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

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Archive for the ‘Moving abroad’


Missing Portugal… 2

Posted on May 18, 2015 by Ben Algarve

I woke up missing Portugal today.

It didn’t help that when my wife opened the blind this morning it didn’t really get any lighter in the room! After a weekend of weather that was sunny enough for sunburn, today we have wind whistling through the house, and a sky so grey it looks like a melancholy tribute to Monday mornings…

It’s funny how things work out, because we had a superb weekend. We had some friends come down and spent lots of time in the sun – on the beach, at home, and in several pub gardens! It really was idyllic, and weekends like this make us very pleased that we chose this place to live.

A beautiful British pub garden

A beautiful British pub garden

So it’s funny that I feel wistful for Portugal on today of all days. However, I think I may have discovered why it works like this, thanks to a very astute forum comment from someone going by the name of “GeniB,” which I will now paraphrase (with permission).

She speaks of a warning from her brother before she first set out to move countries; He said that she was about to become a “third country person.” The meaning of which wasn’t clear to her at the time.

She understands it now, and I do too. The “third country” is a fictional place, created in your mind, that encompasses the best parts of the countries you have lived in. It’s where “home” would be in an ideal world.

For me, it would be the England we’ve just spent the weekend enjoying, with our good friends and our children, but with a week of solid sunny weather now on the cards to make Monday a little more cheerful. Obviously there would be a pool outside the window (and my electric moped). My “third country” would still have London an hour away by train, but also be walking distance from the kind of beaches I now have to fly to.

Weather in Portugal: Impossible not to Miss

Weather in Portugal: Impossible not to Miss

The supermarket in my “third country” would be AWESOME – because it would sell British sausage rolls and jam doughnuts, but also a huge selection of Portuguese wine at 3 Euros or less. And every time you went to it you’d bump into someone you knew, because both your English and Portuguese friends would shop there. Shoppers would shop at Portuguese pace, but the checkout folks would work at English pace ;-)

Anyway, that’s enough daydreaming, because sadly my “third country” only exists in my head. Ultimately you have to choose one of the other, at least until you retire! I wouldn’t want to swap back to Portugal permanently, because overall I’m happier here in the UK. But I’d do anything to be able to teleport there for a day or two each week. In the absence of a teleporter, I think it might be time to book some flights for a quick trip back!

Eating tapas in England

Eating tapas in England

What would YOUR “third country” be like? Let me know in the comments!

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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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A Few Reasons why we Left Portugal 14

Posted on April 14, 2015 by Ben Algarve

Just a quick post today, but one that I’ve really agonised about writing.

Last time I posted, I was discussing our mixed feelings about being back in the UK, and alluded to a certain sense of homesickness for Portugal.

I’m pleased to say that (for now at least) the homesickness has abated. Right now I don’t think I could possibly be more certain that we’ve done the right thing.

Of course, the fact the weather in the UK is glorious today (and significantly warmer than the Algarve!) has a part to play.

Weather in the UK

Weather in the UK

However, it’s actually more been related to a succession of recent reminders as to why we decided to leave.

I’ve yet to go into that much detail about all the reasons and motivations behind our decision, but one of them was definitely that the slow pace of life we’d moved to Portugal specifically for came to be one of our major bugbears. We just weren’t ready to slow down that much, and the fact we came from London, rather than a small town, made the difference even more pronounced.

Examples of this have come through thick and fast this week: Our Portuguese accountant said we’d have our tax estimate “in the first week of April.” It was therefore annoying to politely ask when to expect it at the end of the second week, only to receive a curt response saying it wasn’t done yet – with no commitment whatsoever to another date when we could reasonably expect it.

Deadlines - Often Missed in Portugal

Deadlines – Often Missed in Portugal

Then, following on from having our Portuguese car cleaned and valeted, we relisted it for sale, with the price clearly marked. This hasn’t stopped at least three people asking for the price. One wonders how they are ever going to complete a vehicle transaction if they can’t read three paragraphs of text.

Then there are the expat chancers who think a “sensible” offer for a car is nearly half your asking price.

