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Diary of a travel writer: Change is in the airports and we're flying south


Lisbon's tourist fair, Bolsa de Turismo de Lisboa, is a lively affair. Everyone is praying for a recovery. The guy on the Fatima stand tells me that theirs was the major appearance by the Virgin Mary: "In Fatima she made the sun stop. She didn't do that in Lourdes."

The biggest stand is from the Azores... "politics," the director tells me. I yearn to return to the mid-Atlantic archipelego where the Tir na nOg legend was born. The delicious northern territory is under-represented. Green fees are about €25 off season and the average package is about €30 more than the subsidised Spanish rate for seniors. The party in the Don Pedro Hotel is filled with my colleagues from round Europe, Massimo from Italy leading the charge to the dance floor.


About 80pc of Irish visitors to Portugal prefer the Algarve, forgetting the rest of the country, but the Atlantic coast has most to offer. These villages are great to stroll around, have a beer and a coffee, and everything costs about half of what it does at home and one-third less than the Algarve.


It is too cold for the locals to go swimming but I am not deterred. Restaurant Hemingway on the Cascais Marina has amazing seafood.

The evening starts with mojitos and ends with bottles (one was not enough) of Portuguese brandy. Travel might broaden the mind, but often leaves it hungover along the way.


The election results roll in and the politicking with tourism continues. It is almost certain that DAA's airport charges are bound to come under pressure once Fine Gael come to power. A dance is being played out with Ryanair and the airport authority, as if to set the scene for what happens next.


Christoph Mueller is an upbeat host at the Aer Lingus annual results. He tells us that the low-cost model is broken, there will be no growth, long-haul planes have been postponed to 2018 and one is to be sold off. Aer Lingus are back in the yield-per-seat business. But it is not all bad news. Fares are not going up in 2011 because "they would cut their own legs off if they tried it".


The Tarragona people come to Dublin to tell us about Catalonia, "the grandest but most neglected sightseeing centre in Spain," according to the Frommer's Guide.

The lunch is lively, but the discussion afterwards in Doheny and Nesbitt's and Toners of the Catalonian question is more so. Until now I thought Spain won the World Cup last year. In fact, Catalonia did, with eight Catalans on the final team and two Castillians and a Basque along for the ride.


Michael O'Leary is in Shannon promising to rebuild traffic at the airport if he gets his own terms. In other words, someone pays him for every passenger and refunds the money he was fined for not delivering on the last promise.

The Catalans tell me O'Leary is playing Catalonia-melodeon. He has had a row with Girona and is pulling his planes. Girona have no choice. Ryanair is 85pc of their business. Have we heard this before?