Portugal’s Algarve Coast. Alvor, on the North Atlantic’s Shore
Tempus Fugit! The Coast of Cinco Quinas
Music: I’m Afraid of Americans, David Bowie and I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free, Nina Simone. In this order!
Movie: That Good Night (2017)
Book: London 2012: What If?, Ian C. P. Irvine
We are rushing like lunatics towards our deaths, living our days at hallucinating speed, missing life and throwing ourselves neck first into the scythe of the reaper. And we hardly ever realise we are doing it every single day of our lives!
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Get up when the alarm goes off ruining your best and most resting sleep. Rush to the shower without banging your sleepy head on the door frame. Get breakfast ready. Prepare school meals. Get the kids up. Fight them to get downstairs. Threaten you will leave the house without them if they don’t bloody get up already! As if they care. See if it makes a difference. That is all they want, for you to just leave the house without them!
Drive your deathtrap called modern means of transportation or car. Break hard every five seconds to avoid hurting half-awake teenagers dragging themselves to school on the curb or right on the street. Drop the kids at school. Drive like a lunatic to get to work on time, for once!
Work hard. Pay your tax. Do exactly what the system trained you to do. Sleep-work-pay-repeat. Time flies! Watch your life going right by you!
Now stop for a moment and break the cycle. Disconnect! Book yourself a holiday away from the dreariness of your dull life, constant rushing, lousy weather and oppressive system!
Go to Alvor. A quaint, laid-back, tiny village in Algarve, southern Portugal. Touristic, but not so much. Commercial, but not so much. A place bathed in sunshine and caressed by the Atlantic breeze.
Drag your tired feet through the hot sand. Swim in the crystal-clear water amid shoals of sardines and whatever other fish are swarming the ocean. Listen to the light breeze and the sound of crashing waves. Pick up shells. Take in the (healthy) UV. Fill your sinuses with aerosol particles in the early mornings. And just live!
Forget your phone and be assured the Earth will still revolve around the Sun even if you don’t check your (anti) social media every five minutes. Relish the moment the screen turns black; you will feel the freest you’ve felt in ages.
The hell with Kindle and don’t even read a book at all, a sacrilege you will live with. I, a bookworm, vouch for it.
Surrender to the senses instead. Let your overwhelmed mind fill with the sound of crashing waves or cicadas’ incessant song.
Just do all I ask of you because it’s not healthy to be a slave all the time. You won’t ever be free of the system, but you are free to screw it now and then. So, liberate yourself!
Beautiful Elida at Bar Cultural (on the way to the beach, by Dunas do Alvor) will make you the best cappuccino in the village. A talented bartender will prepare under your eyes a mouth-watering tuna steak on a hot stone grill in less than seven minutes at Silmar. The restaurant is impossible to miss; look for the jacaranda tree in a small square by the little church. I know it’s not a great direction, but I’m sure you will find it.
As for cataplana, the dish is finger-licking fabulous no matter where, although my favourite is by far the one served at Cinco Quinas, the little tavern on the beach.
The Sun does not revolve around the Earth. It never sets or rises. It’s a fixed star in our Solar System that always illuminates at the same (more or less) intensity. Precisely because the Earth does revolve around it, the sunset on Alvor Beach is something else!
It might be windy in the evening, but it’s worth shivering a little for the Universe’s free spectacle. Only then, you will bring your day-to-day life to a standstill from all the crazy rush and enjoy what nature in her kindness has to offer.
Only then, you will ask yourself ‘when was the last time I actually watched a sunset and enjoyed it this much? How long ago? It’s something that happens every day but still, how many times do I actually acknowledge and enjoy it?’
I stayed on the beach until the sun bled its recurring death and sank into the mottled ocean. I was only driven away by flights of bats that had started their nocturnal busy life around the vegetation of the Alvor Beach dunes.
The village doesn’t sleep much. Late in the night the bars and restaurants are still open and swarming with content customers enjoying the beautiful Portuguese cuisine. Many of the shops will also be open for you to buy all the souvenirs you want.
On one of the cobbled streets climbing up to the heart of the village, you’ll find an art gallery that has a particular program in the evening: book a session with an artist and have your face painted with an Alvor background of your choice.
