I am still progressing the Day 9 – Wasteland post, and while I was doing it, a thought entered my head. Why do I know so much about the nooks and crannies of Luz, the places that Google does not go?
The answer has two parts. The first is that I am a lifelong walker. When I visit somewhere, I like to make sense of it by exploring on foot. I prefer the parts that are away from car traffic and typically that means old historic centres or in the case of the Wasteland, the trails that few people have used.
I have walked from Luz to Burgau on many occasions, and the coastal pathway is much, much more pleasant and interesting than the M537 road between Burgau and Luz.
The second part of the reason is we have moved frequently in Luz. The shortest stay was one week, while the longest was nearly 2 years. We counted up our residences, and the total so far is 8 in 5 years. This excludes the properties rented by the kids’ family when we were living apart, though they are significant. They rented a house immediately east of the Wasteland, and that is how I know you can hop the wall to get onto the plot. I’ve been exploring on that land before, merely out of curiosity.
Bear in mind that I had very little interest in the Madeleine McCann case until the Operation Grange dig of June 2014, so most of my exploring had nothing whatsoever to do with Madeleine.
When we arrived in the area, the plan was to move to a villa we were renting just outside Luz. We had to stay in an apart-hotel in Luz for a week whilst waiting for our furniture to be moved from the UK to the villa. That week was actually very hard physical work. We had been promised that the villa would be cleared before we moved in, and we had paid for it to be cleaned. Being Portugal, the villa was neither cleared nor cleaned, so we spent large chunks of time gutting it and then cleaning it. When we had finished ripping out aged tat, there was well over a lorryload of the stuff. Fortunately, the local council picks that sort of rubbish up and disposes of it for free.
I woke up early one morning in our week the apart-hotel, and since I didn’t want to disturb the family, I decided it was time to explore. It was late February and the weather was glorious. I hunted down the beach, passing other early morning walkers and exchanging amiable chat with them of no particular significance. Then I arrived at the beach area, and I though the vista was jaw dropping. I had an exploration along the front, including the Roman ruins and the Fortaleza, then I returned to tell the family, excitedly, about what I had found.
It was decided we would all head to the beach area for breakfast. We chose the Paraíso because it was actually on the beach and had the best view. The weather was warm enough in February that we wanted breakfast al fresco, so we sat on the outside. There were 4 adults, 2 teenagers, and one baby. Due to the size of the group, we happened to sit on or near where the Tapas 7 took their children for tea on the afternoon of 3 May 2007. We probably appeared on the exactly the same CCTV, just years later on.
Bear in mind that none of us had the slightest inkling that Luz was connected to the disappearance of Madeleine, nor of the movements of the Tapas 7. We had simply picked a pleasant spot on a beach to have breakfast in the sun. There would be many more such coincidences as we became ‘The Band On The Run’, even if I only became aware of those quirks of fate much later.
The villa we moved into is in Urbanisation Melody. We moved out again soon after because the villa was damp and essential features such as showers and the oven were decrepit, and we had too many people to hack that. The owner assured us the main oven was new, but shortly before we moved out the oven fan fell out because it was rusted through completely. We later learned that our ‘contract’ with the owner was not a legal contract in Portugal, because none of us had the correct documentation to enter into a legal contract. It appears money was being hidden both from the tax man and the owner’s family, who had a right to a share of our rent.
Once more, I did not hear about the scandalous rumour connecting Gerry to Urbanisation Melody until much later. The urbanisation was added to Google in Jan 2015, so you can now peek around for yourself if you want. We were in the villa that has a skinny black dog by the gates.
I did my usual walking, exploring and mapping. I walked to the camp site to the west, which happens to have a tiny role in the Madeleine McCann tale. There I discovered a Brazilian restaurant that did buffet lunches, so we decided to try it out one day. The range was good and the price was relatively inexpensive, but I am not a fan of buffets, so we never went back. That restaurant later relocated to Valverde, where the GNR car was on 3 May 2007 when it got the ‘hurry up’ call. The Brazilian has a good reputation in Luz, so perhaps I am picky about my food. Again by sheer coincidence, my family was in that restaurant for lunch one day when Operation Grange heaved up for their mid-day break from the Luz dig.
Going back to the topic of Urbanisation Melody, the scandalous rumour was that Gerry had buried Madeleine’s body in the garden of one of the plots, and the gardener failed to notice this. This is a scarcely disguised variant of the scandalous rumour that Gerry had buried Madeleine in the villa the McCanns rented at 27 Rua das Flores and the gardener failed to notice this.
I had criss-crossed Urbanisation Melody and the surrounding area in my time there, and trust me, there are dozens and dozens of places to conceal a body that are much better than digging up someone’s garden. This should not be interpreted as meaning Gerry found some better place in the area. Unless he was scouring the countryside like a madman, he would not have been able to find this urbanisation until Google put it on-line in Jan 2015, so it is a complete non-starter.
Of the 8 places we have lived, I can only think of a couple that are not coincidentally connected to the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. That is simply due to the size of Luz and the amount of coverage of the disappearance of Madeleine in the media.
Our proposed move to Portelas has crawled forward at a snail’s pace. The house has now been valued by the bank and the valuation is sufficient to cover the mortgage we want. The council has conducted its inspection to check that the work it requires has been done to the standard it requires. We have good reason to believe it has. All we are waiting for now is the paperwork. Mind you, we have been trying to buy the villa for about a year now, and this is Portugal, so we are not holding our breath.
Does Portelas have some sort of coincidental connection to the disappearance of Madeleine McCann? Of course it does. First, in the Luz rubbish disposal tale, it features as a transit station before the garbage is moved on to its final destination in Barlavento. Second, it was the residence of Euclides Monteiro, aka Tractorman, a person I think Operation Grange was checking out in 2014.
Today’s Day of Christmas tale is nearly done, except for a graphic of the 8 locations we have lived in while we were the Band On The Run. It looks a little bit like someone has taped the base graphic over a dartboard and then thrown a dart or eight, without much accuracy. Or is it a blunderbuss spray shot pattern?