So we’re in the Algarve now. Everyone says it’s the most beautiful place on earth. But then, what do they know? Everyone in Portugal says they have a “house” in the Algarve. This goes back to the ‘80’s when Portugal joined the European Union. The EU made a lot of money available to the country and Portuguese banks were eager to lend it. Everyone either got a mortgage or bought an expensive German car. The interest rates must have been very low. I’m told these purchases didn’t even require insurance. You still see some of these cars – you can recognize them by the rust and the grinding noises they make.
As for the “houses” in the Algarve, they’re really apartments in beach towns that are like forests of high rises. In Portuguese, the word would probably be “casa”, which has multiple implications, like “home” or, I suppose, “destination”, or who knows what else? Portuguese is a very complicated language. Any given word may have multiple forms, each one meaning something very specific. A classic illustration I’ve read is the English word “do”. We have only four to six versions of the word – do, doing, did, done, and maybe with modifiers, to do, have done, or about that. The comparable word in Portuguese is fazer, for which there are 22 forms. So, calling their place in the Algarve a house is the best they can do in English.
We arrived in the Algarve in the beginning of April and will stay through May before returning to the US. What we found when we got here was, yeah, the sky and the ocean are beautiful. The town itself can be middling charming when the sun is out, but the aforementioned forest of high rises doesn’t do much, not like some of the villages you pass getting here with white plastered walls, orange tile roofs and charming cafes. However, what we also found was, it was cold. Okay, okay, so it’s only April, what did we expect? Well, everybody told us it would be warm here, that’s what!
This brings up another thing about Portugal, the weather indoors and out. It’s screwy. In the summer, it can get way too hot outside; and often, it’s cold inside. We attended a gathering of expats the other day, a group called AFPOP, for Foreigners in Portugal, which has branches throughout the country. We and another couple were the only Americans there. The others included a couple of French and Belgians, but most of them were Brits.
Anyway, a British lady there confirmed our prejudice about the weather, saying she could never move here because it gets unbearably hot in the summer, but since there’s no central heating in this country and all the housing is made of concrete, you have to wear an overcoat inside if the outside temp drops below about 63°. I think Portugal has advanced the art of mixing concrete to an advance degree. Just about every structure in this country is made of the stuff. I guess it’s all been built since 1974, when the fascist dictatorship was overthrown and the modern state created.
(Parenthetically, Barbara just came in from sitting in the veranda and commented that she stepped inside only to discover it’s freezing in here. She also pointed out she hung up the laundry out there the other day in the pouring rain, and commented, “that’s how we do it in Portugal.”)
Then, finally, the sun came out and we walked on the beach, and My God, it’s beautiful! I sit and look out at the ocean, and it changes my life. It does more for my mood than taking a tranquilizer. All the tension in my body washes away. I don’t care about anything else, don’t regret anything or wish for anything other than to stay there forever and just look at it. It’s the reason when we go back to the states, we’re going to settle in an area where the ocean looks pretty much like it does here – probably the Assateague/Chincoteague area of Maryland or Virginia.
Then, I don’t think anyone will ever get me off the beach again.