Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Orange Juice

 Orange juice comes in a carton back home. Not so in Portugal, where orange juice comes inside nice round fresh oranges.

On Day one in Portugal we picked up some groceries, and out of habit got a bottle of OJ for breakfast at the store. Uck, it wasn't orange juice, it was some sort of 'Tang' stuff. We did find some better tasting stuff later on, but it was only a while before we discovered that the reason there is no orange juice in the stores is because you can buy the oranges themselves and make your own juice. We knew the oranges at the market were good, because we had bought a few to eat, picking out the good ones from the various vendors at the market. Then Colin mentioned that he bought oranges in bulk at the market to squeeze for juice. He suggested not worrying about which ones looked the best, because even the little ones with blemishes made delicious juice. We discovered you could buy 5 kilos of oranges for 2 Euro.
Now that's OJ!

The oranges here are not like Florida oranges which have been developed with a thick skin so they can be shipped North to us cold “Freezing in the dark” Canadians, without bruising. The oranges here have almost no skin, and the juice oranges have almost no pulp. When you squeeze them on the juicer, you have to be careful or you tear the skin, and when you are done, you have just the skin left – all juice.

I have become the Juice man. I squeezed the first batch, and it became my task every day to make sure juice was squeezed for our breakfast. Some days I'd get up early and make REALLY fresh squeezed juice. This was the way I preferred it; fresh and room temperature, but some members of the party commented that they liked their juice chilled. I started either processing the oranges in the evening and putting a pitcher of juice in the fridge for morning, or I would put five oranges in the fridge and squeeze cold oranges for fresh juice in the morning.

Just when we thought we had the old OJ thing all cased, we got the car and drove down the coast. Using my new Bionic peripheral vision I spotted Oranges on the side of the road. Spaced out along a section of the road were tiny little stands selling bags of oranges. Here we could get the nice big oranges for the same price as the little ones, and they were even better for juice. You got a big glass of juice from each orange you squeezed.

Oh, the best thing, as the official “Orange Juicer”, I got to get the biggest glass of juice every morning.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Wheels in Portugal

 This is a post that some of you may want to skip. Being a fan of anything with wheels, I am always on the lookout for interesting cars, motorcycles, trucks and even tractors. I have written other posts about some of the vehicles I have run across on my trips, and some readers, my daughter included have been requesting a post about the vehicles I have run across in Portugal. I have to admit however, that it is not really very exciting.

First of all, there do not seem to be many old cars here in Portugal at all. Certainly nothing really interesting. There are a couple of old Citroens here and a few old Renaults, but nothing really old. There are a few old Austin Mini's around town, all painted up, but nothing special. One has been made into a convertible, and it appears to be a pretty good conversion. One is painted in bright colours, with lights saying “Cooper”, but it is just a Mini. The other one is a bit odd. It is painted the same green one of my Mini's was, but when the owner parks it he locks it up with four large square steel blocks. It's only a Austin Mini, not a Rolls Royce for heaven sakes. It seems to be parked more than it is driven, and I have only seen it on the road once, so perhaps the owner is not here all the time.

Olhao is not a tourist town, so you do not see many interesting cars driven by rich tourists, and although there are more BMW's and Audi's than you might expect in a 'fishing' village, most of the locals drive beaters several years old.

There are some interesting motorcycles here. Of course if you live in a place where it never rains, a motorcycle is a perfectly viable form of transportation. There is everything around town, from really old european two stroke 125 cc machines that scream up and down the road at 10,000 RPM just to maintain the speed of traffic, to huge Harley dressers, and the BMW and Honda Paris to Dakar desert tourers. Again however, I have not seen anything really interesting. No nice custom Harleys, or nice cafe racers. Although there are quite a few of the old European two strokes around, they are almost all complete wrecks, held together with wire and string. There are also a lot of tiny three wheeled trucks based on motorcycles. They are sort of neat, with an enclosed cab, and a small but serviceable pick-up bed on the back. On our 'road trip' we were overtaken very quickly by a really fast ATV sort of vehicle. It liked like an average 4 wheel ATV, but it was equipped for the street, and it was fast enough to operate on secondary roads comfortable at speed. I thought it was just some ATV Yahoo driving on the road illegally, but I then noticed other similar machines that had a licence plate also driving on the roads.