My wife’s fun and games have involved our Portuguese bank, where getting them to answer the phone, let alone send a simple, promised email, seems completely beyond their capabilities.

Then there’s the clear contrast between doing business in the two countries. I’ve just increased my hourly consultancy rate by the equivalent of €14, with the full approval of every UK client I’ve asked. In Portugal I’ve had people object to paying that for a morning’s work.

Portugal - we still miss this beautiful place

Portugal – we still miss this beautiful place

Let’s get something clear. I love Portugal. I adore it, and miss it every day. But I don’t miss any of this nonsense. There’s just too much short-termism, too much vagueness, and too many people who think that working for cash instead of doing things properly is subversive and clever, rather than something that just goes to ensure they will never have a stable economy they can truly thrive in.

Shortly after I moved to Portugal, someone told me something. They said that if a Portuguese business has a target of taking €100 per day, but somehow takes €200 on the Monday, they won’t see it as smashing their target; Instead they’ll close on the Tuesday and take it easy.

There’s nothing wrong with this. Nothing at all. But it’s not us. It’s never been us, and I can’t imagine that it ever will be.

I’m prepared for flack for writing this, having seen how defensive people were when I dared to suggest there was more choice in UK supermarkets than those in Portugal! However, I’ve always set out to give an honest account of my experiences.

There are loads of comebacks to what I’ve said here. I should be more patient, perhaps, or try harder to understand the culture of the country I moved to? Both are fair comments, to a point, but I’m trying to paint an honest picture for people thinking about moving to Portugal.

If you’re prepared to slow right down, put up with people continually missing deadlines without getting irritated by it, and are content to quibble about sums of money that wouldn’t buy you a weekly London TravelCard, then you’ll be perfectly happy. We weren’t as prepared for this as we thought we were, and life got frustrating. I hope at least some readers appreciate me pointing this out.

One final point: You obviously cannot write a post like this without some generalisation. There are clearly thousands of highly dynamic Portuguese people who meet their deadlines and reply to emails when promised. There are probably even some expats who do everything by the book, rather than cherry-pick the rules that suit them. I’m only sharing our experiences, not seeking to tar everyone with the same brush. So please bear that in mind before attacking me in the comments :-)

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Blowing Hot and Cold 3

Posted on April 09, 2015 by Ben Algarve

It’s far too early to say whether or not our decision to move from Portugal back to the UK was the right one, but we’re being asked the question an awful lot already!

All I can therefore do is tell you how we’re feeling about it right now – and to put into context how much things have changed, I’m currently typing this on a commuter train home from London!

That side of things isn’t bad at all, surprisingly. Especially as I type this, because the Easter holidays meant the London commute (thankfully something I only have to do once per week or so) was hassle-free. The fact it’s been gloriously sunny today in South East England has helped too.

Zooming to work and back

Zooming to work and back

I should also add that after several years away, I again feel that shiver of excitement as I pull into the big city, whack up the volume on my iPhone, and join the throng heading for the tube. When I left I’d truly had enough of it, and if I had to do it daily I soon would again, but being part of the beating heart of the city is something you come to miss, assuming of course that it appeals to you in the first place.

In other respects it’s been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. We’ve just finished the long Easter weekend, which flew past heartbreakingly quickly, especially as it was the longest work-free break we’d had since Christmas (and that does include the time we were moving countries!)

In the run up to the break we were loving every minute of being in England – and not in a “rose tinted” way. We’ve really settled in our new house, and love our local town and all it has to offer.

Then Good Friday came around, and we were reminded of what a cruel mistress the British climate can be. We stoically set off for our planned drive around the coast anyway – a coast that turned out to be so foggy and dull we couldn’t see the sea despite driving within metres of it. Meanwhile, Algarve weather reports taunted us from afar.

A grim UK day

A grim UK day

After a relaxed Saturday, we had friends around for a dinner party on Sunday. It was lovely to chat about careers and politics instead of expat life and village gossip. Once again everything felt right.

Unfortunately a boozy dinner party now takes me twice as long to recover from as a three-day festival would have “back in the day,” so I felt distinctly jaded as the long weekend came to an end, and with that came my second real burst of homesickness for Portugal.

