Charting a couple's move from London to Portugal, tales, adventures and moving advice

movingtoportugal


East Algarve Paradise – Fábrica 0

Posted on September 15, 2014 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

When you’ve lived in the same location for several years, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and continue to visit the same places.

Often this is because you’ve found places you love, such as bars, restaurants and beaches, and see no real point in branching out. However, from time to time it’s refreshing to try to view your area with fresh eyes, and attack exploring it with the same zeal as when you first moved there.

Fabrica - Algarve Paradise

Fabrica – Algarve Paradise

With this in mind, when I decided to go for a quick Sunday moped ride, I opted against my usual cruise across the saltpans and around Tavira, and instead headed East along the Algarve Ecovia route, in the direction of the tiny coastal hamlet of Fábrica.

I’d been to Fábrica plenty of times before. In fact, the picture below was once a contender as the cover for our book.

Fabrica - Nearly the Moving to Portugal book cover!

Fabrica – Nearly the Moving to Portugal book cover!

However, this time around the tide was lower than I had ever seen it, and as I sat and had a drink, I noticed that people were able to make it on foot all the way out to the main beach and ocean, across the Ria Formosa.

It was clear that there would be some wading involved but I couldn’t resist. I hitched up my shorts and set off.

Within a short ten minutes I had found a route through the low water and arrived at the rear of the beach, which is technically the far eastern end of Cabanas Island. At high tide, this is a mere strip of sand (accessible by boat only), but I arrived at a vast paradise, populated by just a few people and some kite-surfers.

Fabrica - East Algarve - Portugal

Fabrica – East Algarve – Portugal

With the best will in the world, you do start to take for granted the beauty of where you live, but this was a real “wow” moment. I lingered and took a quick video clip that you’ll find on the Moving to Portugal Facebook page.

As I headed back, the previously warm shallow pools seemed considerably deeper than before, making a trip across this seascape perhaps a little foolhardy without watching the tides carefully to avoid becoming stranded. But that’s exactly what I intend to do over the coming years, as I can think of no better seaside paradise for my new son to play in once he begins to run around.

Wading across to Fabrica Beach

Wading across to Fabrica Beach

As I neared the shore once more, I noticed a couple staring intently at the sand before them. Unsure of what they were looking at, I paused a moment, and in all directions noticed an array of tiny scuttling crabs in all kinds of outlandish colours. Any human approach resulted in them disappearing down the hundreds of small holes in the sand, which I’d also failed to notice.

And that seems a fitting way to end this post. Just as familiarity with an area can stop you noticing its charms, failing to slow down, look and think can stop you noticing what is (and was in this case) right before your eyes. It’s time to redouble my efforts to explore this extraordinarily beautiful part of the world.

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Moving to Portugal Book Sale: One Week! 4

Posted on September 08, 2014 by Ben Algarve

So, it’s September, the kids are back at school and the summer is drawing to a close.

Back to school

Back to school

It can be a rather depressing time of year for many, although it’s fair to say it’s not bad at all in the Algarve, where warm weather is all but guaranteed for another couple of months ;-)

If you’ve holidayed in Portugal this summer and are eager to come back, or if you’re already planning to move to Portugal, I have a little something to cheer you up on this Monday morning:

For one week only, I have initiated a “Kindle Countdown deal” on our Moving to Portugal book.

From now until next Monday, you can download the book to your Kindle for just £1.99 in the UK store or $3.25 in the US store—representing more than 50% off!

You’ll just need to jump in there quick, as the offer will end in one week’s time.

We hope you enjoy the book. It contains almost entirely unique content that hasn’t been on the blog before. If you do enjoy it, we’d be very grateful if you could leave a kind review on Amazon for us :-)

We hope this offer helps you relieve the post-summer blues. Have a good week.

UK Readers will find the book here:

Moving to Portugal

US Readers will find the book here:

Moving to Portugal

IMAGE CREDIT: Flikr

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10 Things I’m Loving 3

Posted on September 05, 2014 by Ben Algarve

(Ben) I’ve been a bit up and down over the past few weeks, and sunk into the doldrums at one point, as several readers noticed when I posted this earlier update.

