Tuesday, 2 February 2010
So, here we are, leaving Portugal, having somehow spent just over a month in a country I have never really considered before - which is not to my credit! - and it is our absolute favourite of the trip so far.
It may be a relatively small country - just a squared-off bite out of the corner of spain and by whom it was briefly occupied in a gap in royal succession - in a land which has been occupied many times over by different invaders since 700 AD - Celts, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Moors - and which started out in c900 as a small kingdom in the north ceded from the spanish kingdom of Leon, but it went from those small beginnings to great things. It is packed with history and was as important and influencial in its hayday of the Discoveries as the uk, spain and holland. Its empire and influence spanned the globe from west to east, from Brazil to Africa, India, China and Japan and its sailors, navigators and map makers changed the world.
We have been surprised and humbled by level of english spoken by all sorts of people, of all ages - even those in out of the way places - and to my shame, after a whole month, I can only manage 'good morning' (bom dia), 'good afternoon' (boa tarde), 'good night' (boa noite), 'two coffees please' (dois cafes por favour), 'the bill' (a conta), 'sorry' (desculpe) and 'thank you' (obrigado/a), - whilst all the time thinking of how I would try and say the same thing and more in spanish - before they interrupt me in perfect english. And the friendliness and helpfulness of everyone we have met, even those few with whom we haven't been able to actually communicate in words, has been incredible .
We have had the most relaxing month and in that whole time, there has been nothing we have actively disliked or found difficult - with the exception of the one way system in Porto!
So, best place: has to be our deserted beach adventure - sands of doom notwithstanding! Seisimbra is right up there too.
Best night out: Fado at A Baicu in Lisbon without a question.
Best meal: has to be at Taylors and their wine lodge was our favourite 'tourist' attraction
Wierdest place: Chapel of Bones in Evora - not quite on the Dune de Pilat scale but pretty odd!
Most unexpected place: fire-hose showers in Figueira da Foz.
The Algarve has been a big surprise. It is such a well-known cliché that you find yourself pre-judging the place before you even get there and tarring the whole 200-odd kms of coast with the same over-developed, expat-brit enclave, tourist-hell brush. But although there is a lot of that, just round the corner, or on the edges or down that less trodden road, there are some wild and beautiful places here, just waiting to be found. And even some of the resort stuff is nice and it certainly all has its place - whist I can't imagine myself staying and pottering my life away here - with or without a van! - I can certainly see how, if you aren't very careful and very self-disciplined, you easily find yourself doing just that as so many people do. I have never seen such a huge number of motorhomes, they just are everywhere you turn, honestly wherever you think of going, someone else will already be parked up there - although presumably not at Praia de Furnes due to the narrow muddy road and ford! - but they are nice people, always happy to chat, lend a hand or provide suggestions and ideas and there is a nice sense of community - it is just nice. Although quite what the locals actually make of it all I don't know!
And as a two-week winter sun, break from the ratrace, this would be perfect and we would/will come back.
But that is the thing, we are not in the ratrace, and there is only so much "nice" we need at any one time and there is lots of world out there yet to see.
So, here we are, washing done, stocked up with port and gpl - the gpl was easy, port turned out, surprisingly, to be the tricky thing, no Taylors in this town so cheap Offley tawny in the cupboard instead - and on our way once more.
With love for now from Becky, Will and Jules on Tuesday, February 02, 2010