Tag Archives: Armação de Pera

Travels in Portugal, A Bit of Nostalgia

Some pictures from a previous visit to the Algarve in Portugal in 1986

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Travels in Portugal, Time Zones and Revisits

Algarve

We arrived at Faro airport as it was beginning to get dark and by pure chance managed to walk to our accommodation without making any serious mistakes.  We settled in to our basic accommodation and the first thing that I remembered not to do was to change the time on my watch.

Normally travelling to Europe involves adding an hour on but not so Portugal because along with Ireland and Iceland, Portugal is the only other European country that shares Western European Time with the United Kingdom.

Looking at a map of European time zones this looks odd but there is an explanation.  France, The Low Countries and Spain should sensibly be in the western zone but during World-War-Two the Nazi occupiers changed France, Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg to Central European time for the convenience of Adolf Hitler in Berlin.  For the sake of consistency Nazi sympathiser Franco changed Spain at the same time but anti-German Salazar of Portugal stayed as they were.

Time Zones.jpg

I got caught out by this several years ago when I first visited Portugal.  When we landed in Porto I instinctively added an hour and thought nothing of it.  During the visit however something puzzled me because all of the clocks seemed to be an hour behind and even at the railway station the displays said four when our watches said five.  I thought that this was strange so asked an official who confirmed that it was indeed four and smiled when I showed him my watch and suggested that it was five.  It turns out that we had been an hour ahead of ourselves for almost two days and this explained why it was still light at half past six at night in January, why the restaurant staff were surprised when we turned up for dinner an hour early, why the breakfast room was empty at six in the morning and also why it was so cold when we went out sightseeing in the dark.  This, let me tell you was a most disorientating experience and one thing is certain, I will never make a Time Lord!

For my first meal in Portugal I had imagined grilled sardines or piri-piri chicken but there was an absence of restaurants at the airport site so we had to settle for a burger and fries in a nearby American diner which I have to confess was really rather good.

Algarve Sardines

The following morning I collected the hire car from the airport but there was a problem because I had made a mistake with the start date.  Here I was making sure I had got the time right regarding the issue of the hour but I had somehow managed to be a complete twenty-four hours out on the car hire and I should have been there the day before to collect it.

Anyway, we sorted it out, the car was still there somewhere waiting for me and after the staff located it handed over the keys to a street scarred Peugeot 305 we were soon on our way heading west away from Faro.

I had visited the Algarve twice before, the first time in 1986 on a road-trip with pals and then in 1994 on a family holiday so I was curious to see if the southern Algarve was anything like I remembered it to be.

The first stop was Albufeira which once had a thriving fishing industry but sometime in the 1960s turned to tourism and began a hotel building programme to attract visitors from Northern Europe.  I remembered sitting on the promenade drinking beer and looking over a beach where there was still some working fishing boats to see.  There is no room for boats on the beach anymore because today it was completely covered in sun-beds and parasols and flanked by bars and tourist shops.

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Actually I didn’t find that it changed a great deal except that it was so much busier than I remembered.  We stayed for a while, walked through the shopping streets of the old town through the tunnel cut through the rocks for fishing boats that no longer use it and down to the beachfront.  On the way out we stopped briefly for an excellent light lunch and then left and continued west towards our destination, the seaside resort of Carvoeiro where we would be staying for three days.

In 1986 I stayed in the small village of Alcantarilha which I remembered as a single street dusty little place with one shop.  Not so any more as it has grown into a big holiday village and I quickly abandoned any thoughts of attempting to find the villa or the shop.  The villa I know is still there because I know the people who live there but I imagine the old shop to be a modern supermarket – ALDI most likely.

