Retired since 1999, Guy Moll has lived in the Algarve since then with his wife. At 77, the former teacher at the French lycée in Lisbon has already spent thirty-two in Portugal. A second homeland that inspires him.
How did you find out about Portugal?
When I was studying in Strasbourg, I had a Portuguese friend, from Lisbon, who offered to come and spend a vacation in Portugal in July 1962, precisely in Cadaval. It was there that I met my future wife. We got married in 1964. After my military service, I got a job as a teacher at the French lycée in Lisbon in 1966. At the time, teachers were needed, because there were 2,500 students.
You taught there from 1966 to 1978. How do you remember this experience?
An excellent memory, the atmosphere was very good. The establishment was unique in that it was French, and therefore democratic, in a dictatorial regime, that of Salazar. Among the students, we had both the children of all the gratin of the unofficial Portuguese left, but also those of the ministers of the time, some of them sacred fascists.
You then, as a teacher, toured Europe. You have been posted in Madrid, Vienna and Barcelona. But it is in Portugal that you have decided to spend your retirement. Why ?
After a six-year stay in such a pleasant post as Barcelona, we were looking for the sun for our retirement. We visited Portugal in November and it was like today: beautiful and warm. We fell in love with this house in the Algarve, on the heights of Faro, away from tourists.
Many French residents live in the Algarve, especially retirees. What relationship do you have with them?
There are of course friends of all nationalities. But generally, we know very quickly who we are dealing with when we discuss: as soon as I am told that things are becoming unbearable in France because of blacks and Arabs, I continue on my way. Unfortunately, this situation has reoccurred often in recent times.
Many French people have settled in Portugal for tax reasons. Do you understand them?
It is not for me to judge the tax treatment of non-habitual residents (RNH), it is a decision of Portugal. Its aim was to attract foreign nationals with high purchasing power, and its consequence is that the cost of living is increasing, especially that of houses and land, and it is more difficult today for young people. Portuguese couples to settle down. As far as we are concerned, we have come here for the climate.
How is he ?
The Algarve is one of the rare regions of Europe which does not have a winter. The weather is often splendid. Obviously, this weather has attracted a lot of tourists in recent years, to the point of creating some local annoyance. But we live in a somewhat remote village, we only have a few Portuguese neighbors but also English and Germans… it’s a small Europe.
Since your retirement, you paint extensively. How was this passion born?
I mainly do illustration, with watercolor as the main technique. I have painted all my life, I would have liked to have had a career as a painter, but no one is perfect. When I retired, I joined the Urban Sketchers, a collective of cartoonists, especially after the symposium held in Lisbon in 2011. I was one of the founders of the Algarve section. The principle is to make a sketch in situ. Now, with the health situation we know, I take pictures when I travel and I paint afterwards. My illustrations have appeared in various books.
You have sketched hundreds of scenes from Portuguese life. How do you see your country of residence?
Allow me a digression: as an Alsatian, I am European. The history of Alsace, as everyone knows, has been painful, wedged between France and Germany. My parents, very wounded by the war, did not encourage me to set foot in Germany even though it was 15 kilometers from my home. If I moved to Portugal in retirement with such ease, it is because this country very quickly adhered to this great idea that is Europe. To those who oppose me with European difficulties, I answer that Rome was not built in a day.
In total, you have lived in Portugal for thirty-two years, between 1966 and today. What major changes have you observed in Portuguese society?
The major change is that, in the years 1960-1970, I experienced the massive emigration of the Portuguese, mainly to France, and today I observe that of the French who settle here. Of course, it is not the same emigration. Once again, Portugal’s accession to theEU was essential. Because fifty years ago, when you joined an administration of the Estado Novo, you were almost a nuisance, you were looked down on, you came across officials who were real little potentates. Today, it has nothing to do with Portugal, it has become another world. We welcome you, the people are nice. We can discuss all subjects constructively and without fear with our Portuguese friends.
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