What I have noticed is the number of interesting models of current vehicles that we do not see in North America. The little Ford Focus station wagon we rented is an example; a very practical and well designed car with a nice little diesel engine. Toyota have a whole other range of vehicles they sell over here, including some really good trucks and vans with diesel engines that we do not see. It isn't even that they are smaller models. Toyota have a truck here that seats six people in three rows, with a large pickup bed. It however operates with a smaller diesel engine that would not compete in the North American Truck wars, but it is a practical workhorse used by many companies here to transport their workers and their materials all at once. There are lots of the 'Smart' cars we see at home, but here it seems that most companies manufacture something similar, and there is something called a 'Micro-car' that seems to operate with a motorcycle engine that is the size of a “Smart'. but seats four people.

See I was looking . . . . I just didn't find much.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Cliffs & Castles

Lovely Beach
 Linda wanted to see cliffs, and Regis wanted castles. Pete didn't really care, and although I'd rather be laying on the Armona beach, I was designated driver. We had a car rented and the girls wanted to cover some Portuguese countryside.

On Day one, we headed north west towards the cliffs at Segres. It was our first day with the car, and we didn't get underway until almost 1:00, so we were not sure how far we would get. This was however, Linda's day, and she was determined to see some of the spectacular cliffs along the coast. Segres is the little point sticking out into the Atlantic on the corner of Portugal, and guide books suggest that it is spectacular, but it was a long way.

Linda & Pete on the Beach
We were told that the A22, Portugal's new 'Autobahn' style highway would get us there quickly, but the tolls were universally hated by everyone. This, everyone complained was Portugal's solution to it's economic problems; increase the tolls on the roads. The public's response was simple; they were refusing to use the toll highways. Instead we were advised to stick to the old road, the N125 which paralleled the A22, but ran through all the little towns, and provided lovely scenery. We quickly discovered that the government is doing everything in it's means to get you onto the A22. The don't list the N125 on signs, or direct you only to the A22 to get to a town. Now if I had rented something interesting like an Audi, or a BMW, I might have tried the A22 just to open it up, but I had a diesel Ford focus station wagon – a nice car, but no sports model. We finally got it figured out and managed, after a couple of wrong turns, to stay on the local roads.

Spectacular Beach
After a couple of stops at possible sites for cliffs, we arrived at Praia da Rocha. There is a beach here surrounded by cliffs. You climb down steep steps to find a beautiful sand beach completely enclosed by cliffs. Very spectacular, even without the male sunbathers in thongs and topless female who seemed pleased that her male partner thoughtfully covered her with his hands to protect her from those thoughtless Canadian tourists invading their beach (I'm sure that must have been what he was doing . . . . . ?)

Linda declared that this was enough for her and since the day was getting on, we decided to head home. She had seen her cliffs and was satisfied for the time being.

Guarding the Castle
For day two, we headed in the opposite direction, taking the same local road, but this time east towards Spain to seek out some castles for Regis. We had come this way on the train, but it is completely different on the road, so although we went through places we had seen before, the experience was completely new. Once we got to the river separating Portugal from Spain, we followed it north to Castro Marim, where we found a nice castle for Regis. Like many of the Historic sites in Europe, they do not completely restore them to like new, they just fix them up and hope they are 'sort-of” safe. I do not think that these castle walls were originally made from recycled bricks, paving stones and roof tiles. No matter, Regis was happy, it was castle enough for her.
Tourists on the Castle - Spain in Background

We stopped for lunch at a little town that we felt sorry for. Linda had read about Alcoutim, a town on the river overlooking Spain that is dying because all it's young folk are leaving for work, leaving only retired people. It really was a lovely little town, with another castle looking across the river at a much more spectacular Spanish castle on a higher hill, completely restored and finished in gleaming white. We really did not see many young citizens, but the older ones entertained us with a spirited discussion (or argument) at the 'snack bar' Pete chose for lunch.
LUNCH - Golden Bream

