There'll be peace of mind
When we live in a world of our own

4.10.22

Our first trip to Portugal is already over, and even though we likely won’t be moving there for some time, due to Linda’s family commitments, the trip was helpful. We were able to eliminate a few places from our list of possibilities and elevate the standing of a couple of others.

We’ve confirmed one thing we’ve been suspecting for a little while. The recent popularity of the country with expats has driven up prices so that it’s not the super-cheap haven it was only a couple of years ago when we first started checking it out. While in most parts of the country, the cost of living is still lower than in the States, property prices and rents are higher than just two years ago. Especially is this true near city centers, the historical, and most desirable, parts of the towns.

We enjoyed Tavira and Lagos (la´gōsh), particularly their old-world charm, but decided that we couldn’t really see ourselves living there, for various reasons. However, two of the places we’ve visited, as I said, have risen on our list. I’ll start out here with the first one.

Silves (sil´vesh) is a wonderful old town, built on a hill around a twelfth-century castle. There are newer neighborhoods surrounding the original village – houses, townhomes and apartments with the white stucco and red tile roofs so common throughout Portugal. But we fell in love with the historical centro, or central part of town.

It’s a small town. According to Wikipedia, “The population of the entire municipality of Silves in 2011 was 37,126. The urbanized area of the city proper has approximately 11,000 inhabitants.” While they have petrol stations and a modern grocery store, Linda and I enjoyed wandering through the street market, purchasing fresh figs and other produce.

Other places we’ve visited in Portugal had a large tourist draw, and because of that, most people spoke at least some English. Many are fluent. Silves, though, isn’t your typical tourist destination. They do hold an annual Medieval Festival in the historic neighborhoods surrounding the castle, which attracts a number of visitors in the late summer, but it’s not a slick resort area. I mean the town has only one old hotel, so they don’t put up a lot of people like Lisbon or Lagos. And that’s a big part of what attracted us to it.

We want to experience and enjoy the native culture rather than just mingling with other expats. But that lack of tourist destination mentality meant that English isn’t spoken or understood there as much. A couple of the produce vendors spoke no English at all, so orders were placed by pointing at price signs they had posted and using a number of fingers to communicate how many.

Living in a place like that would force us to learn the language faster – faster being a relative term considering the complication of the language. In the meantime, though, we would struggle to understand and be understood. So that’s one point in the con column of our pros and cons list.

One endearing thing about Silves, and the surrounding area, is their population of storks. The white storks used to migrate from all over Europe to sub-Saharan Africa in the winter. In the last twenty or thirty, though, many storks have chosen to stay in Silves year-round. (We’re not the only ones who find it appealing!)

Silves

The population of storks in the area in 1995 was estimated to be about 1,000. In 2014, that estimate rose to 14,000. We saw them nesting on multiple roofs, chimneys and street lights, and even in one vast field where there were innumerable posts that looked to be spaced equidistant from each other, standing the same height, and were, apparently, for the sole purpose of providing a space for a stork nest.

I think we both could have spent more time in Silves, wandering the cobblestone streets, admiring the old-world architecture and the storks, and just generally soaking up the history. But Linda had lessons to teach that afternoon and we had to get to our next place of lodging so she could do that.

So we began our short drive down from the hills of Silves to the shoreline location of our other favorite.