UEFA Euro2004, Portugal
My trip with 3 other guys to the European Championships taking place in Portugal

Day 1: Durham -> London - - - -> Porto
Thursday 17th June


Start at the Beginning

It all began with me taking the train down to London where I met Doug at the station. On the way down I read my guidebook and took note of a few cool sites to visit and where the best places to do some partying would be. The first shock I got was that Doug had brought a suitcase! And not one of those new Samsonite rigid ones; an old canvas one he'd borrowed from his flatmate. To say it was shonky is an understatement!

Doug and I zipped out to the airport and before we knew it we were on the plane to Portugal! Of course, it would have been rude not to take advantage of the free alcohol on offer on the flight, and it was here that we were first acquainted with that most divine of beers: Super Bock.

A couple of these and a mini-bottle of wine each and we were nicley warmed up. We met Mike and Cookie, who'd taken an earlier flight, at the airport and they had already picked up the hire car. It wasn't quite the size we were expecting, it was a Peugeot206, but we managed to squeeze everything into it. I'd never met Mike before, yet it was me that spotted him in the crowd first. How? He was wearing an Aberdeen strip!

The next challenge - finding our way to the hotel. I'd printed out a few maps of Porto and knew the general location of the hotel and sort of how to get there from the airport. Of course, switching to continental cars isn't easy as everything is reversed. Whether this is a suitable excuse for Cookie immediately turning the wrong way down a one-way street is debatable!

We find our way onto the expressway that links the airport with the city. Of course we had no idea where to get off, so we took the first exit that pointed to the centre. This left us in the middle of some suburb, with very few landmarks, no road names and even if there were names, no map. We headed towards what looked like a main road and spotted a sign for "Hotels." We guessed these would be in the centre so followed the arrows. As luck would have it, the road turned out to be one of the major transport arteries and it wasn't long before I found our location on the map. After some more minor mishaps we found ourselves at the hotel and we pulled into the underground parking lot.

4 into 2 does go!

Now we'd arrived in Porto at about 10pm, which meant is about 11:30pm. Due to our late arrivals we'd decided we should book ahead for the nights we were going to spend in Porto. Of course, being in the capital city during a major international football tournament meant that we had a few problems finding rooms. Also, the pricing was rather extortionate (buy Portugese standards) so we decided to book one double room and sneak all four of us in.

The hotel was certainly not laid out in a way conducive to our plan - for a start you couldn't avoid reception on the way in, it was right next to the door. AND at night you had to ring the bell to get in and out. AND you had to leave the key behind every time you went out, meaning you had to ask for it every time you came back in. Lots of oppurtunity for the staff to recognise you. Especially when it's the same 2 guys - one on day shift and one on night!!!

Mice and Men

The plan for the first night was to take it easy - however, we were pretty psyched about finally being in Portugal so decided to head out and soak up the atmosphere. We walked in the rough direction of the centre, and soon heard the noises of a party. We followed the sounds and find ourselves at a giant outdoor concert. Probably some well-known Portugese group. We didn't have a scooby.

However, we quickly found the beer stall and having decided on using a kitty system, Mike got the beers in. Another pleasant surprise: beer was served in 750mL plastic glasses - bonus!! (over 1.5 pints) After a couple of beers and being accosted by some random drunks, we headed towards the real centre.

On the way down we found lots of little places selling beer from a tapped keg on the street or just cans from an ice box. Well, it'd be rude not to eh?

We soon found ourselves at the main square on the waterfront and it was jumping! Totally packed with Swedes all laying liberally into the beer. There were probably around 5 or 6 different bars with a central area of tables and chairs. We floated around from bar to bar, drinking merrily as we went. Soon, we were slightly inebriated. It gets kind of hazy here, but some things stick in the mind.

First was the statue. Against the wall was a monument statue thing, and it proved an excellent place to stand and wave a flag. When we arrived it was a Portugese flag, but later on it had been replaced by England fans waving a Union Jack. We started shouting abuse and one of the guys came down. He couldn't understand why we objected, until we pointed out that it was a British flag, and there was no British team playing. He pointed out that England were British and so he could use the flag. We then asked where the blue background came from (answer: Scotland's flag). Good point he said, and so he changed it for the English flag (St George's Cross).

