Today was another day of extreme, dry heat, alleviated only by the charming occasion of my 29th wedding anniversary.
But now was not the time to grow misty-eyed and spout nostalgic drivel about how time flies, or insensitively mention to others: “you know, not many can say that… .”
Love and marriage.
It’s a bitch.
I think it hit the 90s, but by next Sunday we can expect to it to drop down to 70.
Here’s today’s lesson.
Without a car, getting around Tavira can be a major pain in the butt, unless you do your walking around before 9am.
This is a wonderful time of day in Tavira.
The air will feel cool and you can enjoy the coolness of the lingering dawn as swallows pirouette in the pink and ochre skies above.
But if you want any kind of mobility during the heat of the day, learn to drive a stick, or be prepared to rent an automatic at an exorbitant rate. Also, keep in mind that gas is two to three times what it costs in the US.
You don’t know The House of Pain until you have to climb up a steep hill under an unblinking sun in a cloudless sky with the temp nearing 100 and the air so dry your heels start to crack as you trudge home with your two 5 liter plastic jugs of bottled aqua in hand because you don’t trust the local tap water.
What must the summers be like here?
Something to keep in mind when thinking of moving here permanently.
For example in Florida, where my wife and I live, the weather turns gorgeous from mid to late October until about May.
You can usually count on about 6 months per year of picture-perfect weather, until the summer oven cranks up again.
Here it seems the truly nice weather comes in patches that are rather brief in comparison.
Something to keep in mind, if weather is a determinant when considering a move to the Algarve.
Today was all about preparing for our big adventure tomorrow in Castro Marin with Jere and Remi, two charming expats, whom we met on Wednesday at the meetup in Tavira.
My first order of business was to figure out how long it takes to walk to the train station from where we are staying.
I figured that the train station was about a 30 minute walk uphill under a broiling sky.
I was not wrong.
Yes, we could have walked faster, but given the dryness of the heat, you really felt as if you were trudging along in some sort of convection oven, and that if you were not careful, any step could be your last.
So we walked slow.
The station itself has a sculpture of a guy waving at a woman across the street. Clearly he had just gotten off the train, and was greatly pleased to see her.
But who was she?
There were no bambino statues about to indicate this was a family thing.
So… was he a wealthy but already married cavaleiro from Faro here for a fling?
Or was he simply The Faithful Husband, happy to be back with his pretty young wife after some hard slog salt — from which the word salary is derived — mine business trip up in Lisbon?
A memory flickered briefly in my mind of when my wife use to wait for me in the car at the Greenwich train station when I would return home after a day’s pay in Manhattan.
I high-fived the statue and went into the train station with her. The young woman behind the ticket counter was quite amused by our desire to purchase round trip tickets in advance and our worries that the train might not show up due to some strike or that there would be no seats for us.
“This is Portugal!” she said. “Land of peace and love.”
I was very excited by this idea, particularly since it was my 29th wedding anniversary, so instead of buying tickets, we ambled over to Lidl like hippies to do some grocery shopping.
It was heaven in there.
The AC was blasting away like gangbusters. So we cooled off by wandering aimlessly around the wide aisles with a rolling plastic shopping basket in tow.
My wife looked for some half-and-half in the milk section, but we could not find any. We tried to explain the half and half concept to a young man with an earphone gizmo stuck in his ear — I am not sure why stockboys have to go hi tech nowadays — but it seems that half and half is not something that you can buy in Portugal, no matter how creatively we tried to explain what it was using sign language.
Suddenly a recorded announcement in English came over the store loudspeakers. It was a woman’s voice and sounded vaguely German.
“Please go to the register immediately to put your things on the conveyor belt as we are closing the registers in 20 minutes,” said the voice.
I found the choice of words a bit strange, but then Germans always sound a bit strange when they speak English.
What really puzzled me was that it was only 1:40 in the afternoon.
When in Rome.
So I headed to the checkout counter where a pristine conveyor belt awaited me, but the young cashier manning that station waved me off, pointing to a line that had quickly formed at the next register.
After all, we were in no hurry to go back outside.
But as we waited, suddenly one of the registers behind me suddenly became open.
A short, stocky esse who was next in line after me started barreling past, with his loaded shopping cart now turned into a battering ram. He had obviously not heard the news that Portugal was the land of peace and love.
I considered for a moment whether getting banned from ever flying back to Portugal again was worth it, and while I was thinking about this, the guy was now standing ahead of me, with that blank facial expression that people all around the world use when they are screwing you while pretending they aren’t even aware that you exit.
I let it go.
I was, after all, a guest in his country.
So what’s the moral of this story?
If you already live year round in a tropical location, then you really have to consider whether it makes sense to go through all the trouble it takes to make that permanent move to the Algarve.
Then again, Portugal is in, you know, Europe, in a way that, say, Florida is not — which pretty much seals the deal for many who live here for whatever complex set of reasons they jot down on their laptop pros vs cons spreadsheet.
Let me save you the trouble.
It all boils down to this:
Do you think you would ever forget your wedding anniversary present while living in the Algarve?
If not, everything else probably becomes a mere bag of shells.
There rest of the day was the underwhelming.
We went back to our feathered sky nest, sat around for a while, took a nap, then went to town, after sun set, and looked around a bit by the Moorish bridge, arranged for a cab to pick us on Monday morning to take us to the train station then enjoyed a nice “normal” (sorry to sound like such a plebe, but there you have it) dinner that consisted of mozarella cheeseburgers and fries at the Black Anchor, where we sat contentedly by the water and took a furtive snaps of a woman who was the mirror image of Hillary Clinton, while listening to a guitarist who sounded like the second coming of Neil Young covering Eagles numbers from the 70s.
It was all rather pleasant, and then we walked home, ready for our pic the next day to Castro Marin.
Okay, so here’s the pick of the pics from Day 5 …