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Published: September 20th 2017
We sleep in and miss breakfast. We turn the TV on. It's a long time since we've turned a TV on. We watch a few minutes of an episode of "How I Met Your Mother" on a Dutch channel. All the dialogue has been overdubbed in Dutch, but the canned laughter seems to be the original. We've got very little idea what the episode is about, but it is amusing just the same watching familiar faces speaking Dutch.
We wander through the hotel and try to get down onto the beach, but security is intense and all the doors and gates are locked. It feels like we are in jail, only with lots of swimming pools, bars and restaurants. Actually I suspect this is not really how it feels like to be in jail at all. It seems that we need to use our room key card to unlock the very substantial steel gate on the path leading down to the beach.
The beach is called Santa Eulalia. It is long and wide, and the sand is golden. It is very pleasant. We notice that the tide is out, which reminds us that we're not in the Mediterranean any
more. The sand is hard below the high watermark, and I think that this would be a very good place to play beach cricket. There are no real tides in the Mediterranean, which would make it a bit frustrating if you wanted to play beach cricket there. Now that I think of it they don't play a lot of cricket in countries on the Mediterranean. I wonder if this is the reason. The beach is backed by golden sandstone cliffs. There are signs everywhere warning that they might collapse at any moment, and that it would be a good idea to stay away from the bases of them. The beach is full of people sunbathing, but there don't seem to be too many of them in the water. I dip my toes in. It is very cold. We climb some wooden steps up the cliff at one end of the beach. There is a decided slope on the steps from one side to the other, and the hand rail wobbles a lot more than it should when we grab hold of it to stop ourselves falling off the sloping steps. I think that these steps are much more dangerous than
the cliffs, so we go up and down and then get off them as quickly as we can.
We have lunch at a restaurant overlooking the beach. Issy orders a hot chocolate. A fly is sitting on the rim of the cup, and when we shoo it away it always comes back again almost straight away. When Issy goes to drink the hot chocolate we see the that the fly has fallen off the rim of the cup and is now lying lifelessly on the surface of her drink. She fishes its body out with a spoon and leaves it on the saucer. We ask the waiter for a replacement cup of hot chocolate. As he goes to take the cup and saucer away, the fly suddenly and miraculously bursts back into life. It struggles to walk across the table and then up onto the back of my hand. I watch in amazement as it spends the next few minutes removing hot chocolate from its wings. I hope that it doesn't have brain damage. Issy tries to kill it, but I protect it. I tell her that she has no appreciation for the wonders of nature. She says that
I have now become St Dave, Patron Saint of Flies. I didn't know that flies had patron saints. If they didn't they do now.
We decide to spend the afternoon by the pool, and I use my iPad to try to learn a few basic words of Portuguese. Some of the words seem to be a bit similar to Spanish, but others are completely different. The word for thank you is obrigado if a man says it, but obrigada if a woman says it. If a mixed gender group all want to say thank you in unison then they must use the masculine form. I think that if you were in mixed gender group you would need to work out exactly who was going to do the thanking well in advance to avoid getting it wrong. Obrigado is a lot different to the Spanish word for thank you, which is gracias, and in Spain women and men can both us the same word. This would make life a lot easier if you were in a mixed gender group, and you wanted to thank someone. When we arrived at the airport yesterday I thought that virtually everyone there was Russian.
We then quickly worked out that they were really Portuguese, and that to our ears Russian and Portuguese people sound the same, even though we've got no idea what either group is actually saying. I thought there were a lot of Russian tourists at a lot of the other places we've been to in Europe, but maybe they were all really Portuguese.
The ever reliable Wikipedia tells me that the population of Portugal went down quite a bit between censuses in 2011 and 2016. I wonder why. I then read an article that tells me that this is due to the poor economic conditions here. Portugal now has the lowest birth rate of any country in Europe, and a lot of young people have emigrated to try to find jobs. The number of children per woman of child bearing age here was three in 1970, but is now only 1.21.
We catch a bus into the centre of Albufeira, and walk down through Fishermans Square and then along the main beach which is called Praia do Peneco. The beach is long and very wide, and again the sand is golden and very nice. We climb up to a
viewing point at the western end of the beach as the sun is setting. Someone has set a cat colony up up here, and there are very cute tame cats everywhere. We walk back down into the main part of the town. It is frantically busy. It has a lot of atmosphere and we agree that there is something really attractive about it. Almost everyone here is English, and it seems that Albufeira is to English people what Bali is to Australians. There is English Premier League soccer showing on televisions in every bar and restaurant. There can't be anyone left in England; they all seem to be here. We look for a place to eat Portuguese food, but all we can see is menus offering fish and chips, and roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. If we'd wanted that we would have gone to Manchester, not come here to the Algarve. We settle in at a restaurant on the waterfront, and order a large jug of sangria followed quickly by another one. We then decide that perhaps we should also order some food to go with it.
We catch a tuk tuk back to the hotel. This is a
three wheeled buggy with a soft top and plastic windows. We chat to the driver who introduces himself as Nuno. He says that he can tell that we are from Australia. He says that a lot of the English people who come here drink way too much and then get into trouble with the police, but he says that they bring in a lot of money so Albufeira can't do without them. He tells us that it is very dry here in Albufeira and that there hasn't been even a single drop of rain here for the last four months. He says that even this isn't the record, and that last year it didn't rain at all for five months. We get out and Issy says "gracias". Nuno tells her that you must never say "gracias" to a Portuguese person as they find it very offensive to be confused with Spaniards. I think we have been saying "gracias" to a lot of people since we arrived here and that we have probably offended half of Portugal by now.
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