Sunday, 10 April 2016

Back on the Adventure Trail. Part One: Is it Feasible?

After nine years of being in a Gold Wing motorbike travelling wilderness we are back on in action..

Not, I hasten to add on a motorbike and certainly not on A Gold Wing. Those days are sadly behind us. However, the opportunity arose some months ago to visit Portugal. Our previous three visits to Portugal - Algarve, Lisbon area, and Oporto in the Duoro Valley - were booked with a travel company where everything was taken care off. All we had to do was turn up at the airport.

On a hill overlooking the Douro Valley
Overlooking the Rio Duoro in Oporto
This time, we were back in charge of everything. This time we were heading for the mountains. Older and wiser, this is the A-Z of how we planned our trip.
  • A map search with a proper map. A map search on the Internet and Satnav. ( Yes, I still have an uneasy relationship with a  Satnav but have to agree with OH that they have their uses for pinpointing an exact location.
  • Internet search of hotels in the area. is invaluable for finding hotels in more rural areas as well as cities. Previously, when travelling on the motorbike I booked many hotels direct with the hotel chain such as Accor or Holiday Inn. Now, in order to decide on dates, I simply input a variety of possible ones. Then I compared their location against the area we wanted to be near to for our visit. I found a reasonable one which was easily accessible off the main road, Due to the flight times back, we would have to travel back to Lisbon the day before. This involved an overnight stay at an airport hotel.
  • was invaluable for booking the flights. This is the first time that I have booked a flight direct with the airline. It was quite a learning curve I must say. A direct TAP Air Portugal flight from Manchester was the best option. It was also a reasonable price. We didn't really want to fly all around Europe with connections by going with  a cheaper airline. we have flown with TAP Air Portugal  scheduled flights before and found them excellent. My first search was some months ago. When I cam to actually book, the flight schedules had changed and the expected early morning flight had changed to 11:00am. But that was OK. We wouldn't have to get up as early on the morning of departure.
  • CHANGES. Then one day we took a message from Expedia. Air Portugal had changed the flight times to late afternoon, arriving in Lisbon in the early evening. This meant flying a day early. Another hotel. But when  have I ever found staying in an hotel a problem? It is one of my pleasures.
  • CHECK-IN. This was also my first time at negotiating the seemingly complexities of online check-in which is preferred by the airlines now.. Nat, my helpful hairdresser - cosmetic hair consultant went the extra mile on my last visit. He looked on his computer and gave me all the information that I needed. I was uncertain about bag drop etc. in checked in online.
  • I could have booked a car for onward travel through but decided against that. There were many options but on looking at some of the car hire firms individually, settled for Europcar. When travelling for my job some years ago, the hire cars came from Europcar and I felt comfortable with them. They were also based in the Terminal at the airport. Booking was easy.
We were all set. Both the hotel and the airport had helpful maps and directions from the arrivals point to Europcar (marked on the map) and directions from the airport to the hotel, directions from the hotel to our final destination. The wonders of Internet. We spent many happy hours looking at the area to which we were heading, taking advantage of the photographs that came up of the area etc.
Being computer literate, negotiating the information highway does not hold any terrors for me. The frequent e-mails that appeared in my Inbox were at once re-assuring but also time-consuming. I reflected that I was being a travel agent of a kind. I feel for those who are not computer literate or even do not have a decent broadband connection - if any. The digital age is passing them by and, to a point, disadvantaging them. We have also come to the conclusion that it would be easier in the car - simply book the ferry and hotels - and stay in control without the hassle of airports.
I will let you know how we get on in Portugal in Part Two of the Adventure Trail..
Rosalie xx

You can read about Lisbon and the hills surrounding the area in ORANGES: A Journey.
A fiction story built on a dream. ISBN 978-1-908302-31-1 (Paperback) In print and eBook formats