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Praia Da Rocha was where it all started. On our last visit to Portugal, my wife and I were trying to remember how we ended up in The Algarve the first time some 5ish years ago. Much as I would like to claim a cultural or intellectual reason, I think it was no more than the typical Brit “it’s hot and cheap” rationale.
I certainly don’t think we expected to fall so head over heels in love with the place! Our approach to holidays was always to start off with where we could fly to cheaply, then TripAdvisor our way to a well reviewed hotel within whatever budget we had at the time. We always managed to get ourselves a bargain and had great holidays every time. We did, however, usually go to a different destination every time, working on the basis that there is a whole load of world to see in the short time we have on this planet….
Portugal was different. Within a couple of days I had this strange feeling that I didn’t really need to see anywhere else in the world.
Anyone who has been to Praia Da Rocha in peak season probably thinks I sound insane at this point. For those who haven’t, Praia Da Rocha (Beach of the Rocks,) is a truly stunning resort, with a huge beach divided in two distinct parts – the Eastern end near the fortaleza (fort) being a huge, deep expanse of sand rather like some some of the resorts of Spain’s Costa Da Luz, and the western end featuring beautiful coves with high orange cliffs and various rock formations along the coastline.
The thing is, in the kind of terms the travel books talk in, Praia Da Rocha is an over-commercial resort, “destroyed” by high rise apartments and hotels. There is even a “strip” featuring a huge range of bars showing UK football, and “ALL REALITY SHOWS!” Don’t get me started. Why anyone would watch Bradford City vs. Rotherham when the sun is blazing and there’s a beach 50yards away is truly beyond me, but each to their own…
The thing was that wife and I went off season, so although we could imagine the true hideousness of this resort in July and August, we were able to avoid the worst of the Brit tourist invasion and appreciate all that was good and beautiful about the place. After our first 7 days, we ended up somehow convincing our respective workplaces to let us extend our holiday by another 5 days. We don’t pay the kind of fees the airlines charge for date changes lightly. This wasn’t the usual feeling of hoping to win the lottery so as not to go back to work, this was the start of something.
I always knew that one day I would have to live abroad. I am a firm believer in it being better to regret things you have done than those you haven’t. I also think it strange to assume the place you were born is the place you were meant to end up. A plan started to form.
We went back. Again and again – between then and now we have explored a lot of Portugal. By the second or third time we knew for sure we were going to move there someday. At that early stage we weren’t sure how, but I remember that we started the countdown about 3.5 years ago. The last time we went, when I was in the usual slightly distraught state I am in when I have to return to London life after time in paradise, my wife pointed out it was now only 8 months to go. Bloody hell.
In the years inbetween, many things have happened. We have paid off a mountain of personal debt, visited both Portugal and Madeira many times, learned a little bit of the language (just enough, as it happens, to say a sentence convincingly enough for the Portugese recipient to fire one back that we do not understand a word of) and secured UK work that can be done from Portugal. The slightly OCD side of me has researched everything to the finest detail. Looks like we are actually doing it!
Back to the original question though: “So why Portugal?” Time for bullet points:
1. Some of the nicest, most polite and relaxed people I have ever met.
2. A culture where people love, enjoy and appreciate good food as much as we do, whilst keeping things simple and not resorting to the kind of truffle-oil based competitiveness you get in the UK.
3. A Climate that won’t make me miserable for at least 6 months of the year.
4. A desire to bring up our children in a society not as fundamentally arsed up as that in the UK.
I could list many more (I haven’t even mentioned wine yet!) but my eyes are tired. This blogging business is exhausting, and I don’t think I’ve written this many words since school!