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

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Archive for the ‘Food’


Portuguese Wine: The Rescue Parcel Arrives 0

Posted on July 02, 2015 by Ben Algarve

I’ve already moaned before about how much we’ve been missing Portuguese wine since moving to England again.

Well, last week, thanks to the valiant efforts of several family members, our problems on that score came to an end. Thanks to a family road trip to the UK and some spare vehicle space, we were reunited with some of our old favourites.

Portuguese Wine - in the UK

Portuguese Wine – in the UK

The objective now is to make them last! So far we’ve been rather restrained and only opened a few, and donated some to friends too. It’s been lovely to taste these wines once more, and best of all to be spared the frustration of spending £6-10 a pop in the UK on bottles of questionable swill from the supermarket!

Also in our rescue parcel from Portugal was my beloved Weber barbecue, which regular readers of the blog will know is something of an obsession of mine. I must once again thank all those involved in reuniting us with it. I honestly don’t know if the wine or the barbecue was most exciting, but I think probably the latter!

Barbecue from Portugal

Reunited with my barbecue from Portugal

I’ve not got a huge amount of time to update on much else at this point, other than to say that all is pretty good back here in England. Yesterday, we had a trademark English one-day heatwave(!) but by today it was cool enough for jeans once again. I’m genuinely not saying this to make myself feel better, but I actually don’t mind this at all, because it’s far easier to get stuck into work when the weather outside isn’t sufficiently pleasant to entice me out.

However, that only applies during the week. Rained-off weekends are not cool at all, so here’s hoping we don’t have too many of those.

On that note, I’ll leave you with a shot of Whitstable beach approaching sunset last Saturday. With views like this, moving back to the UK doesn’t feel too bad at all – but as I’ve said before, you’ll probably get a different take on this from me come November!

One last thing actually: Quite randomly, I just discovered you can actually buy Casal Garcia, one of Portugal’s favourite Vinho Verdes (Green Wines) online, in ENGLAND, and for a good price that works out to less than £5 per bottle. It’s on Amazon of all places! What an amazing discovery! I’ve put the link here for you. I’m sorry to tell American readers that I can’t find a similar one on the US site :-(

Case x12 -Casal Garcia NV – Green Wine

Sunny English Skies in Whitstable

Sunny English Skies

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Some More Random “Moving Home” Observations 3

Posted on April 21, 2015 by Ben Algarve

We’ve been back in the UK a couple of months now, but everything still seems rather alien!

In my last post I was perhaps a little negative about the Portugal we’d left behind, so I’m going for some more balance this week.

Life in the UK has been good, but with an undulating backdrop of homesickness. It doesn’t help that I still do a lot of writing work about Portugal, and having to write about beaches I am no longer just down the road from isn’t the most fun way to begin a working week!  Suffice to say I really don’t think it will be that long until we pop back to the Algarve for a visit.

That visit would probably feel more urgent if it weren’t for the glorious weather we’ve had in England, and that’s where I’ll begin my list of random observations:

1. The weather here isn’t that bad at all.

I know we’ve been lucky with a dry April, but we’ve just spent a long weekend visiting family and we’ve been happily outside for rather a lot of it. Yesterday we had a pub lunch in a beer garden and I woke up today with a tanned face. That was NOT something I was expecting!

Delightful weather in England

Delightful weather in England

The other pleasant surprise is that even when the headline temperature looks low, it’s actually perfectly warm in sheltered spots. Of course I miss the Algarve weather, but what we’ve had since we’ve been back is more than acceptable, and actually far more practical for our baby son.

2. The UK mobile network is APPALLING!

I said that these would be random observations, so now we go from weather to phone signals!

Last weekend on our big family trip, there wasn’t a single house we arrived at where we could get decent data reception. This includes an area covering Kent, Outer London, Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk. 3G reception on motorways was rubbish too.

I don’t know if it’s just that the UK’s network struggles with the number of people, but by comparison Portugal’s mobile infrastructure is fantastic.

Lots of Traffic and no Phone Signal

Lots of Traffic and no Phone Signal

3. We still have Portuguese “muscle-memory”

I don’t know how long this is going to last, but we are both still often convinced we are going the wrong way around roundabouts, and occasionally find it hard to remember the English word for something (my wife struggles particularly with “coentros,” which is coriander).