I also remember being in a sort of food restaurant, and after trying to speak Portugese, discovered that they did chorizo (choricao) sandwiches for 1 euro! Thus being rather peckish I ordered one. The reason for me remembering this will soon become clear.

Show me the way to go home

It was about now that I realised I wanted to go to bed and so the 4 of us decided to stumble back to the hotel. Only problem was that I was the only one who knew where it was, and after about 5 minutes, Doug and Cookie were nowhere to be seen. At that particular point I couldn't give a flying fcuk where they were and so Mike and I kept going. I knew the rough location of the hotel and was trying to retrace our steps. It soon became obvious we weren't where I thought we should be. As chance would have it, I looked up to find a road name and found we were at the bottom of the hotel's street!!

We stumbled in to the room and Mike and I grabbed the two beds. Doug and Cookie miraculously appeared about 30 mins later and we all just passed out.



Day 2: Porto, Italy v Sweden @ Estadio do Dragao
Friday 18th June


Morning Memories

I was the first to wake and was dying of thirst when I did so. To get to the bathroom meant getting out of bed, inching round the other bed whilst avoiding Doug who was sleeping on the floor at its foot, and then continuing round the bed. I did this a few times to get a few glasses of water. However, it may have been the fourth time I woke - I didn't feel good. I waited to see if it would pass. Nope, I needed to spew. I leapt across that bed, almost clearing the double bed in a single bound, before emptying my stomach. Not pleasant, and hence why I remember clearly the fact I bought a chorizo sandwich!

Perversely this meant I now felt the best out of all of us - but we were all rather dazed and puzzled as to how it had happened. After all it was midnight when we went out. However, we then started doing the maths - 2 glasses here, 3 glasses there, 2 more here and so on. It soon added up to over 12 pints! Indeed 12 pints of 5.6% Super Bock. Add in the beer and wine on the plane and it's no wonder I wasn't too hot in the morning!

Into the great wide open

After a quick breakfast/brunch at the nearby cafe, we headed back into town via small narrow alleys adorned with flags to see what we'd missed in the dark and our drunken haze. Our first port of call was the port, and we were soon at the square where the previous nights alcoholic revelry had taken place. It was full of Swedes getting ready for the big match later that night. They were in fine voice having won their first game 5-0!!

We even managed to meet some Swedes who had been on the same flight as me and Doug from London. They were really friendly and even taught us some Swedish chants. We decided not to hit the beer just yet and so tore oursleves away to continue our attempt to have a productive day.

Sights of Porto

We found an old church that allowed for some fine views of the city. From here we decided to head over to the other side of the river. The walk along the waterfront revealed lots of small little restaurants and multi-coloured buildings as we headed to the bridge..

The other side of the river is technically a completely separate town, and it is here that all the port that PORTugal and PORTo is so famous for. In the past, the port was transported across the river using old sail boats. No such need these days, but they are still used in festivals (and I think as a challenge in The Amazing Race - they also had to take penalties with Sporting Lisbon's reserve team). We decided to take a tour of one of the wineries which allowed us the chance to sample the local produce. I have to say I'm really not a big fan of port, and this did nothing to change my mind. Though I have to say I found it more bearable than the others!

We returned to the Porto side of the bridge and made our way to the square from where we could catch a free bus to the ground. Unfortunately, everyone else seemed to have the same idea and we were crammed onto the bus. Because it was rush hour it took us ages to get out the centre and fans who had decided to walk towards the ground, forced themselves on making it even more crowded than before.

Italy 1-1 Sweden

We were there quite earlier and were disappointingly at the opposite end from the Swedish support. In fact, we were in the neutrals section as we'd bought our tickets on the net, and seemed to be surrounded by Italian fans. However, the official Italian supporter section was only half-full - a pish-poor effort from one of the pre-tournament favourites.

