We have finally arrived in the Moorish town of Aljezur on the West Coast of Portugal. Despite Dad’s reservations, Jason’s decrepit, converted bus served us well as both a means of transport and accommodation. However, Dad was right about one thing: I do miss my creature comforts such as regular showers and proper toilet facilities. Pooping behind bushes while keeping an eye open for snakes, spiders and other nasties such as scorpions is a challenge. And as for using leaves for toilet paper when you have the squits ... we won’t go there.
Jason’s vision of life walking barefoot through scrubland to feel at one with Mother Earth and surviving from what the land provides such as berries, roots and other wild edibles is not all it’s cracked up to be. You will be pleased to know I’ve lost all the excess kilos I acquired while eating my way through university. Ha-ha ... you’ll also be pleased to know that I have learned there is more to life than binge-drinking Jaeger Bombs, clubbing to the early hours of the morning, and then sleeping it off until three in the afternoon!
Sorry, I digress. Aljezur is a quirky little town of ancient white-washed houses with windows framed in either blue, green, or yellow. In fact, all the buildings are white unless they are decorated with tiles. The tiles look kind of odd as they remind me of the tiles grandma and grandpa had in their kitchen and bathroom. I am told they are traditional. The Portuguese even make pictures from tiles and these are called azuloes.
Apart from the main through road through the town which can barely accommodate the traffic, the streets are very narrow, especially the one that leads up to the ruins of an old Moorish castle which looks down as if in judgment over the town. And the uneven pavements made of tiny bricks called calsada (spelt calçada) are a nightmare. I laughed when Jason nearly got the bus wedged in one narrow street but after a lot of cursing and swearing and with the help of an old wizened Portuguese guy in a flat cap who was probably accustomed to stupid tourists, he managed to navigate his way through.
There are no high-rise concrete blocks growing out of the sand or in the town itself. Despite the ravages of progress as we witnessed in other towns along the Algarve, it is like stepping back in time. Stepping back into a simpler and slower pace of life fossilized for future generations to take note.
One of the things that struck me is the absence of lobster-red, string vest, beer-swilling British holidaymakers that infest an area called ‘The Strip’ in Albufeira. Do you remember that holiday? Ha-ha... it was the holiday from hell.
Dad would love it here in Aljezur. It is more chillaxed.
We were given the heads-up about a Saturday market in Aljezur so we went this morning. No gypsy stalls selling tourist trash and knock-off copies of designer label clothing and fake watches and handbags as we’d seen elsewhere. Nope, this is a market of local producers selling everything from organic veg, olive oil and vegan food to handcrafted leather goods, jewelry, clothes and natural homemade soap to name a few. I think rustic is the best description. There was an eclectic mix of old Portuguese farmers to the young people who are trying to make a living from the land. Although, to be honest looking at some of them I’d be a bit dubious about eating anything they’d cooked. But Jason was in his element and even got some ideas where to park up the bus. Ha-ha ... when I nicknamed the market Vegan Central he got annoyed. I soon got bored and told him I was going to explore and would meet him by the old church later. Explore, actually meant: find a local supermarket to buy ham and oats (to help solidify my bowel movements), shampoo ... toilet rolls, oh, and some deodorant. We smell as high as rotting beef.
I found the ancient whitewashed church which stood proud on the edge of the enclosed square. The bells tolled right on cue as I arrived. The square was full of alternatives who lounged in groups as their feral children played with an old ball and a dilapidated old skateboard. I’ve seen better discarded at the local rubbish tip, but they were happy. There were a couple of what Dad describes as ’those hippie longhair layabouts’ playing guitars, another on a handpan and female strangling a song which sounded more like a wailing cat. The guy on the snare drum was most definitely out of rhythm but he seemed lost in his own dreams and oblivious to the world around him. I smiled... Oh, and there was a distinct smell of weed. All very ethnic.
Feeling like a fish out of water without Jason, I made my way up onto the terrace of a cafe to order a coffee and cake. It was the first time I’d enjoyed a proper coffee since leaving home and eating cake was like all my Christmases had come at once. Especially, when I opened the packet of ham and devoured that as well.
As I savoured the moment with a foodie moment I absorbed the different languages: Spanish, Italian, German and French it was a lullaby of culture. Then I heard some English voices. My God Mum, they could moan for Britain. Dad would have been in his element. Let’s just say what I call the alternative groups they dubbed the great unwashed and their vans pooh-mobiles because they have no onboard toilet facilities like our bus. The coupled ranted on and on because the great unwashed shit near public footpaths and discarded their soiled toilet paper like confetti. Their assessment was so funny yet true, I nearly choked on my coffee and ham.
Laughing, they nearly choked on their beer when I turned round to speak to them. After speaking to them I cheekily asked if they would mind posting this letter (I gave them the money for a stamp) to my parents so you knew I was okay. They said they would be delighted to oblige as their daughter went to live in France when she was fifteen so they understood how worried you would be. They even refused to let me pay for the stamp and the envelope!
Anyways, I must sign off now. Jason is heading my way wearing one of his disapproving scowls so I can’t be seen fraternizing with the wrinklies.
Love Tamsin xxx
Ps don’t worry, I will save enough money for a flight home!