Notes from Portugal: So Faro, so good

I know, I know the Algarve isn´t the “real” Portugal. It´s the built-up touristy area in the south of the country (which is a little ironic, considering the name “Algarve” is from the phrase “the West” in Arabic). Still, you´re definitely missing something if you don´t visit the center of the old town.

Walk past the busy shops and cafes (and avoid Jumbo altogether), and you´ll be rewarded. The walled old city is a lovely, roughly circular area of small streets, which center on a small, Gothic church from the 13th century and a small square.

Everywhere, wintering storks can be seen perched up in nests, high above the square.

I stopped in to buy hand-painted ceramic tiles from the 17th and 18th centuries in a dusty little shop. You know, it´s kind of a wonder that the old town isn´t filled with cafes, boutique hotels, and stupid T-shirt shops, like similar areas all around Europe. It´s truly lovely, and couldn´t have been more picturesque than just after sunset, as the nightingales started singing.

Notes from Portugal: Hanging Santa

I discovered that Portugal has the finest collection of hanging Santas in the world. It is always interesting to see how other nations celebrate holidays and how they decorate their homes. If only one could make psychological profiles based on people’s Christmas decorations!

After a few days in Portugal, I have noticed that there is only one Christmas decoration here: the hanging Santa. Unlike in the Czech Republic, they seem to really like Santa here. I just took this photo today in the picturesque town of Alte, about 20 miles northwest of Faro.

Santa hangs from everywhere in Portugal – window sills, restaurant signs, rooftops…There must be some sort of association that manufactures the demand for hanging Santas, otherwise I have no idea why the Portuguese–arguably, people with very good taste–would want to decorate the beautiful facades of their homes with them.

Notes from Portugal: West Coast of Europe, Dude!

Greetings from Portugal. I am spending this week with friends in Faro, in the Algarve region of Portugal, and will undoubtedly post a few notes from here. If I can handle this internet cafe or find a new one, that is. To give you an idea, I am surrounded by about 10 men, age 20-25, talking to friends on Skype really loud in some angry-sounding foreign language. One of them is watching old people engaging in kinky sexual acts at the same time. Why, oh why, didn’t I bring my laptop instead?

Yes, I agree that going to southern Portugal just barely counts as adventure travel but it is a good place to warm up one’s bones. It is if you live in Prague or New York, at least.

I don’t have much to report just yet. I have noticed that the climate and landscape here is remarkably similar to that of Southern California. I can see why Portugal is trying to brand itself to Americans as the “West Coast of Europe.” They claim they are very environmentally-savvy, although the house where we are staying recycles just glass. It is not too hot in the summer and pretty warm in the winter. Not nearly as many blonds though. And a lot more sardines!

Even with the weak dollar, Portugal is pretty affordable. A cup of coffee will cost you about one euro [$1.40]. You might have noticed that I typically go by the “coffee price index” when traveling abroad. Gotta keep my priorities straight!

Stay tuned for more on Portugal.