I’m pleased to say I seem to have snapped out of it, so I thought now would be a good time for a truly positive (if perhaps slightly random) post.

So I’ll make no apology for opting for every blogger’s “go to” post when they can’t think of anything else to write about. Here follows a list of ten things I’m loving right now.

  1. My Boy

Our son Freddie is nearly four months old at the time of writing. Sometimes it feels like it was only yesterday that we were in the hospital for the birth, but yet it simultaneously seems like a lifetime ago.

My primary source of joy

My primary source of joy

Regardless, the new addition to our little family brings me joy every single day. He constantly surprises me with new sounds, cute new expressions and new abilities (such as last night’s feat of moving to the opposite end of his cot when we weren’t even aware he could move that far!)

I won’t be a “baby bore,” but if you do want to read more about our early days with Freddie, you can check out my new Nervous New Dad blog.

  1. Continente’s Self Service Tills

Even though it’s September now, our local Continente supermarket is still a hell-hole, with queues stretching down the aisles and hundreds of people who can’t seem to master the simple process of weighing and labelling their fruit without making a song and dance out of it.

Thankfully, the bank of self service tills makes it possible to bypass the bulk of the hatefulness and get out of there quickly, and for that I must show my gratitude.

  1. My New Bowl

OK, this is a quirky one. About three years ago I made a tomato salad from a Jamie Oliver recipe in BBC Good Food magazine. In the magazine, the salad was pictured in a beautiful rustic porcelain bowl, and ever since I’ve wanted a bowl like it.

The trouble is, I’m a fussy sod, and I must have critically inspected hundreds of potential bowls in the intervening years, never being satisfied with what I found.

All that changed during a recent trip to Lisbon, where I found the “bowl of my dreams” at the Feira da Ladra market.

My bowl from Lisbon market

My bowl from Lisbon market

The bowl is now in general use, but I insisted that it was used to present a tomato salad first, which we served with rustic local bread, goats cheese and cured ham.

  1. Autumn

OK, it’s not really autumn yet. The sun’s blazing outside and the temperature will pass 30 degrees by lunchtime—but autumn is a great time in the Algarve. It’s still hot, the sea’s warm, and we get the beaches and restaurants back from the tourists.

  1. Apple

Although I’m an IT consultant “by trade,” I seem to find myself doing more and more creative work these days and less and less with computers.

However, the past week has seen me having to work on a few Windows machines, often resulting in swearing and irritation.

It’s for this reason I’m feeling particular affection for Apple right now. Turning back to my MacBook after working with Windows 8 makes me truly glad I made the switch away from Microsoft, and I’m also rather excited about the forthcoming announcement of the iPhone 6.

Loving my MacBook

Loving my MacBook

Once you go Mac, you never go back.

  1. Portugal’s Re-emergence

Portugal’s been through some really rough times over past years, but now the country seems to be having a run of good news. The bail-out is done and dusted, demand for government bonds is outstripping supply, and unemployment is down.

On a local level, we’re seeing new businesses launching successfully, including a very high end hotel near Tavira and an unusually posh restaurant in Cabanas. There are plenty of people around, and they seem to be finally spending. The estate agents all seem to be finally shifting properties too.

All of this is great news for the community, and the general sense of positivity should breed more opportunities and business ventures. I’ve even got a couple in mind myself!

  1. Dimitri from Paris

I said this list would be random!

I have to mention Dimitri from Paris, my favourite DJ, who released a superb compilation called “Dimitri from Paris in the House of Disco” back in early June.

My Album of the Summer

My Album of the Summer

Given that I buy new music almost constantly, the fact that it’s still that album playing in the background as I type this post is testament to my appreciation for it. My friends, on the other hand, are quite possibly bored to tears with it!

  1. The Trews

OK, time to stick my neck out a little, because Russell Brand is the Marmite (love him or hate him) of celebrities. However, watching his “Trews” updates on YouTube has become a daily activity for my wife and I.

Whether or not you agree with his politics, the fact he’s taking his time to explain how the media really works and exposing the lies and hypocrisy “the system” is truly based on is, in my eyes, highly admirable. I’ll leave it there.

