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Olives and time on one's hands

We headed out of Setubal already deciding to forego the planned route to take the non-toll road straight to Seville. It was an excellent decision.

Impressions -- if you want to help the beleaguered nations of Southern Europe, keep buying that olive oil. For miles after miles after miles, olive groves; some very old and gnarly but many of them newly planted.

(Actually it was kilometer after kilometer, but imagine if Frost had said "And kilometers to go before I sleep.") 

We stopped in Beja for lunch 

and a planned visit to a 15th century convent that the Michelin guide touted, but since it closed for lunch from 12:30 till 2 we had to kill time and then lunch went long because they don't hurry here and we really wanted to make Seville before dark so we hit it out of town.

Observation -  the global recession lingers in Iberia. The unemployment rate in Portugal is about 12% and the empty store fronts covered in graffiti are evidence, as are the many men who simply hang out in every town, sometimes at a local cafe, sometimes just under a shade tree. Those who can have a beer or a smoke. If women cluster, it's at a cafe with a coffee. 

In terms of flora and topography, the drive ranged from Northern California to Texas Hill Country to So Cal IF-- those places had not been in a drought in recent years. Yes, it's all much greener than I had imagined. 

The roads are in good shape, the guard rails freshly painted and things seem in good repair. Houses are white 99.8% of the time and roofs are terra cotta tile, of course. 

Seville - Sevilla. So charming, so delightful, so...will have more to say tomorrow.


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