how to get to the hotel from the station. Felt rather abandoned. (When the children were small, I had strategies for this sort of disaster—now they are all super-competent, they sometimes forget me.) R sent me a message, telling me which carriage they were in, and which station to get off at. Found them. Will keep a closer eye on the group in future.

I had a nap, while the males tried to book a restaurant for dinner. The males failed. It was raining (raining!) so we got taxis back to the cathedral. (The cathedral didn’t get a mention earlier, because I didn’t like it.) Walked to several fully-booked restaurants. Found one, next to the river, with okay(ish) food and okay(ish) service. No one got food poisoning, which is the main thing.

Walked back to the metro in the rain.


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Another instalment of our holiday in Portugal will be posted soon.

Thank you for reading. You can follow my blog at:
Anne E. Thompson has written several novels and one non-fiction book. You can find her work in book shops and Amazon. Why not buy one today?
(I think the best one is CLARA – A Good Psychopath? which shows how someone very bad, can achieve something amazing…


Family Holiday 2018—Portugal

We had planned a family holiday for the last two weeks of August. As the date grew nearer, the whole of Europe was gripped in a heatwave. We watched as temperatures in Portugal went over 40, and saw wild fires on the news. All rather a worry.


We met R at the airport. J had been helpfully sending her updates on our progress (wrong airport, earlier flight, left already) but we managed to meet her at the bag drop.

All good with the flight. I sat next to M/factoid boy, and therefore knew lots of facts about Portugal by the time we arrived. Some of these were interesting, for example, did you know that the Romans called the region known as France and Spain ‘Gaul’ and we were going to the area that was the main port, hence ‘Port-o-Gaul’? Or that, an exploring nation, the Portuguese discovered Newfoundland? However, after trying to establish a colony there they left, saying there was ‘nothing there’—hence name ‘Ca nada’.

We collected a car (smaller than expected) and drove to Sheraton Hotel in Porto. The hotel has a glass lift. It was quite noisy when my family went up in it.

We walked to the metro. Buying tickets was slightly more complicated than we first thought, as ‘number of tickets’ means number of journeys on a single ticket, not number of tickets. Once we had sussed that, it was very easy, though I’m not sure my family was the fastest user of the automatic ticket machines. We caught a train to the old part of Porto.

We ate ice-creams in Freedom Square. Factoid Boy ate custard tart, as this is apparently a traditional food in Portugal. We then wandered around, taking in the atmosphere. There were lots of cool designs done in tiles, especially the railway station (Sao Bento Station). It was built in 1916 (most of Europe was too busy that year to build fancy stations with tiled patterns).

Family spent 6 hours looking on Trip Advisor for a nice restaurant for dinner. R didn’t feel the ‘Traditional Steakhouse’ that J recommended would necessarily cater well for vegetarians.

Finally ate at A Despensa—a lovely Italian restaurant. It had a great atmosphere, and we all like Italian food. The only problem was the washrooms, which were gender specific but only inside the door.

Metro back to the hotel. Rather tense discussion about what time we would meet for breakfast. Went to bed, slept well. Holiday going well so far.


Thank you for reading. I’ll post another instalment of our family holiday diary soon. Why not sign up to follow my blog so you don’t miss it?

Thank you for reading. You can follow my blog at:
Anne E. Thompson has written several novels and one non-fiction book. You can find her work in book shops and Amazon. Why not buy one today?
(I think the best one is CLARA – A Good Psychopath? which shows how someone very bad, can achieve something amazing…