Home from Home

This years’ family holiday destination was the Algarve, which in a lot of ways is the West Cork of Portugal. Great beaches, too many holiday homes and locals that just couldn’t get any friendlier. It felt like home from home only much hotter.

The landscape, I admit, is very different. The higher temperatures and lower rainfall makes for a very arid landscape, it’s as if an artist used up all their green paint on the trees and the only colour left for the grass was a russet red. On the verges and roadsides, instead of Fushia and Montbretia could be found massive Agaves and flowering Cacti. And to top it off they have a vivid, purple bindweed that looks spectacular compared to our boring white one. Dazzling but just as suffocating for the poor greenery that dares to step in its path. And what about the gardens, just how different are they.

If I lived in Portugal I would have plenty of fruit to share amongst my neighbours. But instead of Gooseberries and Apple windfalls there would be apricots and figs a plenty. If I wanted a slice of lemon for my Gin & Tonic, while watching Wimbledon on the telly, I would just pick one from a tree in my front garden. Tomatoes might look green and irregular but they taste superb, almost like a different fruit. And then there’s the orange. Up until now I have been quite pleased with my little Orange “tree” but after witnessing the real thing growing happily in all that sunshine, I wonder if perhaps it would be kinder to put my one out of its misery.

For flowers the extra heat means riotous colours, climbers and perennials in vibrant shades that take your breath away. Cannas, the size of Foxgloves and Pelargoniums that grow in beds instead of containers. New to me were the perfectly named, Angels Trumpet (Datura) a plant that demands admiration. I swear that if I hadn’t taken a photograph I might have thought that I dreamt it. Then there is the umbrella in the cocktail, the Borganvillea. If the huggable pineapple palms haven’t put us holidaying gardeners in the mood this comes with a ‘money back’ guarantee.

All too soon the fortnight is over, temperatures drop and the bustle of Baggage reclaim at Cork Airport is strangely welcoming. Arriving home to my own garden, I soon realize that I wouldn’t have it any other way and that this is my favourite place in the World.

Written 28th June 2004

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