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

movingtoportugal


A Rather Grey Summer in Portugal 6

Posted on July 30, 2014 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

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 17

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.

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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

US Readers will find it here.

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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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Butterflies, buds and bellies – Portugal in spring 7

Posted on March 03, 2014 by Ben Algarve

(Lou) Last week was definitely an interesting one. Both Ben and I have work stacked up in front of us, which is great as we save up for the (ever closer) impending arrival of our little bundle of joy later this year.

Portugal in spring - buds and flowers are everywhere

Portugal in spring – buds and flowers are everywhere

The alternately cloudy, sunny and blustery weather has suited our indoor lifestyle, which has consisted of working all hours and spending time in the kitchen making the most of fresh produce such as orange-fleshed sweet potatoes and flavourful young carrots.

For me, the routine was broken by my regular monthly check up at our local Centro de Saúde (health centre). The day didn’t start too well, when I got in the car and turned the key, only to hear a click and then silence. However, the resulting taxi that I had to get to the Centro de Saúde meant an opportunity to practice my Portuguese, which is something that always pleases me. (The new car battery that we had to purchase later that day wasn’t quite so pleasing.)

On the way to the health centre, I chatted to the taxi driver about the weather, about the traffic and about the health centre’s services for pregnant women. After a few minutes of conversation, he asked me,

“You’re not Portuguese, are you?”

Portugal in spring - pink sky at night

Portugal in spring – pink sky at night

A simple enough question, but nonetheless a landmark in terms of our settling here. He hadn’t asked if I was English, but instead was uncertain as to whether or not I was Portuguese. It might seem the tiniest of distinctions when under scrutiny, but if felt as though I had taken another step towards true integration into Portugal – something which has become increasingly important to me now that we are expecting our first child here.

I shall ignore the fact that two days later the proprietor of a local seafood shop at the market was utterly incapable of understanding my (I thought) perfectly enunciated request for a dressed crab, lest it detract from the above victory.

After the check up with the doctor (all is well) I took advantage of the combination of carless-ness and sunshine to walk home rather than paying for another taxi. As I waddled my way chubbily along, I was treated to the site of buds and catkins on the trees, while butterflies danced through the warm air. Clearly nature has noticed that spring is on the way.

Portugal in spring - pretty white flowers

Portugal in spring – pretty white flowers

Another incident occurred when I popped to our local shop a day or so later. After chatting with the shop owner and another customer for a couple of minutes – they were kindly sharing Portuguese tips for how to deal with labour and giving birth – I realised that I was holding up an English tourist and her daughter, who were queuing behind me while we nattered. I paid for my goods and took my leave.

It was only when I got home that I realised the significance of the occurrence – I used to stand behind the Portuguese ladies chatting in the shop, not understanding their conversation and tapping my foot impatiently, waiting to be served while they talked and laughed. Yet suddenly, I had become one of that group of women happily chatting away in Portuguese and caring nothing for things like speed of service – a far cry from the London-fuelled impatience and lack of linguistic understanding that I used to exhibit when we first lived here.

While these may seem like minor incidents, I am left with the feeling that I have, almost without realising it, become more of a local of late. It’s something that has crept up on me unawares. I’m under no illusions that I still have a long way to go in terms of truly becoming Portuguese. My grammar is poor, I find unnecessary bureaucracy maddening and I haven’t yet dared to buy clams from the man with the bucket who sells them in the car park outside the supermarket. Still, it seems that I’m getting a little bit closer with each day that passes.

Portugal in spring - river path

Portugal in spring – river path

If you would like to know more about our early days in Portugal and how we got to where we are now, 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:

Seasonally Affected in Portugal 8

Posted on February 19, 2014 by Ben Algarve

It’s been a couple of weeks since I last posted on Moving to Portugal. I shall be honest and say it’s because I’ve not really found an awful lot to write about.

Until this week, the weather has been decidedly dull, and the simple fact of the matter is that there really isn’t that much to do in the Algarve when the weather is poor. We don’t have cosy country pubs with log fires, or Cafe Neros with big sofas (although we do have far better coffee).

Algarve Weather - nothing to write home about

Algarve Weather – nothing to write home about

With a heavily pregnant wife, choices are restricted further. The popular expat option of steadily drinking until the weather improves is certainly off the table!

Thankfully, the sun has returned this week, and just in the nick of time as I was beginning to feel decidedly down in the dumps. Despite plenty of work AND keeping up to date with my degree course, I was still saying “I’m BORED” like a sulky teenager at least a couple of times each week.

