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A silver lining...

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An Englishman abroad by MIKE GAUNT


It's an old adage, isn’t it? Every cloud has a silver lining. In Portugal, they say ‘h males que vm por bem’. Roughly, this translates as ‘from evil comes good’. That’s certainly the case at the moment.

We are off to the Azores in May, for a week’s break, before we go off to visit grandson number one and do a bit (probably quite a lot, if I’m honest) of wetting the baby’s head. 

As a consequence, we needed to book a night in a hotel in Lisbon whilst waiting for the flight back to Blighty. Well, the difficulty we had! It seems that Portugal is almost full! Of tourists, that is.

It appears that a lot of people, commonly other Europeans – Germans, British, Dutch, and so on – are taking what seems to be the safe option. 

In the face of continuing turmoil and trouble, with bombs going off in places like north Africa, the perceived security of Portugal’s Algarve, the ‘costas’ in southern Spain and South Africa are the beneficiaries. People in Portugal are certainly seeing the silver lining in the cloud that is global tension due to madmen like the criminals in Brussels and Paris. 

There is much talk of turismo and  of estrangeiros. The Douro valley, the gorgeously green gorge where the ruby-red national drink, (or at least the national drink of the north of the country) port is produced, is full to bursting, with predictions for a bumper year of visitors in the news.

Even the less-frequented districts, such as Alentejo and our neck of the woods, the Beira district in central Portugal, seem to be anticipating a busier than normal time. There is a palpable sense of preparedness; sprucing up the river beaches, re-surfacing the cobbles in the town squares and licks of paint all over. 

I’m not sure that our sleepy little village will see many camera-toting rubber-necking newcomers, but I reckon the towns around and about might. 

With the new roads it’s only a couple of hours from the centres of population of Oporto and Lisbon and Coimbra, our nearest major city is but three-quarter’s of an hour away. There could be bus-loads of day-trippers discovering the ‘rural heartland of this sun-soaked country’ (I could write the holiday brochure). So, with the sun sneaking out more frequently, we’re possibly in the vanguard of the next (more like the first, really) tourism boom to hit central Portugal. 

With a new British-style pub just a kilometre or so away on the main road to Spain, we might find coaches parked there at lunchtimes. I’d better prepare for random passers-by walking through the woods. 

I think I’ll just spend the next few weeks tidying things up. I’ll drag out the brush-cutter and get rid of the new bracken growth that makes the place look a bit untidy and perhaps I’ll fill in the odd pot-hole on the drive. 

We could bake a few scones and offer cream teas. You never know, we might even rent out the tree house. Do you think I’m getting a bit carried away? Can’t stop! Things to do!

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