We had a particularly annoying Italian supporter behind us, from the States. He had a habit of running a verbal commentary on the match, but did so using the most inane expressions. I'm sorry, I'm very happy that North America is finally embracing 'soccer' but you have to learn the lingo - and shouting "nice" every time something good happens for your time is just crap, and highly infuriating.

Of course, the fact that Italy went 1-0 up didn't help our cause much as phrases such as "Here comes another one" and "This ain't Bulgaria you know!" continued to rain down on us. To be fair Italy were playing well, but with about 15 mins left started to defend too deep and invited the Swedish on to them. They got their just desserts as Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored with the most audacious backflick with 6 minutes left to send the Swedish fans delirious with delight.

We decided to walk back rather than face the same arduous bus journey and our hotel was on route. We had intended to go back to the square and party some with the Swedes but we just ended up crashing out, too tired from the previous night and the days activities.



Day 3: Porto -> Figueira de Foz
Saturday 20th June


Busted!

We checked out the hotel in the morning at a relatively decent hour as we didn't want to waste the day by sitting in the car. Cookie and I went ferried the luggage down to the car whilst Doug and Mike made themselves scarce. It took us a little while to reverse out of the garage and when we did the hotel manager was standing right at the door watching. I jumped in the passenger door and told Stew (Cookie) to drive off as we couldn't very well let D and M get in right under the manager's nose. We stopped a little way up the road but there was no sign of the other two. We decided to go round the block which was easier said than done due to Porto's one-way system, but eventually made it back to the hotel.

At this point there was no sign of the other two, but eventually they spotted us and they came down the road to meet us. They jumped in and explained that the manager had finally put two and two together and realised what was going on. Apparently, Doug and Mike had to walk on the other side of the road with the manager screaming at them in Portugese!! Still, if you will charge extortionate rates for the room.... ;)

On the Road

We were driving south towards Coimbra, the historic university town where we were to watch another game on the Sunday. We had no accomodation planned for this stage of the journey and weren't entirely sure what we were going to do. We had a few options as there were officially no campsites in Coimbra but there were a few in the hills surrounding it as well as it not being far from several beaches and beach resorts, most notably, Figueira de Foz.

We rolled up in mid-afternoon and the first thing we decided to do was hit the beach. Well, what else do you do at a beach resort? The beach was a lovely strip of golden sand that was empty for a Portugese beach, but still had a fair number of people on it (certainly by UK standards). We had stopped for lunch and bought ourselves a cheap football which bore the flags of the major competing nations in Euro2004, and Austria's for seem reason!

Beach Bums

After feeling the effects of lots of booze and sitting around some exercise was called for and so Doug and I decided that a run along the beach would be a good idea. There was a pier in the distance which seemed like a reasonable target and so we set out. We started off running in the wet sand as it didn't give as much and was thus less effort. However, as we were running barefoot our feet were soon hurting as the wet 'sand' was in reality lots of small bits of shell. Eventually we gave in and tried running on the soft, dry sand, which was worse. It was such hard work and the pier still seemed miles away - it's much harder to judge distance along a beach as there isn't really much to give you perspective.

We struggled our way back and collapsed and recommended that the other two shouldn't try it. We decided it was probably about time to find the campsite (we'd seen signs on the drive to the beach) and headed back towards the car. We decided to stop off at the beach football/handball court for a bit of a kickabout. After about 5 minutes we were challenged by the 4 Portugese at the other end of the pitch to a game of beach football, which we duly accepted.

I should point out that beach football is not a highly practiced sport in Scotland and we found it quite hard to adjust the direct approach, high-pressure, high-tempo game to sand. It was shattering to play and our feet were red raw at the end as when you tried to kick the ball the sand on your feet would be rubbed by the leather of the football against your skin - effectively making the ball feel as if it were covered in sandpaper. Saying that we didn't do bad, we lost 6-5 but could have won it.