As soon as the sun came out, my mood was transformed. It’s not as if it’s suddenly spring, as the temperatures are struggling to rise much higher than about 15 degrees, but it’s still been enough to encourage me to get out and walk again. On Sunday, I even managed to sit outside and read in a T-shirt – in the suntrap of my balcony it actually felt warm.

Last night, Louise gently reminded me that it’s just 11 weeks until our baby is due. I’ve never known time to both drag and fly in such a contradictory way, but having spoken to other recent parents it seems it’s actually quite normal. Apparently in about 6 months time we will give anything to feel “bored” again.

On the subject of boredom, it’s actually a rather common state of mind amongst expats right now. A couple of weeks ago, there were some satellite changes, resulting in the loss of BBC and ITV channels. Currently, thousands of expats are scrabbling around trying to find ways to get Eastenders back.

UK TV Gone in Portugal

UK TV Gone in Portugal

To be frank, I find it all a bit depressing. When you see how mobilised a group of people can become about a topic, you can’t help but wonder how much GOOD such collective motivation could do if it were pointed at a worthy cause. Sadly, however, that’s not the world we live in. The government raise taxes to pay for their own mistakes? Nobody really minds that much. Huge scandals are uncovered? Nobody makes more than a passing comment…

But take Jeremy Kyle away…well SOMETHING MUST BE DONE! What strange priorities we have.

I do feel for elderly people out here. UK TV was a lifeline for them, and few of the alternative solutions are as easy to use as a Sky box. However, UK TV is not a right for anyone living in Portugal, and was never being offered as a legitimate service anyway. Portugal has TV too, and if a few more people watch it they might start to learn the language of the country they’ve chosen to live in.

I did write an article some time ago about an easy way to get UK TV in Portugal. Here is a link to it.

Having read all that back, I am conscious that it sounds a bit ranty, so I obviously haven’t had quite enough sunshine yet. I will do my best to get more cheerful before I post again!

Whenever you're ready summer

Whenever you’re ready summer

Just before I go, I’ve noticed that this in the 200th post on Moving to Portugal. Working on an average length of 750 words, that means we’ve now written 150,000 words – a good few books worth! If you’ve yet to read Moving to Portugal: The Book, which contains plenty of unique content, please check it out below. If you’re one of the people missing UK TV, it will keep you busy for a few hours ;-)

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.

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Portugal Life: Ten Things I Love 9

Posted on February 03, 2014 by Ben Algarve

The depressing cloud that is January has left us now, but February offers little consolation beyond the fact that it’s a short month and there’s therefore a little less time before the next payday.

The Internet is full of pop psychology at the moment, and if you’re a self-help-sceptic, the thought of anything resembling a “gratitude diary” probably makes you want to scream. However, I do think it sometimes does a lot of good to take stock and think of some reasons to be cheerful, thankful, or just less grumpy – whatever works for you…

So, with that in mind, here’s one of those “ten things I love” posts, that were so fashionable a few years back. It’s winter in Portugal right now, so there’s little to say of beaches and sunshine, but I’m going to smile this Monday for the following reasons:

1. The nursery

What was once our spare room is now (almost) a nursery – or a nursery combined with my office, which itself is diminishing in size by the day! We still have some bits to do, but (largely down to the generosity of others) there’s already a beautifully decorated cot, a pushchair, and a wardrobe full of clothes and nappies. Not a day goes by when I don’t wander round and admire it.

The Nursery in Progress

The Nursery in Progress

Friends who already have children tell us it will never look like this again, so we need to make the best of it!

2. My new stereo

We recently made a modest investment in a new stereo, in the main so I could finally play the records that I’ve gradually accumulated since I decided to collect disco rarities. Discovering obscure B-sides while I cook is a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

3. Fresh linens

Despite Louise’s rapidly expanding bump, I still seem to climb into a beautiful bed, complete with fresh new linen, at the end of every weekend. I know this is one of the chores I’ll have to add to my roster in the coming weeks as “the bump” gets bigger. I’m making the best of it, because with the best will in the world I can only make a bed as competently as a well-meaning teenager.

4. Brussels sprouts

This will seem like a strange one, but I love sprouts, and until recently they’ve not been that easy to find in our part of Portugal.

Recently, though, they’re become consistently available in our local supermarket, in sensible quantities at around just one Euro. I’m sure I’ll tire of them soon, but I’m loving them right now.

5. The mild winter

The weather in the Algarve since Christmas has been nothing to write home about, but it has been consistently mild. As a result, we’re not struggling to keep our apartment warm, which is a first for this time of year, and a welcome change.

6. The price of Portuguese wine

Last night we both commented on how good the wine was with our Sunday dinner. It had one of those “gold award winner” stickers on it, and was absolutely delicious. It cost €2.49 from Lidl. (Louise only had a few sips!)

