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Portugal and Spain.

Time travel: 


Brussels Airport, Belgium

Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport, Madrid, Spain

Route (actual):
Lisbon - Caldas da Rainha - Batalha - Porto -
Braga - Guimaraes - Porto - Viseu - transfer to Spain -
Salamanca - Caceres - Seville - return to Portugal -
Vila Penina (apartments on the south coast of the Algarve province) -
daily trips along and inland - Lisbon.




Travel map:



Travel preparation.
We traditionally prepared for the next auto trip around Europe for a long time. Already at the beginning of the year, they began to discuss the September vacation.
First, we decided on the crew: there are six of us again, three married couples, all already 50+. Looking at the history of our car trips, we saw that the crew was 2/3 old and, accordingly, 1/3 new.
The dates of the vacation were agreed upon without discussion (circumstances forced us!): we immediately and unanimously decided that it would be the second half of September.
There was no particular hesitation with the idea of the route either: under the influence of various factors (friends advised, they themselves were in those parts - Madeira - also Portugal) we decided that we would direct our feet to continental Portugal. In addition, the climate of Portugal is very suitable for holidays in the second half of September. In the course of detailed route planning, a little bit of neighboring Spain was added.

Travel plan and itinerary.
Now we had to determine, as we call them, route-forming points. 
First of all - the starting point of the journey, it is also the airport of arrival and departure. We prefer circular routes, so the starting and ending points of the journey are usually the same. Of all the airports in Portugal (there are not so many), we choose Lisbon.
  But there are no direct regular flights from Israel, there were no suitable charters either. As a result, we fly to Lisbon with Brussels Airlines and an intermediate landing in Brussels. The cost of tickets within our holiday budget is $620 per ticket, but no refund in case of cancellation or change of the flight date. The flight time also suited us: a night flight, we depart a little earlier than one in the morning, we arrive in Brussels at about six in the morning, then after an hour or so we continue the flight and at 8:30 local time we arrive in Lisbon, and the whole day ahead. Everything seems to be fine. But if we knew what Brussels Airlines had prepared for us (willingly or unwillingly)?!
But we still don’t know anything and are still planning long-term stops (hotels) and interesting places that we want to see.
The final itinerary looked like this:
September 15 - Departure to Lisbon via Brussels;
- collection of rental cars at Lisbon airport;
- a brief tour of Lisbon: the Jeronimos Monastery, the monument to the Discoverers, the Tori de Belen tower;
- Cascais;
- Gates of Hell (Boca do Inferno);
- Cape Roca (Cabo da Roca);
- Sintra (Sintra, Palacio da Pena);
- Obidos (Obidos);
- Caldas da Rainha - Hotel Penedo Furado;
September 16 - Alcobaca;
- Batalha;
- Fatima (Fatima);
- Coimbra;
- Porto, Tryp Porto Expo Hotel;
September 17 - Braga;
- Guimaraes;
- Porto, the same hotel Tryp Porto Expo;
September 18 - Viseu;
- moving to Spain;
- Salamanca, Tryp Montalvo hotel;
September 19 - Salamanca, the same Tryp Montalvo hotel;
September 20 - Caceres;
- Seville, Tryp Macarena Hotel;
September 21 - Seville, the same Tryp Macarena hotel;
September 22 - return to Portugal;
22-29.09 - villa or apartment on the south coast of the Algarve province (Algarve), daily trips along and inland;
September 29 - Beja;
- Evora;
- Lisbon, Residencial Delta hotel;
September 30 - return of rented cars;
- Departure from Lisbon, again via Brussels, home.
  Here is a plan drawn up, everything is sustained in our traditions: a week of active rest, especially the first days, then a week of quiet rest in comfortable conditions (villa or apartment) with not tiring trips.

Selection and ordering of lodging and long-term accommodation.
  About the choice of hotels. All hotels were booked over the Internet, without prepayment, but with a credit card guarantee, with the possibility of canceling the order without penalty fees.
  The main three hotels where we spent the night for two nights (Porto, Salamanca, Seville), we booked through the Spanish network SolMelia. Ever since my trip to Spain in 2003, I have kept the MAS card of this network. I updated it without any problems, which gave very significant discounts at a very favorable price / quality ratio. So, a double room in 3-star hotels in Porto and Salamanca cost us 55-56 €, and in a 4-star hotel in Seville - 75 €. The price does not include breakfast, but having a MAS card, we received a significant discount on breakfast as well.
  The other two hotels were booked on the website, by the way, at the same price of 55 € including breakfast, but in a 2-star hotel.
  Some details about ordering an apartment on the south coast of Portugal, where we were going to spend a week.
  As usual, the search for options started at
  At first we tried to find a villa for six people, but for various reasons we could not find a suitable option. Then we lowered the bar of our requirements and tried to look for apartments. Here we succeeded and we already had a choice. We refused some options ourselves, and settled on one acceptable one. I will leave a detailed description of the apartments below. Here I also note that the terms of payment were quite tough and risky: it was necessary to pay a 25% advance payment when ordering and the rest of the amount 4 weeks before entry. In addition, a security deposit of 400 € had to be paid upon receipt of the keys, which, however, is refundable upon return of the keys, provided that the property has not been damaged. Given the price of renting an apartment - only 700 € for seven days for six people, we considered the risk justified.

