Sunday, 11 May 2014

Portimão, Portugal

As I write this, the sun has fiinally made an appearance so we have landed on the beach. The wind is a little keener than we would like, but after being tantilised by sunshine first thing, only for it to have done a disappearing act by the time we disembarked, dressed in bikinis and armed with beach towels alongside other 'day on the beach' necessities, we're quite pleased to have been able to stop on the sand for any length of time at all!

As it was Sunday, we allowed ourselves a nice, lazy start following our early Saturday night (it involved an ice bucket, but unfortunately it was not to rest champagne, but a sore foot). Breakfast on deck, blinded by the sun, we then headed down to our cabin to prepare to move our lazy Sunday to la plage (or should I say, 'praia', when in Portugal?). Praia da Rocha, we were told, was where we were expecting to find a fortress from the 15th Century and sea views that would make us go weak at the knees. Instead, when we emerged from our cabin having been received by glorious sunshine with breakfast, we were faced with yet more complete cloud coverage, which was pretty hard to see beyond. Less than impressed by Portugal at this point.

All the same, we dragged ourselves along the gang plank and towards the beach, wondering whether when we reached the sand, the sun would see it was wanted (rather desperately) and swiftly return to us. It did not. The sand was cold, the sea even colder (and we're from Norfolk!), but when on holiday...

Along we trudged to a headland in the distance, where through some very elegant bent-over-double-shuffling through a caved tunnel in the rock we found a cove reminiscent of a Famous Five story that we hoped might be the ideal spot to shelter us from the wind. Wrapped in our towels, we managed to sit it out for a few minutes before swallowing our pride and making the executive decision that it was time to head inland in pursuit of hot chocolate (it was that cold!).

Settled inside a café overlooking the sea, we drank (or maybe ate) the thickest, most incredible hazelnut hot chocolate with spoons, while the clouds above us finally started to break, suggesting the sun may finally be making an appearance! Nevertheless, our hopes quickly vanished as the next lot of cloud arrived, and we resigned ourselves to the rest of our day spent on board the ship. Rather than let ourselves feel too depressed over our failed attempt a beach day, we decided that we would have a civilised sit-down lunch in the restaurant then spend the rest of the day in a similar vein... inside, in the warm.

To make the most of our visit to Portimão, we took a turn down the high-street as opposed to trudging back along the cold and windy beach, where I was rather distracted by holiday shopping potential, and overwhelmed by flip-flop choice when confronted with a Havaianas shop - HEAVEN. Next thing we knew, I was buying a beach mat, and suddenly we were aware of the presence of blue sky, and furthermore, sunshine! So, without further ado, we landed on the beach. Before we knew it, bikinis were revealed and we were dipping more than our toes in the Atlantic sea; complete bliss.

It could literally not have looked more different...

Sadly, after the long wait, we had to head back to the ship for an early departure. Thank goodness again for the parents and their expert skills in landing well-located sun loungers, we joined them on the last two available at the front of the ship on deck to continue enjoying the sunshine accompanied by the cocktail of the day and some Mr Porky's. Hypnotised by the gentle heat from the sun, I was just drifting off when the ship decided to bid its farewells to Portugal and the horn blasted FOUR TIMES (completely unnecessary, I'm sure)!? 

After the debacle of the previous evening's dinner sitting, we decided to be ready earlier, and to try out the other, smaller restaurant on the ship:

Starter - chicken & leek terrine
Main - Salmon pasta
Dessert - Paris Brest - yum!

where I discovered that my napkin folding skills have deserted me, and apparently all I am now capable of creating just looks rude, and nothing like a beautiful rose! 

Serious concentration face.
Silly 'ooh look what I made instead' face.
One benefit of late appearances from the sun is the fact that the blue sky then remains into the evening, which on a ship gives way to much excitement over the possibility of a stunning sunset! As soon as food was done and dusted, we rushed out on deck for more Titanic moments as we were blustered around. Unfortunately, although there were very pretty skies, the cloud coverage on the horizon meant there was no pretty sunset this time. Beautiful all the same though!

A round of cards, and we made our way to the show lounge for Man in the Mirror... yeah. Tipply ship, tipply jeering from the crowd (actually, just us), but we stuck it out to the end (they were quite good at playing toy drums, we'll give them that) before disappearing to bed in anticipation of the next day's Moroccan antics.