Travels in Portugal, Preparation and Arrival

Algarve Postcard Map 3

We generally take our main annual holiday in September. Sometimes we go to the sea, usually the Greek Islands which are our favourites and sometimes we travel.  This year we decided to travel and we chose to go to Portugal.

There are organised guided tours available for this sort of thing but we prefer to make our own arrangements and not be restricted by a holiday company schedule and inevitable stops at shopping centres and outlet factories that suit the Company but not the Traveller.

In 2017 we travelled through Northern Portugal using the trains but this time we planned to go South where the railway network is difficult or practically non-existent, so this time we were driving.  Our plan was to visit the Algarve region and visit the towns and beaches of the south and west and then head inland to the historic towns of Beja, Evora, Estremoz and Elvas and also to spend a few days in Extremadura in Spain.

In preparation for travel I carried out my usual research and used my favourite benchmarks to try and understand the country that I was visiting.

Sardine Cans Portugal

I started as usual with the Human Development Index which ranks countries by level of ‘human development’ and the statistic is composed amongst other criteria from data on life expectancy, education and per-capita gross national income. Portugal is ranked forty-first which is quite low, especially for Europe but it is improving and is up two places from the previous year.

Although it is in Western Europe (in fact it is the most western mainland European country) Portugal did not begin to catch up with its neighbours until 1968 after the death of the dictator António Salazar, the Left Wing Carnation Revolution of 1972 and eventual entry into the European Community in 1986.

Unhappily, the European economic crisis has had a negative effect on Portugal’s position in the Europe Happiness Index and it is rated at only fifteenth out of thirty which is one place behind the United Kingdom.  Finland is the happiest and Albania (no real surprise) the least jolly.

The Country has fifteen UNESCO World Heritage Sites and our previous travel took us to six – The Tower of Belém in Lisbon, built to commemorate the expeditions of Vasco da Gama, The National Palace of Sintra, the Convent of the Knights Templar of Tomar, the University of Coimbra, the Historic town of Guimarães and the Historic Centre of Porto.  This time we would add two more, the Garrison Border Town of Elvas and its Fortifications and the Historic Centre of Évora.

Furaduero Beach Portugal

Portugal is famous for its Atlantic beaches which stretch for one thousand, one hundred and fifteen miles and along this coastline are three hundred Blue Flag Beaches which is the fifth highest amongst all participating countries but looking at the statistics in a different way they get even better and dividing length of coastline by number of beaches, Portugal is way out in front and storms into first place with one proud blue flag flapping away every three and three-quarter miles or so.

When it comes to wine, screw caps have all but completely replaced the cork. Interestingly 35% of the World’s cork forests and 50% of World supply comes from Portugal so there for the time being the cork stopper still reigns supreme even in the cheapest bottles of wine.

My next measure is always the Eurovision Song Contest and Portugal has participated in the annual contest forty-nine times since its debut in the 1964.  Up until recently the country held the unfortunate record for the most appearances in the contest without a win but they put that right in 2017 when they won in Kiev with Salvador Sobral’s entry, “Amar Pelos Dois”.

Algarve Map Silves Electricity Boxes

In my research I have discovered some more impressive statistics: Portugal is ranked third in the Global Peace Index, just behind Iceland and New Zealand.  The index gauges global peace using three measures – the level of safety and security in society, the extent of domestic and international conflict and the degree of militarisation. Portugal for example was one of only a few European countries that escaped involvement in the Second-World-War, the others were Spain (even though they supported Nazi Germany), Switzerland (only in theory of course because they did a lot of Nazi banking and gold trading), Sweden and The Republic of Ireland.

On the subject or war and peace, the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance (Aliança Inglesa) ratified at the Treaty of Windsor in 1386, between England and Portugal, is the oldest alliance in the world that is still in force – with an even earlier treaty dating back to the Anglo-Portuguese Treaty of 1373.  England (UK) and Portugal have never been on opposite sides in any military conflict which is a very impressive statistic when you consider that in that time England (UK) has at one time or another been at war at some time or another with almost every other European country.

We left the UK from a dreary, overcast Manchester Airport in late afternoon and in less than three hours later we were watching a glorious sunset from a hotel balcony in Faro in Portugal.

I like Portugal and I was glad to be back.

Algarve Map on Beach Towel

31 responses to “Travels in Portugal, Preparation and Arrival

  1. Know it well been there speak the language my oldest godfather is from Faro. Grew up in USA playing soccer.football in their clubs in N j the list goes on !

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  2. Spending Xmas and New Year in this part of the world so will be interested to read all about your travels.

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  3. I like it too, and it was good to see you there. 🙂 🙂 Gardening or grandkids this weekend?

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  4. Fascinating information and splendid beach shot

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  5. The Republic of Ireland’s people were involved in WW2. Seventy thousand of its citizens fought in the British armed forces. On the other side, the IRA was supposedly responsible for some of the sabotage that occurred in England. There is also a strong story that U-boats were refuelled in Cork Harbour which was stopped when a squadron of Blenheims arrived and bombed just the waters of the port, to make the point that the British knew what they were up to. That story is on an RAF forum, told by an RAF man of the time.
    Your picture of the mystery lady on the beach is a stunner, by the way. Perfectly composed.

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  6. Looking forward to the report of the rest of your holiday. Too many years since I’ve been to that area but love hearing about it.

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  7. it is interesting to be interested in the culture, the geography, the history etc … of a country that we will visit, to understand also better the traditions and to appreciate it of advantage once on the spot

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  8. Our London based daughter loves Portugal and has been there several times. We have yet to visit but from all I’ve read and seen it sounds a fascinating place. Will enjoy reading the account of your travels there 🙂

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  9. Great to know more about Portugal 🇵🇹, thank you 😊

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  10. Very envious . . .going to be January before we return

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  11. My son lived on Jersey for a couple of years and always spent a lot of time surfing on Portuguese beaches. That Global Peace Index is a vote winner from my looking.

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  12. Fascinating facts! The photo of Kim on the beach is lovely!

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  13. Ha ha ha, you use the Eurovision Song Contest as one of your measures. That cracks me up.

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