It’s raining in Esposende, so I’m indoors at the hotel, reading Iain M Banks’ The Algebraist, after a morning in Braga seeing the sights. Braga is famous as a religious centre, with no fewer than 11 churches, all Catholic, and a history of Papal visits. This was followed by a quick lunch, and some good espresso at a price that amazed me. The prices on everything are about half of the Dublin equivalent, except for housing, which was even better by comparison. I would have absolutely no problem affording a property here, if I just spoke the language.
It’s the language that has been the major issue so far. I had no problem navigating by signs, taking a bus from Lisbon Airport to Oriente Station, finding the platform and waiting for my train, finding my reserved seat and presenting my ticket to Porto Campanhã. Some potential confusion in buying a ticket on the Porto Metro, so they had information in English and ticket machines with an English mode – more than I needed.
No, the problems have really been here, in Esposende, starting with the guest house where there is barely a single word of English spoken. Checking in was a nightmare, even with a local (the bride-to-be) to translate: they had not logged my registration in their computer, only acknowledged it by email on a different system.
Then the receptionist wanted to photocopy my passport, which I refused for security reasons, and it turned out to be unnecessary, just laziness on their part. (Every detail you need to duplicate a passport on a convenient piece of paper – just add your own photo!) The end result, as usual, is that I look like a grumpy old nutcase for questioning such things – but could they answer the question on why they wanted to do that? Of course not.
The lack of English skills tells me I’m not in a Tourist area. I don’t hold this against them at all; it is my own fault for being a Tourist this week, something I usually try to avoid. It’s the reason I’m learning Japanese with a view to visiting (or even living there), and I would not make this kind of trip without a very good reason.
The wedding of a friend and colleague is such a reason, though the fact that I don’t drive is making it a bit awkward for my hosts. It’s a short walk from the guest house to the church, but the reception is at a villa near Barcelos, 10km inland, which I will be needing a ride to and from. Hope no-one’s drinking to excess..!