Sitting on a concrete bench outside an ugly, under-construction airport and staring out at passing cabs, I stretch my arms luxuriously over my head with a sigh of contentment.
After vacillating between frozen and moderately chilled for the past 3 or 4 months I can’t even believe how good this 23 degree air feels! For the moment I honestly believe I’d be happy to spend all 3 days of this short Portuguese holiday here on this bench if necessary.
Fortunately it doesn’t come to that. Swap an ‘n’ for an ‘a’ and within a very short time Al and I are walking through the streets of Albufeira toward the beach – no benches here, but we’ve brought towels!
It may be the strangest beach I’ve ever encountered – to reach it we go down 2 outdoor escalators (what about when it rains!?) only to find ourselves standing beneath a pair of massive floodlights more suited to a sports stadium. The harsh white light casts everything in sharp relief, making the beach resemble an empty soundstage, or the moon.
It’s not very busy, but you can tell this is the sort of place that will be absolutely heaving come summertime. British tourists have clearly been monopolising the place for years, as evidenced by the streets full of pubs showing football, the English menus and advertising, and the large roaming packs of drunken morons wearing matching t-shirts or satin sashes, celebrating someone’s hen or stag do. It’s the kind of place I would normally loathe, but when you can get a whole holiday in for under £100 you kinda lose that pickiness and just run to wherever you can get a bit of sun. A balcony you can eat breakfast on with a view of the sea really clinches the deal!
Honestly this trip is pretty uneventful – it mainly consists of ice cream, sundresses, and losing 50 euro notes on the beach. We manage to avoid seeing almost anything of historical or architectural significance, barely leaving the environs of our accommodation, and it is GREAT. We wander nighttime streets listening to unutterably terrible karaoke; we clamber along cliffs by day, amazed to see cacti growing wild. We are endlessly entertained by the antics of the city’s 7 billion cats (there’s some kind of cat sanctuary here), the astonishing shades of red some of our fellow tourists manage to turn themselves, and the insane variety of cakes on offer in the supermarket. The biggest effort we go to is getting up to watch the sunrise on our last morning, and we are rewarded for our efforts with a spectacular show. It’s the ultimate in lazy, indulgent getaways, leaving us both languorous and 90% happier by the time we get back on the plane.
In fact the warmth and cheeriness have such an impression on my cold, depressed, Glasgow-dwelling self that upon my return home I write an entire song just about being warm.
I’ve recorded it simply, in the spirit of a simple holiday. Maybe imagine you’re sitting on a beach as you listen to it.