  1. Eating Out

My wife and I have “rediscovered” eating out since we had Freddie, as it often proves easier to drive to a restaurant and dine while he sleeps next to us than it is to fight the supermarket crowds and cook at the end of our working day.

As a result, we’ve found a new appreciation for the variety and quality of restaurants on our doorstep, and been given inspiration for more content over at Food and Wine Portugal.

Rediscovering eating out in Portugal

Rediscovering eating out in Portugal

10. Anticipation

When I’m having a “low” period, I find it hard to look to the future, so it’s always invigorating to emerge on the other side and realise how bright things really are.

So, I’m concluding my list with “anticipation,” as we have tons of it right now. Next month we move to a new house (more on that soon). We also have several visitors coming from the UK, and (assuming the stars align correctly) these will hopefully include my mother who will finally be able to meet her new grandson.

Going on beyond that we have Freddie’s first Christmas, several interesting new work projects, and a trip to the UK (assuming Freddie’s passport is processed!) It’s all rather good.

I was going to contrast this list with a selection of “things I’m hating” for the sake of balance, but on reflection I’ve decided not to spoil the mood. Have a splendid weekend.

If you want to read more about moving to Portugal, check out our book here:

Moving to Portugal

Readers in the US can use this link to find the book:

Moving to Portugal: How a young couple started a new life in the sun – and how you could do the same

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Escaping to Lisbon 7

Posted on August 26, 2014 by Ben Algarve

(Ben) The Algarve is always mobbed with tourists at this point in the summer, and it’s fair to say that we usually reach a point where we’ve had enough of the invasion.

This year, we were at breaking point by the start of August, and felt the urge to get away. I was given the opportunity to do a bit of work in Lisbon, and we figured that as most of Lisbon’s population seemed to be in our little town, it would make sense to swap with them, and spend a little time in the city.

Lisbon Centre

Lisbon Centre

I headed up on the train by myself last Wednesday, with wife and baby following the next day by car. The train journey was a great experience (and good value too), but I’ll write about that in more detail in a future post.

As I had most of the first day to myself, I headed onto the metro system and took a wander around downtown Lisbon. I started off at Lisbon’s main food market, the Mercado da Ribeira, and was delighted to find that half of it has been turned into a huge “tapas hall” run by Time Out. I enjoyed various fishy tapas, which fuelled me for the long, hot walk up through the Baixa and Rossio districts.

Time Out Lisbon - Sardine Escabeche Roll

Time Out Lisbon – Fish Escabeche Roll

Once my wife arrived, we went and had dinner in the hotel restaurant, which I’ve reviewed on my Food and Wine Portugal blog here.

The following day, I went to check out the twice-weekly flea market, known as the Feira da Ladra. This was a truly fascinating experience, with stalls selling everything from tourist tat to complete tat, via genuine collectables and antiques.

Some of the “stalls” were no more than sheets on the ground covered with random items – I saw everything from single shoes(?) to old computer motherboards and 60s porn magazines. Much of what I saw wasn’t even fit for landfill, and I’m sure many stallholders sell nothing at all, but I have no doubt that people with the right eye could find real treasures amongst the millions of items on offer. Below are a few photos to give you an idea of what the market has to offer.

Lisbon Flea Market

Lisbon Flea Market

Lisbon Market - Random Items

Lisbon Market – Random Items

Lisbon Feira da Ladra

Lisbon Feira da Ladra – Dog not for sale..

Feira da Ladra Lisboa

Feira da Ladra Lisboa

After a quick lunch, and an exhausting uphill walk that got me nowhere near the castle (thanks for that Apple Maps), I returned to the hotel via some kind of inner city ghetto zone (thanks again, Apple Maps), where our three-month old son had truly made the room his own. If you’re interested, I’ve written an article about holidaying with a new baby on my new Nervous New Dad blog here.

We dedicated the rest of our stay to exploring a couple of places on the outskirts of Lisbon, with a view to a potential move up there at some point in the future. We tend to blow hot and cold about staying in the Algarve, and sometimes feel the urge to move closer to the city. For now, however, we’re just interested in getting a feel for some of the places we could live.

