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Tuesday, 2 March 2010

I planned each chartered course, each careful step along the byway

We like to see a country that builds public buildings that look attractive, rather than drab, and Portuguese primary schools are a lovely example. Most of the ones we have seen follow the same style; a curved red tiled roof and Romanesque arched doorways at each end of the building. They are so picturesque and look like a school you would only find in Trumpton.

Houses in Portugal follow the white with blue highlights pattern and are often single storey. The pleasant open square in Porto Covo da Bandiera is a pretty example of this local style. This pretty coastal village does not get a mention in the Rough Guide; but then although the Alentejo area makes up about third of the whole of country of Portugal, it only merits 50 pages in the Rough Guide, clearly an area with few notable churches, hurrah! This lack of ‘sights’ to see means we make our own route and discover places for ourselves, which is no bad thing.

We are entertained by Portuguese business names; a bank called Banco Espirito Santo and a supermarket in Praia da Luz called Baptista, with billboard adverts of tomatoes under-going full immersion baptism. We wondered, is Portugal such a Catholic country it brings religion into commerce? However, our research reveals that these seemingly holy names derive from Portuguese family names, rather than national piety.

On a fantastic craggy beach near Porto Covo da Bandiera we had our last paddle in the Atlantic before we left the coast for inland Portugal. Ours were the first footsteps on the beach since the tide had scrubbed it clean, as we left the waves were rushing in and would soon wipe away any evidence of our excursion. If things go according to plan, the next coastal area we see will be on the Bay of Biscay.

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