The drive home was amazing. We cut across the Algarve's hills, where the cork industry is centred and drove on the twistiest road I have ever been on. It was an old road with little stone markers showing the way, and was literally one 'S' bend followed by another for close to 40 Km. Again, I regretted driving the Rent-a-car, and was longing to be on a motorcycle. This was a road designed for motorcycles – it would have been a blast, carving those tight turns. We saw almost no cars coming the other way, but at the end, a group of four Japanese sport bikes snarled past going the other direction, and I wished I was joining them.

We did get to see a real cork tree and even took home a bit of cork off a tree by a river park. But oh I wish I was able to do it on a motorcycle . . . . . .

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Rent a Car?

Olhao Water Taxi
 When we research places to stay on these month long trip to Europe, one of the criteria we use is that the place has to be advertised as “Car Not Necessary”. Having to rent a car for a month, would make the wonderfully affordable apartments we find, not such a bargain. Now Regis also has a swimming pool and an outdoor grill on her criteria, and we have never had those. . . . . Being able to walk to get most of the necessities, is nice. You get your daily exercise and you really get to know the neighbourhood. After a week here, we were giving advice to other tourists and filling in information that the Tourist Information Offices didn't know.

No having wheels however does limit the amount that you can do and see. You get to know the area around you very well, but there are things out of range of your 'hikers' that you do not get to see. This is OK with me; I really do not care if some “Must See” does not get seen, but Regis works under the “You can't come all this way . . . .” strategy.

Faro Train Station
As a compromise we pick a time and rent a car for a couple of days. This did not prove so easy here in Olhão. You cannot rent a car in the town at all. It is not a tourist town, it is a fishing town; it is harder to get a regular taxi here than it is to get a water-taxi to the islands. I could probably rent a boat no problem, but a car - not going to happen. There is one big new hotel in town, and we heard that they might be able to 'arrange' a car, but a walk down to the hotel produced the same result – they 'might' be able to find a rent-a-car. Most of their clients drive in as a stop on a Algarve tour, so renting a car is a service they only 'sort-of' provide. We finally determined that we would probably have to take the train to Faro, and then a bus to the airport to even talk to someone about a car.
Loading the Water Taxi

Then when Regis and I went to visit Faro for the day trip on the train, I noticed outside the train station a sign; “Car to Go”, and a little green booth that rented bikes, computers and apparently cars, although only bicycles were present. After trying unsuccessfully to contact the rental places at the Faro Airport via e-mail or phone call, we decided to just go and try our luck at this place.

So all four of us took the train to Faro and visited the little green booth. Indeed, they could get us a car – they actually operate from the airport, but the car would be delivered to us here. Of course the “Economy” one was unavailable, but they would give us the standard model for the price of the second cheapest. This was perfect, we got four doors, diesel engine and a station wagon for the price of the a two door Fiat. Three days was the same price as two, so it appears I will be doing more 'Road Trip' than I wanted, since a passport and a driver's licence was required and I was the only one so equipped. We only had to wait two hours for it to be delivered, but that just means there is not hurry to return it. And Pete and Linda get to tour Faro with two experience guides while we wait, since they were too travel-weary as they came through three weeks ago to even notice the city.

I should have rented that boat. . . . . . . .

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Pete's Dogs

Walkin' The Dog
 We have two REALLY annoying dogs that seem to bark all the time back home. I call them “Regis' little Friends”, and the first morning here in Portugal, there were dogs barking that sounded just like them, so I joked that “Regis' little friends” had come to Portugal with us.

