Why Do Americans Continue to Ignore Portugal?
Yesterday, when we told you about a rock 'n' roll jeep tour that takes you along Portugal's south and west coasts near Sagres, we mentioned that the area was undiscovered by tourists from the States. And we stand by that. While we certainly weren't the first Americanos to grace its shoreline, the reaction from the locals upon discovering where we were from told the whole story. They were, without question, not used to meeting Americans. The English, yes. The Spanish, for sure. Germans, totally. But not Americans.
And we're not just talking about some remote village in the middle of nowhere; the same has been true thus far of our stay in Lisbon. We suppose the main reason is pretty obvious. Lisbon just doesn't sound as sexy as Paris or Rome, two cities that Americans are all over on their first European jaunts. And since a very small percentage of Americans even travel to Europe once let alone twice, Portugal (as well as other European countries) becomes this "second-tier" destination that Americans never get around to visiting.
Which, on some level, makes sense. We have no problem with France or Italy; we certainly understand why they attract tourists. But we're not sure people realize that Lisbon, which reminds us a hell of a lot of San Francisco in terms of its topography, is the closest major city in Europe to the East Coast of the States. Go ahead and check out the map. We fly right over it on our way to Barcelona, Rome, and Athens. Flights from New York City to Lisbon are under 8 hours, and those from Boston are even shorter.
And what about the Azores, the islands off the coast of Portugal? From Boston, they are a four-hour flight, yet Americans continually bypass them to head off to the South of Spain or the South of France. Are we simply unaware that it takes longer to get to California from the East Coast than it takes to get to the Azores, or are Americans genuinely uninterested in Portugal?
We're guessing it has more to do with the former, because the latter would be ridiculous.
[Photos: Ryan Dearth]