Worst of all, we’ve yet to shrug off the continental “hug and kiss on both cheeks” greeting, which in the UK results in either a near-head-butt or the recipient thinking you’re going in for a snog, neither of which comes across as particularly dignified…

4. England is expensive

This is a complicated point, but overall it’s a very good job there are more earning opportunities in the UK, because it’s far harder to live on a budget.

It’s not that all day-to-day things are more expensive. Groceries, for example, are probably cheaper than in Portugal, and as I’ve said before there is far more variety. Our utility bills are less too, but that’s completely cancelled out by a council tax bill of nearly £200 per month.

Where the budgeting unravels is in entertainment. Back in the Algarve, ten Euros could mean a good long trip to the bar and a bite to eat to take home. Here, that ten Euros won’t come close to buying the first round.

At the moment we’re spending every weekend catching up with friends and family, so our spending pattern isn’t typical, but suffice to say we keep having to top up our entertainment budget, and the credit cards are coming out far more than they did in Portugal!

Seafood - Available in the UK as well as Portugal - for a price

Seafood – Available in the UK as well as Portugal – for a price

In addition, working longer days and commuting means being more tired, and that’s when the lure of the takeaway menus becomes strong.

Finally, there’s just so much in the UK that you CAN do! After years of missing the theatre, and the easy access to gigs and festivals, we feel like we want to do it ALL. To do so we must work hard to earn it – and on that basis it’s easy to identify the start of that slippery slope back to the rat race. We must proceed with caution!

5. We’ll probably visit Portugal sooner than we thought

One thing that did come up during our manic weekend was the rather sad realisation that once we’d done everything we had to do, we’d be going “home” to elsewhere in England, rather than “home” to Portugal.

This was actually quite a good thing to realise, because it reminded us that we still have plenty waiting for us in Portugal: somewhere to stay; all of our friends, and all the places and things we miss. I even still have my two most beloved Portugal purchases – my moped and my Weber barbecue! There’s absolutely nothing stopping us going and working from there for a few weeks whenever the “homesickness” gets too strong.

Well, there is one thing stopping us, which is that while we continue to socialise “UK style” every weekend, we’ll never have the time nor the money. So, on that note, I shall sign off and get some more work done :-)

Please take a look at our book!

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

Or find it here on Amazon.COM, for US readers:

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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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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Summer in Portugal – why the Portuguese don’t sleep 4

Posted on August 12, 2013 by Ben Algarve

Summer in Portugal is a wonderful time and particularly so in the Algarve. Entertainment offerings crank up during July until they reach fever pitch in August. For holidaymakers evenings can be spent enjoying relaxed meals sitting outside restaurants, followed by shopping, drinking or dancing for endless hours at a range of venues, local festivals and travelling markets. Days are for tanning by the pool or swimming in the sea of one of the Algarve’s many stunning beaches.

Summer in Portugal - hot sushi and sangria by the sea

Summer in Portugal – hot sushi and sangria by the sea

For those of use who live here, fitting in the countless summer activities around a fulltime work schedule and a calendar of visiting guests can be tricky – and very tiring! In the past couple of weeks we have spent the day at a waterpark, visited a casino, listened to an amazing sunset DJ set, swum in the sea, been out for dinner, danced the night away at the local nightclub and attended numerous BBQs. All while working 8-10 hour days.

With this many activities to pack into the schedule, something has to give. In our case, it’s been sleep that we’ve passed up on in order to fit everything else in. So it was a treat last night to get our first full night of deep sleep in about two weeks – despite the noise from a late night football game in our village.

This week, with a couple of beach visits, a night out with friends and attending the Olhão shellfish festival already on the cards even if nothing else comes up, I suspect we will be straight back to cutting out sleep in order to enjoy everything the summer has to offer.

Summer in Portugal - beautiful bars welcome you at sunset

Summer in Portugal – beautiful bars welcome you at sunset

It’s a routine that has taken us some years to adjust to and we debated yesterday why it is that the Portuguese don’t seem to sleep. Our conclusions, based purely on personal observations since we’ve lived here, are that our Portuguese friends are able seemingly to stay up all night every night during the summer months because:

1)      It’s too hot to sleep, even if you wanted to

2)      There’s so much to do that the frenetic energy of the Algarve continues to pulse through your veins when your own stock of energy runs out

3)      The Algarve is so quiet during the nine non-summer months of the year that everyone enters into a state of semi-hibernation to prepare for the following summer, when they do it all over again

Summer in Portugal - balancing work and play

Summer in Portugal – balancing work and play

After four years, we are beginning to adapt to the routine, with snatched cat-naps here and there giving us the energy for long days of work and even longer evenings and weekends of play. It might be tiring at times, but come October when we are sitting indoors and watching the rain pour down for days on end, we will be glad to know that we squeezed every last drop out of the Portuguese summer.