Our pride intact we went to find the campsite and were delighted to discover it was really cheap. It wasn't much of a campsite but it was functional - the ground was a little hard but there was tree cover and the tents weren't too badly crammed together. I had made the incredibly wise decision of bringing an inflatable sleeping mat with me so I was never very bothered by the ground at any of the campsites - I cannot recommend highly enough my Thermarest as it certainly made my nights a lot more comfortable.

Saturday Night Fever

We then headed into town to get some food and to sample the nightlife at what is supposedly one of Portugal's party towns (it's where the Portugese go on holiday). We found ourselves a nice Greek(!) place which served food and showed the football. We were rather distracted by our meal but the Czechs beat Holland 3-2 after being 2-0 down in what was the game of the tournament (57 shots at goal!). Of course, all the food was being liberally washed down with our favourite Super Bock.

Then it was off to find a bar to keep the night alive and we ended up in a Cuban bar. It was still very early for the Portugese - around 10pm - and so it was rather empty. But still, the drinks were very cheap so we had a few rounds. We asked the waitor where the signoritas were and he said the best place to go was a few streets over where there were 3 pubs next to each other and so we set off in search of a new adventure.

Meeting the Locals

We quickly found the new location, a narrow alley with tables and chairs seemingly shared between 3 different bars. We chose one and I bought a round- by the time I had come back outside, Doug and Cookie were away laying on the charm with some of the locals who had come out now it was past midnight. Mike and I went across to join them and one of the girls was pretending to be famous so I asked for her autograph. I had to search around for a pen and was given one by some girls at the next table and thus I received my autograph which read thus um beijo mui to triouel Pau o Paul which means "A big kiss to Pau or Paul." ;)

I returned the pen to its rightful owner, who translated the above phrase, and also confirmed my suspicions that she wasn't really famous. I kept on chatting to the girls at this table; Sonia, Sylvia and 'Stina and we were getting on really well. They introduced me to a snack - this weird type of bean that you bite to break the shell then squeeze the kernel into your mouth. Every so often one of the other three would come across to take money from the kitty and a beer would then appear at my elbow and as the night progressed, it was a beer and a whisky!

Soon all were very merry and things were rather a blur, I remember being introduced to a Swedish guy and his very attractive sister who he was struggling to control/protect and also turning around and seeing Mike with a condom pulled over his head down to his nose. Such classy drunks!

I was relying on the girls' local knowledge to choose the best club and they recommended a place called Bergantim which played good 80s music apparently (oxymoron). The other three were very impatient to leave but I wanted to stay with the girls. Eventually they left without me - I kept telling them to wait cos we were gonna go. Anyway, we made it to the club and we soon met back up again. It was about 3:30 at this point and the club was still pretty much empty.

Clubs and Cards

It was also here that I was introduced to the European club-card system; when you enter the club you are given a card. On this card is a list of drinks you can buy - when you go to the bar you present your card and they put a tick in the appropriate box. No money changes hands. The principle is that you must buy a minimum quantity of alcohol, and then you need pay no cover charge. When you wish to leave, you go to a cashier desk, hand in your card and they charge you in one go. This has the advantage of you not needing any cash on the dancefloor or at the bar (handy if you're a girl with a bag). However, in order to stop you throwing away your ticket, if you lose your ticket you're charged 50E to leave! Guess what I did?

Yep, I lost my card and spent about an hour wondering what was going to happen. Thankfully, I was still with Sonia and 'Stina and they talked to the bar staff and the management and helped to sort things out. In the end, someone handed in my card so there was no problem in the end.

I can't comment too much on what happened to the other guys in this period. Cookie seemed to leave quite early. Doug was warned by the bouncer that "he was being watched". Mike was hammered - I don't think he could speak - and I think I lost my card taking my camera out of my pocket to take this photo, which is one of my favourites. It's rare a photo so captures the ambience and atmosphere of an occasion. And he lost his ticket as well, but had no concept of the system and couldn't understand why he was being asked to pay 50E to leave! In the end we bought him back for 15E as we had no more and then we all got a lift back to the campsite from Sonia who lived nearby. It was now about 8am and bizarrely when we'd been getting ready to leave te club there were still people coming in!!!!



