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What it’s like to holiday at the beach resort where Madeleine McCann went missing

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What it’s like to holiday at the beach resort where Madeleine McCann went missing Empty What it’s like to holiday at the beach resort where Madeleine McCann went missing

Post  Annabel Tue 24 Jun - 5:30

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/travel/travel-news/what-its-like-to-holiday-at-the-beach-resort-where-madeleine-mccann-went-missing/story-fnjjv9zk-1226964726378

What it’s like to holiday at the beach resort where Madeleine McCann went missing

THE warm Mediterranean sun shines down on the blinding white sands of the popular Portuguese holiday resort of Praia da Luz as holiday makers laze under thatched umbrellas and children paddle in the shallow turquoise waters of the protected little bay with the spectacular but imposing Rocha Negra (Black Rock) looming in the background.

The scene is idyllic, but just kilometres up the road scores of British police and sniffer dogs have spent the last three weeks digging up and scouring the sandy red soil on the outskirts of the picturesque Algarve village for long-buried clues to finally solve one of Europe’s biggest mysteries.

It was in this picture-perfect family holiday setting that the now famous British toddler Madeleine McCann went missing from her family’s holiday villa just over seven years ago and became the focus of the most heavily reported missing person case in modern history.

The details of the final hours before Madeleine’s disappearance on the evening of May 3, 2007 are well documented, but despite an intense seven-year investigation conducted by law enforcement authorities on both the Portuguese and British side of the Atlantic, as well as private investigators hired by the McCann family, the fate of the cherubic-looking three-year-old remains a mystery.

The seemingly cold case of the missing youngster reared its head again a month ago when Scotland Yard sought permission from the local Portuguese authorities to probe a previously unsearched area of scrubland just a few minutes’ walk from the Ocean Club resort where the McCann family were staying on the night of their daughter’s disappearance.

It is unclear what new clues or evidence the British police were basing their latest search on, but once again, the now-familiar foreign police, forensic officers, sniffer dogs, radar equipment, and of course the attendant media pack, have invaded the small holiday town.

For Praia da Luz locals, this latest development is just another chapter in the never-ending story of Madeleine McCann, which for the past seven years has turned their previously quiet, unassuming hometown into an international circus and destroyed its reputation as a safe, peaceful family holiday destination.

The case has become Portugal’s Azaria Chamberlain case - the crime that has everyone talking but no one knows the answers.

The friendly hospitality staff at the local hotels and restaurants are happy to chat about the weather, the catch of the day and the best local tourist attractions, but just don’t mention the M word.

But like everyone else that has ever read, listened or watched any media coverage about the case, they too, have their theories about Maddie’s disappearance.

One resident who ran another holiday resort in the town at the time of Maddie’s disappearance tells of one local theory that was doing the rounds when the case first came to light.

Drainage work was taking place to pipes in the town around the time and deep holes were dotted around the town. Some of the drains were filled in and covered over a day after Madeleine went missing. Some locals believe the toddler either wandered out of her room in search of her parents and tumbled into one of the pits, others think whoever attempted to abduct her may have panicked and dumped her body into one of the holes in an attempt to cover their tracks and then absconded.

The latest search seems to give weight to these theories, with ground-penetrating radar equipment being deployed to search a hole which was previously hidden by thick undergrowth.

But as the search enters its next phase and no major clues materialise, life goes on for the locals and visitors down the road in Praia da Luz.

Although it is only early June and the beginning of the Northern hemisphere summer holiday season, Europeans, mainly Brits, have already begun trickling into town.

During the days, the beach is dotted with sun-seeking holiday makers swimming, sunbathing and paddle boarding in the still-chilly Mediterranean Sea, and by night the many restaurants, cafes and bars along the waterfront are filling up with foreign visitors drinking jugs of sangria and bottles of Sagres (the local beer), eating the delicious fresh local sardines, clams and prawns and cheering their respective teams on in the World Cup.

Most seem oblivious to the excavation work taking place nearby, or if they are aware of it, they don’t appear bothered. Parents with toddlers still walk the cobblestone streets at night, I even saw a blonde-haired little girl in pink pyjamas bearing a strong resemblance to Madeleine being pushed down the beachside promenade in a stroller one night.

But just a few blocks back from the beach, the Ocean Club seems a little quieter. Out by the main pool, the courtyard that previously housed the infamous tapas restaurant where the McCanns and their travelling companions dined that fateful night while their children slept over the other side of the pool has now been converted into a bar and the restaurant moved to another location.

When asking for a cocktail around the 7pm one balmy night, the barman tells us the bar is closed for the evening and to perhaps head to the resort’s other bars, The Mill Pond or the Mirage, for a drink instead. The pool is empty and all the deckchairs are deserted even though it is still 25C and the sun doesn’t go down til 9pm in these parts at this time of year.