The first place we explored was the surfing mecca of Ericeira, around 40 minutes drive from central Lisbon. Although the place was absolutely stunning (see photo), it wasn’t for us. It seemed rather too self-consciously quirky, and parking was horrific. For us, it was like getting Brighton’s “The Lanes” district, without getting all the other good stuff in Brighton. It was a fine day out, but neither of us got that “we could live here” feeling.

Ericeira Near Lisbon

Ericeira Near Lisbon

We felt very differently about Alcochete, a small town facing Lisbon over the Tejo estuary. The town had a great feel, and the journey to Lisbon was both simple and beautiful, over the iconic Vasco de Gama bridge. The town also had a river beach with warm (but sadly rather dirty looking) water. There were people swimming there, but I’m not sure it was the best idea—there was certainly no blue flag to be seen.

For now, we’re happy enough where we are, but if we do decide to head closer to the city one day, Alcochete is certainly on our short list.

Alchochete Near Lisbon

Alcochete Near Lisbon

So, now we’re back in the Algarve with only a few weeks until the place quietens down. Until then, we will keep our heads down and get on with our work, and wait patiently to get our little town back!

As mentioned earlier, you can read more about our first breaks with the new baby over at my Nervous New Dad blog.

If you want to read more about moving to Portugal, check out our book here:

Moving to Portugal

Readers in the US can use this link to find the book:

Moving to Portugal: How a young couple started a new life in the sun – and how you could do the same

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A Rather Grey Summer in Portugal 15

Posted on July 30, 2014 by Ben Algarve

MOANING, WHINING POST TO FOLLOW…YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

(Ben) Well, here I am with a beautiful new baby in the middle of the Portuguese summer. I should, by all accounts, be walking on air. And a lot of the time I am. However, over the last few days I’ve hit a bit of a wall.

Although I pride myself on giving a “warts and all” account of life in Portugal, I do try to keep my posts largely positive. As a result, I’ve spent much of the day glancing at my “to do” list, seeing “write Moving to Portugal post,” and switching back to doing something else because I don’t want to use this blog as a place to moan.

Unfortunately though, I’m also rather obsessive about ticking off all the things on my “to do” list—so if you’d rather not hear me have a cathartic brain-unload, you may wish to navigate away now and return another day when I’m back to talking about sardines and sunshine.

So, what’s landed me in this rather grey mood? Here are the main things:

  1. The state of the world 

Israel and Palestine; Russia and Ukraine; My own local bank being exposed for corruption on a grand scale; I (really) could go on…

Sometimes I wish I could temper my natural curiosity and need to research, because the current state of the world is truly depressing, and potentially on the precipice of some seriously horrible shit.

Head in the sand - like most of the Western World

Head in the sand – like most of the Western World

To add to this, I get frustrated that so few people seem to realise or care, and know far more about football and the Kar-bloody-dashians than they do about issues that will, one day soon, affect them and their families.

“Ah, but how can the world depress you when you’ve got such a beautiful new son?” I hear the optimists amongst you say. Because he’s got to grow up in this world too, and there’s only so much I can do to protect him from it—and that frequently keeps me awake at night.

  1. Portugal’s “Summer”

It’s not been that bad, but this Algarve summer has been far cooler and cloudier than usual. I moved here for the weather, and never expected to wake up to grey skies in late July.

  1. Job dissatisfaction

I should make very clear that I’m very lucky to have the wide range of regular work that I have. However, I’ve recently started to realise that I spend much of my working life prioritising earning money over doing work I enjoy.

Yes, yes, I know the same applies to half the working world, but I’d love to spend more time lavishing care on this site and on www.foodandwineportugal.com – I’d also love to write another book, but my new-found identity as “provider for a family” has turned me back into a wage-slave, which is exactly what I moved away from the UK to escape.

Losing sight of why we came here

Losing sight of why we came here

There are other things I could cite: niggling health symptoms, family crap, but those are the main reasons I’m having a bit of a down phase.

So, on that depressing note, what do I propose to do about it? Well, the one thing I am always glad of is that I’ve never been one to wallow in the doldrums for too long. Much of today has been devoted to working out how to redress the balance and flick the positivity switch back in the right direction.

