Azul: Iberia or Lieberia?

A friend of mine, Bob, has just gone on holiday to Portugal. Before he went, I joked with him that the reason had chosen that particular destination was because of the game Azul.

You see, the official rules for Azul stipulate that the first player marker should be given to the person who has most recently visited Portugal, because the game’s theme is all about tiling a palace wall in the traditional Portuguese style. We have been playing this game in our group for about a year now, and Bob has long bemoaned the fact that the only one of us who has ever been to Portugal is me (I had a very nice holiday in there in 1994 – the weather was fine, thanks for asking).

So did Bob go on holiday there just to be able to be the first player at Azul?  It seems a bit extreme doesn’t it, but maybe he did on a subconscious level?  Maybe, flicking through the brochure a few months earlier, he could not decide between Greece, the Costa del Sol, and the Algarve, and a little voice in his head said “Jas, they are all nice places but only one of them will get you that Azul first player token.”

Now that he has gone, however, another thought has occurred to me. How do I know he has actually gone to Portugal? All I really know for sure is that he has booked a week off work and his car is not outside his house. What if he has actually gone hiking in the Peak District, and this whole Portugal thing is a lie?

So I sent him a WhatsApp message and demanded that he send me proof that he is in Portugal. I told him I needed to see photographs – and not just one photograph, but lots of them. One photograph could easily be photo-shopped. I told Jas that I needed to see overwhelming evidence that he was in Portugal – so many photographs that I would be convinced that nobody would have gone to so much trouble to fake them all for the sake of a game. He replied, saying he would send me something soon.

Now, I should mention at this point, that when I sent that message, I was really thinking of my blog, the one you are reading now. I was imagining a funny post I could write, which included all of Bob’s photographs, and my rejection of all of them.

For example, I imagined he might send me a picture of the boarding pass for his outbound flight, with his name and destination printed on it. I could then reject that, photo-shopping the picture myself to make it look as though he was actually going somewhere else (Faro airport could be converted to the Faroe Islands airport quite easily) as proof that photos of boarding passes were unreliable, and I would post both pictures on my blog.

If he sent me photographs of himself holding a Portuguese newspaper, I could edit that photo to make it look like he was holding a Norwegian newspaper instead.

If he sent me a photo of himself stood in front of a famous Portuguese monument, I could send him the photo below, of me and Mrs Dee “in Australia”, a photo which I have carried around on my phone for years to prove that I am the most widely travelled player in order to go first at Ticket to Ride.


However, in the end, the only photo Bob actually sent me was of what I assume is a famous Portuguese monument, but he was not on the photo himself – it could easily have come from Wikipedia. My first thought on receiving this photo was to wonder if my theory that he was faking it, which I had never believed for a second and was only ever a joke, was actually correct. Then I looked a bit closer at the photo – it appeared to be an ancient obelisk, and there was something decidedly phallic about it. Also, I noticed that if you squint slightly when you look at it, it resembles a giant middle finger pointing upwards towards the Iberian sky.


And that was when I realized he was on to me.

So, my plans for this particular blog post have not worked out the way I wanted them to, but perhaps it has turned out for the best – at least I do not have to spend ages doing all that photo-shopping now.

A few days ago my wife and I were talking about our own holiday plans for next year. She was flicking through a brochure and reading out the names of possible destinations. She said she liked the look of Greece, and the Costa del Sol … and also the Algarve. As she said this, a little voice in my head said “Steve, they are all nice places but only one of them will get you that Azul first player token back.”

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