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Portugal A to Z: T is for Tamboril 0

Posted on November 07, 2012 by Ben Algarve

I was going to choose “T is for Tax” to continue my A to Z of Portugal, but I decided against it. In the wake of Portugal’s 2013 budget, it all seemed rather too depressing.

So, instead I have opted for Tamboril, which (in case you don’t know) is Portuguese for monkfish.

Monkfish, an expensive treat throughout much of the world, is actually quite a standard part of the Algarve diet, and features on most restaurant menus.

Monkfish is often served as part of an espetada (kebab) with prawns. These impressive looking kebabs are usually brought to the table on a special stand, which provides something of a “wow” factor to those who haven’t seen one before. Often the large chunks of monkfish are wrapped in bacon or presunto.

Monkfish also appears in arroz de tamboril, a monkfish rice dish usually cooked in a cataplana, the hinged metal clamshell cooking container that you see all over the Algarve.

Ugly Monkfish

Ugly Monkfish

Fresh monkfish takes some preparation. Gutting one involves turning it inside-out, and up to 75% of the fish’s weight can be within its head. I recently had the privilege of watching the whole cleaning and filleting process – from market stall to professional chef – when I attended a cooking class at the Vila Vita hotel.

Filleting monkfish

Filleting monkfish

Shortly after we arrived in Portugal, we tried to buy some fresh monkfish cubes to make a recipe, and pointed at one of the whole, ugly beasts on the supermarket fish counter. Luckily the serving lady took pity on us – she showed us just how expensive buying it in this way would be, and let us into the secret of how many Portuguese people really buy it: in great big inexpensive fillets, straight from the freezer at a fraction of the cost.

I’ve even found a photo of what we made with it back then in 2009!

Monkfish wrapped in Parma ham

Monkfish wrapped in Parma ham

On the subject of 2009, we’ve recently passed our third anniversary of being in Portugal, so I’d like to say a big thank you to all of those people who have followed our Portuguese adventure from the beginning. Those a bit newer to our story may be interested in 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 can find it here.

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Books and Bivalves 4

Posted on August 21, 2012 by Ben Algarve

Exciting news today: our book has finally been published and is available from Amazon!

Moving to Portugal – the book, tells the story of our move to Portugal right from the start. The narrative has been written from my wife’s point of view, so while those who have followed the blog from the start may recognise some events and situations, the content is nearly all brand new.

This post marks the first time we have announced the availability of the book, so if you buy it now you will be one of the first to hold a copy in your hands! A formal launch will follow in a couple of weeks, by which time the Kindle version should be ready too.

In the meantime, you can find our book via the link below. Needless to say, we will be very grateful to anyone who buys it and hope it will provide lots of entertainment and helpful information:

Readers in the US can find the book on Amazon.com, and those in mainland Europe should also be able to find it via regional Amazon sites.

While most of my working time has been taken up with finishing off the book, we have also had some recent time off and enjoyed spending time with some dear friends and their son, who celebrated his third birthday while he was here.

Aside for spending time in the pool and time chewing the fat whilst working through a couple of bottles of duty-free booze, we managed to venture out to various local events. One of the highlights was the Olhão shellfish festival.

The shellfish festival is one of the largest of its kind in Portugal, and a sizeable area of Olhão´s waterfront is fenced off for the occasion. A small admission charge covers entry to the venue, where a large stage is erected and hundreds of tables and chairs are set up ready for some serious eating.

Olhao Festival do Marisco 2012 

Olhao Festival do Marisco 2012

Upon arrival at the first bar, we were told we couldn’t pay with cash as a token system was in operation. When we reached the token counter, we were a little surprised by how things worked: eleven Euros bought us each a token book that was good for five beers, two soft drinks, a bag of bread and some butter. To us beginners, this initially seemed rather bizarre.

It all began to make more sense once we collected our bags of bread and (having bought a token book each) a huge collection of beers. The bread and butter came complete with a number of tablemats. We staked our claim to a table and started exploring the shellfish stalls.