No one Walkin' ME!
Now I must say, in general the dogs here in Portugal are really well behaved. People walk their dogs all the time, and they would make The Dog Whisperer proud. They heel, they don't growl at other dogs, they don't even sniff you as you walk past. The sidewalks here are only about 2 feet wide, so you can't really avoid the dogs, but it doesn't matter. Even the stray dogs don't bother you or other dogs. If there is a dog sleeping on the sidewalk, you just step around him. He might open his eyes and give you a glance, but that is about it. Other dogs walk by they just ignore each other. People walk their dogs without a leash, and they just walk along beside. When owners stop at a 'Snack Bar', the dogs just curl up under the table and watch the world go by.
What did he order for me?

If you hear barking or growling, look closely, and you will realize it is probably a tourist dog who just hasn't figured out how to act here in Olhao. I watched two obvious tourists walking a husky down the Malecon and it was pulling on the leash, and barking at every other dog. I mean, really, a Husky in the Algrave; the poor thing is suffering serious culture shock as well as heat stroke.
I can "Watch-Dog" from up Here

Now at night, and especially in the morning it is not the same. The dogs do not realize that Timex the rooster has no freekin idea what the time is, so they think it is time to get up and they start barking. One barks, another answers, someone else adds her two Euro worth and the first one starts again. No one seems to do anything about it. We never hear anyone telling them to “SHUT-UP!”, and we know they are not all strays. Now this really does not bother me, but it is driving Pete crazy. He wanders the streets looking for the houses where these dogs lives and he is threatening to do something.
Going for a Swim

So, “Regis' Little Friends”, have becomes “Pete's Dogs”.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


High & Dry
 Olhao is a fishing community, so of course there are boats coming and going all the time, piloted by seamen who know their way around watercraft and can drive boats better than they drive their cars, motorcycle and trucks. Their vessels are how they earn their living so they are finely tuned crafts kept in perfect seaworthiness. Well, most of them . . . . . . . .

I saw just such an example last evening down on the waterfront. We went down just to enjoy the waterfront as the sun went down and the town turned dark. We found a bench right on the Malecon, and sat down to sit and watch for a while.

Proper Rope Work
It was low tide, and there was a fellow down below the seawall demonstrating his finely tuned boating skills. A closer look however revealed that perhaps this was not Olhao's finest at work. His boat was old, and in need of paint. It was painted an odd green below the waterline – no wait that 's not paint that barnacles and sea grass.

He was standing on shore with a rope about 12 feet long. There was a rock tied onto one end, and he was throwing it towards his boat which appeared to be attached to a rope at the aft end, but the bow was drifting. At first I thought he was trying to get the rope onto the boat to pull it in, but the rope was not long enough and kept falling short. Then I noticed a rope in the water attached to the front; he was throwing the rope hoping to catch the bow rope which he had somehow lost control of. Time after time he threw the rope without luck. Then a breeze blew the bow out further from shore. He simply waited for it to drift back in, and when it did he continued to throw the rope with little luck.
Olhao Fishing Boats

There was a woman also down there with a little dog, and I thought she was yelling at the dog, but once someone else called the dog up from the seashore I realized she was actually berating this seaman for his inability to corral her transportation.

Finally after about 15 minutes another little similar boat appeared coming in from the channel out to the islands. Seeing the embarrassing situation his compatriot was suffering he nosed his own boat with skill and dexterity towards the misbehaving craft, bumping into it and pushing it towards the shore until it could be corralled and pulled closer.

Well equipped vessel?
The woman on the shore worked her way skillfully over the rocks in her flip-flops and was helped into the boat. Once she was seated, the seaman jumped on board, started the motor and they made their way out around the dock, along the sand bar, and into the passage out towards the islands.

Oh Bill, as you expected, the ropes were simply thrown on board willy-nilly; no proper coiled ropes here.

Another Island Day

The Ferry to Culatra
 Olhão is a fishing town, and one of the reasons for this is because it has an extremely well protected harbour. If you search Olhão Portugal on Google Earth and zoom in, You will see that the coastline in the area is very shallow with a network of islands that form the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa. This natural formation serves to provide a buffer between the Atlantic Ocean and the town of Olhão. When the tide goes out large expanses of sand and wetlands are exposed. Along with providing a rich source of shellfish ,this also provides a huge heat-sink that soaks up the beautiful Portuguese sun I am always bragging about, so that when the tide come back in over the hot sand, the advancing cool Atlantic ocean is heated up, providing unusually warm water.

