Portugal and the Algarves

With respect to a previous post, on the demise of blogs, the rather ominous article at:


is worth a read, even if the imagery is pretty morbid.

The king of Portugal used to be referenced as “Rei de Portugal e dos Algarves”, making the point that the two were a unified kingdom. Martin Page, in his book “The First Global Village”, an enthusiatic but often exaggerated and inaccurate account of the success of this small nation, states that the two were different countries until the XXth century. I suspect that this is because after the overthrow of the monarchy in 1910, the republican presidents stopped using the title – certainly the Algarve has been an integral part of Portugal since the XIII century.

There are two books I picked up today which help frame the period to which The India Road relates: the first is an account by a Spanish author (Paula Cifuentes) of the last voyage of Columbus, transcribing the diary of his illegitimate son Fernando. The second is “Viagens de Pero da Covilha”, by his most accomplished biographer, the Conde de Ficalho, in a new edition from a publisher called “Fronteira do Caos”. You don’t need a linguistics degree to work out what that means. You do need to understand Portuguese to read the book, though! I picked the books up in a store in Faro, the capital of the Algarve. The Pero da Covilha book was a fundamental source for the journey of The Spy in The India Road, and I first read an old edition in the Jefferson reading room in the Library of Congress. If you’re in DC and you have a chance, go there. It takes you 15m to get a photo ID and you have to see that room. Look up and you read a famous quote from Dudley North above the statue of Commerce: “We taste the spices of Arabia, yet never feel the scorching sun which brings them forth”.


Faro is a wonderful town, the name originally means lighthouse, which in modern-day Portuguese is “farol”, pronounced fur-all. And at this time of year, the “Verao de Sao Martinho”, St. Martin’s summer (the Indian Summer in California), means that the sky is crisp and blue, and the days have just an edge of chill. Have a look at some of the history of the Portuguese ethnic origins on:


And Obama thinks he’s a mutt!


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