Selection and order of cars.
  The next stage of preparation for a car trip - ordering a car - I / her - also turned out to be problematic.
  In all our car trips, including those when the crew was four or more people, we managed with one car. As a rule, we ordered a 7-seater minivan with an automatic transmission. But this time, all our attempts to find and order a minivan on acceptable terms were in vain.
  We checked the option of ordering cars of a regular class, but with an automatic transmission, in the most famous and popular companies (Europcar, Avis, Budget, Hertz, Sixt, etc.) - also do not fit into the budget – the initial price of renting one car for 15 days is 800 €.
  Let's start looking at online booking agencies. We have never used their services before. But, after all, you always do something for the first time and on the website we found an acceptable option: two cars of the SEAT Ibiza type with an automatic machine at a price of 527 € for 15 days each with standard insurance. Made an online order, paid a small advance by credit card and printed out, as required, two copies of the confirmed vouchers.
  Having two cars made us think about how we would communicate on the road. We decided that we would buy local SIM cards in Portugal and use spare mobile devices for them, which we were going to take with us one way or another.

Travel Logistics.
  A few words about other logistics. As usual in recent years of auto travel, we are armed with:
- two GPS-navigators (for each car) with fresh (2010) maps of Portugal and Spain;
- conventional road maps;
- guidebooks for Portugal from DK, for Spain from Dmitry Krylov;
- digital video camera;
- two digital cameras with a rich set of memory cards;
- spare batteries and chargers for all equipment.

Obstacle course.

