‘Assisted’  Travel from Faro to Lyon–Saint Exupéry Airport

Last September I injured my knee, so after months of pain I finally consulted with an orthopedic specialist who organised an MRI scan and X-ray.  The diagnosis: I had a ruptured meniscus, tendonitis, arthritis and a crack in my knee bone. Ouch! I consoled myself with the fact there are people far worse than myself so it is fingers and toes crossed my injuries are only temporary. However, I had never considered just how challenging it is for people with mobility issues to travel until I took a flight to Lyon.

My injury basically means I am unable to walk very far or stand for long periods (queuing).

So faced with the challenge of travelling to France and standing around at airports for long periods with often no option to sit down, we added ‘assistance required’ to our booking.

My first experience of assisted travel was on a flight from Faro to Lyon. You prebook ‘assistance’ with the airline so airport staff are available to help with your needs. We arrived at Faro airport and husband left me and the luggage in the departures drop-off area while he went to park the car. Being an ‘Assisted Travel’ virgin, and not conversant with procedure, I hobbled to the Information desk where I they could either summon a porter to bring a wheelchair or I could check in first. I chose the latter. For reference: There is an intercom at the drop-off car park should you need assistance right through.

Once checked in we were directed to a seating area to wait for assistance. After what seemed an interminable wait my chariot arrived courtesy of a charming Portuguese man with laughing eyes and a kind demeanor. He carefully helped me position the wheelchair foot plates so I could rest my trolley bag between my legs, then I was whisked off at G-force speed (or so it seemed) through the departure lounge towards security and passport control.

It was strange observing the world at this level and I felt slightly nauseous as every bump was exacerbated by the lack of suspension due to the wheels of my chariot probably being cloned from a supermarket trolley.  Plus, I had no control of speed or direction as we zigzagged through a sea of people.

At security we went straight to the front of queue then to the boarding area and parked with all the other wheelchairs. My assistant would be back later to help me board the plane. And indeed he was. What a charming young man!

When we arrived at Lyon airport what a stark contrast in service and attitude: I was directed into the lift to transport me from the plane to ground level. My husband was waved away. I was then told to step up onto a bus. I looked at the height of the step and shook my head. They grunted and shrugged before begrudgingly producing a step.

Once on the bus I looked around for my husband. He was nowhere to be seen. I tried to explain in my broken French he had my passport and ticket but my pleas were met with a ‘hmmmph’ and a hostile glare.

At arrivals area (or some building) I was plonked in a wheelchair and we raced along the corridors. There was no consideration or care as the assistants chatted and laughed noisily above my head. It was then I spotted I was being pushed straight towards a closed glass door. Surely she would see it was closed. No, the woman rammed my knees full speed into the doors. She tutted and made no apology; I was just another piece of luggage.

“Excuse ‘em moi, Madame, have a care’. Now in a lot of pain I began to cry.

We finally got to the entrance of the baggage area and I was evicted from the wheelchair as apparently their job was done. They were outside staff and did not work inside. Someone else would have to deal with me.

I looked at them in horror. The exit was a lengthy walk; I had no way of contacting my husband and no paperwork.  I could feel a panic attack welling up inside me. I think at this point they could tell I was about to howl like a baby and have a dummy spit.

In the meantime, my husband had collected our luggage and was outside trying to find me. Unsuccessful, he tried to locate someone who could help him. As is usual, it is always someone else’s problem and he was directed from help desk to information and back lugging a heavy suitcase and two trolley bags.

After my dummy spit a wheelchair and porter miraculously materialised and I was dumped in the arrivals lounge just as my husband came into view.

What a contrast to the way I was treated at Faro.

My one regret is that I never made a formal complaint about the way I was processed.

Our return journey was a little better but once in Portugal I was no longer treated as ‘baggage’. In fact, my porter was so helpful he took me to the drop-off point and made sure I had somewhere to sit while my husband collected the car. He was so kind and considerate we gave him a tip. Faro airport, you should give yourself a slap on the back for the compassion and patience of your staff who help passengers with mobility issues.

What is your experience or observations regarding assisted travel?

Picture courtesy of Pixabay


Growing Strawberries in January

Growing strawberries in the Algarve -  Jan 2018

Growing strawberries in the Algarve – Jan 2018

In the Western Algarve growing strawberries in January is relatively easy. Dare I say we do not have ground frost and temperatures can reach a high of 18c during the day and from between 2C to 12C at night.