Portuguese Wine

Portuguese Wine

7. Poverty pasta

Poverty pasta is a January and February tradition for us, and it’s only semi-ironic in title! With most of our money being diverted to the baby fund and the good people at American Express (who kindly volunteered to pay up-front for most of Christmas), each week we currently make a huge pasta bake that does one huge dinner and a left-over lunch, with enough spare for anyone who happens to pass through our doors while it’s in the fridge.

Our poverty pasta bake sometimes features tuna, sometimes left over chicken, but always a ton of fresh local vegetables. It’s life affirming and mega cheap, and loads of fun to make.

8. Vela 2

Vela 2 is one of our favourite restaurants, but for some reason we’d forgotten about it recently – perhaps because it’s now moved out of town and into a nearby village.

Whilst trying to think of something to do on Friday evening, I suddenly remembered it. Five minutes later some friends unexpectedly dropped by, and an hour later we were all tucking into as much sparkling fresh fish as we could eat for no more than about €15 each in total.

It’s things like this that remind you that living in the Algarve can be pretty special whatever the season.

9. My food smoker

The Smoking Gun on Food and Wine Portugal

The Smoking Gun on Food and Wine Portugal

I won’t talk about my new Smoking Gun Food Smoker here, you can follow the link and read about my favourite new kitchen gadget. Suffice to say it has brightened up my winter!

10. Having work

I moan more than enough about never getting outside while the sun’s shining, and not having loads of extra time since I moved to Portugal. But I didn’t move here to retire. We still have to put the hours in, often for a level of reward that makes us realise how lucky we really were when we worked in London, but we’re fortunate to have built up the work we have, most of which we do from the comfort of home.

What are you loving right now? Please tell us in the comments below. I’ve spent plenty of time feeling a bit jaded lately, but reading this back makes me feel very positive. Maybe this pop-psychology fad is a good thing?

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Life in Portugal – Spring is in the Air 2

Posted on January 27, 2014 by Ben Algarve

Lou here with a quick update. It seems strange that spring has arrived so fast this year. Christmas and New Year have barely passed and yet this weekend we’ve been enjoying days with temperatures of 20C plus. We’ve fished the sunglasses out from the back of the drawer, braved the outside world while in short sleeves and admired the blossom that has burst into life on the almond trees – one of the sweetest sights and scents that the Algarve has to offer.

Life in Portugal - not long until it's beach time again

Life in Portugal – not long until it’s beach time again

Having grown up in England, it seems strange that winter can have passed so quickly. Even after several years in Portugal it is not something that I am used to. My brain is still full of winter baking recipes to try out in the kitchen and we’ve only just made this year’s batch of chutney, so the sun drawing us inexorably to the beach has presented quite a mix of contradictory feelings.

On the one hand, it’s delightful to be cleaning down the barbecue ready for another long season of lazy weekends spent feasting on local produce. On the other, I’ve got all sorts of winter tasks still to be completed before we switch to our vastly different summer schedule. I can’t really believe I’m admitting it, but another couple of weeks of rain wouldn’t go amiss!

Thankfully, as this is our fifth winter in Portugal, I’m well aware that the first warm weekend of the year doesn’t signal the full on start of spring, but it’s been lovely to have a taster of it nonetheless.

Life in Portugal - spring is well on the way

Life in Portugal – spring is well on the way

Our daily lives in Portugal have settled into a well-balanced schedule over the winter months. Weekdays are spent working, with the odd diversion (after all, what’s the point of being freelance, if you don’t occasionally get to take time off between 9 and 5?); evenings are spent knitting baby clothes (me), trying out new recipes (Ben) and watching films; and weekends are for quiet, local activities.

It’s a routine that suits us for a couple of months each year, while we recover from the hectic pace of summer, but usually by February we are ready for the tourists to begin arriving again and livening up the calm, quiet town that we live in over the winter months.

For those considering starting a new life in Portugal, I would strongly recommend visiting it during all seasons. There can be precious little to do during the winter months in some areas, while others become so packed during the summer that they are unbearably crowded.

Life in Portugal - a winter sunset

Life in Portugal – a winter sunset

It’s one of Portugal’s many contrasts and one that we are still becoming accustomed to. By the end of the summer, we can’t wait for the tourists to go home and give us back the wonderful peace of the winter months. By the end of the winter, we are desperate for the tourists to return and crank up the pace of town life once again.

For the moment, I’ll have to find a way to juggle my brain’s incomplete list of winter tasks with my body’s desire to bask in the sun. I can think of worse dilemmas to have.

If you like the blog, why not try the book?

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

US readers can find it here: Moving to Portugal – the book.

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