This was the shop…

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My plan was to drive through Armação de Pêra which in my memory was a pleasant fishing village with a big sandy beach but from the main road all I could see was a string of tall hotels and a sprawl of holiday accommodation so I abandoned that idea as well and drove on to Carvoeiro and hoped that this may not have changed too drastically since 1986.  But of course it had…

Old Carvoeiro

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Road Trip – Armação de Pera, a Crate of Beer and Bread Rationing

“We waded out at the edge of the sea to a fishing village and it was so lovely we promised to go back and stay. When I did go there, ten years later it was unrecognisable.  Only the name remained of what was once so exquisite”  Patrice Chaplin – ‘Albany Park’

Actually we didn’t need a great deal, the two main items on our shopping list were beer and bread, in that order!  We found the beer and quickly calculated how much we would need for three days and set about assembling the purchase at the counter.  The shop keeper seemed a bit agitated by this but all she was trying to make us understand was that she would rather like the bottles back when we had finished with them because there was a deposit on them.

And then we turned to bread and spotted it on a shelf behind the old lady and by pointing and shouting, in the way that we do when we can’t understand each other, we drew her attention to it and asked for twenty mini-loaves.  Now she was alarmed because this was only a small community and this would have cleaned out the entire days supply for the village and we had to seriously negotiate with her to get her to release only about half of our requested quantity.

Portugal Doors 1

Back at the villa it was really quite warm in the early afternoon sun and this meant that we could sample the Portuguese beer while sitting around the pool and on the sun terrace on the top of the building.  Three of us were content to sit and do very little but Richard, who is by nature a hopeless fidget, quickly got bored and soon disappeared to carry out a more thorough inspection of the car.  He was gone for quite some time and first of all he gave it a good bonnet to boot clean, which seemed to cheer it up considerably and it began to look a great deal happier!

It wasn’t all good news however because Richard advised that a quick mechanical check had revealed that one of the headlights didn’t work and there was no heater because the pipes had been disconnected and sealed off with a bit of wood, which wasn’t a repair process that you would find in a Haynes do-it-yourself workshop manual but nevertheless appeared to be relatively effective.  At this point things didn’t look good for the journey home and we wondered how difficult it would be to get a flight back instead.

With the car all bright and shiny we all agreed that we should now give it a test drive and make a first trip down to the nearby beach resort of Armação de Pera, about five kilometres away.

It took us only about ten minutes to reach the town that not very long ago was nothing more than a collection of small shacks where the local residents from the nearby village of Pera used to maintain their fishing boats.  This was probably a place where men used to gather at the end of the day, and have a bit of a laugh and a beer or two before going home for evening meal.  But sadly that was in the past because the adjacent five kilometer sandy beach had turned this into a full-on summer resort, which in my opinion had probably spoilt it forever.

Not that there was a great deal going on today however and after a quick inspection of the empty beach we all agreed that we should find a bar for another beer.  We found a traditional sort of place that had an extensive selection of port wines ranging from just a few Escudos a glass to quite a lot of Escudos a glass and because we didn’t understand the hierarchy or the complexities of Port Wine  we just settled for a beer instead.

Portugal Fishing

By late afternoon we decided we should go back to the villa so with Richard driving (because, on account of the fact that he was responsible for the car, hadn’t had any beer) we tried to find our way out of the town.  This wasn’t as easy as it sounds and being unfamiliar with driving on the other side of the road he managed to knock over a parked motorcycle and then almost wipe out a couple of pedestrians for good measure.  Before he could do some really serious damage we made him pull over and I took over the controls for the short drive back.

We had some more beer of course and then realised that none of us was fit to drive again so we couldn’t go back out and agreed that it would have to be an evening at the villa.

After the sun went down it became rather chilly so we gathered up some twigs and branches for firewood and lit a fire in the lounge and spent the evening eating bread rolls with cheese and drinking beer.  In fact we drank rather more beer than we intended to and by the end of the evening the supply that we had bought for the three days was completely gone!

Portugal Tiles Postcard

Road Trip – The Algarve and Albufeira

 

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.

Read the full story…

Road Trip – Armação de Pera, a Crate of Beer and Bread Roll Rationing

Actually we didn’t need a great deal, the two main items on our shopping list were beer and bread, in that order!  We found the beer and quickly calculated how much we would need for three days and set about assembling the purchase at the counter.  The shop keeper seemed a bit agitated by this but all she was trying to make us understand was that she would rather like the bottles back when we had finished with them because there was a deposit on them.

Read the full story…