Growing strawberries in containers Jan 2018

Growing strawberries in containers Jan 2018

I have found the best method of growing strawberries during the winter months is in containers which I move to a sunny location. I then cover with a a plastic cloche to not only retain the heat but also deter greedy blackbirds.

strawberries undercover -Jan 2018

strawberries undercover -Jan 2018

As an experiment I also moved some strawberry plants to my raised vegetable bed and have a selection of plants which are not covered – the plants are okay but they are not as advanced as the plants pictured below which are covered.

Strawberries in raised bed - Jan 2018

Strawberries in raised bed – Jan 2018

Soil for both container and raised bed is a mix of manure, home and commercial compost. I also feed with fruit feed once the plants start to flower.

Related Posts:

Strawberry Quest
What does growing strawberries and recycling have in common?

Fake Flowers on Cacti – What a Con. Buyer BEWARE!!!

One of my pet peeves is the straw flowers they add to cacti. Not only is it cruel to stick a sharp stick into the flesh of the cacti it is misleading to the unsuspecting buyer.

Cacti with straw flower attached with stick

Cactus with a straw flowers

This is one of the first cacti I purchased and I was not aware such a practice existed. It was only when my husband pointed out that the flowers had not changed in two months I inspected the cacti a little more closely. You can imagine my horror when I discovered the flowers were attached to a cocktail stick which was thrust deep into the flesh of the cactus.

I carefully removed the sticks and the poor plant was left with two gaping holes.

straw flowers on cacti - what a con!

straw flowers on cacti – what a con!

Do you feel this is acceptable or misleading?



Using Sulfato de Magnésio (Epsom Salts) in the Garden

In my quest to use as many natural products in the garden as possible I consulted Google and found this imformative article by Backyard Boss who kindly gave me permission to repost some of the article here.



To begin, I should probably explain what Epsom salts are. Epsom salts are actually a mineral compound of magnesium and sulfate- essential nutrients that regulate enzymes and are found naturally in most living things. Originally found in Epsom, England (hence the name), they are mined from the ground and have a variety of different uses ranging from healthy lifestyle choices, help with magnesium deficiencies, crafting projects, and in our case – gardening.

Epsom salts are not salts at all even though they look like it (it doesn’t have any sodium chloride in it’s makeup). Because of this, it can be used as a natural alternative in many agricultural and health practices without ill effects- since too much true salt is actually harmful to plants.


Magnesium sulfate is actually a key ingredient for vegetation and is found naturally in soils, although they can eventually be depleted and leach over time. The use of Epsom salts in varied ways can help give a very inexpensive boost to your plants and flowers year round – whether they are grown as indoor plants or out.

Essentially they are a building block of new growth, and is supportive of overall plant health; they can be used in a variety of ways to enhance seed germination, flower production, new growth, and can aide with chlorophyll creation: which is needed for photosynthesis in all green plants.

The article continues with a list the uses and benefits of Epsom Salts


Paraiso Artesano – Pottery Shop, Vila do Bispo, Algarve

When you drive from Lagos along the N125 towards Sagres after about 20 kms you will discover the most amazing and probably one of the best selections of pottery on the Algarve. It is the second pottery shop on the left-hand side just before Vila Do Bishpo. You can’t miss it It’s easily recognizable as the front elevation is covered in decorative wall plates. However as you can’t turn across the road you will need to continue until the next roundabout and then turn back towards Lagos.

I say shop but Paraiso Artesano is actually so huge ‘pottery warehouse’ is a more accurate description.

I was completely blown away by the huge selection of ceramics and terracotta, craftwork, linen and variety of miscellaneous gifts and knickknacks. But be warned, they only take cash. They also have a seconds area where you can pick up some good bargains.

