Albufeira. Where every person here is English, and where every English person here is a Scouser. You think I’m joking? I kid you not. This place is dire and it made me sick just walking around the town.
Getting on the bus the sunburnt northerners could be heard practising their best English with the driver: “Can I have two tickets to the beach please, mate?” Scousers in the bar ordering food in English: “Does that come with gravy?”, “Get us a pint of lager to go with that, waiter”, “Could you fry that in lard for my obese child?”. I even overhead some woman (a Scouser) complaining to her family about the standard of bacon. “That bacon we ‘ad for breakfast was rubbish, not half as good as what we have back at ‘ome. I think we should get dahn the supermarket and buy some decent stuff for tomorrow”. Football and lager on tap and restaurants fighting for the crown of best fish and chips in town.
To escape I decided to hit the tourismo to find myself a place to stay for the night. The tourist officer (the one contemplating suicide) suggested that I try house number 9 on a particular back street if I wanted to avoid paying silly money in a hotel full of Scousers. I headed up this street, which was actually in the old town of Albufeira, and found House Number Nine.
Number Nine was owned by a toothless old hag. In fact she was quite scary upon first meeting her but there was something about her that comforted me in my weary state (remember that I’d not only been carrying a rucksack but also an additional bag the weight of a second rucksack…….I had packed thinking I would be sailing, not walking kilometres up and down hills in hot climates).
Number Nine was just another house in a back street, guarded by weird little cross bred dogs (see my observations on dogs later). The woman opened her front door and beckoned me to follow her up three flights of stairs to the roof. I could just imagine a Monty Python-esque sketch with her opening the door at the top of the stairs and pushing me off over a cliff edge.
Instead we appeared on the roof of her house, whitewashed and blinding in the mid-day sun. She motioned towards the concrete hut in the corner and I assumed she was going to show me her collection of homing pigeons. Instead she opened the door and pointed to a bed and a cupboard that, somehow, she’d managed to squeeze into the room! So, this was my bedroom, old lady, eh? And you wanted to charge me how much? Twenty five Euros a night? Hmmm, bargain. I told her I’d pay her eleven euros and she seemed satisfied with this. I worried that perhaps she thought I was going to pay her eleven euros then and the remainder tomorrow, so I had to formulate an escape plan.
Despite the hole in the wall the view from the roof was quite impressive, since the house sat on the highest hill in the old town. Put this in perspective, however. We are talking about the view of Albufeira, with all four corners of this once pretty village now plastered with apartments and hotels.
The other weird thing about my residence for the night was the hairy creature the woman kept opposite my room. When we opened the door onto the roof we could see another tiny room with a door that was slightly ajar. As we approached a limb, covered in dark hair, extended out and grabbed the handle to close the door. This operation wasn’t effective as the door slowly creaked open again. I was intrigued. What was this thing in this room? Judging from the shape of the building and the position of the walls the room couldn’t have been much bigger than a double bed, yet there was definitely something living in there. I tried my hardest to look into it but could see only a bucket of water by the door and then, ah! Another hairy limb, this time a foot, wrapped itself round the door and pulled it to! What the hell was it? There was no way this was a human since the room was not big enough to live in, yet I was certain I’d seen a hand and a foot, most probably sharing the same body, move around in the cramped darkne ss of that room opposite mine. It was to fill me with dread for the rest of the night.
Thinking that I’d console myself with a successful trip to the Vilamoura marina I took a bus and cruised through Vilamoura village. This is where the money’s at! You want cool, six bedroomed houses with swimming pools? You got it in Vilamoura! Golf courses galore and stinking of the green stuff, Vilamoura is where you come to spend your millions for a couple of weeks. Even so, it all sucks. It’s just like walking round Hampstead, but in the sun, and it offers nothing Portuguese except the climate. If anything this is a rather sterile side of the Algarve and not even worth bothering with unless you’re looking to check out the marina to find a boat to crew on.
And then, if you’re looking to crew on a boat from Vilamoura? Forget it! It too was surrounded by security gates and swipe card doors. Hmmmmm, my plan to continue my trans-Atlantic venture was fading fast and I was starting to get just a little disappointed. I even got as far as questioning my decision to leave the previous boat, but a couple of sharp memories reminded me that I had done the right thing. I just needed to be persistent but to slog it around the marinas everyday, getting there by bus and blagging my way through the gates every time just seemed like a hassle I could have done without.
A brief walk round Albufeira justified my rather snobbish attitude towards the holiday makers here. They had all congregated in the town square to watch the street performers, and which street performer had attracted the biggest audience? The band of South American pan-pipe players! Wrong continent, you sad bunch of losers.
I was tired and fed up and headed back to my hole on the roof next to the hairy creature, trying to figure out what to do next.
I got to bed to the sound of U2 reverberating from some bar offering two for the price of one cocktails, chorused by groups of lager louts chanting “Liverpool” at the tops of the their drunken voices.