On that note, here’s my plan:

  1. I’ve already enrolled on a Child Psychology course, and later today I’ll be making a start on the lectures. I recently found out I’d got a good mark in the Open University course I completed last year, but struggled to justify signing up for another module straight away thanks to ludicrous fee increases and the need to spend the money on nappies and formula. Even though I’ve not missed the stressful run-ups to assignment deadlines, I have missed the mental stimulation and the learning, so this is a good compromise, and I’ve managed to find a properly accredited course for far less than the punitive OU fees.
Time to start studying again

Time to start studying again

  1. I intend to continue to spend hours of each day playing with my baby son, who always does something exciting and new every single day.
  1. By the end of today, I want to kick off my next online project—perhaps some kind of “expat dad” blog, or a new eBook. To ensure I stick with it, I will (at least try to) refrain from being swayed by Euro signs when I’m offered writing work that I know will bore me to tears.

That just leaves me with the general state of the world to sort out—something I’ll probably struggle to manage single-handedly! Still, I’ve plotted a bit of a life plan for the next few months, which is quite enough for one day.

If you’ve reached this point in the post—well, I really should thank you for listening! If you’re bored of hearing me moan, I did warn you!

I’ll conclude by suggesting that prospective Portugal expats take this post as a lesson that real life follows you everywhere you go, and that moving abroad is not a cure-all. On the other hand, I just know I’d feel way more down in the dumps if I had to commute home from central London this evening instead of sitting on the balcony studying my for my new course ;-)

There ends my catharsis. I feel better already.

IMAGE CREDITS: Wikimedia Commons

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Portugal vs. England! 6

Posted on July 10, 2014 by Ben Algarve

(Ben) As you undoubtedly know if you’ve followed the blog for a while, it’s been a rather long time since I posted an update from Portugal.

I won’t apologise, as adjusting to having a new baby at home leaves us with little time, and I now plan to type quite a long update to make up for it.

Last week, I took a little trip to London. My mother had a major operation earlier in the year and I’d wanted to visit sooner, but the NHS decided to schedule the operation to coincide with Louise’s due date.

Going back to the UK always provides me with plenty of inspiration for the blog, because after so long in the Algarve I cannot help but make contrasts between my old life (and home) and my new one.

A taste of my old life

A taste of my old life

Over the years, I’ve learned that it’s best not to take to the keyboard and rant on the day of my arrival in London for fear of offending those who still live in the big city. However, it’s proof that I’m living in the right place that I usually spend my first 24 hours in the UK feeling unsettled, stressed and annoyed.

It always begins with the simple things: Why do I always have to wait nearly an hour for my luggage at Gatwick despite already having waited in an immigration queue for ages? HOW MUCH is my train ticket into London? Why are there SO MANY people here? Why don’t they TALK to one another instead of gazing at their iPhones? You probably get the picture.

This trip back was particularly gruelling as I arrived in London during the evening rush hour on the hottest day of the year. I got to my London-bound train just as the doors were closing, and was surprised that I managed to squeeze my suitcase into the vestibule. I was even more surprised when at least eight other people squeezed on behind me into the same vestibule, complete with eight more suitcases and a bike. As I gasped for air and tried to contort my arms enough to remove the antibacterial hand gel from my bag, I couldn’t help but wonder how on earth I managed to put up with London commuting for over a decade.

By the time I arrived at my destination I was hot and bothered and experiencing what could only be described as sensory overload. I stood outside the train station feeling truly overwhelmed by the number of people, and genuinely surprised that I felt like such a fish out of water in a place I’d lived for so long.

Clapham Junction - A Blast from the Past

Clapham Junction – A Blast from the Past

After a quick and easy hotel check-in, I popped in the bar for a bottle of beer, which I drained in minutes due to the heat. I then found myself wondering how much longer it would be until someone came and asked if I wanted another one. Then I remembered that it doesn’t work that way in England, and that I’d have to go and get it myself. I then calculated that (based on current exchange rates) two beers in the hotel bar would cost as much as 10.2 bottles of Sagres in my local at home, and decided to give the second one a miss.

The next morning, I truly was a visitor in my old life, as I had to set off first thing to do a job on a client site. By now I was beginning to enjoy the change of scenery rather more, but still couldn’t help but notice things, such as how miserable everybody looked despite the sunshine, and the fact that there must have been around £4000 worth of smartphones and tablets contained within every three metres of train space.

