The first thing you notice about Portugal are the Portuguese.
The men, swarthy and admirably hirsute -- though not in the scuffed and scungy way the Italians can sometimes be -- are lean and tan, well put-together and impossibly friendly, likeably unaware of how good they look.
The women? Good goddamn, the women! Like on a conveyor belt, they appear to roll off thus: Slim. Tan. Toned. White-toothed and lanky. And not always in that order.
Just as they might appear on the pages of a glossy magazine, Portugal’s men and women folk lope easily along the sidewalks of Lisbon, Cascais and Estoril like so many African gazelles, insouciantly swathed in white cotton dresses and summery espadrilles.
The women also canter about, as equally unaware as their men are, of how attractive they appear, in an already hot -- uncannily so, if one is to be honest -- Portuguese year-end.
“It’s global warming for sure,” Carla, our tour guide (blonde, tan, toned), remarks drily. “Normally at this time of year, it’s raining, but look (she swings a golden arm around the harbour), it’s like summer.”
Like summer it is for sure, as yet another impossibly toasted and white-toothed fiftysomething local with zero body fat rides by bare-chested, on what appeared to be a race-prepared Pinarello.
Us Malaysians and Singaporeans, such as we are, and the Portuguese, such as they are, are as different in appearance as our weather and geography.
But it is for these contrasts, and good fortune, that BMW, the marque from Munich, has anointed Portugal as the chosen locale to show off the road-tripping attributes of a selection of their models, hand-picked from a bevy of over-engineered cars in its stable.