The idea is that you buy the shellfish you want, much of which is sold by weight, then retire to your table and enjoy it with your beer, bread and butter. Shells are piled onto the paper tablemats and frequently cleared away by the friendly staff.

It’s fair to say we went for it. We started with a huge shellfish platter containing everything from large crabs to tiny prawns, and progressed to a lobster, a big plate of razor clams and some giant prawn skewers.

It truly was a shellfish lovers dream, although we did find ourselves wishing we had been a little more discerning in our choice of stalls. The last one we used clearly put a lot more time and care into preparing the food and, as such, our experience may have been even better had we spent the lion’s share of our money there instead.

Shellfish Festival Beers

Shellfish Festival Beers

When all of us were full to the brim, we still had a couple of bags of bread left, which went on to become barbecued garlic bread the following day. With the eating out the way, all that remained was to get through our abundance of beer while we watched the entertainment, which on the night we visited was a fabulous Beatles tribute band called the Bandit Beatles.

I never expected to enjoy the band as much as I did (though I imagine the beers helped!) Even our three-year-old companion joined the happy and good-natured crowd and enjoyed a few Beatles hits.

The Olhão shellfish festival really was a fantastic night; an occasion I’ll remember for a long time and prioritize as something to visit next year. If you’re in the Algarve next August, don’t miss it.

Before I sign off for the day, please don’t forget to check out our book on Amazon (link below) – we put a lot of love into creating it and hope you enjoy reading it.

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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S is for Sardines (Sardinhas) 5

Posted on June 19, 2012 by Ben Algarve

I am continuing my A to Z of Portugal today with a subject close to my heart. So much so that it gets a post all of its own.

S is for Sardines.

A plate of chargrilled sardines, served with boiled potatoes and a simple salad, is the quintessential dish of the Algarve.

Inexpensive and available all year round, sardines seem to really be at their best from May to August, when they are more likely to actually be local. For the rest of the year they may well be imported or (worse) defrosted. If I haven’t got this season quite right, I’m sure someone will be along soon to correct me.

Sardines in Portugal

Sardines in Portugal

Although sardines are cheap enough to be regularly enjoyed in a restaurant, I have worked hard to get the hang of cooking them myself. There are, it seems, just a few simple rules:

1. Sardines should never be gutted. In fact, when we once asked for them in this way, we were met with utter refusal!

2. Seasoning is simple – olive oil and loads of sea-salt. Anything else is unnecessary – sardines have all the flavour anyone could ever need.

3. Sardines should be cooked on a hot barbecue and not for too long. Purists would say they should only go on a coal BBQ but I must confess that I regularly use my (well seasoned) gas Weber with good results.

Filleting sardines is quite an art, and I still have some way to go before I can do it Portuguese-style, which involves filleting each sardine atop of slice of bread before enjoying the fishy bread on completion. We have, however, graduated to a greater level of competence than we had on our first few visits to Portugal, when locals actually laughed at our long-winded and pitiful attempts.

The true star of sardine filleting has to be my mother-in-law. I’m not sure how she does it, but she is capable of leaving a plate containing nothing but perfect cartoon-style fish skeletons…and she’s not even Portuguese!

While on the subject of sardines, I should also mention the tinned variety. Portuguese tinned sardines are the best in the world. While they may not be quite as mouthwatering as a pile fresh from the BBQ, you need only accompany them with a couple of crusty rolls and a handful of tomatoes to create a bargain priced beach picnic fit for a king. In fact, it’s exactly what I had for lunch today.

If I’ve got you in the mood for Portuguese food, why not take a trip over to my Food and Wine Portugal blog, or buy this book, one of my favourites, which includes lots of mouthwatering writing about the country’s cuisine as well as some of my favourite recipes.

Piri Piri Starfish: Portugal Found

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My Personal Portugal A to Z 11

Posted on January 18, 2012 by Ben Algarve

This week, I am pleased to be joining in with a rather fun blogging project, started off by Julie Dawn Fox at her own Portugal blog.

The idea for this leads on from the personal A-Z that some of us created after being awarded the Awesome Blog Content award earlier this month. Julie suggested it might be fun to each do a personal “A to Z of Portugal.” Several bloggers have joined in from various countries, and I am pleased to be getting involved myself.

