I just got back from two weeks in Portugal's Algarve.
So, how did it feel to take a vacation in a country that is suffering so badly in the Euro zone meltdown and is basically broke?
Slightly weird, is the answer. Portugal's financial crisis began as part of the world financial crisis of 2007-08, and continues as part of the European sovereign debt crisis. With the population being told to expect more and more sacrifices to try and avoid another bailout. Unemployment is currently at 17.6 per cent and there are approximately 932,000 people without jobs. Thousands of graduates and skilled people are leaving the country to look for work. This is an area of Europe that depends highly on tourism along with the income it provides. This is an area of Europe that depends highly on tourism along with the income it provides.
In spite of the economic doom and gloom, the atmosphere of the country, the town, shops, restaurants and the locals are very friendly and welcoming.
I can be as hedonistic as the next person, but I felt a disquieting disconnect from what I knew was happening in the rest of the country. Since, I was in need of serious R+R. I avoided guilt by seeking the simple pleasures: Good food, good wine, good books and, of course, the beach!
I stayed with my sister in her modest villa in Quinta de Lago, an area awash with, mega-wealthy German and British, wanker-bankers, and sports stars all of whom have built insanely big and mostly tasteless villas. I think they keep the region's economy going by employing a legion of gardeners, housekeepers, and everything else needed to maintain their mansions. They like to spend money. The restaurants are full, the clubs are hopping and the Mercedes' are vying for the best parking spots to go and shop for smoochi-Gucci or Pucci bikinis
I did make the odd feeble attempt at chatting with locals in their language out of necessity since most don't speak English which probably made no sense but gave me a sense of accomplishment in the delusional belief that I had cracked the basics of the impossible Portuguese language.
Here are my top 10, best moments: