A seeming departure from the core intent of the Blog and Thematic Investing:
I’ve been in Faro, the Algarve, Portugal, the EU, the Eurozone for a week working on my book beyond the usual distractions of working at home in London.
I’ve passed through Faro before when visiting friends with a second home in Vale do Lobo but this time I parked myself here for a week.
Faro has a lot to recommend it:
- Small, charming and quiet
- The medieval, walled section of the city is certainly worth a visit
- The “old town” has its charms. Lots of great old buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries
- It’s cheap! A two course meal with wine is virtually equivalent to a London Pret a Manger sandwich, drink and coffee. The fish is varied, fresh and great
Faro, unlike Lisbon, where I spent a week last year taking Portuguese lessons, is however, a mini-exemplar of what’s wrong economically and socio-economically with the Eurozone, to wit:
- Despite being the gateway for Algarve tourism and British / North European second home owners it has:
- A disturbing plethora of abandoned buildings, charming 19th century houses, some modest, some grand that are totally abandoned, boarded up, most with for sale or rent signs along with newer housing with the same signs. No shortage of estate agent inventory here
- The downtown economy consists of an inordinate number of pharmacies, all fitted-out in modern Euro-store style, beauty salons (both mid-market and cottage industry) and so many restaurants, cafes and snack-bars that you could service the hungry of Africa in one sitting
- An elderly population – sure, I’ve seen young people, but the “anecdotal sense” is of overwhelmingly elderly and late middle-aged couples and widows
The “new city” is dense with high rise apartment buildings, many of which must be the equivalent of council housing.
It’s May and not the peak of the tourist season but the town is certainly nonetheless short of tourists, many of whom that are, like your writer, of “advanced age”.
Clearly, business is not booming. Clothing and shoe stores all advertise “promotions” of 50% (and they really mean it!) the bargains, by at least London standards, are genuine, for name brand clothes and good quality knock-offs of fashionable brands.
There is no tourist-gouging here, quite the opposite; the place is a genuine bargain, hotels included. The Euro price for the FT is virtually the same as London at any shop or kiosk selling foreign papers.
Faro is a small town, but even as a tourist center, it typifies the malaise of the Eurozone and the inappropriateness of ever having admitted Portugal (or Greece or Spain) into a German dominated Eurozone.