Europe 2005-2006 travel blog

Antonette and Kimberley sharing their Port from the Dourro with us.

House in Ilhavo covered in "azulejos" or painted tiles

Azulejos at the entrance to the village of Obidos

Tourist village along the Atlantic coast north of Peniche

Stray cats and graffiti in Lisbon

A rainy day in the Alfama district in Lisbon

We probably have more of a sense of Portugal than other countries we have zoomed through since we have stayed put for a period of time allowing us to interact with the people and see more what their day to day life is like.

Again, despite the absence of a formal border signaling we had moved into a new country, we KNEW we were in Portugal the minute we arrived: the dense high rises covered in clothes lines of Spain made way to small, whitewashed bungalows with red tiled roofs; the buildings that were not whitewashed were covered in colourful ceramic tiles or had pictures of the saints done in blue and white ceramic tiles at the entrances of the houses; fish is a staple so most coastal towns were given over to fishermen, seagulls, clothes lines covered with fish hanging to dry; and many more people speaking English since Portuguese is a tough language to get your mind and tongue around; lots of Internet access as Portugal has been used by the EU as a test site for implementing the Internet; a coast that is just one beautiful white sandy beach after another; and, as we were warned by most of the guidebooks, the Portuguese are BAD drivers, or "inexperienced" as Lonely Planet puts it - we are not in any way motivated to take the bikes off the back of the motor home!

The people are very friendly - except when you expect the Canadian standard of customer service in a shop. If the shopkeeper is having a discussion with the customer ahead of you, it may go on for 15 minutes and you are expected to stand graciously and wait for it to finish. Or maybe not, as other Portuguese simply push in front of you and start taking to the shopkeeper; or, you wait at the counter while the shopkeeper cleans 6 fish - there is no one else around, but you are expected to wait. We are learning patience but feel a happy medium between the "over the top" service in North American and the non-existent service in Portugal would result in the perfect mix. To qualify this, we have to admit that when it IS your turn for service, it is usually warm, friendly and efficient!

Portugal is also much friendlier to us (driving a Canadian vehicle) than Spain was: campsites are open; we can get propane at gas stations; they have automatic washing machines in the campsites plus rows of clothes lines eliminating the need to 1) wash the sheets in a big sink full of cold water, and 2)hang wash from tree to tree or across the inside of the motor home; and the Portuguese must be nuts for clean cars as there are car washes (even ones that fit vehicles that are nearly 12' high) in every town.

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