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Fri Jan 11 2013
For those not familiar with Portimão, it's a very built up town of about 50 000 people -tiny by the standards of most places, but it's the second biggest town in the Algarve.
Portimão old town has been neglected through short sighted bureaucratic policies which have included the destruction of this once beautiful centre of commerce and the constriction of small local business by allowing a multitude of 'malls' to be built, selling the same generic crap you can purchase in Dublin, London and every single clone town through the British countryside. The old town is of very difficult access and is best however best tackled on foot. This short sightedness led to the destruction of the old municipal market -I couldn't find a more recent photo and it's an empty plaza now like a bombed quarter in Berlin:
The old market -destroyed c. 2000
It's sad for me since I used to go there as a kid to buy clothes and other essentials. It was an exciting day out, people were friendly the shop keepers would dote making sure you got what you wanted. The cobbled street, decorated in patterns of black and white would be full with people bustling about, the smell of roast chestnut wafting down the street.
There still some stubborn survivors on this old 'Rua Comercial', including a couple of tailors; cheaper and much better than any off the peg Italian or French brand. The shoe shops also are second to none, most of their stock is made in Portugal by the same factories that manufacture for big brands like Jimmy Choo, except you a between a fifth and a tenth of the price...
I learning that chestnuts can no longer be served in telephone directory paper like before and that they must be distributed from a €1000 stainless steel contraption, rather than the old wooden one's that have worked perfectly for the past 00's of years... This seems like a non-factor, but it's not. It's this attitude that kills grass roots commerce and deprives people of choice and hands power to the owners of the 'malls' and 'clone towns'.
The place is still attractive and interesting. You can still get great deals. Park up at one of the shopping centres and walk into town.
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