herald

Monday 16 October 2017

Diary of a travel writer: Sea, sun and song as summer comes to end

Thursday

The Portuguese sun is high in the sky and there is a martial sound to the music. It is 200 years since the battle of Bussaco and the armies are marching on the plain again. The guests include a great great great great (is that enough?) grandson of Arthur Wellesley, a man qualified to play for both Meath and Dublin but who opted for England instead, made his name in Portugal 200 years ago and has an obelisk in the Phoenix Park as a result.

The Portuguese love him still.

Friday

There is an old battle fortress atop every hill you can see from your viewpoint at the first tee at Campo Real.

"There are three holes which people will remember," golf director Luis Barroso says without a hint of irony. The fifth, with its impossibly choppy fairway between first and second shots, the sixth with a narrow fairway that tempts stray shots to either side, and the seventh, with water hazards worthy of a Napoleonic army.

At Nau dos Corvos, the sun was shining on the blue water. Armies came and armies went, but the glory of Portugal glows on the stony seashore.

Saturday

Resterado. Delayed again. Last week it was a problem with Aer Lingus cabin crew. A plane had to be chartered in from Aero Atlantico to bring us to Lisbon. Now I'm stuck in Barajas airport with the residue of the air traffic dispute. It's set to be a season of strikes.

Sunday

Members of the Irish Tour Operators Federation have gathered for their annual general meeting. There are fewer of them this year and those that are left are glad to have survived. They tell me they will have no excess capacity next year and we will all be paying more for our package holidays. More importantly, someone from Aer Lingus has come by to tell them that the slanty shamrock is back in the business of selling seats to holiday companies as well as punters.

Monday

The Hotel Bonsol in Paseo Illetas in Majorca, a labyrinthine 140-bedroom accommodation, spreads across 11 levels of the hillside and two public roads in the most eccentric manner. And down at the harbour there is a chance to swim in the sea with fish nibbling your toes.

Tuesday

A sea trip along the Majorcan coast, past million-euro yachts and bucket-and-spade resorts. Even Magaluf (known colloquially as Shagaluf) looks peaceful behind the shimmering waves.

Late dinner in the splendid Hotel Santos Nixe Palace and after the Irish delegation offer up the Parting Glass, Slievenamon and a particularly tuneless Molly Malone, hotel director Francisco Serrano breaks into applause while an assistant manager comments: "The Germans and the English don't sing; we will remember the Irish."

Wednesday

Home to sunshine and an anxious dog awaiting a canal-side walk. The canal was here when more than 20,000 Irish died in the Peninsular War 200 years ago. Their families never heard what happened to them.

Savvy Traveller by Eoghan Corry, How the Travel Industry Works and How to Make it Work for You, €15

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