Newsletter July 2004
by: Nigel Anteney Hoare
|My lasting memory of June 2004 will be heat, football and flags! Flags on cars and bars, flags on houses, apartments and shops. Those shops usually confined to selling beach balls and pump up alligators that fill a swimming pool were selling flags. Croatian flags, Russian flags, English flags, Dutch flags, even Spanish flags and of course Portuguese flags. In fact hundreds of flags! What with the flags, the various shirts worn by the supporters and the bougainvillea, oleander and hibiscus all displaying their vivid summer blooms the whole place was a riot of colour!
I apologise in advance to non football followers reading this Newsletter due to the amount of football content but you may appreciate it was an event difficult to avoid here in June 2004!
We had been over to the UK for a week at the end of June arriving back on Monday 6th. It had been lovely weather there and quite hot but we sure noticed the difference when we arrived in Carvoeiro. It was VERY hot and confirmed my long held view that we always get a heat wave in June. Arriving from the UK too late to eat at home we visited the LANTERNA VELHA which was up to its usual standard. The town looked busy and was obviously gearing up ready to welcome football supporters for the Euro finals.
That week passed with temperatures rising still further. Saturday 12th saw the opening match in the Euros - Portugal v Greece - a sure fire winner for Portugal wasn't it? We had somehow managed to get invited to a wedding at 12 noon at Lagoa Registry Office but as the match wasn't until 5 pm there was not too much consternation to the football followers amongst the guests. If you have never been to a Portuguese wedding, let me explain that they are normally quite informal affairs following the usual pattern, ceremony, photographs, then lots to eat and drink! At noon in Lagoa's' paved pedestrian street it was hotting up. The groom looked nervous and the bride was late. The Registrar let us into his small hot office to witness the ceremony - about 30 of us! There was an air con unit on the wall but it wasn't on and the Registrar was dressed in a type of windcheater!? It was surreal! The wedding guests were collectively giving off the heat of a 6 bar electric fire so I took some photos and then escaped into the fresh air waiting for bride and groom to appear to be showered with the customary confetti, petals and rice. Then away in a horn honking convoy to Carvoeiro.
More cakes arrived together with coffee for some and some harder liquor for others then most guests settled back to watch the football match on screens thoughtfully provided by the restaurant. You may know the result didn't go according to plan, at least not the Portuguese plan and little were we to realise that the opening game would mirror the final in almost every aspect!
Copious quantities of Alentejo wine were served at every opportunity and then in the evening dinner was served. By that time I was wondering if I would ever be the same again but it was a splendid day, the bride looked beautiful and all was at peace with the world!
The happiness of the wedding on the 12th was contrasted the following day with news of the death of a work colleague following a lengthy illness. As is usual in Portugal the funeral took place almost immediately, in this case on Monday afternoon in Portimão. A simple service was followed by internment at Portimão cemetery. As is often the case the family asked for the casket to be opened at the graveside to pay last respects. I hate this part of funerals here as naturally many relatives, and close friends, break down emotionally when they see their loved one for the last time. A sad goodbye to a friend well known in the area.
The England v France game loomed and we decided to watch it on the big screen at VALE DO MILHO GOLF CLUB. ANDY DE FREITAS had arranged a buffet for a very reasonable inclusive price and it was well attended with about 65 people eating and many others just there for the game - and the beer! There was a great atmosphere with the place full of (well behaved!) England supporters, many decked out in England regalia. We then discovered there was one solitary French couple there! For most of the game they kept very calm and quiet until of course that fateful last two minutes when the French scored twice to win 2 - 1. They were ecstatic and on my dejected way out after the game I congratulated them on an amazing victory for their team.
There was well publicised trouble in Albufeira that night and although there was some rumour of the same in Carvoeiro, I didn't find hard evidence of that but rather just some loud and boisterous behaviour. It was obvious though as you walked or drove through town that we had been invaded by a different type of holiday maker than the normal mum, dad and two kids that you usually see here!
