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One place in the world where the traffic stops for the pedestrian even if you have not pressed the light button is perhaps only in Albufeira. And there I was standing at the kerb waiting to cross: the good pedestrian in me knows the insanity of mad dashing: so I waited patiently. And this machine wowed as the sexiest car in the world came into my line of vision. I casually took it in, no actually, gawked openly at the good looker. Then the incredible thing happens. The Ferrari did not whizz past in fact it stopped, braking the line of lazy traffic, and the driver moved his head motioning me to cross. The jaw just dropped all the way down to my knees. Oooo! Oo! Where in the world will this happen except in………..
Albufeira is in the Algarve region. This region with its endless beaches, steep cliffs and deep blue skies stretches all the way across South Portugal. The people here are in no great hurry- they have all the time in the world. The Bom Sol (Good Sun) is an industry here. Big time! The Albuferians like to count their hours of sunshine- 3000hours/ annum they boast! Meela and I stayed at Clube Praia da Oura, a beach resort with numerous pubs close by, where Bom Fun (Good Fun) is round the clock. They take their Fun very seriously too. Even the street lamps have shades in the shape of champagne glasses with bubbles and all. The exotic pineapple shaped- trees called Palmeiras (a native of Brazil) that dot the landscape make the place look distinctively different too.
George W. Bush and Gang will never holiday in Algarve!
The Arabs were in control of this region from 8th to the 13th centuries. The invading Christians from the North destroyed much of the material evidence of this occupation, but there are some prominent remnants. The names are telling: Many of the names begin with the Islamic sounding ‘Al’: Albufeira, Algarve, Aljezur etc. Now you can guess why Bush will avoid this region like the plague. The names sound too much like his sworn enemy: Al Jazeera. (GOD forbid if he thinks he should bomb Al garve! Frankly the world needs a big break from his Thinks!)
Chimney gazing in wine country
This is wine country and wine is cheap- anything from One Euro to whatever your purse permits. We took to wine drinking coz even the cheap wines were very smooth and readily available. There was another thing we did which is exclusive to Algarve. We took up Chimney gazing. It was habit forming and exciting. The flat roofed houses have beautiful chimneys. Some look like bottles, some square, some elaborately worked while some others are simple. The Chimney, by the way is the symbol of Algarve region. It is said the value of the chimney was measured by the time it took to build a chimney. Some of the chimneys are exquisite with ornamental motifs and even had lace patterns. The houses did not stop with one chimney. We counted a house with four Chimneys!
And it didn’t stop with gazing at the styles we had to see for ourselves the oldest existing chimney in the Algarve region. And it took a whole day out of us.
500 year- old Chimney in Porches
With a bag full of juicy apples we had set out for Porches, a sleepy potter’s village where only one café was open. For lunch it was some Fried pork fat home bread, Country Sausage Bread, Portuguese coffee with “half of milk” and the apples. We managed to see the 500year -old chimney with a dancing doll embellished on it. There was no one around while we gaped and clicked. At Porches, the pottery shops were filled with bright coloured wares capturing the colours of the sun, the abundant oranges, lemons, fish etc. And the ceramic roosters were given a special place.
A Cock -a- doodle -do
The legend has it that in the town of Barcelo, there was a common man who was accused of murder and sentenced to death. The town made the execution an event, complete with a rooster dinner. As the execution was about to begin, the commoner stated that he will prove his innocence through the rooster. He said that if he was indeed innocent, the rooster will get up and sing. Sure enough the rooster lifted itself off the platter in which he was to be served from and began singing. The man was set free and the rooster symbolized good luck ever since.
Waiter! There is a stone in my soup!
Lady Luck is in business here. The kind of forms she takes for monetary gains is quite astonishing- even witch dolls are considered lucky charms. But what takes the cake is the “Sop de peidre” or the Stone soup. If you are lucky you will find a stone in your soup! Besides the stone soup, Cataplana is a must have dish. This excellent dish is a stew of clams, prawns, pork, and other seafood all thrown into one pot.
Nothing beyond the Tip of My Nose Syndrome
Sagres is at the other end of Algarve. In very Eurocentric terms Sagres was known as the Land’s End. The Europeans of ancient times believed there was nothing beyond this point! (Except the sea)
Vasco Da Gama found the sea route to India
In 1415 Prince Henry the Navigator was appointed the Governor of Algarve at the age of 25 and under his instigation the historical voyages known as the Portuguese Discoveries began. Henry’s school of Navigation is supposed to have been on the promontory at Sagres within the walls of the forteleza, which was rebuilt after the 1755 earthquake. The only building still surviving is a little church.
The school of navigation was like a magnet to the best brains in Europe concerned with the nautical sciences. Under Henry's patronage, a community of brilliant scholars came here to teach and to study the accumulated and correlated nautical knowledge as it was brought back by captains of successive voyages- about the Atlantic currents and wind systems and the latest navigational methods. Cartography was refined with the use of newly devised instruments. Maps were regularly updated and extended. A revolutionary type of vessel, the caravel, was designed.
Henry began master-minding and directing operations at Sagres and Lagos. He had opened the way, but did not live long enough to savour and share the successes of Bartolomeu Dias who rounded the Cape of Good Hope in 1488, and Vasco da Gama who had set sail from Lagos, Algarve, to finally push through the sea route to India in 1498.
We had journeyed to the very point where it had all begun………. And changed the course of our history forever. (The view is breath taking!)
To market, To market, to buy a fat…
The gypsy market every Wednesday at Quarteria brings together gypsies and traders from all over the world. People as far away as Ecuador, Nigeria, Kenya come to sell their colourful knits, bags or just about anything. We came away with bargained treasures!
Macxom speaks Malayalam
We did not see many Indians, in fact I cannot remember seeing anyone except for one in the old town of Albufeira. We were sitting in the town square waiting for the open -air band to play. And there he was standing outside the Doce Jardin calling out to people to come and eat in the restaurant.
When he saw us he asked, “Are you British Indians?”
“No, Indian Indians!” we replied.
When he heard Kerala, his tongue twisted itself into familiar mode and those difficult verbal curves tripped out.
We saw one Indian in Algarve and you guessed it, he had to be a Mallu!