I am in the very fortunate position of spending my life living in two amazing places; Albufeira in Portugal and Bristol, United Kingdom.
We are often asked how it is we can bear to live in such a busy place as the centre of Old Town in Albufeira, especially as it gets busier in the summer months. It gets louder – with music from the bars going on into the early hours of the morning. There is more traffic and there are way more people. Yes, our home is in the middle of all of this, but it’s set back on a little side street, away from the hustle and bustle – so we are sort of in the midst of things, but also out of it, on a small one way street that leads to nowhere. We consider it relatively quiet, especially when you compare it to our home in Bristol.
You couldn’t really get more of a contrast. We have made our home right in the centre of town, in about as busy a spot as you could probably find. Buses run all day and also through the night. We are surrounded by office blocks and student accommodation and often when we are awake in the night are treated to the most amazing choirs. Most of us have belonged to such a choir at some point in our time – the choir made up of people on their way home from the pub, confident in the knowledge that they are the best singers EVER! We’ve had Oasis, Aha, The Three Tenors, you name it, we’ve probably heard it and each time, you just can’t help but smile!
In Albufeira we have the beaches. One right on our doorstep, but then other smaller, secluded beaches all along the coast. We have the changing colours of the sea, the differences in the waves and the tides, every day is a different view – something will have changed. When the tourists arrive all with their different coloured beach umbrellas it brings a real sense of excitement to the town, particularly at the beginning of the season. Then in Bristol we have the harbourside. So busy and bustling, with the brightly coloured boats, floating happily besides great boats such as the Matthew and the SS Great Britain. We have Gromits, Gorillas and Shaun the Sheep standing to attention, there is even a crocheted crocodile in homage to the crocodile of Bristol that apparently makes his home in the harbour!
In both locations you have the old next to the new. One of my favourites in Bristol is the view of the Church of St John on the wall, part of the original old city walls, right next to iconic pieces of street art, ‘Where the Wall’ and ‘The Vandal’. Obviously we also have Banksy. So much so that I don’t even notice them anymore – they are just part and parcel of every day life. Clearly not in the same league, but in Albufeira several of the electricity boxes have been covered with pieces of street art which reflect the heritage of the town. Our apartment sits within the original city walls, yet within 5 minutes you are right in the centre of the newer square, and all of the bars and restaurants. One of my favourite times of year in Albufeira is Easter. It’s still very much a religious festival in Portugal with processions all across the Easter weekend – through the hoards of tourists there to enjoy the sun.
And as for food! Both places provide a huge variety of cuisine that vary in Italian, Indian, Chinese, Portuguese, Vegan, Tapas. In Bristol we have the added benefit of street food, that really does cover every nationality, including Caribbean. In Albufeira if you dig deeply enough – well actually – not all that deeply at all, just leave the main tourist areas you can find some outstanding food at reasonable prices. You might not get a wide choice, but the quality is something else. Likewise in Bristol, there are just some amazing restaurants, popping up all over the place, some of which are housed in small cargo sheds. In Bristol it’s really hard to find middle of the the road chain restaurants, we are a picky lot and like our food to be high quality and independent and we will pay. Equally in Portugal – you can find the middle of the road, microwaved meals, but walk around the back streets and you will find so much more, fantastic little independent restaurants, run by families who are so very enthusiastic about their food and your experience with them really matters.
So, all in all, the two places aren’t all that different – barring the weather obviously! I’m incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to experience the contrasts.