A brief recap: The Algarve winter sunshine provides a constant reminder of why we all love this beautiful part of Portugal and why I continue to call this place my home.
There is a sign near a park in south west London that reads ‘No Dogs. No Cycling’. I always found it to be a little harsh on our canine and bicycle friends as it was located in a quiet area, away from children and cars. Presumably, monkeys and buffalos could go as they please as there was no obvious restriction, but the sign stood firm and clear. In a twist on Animal Farm’s famous commandment – Four legs bad, two wheels bad.
Here in Praia da Luz, the town has adopted a more liberal approach. There is a candid simplicity behind the ethos of the town that accepts all those who travel here. This goes partly to explain why there are so many artists and musicians and travellers and writers in the area. When lockdown shut the gates, Praia da Luz held the key to freedom, or at least the best available version. Dogs and cyclists most certainly approve.
Most mornings, when I embark on my beach runs, I am greeted by an ever-ebullient collie dog who wants me to play fetch with her ball. To this day, I have no idea who her owner is but she has become part of my morning routine. In fact, she is one of many (usually owner-attached) dogs who offer me a welcome distraction from my run.
It’s not just happy hounds that I see every day. The Algarve is a wonderful showcase for cycling enthusiasts, from those who like to pootle along coastal paths to the more serious off-roaders. If you turn right at the front doors of Ocean Villas Luz, you encounter a charming cycle route that leads to the white-washed fishing village of Burgau which, when restrictions allow, is a fine place for a cold beer or to sample the catch of the day.
Similarly, the mountains of Monchique and the wild west coast of the Costa Vicentina are both blessed with high-quality trails that attract cyclists from all over the world. If you don’t wish to hire a car (or bring your own bike) then fear not – there is now a company in Luz that will pick you up from the front door of Ocean Villas and take you to and from the trails (bike hire included). With the addition of ‘e-bike’ rental here in the town, there is truly a cycling option for everybody.
At this point, I think It is only fair that I add balance to the argument by affirming that London has a fine array of parks that allow cycling and dogs. It is, of course, one of the great cities of the world and I am sure its heart will beat as strongly as ever when a sense of normalcy has returned. However, we have all had plenty of time for contemplation over the past 12 months and what we need now are signs that say yes rather than no. Praia da Luz is a physical embodiment of that spirit.
There is most definitely light at the end of the tunnel and everyone can make their own decisions about how to get there, but it must be said that a visit to Praia da Luz will do wonders for your state of mind. Allowing yourself a healthy dose of ‘yes’ after 12 months of ‘no’ may well be the best panacea of all. After all, I only came for a few weeks and by the time you read this it will be seven months.
Praia da Luz feels a long way from the ‘No dogs, No cycling’ sign of south west London. If Animal Farm had been written at Ocean Villas Luz, I feel the commandment might state: ‘Four legs good, two legs good, two wheels good’. Next week I might try and train my beach dog to ride a bike. That would look fun in south west London.
More next month.
Digital (ish) Nomad