With my work complete, I went off to meet my mum, and it was at that point that I began to enjoy London life. We went to the theatre in the evening, something always certain to give me a reason to miss the easy access to culture that I used to benefit from. People spotting in Soho was lots of fun too, but most of all it was wonderful to see my mum after so long, and to see her looking so much better than she did last time I saw her. Indulging in various foods I’ve missed for months was pretty damn good too.

Gourmet burgers in London

Gourmet burgers in London

Thanks to the wonders of free hotel Wi-Fi and FaceTime, I was able to maintain regular contact with home, and I checked in with Louise and our baby at least a few times each day. I have a lovely screenshot of him smiling at me on the camera, although I think the fact that daddy had turned into an iPad may have spun his little head a bit.

The rest of my few days flew by, and before I knew it I was back in Faro, complete with lots of little presents for the family and a selection of bargains from the 99p shop, all of which will save us many Euros over the coming weeks.

So, all in all it was a good trip, but one that only went to reinforce the fact that Portugal is now my true home—something emphasised by the fact that it took me 48 hours to stop speaking Portuguese in shops by mistake.

Back to paradise

Back to paradise

Hopefully I’ve managed to be as balanced as possible in my account of my trip, and stopped short of offending my London associates. However, I must have a few little mini-rants before I step away from the keyboard:

  1. How does anyone cope with the dreadful mobile data network in the London area without smashing their smartphone in frustration? Perhaps it’s the sheer number of people, but I’ve not had such problems with connectivity anywhere else in the world.
  1. How is it that the UK media blame the EU for excessive rules and regulations when there are seemingly more of them IN the UK then anywhere else in Europe? “No glass bottles outside!” “No smoking on this section of pavement!” “No flip-flops in the bar!” “No cash payments on the bus!” Come on! Just let people live their lives.
  1. £4.80 for a 330ml bottle of beer? Seriously?!

Fancy a change from UK life? Read about how you can do it in our book: Moving to Portugal

Readers in the USA will find it here.

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Our little bundle of joy 21

Posted on May 28, 2014 by Ben Algarve

(Lou) Living in Portugal was our dream for several years before we moved here. We fell in love with the country the first time we visited it and it was on that holiday that as we lazed on the beach, idly watching a man build sand castles with his little daughter, we decided that we didn’t want to bring our children up in London.

The decision was a significant one – we were still years from getting married and having a family, but it signalled the beginning of the end of our love affair with London. From that point forward, the idea of raising our children within walking distance of a sun-kissed seashore was planted firmly in both our minds.

Living in Portugal - sun-kissed sands

Living in Portugal – sun-kissed sands

After several years of planning, saving and working towards our dream, we finally moved to Portugal. The move was over four years ago now and, though at times living here has been stressful (mainly when completing paperwork and dealing with bureaucracy), we have no regrets about leaving the UK far behind.

We have embraced the Portuguese way of life and it has changed us both since we have lived here, though perhaps not in the ways we would have expected before we left England. One constant since our move has been our certainty that Portugal is the place where we want to raise a family. Children are cherished here – a toddler ambling around a restaurant will receive pats on the head from the waiters and smiles from the diners, rather than the annoyed looks that the same scenario would produce in a London eatery.

Living in Portugal - a new arrival

Living in Portugal – a new arrival

We thought for a while that our dream of having a family in Portugal was one that wasn’t going to come true for us. I was actually booked in for an appointment to find out why we were struggling to conceive when we found out that we were expecting. Since then, our life has been a whirlwind of preparation, from spending endless hours waiting for doctors’ appointments, to creating the perfect nursery, to knitting countless tiny jumpers in preparation for the cold winter months.

Two and a half weeks ago, by which time I was the size of a whale, we had lunch with friends at the beautiful and relatively secluded beach of Lota in the eastern Algarve. We visited relatives in the afternoon and then headed home via the supermarket. It turned out to be our last day doing things as a couple, as shortly after we arrived home my body suddenly announced that it was time to head to the hospital.