Homesickness is a strange thing, because it really is like a kind of sickness, and one you have to wait to run its course. We experienced it several times for England throughout our early days in Portugal, and I’m sure it’s not the last time we’ll have an attack of it this way around.

The strange thing is that if I were to revisit the “pros and cons” list right now, it would still fall 80/20 in favour of being in the UK – but that’s talking about head before heart, and I’m pretty sure homesickness comes from the latter.

Anyway, let’s zoom back to now (or at least the time I typed this post).

Well, the sun’s still shining; the crowd on the train has thinned out, and I’m left sitting very comfortably with a table to myself. Soon I will hit the part of my train journey with lovely coastal views.

Meanwhile, I’m digesting a delicious burger and a peanut butter shake from Shake Shack in Covent Garden – something I would have obsessed about for days in the Algarve, but which today I was simply able to grab on my way home from work.

Burger from Shake Shack

Burger from Shake Shack

The simple fact is that both places have their pros and cons. If you took the opportunities of South East England and dumped them in the warm and picturesque paradise of the East Algarve, then the whole world would want to live there. In many ways (and on certain days) I still want to live there anyway…

BUT…that’s why we went through the pros and cons for such an agonising length of time. Deep down we know we made the right decision, but I’m sure I’ll always feel a sense of longing when I see the many photos of us enjoying our Portuguese dream, photos that now adorn the walls of our lovely new UK home.

Flipping it the other way, however, it took me ten minutes to type that last paragraph because I was transfixed by the beautiful view out of the train window. I think I can only conclude that your physical location is just a small part of a far bigger and more complicated picture…

IMAGE CREDITS: Wikimedia Commons

Please 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

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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Car Insurance After Returning to the UK – A Moan! 1

Posted on March 30, 2015 by Ben Algarve

One rather bitter lesson we learned from living abroad is that the universe doesn’t really seem to reward honesty and doing the right thing.

I’m one of those people (many would call me a mug), who likes to do things by the rules. This sometimes attracts incredulity – from clients who can’t believe I want to give them a proper invoice for a small piece of work, or from accountants who can’t understand why anyone would want to move to Portugal and do things right, rather than staying “under the radar.”

As part of our quest to do things right, one early issue for us (going back many years now), related to driving licences.

A Driving licence - The EU flag is meaningless

A Driving licence – The EU flag is meaningless

The laws around UK licences in Portugal will have expats arguing themselves in circles until they’re dizzy, but the basic facts are quite simple: If you have a UK photo card licence, and you no longer live at the address printed on it, the licence is technically invalid. This is partially due to a British law around not producing UK licences with foreign addresses on them.

The simple way around this is to visit your local IMTT in Portugal, who provide you with a supplementary piece of paper to go with your licence that makes it valid in Portugal. This is actually one bit of Portuguese bureaucracy that’s usually very easy to sort out.

A bigger problem occurs if your UK photocard expires, as happened to my wife. At this point, assuming you still live in Portugal, you have to go through the process of exchanging your licence for a Portuguese one.

Portugal

Portugal

The exchange took over a year for us, during which time we had to return to the IMTT three times to have a temporary form stamped (that’s a whole other story). But eventually Louise received a shiny Portuguese licence.

At that point we didn’t know we were going to move back to the UK. Nor did we know how much hassle this long-awaited licence would cause us.

Back in Britain, we purchased a cheap car from a friend, while we wait for someone to make a sensible offer for our car in Portugal. We thought sorting the insurance out would be a doddle. Not so.

The trouble is that car insurance decisions are pretty much all made by a computer, and that computer asks certain questions. If you don’t tick the right boxes, everything gets confusing.

For example:

“How long have you been resident in the UK?”

Erm…two weeks.

“Do you hold a full UK driving licence?”

Shit, no, it’s a Portuguese one.

Computer says no

Computer says no

The computer then assumes you’re a brand new Portuguese arrival who has never before driven on English roads, and goes on to quote you more for a year’s insurance than you paid for the car itself!

After sending one big firm packing, who thought the difference between a UK and Portuguese licence warranted a loading of £1400 on our policy, we finally found an acceptable deal, albeit one at nearly three times the price we were paying for insurance on a far more valuable car before we left for Portugal.

