A trip to paradise

Carlos II’s registration of our passports was followed by an extravagant wax sealed stamp in our pilgrim credentials, topped off with a complementary glass of white port. We were shown our rooms, one light airy, with three beds and a balcony. The other is upstairs, the first on the right, two beds, but only you, said Carlos. As chief snorer I fell on my sword. Up some very steep stairs I found my attic room, a single roof tile replaced with a fixed pane of glass, and room to stand, if I was careful. The heat was impressive, I reckoned a change of air might occur every seven days .

We were given lunch options, you can have chicken here, or, the regional favourite, suckling pig there. As was often the case, our modest daily distance meant we had arrived by midday, and thus the first to check in by some hours. We ate and then lay inert.

A trip to the supermarket confirmed my first impressions. This was a strange looking town.

Brutalist concrete civic structures, wide avenues with newish blocky dwellings, next to a field with sheep, then a tatty bit of history, still quite splendid with elaborate tiles. It seemed to have a bit of everything, though in no particular order.

The supermarket hosted the last hurrah of whatever djinn had accompanied our party for the last eight days. It had made a brief appearance in Minx, but a combination of her professional indifference to anything not life threatening and her pathologically jolly resilience had given it short shrift. It is worth noting that her relationship with sleeping and waking is somewhat like the change between light and dark in the tropics. Quite sudden and irresistible. But on a strange planet where you can never tell how long each spell of light or dark might last. It had been hard to tell in the lull of our rest days in Tomar that anything unusual had been going on for her.

Thus for the next twenty four hours Tash was out of action. Our plans needed revising. Again.

The next morning the young ones headed off, with us planning to catch them up, at some point. Carlos II, full of concern for Tash whilst she spent the day in recovery, had plans for me. Today we go to Paradise! In one hour, we go, you come with me! Five years previously he had bought two stone ruins in a remote and beautiful spot. They were now his retreat and a popular rental. An hour later my right foot twitched unconsciously, as if I were decelerating, the speedo read 100, a two lane motorway wove through the hills, I thought of Victorian fears of travelling more than 11mph, your innards will explode, the stunning hills flashed by, he indicated to exit, stopping distances seemed mad. Two minutes later we rumbled down a cobbled lane through a small hamlet. Cobbles I said. Yes my wife’s father made this road.

There were five simple buildings a kilometre down a dirt track, at the bottom of a lovely valley, sitting just above a small weir, a deep wide pool hosted dragon flies, water boatmen, but today no guests. He showed me round his two lovely houses, both cut into the hill, simple, luxurious and in an amazing spot.

At this point I realised we were in Paradise to change the sheets.

Even as we sped back to the hostel, English live there, there Germans, I felt like we were falling behind.