by Frank Joussen
Coming to the Rock Algarve for the first time was a dream come true. My wife of 23 years and I had left our grown-up kids and worries behind in the mediocre summer air of Germany. We had boarded a plane and come here into the dazzling light and raw landscape of Portugal´s southern coast. A Portuguese friend gave us her apartment in Ferragudo, a fishing village with a beautiful church and white houses, mostly situated on a hill. The best thing was: it wasn't touristy at all. So we enjoyed chatting with the baker or butcher – we laughing out of sheer holiday fun, they laughing at our poor Portuguese, but all in good humor.
We spent our days swimming in the cool water and sunbathing on the hot shimmering sand, sheltered by picturesque cliffs. We rented a car and drove up to the small villages in the nearby mountains. Or we went to Cape Sao Vincente, the best point for crossing the Atlantic Ocean en route to America. It was indeed a ship, but probably not one bound to sail for America, which was at the core of our most memorable evening. Remembering it now it feels almost timeless, as if it could belong both to the past and the present plus possibly the future of our long and happy marriage.
We were sitting outside on the terrace, talking, reading, sharing a bottle of wine. Suddenly the sound of joyous music. Where did it come from? This fishing village boasted no disco; it was quiet here on a normal evening. There it was again. – A saxophone, lots of synthesizers. But drums as well. And a voice, 'the drums give us strength', or something to that effect. It was strange to hear English sounds again. It made us curious and wide awake. Even more than that: the music beckoned, it called out 'follow me'.
So we left the house. We hurried down the winding street leading to the water's edge.
The music was less and less audible. The road looked darker, more obscure. We changed direction. Up, uphill to the church. To the illuminated tower, the clean white façade with yellow stripes. Saint Mary looked perfect in light blue robes, shining from within, or so it seemed. The same went for Saint Peter, in dark red robes. The view was spectacular from the highest point of Ferragudo, but the music wasn't there.
We rushed down an old impressive stairway, deserted as the ones before.
“It must be at the harbor.” My wife had always been the better pathfinder, so I followed her blindly. “Look, there's even a light. Flashing, pulsating on the river.” But moving, too. To the rhythm. 'The drums, the drums'. – 'Strength, strength'.
There we were, at the water's edge. But no one was dancing here. The music was elsewhere. On that “pirate ship”, the Santa Barnarda, from the port of Portimao. And they were obviously not waiting for us. It was a private party, and we were not invited.
But we weren't alone, either.
So what did it matter?
We took each other's hand. We climbed the nearest stairway, though it did not take us to the right lane.
The two of us started giggling like teenagers. Like twenty years ago when we stole two roses in a moonlit German village, inhaled their scent spreading in the almost tangible night air and then ran back to our new-found home.
“Look, another stairway, “ I said. It was the wrong one, again.
More running, giggling, slowing down, touching. I kissed her neck and she lied beautifully, “I'm so afraid.”
Finally, the music was far away. The streets looked more familiar. We spotted our own light on the terrace. Soon afterwards we were slouching on the plastic chairs, but still talking excitedly about our little adventure.
We had a little toast with the rest of the green Portuguese wine. The music had travelled upstream. And we were grateful for the peace and quiet. All we wanted now was a good night's rest, in each other's arms. She fell asleep almost instantly. I stayed in this sweet state between waking and slumbering, on the threshold of a dream which promised well-known sunlight on the water, but strange, exciting music, too.