One thing I have always loved about Loulé is that it’s a real Portuguese town, by which I mean there are no chain stores here. If you want Starbucks, try Lisboa. If you want KFC, Burger King or McDonald’s, you’ll need to go to the bigger coastal towns or the malls.
About two months ago we noticed some construction across the street from one of our largest grocery stores. It proceeded at an incredible rate by Portuguese standards. I’ve watched buildings take more than a year to finish, but this one was thrown up in about six weeks. The landscaping took another couple of weeks.
I mentioned it to my wife when the building was first being framed, and said it looked like a fast food restaurant. The next time we both drove by, she said, “It looks like a McDonald’s.”
And then these banners popped up all over town:
Loulé now has McDonald’s!
Oh, what a great joy
McDonald’s has arrived
to this land of poetry!
(Excuse me while I go wash my brain.)
Then the fliers appeared in our mailboxes, announcing the grand opening and offering us a free sundae if we ordered a burger. Que alegria!
I’m sure some tourists will be delighted to have a familiar “face” in town, but we’re crushed. It feels like Loulé just lost some of its soul. This isn’t a tourist town, really — it’s too far inland. But it does become very touristy on Saturday, when the daily market doubles in size and the flea market (here called the gypsy market) sets up at the edge of town. Entire buses pull in just to deliver tourists for the morning, and the town makes a lot of income in those few hours.
But that’s Saturday until one o’clock. The rest of the week, this is a town for the locals, most of whom won’t go to McDonald’s. The food is terrible compared to local cafés and restaurants, and not cheap either. The kids will probably love it, though, and the restaurant is conveniently located very near several elementary schools. Just what our kids need, easy access to the American fast food diet.
Look out, Loulé, the barbarians are at the gate.