Café Flies

The full Birkenstock

I’ve slagged the Birkenstock crowd enough here these last few posts. For the life of me, I fail to see the attraction of those hideous heavy leather sandals, especially when worn with a pair of dorky white socks.

Instead I’ll misanthropically, or perhaps out of ill-concealed envy, touch on café flies:  that is to say, tossers who hang out in tapas bars and open air restaurants, where they take up space and nurse a bica or one mini Castello bottle for hours as they brag about their upcoming jaunt to Marrakech without a hint of shame for their utter disregard for how restaurant workers make a living: to wit, high table turnover, and serving patrons who order food and/or wine, and are generous tippers.

Tavira’s weather was marvelous today.

You couldn’t have fried an egg on the hood of a car, for once.

The usual Birkenstocks were in rare form, spilling out in droves from the Tavira bus station.

They gingerly walked down the narrow sidewalks of the curvy cobblestone alleyway — known as R. dos Pelames — that leads to the main square of the old part of town.

Most of them were frail day trippers, in from Faro for a few hours.

“What is it that they’re looking for exactly?” I asked my wife, as we sat on a bench by the Moorish water works, and watched them go by in clumps.

“Same as us,” she replied.

“We’re political refugees,” I said.


Snowbirds exist in Europe same as they do in the US, except that in America they dress to the nines, at least on the Treasure Coast where we live.

Here, the Birkenstock variety of snowbies wear clean but old-fashioned threads that are a touch frayed around the edges. You see canes a lot, and sometimes, women in their forties with those ridiculous ski poles that they use to steady themselves while walking.

I saw two dear little old ladies who sounded Italian  — it’s hard to tell, because it sounds so much like Portuguese — walking hand in hand to keep from faceplanting.

I resisted the urge to ruminate.

When I ruminate, I tend to say things like: “We all hold each other up, in old age;  whether we admit it or not.”  This is why I avoid rumination; I am not a deep thinker, though I think of myself as one.

But why do people feel so powerfully the need to travel in old age?

Is it simply a desire to see the world, before it’s too late, despite knowing that they can never experience it the way they might have in the flower of youth?

What do they expect to see when they look at the crumbling stones of vanished civilizations?

Or is it just to ease the pain of rheumatoid arthritis under some Iberian sun?

The Miss Daisies sauntered out of sight, and my wife and I got up from the bench and headed towards Tavira’s Islamic museum.

We only spent a few minutes there, as there really is not much to see except a broken vase and some shards of pottery.

It was quite hot and stuffy, too.

This isn’t the place to learn what really happened here when the Moors looked out to the east and saw the end of their days approaching.

*  *  *

Where all this took place

Later, we had lunch at a place we like by the beach ferry.  When we arrived, there was a group of four Brits in their 60s and early 70s sitting at a table. They seemed to have been there for some time already, and one of them was resting his elbow on the back of a chair that belonged to an adjacent table.

We sat down at that table, since it was the only available one, but the bloke with the arm was oblivious, and didn’t remove it off the chair.

I  eavesdrop with the best of them, and pretty soon I was hearing words like “motor home” and “free parking” and it soon became apparent that this trailer park trash was from Yorkshire.

One of them, a particularly nasty-faced old tyke, started griping about the time she visited “the dark part” of Cyprus, and how she felt ever so unsafe there, with all the Muslim men staring at her, and Turkish soldiers with guns on every corner.

Lunch was delicious:  I’d ordered vegetable soup, octopus fried in olive oil, pistachio flan, and a cappuccino. We had switched tables just before our food came, as I had little appetite for listening to working class Yorkshire drivel during lunch. Certain types of tourists ought always remain in steerage.

Two hours later, they were still there, as we got up to leave.

I went inside to pay the waiter and decided to ask him if they had ordered anything other than coffee and water in the last few hours.

He rolled his eyes.

There are many people like this in Tavira, he said. Sometimes they stay at a table from 11 till 4 o’clock. Very bad for business but what can we do?

Dark part of Cyprus indeed.

If you ever come to the Algarve and see a bunch of provincial Brits who seem to have been sitting for hours at a restaurant table without ordering much of anything, you might want to do yourself a favor and sit as far away as possible, particularly if you’ve forgotten to bring the flit along.

Enjoy the pics.

leaving america