We had to go to Faro recently to sort out some paperwork – which involved us going to a Government building we had never heard of – to get a card we had never heard of – for a new law – we had never heard of .. you get the idea!
We checked the website of the department building we needed – it seemed to be pretty straightforward situated near the University – so I printed off a map and off we went. We were soon hopelessly lost in Faro in a residential area somewhere off the map.
Armed with my little map and trusty basic Portuguese (well I can understand the words for go straight on, turn around, right, left and roundabout – they are usually enough!) I popped into a little cafe/coffee shop and asked for help. I love that about Portugal – you walk in – and the entire coffee shop occupants come over to help!
One older man in particular was very helpful, he didn’t speak much English but kept trying to work out how to get to the road we needed – we were so lost we weren’t even on my map! Eventually he asked me where we were going and I told him the name of the building – following more discussion across the bar, he picked up his coat and said ‘follow me’ and headed outside.
He then proceeded to drive his van half way across Faro with us following, proudly stopping outside the necessary building – and with a cheery wave of his hand he was off again.
It was so unexpected and generous of him – he was definitely our Guardian Angel #1 that day – but that was only the beginning!
Once inside the said building we were greeted by a very friendly lady who spoke some English – and we got the gist of the fact that we needed to do something to a code on our paperwork – which required a trip somewhere else – but beyond that we had no idea!
Cue Guardian Angel #2 of the day – a lovely South African man who was at the desk beside us and came to our rescue – explaining exactly what we needed to do – and where we needed to go, and did we know where the Finanças office in Faro was?
‘Nope’ came our reply – ‘oh hang on a minute then, I’ll finish up here and drive over there and you can follow me’
Another amazing act of kindness and ‘going out of your way’ helpfulness. Thank you ‘Mani’ if you are reading this!
So off we went to the Finanças – and you begin to realise just how many hours are lost to bureaucracy and paperwork out here! First test – go to the Loja de Cidade – and find out which ticket to select from the machine – which involved us going up to a counter – explaining to the lady what we wanted – so that we could choose the correctly coloured ticket – selecting said ticket – waiting precisely one minute to have our number called … yes – you’ve guessed it – to go back to the same counter to talk to the lady……… !
Who promptly told us we were in the wrong place – we wanted the Finanças which were hiding down another corridor … and yes that involved another building and another coloured ticket machine to select from!
This time we had to sit and wait our turn, watching the numbers slowly advance – and all the time keeping an eye on the time too, as they close for lunch at 1230 and we arrived just before 12! We made it with five minutes to spare – which saved us having to return at 2pm and resume queuing!
After a helpful spell there – and some ‘re-coding’ – we had updated our paperwork – but of course as it was now 1230 the first building we went to were now shut for lunch until 2pm …. cue a long Portuguese lunch and some shopping!
And here was our next lovely angel! We went into a little side street cafe/snack bar – with prato do dia for 5 Euros – perfect! we thought. We were greeted by the cheeriest happiest chef we have ever seen who was so proud of his food – all laid out on view. He handed us a little spoonful of each main course for us to try and his food was delicious! I chose the most wonderful ‘arroz de pato’ (duck rice) and Dave had a very tasty Piri-piri chicken.
After lunch it was a quick trip back to the first office we started the day in – all our paperwork now in order – and we could collect our special stamped piece of paper (!)
And have a look at their impressive collection of old petrol pumps – nope, I don’t know why they were there either!
Then a first for us – we went to have a look round the Forum Algarve indoor shopping complex in Faro – which is pretty much like every other ‘shopping out of town’ experience – although it did have some impressive fountains and water displays to enjoy too.
And then back to their car park – which had a rather complicated way of helping you to remember where you have parked – as long as you can remember a colour, a fruit, a letter and a number – you’ll be fine!
We have a rule here now – ‘one thing – one day’ – the Portuguese do love their bureaucracy and paperwork – and we have learnt that things here do take so long to sort out – so we just give up now and go with the flow – we spent all day in Faro – but we came away with the requisite new form that we needed – and we had some fantastic ‘random acts of kindness’ along the way to reflect upon on our way back home.