I received a call from Gareth in Cardiff to go to Portugal as an unpaid consultant but with board & lodge and petrol re-imbursed in order to help his girlfriend Dale who was starting up the 'Arco Bar' at Tavira in the Algarve. I waited until an advance came through from Rudi then on Sunday 2 Sept. I answered the call, stopping at Gourin for the pipers' championship, then on to the Nantes periphery where I pulled up to sleep in the back of my estate which is conveniently long enough to place a sleeping bag. About 3 o'clock in the morning I was awoken by torchlight of one of 3 policemen asking me to get out and what was I doing there, after I told them I was on my way to Portugal they told me that I shouldn't be sleeping there and had I been drinking, to which I answered in the affirmative and waited for the breathalyser, the first policeman took my keys and drove off in my car, the second told me to get in the back of the police car which followed till we turned off into a service area where I got out and was advised that this was a better place to sleep, leaving with a wisecrack about the chances of my old Opel Astra making it all the way. If they had tested my breath there may not have been any trip nor driving licence especially as I only have one point left.
I woke up driving on past Niort, Bordeaux, Saint Sebastian, Burgos, Valladolid, Salamanca, Merida, Seville, Huelva, Tavira; 48 hours later on the Tuesday evening I arrived after 2000 km (1200 m) and a few stops at service stations.
Gareth had told me that my consultancy would be between 9.30pm & 2am (3am Sat/Sun) with nothing to do during the day and a beach on the doorstep, he forgot to mention the lock-ins and a boat to the beach. I quickly set in to a routine, mostly with Gareth, every day we'd go to the same café on the square for a large coffee with milk, followed by a Sagres or Super Bock; a walk around the village taking photos, or a trip to the beach, would be followed by a visit to the 'Black Anchor' Irish bar. Sometimes we would say hello to the Dutch & English bars, but it was mainly to the Black Anchor that I went for my liquid refreshment before going to offer my advice evey night except Mondays for a month, and who would have thought that it would take a visit to Portugal to experience the all-Ireland Hurling & Gaelic Football finals. One day we didn't go to sleep till 6am, although that was an exception there was a lock-in almost every night.
My daily routine, the local architecture, and the village boundaries brought to mind Patrick McGoohan's 'The Prisoner' at Porthmeirion. I enjoyed visiting the locals in their little corner bars, I made new friends, particularly Des & his wife, Kev, Dave, Jao, Paolo, Renato, Karen & Dave; the beach was magnificent, I visited another beach down the road at Cabanas, which made me think of my friend & Merthyr rugby coach Terry Cavanagh, which also had ferry access, we ate at little Portuguese restaurants, drank Portuguese wines & beers, + the digestives were voluminous & cheap. I was impressed by my temporary change in life-style, I've never really eaten in restaurants except for our Indian & Chinese back in Merthyr, so I was also happy to have lamb curry in the two Indian restaurants on the square.
After I'd helped Dale change her address I took a day off before leaving the village after exactly a month; my last night saw me staying behind at the Irish bar at the bequest of the Irish landlord & landlady, after a discussion in good company I left to spend my last night in the back of my car, Dale having moved. The following day I went back to the café for my daily coffee and to say goodbye before driving away from Tavira forever.
I couldn't drive back to Plouye without looking for a place that Gareth had previously told me about further east going by the name of Taffy's Bar, the problem was that I couldn't remember the address, so I drove down to Amaçao de Pera in the hope of finding it there. I wandered around the beach for a while, no ferry needed, before going to a pharmacy for a new pair of spectacles, where on my mentioning 'Taffy's Bar' he looked it up on the computer which gave its address as Praia da Rocha a further 20km to the west. Off I went straight away to get to the beach area of a highly commercial built up town, bars, hotels, restaurants everywhere, I parked my car and followed the promenade overlooking yet another beautiful never-ending beach with steps leading down everywhere; I'd convinced myself that this was the place but I was walking on and on passing in front of every kind of bar & restaurant from Japanese to Irish, hope draining until finally at the end of a long walk, there it was 'Taffy's Bar & Grill'. I took a few photos before entering, ordered a pint of Guinness, the landlord is from Treorchy, there were screens with that night's matches as in the Irish bar in Tavira, it was quiz night, I helped a Welsh couple and I had a long chat with a miner from Aberdare working in Aberpergwm, about Eddie Thomas, Howard Winstone, Malcolm Price, and Decker from Swansea Road; happy to have been there I went to my car, slept, and the following day it took me 31 hours to drive back the 1,991km. the same road as I came on, keeping a vigilant eye on the engine temperature, but although I had to pass over the Pyrenees the magnificence of which I missed twice by driving at night, I needn't have worried because it's more tunnels than actually climbing. It had been brilliant sunshine, and was to Bordeaux, the first clouds showed themselves near Vannes, then the dark clouds approaching Lorient, an hour later I was glad to get into my bed, only to be awoken by Elise wanting to know when I'd arrived, after she'd left I got out of bed and observed wet traces on the floor leading outside, so I opened the door to see the rain, I was well & truly back.