Getting To Know You

Making new friends and renewing old friendships. This is what my recent trip to Algarve seemed to be all about; consisting of meet-ups with people I’d never met before but who I seemed to know well from our communicating on forum and with another I’d chatted regularly to on the chat room.
Then there was the reunion with old Algarve friends of different nationalities that always make me feel welcome and 'at home' and who I’m always so happy to see.

There was yet another ‘encounter’, which, on reflection, I wished, hadn't taken place. One that left me feeling a little foolish and as a woman travelling alone, rather vulnerable.
When I boarded the plane at Stansted I did so with some trepidation. It was years since I'd travelled alone but though a little nervous once we were airborne, nerves soon gave way to elation and also a great feeling of independence! All my weeks of planning had come to fruition and I was on my way to Portugal! Less than 3 hours later we touched down at Faro airport and though an early April evening we were greeted with the warm glow of setting sun in a clear blue sky. Being a quiet period I was soon on my way wheeling my bag through to arrivals, slightly nervous and shy at meeting my new friend Beverley for the first time. We had never met before and became acquainted through e-mails and just 2 phone calls. But then I realised that she would be equally apprehensive. We were strangers and for the next 2 weeks I would be sharing her home along with schoolboy son Anton.

My eyes searched for the woman in my photo and when a voice suddenly called "Ellie?" I turned to see Bev and Anton waiting for me. I was greeted with warm, shy smiles and a kiss from each. A strong young lad, Anton was soon lifting my heavy bag and stowing it in the boot of the car and then we were on our way to Carvoeiro. Its very strange and somewhat awkward meeting for a first time but in that hour or so journey we found ourselves chatting away as if we'd known each other for years! It remained so for the rest of my stay and I couldn't have had nicer, kinder and more 'homely' people to holiday with than Bev and Anton.

It had been a very long day so I was glad to be lazy the following morning. Around midday I decided to walk into Carvoeiro. I enjoy walking so it didn’t bother me. The weather was glorious and as the sun shone down from a cloudless sky I once again experienced a superb feeling of freedom; that I could go where I wanted, when I wanted and only have myself to worry about. A very selfish feeling but I revelled in it!
I did a lot of walking but at the end of those first 2 days I was in trouble! An enormous blister, about 5 by 4cms were forming on my right heel and very painful. I needed to buy antiseptic cream and a dressing. The nearest Farmacia was in Carvoeiro and so once again I did my walk into walk into town
It was Good Friday and I had arranged to meet Tricky (off the forum) for a lunchtime drink at Colombos, so I didn't want to let her down. We had become good friends on and chat room and I was so looking forward to meeting her. But before I left I found a large plaster to cover my heel, put on some soft socks and my trainers then started off on my trek to Carvoeiro.
The ground is very rough along the side of the main road and after a few minutes my foot started to hurt quite badly. I stopped for a rest then hobbled along as best I could my huge bag (containing all the usual that a woman carries around with her including fancy sandals to change into!) swung over my shoulder.

I looked in direction of the voice. A man was leaning out the window of a dark blue Renault that had pulled up across the road. He smiled.
"You going to Carvoeiro? You want a lift?"
I didn’t know what to say. His manner was friendly. He seemed genuine and I thought, he’s seen me walking badly and took pity on me. I was hesitant at first but that’s because in England I wouldn't dream of accepting a lift off a stranger. But then I thought this is Portugal and when we were resident it was the done thing to accept lifts; it was something I’d seen school kids do regularly. So over I went.

As soon as we drove off he started to chat. Asked if I was on holiday? Did I like it there? Where did I want dropping off? It was nice and friendly and as we drove into Carvoeiro he pointed up to some apartments above the shops, saying that was where he lived. I asked him to drop me by the square; I wanted to go to the Farmacia and also change my shoes before I met Tricky. As I thanked him for the lift, the Portuguese guy, who was 40ish,turned to me telling me his name and said he worked in a restaurant up the hill. Then he said "I like you. Will you come and have a drink with me".
I said no thank-you. It was very nice of him but I had a lunch appointment. I was meeting a friend. He persisted saying maybe I could meet him later to have a drink or a coffee? Again I said no as I had to get home afterwards. He repeated the question and I was a bit surprised at his persistence. For a moment felt a bit vulnerable. Anyway, I thanked him again, said no, smiled and left.