My Personal A to Z of Portugal

My Personal A to Z of Portugal

As I tend to post on a weekly basis, I am doing to do a few letters at a time, and intersperse them with my regular posts. So, as a starting point, this week, I present you with letters A to C of my personal A to Z of Portugal.

A is for Aguardente.

Every country seems to have its own firewater-style spirit – the bottle that gets brought out at the end of a big meal. Greece has ouzo, Italy has grappa, and Denmark has aquavit. Portugal has aguardente.

Although this is a personal A-Z, I have to admit I am not a fan of this beverage. One shot has the raw power to change the course of an evening; any more than that can write off the following day as well!

We purchased a bottle of aguardente when we moved here, the rationale behind it being nothing more than “when in Rome.” Well, over two years on, I can confirm that all we have used the bottle for is to flame cook chorizo (a common use for aguardente), and to attempt to draw ticks out of my mother-in-law’s dog.

Interestingly, you do sometimes see some very posh looking, expensive aguardente on the shelves around Christmas time, so perhaps there are versions that don’t look and smell like paint stripper. So far though, we have yet to try them….

B is for Barbecue

I was talking about looking forward to BBQs on the terrace as far back as my sixth ever post on this blog, long before I even moved here.

We adore BBQs, and put a lot of effort into them. We are no strangers to butterflying a leg of lamb, or spatch-cocking a chicken and basting it with beer as it sizzles.

BBQ in Portugal

BBQ in Portugal

Sadly our time in London was never barbecue-friendly. When we eventually moved to a house that had outside space, our snooty elderly neighbour complained about “cooking smells” and slammed her windows shut whenever she so much as caught a glimpse of the grill. In the end, we just didn’t bother.

In the days before we got here, thoughts of sunny barbecues got us through the 16 hour days and the moving stress….and even years on the novelty hasn’t worn off. We barbecue at least weekly, all year round. Home made sauces, woodchips, bastes, dressings, even chickens upended on beer cans. Portugal and BBQs, for us, go hand in hand. We’re even having one tonight!

C is for Coffee

I never really drank coffee before I moved to Portugal, but the lure of a tiny, super-strong bica (espresso) has proved too

Portuguese Bica Coffee

Portuguese Bica Coffee

much to resist.

I probably only have two or three each week – after meals out, and always after our market shop on a Saturday morning. It’s a wonderful little ritual, and a super-cheap luxury, rarely costing more than about 60cents.

Insiders Tip: Portuguese bicas are also sufficiently strong to completely cancel out that final glass of wine that you never should have had during the meal!

IMAGE CREDIT: Ricardo Benardo

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A Year In Portugal (nearly) 4

Posted on October 25, 2010 by Ben Algarve

It’s hard to believe that in just ten days time we will have been living in Portugal for a year. The time has flown past in a wonderful whirlwind of barbecues, wine and seemingly endless Easyjet flights to and from the UK for work trips.

A year on, I can genuinely say we have no regrets about making the move. It certainly hasn’t all been plain sailing, and although we have now experienced first-hand all the different seasons, we still have plenty of “firsts” to come…..our first tax returns and our first Portuguese car purchase being just two that make me shudder a little bit.

Recently though, we have started to realise how far we have come. Arriving back from working in London last week was the first time I didn’t experience a few unsettled days on our return to Portugal. Here is undoubtedly home now, and the homesick “what have we done?” moments that used to be quite frequent seem to be a thing of the past.

Salad on Altura beach in late October

Salad on Altura beach in late October

Some more family members have completed their move over here in the last couple of weeks as well, and knowing the answers to some of their questions as new arrivals makes us realise we have actually learned rather a lot, even though along the way it hasn’t always felt like we were learning that much!

The same applies to our Portuguese. We have been far more slack than we intended, but can now catch the jist of the odd news story on the radio and understand a tiny bit of conversations—again, progress we have made without really noticing we were making it.

So, all in all we have little to complain about at the moment. The weather has been perfect since our return from the UK. When summer finishes in the Algarve, what you get next is far more like another spring than an autumn, which makes this seasonally-affected blogger a very happy man :-)

Readers of Food and Wine Portugal will know that we decided last week to have a go at Weightwatchers, and I am proud to say that I have managed to lose 4 pounds of the weight gained by excessive consumption of clams, wine and custard tarts over the summer. A very positive result, although I have to confess that the sight of someone slurping a plate of fresh cockles, swimming in olive oil and butter, was almost heart breaking as we headed to the sands of Altura on Saturday with our packed lunch of salad (with a carefully calorie-counted portion of croutons.)

