Subject: Re: Renting cars (was Portugal)

We have driven in Germany, France, Italy, Portugal, Switzerland, Ireland, Yugoslavia when it was Yugoslavia, Austria, and usually found it not a problem.

We like the convenience of a car in Europe, but we find some problems with driving--parking, for one.

Another is finding our way around cities. We find it best to park the car somewhere outside the city, mark where we have parked the car, and take public transportation into the city and back out.

Our two most serious problems occurred when driving in Portugal--we went to Porto, hoping to find some places we wanted to see. The streets had no names, but we had a map with the names of the streets. But, we never knew where we were until we were on a one way bridge out of the city. We inadvertantly drove outside of the city this way twice, trying to find street names and then the second time it occurred, we gave up and drove back to our near-by small town where we were staying. Goodbye Porto, saw nothing!!

Also, in the small town where we were staying we could not find our Pousada the first day. Finally after about 2 hours of driving, following the map carefully,and asking many people who kept giving us the same directions, we asked another passerby who called the pousada from a phone that was hanging on an outside wall of a building and they activated a post in the middle of the road so it would lower long enough for us to drive to the pousada.

After that we were in a small town in Portugal and we parked where the locals were parking and went in a cafe to get some food. Well, the walking policeman decided we were illegally parked and left a ticket on the windshield. My husband foolishly went to pay the ticket. Ray had to wait for the foot policeman to walk to the police station, he had to find his name in the passport for the police, spell his name, and wait while they decided from a 3 book what his infraction was, and then pay $12 for this 2 hour wait and 30 minute infraction.

The police led him to believe they could not read English, but as they went page by page through his passport they discovered he had been in South Africa a few months prior to the date of this problem. That caused much discussion the Portugese he could not understand.

After Ray helped them fill out the ticket he returned to the car where I had been sitting all this time--legally parked, of course. I watched locals make several illegal turns, stopping traffic, and so on--I guess the walking policemaen were in the police depatment fleecing my husband who foolishly decided to pay his ticket of so-called illegal parking. I blame it all on the Michelin map I so stupidly left in the front seat of the car, annoouncint--Tourist-Tourist..

Now, with stamps from Egypt, Vietnam, Cambodia, Croatia, and other countries in this passport--do you think we would drive again in this country?

You'd have to be crazy.

Gretchen from South Carolina

PS--don't drive in this state with out of state license plates and exceed the speed limit--you'd be in the same boat as we were in Porugual.

Gretchen Fifer, South Carolina