Aboard a tractor designed as a train, a Turismo Train with six carriages, we surveyed the restaurants and the tee shirt shops that had serviced us for five days. The Tee shirt shops had provided free shade, one pair of flip-flops and a grass mat for laying upon the beach. (The latter was not utilised because it was too damn hot.) The cafes provided sardines and beer and sea bream and vinho verde, and also shade from the unrelenting sun, We were sun-seekers that found too much sun.
The walk along the promenade had become predictable and even traumatic, not only because it was too damn hot, but also because we frequently disagreed about where to eat. Aboard the Turismo Train, we were sheltered from the blistering sun, and celebrated this luxury by waving and cheering at all that we surveyed.
“Hello Antonios”, for example, as we passed the restaurant where we spent too much, and drank too much, especially the hitherto forbidden brandy. Antonios did not respond because Antonios was a building. However there were plenty of passing tourists that were quite happy to wave back. And if they did not respond energetically, Mrs Monk waved yet more vigorously until they felt obliged to wave back with greater enthusiasm. This never failed. And even a one legged man abandoned his crutches to reciprocate Mrs Monks persistent demonstrative waving.
This is the simple joy of the Turismo Train.
We passed the Portugal Hot Dogs that Mrs. Monk cried about every night because she felt they were too damn hot and starved and cruelly treated. I saw little evidence of this cruelty to Portugal Hot Dogs, but now Mrs Monk is even more intent on adopting, and indeed rescuing another animal when we get home. I can’t help thinking that this would piss-off Charlie Monk, who is of another species; an incumbent cat in the Monk house.
During our short stay at Quarteira on the Algarve, we consumed five lunches and five dinners. The un-Portugese-sounding “Mamma Mia” restaurant is recognised in the guide book and has been around a while. We got to know the waiters pretty well.
Mrs Monk failed to recognise a particular waiter from an earlier visit to Mamma Mia
"Of course you know him", I said, "He served us yesterday."
The waiter smiled and seemed glad to be recognised, and then set about serving the Monks, and fielding Mrs Monk’s intense enquiries about the food we might be served.
In due course I enjoyed acceptable fish soup, and Mrs Monk ordered a Pizza.
After the waiters third visit to our table, Mrs Monk whispered, "The waiter is not what you think"
"What do you mean?"
"The waiter is a woman"
Our waiter appeared once more and I found myself not looking at his or her facial features, and yes I found myself looking at what I assumed to be a man’s chest beneath a man’s shirt. After much discreet consideration, I remained unconvinced, writing off what I saw as man-boobs,, until, in due course that unmistakable bra strap came into view.
Mrs Monk confessed that she confided with the same waiter the day before, on the sensitive issue of whether or not to tip in Portugal and she had helpfully assured Mrs Monk that it was not appropriate to tip the waiter.
From the Turismo Train, we gave up the Mexican wave as we passed Mamma Mia, where our new transgender friend, reciprocated with a big bonus smile.
A Portugal national holiday was also celebrated one evening and it seemed like every butcher, and baker, waiter and lifeguard took part in an endless choreographed parade, and dancing into the night. Unfortunately it was mostly to the same tune, which did become a touch tiresome after the first two hours of repetition of a single tune, with sound set on eleven out of ten.
Our trip also coincided with Wimbledon and with the World Cup. We watched England lose to Germany alongside the pool side lounge, and subsequently, suffered endless replays in every bar we visited for the remainder of the trip. We also watched Portugal lose to Spain. We rooted for Portugal in respect of the Portuguese waiters who we came to know, and watched their increasing sorrow. They rewarded our loyalty with much free Brandy, and a hangover.