Living in Portugal - tiny toes

Living in Portugal – tiny toes

Some twelve hours later, our tiny bundle of joy arrived via an emergency Caesarean section, filling us both with a happiness so intense we never knew it was possible.

The last two and a half weeks have been the most wonderful and emotional or our lives. We have been truly touched by the kindness of all those around us, from family and friends to the hospital staff and our next door neighbours. We have been overwhelmed by the amount of new things there are to learn (it turns out that winding a new-born baby who likes to wriggle a lot is harder than it looks in a book). Most of all, we have been amazed that we have managed to produce such a beautiful and perfect little boy, who has filled our hearts with love and our lives with joy.

Welcome to the world Frederico :-)

Living in Portugal - welcome to the world

Living in Portugal – welcome to the world

If you would like to know more about our adventures while living in Portugal, please feel free to check out our book:

Moving to Portugal: How a young couple started a new life in the sun – and how you could do the same
US Readers will find it here.

Posts you might like:

Easter Break in Portugal 3

Posted on April 22, 2014 by Ben Algarve

As I type today, I’m looking back on a very enjoyable four day weekend in Portugal. When I started work this morning, I paged back through my calendar out of curiosity, and confirmed it’s the first time we’ve had such a long break since Christmas.

An Easter BBQ in Portugal

An Easter BBQ in Portugal

Now I’m pretty sure that when we moved to Portugal we did so in the hope of an improved work / life balance, but it seems we’ve not quite managed it…I think the problem is that now we’re both self employed, we must take a financial hit for every day we take off work. However, the past weekend has shown us that we should perhaps make more effort to step away from our laptops. Who’d have thought that in our “more simple, more laid back” life, we’d have to wait for a bank holiday to get around to changing lightbulbs?!

With this in mind, our whole routine is about to be shattered beyond recognition anyway, because our baby is now due in just two weeks. Needless to say we are both going through distinct phases of excitement, anticipation and blind panic…

Back in the UK, my mother is due to have an operation this week. She’s been on a waiting list and I had really hoped to be able to fly out to be there with her. Unfortunately, the dates have just lined up at the worst possible time. We’ve lived in Portugal for nearly five years, but nothing until now has made me feel the distance between us and some of our loved ones quite so strongly. I hate the thought of my mum being in hospital in one country while we’re having a baby in a hospital in another country – but there’s nothing we can do about it at this late stage.

All being well, however, I fully intend to get myself over to the UK once mother and baby are settled.

That’s all I really have time for today, by way of a quick update, and I should probably say now that my presence here is likely to be somewhat sporadic over the coming weeks for obvious reasons.

Meanwhile, if you want to read more about life in Portugal, why not buy our book? We can put the royalities towards Junior’s college fund ;-)

Have a good week.

Our book:

Moving to Portugal: How a young couple started a new life in the sun – and how you could do the same

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Cleaning up Cabanas 2

Posted on March 26, 2014 by Ben Algarve

(Ben) Due to the nature of my work, I have the wonderful luxury of keeping to the schedule my body prefers. Of course this is likely to change drastically in the coming weeks when our baby arrives, but up to now I have tended to revert to what could only be described as a “teenage schedule” – sleeping in and working into the evening.

Last Saturday, we decided to join a group of volunteers in cleaning up the beach and riverfront in the nearby resort town of Cabanas. We both liked the idea of actually doing something for the community for once. In my case, my most significant act of charity was definitely the fact I had to get out of bed before 8AM to meet in the town at nine!

Cleaning up Cabanas

Cleaning up Cabanas

On arrival, everything was very relaxed in a typically Portuguese way. In fact, I probably would have got away with an extra hour in bed! Local army members were there as part of the effort, and after some milling around we were all given some bin bags and water, and allocated parts of the area to clean up.

The army await the cleaning volunteers

The army await the cleaning volunteers

We were part of a group allocated to tidy up an area of marsh and sand to the West of the town. By the time we wandered that way the sun was blazing down. If this was supposed to be work, then I’d happily do a lot more of it. The views were beautiful, and complemented by the warm feeling you get from doing something good!

Not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning in Portugal

Not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning in Portugal

Thanks to the large number of volunteers, our area was cleaned up very quickly. We turned down the kind offer of a complementary barbecue lunch, as all the bending down had rendered a very pregnant Louise in need of a nap!