Beautiful Shells
On the islands out in the Ria Formosa are various small towns connected to Olhão by ferry. Today we took the ferry out to Culatra Island. Linda and I went to Culatra (Town) to scout out the 'snack bars' are restaurants while Regis and Pete continued on the ferry to Farol (Town) to hike along the beach and meet us in Culatra for Lunch.

New Use for a Carpet
Fishing Boats
Linda and I wandered through the little town made up of houses much as I described on Armona Island except this is a much more important fishing town with a large marina full of both fishing boats and pleasure craft. As well it has a series of fishing shed built along the shoreline. Walking along the shore in the town it is obvious how protected the town is. Although many boats are tied up to the large wharf, there are as many simply pulled up on the shore with little worry of storms. At the back of the town is an impromptu boat yard with everything from old traditional wooden boats to modern fibreglass speedboats pulled up on the sand in various states of repair or just neglect.

Not a Person in Sight
A walk down a very well maintained boardwalk – I noted how this boardwalk has nicely grooved surfaces for traction, where the sidewalks in town are all made of slippery uneven cobbles - brought us out to the beach. Like the beach on Armona, this one is miles long with almost no people at all. I walked way down one end, and although there were footprints showing someone had been there, I saw no one. Although there are communities on these islands, I do not think the natives use the beaches. People take the ferries over to spend time on the beaches. It is a bit of work to get there, so this is probable why it is so sparsely used. It makes for a lovely private beach for those willing to take to trip.

It seemed to me that this beach on Culatra was cleaner than the one on Armona, but although there were plenty of garbage cans around, just down the beach from us was a collection of juice boxes just left scattered about; obviously left from a visiting family who just couldn't bother to carry them to the garbage.

Another Great Meal
Pete and Regis did not take long to hike the route from Farol to Culatra, and after spending some time just enjoying the beach, we wandered back into the town to choose a restaurant for lunch. When I asked which fish was fresh, the waiter gave me a funny looks and stated with a smile “We are a fishing town. All the fish is fresh; if it isn't, we feed the cats.” My Golden Bream was delicious, and when he did not recommend the sardine because they were out of the good ones, Linda allowed him to choose for her and was very happy with his choice.

Another lovely day in Portugal.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Monday in Faro

Faro's Walled City
 When we flew to Portugal, Faro was where we landed, but we were picked up by a taxi arranged by Colin & Suzanne, and he was an efficient driver, but not exactly a tour guide, and his english was not really even good enough to ask simple questions. We therefore zoomed through Faro without seeing much. We were also too tired to really pay attention to much.

Today we went back to Faro on the train to actually have a look at the city.

Faro is the major transport hub on the Algarve. It has a rail hub where Linda and Pete arrive from Lisbon, and the airport in Faro has a constant stream of planes arriving from all over Europe. From the apartment, we see planes all day flying into Faro bringing people to the Algarve to enjoy a Portuguese holiday.

The train only takes about 20 minutes to go from Olhao to Faro, so it is a simple trip. Although the train station is bit out of way, the walk to the centre of Faro is a pleasant one along the waterfront through to the old city centre, and it is easy to find your way to the major attractions in Faro.

Do not however expect to find a Tourist Information Centre if you go on Monday like we did – it is not open. At least we were able to find the place following the signs, but as has been our general experience, we were not able to actually get any information.

Beautiful Pipe Organ filling Cathedral with sound
There is a walled fortress which the old city seems to revolve around, but it is not really an attraction. It seems that the actual city has taken over the fortress. You can see the walls from the outside, but if you enter through one of the gates, you find yourself just in the inner city with restaurants, shops, art galleries and a beautiful cathedral, but no actual fort or castle. This may actually have been a walled city rather than a military fortress, which would make sense. We might have been able to find out if we could have visited the Information centre. . . . . .

