Even when we're on holiday most of us are never really off duty. Last week I managed to slip away to Portugal for a much-needed breather. But I hadn't been in the Algarve long before I found myself indulging in some, er, retail therapy.
And wandering around the shops in edge of town and out of town malls I inevitably started making some comparisons with similar schemes in the Midlands.
In general I was impressed by the overall ambience - public realms were clean, well tended and, with temperatures of 35 degrees upwards, the provision of well-thought-out shelter and air conditioning that actually functioned were very welcome. Granted sweltering heat is less of a problem in Blighty, but you get my drift: how many times have you been to a shopping centre and been drenched through lack of shelter or chilled to the temp of a choc ice because the heating wasn't working?
It wasn't all good though. The level of voids was at least on a par with, if not worse than, the UK. Which just goes to prove that the grass isn't always greener on the other side. Though I'm sure that many of you won't just take my word for it, but will have to hop on a plane and do some 'fact finding' for yourselves...
And while we're on the subject of foreign property, did anyone else notice the cunning product placement going on during the telethon that is Eurovision last weekend? In one of the many postcard views of the host nation Azerbaijan, commentator Graham Norton drew our attention to a lingering camera shot of the Flame Towers (pictured right), a group of almost completed skyscrapers in the country's capital Baku. "There are three towers, one with offices, one with a hotel and one with residential," announced Norton, trying not to sound bored. He forgot to add that the US$350m development by Dia Holding totals over 2.6m sq ft.
Is this a first - commercial property on Eurovision? As the competition moves to Sweden next year now could be the time to spruce up developments in downtown Stockholm...?
Photos courtesy of Ceiling and Salvatore Freni via Flickr.com