Even so, we intend to stick with it for a little while, if only to leave some room for some planned overindulgence as we approach our first big family Christmas in the Algarve. Rest assured though, that I didn’t move to the Algarve in order to ABSTAIN from eating cockles and clams!

That’s about it for now. Stay tuned over the next few days for the second in my series of articles exploring the costs of living here in Portugal-this time focussing on the work situation. Have a great week.

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A Special Weekend 5

Posted on September 13, 2010 by Ben Algarve

Last weekend here in the Algarve was a good one. It was lovely to have a car again after feeling rather isolated at times in our little town.

On Saturday we ventured out and headed west to Praia da Gale, just past the tourist mecca of Albufeira. We were pleased that even here, the crowds had subsided and it did just feel

Praia da Gale

Praia da Gale

like a busy Saturday.

Praia da Gale is a west-facing beach with the signature orange cliffs, typical of this end of the Algarve, with just a few beach restaurants. One of these, actually just called Praia De Gale, we enjoyed on our last visit. We had exactly the same light lunch – bread, olives, clams and white wine. Simple and delicious and some of the best clams we have had this summer.

The only difference to our last (off-season) visit to Gale was that the sands were almost completely covered in sunbeds and sunshades for hire. Although this detracted from the natural beauty of the beach it gives us more reasons to come back to these places when the weather is not so good later in the year.

One “benefit” of the touristy stuff being there still was a small watersports hire company down one end of the beach. While we swam, we noticed a young couple climbing onto a long yellow banana boat. Riding one of these things, which is pulled along ridiculously fast by a boat in front, has been one of those things we have always intended to do, so completely on the spur of the moment we ran to the hut and asked if we could take a couple of the spare seats.

Five minutes later, we are bouncing along the open sea, in my particular case hanging on for dear life. Maybe I am getting old but I have to say it was just a little bit too much! Perhaps because there were only adults on the banana, the people driving the boat made no concessions for fear – particularly when they manoeuvred the boat in such a way as to deliberately send us all flying off the boat and into the deep water.

Banana Boat - Terrifying

Banana Boat – Terrifying

My wife thoroughly enjoyed the experience, despite having to be helped back onto the boat after we were all thrown into the sea, so I was a little embarrassed to admit I was counting down the seconds until we got back to the shore. It would be wrong to say I didn’t enjoy it at all, because it was certainly an experience, but my favourite part was when we were near enough to the beach that I could dive off the thing and swim back to solid ground.

I held on so tight to the boat that it was a couple of hours before my arms stopped shaking and the vibrations of the boat seem to have pulled every muscle I have. I am still, two days on unable to straighten my arms, or open the terrace doors without wincing!

After Praia Da Gale we headed to the Apolonia supermarket. Expats tend to have very strong opinions on Apolonia as there is really nothing remotely Portuguese about this upscale establishment that exists to sell expensive imported products to wealthy tourists. However, we make no excuses, we were celebrating our eleven year anniversary on Saturday and fancied a treat – and for that purpose, this cross between Waitrose and Harvey Nichols food halls is the perfect place. I will be posting a report on Apolonia over at Food and Wine Portugal, later in the week.

On Sunday we headed over to the new property that has been purchased by our relatives, who are, as I type, driving down to the Algarve through Spain, having just arrived on the Santander ferry.

We were greeted by the old owners – truly lovely people who reminded us of one of the biggest reasons we wanted to move to Portugal in the first place. They had left the place beautifully for when our family arrive and I am so excited for them to be starting their own Portuguese adventure in a few hours.

On the way home we had a quick beer overlooking the fishing boats on the sparkling sea in the village of Santa Luzia.

On return home I must confess to reading an English Sunday paper, something I promised myself I wouldn’t do once I moved here, that has now returned to being part of my Sunday

Roast leg of lamb

Roast leg of lamb

routine!

We finished a really special anniversary weekend with a leg of lamb we procured from Apolonia. It was very good indeed, especially after experiences of a lot of rather tasteless lamb we have come across since we have been here. My wife has already said this is what she wants to eat again on her birthday. Luckily, given the prices in Apolonia, that isn’t for a few months!

Have a good week!

Images credits: Jun Acallador, Filipe Rocha, dps

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