Paraiso Artesano - Pottery Shop, Vila do Bispo, Algarve

Paraiso Artesano – Pottery Shop, Vila do Bispo, Algarve

Paraiso Artesano - Pottery Shop, Vila do Bispo, Algarve

Paraiso Artesano – Pottery Shop, Vila do Bispo, Algarve

Paraiso Artesano - Pottery Shop, Vila do Bispo, Algarve

Paraiso Artesano – Pottery Shop, Vila do Bispo, Algarve

Paraiso Artesano - Pottery Shop, Vila do Bispo, Algarve

Paraiso Artesano – Pottery Shop, Vila do Bispo, Algarve

Paraiso Artesano - Pottery Shop, Vila do Bispo, Algarve

Paraiso Artesano – Pottery Shop, Vila do Bispo, Algarve

Paraiso Artesano - Pottery Shop, Vila do Bispo, Algarve

Paraiso Artesano – Pottery Shop, Vila do Bispo, Algarve

Paraiso Artesano - Pottery Shop, Vila do Bispo, Algarve

Paraiso Artesano – Pottery Shop, Vila do Bispo, Algarve

Paraiso Artesano - Pottery Shop, Vila do Bispo, Algarve

Paraiso Artesano – Pottery Shop, Vila do Bispo, Algarve

Paraiso Artesano - Pottery Shop, Vila do Bispo, Algarve

Paraiso Artesano – Pottery Shop, Vila do Bispo, Algarve

Paraiso Artesano - Pottery Shop, Vila do Bispo, Algarve

Paraiso Artesano – Pottery Shop, Vila do Bispo, Algarve

Pachypodium Lamerei – Madagascar Cactus Palm

Pachypodium Lamerei

Pachypodium Lamerei

I have a delightful new addition to my cacti/succulent family. It was a present from some dear friends who attended the Mediterranean Garden Show in the Eastern Algarve. They know I love quirky, so they bought me quirky.

Thank you *big smilie face*

After thanking them for the gift I asked them for the name of the plant… err they didn’t know. Ah, right. I then took a photo and consulted Mr. Google with an image search. His best guess was a palm tree. No, Mr Google, it is NOT a palm tree, FAIL! (Turns out hew was closer than I original thought)

Well, if Mr. Google can’t recognise this alien plant what an earth is it? Okay, thinking outside the box I typed: ‘cacti with leaves’, in the search box.

Eureka! It’s a succulent palm! – A Pachypodium Lamerei (Madagascar Palm)

I’ve called it Madge.


The Pachypodium Lamerei originates from Madagascar in Africa. according to further research on Guide to Houseplants , it isn’t really a palm but a succulent from the Apocyanaceae family.

Flowers: Yes, it has clusters of fragrant, white flowers in summer (on mature plants) if it has plenty of sunlight.
Leaves: It may drop it’s leaves in winter so don’t panic.
Temperature: The Madagascar Palm won’t tolerate frost and the world of succulents website states:

the minimum temperature is about 55° F (13° C), but it depends very much on the moisture of the substrate. The drier the substrate, the lower temperatures are possible. Ideally you shouldn’t fall below a minimum temperature of 59° F (15° C) during the rest period.
Bad news for Madge – she will live outside on a covered sheltered terrace, in full sun next to the house wall. Our winter temps can drop down to +1C at night so hopefully she will be okay.

Water: Water thoroughly and only allow the top of to dry out between waterings in the summer. Sounds like sound advice but my pots aren’t transparent. Another site

For beginners it is sometimes difficult to consider when and how much water you should give the Pachypodium. You should not treat it like a cactus in any case. A helpful rule is to not be completely dry to the soil during periods of growth before it is poured again.

Soil: 2 parts soil 1 part sharp sand or perlite.
Feed: Spring and summer with cacti fertiliser

After extensive research I now wonder how I will care for Madge during the winter months. While we have space indoors, the rooms do not get direct sunlight. Maybe I will need to leave her outside until the colder weather takes hold then just bring her inside for a few months. I think it will be a matter of trial and error.

How to Propagate Hibiscus in 10 Easy Steps

Hibiscus are my favourite plants (shrubs) because they are SO easy to grow and reward me with an abundance of beautiful flowers throughout the year.

Red Hibiscus Flower

Red Hibiscus Flower

I began experimenting as to the best method of propagating hibiscus from cuttings a couple of years ago when the cost of buying plants in Portugal rose significantly. I’m talking about a 100% rise, so a great incentive to master the technique!

There are several different methods used to propagate shrubby plants, but this one consistently works for me.
There are several different methods used to propagate shrubby plants, but this one consistently works for me.

How to to propagate Hibiscus

1. Take green cuttings (new growth) of about six inches long from the parent plant and remove all but a couple of the smaller leaves.

2. Immerse cutting into the hormone powder or gel so once planted the “treated” area is higher than the planting depth. There should be at least one growth node under the soil.

Hibiscus cuttings

Hibiscus cuttings

3. Fill suitable plastic plant pot with damp sandy soil and press down firmly.

4. Make small hole for each cutting – about a couple of inches deep (I use a small stick). Insert the cutting so at least one of the nodes are under the soil. Firm the soil around the cutting.

Cover Hibiscus cuttings with plastic water bottle

Cover Hibiscus cuttings with plastic water bottle

5. Create a humid environment for the cuttings by adding a plastic cover. Some people use a plastic bag – I use half a plastic bottle.