The Farmacia was closed. I’d forgotten it was a holiday and would have to wait till the following day. So I changed into my sandals and did the short walk over to Colombos. I was a bit early so stood chatting to owner Eugenia and waitress Annette. I told them about the lift. At first they just smiled but when I said the man wanted to meet again and buy me a drink Annette said "Ellie. You must be careful. He may have been okay but you cant be sure"
I asked them if I had done the wrong thing? Annette answered with cool German logic,
"Well. Put it this way Ellie. Would you want your daughter to do it?"
And of course I said "No!"
As we talked I saw a small brunette out of the corner of my eye.
It was Tricky. She was just like her photo and as we kissed and said "Hello" we laughed, feeling quite at ease with each other and I knew we would get on fine. Which we did. We sat at an outside table and chatted and chatted. Drank shandy and ordered a salad each which we hardly touched as we were so engrossed in conversation. Good company, lovely sunny day, Carvoeiro's ambience. Can you beat it? Don't think so! After lunch we sat on the bench by the taxi rank, still chatting and with Carlos the cab driver joining in the fun. Then we went over to 'pose' in front of webcam! When Tricky finally had to leave and walk back to Vila Nova I felt a little sad. She is a natural friendly caring young woman with bubbly sense of humour and as she walked away I felt suddenly quite alone.

Anton & Ellie Tricky & Ellie Carlos & Tricky

Saturday morning and I was going with Bev and Anton to visit her friend Jean, an elderly English lady in an old folks home. Bev visited her each Saturday for a few hours often taking her out for a ride which she enjoyed very much. Today we were going to pick her up and go for lunch at Monte Carvoeiro.
A horn sounded outside the cottage. It was the bakers van and Anton went out to buy fresh cakes. Then he made some tea and we all enjoyed a cake and a 'cuppa' for breakfast!

It was a lovely drive. The residential home is set in a quiet rural area; the surrounding countryside filled with wild flowers. When I was introduced to Jean I felt a lump in my throat. A frail little lady but friendly and talkative, she reminded me of my own dear mother who passed away 3 years ago. We had a nice drive back to Monte Carvoeiro where Bev took us to 'McCafes' restaurant. It was only just mid-day so we opted for a 'brunch' meal. Jean really enjoyed her 'Hawaian Burger', Anton his 'Tosta mixta'. For Bev and me it was a light chicken salad.

It was nice chatting to Jean. Being from England we had quite a bit in common and talked of places we both knew. After lunch Bev was taking Jean to her beautician friend to have her nails done. It was nice to see a lady of her age and who wasn’t always in good health taking a pride in her appearance. We got on to talking about hair and I said that I needed a haircut. Then I noticed Jean looking very closely at my hair. She was quiet for a moment, then she said "What’s that colour called and where do you have it done?"
Bev and I laughed at Jean's straightforward manner as I replied,
"Its my own colour. I was born with it!"
I enjoyed my time with Jean; she was good company and fun. But then I said my farewells to them as they made their way to the beauty parlour and mine down to Carvoeiro town.

On my way down I stopped off at the cliff tops. It was a windy day but very sunny and for a while I sat on a flat piece of stone admiring the colourful mixture of wildflowers that bloom there, now and then staring out at the exhilarating sweep of wide blue Atlantic. It was a wonderfully serene half an hour, before carrying on with my downhill walk.
The Farmacia was closed for lunch, so I decided to spend some time sunbathing on the praia. Armed with newspaper, water and a small chocolate bar I made my way onto the beach. Making myself comfortable on the stone ledge just below the wall, I settled down to read my paper.
The early lunch and warm sunshine had a soporific effect and I was about to doze off over the paper when a movement at the side had me looking up. A dark-haired man was standing looking down at me. I immediately recognised the man who had given me a lift the previous day. He smiled saying,
"Ola! I was looking for you. I thought I would see you walking again".
For a moment I was at a loss for words, then found myself explaining that my friend had given me a lift. He nodded then sat down alongside of me. I felt a little alarmed at this and didn’t know quite how to play it. I was also slightly annoyed. I was just relaxing, enjoying the sun and sound of the sea and just wanted to be alone. He kept looking at me then spoke,
"I want to take you for a drink. I like you"
I thanked him and said I was fine. That I’d had my lunch and didn’t want anything else.
"How about a coffee then. We could go to my place?"
Again I declined. Although by now I was getting irritated at being harassed I tried to stay polite saying I really didn’t want anything. He still sat there and persisted with; "Lets go and have a drink then. We could go to a bar. I would like to buy you a drink"
This went on for about half an hour. Then he was silent. He still sat there and I was beginning to panic a little. What should I do? I reached into my bag for my mobile and started to press the numbers.
"Excuse me while I text my husband. Meu marido?"
He sat there for another few minutes, then stood up.
"I have to go now. May be I see you another day and we have a drink?"
I simply nodded, gave a weak smile and said "Adeus!"
As he walked away, I breathed a sigh of relief. For the first time in years I hadn’t known what to do, how to handle the situation. That moment I vowed never again to accept a lift from a stranger.

