With the cars returned to the vehicle rental company we were back to foot transport for the rest of the holiday and on two consecutive days we took walks both east and west of Praia de Luz.
On the first day we went east and took a cliff top walk towards the tourist town of Lagos. There was a well worn path through the burnt grass across the tops of the brittle sandstone cliffs that were disappearing into the sea in regular places and I worried about the children getting too close to the edge lest they fall over and onto the rocks several metres below but we negotiated the walk of three kilometres or so, about half way to Lagos, before we came across a bar and stopped for a while and then, on account of the blast furnace temperature, agreed to turn back and return to the bars and swimming pools of the holiday complex.
This had not been an especially thrilling walk I have to say but the next day we went west and that was a whole lot better.
It was by far the hottest day of the week and all of us set out on foot to the neighbouring village of Burgau about three kilometres or so from our apartment on the Rua de Calheta in the holiday village.
The route took us away from the ersatz villas and apartments and swimming pools and to the outskirts of the village where there was a real sense that in contrast to Praia de Luz Portuguese people might actually live there. After a while we came across a man with a bag of fish that he had caught that morning and he was proud to show off his catch, actually I think he was offering to share it with me!
When the buildings stopped altogether and the surface of the road became pot holed and precarious we were for a while in what felt like open country with only the occasional house, a dusty track to walk along and empty fields, long since harvested, baking and cracking in the relentless heat.
Eventually, at about midday we came to the outskirts of the village of Burgau and shortly after that we were following the road down to the beach sitting in a protected cove with the fishing boats pulled high onto the sand and away from the surf.
I liked this place immediately, there were twisting lanes and narrow streets and an honest hard-working ambiance. Cubed, white-washed houses with colourful doors and especially eye-catching were the houses with colourful tiled walls in bright blues, greens and yellows.
Portugal is one of the poorest countries in Europe, and behind the tiled walls we could see that the houses were made of tin sheeet, but it is the seventh safest country in the world and the fourth biggest consumer of wine, after France, Italy and Germany, and so, with the sun beating down we choose a table at a café to help them maintain this statistic.
It was early afternoon and really quite hot and the town had a soporific feel that made me think of my favourite Al Stewart song ‘Year of the Cat’:
‘She comes out of the sun in a silk dress running like a watercolour in the rain, don’t bother asking for explanation she’ll just tell you she came from the Year of the Cat… By the blue tiled walls near the market stalls there’s a hidden door she leads you to, these days she says I feel my life is like a river running through, the Year of the Cat’
As the day got hotter the time was approaching the afternoon siesta as we sat and surveyed curiously deserted streets as though someone had declared a national emergency and everyone had left town.
Across the narrow lanes abandoned laundry remained hanging on overloaded balcony rails, starched and bleached by the sun to a perfect whiteness that had me reaching for my sunglasses, occasionally a loose shutter kissed a window frame and a whispering wave crashed gently onto the beach. Even the surf of the sea seemed to go quiet out of respect for the siesta.
Sitting at the pavement bar it was so quiet that I could hear the paint lifting and splitting on the wooden doors, the gentle creaking of rusty shutter hinges, the squeaking complaints of rattan as sleeping residents shifted a little in their balcony chairs and the faint crack of seed pods in the flower planters.
We stayed long enough to have a second drink and then began to contemplate the walk back. For some this was too much to bear and so we summoned a taxi and half of our party returned the quick way while the rest of us were obliged to return the way that we had come.
As we arrived back in Praia de Luz and after a couple of hours of shut down and inactivity life started to slowly return to normal and the little town began to stir into life once more. Shutters rattled open, washing lines were cranked inside, car ignitions began to chatter, scooters croaked into action and sleepy people began to reappear from their front doors and a few minutes later we were reunited with the taxi people around the swimming pool at the apartment complex where a shower and a swim washed off the grime and a cool beer cleared the dust out of our throats.