This might be a crazy notion, but when you know for a fact that you are going to be having several hundred people descending on your check in desks, maybe having more than one desk open might not be such a bad idea. We arrived to find a queue that was verging on the epic despite our being there two hours before the departure time. Apparantly this is a common feature on all flights to anywhere warm and sunny and scientists are at a loss to explain it.
Eventually the tour company realised that given how it was taking the check in personnell about five minutes per person to check everyone in and they opened up another four desks wherupon each check in desk person reduced their speed to 1/4 normal.
The flight itself was astonishingly unconfortable. As usual I ended up sitting right in front of a bunch of kids whose parents should have been sterilised long ago but thank christ for the in flight movie - Shrek 2 might not have shut the little bastards up but it meant the flight crew were handing out earphones. It did nothing to ease the annoyance of someone's little angel kicking the back of my seat for three hours but at least I couldn't hear the other tiny shit projectile screaming.
After the plane was a bus, then luggage, then another bus, checkin into the hotel, the discovery that we had two single beds pushed together instead of the double, a trip to reception to point this out only to be told that there was nothing available that night. Not to worry though, it got sorted the next night and we were too knackered to care anyway.
(Bonus points for getting the reference)
Mercifully the move to a new room meant we went from the second floor to the eighth floor which meant we had a far poorer, more distant view of the pool. In many resorts this might be a negative thing since it would mean that one's previous unobstructed view of the various bikini babes would be reduced to a series of tiny specks of various colours in the distance. The Dom Pedro golf hotel is not that kind of resort however, instead of ladies in bikinis we had fat men with lobster sunburnt skin wandering around in tiny pairs of speedos - images that are burned onto my retinas.
Every night there was live entertainment in the hotel, precisely the same live entertainment every night in fact with precisely the same songs in precisely the same order with precisely the same mispronunciations. Mercifully, as previously stated we were on the eighth floor where the music didn't penetrate quite so much into the room but nonetheless you felt a certain urge to not be in the room between eight and midnight. In fairness to the band, they had a fairly wide range of songs to mutilate from Simon and Garfunkle through to Neil Diamond. On the positive side, the hotel had a pool table (with one missing red ball for much of our stay there) and many pool queues (though no chalk and the tips of the queues were a bit on the elderly side resulting in some spectacular if unintentional trick shots). They also had air hockey, a pinball machine and a collection of books dumped by previous guests where metalrabbit grabbed me a copy of "the Da Vinci code" which I promptly devoured in a matter of hours.
The service in the hotel was a bit on the angry side of surly, not to mention a little more incompetent than I would have expected from a four star hotel. I thought for a while that maybe that was the snob in me talking but then I realised that I had never been in a four star hotel before and frankly to look at me I think snob would be pretty low on the list of words you could use to describe me. Also, the tides on the beach beside the hotel were aggressive and prone to soaking a man up to the knees as he wandered what he thought was a safe distance from the shore.
I'm making it sound sort of shitty here but it wasn't. The beds were really comfortable and portugese telly has a sort of crazed enthusiasm I found entertaining and endearing despite not understanding a word of it. The marina near the hotel has a massive range of shops (shoes, handbags and more shoes), off licenses and resteraunts so we never really had to eat the same thing or in the same place twice and we got to try a load of the local food which is something I always enjoy. The local speciality, capaletta (almost certainly spelled wrong) is a sort of seafood soup affair where much to my surprise I discovered that the portugese traditionally don't bother with the formality of taking the god damned shellfish out of the shells before boiling them in spicy soups. Being faced with several prawns staring at me from my bowl with their accusing black beady eyes reduced my appetite somewhat and I think its safe to say that both metalrabbit and I learned something that day.
In terms of sightseeing we did a fair bit. We visited a big old shopping center to get the urge to spend money out of our system once and for all and I completly lost the run of myself and bought a PDA for reasons only known to a few select brain cells somewhere near the back of my head. We wandered the town around the hotel quite a bit and in what was the high point of the holiday for me, we went on a jeep tour of the surrounding mountains where we got to see what the slightly more real portugal was like: pretty fucking poor is what.
These people seemingly make money for about four months of the year while the tourists are around and for the most part are unemployed the rest of the time. It shows in the architecture too, outside of the town the place took on a decidedly mexican look and there was roughly one ruin for every house. The country is an example of what happens when you let people make the rules without any knowledge of how things work or what will happen (a bit like the pro/anti hunting lobbies consisting of town folk in england who have little or no clue about how things work in the countryside). How it used to work was that the locals had their farm and could grow fruit and veg as well as hunting animals for food - subsistence level really. Then the EU and national government took a hand and started listening to what people wanted. Unfortunately the people who got to do the talking were conservationists and the wealthy so rules were put in place to
a) Preserve the flora and to ensure that the lovely animals had plenty of undergrowth to live and love in. The locals would no longer be allowed to cut back the hedges and undergrowth.
b) set up hunting reserves absolutely EVERYWHERE where only people with specific licenses (on an area by area basis) could hunt there.
which had the effect of causing
a) the animals to all burn to death whenever a fire broke out because the locals had not cut back the undergrowth to a level which would have prevented such a thing.
b) there to be no god damned animals anyway unless you fancied shooting a charcoal stump which MAY have been a boar at some point but could just as easily have been a tree.
Our driver seemed quite agitated as he explained all of this to us and seemed pretty pissed at... well just about everything and everyone and I was beginning to worry that he was going to scream "viva la revolution" and drive us off a cliff.
After that we bought baskets from an old lady who makes them herself, or buys them herself from a tiwanese sweatshop, I'm not sure. Then we headed further into the mountains to visit an old woman who has her own hooch still and bough some of her produce. Though now that I think about it, considering she must have sold about twenty bottles that day.... probably a hundred tours in total.... Wow... that tiny still could produce over 2000 bottles of hooch - now THAT's economical, jameson could learn something from her.
Still it was all most excellent and cool getting to be driven around in the back of a jeep all day seeing some incredible views and learning some inexplicably interesting facts about cork (did you know that chopping down a cork tree in portugal will get you a 5000 euro fine?) and I'm really glad I did it.
Okay, I'm getting tired of writing now and I have about 3000 words of UW I want to do tonight so I'll finish up for now. Before I do though, I should point out that I bought a year's worth of smokes and tobacco while I was over there, not to mention the disgracefully cheap booze we consumed. It was a wee bit hot for being drunk but fun nonetheless.