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:: The Long Trip Over

The actual trip out to Portugal was a nightmare. What were we thinking, flying to Germany (middle of Europe) to get to Portugal (western-most part of Europe)? As usual, I'm not sure of how long the actual flight was supposed to take, but the number that sticks out in my head is 17 hours. That doesn't include the hour of driving to get to SFO, the 45 minutes we had to stand at the ticketing window, or the 40 minutes it took to board the plane. Anyways, while the flight was terrible, it could have been worse. We lucked out and got "Economy Plus" upgrades for free. The guy next to me had a little baby, so I also got moved from my center seat to the aisle. Still, I barely got any sleep during the flight. As usual, some bizzo in front of me kept his reading light on the whole trip. Apparently that Tom Clancy book is just too freakin' amazing to put down.

De-planing an international flight is always kind of bizarre, isn't it? It was 2am in my head, but all around there was sun, snow, and leather-coat-wearing Germans awking at each other. We followed the crowd around to the passport control place and timidly waited for our turn to talk with a security lady, who was busy speaking angry German to her co-worker. We nervously slid our passports on the counter, worried that there was going to be some problem because of the whole language thing. Before I could sputter out the "spekenzie english" phrase I'd been rehearsing while in line, she stamped the passports and told us in English to come on through. Just like that.

The ease at which we got through customs turned over in my sleepy head, and I started playing with the idea that I should have tried navigating customs using the other German phrases I know. This seemed pretty funny to me, because the only German words I know are from Rammstein songs. DU. DU HASTE. DU HASTE MEICH (uh.. passport). Heh.. It'd be like a little travel game. Thinking of Rammstein made me remember the T-Shirt I was going to have made for the Kellegous that would say "Everything I know about love, I learned from Rammstein" in a big pink heart. Rammstein Rammstein Rammstein. Boy was I tired.

We had a lot of time to kill at the Frankfurt airport. Unfortunately there's not much shaking there at 9am on a Sunday morning. We walked all over the place, admiring the airport's warm industrial look. Sadly there were no postcards of David Hasselhoff to be found anywhere. They did have the German version of Life of Pi, which was titled Schiffbruch mit Tiger (Shipwreck with Tiger). More words to use in my little speaking German game.

Our flight out finally came due. We hopped on board and took our seats among a large mass of chatty Germans that were excited to be going on holiday. It was here that I realized that the flight was not one hour like I expected, but really three hours. Ouch. If ever I needed an excuse to go to sleep on a plane, this was it. Shortly after a bizarre little in-flight meal (which was better than what we'd had on the previous flight), I started to roll off into sleep. It would have been a great nap, too, if those unattended German kids behind me hadn't tried to rip the tray table off the back of my seat.

Faro- Finally, we were at least in the right country. The airport was completely empty, except for the Germans on our flight and their endless stream of golf club bags. Our bags made it out ok (a huge relief), and we staggered over to the Avis counter to see about the car I'd reserved. In very good English, the Avis lady told us that our car (the only automatic in the fleet) was ready to go, and that all I had to do was initial the paperwork that said I was denying insurance and would be liable for 30,000 Euros worth of damage. Gawk. That's the last thing you want to hear when you've been on a plane for a long long time, and you have an hour of driving in the country that has the worst car accident rate in all of Europe. But, I stuck with the corporate policy and hoped work would somehow come to my defense if I wrecked the car.

The drive away from the airport was the most terrifying part of the whole trip. We were groggy, lacking good directions, and unsure of our understanding of European driving rules. We missed the exit for the road that was supposed to take us straight out of Faro, and couldn't find a way to get turned around. Street numbers didn't seem to match the names we were seeing on the signs, but we worked out a little plan to head in the direction of certain towns that we could find on the map. At the worst point of my nervousness, I may have cut off a guy on a dirt bike that was trying to merge on to my road. Maybe he took offense to this, because he followed me for about a mile doing a wheelie the whole time. I would have had Amy dig for the camera, but I didn't think he'd hold it for so long.

Well-dressed Pedestrian Crossing

Our plan to head to certain towns on the map more or less worked out. Portugal isn't that big of a country, so bouncing around in the south end of it doesn't get you too far off track. The whole side trip was worthwhile though, because it took us through a tiny little town in the hills. The town wasn't so noteworthy, as it was your standard European place. However, as we were passing through the town center, an older guy started to cross in front of us in a crosswalk. Unexpectedly, the guy rose both arms above his head and started flailing them in the air as he crossed. It was like he was saying "I know I am crossing the street in the country with the most pedestrian-car accidents. Please don't hit me!". He waved thanks to us when we stopped for him, and smiled when he saw us giggling and waving back. And I thought that Bob the Travel Guru was kidding when he told us the only safe way to cross streets in Europe was to do so waving your arms and screaming.

But back to the drive. How long had it been? An hour? Two? Eventually we connected back with the interstate and made our way to our destination: Carvoeiro (pictures). Ten minutes of back tracking after missing the interstate exit and about a dozen rotaries later, we stumbled into our town. We drove up the hill, found our resort, checked in, took a quick swim, had an odd dinner, and thoroughly conked out. There will be plenty of time to figure out just where we are tomorrow.

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