Day 4: Figueira -> Praia de Lavos
Sunday 20th June


Paying the Piper

We woke up at around 11am - after about 4hrs of sleep - and felt pretty wrecked. It was inevitable that we were all still rather drunk. Cookie went off on a mission to the supermarket to get some supplies and came back equipped with water, orange juice, croissants, cookies and chocolate milk. Whilst not a cure, it certainly helped.

We decided not to stay another night in Figueira and packed up our tent and headed down to the beach to grab some food. Our plan was to try and find a deserted piece of coast and just chill out there for the day and maybe camp wild. We tried to get some info from the local tourist information where we discovered the girl behind the counter had also been out until 7am that morning!

Unfortunately we ran into some language difficulties and I was having problems asking her to point out a small, quiet beach on the map. In fact, she just looked confused, sort of smiled and then turned to someone else. As we weren't quite with it, we were a little perplexed but stumbled back out onto the street. As we were walking away I realised that I'd been saying: "Beach. A small beach." And how do the Spanish say bitch? Bea-tch. So I think that's where the wires got crossed.

I had the girls' number from the previous night and we arranged to meet up at a cafe to as Cookie put it, see what they really look like! It was slightly weird as the chat wasn't quite up to the previous night's high quality. In fact we were very zombified - they tried to entertain us by suggesting going up the local hill - but we decided we'd much rather just chill on the beach.Luckily for us they also decided that this would be a good idea and so the next few hours were spent lying out on the sand, talking guff, and slowly feeling human again.

Smalltown Portugese style

We then jumped in the car and headed south out of town. We tried to find a coast road, and after about 5 minutes, picked the first turnoff we saw towards a town/beach. And this is how we ended up at Lavos - or more accurately Praia Lavos (Praia = beach). It was a tiny little place but with a fantastic beach.

There was a huge match due to kick off at 7:45 that evening; Spain vs Portugal with the winner going through to the next round, and the loser was eliminated. We decided to try and find somewhere to eat but it was a small town and a Sunday so what few restaurants there were weren't really open. And those that were wanted to close so they coyuld watch the match!

After finally finding somewhere right on the edge of the town and grabbing some hamburgers (one of only two things on the menu, the other being hot dogs) we headed back to a small pub to watch the game. There were already some excited fans in there (the place could only hold 30 or so) with the face paint and the flags, so we settled down at the back.

I went up to buy a round and when the guy came back with 3 beers and a coke he told me how much it was. I hadn't mastered the Portugese accent yet, and thought he said 12 - not unreasonable for a few drinks in a bar - but no, he said 2! It worked out at 43 pence for a bottle of beer!!!

It was 0-0 at halftime and not much difference between the teams. During the interval one of the guys with facepaint, probably the most vocal supporter, came over and talked to us. I was amazed at how good his English was, cos basically this was a little backwater town and he himself said he wasn't very educated, but still we held a conversation. He loved the fact we were from Scotland, and even more so that we hated the English - he even got a little chant of "F*ck the English" going!!!

Anyway, about 10 minutes into the second half and Portugal score and the place goes nuts. The next half hour was murder for them, trying to hold on to the lead, and when they finally win the place erupts. And how do the Portugese celebrate? By rushing out into the streets, jumping into the cars and driving round town blowing their horns. All of them, so who were we to object. We zipped back to our car and joined everyone in their chants of Por-Tu-Gal. It was amazing to see, everyone was out on the streets, all the old women, joining in the celebrations.

After all the furore had died down, we decided to head out towards the beach and set up camp. Camping on the beach is great - flat land, quiet, and waking up next to the ocean. Except for one thing, guy ropes don't work in sand. Thus Mike had to sleep using his tent as a sheet and I slept with tent in my face as I was on the outside. Still, it was a decent sleep, if a little hot.

The next day we were up early, and put the tents away quite quickly in case anyone should object. We then had a little breakfast before playing some football in the tiny astroturf football pitch they had. We picked up some supplies from the local market, and the owner asked us where we slept (using international sign language) cos he recognised us from the previous night. We told him on the beach and he just laughed.

