Albufeira: Portuguese for everything is uphill.
Yesterday, I made a new rule for myself: Don’t walk downhill until I know for certain I won’t have to walk farther uphill.
Some neuron in my brain fired the other night and I remembered that I was supposed to register my presence with the local authorities. I went into two ex-pat groups on Facebook and searched to see if anyone had posted about the process but couldn’t find anything. So I asked.
Once posted, I had immediate responses, which gives me a hint as to how helpful ex-pats are going to be in my future. (Thank you!) The replies were not completely straightforward, partially because everyone’s situation was different. One said my AirBnb host was supposed to register me. One said her lawyer had told her she definitely had to register with SEF, the Portuguese Immigration and Border Patrol Services. One said she had had to register and had done so at the local Junta de Freguesia, sort of like a Parish Council. I contacted my AirBnB host and he said that he would register me. I thank him, but I want to make sure I do everything properly here, so I set off to find the Parish Council. (Trust but verify.)
My phone doesn’t work here, at least not all the time, or maybe certain functions work, and I have no idea why something works when it does. I don’t have GPS, or maybe I do. I look up directions on my laptop and get a general idea of where the place is, but I can’t print it out.
I take a picture of the screen with my phone camera. I’m not sure how helpful it will be because Google doesn’t show the street names of the little back streets until you zoom in incredibly closely and then you can’t figure out where the heck you are in the big picture. And most of Albufeira is little back streets.
The morning is fresh and warm—low 60s Fahrenheit. My brain hasn’t converted to Centigrade yet. But it’s perfect walking weather. I walk down, down, down to the beach area, check on the currency exchange office (closed), and try to figure out how to pass through the warren of streets to get to the other side. Not all roads go across. They all, however, seem to go UP.
I eventually find myself near the main drag in town. I finally see the McDonalds (no thank you) and the Municipal Building. I know I am close. I check the picture of the map trying to figure out just where the Parish Council offices are. A young man suggests I ask at the police station: “They are very helpful.”
The policeman at the door asks my nationality then sends me to other offices in the next building over. They find a lady who speaks English and she sends me to SEF. She starts to give me directions. I said, “Wait. Let me guess. It’s uphill?” She laughs.
Another 10 minutes of walking and I find the offices. One of the things I have learned to do is not stop too soon. I walked farther than I thought I had to and then saw the business, Pingo Doce (Sweet Drop), that she had used as a landmark. I go up the street, see the bank she told me about and I can’t find the offices. So I keep going. Up, of course. It’s another block, but there it sits. Two women are standing outside, distanced. I ask the first, “Are you waiting?” She indicates no and waves me in front of her towards the door. I ask the next, and yes, she is waiting. Someone will come to the door for the next in line.
We wait in the sun, maybe 10 minutes. A woman comes out and talks to both of us. I tell her what I need to do. She explains that if I am staying at a hotel—or AirBnB—the host will register me. I am all set. To me it’s not a wasted trip; I want to make sure I do everything properly. I need the reassurance she gave. I am satisfied.
I turn to walk downhill, then remember the supermarket, Lidl, is somewhere near where I am and may be uphill. Okay. Odds are REALLY GOOD that it is uphill. So I walk uphill some more and come to the soccer field. I walk and walk, but now it is mostly flat or slightly downhill. I find the “high rent” district: big beautiful houses behind electric gates set at the top of the city. I have a pretty good sense of direction and I keep working my way around and to the left, keeping the city on my left side. I know eventually I will come to the street that the Lidl is on.
If You’re Waiting for a Sign
One of the things I really like about Albufeira (and this is probably true of most cities in Portugal) is they have road signs for shops and hotels. I see the sign for Lidl, 250m. Quite frankly at this point I am hot and a bit sweaty (a nice change from shivering, so that’s not a complaint). I am tired and my knee and hip joints ache. My feet hurt. My back hurts. I stopped my twice a week workouts back in March due to Covid. They were always light on cardio anyway. Albufeira is helping me make up for all the workouts I have skipped. If my trainer knew, he’d be laughing his ass off at me.
I limp into the market and pick up a few things. I find a set of paring knives, not quite what I was looking for, but better than what is supplied at the AirBnB, which is half a dozen butter knives and one large, dull serrated knife. I look for cream for my coffee. No luck. I am mostly checking out what they offer. But I do find prepped cheese and bacon burritos. BACON! Well, I did say I would try the local food…
I load my few groceries into my Trader Joe’s bag (don’t leave home without it) and decide to take a different return route than the one I know. This leads me back into the rabbit warren of streets in town. I recognize stores and restaurants from my earlier trek. The restaurants are closed. Most of the shops are closed. Only the farmacias and mini-marts are open. I check the currency exchange again. Still closed. I stop into a farmacia to see if they sell scissors. No. That’s okay. Today I got knives, one thing off my list.
I sit on a bench and eat half a croissant. I have had only coffee and yogurt so far today and I am not that hungry, but I am also aware that if I don’t eat something there is a good chance I will have a dizzy spell. In spite of the pigeons and gulls that live in the area, NONE of them swoop in to steal my food, or gather at my feet begging. I remember restaurants at US beaches stringing transparent fishing line to keep the birds from stealing patrons’ food and the posted signs saying the restaurant would not be responsible if a bird stole your dinner. The birds here are much more civilized. Or maybe it was a fluke.
Every day I try to see a new area, find one thing on my “still need” list. Every day I try to accomplish just one thing. Today, I took care of the registration question, found knives (where does Portugal sell hangers, darn it?), and explored the Lidl. I have walked over 15,000 steps. There were days back in my condo that I walked fewer than 1,500.
I look at the time and panic. I have a Zoom business meeting at 1:00 Eastern and I am afraid I have missed it. I open up the Zoom room and no one is there. I look at the clock on my laptop which runs on New York time and see that I am an hour early. I breathe a sigh of relief.
I take two Aleves and microwave the burrito. It is yummy. Today is a win.