We came, we were stunned by beauty, we were gently tanned, and then we left Portugal with three out of four of us medicated; all of these experiences combined to make Portugal an unforgettable stop.
As for the beauty, despite having spent five days driving along the southern coast visiting towns (Quarteria, Olhao, Tavira) and beaches recommended by various travel books, we never did surpass the stunning scenery found at Zambujeira do Mar, our first stop along the western coast. (Pictured above.)
Indeed, most of the towns along the western coast are still towns (as opposed to the condo-infested cities found along the southern coast) but you have to be prepared to suffer a language chasm, unless, of course, you speak Portugese. Everyone is friendly and willing to mime (or in the case of one night at a restaurant, display) your options but there are reasons most tourists take their holidays along the southern coast: Hop down to Luz, Lagos, and cities further east and you will find multi-lingual staff, menus and, in our case, doctors and veterinarians.
Thus we learned an important part of living on the road in Europe: If you think you might be in need of some professional help, head to the touristy areas. The British, Germans and Dutch have done a great job creating a beach head for the rest of us. (SP and I have often found that traveling behind the British will often land you in the lap of luxury—the Victoria Falls Hotel in Zimbabwe being a prime example.)
There is no doubt that times are difficult in Portugal right now. The over-building of vacation homes and condos along the southern coast, many of which now stand empty, is a sad reminder of the affluence, overabundance and eventual decline that we left behind in California. But the country feels on the cusp of recovery; and in order to ensure the success, communities should band together and start trash collection days, over-paint the graffiti and collect and neuter all the stray dogs. The government cannot be the answer; there is not a large enough tax base to support more services.
And there you have it: My first International Soap Box.
Don’t get me wrong, there are gems in Portugal, particularly for the caravan traveler: The aforementioned Zambujeira do Mar where you will be welcomed at the nicely appointed Campismo Zambujeira do Mar, and the sparkling and restive Touriscampo in Luz were not only delightful but also doubled the nights allowed under our “pitch fee” budget; at €18 per night for a full service pitch we almost stayed at the Touriscampo forever.
Finally, if you thought there were great real estate deals in California, you should check out Portugal: A two bedroom condo in a gated community with a golf course, tennis club and health spa is available for €150,000. Price negotiable.
PS: As for who is medicated? You know about SP’s return of Graves. The other two medicated troops were myself with an over the counter remedy for [what I am calling] Hercules’ Revenge and Rosco with his ear drops. Undoubtedly you do not want to hear any more of my issues, but Rosco had a foxtail stuck in his ear so far the [fantastic staff and] veterinary at Lagos Veterinary Clinic had to completely knock him out in order to dig it out. So he is on an anti-inflammatory and an antibiotic and, poor guy, had a little trouble recovering from the ordeal. He is 12 after all and those drugs hit him rather hard. River sniffs his ear on occasion and has allowed him to sleep in the “good” bed. Temporarily, of course.