Other than an unmanned desk with a sign on the front door that announces: “Welcome to the Garden. Please show your Ocean Club passes to reception before entering the pool area” there is nothing to suggest anything more sinister than a bad sunburn or ant bite has ever taken place inside the resort walls.
Despite the relative calm in town, the long-running investigation has nevertheless taken its toll on the relationship between the local Portuguese residents and the British police.

Graffiti sprayed on a wall on the southern outskirts of town sums up the local sentiment: “Policia Ingesa estupidos”. Translated into English, it reads: “English police are stupid”.

Matters weren’t helped early on in the case when the British media accused the Portuguese police of bungling the initial investigation.

But it is a catch 22 for local businesses and tourism operators. Most of their business comes from the British tourism market, evidenced by the fact that almost all locals speak fluent English and all restaurant menus and even road signs are also in English. They can’t afford to lose this sector of the market.

So the search for Maddie goes on and life in Luz goes on.

I asked a female employee of a local riding school who was a schoolgirl at the time of Madeleine’s disappearance what her thoughts were on the case.

She shrugged her shoulders and said: “I don’t know, no one knows. We just want it to be over.”

Words that I am sure the McCann family and everyone else involved the case would agree with.

But it seems this story won’t have a happy fairy tale ending.

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Post  Keela Tue 24 Jun - 13:39

Who wrote this crap. Portugal is in the Atlantic not the Med!!!!!

Most of their business comes from the British tourism market, evidenced by the fact that almost all locals speak fluent English and all restaurant menus and even road signs are also in English. They can’t afford to lose this sector of the market

Of course almost all the locals speak fluent English - it is taught as a second language in school, not a foreign language and the Algarve has the largest ex-pat community. Restaurant menus have to be in Portuguese as well as English and the road signs are european/universal road signs ie any language can understand them!!!!
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Post  Guest Tue 24 Jun - 13:59

Keela wrote:Who wrote this crap. Portugal is in the Atlantic not the Med!!!!!

Most of their business comes from the British tourism market, evidenced by the fact that almost all locals speak fluent English and all restaurant menus and even road signs are also in English. They can’t afford to lose this sector of the market

Of course almost all the locals speak fluent English - it is taught as a second language in school, not a foreign language and the Algarve has the largest ex-pat community. Restaurant menus have to be in Portuguese as well as English and the road signs are european/universal road signs ie any language can understand them!!!!

Maybe Mister Gerry wrote it. In between searching for the non-existent Navy.
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Post  tanszi Tue 24 Jun - 15:29

I was thinking the same comment re G McC, and his Mediterranean, and no Portuguese navy. ignorant effin t""""".
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Post  Keela Tue 24 Jun - 15:54

I even saw a blonde-haired little girl in pink pyjamas bearing a strong resemblance to Madeleine being pushed down the beachside promenade in a stroller one night.


Presumably this is the 3 year old Madeleine and not the 11 nearly 12 year old one!!
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Post  tigger Tue 24 Jun - 18:32

tanszi wrote:I was thinking the same comment re G McC, and his Mediterranean, and no Portuguese navy.  ignorant effin t""""".

Royal Navy - Gerry said. Sailing in the Mediterranean sun presumably.. Bit of a problem there, not likely to find either of these in the Algarve.
Another small detail that escaped him is how Portugal became a democracy and therefore, when he was presented with red carnations in Lisbon, he did not know that said flowers were given to the hated lackeys of the dictator by the democratic movement. Since then receiving red carnations cannot be interpreted as a compliment....
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Post  LJC Thu 26 Jun - 15:40

algarveuncovered.com wrote:The wonderful Mediterranean-like Algarve weather, which boasts over 300 days of sunshine a year, also makes the "out of season" months a great option for a winter sun holiday or short break

worldwideweatheronline wrote:Algarve enjoys one of the most stable climates in the world with its moderate and kind weather influenced by both the Atlantic and Mediterranean seas and its proximity to North Africa.

Lets not be too picky about the Algarve being described as having Med sun.  According to algarveuncovered's own website the algarve has Med like weather and even worldwideweatheronline links the climate to the Med.

The article in question did rightly say 'Med sun' and not sea.

Other than that I thought the article was fair actually.  Yes, of course a 3 year old girl who looks like Madeleine in a pushchair with pink pyjamas is obviously just a 3 year old girl and not Madeleine, but I think any of us over there seeing such a sight quite late into the evening would look and ponder and wonder, not because we thought it was Madeleine but because of the memories and even sadness it would bring, which is probably what happened to this journalist.

And yes English is taught in schools, nothing wrong with that, but with such a large English ex pat community and English holidaymakers the article is correct in pointing this out because there is probably a reason why English is preferred as the language of choice to be taught in schools over other languages and it makes perfect sense for as many people as possible to learn English if they come to rely on so many English for their living.

No, I thought the article was fair enough.  I think the Portuguese people are lovely as well and I always enjoy my holidays over there because the local people especially make my holidays so special and I enjoy the feel of the warm 'Med like' sunshine.
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