Andy & Bev Fraser's Travel World

34 years of our "UnTour" Adventures
 
Our journeys are as close as we can come to a good old fashioned no rushing, relaxed time with good companions. This is our 35th year of doing it our way. Hope you can join us. Andy & Bev
Bev cooling it in St. Tropez

Wall Scrapings - Rental cars - and Bev


Maybe in a secret life she had been a driver in the Monaco Grand Prix Because right now Bev was driving up an impossibly windy, bendy road in a tiny windy, bendy hill town in Portugal at a speed which terrified me.


There was no question that at any moment our shiny, clean rental car was about to scrape off layers of paint on the front of the tiny homes.


You know Bev, she’s not ‘that kind of girl’, but on this day she had become the female version of a Graham Hill or Lewis Hamilton.


Why, you may ask. Well, it all started when I got behind the wheel of our hired car at the Lisbon International Airport. We had just landed and were setting off to organize our tour of Portugal. As mentioned before, for a few years we would rent a car and drive through the country planning our tour and visiting possible hotels.


Collective suicide wish...


Only problem was we had not been warned about the mass suicide wish that seemed to have infected all Portuguese drivers for a couple of years. They were maniacs on the road. I kid you not. There seemed to be a collective death wish to end it all on the roads and highways of this lovely country. Before the end of that first day, probably more like end of the first hour. I found myself turning into one of them. I yelled and shouted, cussed something fierce at almost every driver until Bev ‘suggested’, rather forcefully that I pull over so she could take the wheel.


Which brings us to ‘that’ drive. We were following a hotel employee who was leading us up the roads (no wider than five feet I’m sure) of this delightful, old town to a special parking area. No sidewalks of cours so anyone stepping out their door at the wrong moment would become a hood ornament.


On every bend of this alleged road there were scrapes of every color on the walls, across shuttered windows and doors. Yet our guide, taking us to the parking area at the top of the village, was oblivious to the narrowness of the road and he drove like all other drivers we had come across – like a maniac. Somehow keeping up, Bev did a frighteningly credible job of a true local.


Achieving the summit...


Suddenly we were at the top. When Bev turned off the ignition the only sound to be heard was the very loud thumping of our hearts.


Not a mark, not a scrape. It had been an incredible feat of rally driving. Bev drove the rest of our time setting up the tour while I sat in cowering admiration.


Honestly, it was collective craziness from the locals. Any and every driving rule was there to be broken. Oncoming vehicles, whether cars or trucks, would pass when the spirt (or spirits as I often thought} moved them and most definitely not when it was safe to do so.


Survival...


t was a challenge, but somehow we survived including an incredible drive across the new Vasco de Gama bridge over the Tagus River heading into Lisbon. This bridge is almost 11 milesi across with emergency pull overs as well as gasoline stations at either end. It’s one of those where you constantly keep praying - the fuel gauge in correct - you don’t get a flat tire – that you don’t have to stop for any reason. But it is a stunning piece of engineering.


The country was great and the tour we created was great. Mind you, our coach driver Reuben, who had to have a crisis every day was as mad as the rest of the drivers. At one point we approached a T junction with such speed that I knew we couldn’t make the turn (but we did). One of our passengers asked his wife one day with shock in his voice “Did you see that?” at one of Reuben’s weird manouvres. “No” replied the wife. “You’re lucky” said her hubby.


The Designated Driver...


Bev did many more drives, both on our set up tours and regular tours both in Europe and Canada and I was able to sit beside her with no fear, no apprehension and just blether away.


To maybe give a bit of excuse to the Portuguese drivers of that time, new highways were opening up across the countryside as the country was opening its doors to the rest of the world as the country, which had previously few roads moved to catch up with the rest of the world.


Today the driving record is Portugal is on a par with the rest of Europe but back then they led Europe on fatalities and accidents on the highways.


Sort of reminds me of Charles Dickens marvelous beginning to A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”


For Bev’s driving, it was ‘the best’ and for me it was the other bit.



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