The lesson learned is a depressing one. None of the “under the radar” types who ignore all the rules would have had this hassle, or had to pay as much as us. Things like this seem to happen a lot.

We’ll never turn into different people. The fact we play by the rules is part of who we are. But it turns out there’s a hell of a price premium on doing things properly to sleep soundly at night. And that doesn’t seem at all fair somehow.

 

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Moving Back from Portugal – Some Early Observations 14

Posted on March 18, 2015 by Ben Algarve

Moving back to the UK after a long time in Portugal has been just as much of a shock to the system as when we did things the other way around. We’d become completely used to the Portuguese way of doing things, so it’s been a surprisingly interesting adventure.

In this post, I’m going to recount some of our initial observations and comparisons. It’s a terrible shame you can’t take the best of both countries and merge it all together somewhere in the hot sun!

Food, Glorious Food

The food in Portugal was one of the reasons we looked forward to moving there, and we still love it (enough to maintain Food and Wine Portugal!)

But….we have to be honest and say we started to get bored with a lack of variety, especially in the winter months, when we found ourselves in a bit of a rut of eating the same thing week in, week out.

Food in England - serious variety

Food in England – serious variety

Quite sensibly, Algarve restaurants often close for some of the winter or run with restricted menus, and there’s not so much of a takeaway culture. This is healthier, no doubt, but we had started to crave choice, and often found ourselves really uninspired by our options.

Well, now we have that choice. In the time since we left, food options in the UK seem to have multiplied far beyond what we remember, and all the shops seem to have all the products, all the time. Every trip to the supermarket or high street is both overwhelming and tremendously fun.

And now we DO have takeaway options: Chinese, Thai, Indian, Fish and Chips, Pizza, Kebabs – all to our door in thirty minutes. Not a habit we wish to get heavily into, but really exciting, not to mention useful when you are working, unpacking and baby-entertaining all at once.

I could go on for far longer about food, but for now England gets a big tick from us, even though we do already miss a few Portuguese dishes. However, what it really comes down to is that bacalhau aside (which would require a trip to London), there’s nothing we could get in Portugal that we couldn’t get here. There’s a LOT we can get here that we couldn’t easily get in Portugal. Oh, and all the supermarkets here deliver - very handy when you have a baby!

Booze, Glorious Booze

Now for the flip-side of the coin: beer and wine is expensive back in the UK. Really expensive.

In addition, when it comes to wine, it’s not actually that good here either. The entry cost for a bottle of wine seems to be about £6 in England now, and I’ve yet to be remotely impressed by anything at that price.

In fact, I wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that I could go into a Portuguese supermarket and choose ten reds at €3 and under that would all be better than any “budget” bottle in Britain.

Unfortunately, at £6-10 a pop, wine’s not something to waste, so my research will be slow! If the friend I spoke to last night on the subject is correct, the best option is to drink wine less frequently and splash out on pricier bottles. Either that or we will plan a trip to France soon!

Our last remaining bottle of Portuguese wine

Our last remaining bottle of Portuguese wine

On the other hand, beer and cider here is a delight, just in terms of variety, even though it’s obviously far more expensive than in Portugal. A serious craft-beer culture has sprung up in our absence too, making every (rare with a baby) trip to the pub a rather exciting experience.

Media

I have to say I’m loving having full access to English newspapers again, complete with all the magazines and supplements at the weekend. Although I could read a Portuguese newspaper, it would take me days, and with such basic comprehension I think a lot of nuance went over my head.

Yes, you can get English newspapers in Portugal, but the choice is usually The Sun or The Daily Mail, without any supplements included. I always found it quite entertaining that the only papers available to the expat immigrants to Portugal were the right wing, anti immigration options!

Then there’s TV: In Portugal we had a full Meo package and it was….OK. However, much of the “premium” output was American trash and we never found much to watch.

Now we have a full Sky package with “catch-up” and more box sets than we could ever get through. And we have a Netflix subscription too. We’ve barely had the time to play with any of it, but I can’t imagine us finding a time when we feel there’s nothing to watch.  Best of all, it all works without fudged VPN solutions and hassle, and it’s quick, thanks to an Internet connection that’s about five times faster than we could get in Portugal.

