The ship had remained docked in Antwerp overnight, so we only disembarked on the after we had enjoyed a walking tour of the city the day before. The taxi was waiting for us at 08:00 and drove us to the stunning station building. Being concerned about getting to the correct platform and train, we were thrilled to discover that there were plenty of station officials around and they all spoke English. We were directed to go down a level and wait on platform 22. There were 3 levels with 8 platforms each, so it was good to know exactly where to go. As we had over a half hour to wait, Trevor walked around station and took some photos of the building.
The train arrived right on time and the same happened at Schipol Airport in Amsterdam. On entering the airport we learnt that we had to check in at Counter 1a but there was no indication that it was in the new extension to airport. After a bit of a search we finally found a human to speak to and were directed to Counter 1a which was a 15min walk.
Once checked in we were told to sit in the Assisted Passengers section, I travel assisted, and wait to be collected. After a half hour wait and having heard the boarding call for our flight we asked what was happening. No one knew nor could they contact the relevant section so it was suggested that we walk to the gate – another very long walk. When we got there I spoke to a gentleman who was pushing an empty wheelchair and asked how I could find out where my assistant was. Looking at his electronic device he asked my name and then, in a rather irritated manner, said that he had been looking for me for half an hour, at the gate!! Why did he think that I needed a wheelchair? Anyway, he turned to be very nice and booked us in and walked us to the ‘plane.
Being an assisted passenger gives so many different experiences. In Madrid, we had a stopover there, and the man who met me was very pleasant but he was in no hurry, stopping to chat on his phone every few minutes. After another very long walk, we got to the gate as they were announcing boarding, so he took me straight to the ‘plane. Fortunately, I was wheeled along.
Our final airport stop was Seville where I was assisted by a very friendly and efficient lady. She took us through to collect our luggage and we found that it was the first airport we have ever seen that did not have luggage trolleys. Trevor had to bring the 2 suitcases while I had the 2 backpacks piled up on my lap. She took us right through to where my cousins, Janet and Paul were waiting to take us to their home in the Algarve.
It was a lovely scenic drive and, on the way, we stopped at a small, very old town called Cacela Velha located at the very eastern of the Ria Fomosa, which I shall say more about later. As we arrived, a congregation was just leaving the church after a service and the doors were immediately closed so we didn’t see inside. It is the Igreja Matriz de Cacela Velha. It is the only church in Cacela Velha and was originally constructed during the 16th century on the ruins of a previous medieval church. Similarly, as with the fortress, it was destroyed then rebuilt following the great 1755 earthquake. In a street near the church was a row of houses which were all alike, painted white with blue decorative edging and a design on the wall which extended above the roof. These are the styled platibandas. Another interesting feature of houses in Portugal are the different chimneys, the size and shape being indicative of wealth. There were some of these on the houses here, but we saw many more in other towns in Portugal.
We walked down to the town wall and admired the view of the Ria Formosa which is a system of barrier islands that connects to the sea through six inlets. Five of these inlets are natural and have mobility characteristics. The sixth is an artificial inlet that was opened with the purpose of allowing easier access to the port of Faro. In 2010, the lagoon was recognised as one of the country’s seven natural wonders. A most interesting freshwater river which runs parallel to the sea.
We then drove to Janet and Paul’s home where we would spend the next week. When we go there I asked Trevor for my phone, which he had been carrying and was designated to take photos at Cacela Velha, when he told me that he and Paul had got chatting to some other visitors and he had forgotten to take photos of the town.