“By the end…it was clear that … spiritual and cultural isolation was at an end, overwhelmed by the great alien invasion from the North of money and freedoms… and slowly, as the foreigners poured in, its identity was submerged, its life-style altered more in a single decade than in the previous century.” – Norman Lewis – ‘Voices of the Old Sea’.
In the morning the lady at the shop seemed very surprised to see us back quite so soon to return all of the empty bottles and exchange them for a new supply of full ones. We were impressed as well that she had clearly been thinking ahead and with an eye to increased sales there were more bread rolls today and she invited us to buy as many as we liked.
We planned to take two more days in Portugal and spend three driving back and as Armação de Pera had been a bit too quiet for us the day before we decided today to drive instead to the main tourist town of Albufeira, which was about eight miles to the east on the way to Faro so we left the village and drove through the towns of Pera and Guia before turning off the main road and driving directly to the town.
Up until the 1960s Albufeira used to be a small fishing village but is now one of the busiest tourist towns on the Algarve and has grown into a popular holiday resort for tourists from Northern Europe and even though this was late November it was surprisingly warm and there were still a number of people about today.
We parked the car and walked through narrow streets of traditional Algarvean white and tiled residential homes, side by side with less attractive modern tourist developments – the apartments near the Marina e Bryn for example are a shocking mix of pinks, blues, and yellows and referred to locally as Legoland.
Portugal, then as now, is one of the poorest countries in Western Europe, and behind the tiled walls and the balconies with washing hanging like bunting as though as in anticipation of a carnival we could see that the houses were made of breeze blocks and tin sheet.
On the other hand, it is the seventh safest country in the world and after France, Italy and Germany the fourth biggest consumer of wine, and so, with the sun beating down we choose a table at a café to help them maintain this statistic.
The town was busy but down at Fisherman’s beach there was plenty of room for everyone and we stretched out our towels and lay in the sun and now and again went down to the sea for a dip. Anthony, who thought he bore a resemblance to Magnum PI, always fancied himself as a bit of a ladies man quickly found some girls from Leeds to chat to and after an hour or so Richard’s boredom kicked in and so the two of us went to the bar overlooking the beach for a beer while the other two stayed behind flirting.
On that first day in Portugal we spent nearly all day in Albufeira, on the Praia dos Pescadores, at the bar and walking around the pretty little streets of the old town behind the promenade and then we made our way back to the villa and tried the pool, which, on account of it being November, was a bit too cold and was only the sort of thing you would do if you were compelled to, and to test this theory we threw Tony in – several times I seem to remember.
Later we went back to Albufeira because Anthony had arranged to meet the girls from Leeds so we had something to eat and then went on to the bars in neighbouring São João, the modern tourist part of Albufeira, which is mad with activity in the high summer but in November was almost Saga like.
I liked Albufeira but I am not sure that I would want to go there in the summer months of crazy tourist activity.