6. Stand the pot in a tray of water so the soil remains damp, but be careful not too wet. If the soil should become waterlogged I remove from pot from water tray to restore the balance. I usually only follow this process for about a six weeks. If the cuttings are “happy” in the environment you have created the leaves on the hibiscus cutting should still look green and healthy. If the rooting process is not working and the leaves are brown and shrivelled, discard and start the process again.

7. Move pot to a sheltered location out of direct sunlight. I find dappled shade is best.

8. Once the cuttings are established and new leaves begin to grow I remove the plastic cover so the young plants adapt.

9. After about a six months, sometimes more, depending on how quickly the cuttings grow, repot cuttings to individual pots using good quality compost and you will have several young plants ready to pot on.

Hibiscus cuttings one year later

Hibiscus cuttings one year later

10. Hey presto! This healthy plant is just one of three I grew using the above method.

I grow my mature hibiscus plants in containers close to the house to shelter them from the destructive salt winds. This was originally a temporary measure to protect them while hardier plants and shrubs matured. However, I have been so pleased with the results the hibiscus have remained in the original containers where they were planted six years ago. Hibiscus are normally planted in the ground here, and the shrubs easily grow to over six feet tall.

Their versatility has surprised me as they grow well in either sun or shade. And, providing you keep them well watered, fed and pruned they are very easy to grow – certainly far easier than vegetables!

A Romantic Evening in Venice

The prompt for this week’s photo challenge is bridge. Unfortunately, after an extensive search through my photos for an inspiring bridge in Portugal, I drew a blank. Will a bridge in Venice suffice?

Gondolier - Venice

Gondolier – Venice

On our first evening in Venice we sat at one of these tables sipping wine while watching the Gondoliers at work. It never ceased to amaze me how they managed to squeeze under the low bridges, and still maneuver the gondola. I wanted a ride but we just ran out of time.

Bridge in Venice

Bridge in Venice

If you’ve never been to Venice do add it to your bucket list. I hope to return one day  to claim a romantic ride in a gondola.

FitBit Blues

A poem dedicated to my Fitbit.

I have a trusty Fitbit it likes to keep me trim

I have a trusty Fitbit it likes to keep me trim

I have a trusty Fitbit it likes to keep me trim
It puts me on the treadmill so walking’s not a whim.

Ten thousand steps my daily goal is harder than it seems
So I find my feet still walking even in my dreams.

Competing with my Fitbit friends who want to stay in shape
It makes me walk around and round till neighbors stop to gape.

And as my Fitbit cracks the whip and round and round I go
My footsteps echo in my mind like a Broadway tap dance show.

So if you buy a Fitbit and think that you can skive
Did you know it emails you to give you added drive?

It also sends reminders when its battery’s running low
Or congratulations: only two thousand steps to go!

So if you have a Fitbit and think that you can rest
Beware, it logs your footsteps and sets skivers extra tests.

I had a trusty Fitbit it tried to keep me trim
But these feet ain’t made for walking so now I’ve joined the gym.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

I’ve lost 10kg since Jan but now dropped back to 8kg. Gotta get walking!

Driving in the UK – Variable Speed Limits

On a recent trip back to the UK we found, much to our surprise, driving far more stressful than in Portugal. Okay, you probably don’t get so many crazy drivers taking unnecessary risks, but that is probably due to the fact that most of the UK roads we traveled were nothing more than one long traffic jam with cameras monitoring your every move.

Driving on the M25 was most definitely, as dubbed by Chris Rea, ‘The Road to Hell’, and the M1 was as bad.

Why the variable speed limits?

One day we were driving along quite nicely when the overhead gantries flashed 60 mph, then 40 mph. As a result most drivers immediately hit the brakes (as Big Brother was watching), which then had a knock on effect as the traffic almost ground to a halt which caused yet another traffic jam and more chaos. Is this the intention?

Then there are the numerous road works.

The one thing that struck me about the UK was the number of cars. Is public transport so unreliable or expensive no one uses it any more? Or is the island sinking under the weight of an ever increasing car obsessed population?

After experiencing the excessive traffic in the UK I will never moan about Portuguese roads again. By comparison, the A22 Motorway which runs from Lagos in the West, along the Algarve to the East and into Spain is almost empty. The N125 can be problematic with traffic delays exacerbated by a continual round of roadworks and the influx of tourists in the high season. (That and the fact no one wants to pay the tolls on the A22).

 V is for ‘Variable speed limits‘. That’s my pet peeve for today.

Why not join me in the A-Z of Pet Peeves Challenge by sharing your  personal A-Z .  Simply post a peeve to your blog and don’t forget to share a links to your peeves to  Pet Peeves A-Z  page so we can all follow your progress!


Related Post: Driving in Portugal – 12 Survival Tips