I’m writing this from Budapest because, despite bringing my laptop to Portugal, I barely switched it on. Packing it in the first place was, it transpires, a totally ridiculous thing to do; the villa in Carvoeiro doesn’t have wifi, the sun and sea are too alluring to pass up for the glow of a computer and when I did attempt to work at the hotel down the road my fingers smeared suncream all over my keypad. After a few forays into working while abroad I decided to give myself a proper break. No laptop, no social media, just a book, some friends and the odd glass of wine to keep me occupied.
This is how it looked //
Sunset in Portugal has a unique quality – it happens quickly, night sneaking up during the hour between dashing back from the beach covered in sand and heading out for dinner. It’s breezy and colourful, the sunlight leaching away the bright reds and oranges to reveal a watercolour sky. It is also the best time to get a look at the ocean. Free of the dazzling and blinding sunlight dancing off the surface, the sheer size of the Atlantic becomes apparent from the cliff tops. Carvoeiro have just built a boardwalk along them to make the most of the extraordinary view and I tried to walk it nightly.
When invited to a barbecue at a friends’, common politeness dictates that you bring a bottle of wine. Before heading down the road to a school friends’ villa, my husband popped to the local supermarket to ask what was good and a red was recommended. It cost six euros. He bought two in the hope that volume might make up for a potential deficit in quality. He was both wise and unwise to do so – the wine, it was not good but, as the bottle was open, it was drank. A rather heated game of Articulate ensued and heinous hangovers were suffered by all who sipped at it.
Reading in the sun: total bliss. Reading an Iris Murdoch book: my idea of joy distilled. I take one of her books to Portugal every year because they are brilliantly constructed, dense with clever characterisation and are always thought-provoking. The Black Prince muses on art, marriage, love and perspective while also being an engrossing thriller. When I had my head in this, nobody/nothing else got a look in.
I’d been told the mosquitoes seemed to be absent from Portugal this summer so slept without a net around the bed. This was an error of gross proportions – a mosquito bit my eye and it ballooned, refusing to open or deflate for several days. Come dinnertime on the first day, my husband begged me to remove my sunglasses for fear of being thought to have hit me. He suggested a dangling bauble to cover my eye, a headpiece fashioned as an eyepatch and an elaborate hairstyle such as the nifty do sported by the Phantom of the Opera. I stuck with the glasses of course and courted some rather odd looks all evening. The mosquito net was reinstated and my eye, I am glad to report, has popped open and is no longer distended. Just in time to visit those thermal spas in Budapest…