LOOKING around the Alentejo district of Portugal it seems that construction, by which I mean in the modern way, has only really taken off since their membership of the EC.
When out in the countryside passing older and isolated villages, most of the ‘ordinary’ houses are of the old traditional build of shale and mortar with a form of render for weatherproofing.
The exception to this is the ‘official’ buildings for such as the local council (Camara), offices, town halls, libraries, police stations and the like, and of course the churches. Being a predominantly Catholic country the churches do tend to be large and splendid.
New methods and materials for construction allied with the increase in tourism and an influx of settlers have seen a boom in construction.
What strikes me as a bit comical, in this new environment, is the love of the Portuguese for ‘grand entrance’ to their property, and New Feature Roundabouts.
What I mean about the property entrance is a pair of huge sweeping walls funnelling the would-be visitor from the road up to a massive pair of wrought iron gates. Trouble is, many of these were the first things constructed prior to the main building being started!
Often you can peer through the gates through or the attached fencing, usually just post and barbed wire or mesh, to see a dirt trail on the other side leading to a pile of blocks and a mound of sand. The house-build can be years away but, caramba, get those gates on quickly!
The thing with the traffic roundabouts is that they are a relatively new concept over here. So are motorways, come to that!
Being new the authorities have chosen to decorate or adorn them in various locally significant themes. The pic is one in Almodovar (and no, he’s not playing with his ‘phone!). Others have displays of the Alentejo Black Pig (which gives us preta porco meat) either as metal sculptures or concrete copies.
There are fountains cascading, historic representations, shields and crosses representing town badges, all types of gardens, shrubs and trees.
But the one thing that still seems to fox the older drivers is how to use them properly. One popular option seems to be to ignore the give way lines and drive straight through with aplomb. Others choose to stop on the roundabout and give way to anyone approaching!
In Gomes Aires, down the road from us, a sleepy, small hamlet, the Camara have started road and pavement renovations incorporating ... yes, a huge new roundabout. The junction it serves was a sprawling ‘T’ junction and the new roundabout just about spans it all.
I guess they only have one blueprint for new roundabout construction and it’s specified at 15 metres diameter minimum! The last time I was using it, true to form, some old boy pottered out of Gomes in his car, going straight on instead of going round, causing me to slam all on. He looked at me as if I was daft, taking the long route!
Oh yes, the only thing not seen on Alentejo roundabouts is..er..’travelling folk.’ The police would move them on sharpish! No need to wait for a court ruling here.
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