About this time a large hole started to be dug in Estrada do Farol (restaurant hill!) just below the rubbish bins near the taxi rank. I stopped and asked the workers what was going on and was informed that they were installing an "eco-ponte" for recycled rubbish. I wasn't sure what type they intended. These are prevalent in Portimão where they occupy quite lot of space. Work continued on the hole at great pace and in no time at all the town was graced by a smart set of underground containers for recycled plastic, glass, paper etc. I'm not sure how they get emptied but as rubbish, particularly in summer, is a perennial problem in Carvoeiro it was a welcome site. Just above these new attractions and towards the PIZZA place, work had concluded on the slope where some attractive stone walls have appeared. Thus this little bit of town is looking much smarter now.
The next match was England v Switzerland which again we watched at Vale de Milho Golf Club. We spoke to DONNA who had organised several coach trips to Lisbon for English fans based in and around Carvoeiro. She said that it had been like a military operation with the coaches leaving early morning and arriving back late at night with weary fans.
On the 16th a work colleague came over from Gibraltar for a couple of days on business. We couldn't put him up at our home due to building work so arranged with JULIO, manager of HOTEL CARVOEIRO SOL to fix him up with a room. We often use Carvoeiro Sol for visiting colleagues and always get good feedback from them. It is so central that you don't need a car, everything is at hand and the room rates always very good even in summer. Safely installed in the hotel, we met up with him in the evening to watch Portugal v Russia at FLIC FLAC BAR. A good sized crowd was present to enjoy the game on the big screen. Flic Flac is a good well run bar in my opinion. Later we ate in Lanterna Velha again!
The following day was very hot indeed, temperatures now hitting the high 30's. I had arranged to meet someone for lunch at O TEODOSIO the huge chicken restaurant at Guia. It never fails to amaze me the number of people there even at lunchtime and this was no exception. The chicken was better than I remember it and slightly larger. At one time O Teodosio might as well have served eggs the chicken was so small and young.
Friday 18th was blessed with a cooling wind from the North to cut through the heat and give some welcome relief. Saturday began with high scattered cloud and stayed that way with high winds. However Sunday returned as hot as before and we looked forward to Portugal v Spain, a real local derby and somewhat of a grudge match. Portugal scored a famous victory and the locals went berserk. Cars circled Carvoeiro hooting horns and waving flags. This continued well after midnight and the next morning when I walked my dog I found three young Portuguese men still up, stood by their parked car celebrating with a half empty bottle of Johnnie Walker and bleary eyes. We exchanged a few words about the game, I declined a shot of whisky as it was 7 am and they wished me well for England's chances. However as it was beginning to look more and more likely that England could meet up with Portugal in the later stages of the competition their wishes seemed a little guarded.
Monday 21st was England v Croatia and at last England showed some skill. The bars were absolutely packed. I popped early evening into the Dutch owned CARVOEIRO BAR. It looked just great bedecked with orange flags and bunting prior to the Holland v Germany clash. Great bar this in my opinion.
On 23rd another Gibraltar based colleague visited us with his wife. This time we could put them up and all went off to O Cantinho for some dinner. This was followed by a visit to try the cocktails in the HAVANA BAR where I enjoyed a delicious Mojito or two (or was it more?). The natural progression down the hill followed and we ended up in the ROUND UP SALOON which as usual was packed and buzzing - great fun. Our return up the hill was interrupted by a final halt at the Carvoeiro Bar for a totally unnecessary "nightcap" and to join in celebrations for Hollands win over Germany.
A little fuzzy headed first thing the following morning but by lunchtime I was well ready to drive us and our friends to Lisbon as we had tickets for the clash of the tournament - England v Portugal. Simply an amazing, electric atmosphere in Lisbon. We stayed at the HOTEL LAPA who had hiked their prices up so high for the Euros that there were very few football supporters staying there but what appeared to be some UEFA officials. The atmosphere in the stadium was incredible. No segregation of supporters. lots of stuff going on outside with TV crews and a few personalities. I saw Frank Lampard senior which pleased me as I used to watch him play for West Ham at Upton Park back in the late 60's. Everyone was getting along together good naturedly. The game is history and a classic with an early England goal, Portuguese recovery, England late equaliser, extra time, disallowed England goal and the now famous Beckham penalty kick. It was the material for a heart attack!
