I had tried to come to Portugal once before. Early morning fog delayed my flight to Stansted by three hours and I missed the close of check-in by two minutes for my onward flight to Faro. I called my friends in Lisbon from a food court in Victoria and ended up with relatives in Southend for the rest of the week, eating whelks, hiding from the December cold in shopping centres and walking on the pier. It wasn't exactly what my (soon to be ex-) Korean girlfriend had in mind. Compared to that, a bit of snow on the runway and a one-hour delay didn't bother me in the least.
Dropping out of the clouds, we came in over horizontal black mudflats, cut through by channels in the shape of lightning bolts. It was a chalky blue day, like late-September in England but with wind whipping back the palm trees. As we landed the sun came out; there was an announcement of a further delay to the Liverpool flight in what sounded at first like Bulgarian spoken fifty percent through the nostril.
I took the bus into Faro, bought a train ticket and killed an hour among the whitewashed buildings and orange-tree lined squares of the Old Town. The shopping streets had lengths of red carpet tacked to the cobbles, used by pedestrians and cars. At five o'clock I was on the train, heading north.