The visit to the Cathedral was nice. You could climb the bell tower for a view over the city, and we were told by another tourist couple there that you could have pressed a button to actually ring the bells but I had my doubts since the church bells tell the time in Olhao. I could imagine the poor citizens of Faro being constantly confused about what time it was. “Is it two o'clock, the bells chimed twice? Oh no, it's just those damned tourists ringing the cathedral bells again . . . .” we could visit the main cathedral , the gardens and the museum. The highlight was the actual church, because there was a beautiful old pipe organ, and someone was actually playing it. The museum was a bit disappointing, and I hope that some of our 3 E entry fee might be used to restore the paintings in the museum with holes in them – they could use some work.
The Bell Tower

Following our tour of the cathedral, we wandered down through the old city to find a place to stop for lunch. Here we discovered another advantage to living in Olhao. Food was generally at least 20% higher here than back in Olhao. For example the Cataplana Regis has wanted to try was 45 E compared to 29 E in Olhao. We decided to stick with the “Menu of the Day”.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Watchin' the Washin'

 At home, I have taken over the task of doing the wash, and Regis' mom would be proud of how good I've gotten at it. I sort of took over doing the wash while on vacation as well.

A Family's Washing
One of the advantages of renting a place and staying in one place for a while is that you do not have to pack as many clothes, because a rental usually has washing facilities. We have over the years of travel, built up a pretty good collection of specific travel clothes and one criteria for them is the need to be quick drying. In Spain this was a problem. We had a lovely apartment, but it was on the second floor of a four story building, so the only place to hang out clothes was in the outdoor patio which was enclosed by three stories of walls. The clothes took forever to dry; no wind and no sun. I used to look with envy across the street at the woman who would hang her clothes out in the morning and was able to take them in by noon. Here is Portugal we have access to the roof and there is a lovely clothes line up there. The wind blows, and the sun shines constantly. I can literally hang out the clothes and sit on one of the loungers for an hour and most of the clothes are dry (Linda has brought some things that take longer to dry – I'm trying to educate her on 'travel clothes')

Now I am beginning to worry about this. I think I am getting domesticated . . . . . I am fussy about how things get hung out; all the pants have to go together, longest to shortest, I worry about how my clothes line 'looks'. I want people to see that I know how to hang out a wash.

Interesting way to hang out wash
Now I also have started noticing other folks wash. The young family across the tracks seems to have a line out constantly, and sometimes she puts it out at night so she can take it in first thing in the morning and get another line out. Her clothes are hung out in a completely random order, but then she is normally running after a little guy who just will not listen to her. She even keeps a stroller up on the so if he is completely impossible she can strap him in there while she hangs out the wash. I actually was worried about them a week ago, when her same line of clothes was out for two days and I hadn't heard the little guy crying in a while.
Roof To Washing Flags

The old lady two doors down hangs out only one or two things at a time, and she brings it up in a wash basin, throwing it up the stairs ahead of her as she struggles to pull her old bones up onto the roof to hang things out.

As you look across the roofs of the houses between the apartment and the water, you see many lines of wash out, blowing in the sea breeze like flags. Many use the old fashioned poles to hold then higher when bed sheets are on the line, and one guy (Yup, I'm not the only 'guy' doing wash here in Portugal) has a strange arrangement where he has a tall pole in the middle of his roof with four lines going down to the corners, so his wash hangs on an angle.

Oh my god look at that line over there . . . . the underwear is all mixed up together . . . .

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Gardener

The house on the corner
 Now I told you about “Timex' the rooster who lives somewhere out behind the apartment, crowing out his own unique time announcements, and where there are roosters there are likely chickens, so I guess there must be some urban agriculture going on here in Olhão. Looking out the front balcony however it is solid chock-a-block houses all the way to the water, so there are not many inner-city garden plots to be seen. I see lots of container plants perched on balconies and rooftops trying to survive the almost complete lack of rain here, but not many real gardens.