Next stop Coimbra!



Day 5: Praia de Lavos -> Coimbra
Monday 21st June


Rolling into town

It didn't take long to get to Coimbra and we had left early for good reason as we had nowhere to stay lined up. Our first hassle was to try and find some parking - our guidebooks had pointed out that Coimbra was notorious for having bad parking. We eventually found somewhere that looked like a car park but was arranged in a somewhat haphazard way. The reason for this is that it's run by the local homeless, who tell people where they can go, in return for a small token of gratitude.

The car park was just across the road from the "Fun Zone" - a place of entertainment in the host cities with giant screens, live music, football pitches and so on. As we explored we noticed a large number of tents, which looked promising. I went up and talked to a French guy who informed us that it was free camping and they had showers and toilets. Result! We pitched our tents and headed out to explore the town.

Coimbra Studies

Coimbra's most noticeable feature is its university which sits on the top of the hill and dates back to the 13th century. We decided to wander up there to see what there was to see. We wandered around the old town, complete with medieval doorways, statues, statues that had been 'altered' by the students, as well as having an impressive campus. Certainly nothing like the science site where I work!!!

When we arrived back in town I saw a bunch of people standing round in tracksuits looking a bit lost. I thought nothing of it until I saw someone taking a photograph. Upon closer inspection it turned out to be the Latvian squad who were obviously doing a little sightseeing! I got a great photo of Doug and Cookie with them - we only recognised one player, Marian Pahars as he plays in England. But they seemed very confused when we said we were Scottish, as they couldn't work out why we'd be in Portugal as we hadn't actually qualified.

Switzerland vs France

The reason we were in Coimbra was to watch one of the final group games. When we bought our tickets we applied for tickets at a ground, not for a specific match. When the draw was actually made, England were supposed to be playing Croatia at this stadium but luckily for us (surrounded by 20,000 England fans? No thank you!) the police moved it to Lisbon for fear of crowd trouble.

So instead we got to watch the French team that contained some of the best players in the world - we'd get to see Zidane, Henry, Pires, Veira all in the flesh! We were pretty stoked. The atmosphere was a bit flat, the Swiss tried their hardest but I think deep down they knew they weren't going to qualify. They needed England to win and to beat the French to get through.

France scored early on through a corner, but seemingly before they'd stopped celebrating the Swiss were level through a great strike from a young teenage striker who was giving the French defence a torrid time with his pace and off the ball movement. At halftime it was still 1-1 and the score flashed up that England were winning! A nightmare scenario - England winning the group and France coming 2nd or even going out!!!

We were sitting right in the very last row of the stand, but it wasn't a massive stadium so it still allowed for decent viewing, at least of one end. At half time this English guy come up to us and asks us if he can put up a banner behind us. We say it depends on what it says - but luckily for us he was from Liverpool, or as he put it "It's all right lads, I'm Scouse, I'm not English!" And true to his word his banner said "People's Republic of Liverpool".

The second half started and it was all French pressure, but time ticked away and we were getting more and more nervous. I was getting fed up with the way the French were playing - no movement from their two forwards - especially from Trezeguet. I kept saying they should take him off - which they finally did with about 19 mins left, to be replaced with Saha. Instantly Saha gets his head to a ball, flicks it on for Henry who rounds the keeper and scores!!! Phew! Just for good measure, 8 minutes later Henry picks up the ball on the left wing, cuts inside beats two players and then buries the ball inside the near post. Final score 3-1, but France were far from impressive.

We headed back into town, looking for a bit of a party, or at least a decent few bars to wile away the time. However, there was nothing. The town was dead. What there was was a live football show being broadcast so the area was fully figged up with lights and cranes. This was the first time we got on Portugese TV as we could just see ourselves in the monitor in the background of the shot - jumping around and waving in the fountain!!

We thought there might be more happening at the Fun Zone, and since it was where we were camping, it made sense to check it out. However, the place was dead as well. There was a live band playing to about 10 people, and a handful of people sitting around drinking. We stayed for a while and then headed back to our tents. Of course, the music didn't stop until 2am, and when it did, we could hear the music from the club across the river!! I didn't sleep very well that night!!!