Weather

Well, there’s no contest here is there? Portugal wins all the way, and a week spent seeing 27-degree temperatures, along with Facebook barbecue pictures from friends, resulted in our first real attack of homesickness for Portugal.

It’s not all bad, however. It may not be anything like Portugal back in South East England, but it has been dry and largely sunny since our return. A brisk walk in the sunshine to warm up and it’s actually quite pleasant out there…or so I continue to convince myself!

The sun does shine in England sometimes

The sun does shine in England sometimes

However, what I am struggling with is the reality of the fact that it could conceivably be months until we have a day that resembles summer, and that’s hard to get used to. We didn’t realise how much we’d come to take the weather for granted until we were back.

Culture

After Portugal’s solid climate victory, the UK’s lost some ground, so let’s move onto “culture.”

Here the UK is winning…big time. It’s almost as if every show and performance we’ve ever wanted to see has all been arranged for our return – or perhaps there was always this much going on and we’d just forgotten.

It seems as if every week we hear of something else we want to go to. So far we’ve got tickets to see our favourite DJ (Dimitri from Paris) play on an outdoor terrace on May bank holiday; Tickets for a one-day-only concert performance of our favourite musical (Follies) at The Royal Albert Hall, and tickets for Chic, Grace Jones and Kylie at Hyde Park in the summer!

And that’s really just the start. We’re only just beginning to see festival line-ups; remembering about Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre…the list goes on. I don’t think we ever realised how much we missed all this stuff.

So, all in all we have a rather mixed bag of first impressions, but putting the weather aside, we’re finding much to inspire us back in the UK. Now if someone could just recommend a serviceable red wine for less than six quid, our lives will be complete!

If you’d like to read more about our five years in Portugal, please 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

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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The End of an Era 7

Posted on March 10, 2015 by Ben Algarve

It’s three months since I posted on this blog, so regular readers have perhaps been wondering what’s going on.

Well, the time has come to finally bring you up to speed.

At the beginning of the year, my wife and I came to the difficult decision to relocate back to England with our now nine-month-old son.

I guess at this point the big question is “why?” and it’s certainly one I’ve spent a lot of time answering amongst family and friends over recent weeks.

The fact is that there simply isn’t one easy answer to the question. It’s more like twenty different factors, each contributing to five-percent of the decision.

Our new beach - not in Portugal but in the UK

Our new beach – not in Portugal but in the UK

We spent some wonderful years in Portugal. Some of our time there came close to how we dreamed it would be; some things were easier than we expected; some things were far more difficult.

We learned a lot about ourselves in the process too. We learned what we need for a truly happy existence; we learned that you can be content in the cold and rain, and thoroughly miserable with the sun blazing through the window. Ironically, we also learned to build careers that allow us both to work from home, meaning that we now have more flexibility as to where we live in the UK than we did before we left!

Perhaps this is all a bit cryptic, and I guess that’s intentional, as I intend to refocus some energy on the blog in the near future and discuss all the things that contributed to our decision, as well as reporting on the ups and downs of our final months in the country.

For now, I will reassure you that our decision, although heart-wrenching in many ways, was the one that we unanimously made, and one we are extremely happy with. When we left for Portugal we were far more young and carefree; Now we’re a young family, with a different set of wants, needs and priorities. We feel the UK ticks more of our boxes for this next phase of our lives.

Meanwhile though, Portugal retains the part of our hearts it captured forever, and will surely call us back soon, if only for a holiday. Who knows what that priority list will look like in another five years?

 

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Only in Portugal! 3

Posted on October 27, 2014 by Ben Algarve

Boring techie stuff ahead – be warned!

As I mentioned last week, we’ve just finished moving into our new home in Portugal—or at least we thought we had.

It turns out that the finishing touches are still not quite…finished.

Our biggest challenge at the moment is all the technology, which is quite embarrassing when one of my working hats is that of an IT consultant.

Our house is modern, and beautifully built with a really good finish. Where the builder did go wrong is in deciding how many mains outlets to scatter around. The living / dining room sports just four sockets, one in each corner.

