A glimpse of the real Portugal…

stone village above Lousã

…is still visible if you know where to look for it.

Progress has been marching through western Iberia like a premenstrual Croatian federation wrestler on her way through the chocolate aisle at Asda (Sidcup branch). Tarmac and concrete seem to be enveloping the countryside – new roads bringing prefabricated apartment blocks, supermarkets and petrol stations that spring up like Ikea wardrobes out of a box.

Of course some things seem welcome – who doesn’t want Häagen Daz close enough to home that it won’t melt on the journey back? Or roads that no longer pummel your suspension and tyres into the scrapyard on a jaunt to the Post Office? I love Heinz baked beans, mobile phone technology and electricity is quite good too…

…but the Portugal that I saw when I first came here, the Portugal that was taken to church behind a donkey or bartered for at the market for a bag of carrots and a chicken seems to have evaporated and been replaced with shiny new Seat Puntos and 50″ plasma TVs. I love the old Portugal and it is still out there – you just have to drive a little further into the hills.

I saw an interview on TV today asking an old man in a mountain village if they wanted a cashpoint machine in their village (ATM) and he replied – “we don’t use money – why would we want a bank…?”

I didn’t surf today.


  1. Quite a nice thought that. A world without the need for money. Perhaps there still is a place in the modern world for barter and exchange:

    “What’ll you give me for 6 of these eggs?”
    “Hmm. How about half a dozen eggs?”
    “OK. Done”

    Well, perhaps not.

  2. Hitchhiked through the Algarve and then up to Lisbon in the fall of 1980. Went back to the Algarve six years ago and was horrified… Didn’t anyone see the coast of Spain and learn any lessons? Sprawl, chaos, a junkyard 200km long and 100 metres wide.

  3. Time to finish the house and move on? I hear there is a great deal of authenticity, and very little money, to be found in Belarus. Not sure about the surfing though.

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