Monday, February 23, 2009
Southern Portugal By Chain Gang
My parents have decided to take a guided tour of Southern Portugal.
All winter, they’ve been talking about going somewhere for a short trip—someplace warm—and they found a guided tour that appealed to them, and they booked the trip.
They will leave in late March and return shortly before Easter.
The guided tour they selected is a little unusual—it spends four days and four nights in Estoril, three days and three nights in The Algarve, and one day and one night in Lisbon—but it appealed to them for several reasons.
First, they wanted a short trip, and the length of the guided tour—eight days and eight nights—was exactly what they wanted, although they will spend one extra day and one extra night in Lisbon at the conclusion of the guided tour.
Second, they wanted to take a trip that required no planning and no preparation, and a guided tour relieved them of any planning-and-preparation requirements.
Third, they wanted to go somewhere sunny and warm, and Southern Portugal should be sunny and warm in late March and early April.
Fourth, they wanted a slow-paced vacation, without a lot of moving around, and the guided tour of Southern Portugal is built around two different resort towns, both of great natural beauty and both offering a wide variety of daytime excursions to nearby places of interest.
Fifth, they wanted to go somewhere completely new to them, and Portugal will be uncharted territory for them.
Sixth, since no one could accompany them, they did not want to take a trip that would appeal to anybody else in the family, and I can safely say that the particular guided tour they booked has absolutely no appeal to any of us. My brothers and I are teasing my parents mercilessly about the trip—it is filled with cooking classes, Portuguese language lessons, visits to wineries, a marzipan demonstration, a Portuguese tile demonstration, a fishnet mending demonstration, a visit to a cork factory, an evening of Fado music and such, with everything proceeding precisely according to the tour operator’s daily schedule—and we have taken to calling it “Southern Portugal By Chain Gang”.
To be truthful, I think my parents will have a marvelous time. From Estoril, they will have a chance to explore some of Portugal’s most important sites. The Algarve is supposed to be an area of the most extravagant beauty. They will spend one day in Lisbon being escorted around to all the highlights, and a second day in Lisbon on their own visiting a museum or two. It should be a wonderful trip for them.
There are no nonstop flights between Minneapolis and Lisbon, but my parents will have only one stop on each leg of their journey. Outbound, my parents will fly Continental all the way, Minneapolis to Newark, and Newark to Lisbon. Returning, my parents will fly the Portuguese national carrier from Lisbon to Paris, and Northwest from Paris to Minneapolis. The outbound journey will take eleven hours and fifty-five minutes, but the return journey will take fourteen hours and fifteen minutes. The difference is all in the headwinds, because layover time is exactly the same in both directions: two hours and fifteen minutes.
I suspect they’ll have a most enjoyable visit to Portugal.