Walking across the bridge
The one exception is the house on the corner up the road. The building is almost twice as large as any other house around it, so it must have been an important house at one time, but it is now showing it's age. The architecture is much more elaborate than most of the houses in the neighbourhood. It has a fancy sloped tile roof and the entire roof is surrounded by a walled terrace accessed by a built in stairway. Although the surface is in dire need of paint, it still holds onto a style well above the other smaller places beside it. There are built in tiled sections, and the doors and windows are elaborate and ornate. I look down on this house from across the train tracks at a height from my third floor balcony, so I can appreciate some of the former glory that I can imagine this house had, but from street level it looks sad, old and possibly deserted.

It is not completely deserted however; the gardener lives there. Because this house is bigger than others, it has a yard, and in this yard that goes from the house to the wall for the train track the gardener has made on oasis of green in the surrounding concrete plaster and walls.

He has fruit trees, flowering ornamental trees, and even what looks like a bonsai tree. There are rows of flowering lilies and pots containing other flowers everywhere. In between there looks to be herbs and possibly vegetables. The yard is not big, but he has filled every square inch of it with plants. I can look down at it, but anyone who walks across the the bridge over the railway line gets a brief view of his beautiful garden.

I often see him out working on the garden. It can't be easy to produce the beautiful plants he has in an urban setting like this, so I figure he works hard at it. One day I passed as he was watering. Twenty minutes later when I returned he was still patiently ensuring that his plants got the moisture that never seems to come from the sky.

I'm sure that Colin & Suzanne, our hosts (Who also are subjected to my constant blogging) will know the actual facts on the 'Gardener of Olhão' and his house but really it is more fun to let my imagination roam – I never said my blog was all fact . . . . .

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

TAG you're art!

 Years ago, when we sailed on the Queen Mary II to Hamburg Germany, we got a taxi to our hotel, and when we got out of the cab, we knew we had chosen the wrong neighbourhood; all the building were vandalized with “Tagging” At the time you just didn't see this, especially in Germany. As it happened, our hotel was on the outskirts of the Reeperbahn, or the “Red Light” district of Hamburg, and the police or whoever controlled the “Tagging” just didn't worry about vandalization in this neighbourhood. Oh, (BTW)by the way, this was one of the best hotels we have ever booked and other than walking by the sex shops to get anywhere in Hamburg, everything was wonderful. It was Hamburg Harley Days and 55,000 Harley Davidsons descended on the city for the weekend – I had a great vacation.

This tagging has become rampant everywhere, and we have not found any country that has been able to control it. I think it gets worse as unemployment increases, especially youth unemployment, and Europe, especially Spain, Portugal & Greece are really suffering serious unemployment. Needless to say, the tagging is really bad here in Olhão. It is everywhere. Entire buildings are covered, and as the number of deserted or unoccupied building increases, so does the tagging. Even the trains have gotten a new coat of paint, sometimes even covering the windows. The train we returned from Spain on was completely covered on one side with tagging. There is a little unoccupied house on the corner that is completely tagged from top to bottom, and the wall of a long building down the road is a virtual 'Art Gallery' of tagging.

Now one question is whether “Tagging” is vandalism or art? Some of it is absolutely amazing in the artistry and complexity. No question, some is just ugly spray paint, but I must admit that some is actually very beautiful. Here in Olhão, there are some talented taggers, and I have tried to include some of the really interesting examples. In many cases I suspect that the tagging actually makes some of the crumbling buildings here look nicer.

People must at times find it frustrating. Across the street, the houses back onto the railway, and some people have cleaned off the concrete wall and whitewashed it, only to have it used as a canvas by taggers. I walked by one building with serious tagging covering all the windows, so those workers using the building have so suffer with their only natural light diffused through pink, purple and green paint.

I can't help wondering though, when do they do it? I have never seen a 'Tagger' at work, so I assume it must be late a night, and it must be a bit difficult to tag those moving trains, so it must be done when they are parked late at night.