Reflections In Carcavelos

Trip Start Aug 22, 2012
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6
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Trip End Aug 28, 2012


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Flag of Portugal  , Estremadura,
Sunday, August 26, 2012

Walking around Lisbon and Sintra clearly didn't suit me, particularly as I could barely stand today. Muscles, and I use the term loosely, I’d forgotten existed were aching like never before. Therefore, there was only one thing to do – go back to the beach. I’d signed up for the beach tour, but as the hostel van had broken down, it was called off, so I had to make my own way to a beach. On the advice of the hostel receptionist, I decided on Carcavelos.

Carcavelos is only a 20 minute train ride away from Lisbon, so it’s easily accessible. Its only drawback is that the beach itself is a 10 minute walk from the station on a road that has absolutely nothing on it – no shops, no refreshments, no shade, no nothing. It became almost unbearable to walk along the road in the midday sun – the one good thing was that at least the road was flat. Once there, it was a typical beach day; I hired my sun lounger, got my bit of shade and went to the water from time to time. All in all, I spent 5 hours there – more than time enough to reflect on my time in Lisbon.

The first thing that has struck me is how multicultural Lisbon seems to be. It may seem trivial but a good indicator of that was the beach itself. Normally on Spanish beaches, black people on the beaches tend to be foreign (ie British, like myself, or American), here, however, the people I spoke to identified themselves as Portuguese or African. There are still black people peddling wares on the beach, but it's good to see that they are not restricted to that. I love Spain, but Portugal seems to be a far more open society. Of course, this is just an impression. Whatever the reason, it’s good to see the beaches being used by everyone.

I’ve heard conflicting accounts of immigration policy here. One guide, Carlos, said that any immigrant who comes here clearly demonstrating that they are willing to work is welcomed with open arms. He claimed that Portugal has an open door policy with regards to their former colonies, which includes Angola, Mozambique, Brazil and East Timor amongst many others. According to him, these immigrants are also able to apply for citizenship (or even dual nationality) within one month of arrival. Having said that, someone else, Mafalda, did say that there is illegal immigration in Portugal and that there is a certain amount institutional racism within the police force in Lisbon (it seems that there is barely an immigration population to speak of in Porto). Just like elsewhere, it is the black people who are stopped and asked to present their ID cards, while whites are allowed to walk around freely. She did also say that the populace in general has been outspoken about this treatment which has forced the police force to revise their behaviour.

Something else that is noteworthy is the fact that drugs, or rather marijuana, are openly sold on the streets. That’s not to say that it doesn’t go on in Barcelona, but it doesn’t happen nearly to the same extent as it does in Lisbon. Here in Lisbon, they are as prevalent as the Pakistani beer sellers in Barcelona. Furthermore, unlike in Barcelona, they are not restricted to the night time, they can be clearly seen trying to deal in the middle of the day in what are tourist areas. I’m sure the police are doing something about it, but they seem to be ineffectual.

Another comparison: the Latin character doesn’t lend itself easily to learning another language. The French, Spanish and Italians all find it notoriously difficult to learn English (a sweeping generalisation, I know), so I wasn’t really sure of what to expect in Portugal. I imagined I would have to suffer trying to speak pidgin English or bastardised Spanish/Catalan to make myself understood. Boy, was I wrong! Most people speak English, Spanish and French really well. It would seem that one of the reasons for that is television. Television programmes are always shown in the original version with Portuguese subtitles, so from a very early age, they are used to listening to these languages even before they are formally taught in schools. Obviously, most people I’ve spoken to have been in the service industry, so it’s a requirement of their job, but despite that, even speaking to an average person in the street, they are usually able to understand you quite well, even if they can’t express themselves in English as well as they might like.

Finally, there’s the food. I’d heard a lot about the food, so I was expecting a lot. I’m pleased to report that I haven’t been disappointed. Pork and clams; grilled sardines; rice with seafood; seafood pasta. It’s all been great. It’s definitely a gastronomic paradise. Better than Spain? Just different.

Could I live in Lisbon? If not for the seven hills, most definitely.
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