By then I'd had enough of the beach. It was getting really hot so I walked over to sit on a shaded bench outside Colombos. As I sat reading the Resident newspaper I found myself looking up now and then expecting the Portuguese guy to be hovering around somewhere. It had affected me and I still felt quite anxious. Then I felt a movement behind me and then 2 hands suddenly clamped around my eyes. I gasped and quickly put my hands up to pull them away! Then there was a girlish laugh and Tricky ran round to sit next to me.
I was surprised and relieved to see it was her and I told her about the incident on the beach. Like the good friend she is, she told me to be careful and to make sure that I got home before it was dark. As we spoke her husband Brian and twin sons came along. They were very disappointed at not being able to find a restaurant where a football game was showing. So Brian took the boys home. Tricky went shopping while I phoned Hub. Then we met up at Colombos again to have a parting drink. They were off home in the morning so we made the most of that hour before Brian came to pick her up.
The lady at the Farmacia gave me cream and sterile dressings for my blister and after an early dinner at Colombos I made a slow trek home. I had a surprise waiting for me as Anton handed me a gift wrapped parcel. On opening it I saw a large box of Galaxy chocs,
"Happy Easter Ellie" and he gave me a kiss!
I said how lovely but it was too much really. I’d only bought him a small chocolate egg. But we finished the evening with lemon tea and chocolates all round! A nice end to the day!

Easter Sunday and we were up quite early, had breakfast and was ready to leave at 10.30 a.m. We were going to the church (Lagoa Fellowship) up at Carvoeiro Clube. I hadn't been to church for years and felt totally out of practise! As we drove along Bev mentioned the pastor 'Greg Ekland'. I said I knew of him and that Id seen him perform on stage in CVO's square last September.
We arrived a little early for the service so went through to the small cafe at the rear of the hall. It was quite hot so we sat and enjoyed a cold drink each. Then before we went into the service Bev introduced me to Greg and his wife and I told them what a great evening it was in the square and how much we'd enjoyed their music.

The Easter service was really something; everyone was so friendly and Greg gave a rousing sermon and the music was so inspiring that I found myself joining in with all the songs. The children put on a little Easter play for us then one young girl sang solo; a pretty tuneful voice and afterwards I felt my spirits lifting. An enjoyable and different Sunday morning for me!

It was Thursday and late afternoon. I had arranged booking for our trip to Lisbon for the following day and now I was sitting on the beach feeling a bit unsure of myself. I had agreed to meet-up with e.Richard and maybe a few others off the forum. It was fixed for 6pm and it was almost that now but I was beginning to feel a little nervous about meeting up with those, who beforehand I’d only met 'online'! Would we get on? Would they like me? Would they recognise me?!
As I approached the entrance to Colombos a man in blue jacket and silvery hair stood up waving to me,
It was Richard and he invited me to his table asking what I would like to drink?
We sat for about half hour chatting and laughing and I found myself feeling quite relaxed. Then he told me that Kteee, Ellen and husband John maybe coming along; also Trazie. I found myself a little anxious as I thought of all the writing I’d done on the forum, some of which I knew had been provoking, also bit cheeky. But I needn’t have worried for as soon as these nice folk arrived and we spoke I felt quite at ease.
We moved to a bigger table and as we did so Trazie arrived. Before we knew it were all talking very amiably, laughing, joking. Then Nick, Kteee's husband arrived. A very friendly 'easy to get on with' chap. The next hour or two just flew (as it usually does when you’re enjoying yourself) and then reluctantly I had to leave. I had to be up early for Lisbon trip the next morning. Trazie had to get back to Lagos and kindly offered me a lift. When I went in to pay Annette she remarked on us having a good time saying '"How long have you been friends?"
She was astonished when I told her we'd only just met!
The following Monday I had a lunch date with Ellen and Kteee at Smilers. Ellen brought along some Algarve gardening magazines for me and once more we had a good old chin wag while we enjoyed our toasted sandwiches and coffee.
I felt a little sad at leaving these 2 warm, friendly ladies. The last 2 weeks I had really begun to feel a part of that special CVO community and as I told Ellen, I wished I could have stayed!
The following morning I was up early, ready for Carlos to take me to Faro airport. Once again I was sad at saying goodbye to Bev and Anton. After only 2 weeks I had begun to feel a part of the family and although looking forward to seeing Hub and Jamie again I would love to have stayed longer!
But there’s always a 'next time' and so I look forward to September not only to renew old friendships but hopefully to make new ones!

Meanwhile, I had a 'wedding' to look forward to…