Shots and chips with ev­ery­thing – Por­tu­gal’s Lit­tle Eng­land

Western Morning News (Saturday) - - News -

Grow­ing up on the farm was won­der­ful. Our play­ground was 300 acres, we had rivers and lakes and woods to play in, and lots of other fun things like an­i­mals, trac­tors and com­bine har­vesters. There were bales of hay, and corn bins, and both my broth­ers and I got to raise or­phan lambs on the bot­tle. We were very lucky. It was won­der­ful.

The only down­side to life on the farm (though I re­mem­ber fa­ther say­ing there was no money in it) is that there are no hol­i­days. Farm­ing is a 24/7 busi­ness, 365 days a year. The stock need check­ing even on Christ­mas day. So bar a cou­ple of trips, my ex­pe­ri­ence of the wider world as a young­ster was fu­elled by books, films and tele­vi­sion, and in no small part by crackly cricket commentaries from lands afar. As a re­sult I’ve al­ways been fas­ci­nated by travel, and I’ve been lucky enough to do quite a bit. I love it, I love ex­plor­ing, and I love sam­pling dif­fer­ent cul­tures, and food and mu­sic and peo­ple. The trou­ble is, the world’s a big place, and ev­ery time I look at the map I re­alise how lit­tle of it I’ve been to. I’ve not even been to all the places I’d like to visit in Eng­land, let alone the Ama­zon, China, the West coast of Amer­ica, Pak­istan off to dis­cover the world. We were on a fam­ily hol­i­day, with grand­par­ents and ba­bies, in a lovely villa. Weather was good, we had a nice pool, played lots of games, and had a great hol­i­day.

But, my oh my, what have we English done to the Al­garve? We had ar­rived in the dark, so only the next day when I went to ex­plore the area on foot with The Boy did the signs be­gin to show. If I wanted an all-day English break­fast, a doner ke­bab, an English-style cheese­burger or a pint of ale in an English pub I was spoiled for choice. If I wanted to watch foot­ball I could pick from 150 sports bars and one even told me that: “We do Bloons, shots for one euro and laugh­ing gas at three euros for a sin­gle or £6 euros for a dou­ble.” Hop­ing we might have hit a duff area, the next day we ven­tured into Al­bufeira, faith­fully fol­low­ing the signs for the old town. Oh golly. Though the sun was out, it still felt like I was in a crumbly sea­side re­sort on the south coast of Eng­land. Lit­tle Eng­land has firmly taken over in the mid­dle of this for­mer fish­ing vil­lage, and I was stopped twice by restau­rant touts – one urg­ing me to come in­side for a “lovely cup of PG Tips” and the other say­ing I could “have chips with ev­ery­thing”.

De­ter­mined not to eat English we went for a pizza, be­fore bolt­ing back to the villa. It took some re­search to find a lit­tle bit of Por­tu­gal in this south­ern bit of Por­tu­gal. When we found them, they were quite lovely.

My oh my, what have we English done to the Al­garve?

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