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I remember the days when the you could come on holiday to the Algarve and buy T-shirts from tourist shops saying “I survived the EN-125, the most dangerous road in Europe” and then came the A22 and the traffic moved to the motorway (it has since moved back again though thanks to the tolls). However one of the biggest changes that has happened in recent years to the EN125 has been the introduction of roundabouts and there is an apparent love affair with roundabouts in the Algarve that continues to this very day.
In the UK we have lots of roundabouts but they are usually placed where lots of different roads come together and not randomly dotted about, they are also not considered to be areas for art, sculpture and landscaping in general.
Perhaps some of the best known roundabouts in the Algarve first came to Albufeira where they are used as landmarks to help guide people and are of constant amusement to visitors who wonder what possessed anyone to put enormous watches or wiggling worms in the centre of a roundabout to distract drivers who are usually driving on the wrong side of the road and are unsure about where they are going.
Lagos has its share of impressive roundabouts too with the boat made out of water fountains being a particular highlight for many, but again creating a huge distraction for anyone actually trying to drive around it.
Most of the other roundabouts in the Algarve are less impressive but have an equal level of care attached to their creation and constant maintenance. I am not sure how many other countries have a budget for the tending of roundabouts but the amount of people I see planting new flowers and mowing the lawns on the larger ones never ceases to amaze me.
You will never find a roundabout in the Agarve that is simply a lump of concrete, at the very least they need the odd tree and a pattern created out of different coloured gravel.
Driving around the Lagoa area recently I came across a site where a new supermarket is being built and because of this two new roundabouts have been constructed (not sure why really but they are there). While there are no lines on the new road still, mud everywhere and trucks and construction workers bustling about their business to try and build the supermarket the only things that are complete are the roundabouts, along with the accompanying landscaping.
But I suppose this love affair with the roundabout must have rubbed off on me because now if I find one without a special design or huge sculpture in the middle I feel hugely disappointed and wonder why this one has been the unlucky roundabout that missed out on the extreme makeover.
So when you are in the Algarve look out for these amazing roundabouts, the first one coming out from the airport in Faro gives you a hint of things to come and now all there is to do is to teach everyone how to use the roundabouts and we can all be happy!