Day 6: Coimbra -> Lisbon
Tuesday 22nd June


Culture!!

We had quite a long journey ahead of us as we had a place at a campsite outside of Lisbon booked. We'd be unable to find anywhere in the city so we were camping at the beach with a big national chain of campgrounds, probably about 20km to the west of the city.

Our first stop on the way were the ruins of an important Roman city: Conimbriga. The ruins were very extensive, half of the town seemed to still be under the earth, but what could be seen included a number of spectacular mosaiced floors

As we continued south we came across the Batalha, a MASSIVE cathedral. To be honest we couldn't really miss it as the main highway south went right past it. It is in fact dangerously close; apparently the vibrations from the traffic and the pollution is damaging the foundations and dissoloving the facade respectively. It was very impressive and reminded me a lot of La Sagrada Familia, especially the doorway. There was also an enormous statue of the man who built the place (he promised to build it if he was able to beat the much bigger Spanish army).

From here we took a rather major detour off the beaten track and into the hills. After getting mildly lost, we finally came across what we were searching for: a series of caves that had only be discovered in the last 50 years. For very little cost we got a guided tour of an amazing underground cave system, fully populated with stalactites, stalacmites and underground streams. It was quite breath-taking.

Worst Campsite in the World?

We arrived at our campsite in the early evening and were taken aback by the scale of it - it was huge. Unfortunately, despite us having booked over 2 months earlier (bizarrely under the name of Wolfson, the name of Doug's company from where he had faxed them), they had not reserved us a specific pitch. We soon discovered that we were not the only people who had failed to find accomodation in Lisbon and had opted for the beach campsite.

Most worrying was the large number of Ingerland fans, all of whom seemed to be clustered together around makeshift flagpoles flying the St George's Cross. We christened it Camp England. However, there was very little other space, and indeed close to Camp England offered the best ground. Luckily after a bit of exploration we spotted an area that was large enough to pitch our two tents. However, we realised soon why it was available - there was concrete underneath the majority of it! This made pitching difficult and sleeping hard! Not for the first I was overjoyed at the fact I'd brought my inflatable mattress!

It wasn't all plain sailing though as the tent I was staying in developed a hole in the flysheet allowing in a lot of mosquitos. Luckily, I seemed fairly resistant to the bites whereas Cookie and Mike had huge red welts at every bite. So the next night, Cookie and Mike decided to sleep in the car and I went in the other insect-free tent.

Portugese showers

It'd be fair to say that by this point we were a little unclean - 3 of us decided on having Glasgow showers, but not Doug. When we headed towards the nearby town we crossed a beach and Doug decided to go skinny dipping. He wasn't caught but did seem to dsiturb a young couple also taking advantage of the lack of light and he was dripping rather a lot in the bar!



Day 7: Lisbon
Wednesday 23rd June


Lisbon plays!

We took the bus from the campsite into the town of Sintra, from where we were able to get the train into Lisbon where we were to watch a match that evening. The first thing we did when we were there was walk to the main square and met my Greek friend whom I hadn't seen since I left Montreal.

Doug and I decided then to go exploring up to the castle, a bit of a hike up a hill, but allowed for great panoramic views of the href="http://paulski.blogspot.com/photos/euroalbum/photos/photo_39.html">city. We met up with the other two in early evening and supped on a few beers in the main square which was mainly populated with German fans. German fans aren't really very friendly, kind of like the Dutch, which isn't all that surprising when you think about it.

Germany vs Czech Republic

This game was held in an amazing stadium, newly built and very atmospheric - you were really close to the pitch. We had good tickets for this match, near the front and right next to the crazy Czech fans. The Czechs had already qualified and so sent out their B team, but that was still more than enough to vanquish the Germans. No tears shed over that!



Day 8: Sintra
Thursday 24th June


Going our separate ways

This day we essentially had spare. The other three decided to go the beach and do some surfing. I decided to explore the local attraction that was Sintra as it is celebrated as one of THE attractions in Portugal.

