Trip Start Nov 27, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Portugal  , Estremadura,
Monday, February 6, 2012

Unsurprisingly, the recession isn't helping Portugal.  Developments have been abandonned and ring roads are half built. There are unfinished houses and the new brickwork of hotels is left exposed, rapidly decaying. We were last here two years ago and the changes are visible even to us. We don't remember which shops were where or how many restaurants there were but it is clear to us that there are more vacant commercial properties. Our friends tell us that the industry that seams to be doing well are hair and beauty salons. They're popping up and we have seen several in a small town. These aside, things seem to be in decline. The train station at Loule has 3 platforms. The one at Santa Clara has two. It doesn't matter which direction you travel, the trains always use just the one platform. The lack of oil stains from leaky engines on the other tracks show that they have long been out of use. There are reduced trains and reduced track maintenance.

We see "vende-se" signs everywhere and we're often tempted by what we could afford here. The Algarve is too pricey but a few thousands Euros spent an hour north would get a questionably habitable ruin with a bore hole and good land. That's in the Alentejo where one thing has definitely not changed, the hills and ravines are as steep as I remember!

The landscape is the same of course. A couple of wet winters have filled the barragems (reservoirs). This winter has been exceptionally mild and local dwellers are hoping for rain. This is a wish that everyone we know working with the land has, all the way north into England and Wales. Laura has been enjoying all the flowers that are out but we both feel drawn to more temperate climates. We could get a fabulous property out here and have year round suntans but I'm not sure we could cope with the summer heat. 

We're heading out of Lisbon on the overnight Spanish Tran-Hotel, we've left the Algarve on a 16C sunny day. Tomorrow we will be arriving in mid/south France that isn't getting above freezing. We must be crazy.
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