English in a Portuguese World

One of our first experiences after getting off the plane in Faro, Portugal (besides everyone from out flight accidentally queuing in a line that they thought went to the security check, but was actually going to be boarding a plane to the Middle East; Chad and I bypassed this mistake first) was waiting for our resort transfer and being told by a lovely couple vacationing from Edinburgh that the booth about 30 feet away was giving away free glasses of beer.

“Chad – you grab the beer, I’ll watch the luggage!”

Chad strode back happily with two plastic cups. I hadn’t realized how warm I was until I took the first icy sip, and then realized it was time to get rid of a couple of layers I put on in Edinburgh. Into the checked luggage bag they went, and I continued to happily sip at my Super Bock.

As I continued to watch the luggage, Chad wandered to the bathroom. Obviously, this is when the man who wrangled resort guests onto their busses came to collect our group, most of whom were happily sipping Super Bock and wondering if they could get a second serving. I had a slight moment of panic, wondering if Chad would come out of the bathroom in time. I knew the general direction in which he went, but didn’t actually know where he was. When our group started moving his way, instead of the other way, I grabbed all our bags and hoped for the best. He appeared just before we all turned to exit the building and hit the first blast of Portugal heat. As we took the five-minute walk to where our bus was parked, a loud bloke from Manchester asked, “Is this a nature walk?” Apparently he hadn’t foreseen any walking on his vacation, or expected to be carried from one door to the other. I thought it was a weird attitude on which to start his two-week holiday, but decided just to giggle at it with Chad. I’m sure he was put on one of our teams, but I cannot remember whose. (Side Note: The Team Game [also, depending on who just read this, you just lost of The Game] is a people watching game in which you put attractive/awesome/great people on your team, and stack someone else’s team with not awesome people. We are unsure what these teams will amount to in the future, but really memorable placements sometimes come up in conversation.)

Free beer in the airport was possibly the best marketing ever. I continued to see their logo everywhere during our stay. It graced many tables, umbrellas and chairs outside cafes, restaurants and pubs.

Speaking of pubs, it was incredibly difficult to find a pub that wasn’t either English (or Scottish or Irish or Canadian) in theme, if not in menu. I still don’t really know what Portuguese food really looks like (besides their sausage, as I have had that in a few sandwiches) because everywhere we have eaten either boasts a Traditional All Day British Breakfast on their front steps, or has a very general menu.

One thing we did find out from a very deserted and slightly fancy-looking lunch spot as “grown-ups” tend to have their hamburgers served on the plate, without a bun. When Chad ordered and asked for them to add cheese and bacon, the waiter gave him a puzzled look (not in a snooty way) and explained that burgers, as it said on the menu, came on the plate – no bun – because only children eat them on a bun, but he could put Chad’s in a bun if he wanted. Chad happily accepted.

Now, obviously, I am a fan of UK pubs; back home in Canada, I missed them greatly, unless I happened to be in Victoria and could hit the Irish Times, Bard and Banker or Penny Farthing. However, finding them everywhere in Portugal was unnerving. I decided against having any traditional breakfasts, even though they had been one of my staples at Wetherspoon’s. Since I have recently given up junk food, which includes chips [read: fries to my North American readers], I found out that ordering a tomato salad really is tomatoes and onions (which were placed on Chad’s customary burger, as I’m allergic) in an oil with seasonings. It’s actually quite nice as long as you tap some of the oil off on the side of the plate. This salad and a ham sandwich costs about €3.30. At prices like that (and €4.50 for Chad’s bacon cheese burger with chips), it became very easy to order a litre of sangria with every meal (or other drinks), which makes our monthly budget look like we have a drinking problem. We decided the other day to stop doing that, or I won’t have any money left when we get back to Canada (which I will need, for reinsuring my piece’o’crap van, for getting a boustier to wear under the bridesmaid dress for my brother’s wedding, et cetera, et cetera…).

The downside of visiting this lovely location during November is either places had already closed for the season by the time we arrived, or they have closed while we’ve been here. The most heartbreaking example is a lovely little drinks, snacks and ice cream location by the beach where we had our first and best pitcher of Sangria, for a total of €5. We vowed to return the next day. They were closed the next day. We didn’t think much of this at the time – just reflected on how businesses here seem to keep extremely strange hours of operation. Sometimes they close early on Wednesdays. Sometimes they aren’t open on Tuesdays. It has all been a little weird. We figured they’d be open the next day.

We checked back for a week before we finally acknowledged the hard truth – the best sangria location (and trust me, we’ve tried the more expensive and less awesome sangria at other places, so we know what we are talking about) had closed for the season, and we had only found them on their last day of operation.

Well, now that I have managed to give some readers the impression that we need some form of rehab upon our return, I should sign off and get some more of my morning workout done. It is going to be hard to rock that rose pink Bridesmaid dress when I get home if I don’t work on my figure. The only upside to wearing a colour to which I am not at all fond is Chad has to wear a matching tie.

[Special note: Chad and I have been coming to an internet cafe for the last few days because the internet at our hotel is down. Hopefully it will be fixed today. However, the internet cafe seems to be closed until at least December 6th (or 26th, depending on which sign you read), but we are sitting outside and still using their wi-fi.]

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