So I took the bus into town again, and after wandering around for a litte while I found out that the old town was about a mile away up the big hill. The first thing I saw was the Palacion Nacional which had been around from the time of the Moors (14th century). From there I walked up to the real Moor Castle. This was rather overgrown in parts but was still pretty intact. Supposedly the views from the top are spectacular, but alas the weather wasn't being kind to me.

I then got rather lost and had to ask for directions up to the fabulous Palacio da Pena which turned out to be quite an energetic hike! It was built in the 19th century and is perfectly preserved since the royal family left it complete when they fled the country in 1910. It's quite hard to describe how surreal the place is, with amazing colours, turrets and intricate carvings; best to just look at the photos.

Best match ever?

I met up with the other boys in the late afternoon and we made plans for where we were going to watch the big match: Portugal vs England quarter final!!! We weren't keen to go into Lisbon as we knew there'd be 1000s of England fans and we'd already heard the ones at our campsite talking about causing trouble if they lost. Besides, after our great experience in the small bar for the Spain match, we thought it'd be a good idea to stay in Sintra.

Alas, as kickoff neared, we were trying to catch a bus to a place with a big screen but the bus never materialised so we ended up in a pretty empty bar with about 4 other people initially. It started off very badly, England scored in the first 10 minutes and Doug and I combined to drop a bottle of beer and crack the glass table surface.

Thankfully our luck changed as England sat back to defend and much to our glee conceded an equaliser - I think we may have celebrated more than the Portugese. I don't think they were quite sure what to make of us as to them we must have appeared English.

The match proceeded to extra-time where Rui Costa thumped home an amazing strike to send us crazy, but England soon equalised and it went to penalties. David Beckham stepped up and missed by an absolute mile! Oh, how we laughed. Portugal missed one as well and soon it was sudden death.

It was so tense. We were sitting there praying that England would lose as this appeared to be their greatest obstacle to winning the whole tournament. Then Vassell had his kick saved, Portugal needed to score to win. And who takes it? The goddamn keeper who had just saved the penalty!!!!! And he scores!!!!!!!! Cue absolute bedlam!

We were out in the streets and having obtained a Portugese flag we tied it to our Scotland flag and jumped around. Again, everyone was out in their cars going insane. I'd say about a third of people recognised the Scotland flag and it seemed to make them laugh. Ah, good times.



Day 9: Lisbon -> Faro
Friday 25th June


Club Med

We were now on the final leg of our journey and headed down to the south coast that would be our final stop: Faro. I have to confess by this point I was getting quite worn by the travelling, the drinking and the lack of sleep!

We were staying at a youth hostel which was an absolute luxury after seemingly endless nights camping. Actually having a bed!!! There's not too much Faro itself, so we headed out to the beach as we were on the Mediterranean after all. We hung out there for a while, and managed to leave our football behind!!

Swedes rock!

Once again we had the pleasure of drinking with Swedish fans that night - easily the best fans of the tournament. Super friendly and the fact that all the girls are stunning doesn't hurt either. We befriended Henrik Larsson's half-sister, Hannah I think she was called, and were interviewed several times for TV. Whether our drunken rambles ever got to air I don't know, but I'm not kidding myself - the only reason they chose us is cos we were talking to Hannah! Sweden vs Holland

This game was a bit of a disappointment, but still highly enjoyable because we were there. I still maintain that Sweden were the better side, but I think I'm in the minority. It went to extra time and penalties after neither side were able to break the deadlock. The bonus was that the penalties were taken at our end of the ground. Again, it went to sudden death, but to our dismay, the Dutch won.

This left us feeling rather disheartened and I couldn't really stomach another night of drinking so I left the 3 boys behind with a couple of other friends they'd managed to meet up with.

And so this concludes the great adventure, we flew home the next day. A great vacation and experience - I'd love to go back to Portugal when there's not a major tournament going on and really experience the place. Of course, I was shattered when I got back and in dire need of a holiday to recover from it!!!