Lagoan Girls!

This story is about three young Portuguese women that I met during my month in Algarve; their ages in the eighteen to thirty group.

It was Lagoa?s Saints Day and I needed to buy some comfortable shoes, as I knew Id be doing quite a bit of walking round the town. I wandered over to the beachwear shop that?s close to Carvoeiros Perfumaria and started to look through the rows of colourful flip-flops hung by the doorway. A young voice said, "Can I help you?" I turned to see twinkling brown eyes and a ready smile in the face of a dark-haired teenager. After telling her my size she patiently sorted through the shoes till she found them in the colour of my choice.

I followed her to the desk and as I paid her, I asked price and thanked her in Portuguese. She smiled, looking surprised, saying "Ah you speak Portuguese!"
I said just a little; that Id lived in Lagoa some years ago and learnt some whilst working with Portuguese people. Her smile broadened and she remarked it didn?t matter how little; what mattered was that I tried. I said that her English was excellent. She said that she was eighteen and that she'd been good at English in school; also adding that she was from Lagoa and would betaking part in the towns celebrations that evening. On hearing this, I asked her about the Saints day and she informed me that it was actually the day of the "Senhora da Luz" (Pronounced Loosh) and that there would be lots going on. During our conversation, I told her of which she didn?t know of, but would now look out for on her computer. As we left, she called out "Have a good time! I will look out for you!"

On the way to Lagoa I said to Hub, what a lovely girl. So cheerful and bright with a wonderfully engaging manner; she would go far working in public relations!
Lagoa was quiet. All the shops closed for its special day; this included the small cafe in the park. But luckily we had brought drinks and sandwiches along and this we ate sitting on a bench under the shade of a large pomegranate tree. The heat was intense and we were just finishing our lunch when a young boy of about eight wandered over to us. He was very blond with large blue eyes and I immediately thought him North European. Then he spoke; firing rapid Portuguese at us, which startled me and I said "Desculpe. Eu sou Inglese". To which he pulled a face and replied, pointing proudly at his chest "Eu sou Portuguese!"

Then proceeded to speak again, his finger jabbing upwards at the tree behind us. I finally figured out that he wanted a pomegranate that was way out of his reach. I was doubtful at picking one, not knowing the park rules and as I spied that he already had one hidden behind his back, I said "Nao desculpe"
He was very insistent but at that exact moment, his mother called to him, in an angry voice, and he scampered back home tucking the pomegranate inside his trouser pocket!

It was a long hot uphill walk to Lagoa?s main church and we longed for shade. As we went round to the small park behind the Camara building, suddenly, the place was alive! The whole area bustled with a large gipsy market. Stalls lined the park and road selling everything from sweets and drinks to shoes and jewellery. Young children darted in and out, ducking under lines of washing strung gaily between the stall supports as colourful as any street decoration! What a complete contrast to the quiet town centre we'd just left!

We passed an interesting couple of hours on a bench close to the church. A TV crew was set-up by its large main doors and people were gathering there, I assumed, for the afternoon service. Most of the folk, maybe all, were elderly. What took my eye was the appearance of these patiently waiting Lagoans; each one, man and woman, impeccably turned out. The ladies in smart quite glamorous dresses, mostly in black; the men equally well dressed in pressed trousers and immaculate shirts. I was beginning to feel quite dowdy in my simple dress and flip-flops!

As the time wore on, nothing seemed to be developing at the church. People stood waiting and watching but the searing heat was getting to us; that and the sleepless previous night! So, reluctantly we gave into our weariness and slowly walked back down to the taxi rank and made our way back to Carvoeiro. We were sad not to have seen Sandra; to watch her part in the festivities; her friendliness and bright personality had lightened our day. We did see her a week or so later and she'd had a really good time. She said "Don't worry about not being there--there?s always next year!"
Thanks Sandra! See you then! Hope you get to read this!

One day Hub said, "Go and buy yourself a good perfume. my treat!"
Well, what woman alive would say no to that?
I hesitantly entered Carvoeiros Perfumaria. My usual "scent" being ordinary lavender water I felt certain guilt at the extravagance of expensive perfume. I asked the young Portuguese woman if she could recommend something light and flowery. Although polite and offering me tester bottles to try out, her manner was a little cold and no smile appeared. But she was very helpful and patient and picking up one she said, "Try this. I think you will like". It was perfect. Elizabeth Arden?s "Green Tea". Delightful light citrus aroma and just right. As she looked for the price on her list I commented on how hot it was. The perspiration was trickling down my forehead and I wanted to go to the beach for some fresh air!
She replied that it was hot for September and I agreed, saying I didn?t remember it as hot when I lived in Lagoa. She looked up at me, a slight smile appearing and said, "I live there" and went on to ask where we had lived in the town. Our conversation widened; she said she was originally from north of Lisbon but her family moved and settled in Portimao. On her marriage, she had settled in Lagoa. On these last few words a shadow crossed her features. I said, "Do you miss the north?" thinking that the reason for her frown. But she went on to say, no, but she preferred Portimao.

I asked if she had family replying that her five-year-old son had started school in Lagoa. Again a frown covered her face as she went on to say that she hoped to move as soon as her divorce was through. I said I was sorry to hear that, but she shrugged her shoulders saying that it had been in process for some time. Then, before I knew it she proceeded to tell me of her heartache over the past couple of years. Tears welled in her eyes and I asked her not to go on as it was clearly distressing her. But she carried on and said she felt better talking about it and maybe, because I was a stranger it was easier for her to do so.