The Portuguese supporters were ecstatic in victory. With 65,000 supporters leaving the stadium, getting away was never going to be easy but after much queuing we made our way on the METRO towards the river. Our first time using the Metro and we were well impressed. When I am in Lisbon again that will be my method of transport although of course it does give a limited coverage of the city.
Because of the extra time and penalty shoot-out our planned eating time of 11pm became about 12.15am but the staff at ALCANTARA CAFÉ close to the river and under the shadow of the 25 April bridge were fine about it and seemed willing to work all night! Our table of 10 or so England supporters was set alongside a long table full of Portuguese supporters but the banter was good natured with us joining in their celebrations and they with our commiserations. A very late night for Lisbon with queues of cars circling the streets in celebration!!
The following day we had tickets for the other quarter final and watched Greece upend the French in what seemed a surprising result. It was a surprise for me as I lost a tenner betting on Zinedine Zidane scoring the first goal! There were still many England supporters at this match licking their wounds but generally in good humour despite Englands exit from the tournament.
We returned to Carvoeiro on Saturday morning. Driving through the Alentejo at 1pm the car showed an outside temperature of 39ºc for mile after mile. Arriving in Silves at 2.30pm we decided to stop for some chicken at the restaurant O MONCHIQUEIRO opposite the river. It was so hot even under the shady canopies it was almost too much. The ubiquitos refrigerated butter pats (why are they always too hard to spread on bread?!) arrived and promptly melted all over the table! Anyway the chicken was good and our friends picked up the tab (50 Euros for 4 of us) so I was happy.
Exhausted by our trip we watched the 3rd quarter final on television at home to see who Portugal would meet in the semis.
Sunday continued with 39ºc temperatures. Again We saw the Czech Republic v Denmark game on television and at that stage I though that the Czechs looked most likely to meet Portugal in the Final and spoil their party! The heat wasn't letting up at night. My poor old dog was suffering and despite liberal quantities of ice in his water bowl to cool it he just slept all day in the coolest spot he could find.
As I walked him well after 10pm I could hear the music from COLINA VILLAGE on the POÇO PARTIDO - CARVOEIRO road wafting up over the valleys. A decent enough Robbie Williams sound alike was entertaining the guests. I have never been to one of their events but have heard they are quite good. An inclusive barbecue I think open to non residents.
Midweek we woke to a nice cooling breeze at 7am. It was the dawn of day of the Portuguese semi final with an enormous air of expectancy. A giant screen had been erected in the square in front of the beach and BETO and his band were scheduled to perform afterwards. Great excitement! Unsure of where to watch it I was persuaded by Carlos of the CEPSA service station to join him at DIRTY NELLY'S. When I arrived there was a large, mixed crowd already there including a group of Irish lads who good naturedly were giving Holland some vocal support. Much Guinness and other brands were being consumed and at the final whistle the whole place erupted. As if from nowhere cars began hooting their horns, the occupants waving flags and a motorcade started to circle Carvoeiro in an impromptu display of Portuguese nationalistic fervour. The people haven't been so happy since the 1974 Revolution. The GNR simply gave up trying to control the cars and stood watching. It was great fun!
The rest is more or less history and I will spare readers next month of any football at all (unless West Ham sign Christian Ronaldo!). Portugal went on to lose in the final and the Greeks were crowned champions of Europe. Incredible! We had gone again to the UK on Friday 2nd July to attend a christening and bring our children back from boarding school for the long summer holiday so we missed actually seeing the misery of loss here in Carvoeiro. All I got was an SMS from my daughter saying "very quiet in town!". I must say that as I watched it on a television in Norwich my old eyes misted over at how close they had come.
On a final note the whole tournament was brilliantly organised. UEFA are calling it the best ever.
See you next month!