So after four days and nights we prepared to leave our city centre apartment in Lisbon and move on to our final stay south of the River Tagus in Setúbal . This should have been straight-forward but obviously wasn’t. I could have predicted that.
The cobbled streets are not good for drag bags and Kim lost a wheel after only a few yards so we had to find the missing parts amongst the stones and then put together some sort or temporary repair and cross fingers and hope that it would hold out. We made the train station and then a two stop ride to the transfer station to Setúbal.
Now, buying a train ticket in Portugal is not easy but when using the national rail operator the automated ticket machines all have an option to use the process in English. Not so the service from Lisbon to Setúbal which is run by the only privately operated train service in Portugal and which obviously doesn’t consider the translation service to be essential. That is the private sector for you of course, private profit rather than public service.
So, after a wait of glacial proportions I made the front of the line but was quite unable to interpret the instructions so with a queue forming behind me and beginning to feel slightly awkward I had no alternative but to abandon the quest and stand back and observe. I watched a few local people to get some tips.
The first man was far too quick for me and he galloped through the process but the second and third were thankfully a bit slower as I tried hard to remember the sequence. Eventually I felt mentally prepared and optimistically rejoined the queue.
After twenty minutes I was back at the machine and I sailed through it this time like a local expert who had been doing it all of their life. Insert cash now it said and I offered a twenty euro note that was immediately rejected so I tried again and was instantly rejected once more. I tried a different note and was instantly rejected. A line was beginning to form behind me again and then someone tapped me on the shoulder and helpfully informed me that the machines only take a maximum 0f a ten euro note.
Now I needed change so I went to a cafe bar who said that they were unable to help but then discovered that they could help if I was to purchase something. So I bought a small bottle of beer, drank it quickly and returned to the ticket machine line. Twenty minutes later I had the tickets to Setúbal but by this time we had of course missed the train so with fifty minutes to spare we went back to the cafe bar for another beer and spent the change that they had just given me.
After that it was all plain sailing. The train crossed the 25 de Abril Bridge, the forty-seventh longest suspension bridge in the World (a long way behind the Humber Bridge near where I live at twelfth) and then carried on towards our destination. I was looking forward to crossing the bridge but it was an inevitable disappointment because from on board the train there is nothing to see. It is much better to view the bridge from a good viewing point with a train crossing over it than to be on the train crossing over it with nothing to see but flashing girders. Anyway, I have done it and I was glad of the experience.
This is the Ribblesdale Viaduct in Yorkshire, much better to see a train crossing it than to be on the train crossing it.
On the positive side rail travel in Portugal is very reasonable, no, it is better than reasonable it is cheap, and the benefit of being over sixty-five, the fares are half price.
After the rail delays we arrived in Setúbal around mid afternoon, stopped immediately for a pavement glass of wine and then proceeded to our city centre apartment which turned out to be quite excellent.
I think I mentioned before that on this trip we had chosen apartments instead of hotels and we were so glad that we did, so much better value for money and so much space. I generally wake first in the morning and in a hotel room this means lying still and not being able to make a cup of tea. In an apartment I can get up, close the bedroom door and enjoy a brew in the kitchen. We will be doing it this way again.
The facilities were so good that we thought we might stay in tonight and cook for ourselves so we took the short walk to the nearby Pingo Doce supermarket and thereby hangs another tale which I will tell you about next time…