We thoroughly enjoyed helping to clean up Cabanas. Woe betide anyone we see dropping litter from now on! Best of all though, I was reminded of why it can sometimes be good to rise early from my bed. I was sunburned before I’d usually have pulled up the shutters. However, with sleep pattern decisions soon to be taken out of my hands, I will make no apologies for any late awakening until the baby arrives. At least he will have a lovely clean beach to play on in the summer.

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Portugal Cost of Living – An Insight 6

Posted on March 19, 2014 by Ben Algarve

When it comes to the cost of living in Portugal, I must confess that I have often been “that guy” on the expat forums, telling prospective immigrants to Portugal that they shouldn’t be under any illusions that Portugal is a cheap place to live.

In many ways, it’s not. Petrol costs more than it does in the UK (seriously), and the price of cars is truly shocking. Utility bills are often higher too—we have to keep our homes warm in winter and cool in summer.

HOWEVER: The other night I thought of all of this in another way.

Portugal Cost of Living

Portugal Cost of Living

So far this year, my wife and I have done OK.  My wife, especially, has carved out a very successful freelance career since her redundancy just over a year ago. We feel “comfortable,” but when I actually do the sums, we’re not even approaching the income we had in London back in 2009.

But then I thought about it another way. In London, our rent was £1250 per month. Where we live now costs €450 (£375)…and this place is enormous by comparison.

So, we save £875 per month, just in rent. That’s £10,500 per year.

We also lived in the London borough with the second highest council tax. That was another £200 per month. Yep, that’s another £2,400 per year. We don’t pay any here.

As we lived in “outer London,” we also had to pay for an annual travelcard to get to work. This one really will blow your mind: £2288 each–£4,576. Let’s face it, that’s basically five grand. Here, we work from home.

Sadly not everyone can work from home in Portugal

Sadly not everyone can work from home in Portugal

So what do we save every year on these things alone? £17,476. And we needed all that money AFTER tax. With tax taken into account, we’re talking about the equivalent of just a little below an entire UK average wage.

That’s quite impressive already, as an annual saving. Obviously the balance is redressed somewhat by the fact that our income tax is a little higher BUT, consider this:

-       A beer after work? That used to cost me £3.50 (€4.20). Now it costs a Euro.

-       Cigarettes that cost £8.50 (€10!) in the UK cost €4 here.

-       You can get a good meal out for €8.

-       Nobody in Portugal would have the audacity to charge you to park in a shopping centre car park.

Beer IS cheap in Portugal

Beer IS cheap in Portugal

I’m not going to add up the totals from above. If I did, I’d have to be honest about my personal consumption of beer and cigarettes – with you, and with myself! However, it’s clear that in many ways, life in Portugal is, indeed, cheaper.

Now of course this doesn’t mean life here is easy. Building up our freelance incomes has been a seriously hard slog, and we have both done plenty of assignments at rates that wouldn’t even come close to a UK minimum wage. However, now we’ve paid our dues and proved ourselves, we do OK.

Before I finish this post, I must state some caveats, however. If I didn’t, I’d be painting an irresponsibly positive picture of how expat life can be. Consider the following:

1. Not everyone can start a freelance career from nothing. My wife and I are both fortunate that we have skills and experience that translate well to home working. If you don’t have these skills, you should disregard everything I’ve written here and pay attention to the fact that many people in Portugal earn little more than €500 per month before tax if they speak Portuguese and manage to find a job.

2. The comparisons I make are with London life and Algarve life. Few places are as expensive as London, so the net saving for many people will actually be substantially lower than ours.

Even so, working out these figures has given us a huge reason to be cheerful. Even if the numbers on our spreadsheets still look rather pitiful compared to the numbers we had when we lived in the UK, the one thing that’s for sure is that we feel we get far more LIFE for our money. And surely that’s what our move to Portugal was supposed to be all about?

If you want to find out more about the cost of living in Portugal, check out this article.

For even more about the practicalities of life in the sun, please consider buying a copy of our book:

Moving to Portugal: How a young couple started a new life in the sun – and how you could do the same

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