I want one of these

I want one of these

In a world where most people have at least a router, TV, DVD player and TV box, this is insanity. Yes, you can buy adaptors. I know this because we now have loads of them. At last count, we have seven items to plug in on our TV corner, several of which have big clunky plugs that cover up the neighbouring socket.

We’ve finally, thanks to a rather expensive product called PowerCube, been able to plug everything in without having to crawl behind the unit daily. You can take a look at it below – it’s really simple, yet really clever.

allocacoc 240V 4 Way Power Strip PowerCube Duo USB Extended

However, while we’re on the subject of “first world problems,” we’ve also had a problem with our Meo TV package (the Portuguese equivalent to Comcast in the US, or Sky in the UK).

I should have been in IT consultant mode when the engineer came to install it instead of naïve consumer mode, because it was a real bodge job. Like many modern Portuguese homes, we have some data cabling in the walls, but the same builder who was inexplicably stingy with mains plugs only gave us one data port by the TV, which wasn’t sufficient to run the cable up to the bedroom for the second Meo box.

MEO - Portuguese TV and Internet

MEO – Portuguese TV and Internet

What the engineer did was either highly ingenious or really daft, I’ve not quite decided yet. Essentially he used just one split cable both to feed in the ADSL connection, AND send a network connection upstairs in the opposite direction. I think I’ll go for “daft” on the basis that it worked for just a few days. I should have guessed when he was so keen to get out the door on installation day.

Rather than call them back, I decided to do my own thing. We had already (in a separate problem) discovered that our Wi-Fi gets nowhere near the top floor, which, in a cruel twist of fate, is where we’d decided to put our office room. So, I had that problem to sort out too.

I decided to use a clever “home plug” system from Devolo, which feeds the home network over the household wiring, and adds extra wireless access points. Details here:

Devolo dLAN 500 Wi-Fi Starter Kit

I have to say I was very impressed with these units, especially as their equivalents were worse than crap when I used to do IT work full time some years ago. There was just one problem though: they either die or slow down to a crawl as soon as they’re plugged into a multi-plug adaptor. As you will know if you’ve been paying attention, we HAVE to use those, as the builders of this lovely modern property decided one plug is plenty for the corner of a living room. (Although, as if to tease us, they fitted FOUR in the tiny upstairs cloakroom for some unknown reason).

So, as things stand, we still can’t use all of our electronic devices all over the house without lots of plugging and unplugging. We now have, at last count, six spare multi-plug adaptors, and miraculously STILL need to buy another one next time we go to the shopping centre.

The Powercube

The Powercube

I WILL prevail with this eventually – but until then, please don’t ask why our Wi-Fi doesn’t work on the top floor (especially when I “work in IT”), or why I’m crawling around behind the TV again. Anyone doing so may experience a painful encounter with a four-gang socket ;-)

I should point out that the products I’ve mentioned above are both REALLY good, and come highly recommended!

IMAGE CREDIT: Wikimedia Commons

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Living in Portugal: Our New Home 1

Posted on October 20, 2014 by Ben Algarve

(Ben) Just as we approach our five-year anniversary of living in Portugal, we have finally completed the move to our new home.

This weekend was hard work, and not helped by the fact that summer has decided to return to the Algarve.

Living in Portugal - Autumn Weather

Living in Portugal – Autumn Weather

Please don’t get me wrong, because I’m certainly not complaining about the weather shown in the image above! However, it certainly made moving the last five carloads of possessions an arduous and sweaty process, especially as most of the things left were those things you neither use nor want to throw away, so most of them had to be carried to the storage cupboards on the top floor of our house.

Our fast-growing “baby” boy wasn’t massively impressed with us. He didn’t find moving house very fun, even though he’s been given the biggest room in the new property all to himself! So now we’re done, it’s time to give him lots of cuddles and attention, something he’s unlikely to be short of this week when my mother and family arrive to meet him for the first time.