I find from the owner how industrial fishing killed a millennia-old trade. I see it daily as I pass by the old fishing shacks on the seafront. Wrinkled fishermen are killing time playing cards instead of carrying on with a job they cannot do anymore due to the prohibition rules set by the government.
That also means that if you are stopped by the police around a fish market and can not provide a receipt for the fish you carry in your bag, you are liable to pay a costly fine for illegal fishing! The greed of the giants …
Never mind. You are on a mission to forget about the system’s oppression during your holiday, so keep to that.
Many tour operators in Alvor offer day boat trips along the coast. A must-do! If you’re lucky, you will see dolphins swimming around your little boat.
I did not see any dolphins the day I booked the cruise. It does not mean that I did not have lots of fun.
To start with, I boarded the two-decker boat on a fog so dense that you could cut through it with a knife. I had no clue where the city of Portimão was as I could not see ten feet away from the pier.
Sailing surrounded by milky fog is incredibly surreal. It makes one think of pirates and their perilous journeys in treacherous waters guided by drunk captains relying upon primitive compasses. Alas, the pirates never had entertainment by blasting music from the speakers nor by the crazy funny talk of bonkers tour guide Susana. She sailed skillfully through a four-language presentation for the mixed group on her boat. Susana and the entire crew were fabulous.
The Benagil Beach, carved in limestone, was our barbeque stop. It was fabulous to nose-dive in the crystal clear waves after a decent meal. The dingy trips to the caves carved by the ocean in the walls of the shore were also fabulous. The entire day was just fantastic!
I did get to see Portimão on return. The thick fog has dissipated late morning and offered a great day of exploring, adventure, relaxing and recharging off the fabulous coast of the Algarve.
If you are more of a city person like me and need to see buildings around you to feel well anchored in your immediate reality, then grab the ten o’clock bus to Lagos, the larger city you can spot in the distance towards your right when you’re idling on Alvor Beach.
The vibrant city is a fifteen minutes drive away from Alvor. From the bus terminal, it’s only a short walk either along the seafront or straight on the cobbled roads to the centre of the town. As you pass by the Market, don’t miss the Science Museum. Mind you, it’s easy to spend too much time in it because there is so much to explore. Save some for the rest of the city.
Follow the DNA double helix pattern on the cobbled streets to the museum next to Santo Antonio Church to see the ‘cosmic egg’. This egg is a seven thousand-year-old stone that has engraved on it the symbol of human DNA.
Say again: we are the most advanced human species there ever was. Right? Think again. Now is a good time. You’re on vacation, you gave your brain time to rest, and you can see clearly how all that reading you somehow managed to amass leads in the same direction. History, religion, and politics are all an amalgam carefully designed to keep you from seeing the bigger picture, the important one. I’m not saying any more now, just go and see for yourself.
At some point, on your way to the fort on the waterfront, you will pass by the Slaves Market. Blissfully oblivious children’s laughter and playful splashing fill the square that hosts a beautiful fountain.
I, on the other hand, can feel the cold chill creeping up my spine despite the intense afternoon sun.
This place is laden with historical horror, unimaginable pain and cruelty inflicted on the less fortunate by the entitled ones. Both categories belong to the same species: Homo Sapiens. Wise indeed!
There was a time when some people were not as fortunate as the majority are today. People owned people. Alas, when was the history fair?
Slavery was abolished by law in the nineteenth century. Yet, two decades into the twenty-first century, it is not eradicated. Even worse, it has a new, adapted name: modern slavery!
Thankfully, it is not the norm today. Try to imagine you lived two, three or four centuries ago. And you were born in West Africa. And you crossed the ocean on wooden boats. In manacles. Chilling! It will make you think again!
So much exploring and cogitating will surely make you hungry. That’s great! Inviting terraces dress the streets in the city centre under the purple shade of lofty Jacaranda trees. Just pick one to enjoy more of the Portuguese cuisine’s delights and quench your thirst.
The last bus back to Alvor leaves Lagos at four pm. That gives you plenty of time to spend the evening on the beach again. Sleep-swim-sunbathe-eat-drink-shop-tour-watch sunset-have fun-repeat! LIVE! Because time flies!