     Two days before departure, the first test awaited us: a strike of employees began at Ben Gurion Airport. This event usually lasts several days. But we were incredibly lucky and the strike ended in a day. By the time we left, the airport was already operating as usual. Then we thought that the worst thing that could interfere with our trip had not happened.
  And then came the long-awaited day of departure. As expected, three hours before departure, the entire crew gathered at the airport. We passed the security check, registration without problems, and the border passport control, having biometric magnetic cards, generally slipped through instantly, checked in Duty Free and went to land.
  Almost five hours of night flight to Brussels was somehow tiring. In addition, the food was tasteless, perhaps because at night.
We arrived almost on time, a little less than an hour before flying to Lisbon. Time is running out, but we should be on time. In addition, we continue flying with the same airline, which, by the way, is based at Brussels Airport. But Brussels Airlines has prepared a surprise for us in the form of a specific obstacle course.
  We go to the border passport control, and there is literally a crowd of two hundred people, and only two passages out of a dozen are open. There are also stands for EU citizens, they are free, but they don’t let us in there: the wrong “face” of the passport. Europe-s!!! 20-25 minutes passed, and we practically do not move.
  Finally, Europe is starting to wake up and two more passages have been opened. We managed to get there in time, but another fifteen minutes pass before they start letting passengers through. The passport control procedure itself took another 5-7 minutes.
  We run further to the security check and customs control and again run into a huge queue. At this moment, we hear our names on the radio. It is also amazing how we heard them with a distorted pronunciation. In any case, we realized that we and about two dozen other passengers from our flight were urgently invited to board the plane. We try to bypass the queue and explain our problem to the nearest officer. The same is done by most, if not all, whose names have just been announced on the radio.
  Something extraordinary happened here. The same officer to whom they tried to explain the situation without taking off their rubber gloves loudly yelled “GO BACK!!!” several times, accompanying all this with an unambiguous gesture indicating in which direction we need to get out. We and other passengers, who became our companions in misfortune, turned out to be prudent people, did not aggravate the situation, and dutifully trudged in the indicated direction, i.e. to the end of the queue.
  While all the procedures were completed, by the way, they were quite tough, including the translucence of shoes on a special apparatus, about 20 more minutes passed.
  We ran further, still hoping that they were waiting for us. Already on the way to our landing arm, we were met by a representative of Brussels Airlines, asked our names and in a sweet voice said that our plane had already left!!! Oil painting!
  Here we must pay tribute to this woman: without waiting for our reaction, she calmly said that we should not worry, they are already waiting for us at the company's service bureau and we will fly away on the next flight.
  Her words brought us out of our momentary state of groggy and we headed to the service bureau, which turned out to be very close. All those who arrived from Tel Aviv had already gathered there and were supposed to fly further to Lisbon. We were somewhere in the middle of the queue.
  The next flight to Lisbon was at 12 o'clock, there were only two empty seats on it and the first two lucky people from the queue went to while away the time before the flight (it was about 9 am). Everyone else, including us, was invited to fly to Lisbon via Madrid. Departure in about an hour. Regarding the luggage, we received an explanation that we will receive it in Lisbon, but it is not clear whether the luggage was removed from the Lisbon flight and it flies with us through Madrid, or the luggage flew directly to Lisbon.
  After reissuing tickets, we immediately went to the boarding gate for the Madrid flight in order to avoid unforeseen obstacles as much as possible.
  So, we are flying to Madrid. Flight duration - 1 hour 50 minutes, food and drinks in flight - for an additional fee. This is now accepted on domestic European flights. We arrive in Madrid and run to the Lisbon flight, but the plane from Lisbon has not arrived yet. We spend two hours waiting and, finally, we fly to Lisbon, the flight is over an hour. Food and drink again for money.
  We arrive in Lisbon - instead of 8.30 am according to the originally purchased tickets - at 4 pm. But the obstacle course continues. We go to get luggage, but it's not there! We have already been to this movie when we were left without luggage in Milan three years ago and received it two days later. Now, it turns out, the shell hits the same funnel.
  We go to the Lost&Found office, where lazy boys have been arranging our absent suitcases for another hour. We received assurances that we would receive the baggage no later than tomorrow evening.
  This time we are more prepared for such a situation than three years ago. In hand luggage, everyone has a two-three-day supply of personal belongings. All equipment, including mobile phones and chargers for them, is also in hand luggage. But you can’t foresee everything, in addition, such necessary things as cosmetics, perfumes, shaving accessories, the same elementary toothpaste will still need to be looked for somewhere.
  Okay, let's move on. We're going to get cars. We went out into the hall, where the offices of rental offices were lined up in rows. We go around all the offices several times, but our company called Amoita is nowhere to be found. We go to the information office, we turn to the police - no one knows such a company. What? Another intrigue of Brussels Airlines? But what side are they here?
Some of us, losing self-control, plaintively whisper: "I want to go home". But we pull ourselves together, stop useless throwing around the airport, stop: who smoked (by the way, now this is a problem at airports: only in designated areas), who just got distracted and took a breath.
  Most importantly, we understand that no one but ourselves will help. We begin to calmly analyze the situation, remember about vouchers for receiving cars, once again, more carefully, we read them. Pay attention to phone numbers. Never paid attention to them and did not use them, but now, maybe this is the way to solve the problem.
  We called, they answered surprisingly quickly, and even in English. We say that we can’t find an office, we get an answer: there is no office, and a company representative was waiting for us in the morning, but did not wait. Let's explain our case. Okay, they say, wait there and there, a company representative will come in 15 minutes. Well, it's easier now.
  Indeed, in 15 minutes at the appointed place we meet with a representative of this very Amoita. He introduced himself as Antonio. The first thing he did was to go somewhere and, returning literally a minute later, brought posters with our names and phone numbers of the company, which were hung in the arrivals hall.
  It turned out that small rental companies that are associated with Internet online booking agencies most often do not have permanent offices and send their representatives for each order. This is probably one of the factors contributing to the relatively low prices for car rental in such offices.
  We draw up all the papers almost on our knees. Antonio then asks two drivers to go with him to the public parking lot, while the rest with luggage (or leftover luggage) must wait outside the arrivals hall.
  We go to the public parking lot, which is located nearby, but across the street from the airport building. Here we saw our two twins - two black Opel Corsa, even the numbers are almost the same, only the last two digits are different - 31 and 33. The cars are in good condition, up to 40 thousand on the speedometer. Gearbox - combined automatic, i.e. the main mode is automatic, but if desired, you can shift gears manually.
  We drive the cars to the airport building, make the final settlement with Antonio, agree on the order and time for the return of the cars. Antonio wishes us a happy journey and leaves us. We get into cars. While we decided not to break the couple. Therefore, two people get into one car, but both drivers, four into the other, incl. also two drivers.
  There were no questions about where to go. Our plan for today, with the direct participation of Brussels Airlines, is torn to shreds. Therefore, it remains for us to complete the last point - the Penedo Furado hotel in the town of Foz Do Arelho, which is next to Caldas Da Rainha. We aim our GPS-navigators at the address of the hotel and, finally, we break free, that is, onto the road.
About the roads of Portugal (we still have a car trip), I will write further.
  An hour and a half later we were making circles around our hotel. Our navigator considered the street and the house where the hotel is located as a pedestrian zone. In addition, the town is small, the streets are narrow. Our small cars had difficulty fitting into the turns between the houses. After we had traveled the same route three times, someone saw the sign of our hotel between the houses.
  The hotel seemed very nice and cozy to us. We quickly resolved all the formalities with accommodation, put the cars in the parking lot, had a little rest and put ourselves in order. We learned from the owner of the hotel where the nearest supermarket and restaurant were and went out to survey the surroundings. 
  We found a mini market not far away and found all the things we needed there.
  We walked a little along the pleasant streets with neat white houses and soon came to the embankment of the bay. Here we found a restaurant, which we called "Pepe" (there was the word Pepe in the name - Pepe). Having comfortably settled down on the veranda with a beautiful view of the bay, we had a very tasty dinner, at least somehow compensating for all the troubles of this long, but not the best day.

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