Monday, 8 July 2013

Portugal - The Next Bit

When I left you we had finally got into room 126 at Hotel Vila Gale Ampalius in the Algarve resort of Vilamoura. Well over three hours have passed since we pulled up outside in a taxi. There's been lots of waiting around which is inconvenient, but on the positive side it allows plenty of opportunity for eating and drinking. Now we want to go out and explore, to see what is around us. But as always, the phrase 'there's a problem' is hurtling towards this tale. There's a problem.

We have lots of valuable items which we don't necessarily want to be carrying around everywhere with us, but which we also don't want to leave lying around the room for the cleaners to make off with. We have passports, flight documentation, money, house and car keys and kindles. The good news is that there is a safe deposit box in the room, but of course the bad news is that it is not working. I'd had to go back down to the reception, with it's endless queues, to rent the key. Complicating things further is the fact that we are still not sure if we will be changing rooms the next day, so I have to pay for just one night's key rental. This costs €2.50 which is much less of a concern than the further 20 minutes or so it takes to get it. Yet the real problems start when I get back to the room and find that it doesn't work. The box won't close. The instructions for use would be fairly simple for the average 8-year-old, but since there is a possibility at this point that I am losing my mind I keep trying over and over to no avail. Emma has several goes at it too, but it's not closing. I ring reception.

Having said that they would send someone up to look at it straight away it is slightly infuriating to find ourselves still idly waiting around the room 20 minutes later. I ring them back and am told again that someone will be up to look at it straight away. It's all a bit like when you ring a taxi to get you to town and it doesn't turn up, so you ring them back and they tell you it's on its way. What that means is that they have forgotten but they will do it now, thanks for the reminder. No apology. That would be an admission of responsibility. Another 20 minutes pass. Emma picks up the phone and makes what is the third call to reception to report the faulty safe deposit box. It's getting on for 5.00 in the afternoon, almost five hours after our arrival and we still haven't got out of the door.

It takes another 10 minutes for a lady to arrive with some contraption for testing the mechanics of the safe deposit box. She fiddles around with it for a minute or so and confirms that it is indeed broken. She tells us that she will need to go back to the technicians and get them to have a look at it and I resist the temptation to ask why they didn't send a bloody technician in the first place. But it will take 20 minutes for the technician to arrive and then probably another two days or so for him to diagnose the problem and either fix it or replace the box. Emma's drawing a line here and insists that the woman skips the part about finding out what is wrong with this box and just replace it now. At least half-way apologetically the woman agrees and so some time later a man comes in to replace it. It takes him roughly about the same amount of time it would take a half-wit receptionist to Instagram her dinner. An hour to organise, a matter of minutes to replace. At this point my head resides somewhere in the vicinity of the shed, but I'm just relieved that we can now get out of here and have a look around.

The marina at Vilamoura is arguably worth the wait. You'd expect the glorious weather in this part of the world but the rest of it does not disappoint. It's packed with bars, restaurants and shops and some stunning views. There's also some serious water transportation on show. Some of these boats are probably worth more than my house but it is still a nice thought to wonder what it would be like to own one and have the freedom to be able to set sail in the sunshine and forget about hotel receptionists and safe deposit boxes. We stop at a place called the '19th Hole' for a couple more beers. There are a couple of golf-themed places around the marina and it is clear that golf is a very popular activity around here. We see many large groups of men hauling their clubs on to coaches as they set off for their golf trips. I'm insanely jealous of this as I have always wanted to be able to play golf. Technically I can because they have accessible equipment for this sort of thing these days. But it is expensive and, aswell as being beyond my means financially, is beyond my level of get up and go, which regular readers will know barely exists. It would take a bit of organising and I'm normally too busy working or updating my Facebook status.

We have had the misfortune to sit next to two quite creepy forty-something men shamelessly out on the pull. Mixing in these circles was not intentional. When we sat here there were two young girls sat quietly chatting at a table nearby. We'd hardly noticed them until they were joined by two of the sleaziest, hairy-arsed letches in southern Europe. The worst thing about this is that the two impressionable girls are buying it completely and making arrangements to meet up with the men later on. I supposes you could accuse me of more jealousy in my disdain for these two reptiles, but Emma seems to find them equally repugnant. Later, we actually avoid going into an Irish bar because Emma has spotted the four of them going in there. We've had enough sleaze for one afternoon. Get a room, but if you do make sure the safe deposit box is working.

We'd been ascending a staircase when we saw them. Though Vilamoura Marina has fantastic access in the main there is an area which is only accessible via a set of stairs. But these are not just ordinary stairs. As a nod to the need to comply with the ever more complex access laws in Europe someone has had the bright idea of placing a small ramp at the end of each step. My even brighter notion that this would therefore make access possible was somewhat optimistic. We make it, but it's a deathly struggle and there is absolutely no way to go back down the way we came without utilising our health insurance. We have no choice but to go up a second set of steps with these token effort ramps at one side, and then walk all the way around on the main roads to get back on to the marina. Before we do so we take in a different Irish bar, one free of sleazy men chatting up jail-bait, but heavily populated by stray cats. What it also has is free Wi-Fi and a disabled toilet, so it gets the nod for a couple more beers.

The night ends back at the 19th but after what has been a very long day we are running out of steam. There is a live band on and just before we leave they play a Duran Duran song called 'Save A Prayer' and I can't help thinking that it might have been far more apt if they had played 'Rio' following his unexpected appearance on our flight.

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