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Published: September 12th 2008
I spent 11 days in Portugal visiting my brother and took a lot of nice photos. Portugal was a big surprise for me -- I was there 30 years ago and I don't remember it very well. I remember Lisbon as a dark, depressing sort of place and now it's a beautiful, colorful place -- they had an earthquake in 1755 that destroyed the city but then they rebuilt so I don't think that there could have been many changes since I last visited. My brother picked me up from Lisbon and took me to his home in Tavira. Tavira is a nice little holiday town and has little off shore islands where you take a ferry or boat to swim at the beaches. Russell is not very keen on the sun and I tend to avoid it these days so we didn't do any actual sunbathing but we were out every day and it was hot enough. The area is not as developed or crowded as Spain. The tourist situation is more low key and a lot of tourists seem to be Portuguese on their summer holidays. We never hit any traffic jams and mostly the roads were fairly empty.
The prices are reasonable and not as expensive as other European cities. We stayed in Lisbon at a 4-star hotel for 75 euros for two and mostly ate for about 25 euros for two. If you eat sardines or the plate of the day, then you can eat well for 15 euros for two. The people are nice and there doesn't seem to be much price gauging or taking advantage of tourists.
Tavira was nice. I spent a day wondering around the old town. The houses are tiled outside -- a bit like old bathroom or kitchen tiling -- thought it a bit strange at first but then got to like it. I sat in a church and listened to a guy playing piano. I was there for about half an hour -- he played well -- it was nice and cool. Sometimes we walked down to the square at night for icecream. I had a brandy nightcap most nights and slept well for the duration. We drove to a fishing port, Olhao, a few times for lunch. Sardines are in season now and you can smell them being fried at lunch time everywhere. It is a cheap meal.
So I had sardines and would have had them again but felt obliged to try different fish -- anchovies, swordfish, lemon soul, something named perca, bream, tuna, lots and lots of fish and seafood -- I bought fresh, cooked prawns at the supermarket and had them for breakfast and as a light dinner. I could live on them. Felt obliged to eat other food too but really wouldn't have minded if that was all I ate.
We went over the border to Spain a few times -- it wasn't so interesting -- we had a nice calamari and anchovy lunch there the first time we went and the second we ordered a plate of mixed fish and it was huge and I don't even know what some of them were but we couldn't even finish it and I started to feel a bit "fished-out" at that point.
There is a lot of golf courses and housing developments in Spain and also in Portugal but the Portuguese projects didn't look so intrusive in the surroundings the ones in Spain looked to me like very crowded, bare estates in the middle of nowhere. A bit depressing I think. Spain can
be like that some times -- the coast of Spain is all huge hotel complexes and millions of tourists but I've been in Malaga in the winter and it was quite nice.
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