I have to confess that I’ve dragged a couple of this week’s tasks forward to next week. I’ve not seen my family for ages, and it seems very fortunate that their arrival coincides with such a beautiful week of weather. So I’ve decided to slack off a bit. I may not get sick pay, holiday pay, or any of the job security that comes with being an employed person, but every now and then being freelance is bloody great – just like living in Portugal :-)

Living in Portugal in the Sunshine

Living in Portugal in the Sunshine

Would you like weather like this in October? Check out out book! Moving to Portugal

Readers in the USA will find it here.

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Moving House in Portugal 4

Posted on October 06, 2014 by Ben Algarve

It’s a well-known theory that moving house is “one of the most stressful things you can do.”

I’m not convinced I buy into the theory, as I can think of plenty of other far more stressful things, but it’s certainly tiring, time-consuming and arduous. It’s what we’ve been doing for the past week and half, and the reason this blog has gone rather quiet lately.

Algarve sunset from our new home

Algarve sunset from our new home

We’ve not completed the move yet. I’d say we’re perhaps 70% of the way there, but thankfully we still have plenty of “cross over period” left, so we don’t have to rush too much with the final bits.

A simple post about the move would be rather dull, so I’ve decided to do a list post, talking about the good and bad bits of the move so far, which should paint an overall picture of how we’ve been getting on.

The Good Bits

  1. Taking in our beautiful new sea view from the roof terrace. I’ll be surprised if I ever get bored with this or take it for granted. One surprise has been the fact that it never occurred to us that the night view would be just as wonderful, when all the lights of the town twinkle below, and we can make out each of the departing fishing boats as night begins to fall.
  1. Buying lots of new things for our home, from electrical goods, via shelf units and bins, to treats for our infant son, including the pictured “jumperoo,” which is a great success, even though it’s twice as big as it looked on the box picture and could do with a room of its own!
New kids toys in the new house

New kids toys in the new house

  1. Feeling surprisingly fit and healthy, as a result of every single day being a non-stop mission of climbing stairs and lifting boxes—who needs the gym?!
  1. Cooking and eating our first meals in our new home, and enjoying the extra kitchen space—even though muscle memory is causing me to reach for everything in the wrong place and bumble about clumsily.
  1. Enjoying having south facing outside space, so that we can appreciate the evening sun. We did have a south facing terrace on our old apartment, but the one place where there was room for a lounger was directly below where the swallows nest each year, making sunbathing a treacherous and dirty experience…

The Bad Bits

  1. Breaking a few treasured items in the process of moving, including some serving dishes, and a much-loved steel saucepan that bit the dust in an “unfortunate” mini-inferno while I was foolishly trying to multi-task.
  1. Taking my holidaying father-in-law to hospital in Faro in the dead of night due to a stomach issue. (This is a “good bit” too, as he’s absolutely fine now, and was impressed with the care he received).
  1. Worrying that me treating said father-in-law to too much rich food and wine may have been the cause of the above!
Our first meal in our new house in Portugal

Our first meal in our new house in Portugal

  1. Being really proactive in changing all of our addresses only to find that we’d been given the incorrect postcode for our new home, requiring us to start all over again. This has resulted in a stern ticking off from one accountant, and silence ever since from another, who’s clearly unimpressed about having to do the work twice. It wasn’t my fault!
  1. Buying a five-gang socket to place behind the TV unit, then buying a six-gang socket as I realised I was one short, then realising today that the Internet people would need another one for the router. On the bright side, at least we will now have plenty of adaptors for Christmas lights later in the year.
  1. Realising, while I write this, that there’s still absolutely tons of stuff to move.
  1. Feeling sad watching all of the homeliness gradually being stripped away from our old apartment, where we’ve been very content for nearly five years. I feel oddly disloyal when I pop back there to grab something else. I’m a sentimental soul.

So there you have it. Our new house is gradually taking shape, and I hope that a week from now, we’ll feel like we’ve at least nearly finished. “Visitor season” is now upon us; after my father in law leaves on Wednesday we have six more people visiting between now and the beginning of November. Even with a nearly new baby, I wonder if we’ll wonder what we did with our time once all this calms down!

If you’re considering a move to Portugal, please check out our book!

UK Readers will find the book here:

Moving to Portugal

US Readers will find the book here:

Moving to Portugal

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