The worst part had been when her husband told her he no longer loved her. She had known him since she was seventeen and was devastated by this news. Isabel told me many things, which I wouldn?t relate here; them being so personal. Though I have to say, when I told her of CVO.COM and the stories I write, she told me to "Go ahead"; you can write it all. But I?ve decided not too as I think some things are too private and should remain so.

However, our conversation moved on and the mood lightened as she confessed to me that she was a "romantic". We laughed together as I said "Shake hands. Me too!"
She went on to say how she would like to meet a man like-minded; one who would walk with her hand-in hand on the beach, or stroll at night looking at the stars! And above all, one who had a good sense of humour and fun! With this, I totally agreed, saying that to my mind, a good sense of humour was a big attraction in a man.

As we said goodbye, Isabel told me that when she got a new home of her own she would install a computer and get on to I think it would be nice for her; a place to make friends and feel part of our little community here. With her excellent English (she also speaks Spanish and French) and obvious intelligence she would be a big asset.

Hope you are on the way to your dreams Isabel and things are going well for you and your little one. I?m glad we met. If you are working Christmas week I will catch up with you then!

Are there words adequate enough, to describe this young woman?s personality. I doubt it. But I will do my best!
Sonia works at the cafe in Lagoa?s park. Its a popular place for local Portuguese, which for me is one of its main attractions. You can sit, eat and drink and watch and invariably "something" will happen. Mainly its used by elderly locals. A little meeting place for a chat, a laugh, maybe an argument and never dull!

One day we were sitting on a bench in the park, debating whether to have lunch, when an elderly silver-haired lady hurried up to us, a slip of paper fluttering in her hands. She asked if we were Portuguese and when we said no, looked very worried. She put the cheque (for that was the piece of paper) into Hubs hand and from our limited Portuguese we came to understand that she thought it was a demand for money! After perusing it, Hub assured her that it was a "rebate" from Electricity Company. She had overpaid her bill and if she took it to the post office, they would reimburse her. A smile broke over her face, and she shook our hands in thanks and went on her way to the post office.

We sat at one of the cafes red tables. Then Sonia made her appearance! She fairly bounced up to our table sporting a warm friendly smile asking what we would like? When she brought our lunch I asked her where we could find some lively entertainment. Maybe some local traditional singing and dancing. Her face broke into a big grin, "Oh Alvor!", she enthused, "I love Alvor! I go every Friday or Saturday! "She carried on" You may find some traditional Portuguese music; a guitar player maybe. There is always something going on. It?s a small place but you will enjoy. I love to go and sing Karaoke!"

As she said this her face beamed. I asked if she had a good voice; her reply was, that her friends thought so, but she didn?t!
We had a very long conversation, during which, she told us she was the mother of three, yet she seemed so young and vivacious she could have passed for a teenager. Having two children from her marriage, she now lived with her partner, an Argentinean and they had a young son.

I watched her with other customers; warm and friendly with each one she bubbled with life and I?ve no doubt that?s the reason so many came to eat there.

We visited the cafe regularly, often seeing the same folk each time. We noticed one elderly couple, who must have been in their 80s and what drew our notice was that the lady played "footsie" under the table with her husband. Her shoe rubbed against his lower leg; he would look at her. Then move his leg away! Then she would do it again, with him giving same reaction. She was playing a game that he wouldn?t take part in. It made me smile and I thought, "She?s still young at heart!"

We got to know Sonia very well and on asking her if she had a computer, she replied, "I did. But the children ran up the bill so high I had to send it back"
Of course, I told her of CVO.COM and she said she would look it up on her friends that she used sometimes.
On one of our last visits I asked if she had tea on the menu? She said "What would you like?" and proceeded to give me a list of different teas. I had a job to choose one, so she said, "Would you like to try my own special one made from a garden herb?

I agreed and 10 minutes later she arrived with a small silver teapot, a bunch of short green stalks protruding from its lid. I was a little apprehensive but she said "See and smell!? I did. It had a lemon smell and was the colour of limes. But the taste was even better! Refreshingly citrus a little sweet so no need for sugar. On asking what it was, Sonia said it was a herb called "Prince-P". When I said it was delicious, she said, "If you come here tomorrow, I will bring you some"

Needless to say, we did return the following day and as we sat down, Sonia hurried up to us with a large plastic bag from which protruded long green stems. When I thanked her, she pointed into the cafe saying "My mother brought it for you. It grows in her garden" I waved to the small figure, saying "Muito obrigada Senhora" and she waved back replying "de nada".
I made several pots of "Sonia?s tea" before we came home and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Out of all the "new" friends we made on our holiday, Sonia stands out like a little shining beacon. Her warmth and obvious "joy of living" touched us and we sincerely hope we meet up with her again next spring!
Hope you get to read this Sonia! We wish you, Fernando and the children a lovely Christmas time in Argentina!

Just to add, we met the little old lady again later in the day. She recognised us and again shook our hands saying "Muito obrigada" She had been to the post office to collect her refund! The amount?
One Euro and 73 cents! She was delighted!