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

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Some More Random “Moving Home” Observations 1

Posted on April 21, 2015 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

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 12

Posted on April 14, 2015 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

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 2

Posted on April 09, 2015 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

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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Moving Back from Portugal – Some Early Observations 14

Posted on March 18, 2015 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

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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Christmas in Portugal: Vila Real de Santo Antonio 10

Posted on December 09, 2014 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

Christmas in Portugal was rather magical for our first couple of years here, helped by the beautiful lights in our local town of Tavira. I talked about them in this post, and it’s really hard to believe I wrote it five whole years ago!

Due to the financial crisis, things have been a little flat in many Algarve towns in recent years, with slashed budgets meaning that last year Tavira only really got a tree. Still, it did better than some towns that got nothing at all.

Christmas in Vila Real de Santo Antonio

Christmas in Vila Real de Santo Antonio

We’re hoping Tavira has the “old” decorations back this year, but we’ve not had a chance to visit after dark (and given that our six month old son screams during dark car journeys, that chance won’t come easy!)

Anyway, we wanted to go somewhere where Christmas cheer was guaranteed, so we headed to the border town of Vila Real de Santo Antonio, which always makes a big effort for Christmas.

The highlight, as ever, was the huge indoor nativity scene, featuring thousands of animated figurines, complete with impressive lighting and water features. This year, there was the addition of “flying” doves over the scene too. It was as enchanting as ever and the aforementioned six-month-old seemed suitably spellbound.

Vila Real Christmas Scene

Vila Real Christmas Scene

As well as the nativity scene, there’s ice skating (on a rather small scale), a Santa’s grotto, and a small craft and food market.

All the typical Portuguese “festival foods” were present and correct: farturas (akin to donuts), smoked octopus and (most importantly for Christmas) freshly roasted chestnuts. Mulled wine was the only thing absent, but we can’t expect to find British drinks on the border of Spain and Portugal!

Portugal Christmas: Chestnuts

Portugal Christmas: Chestnuts

In case you’re not familiar with the place, Vila Real also boasts some decent kitchen and textile shops, so is a good place to grab gifts. However, it’s worth noting that everything starts to wind down quite early for Portugal (8/9PM), which is surprising when summer markets often don’t get started until after that point.

Vila Real Christmas Craft Market

Vila Real Christmas Craft Market

If you’re in the Algarve during the holiday season, I highly recommend a trip to Vila Real de Santo Antonio. It may not quite match Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland, but it’s cheaper, easier, and just as likely to spark that festive feeling.

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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Christmas Gifts for Portugal Fans 5

Posted on December 01, 2014 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

It’s now December, so even the “haters” now have to accept that Christmas is coming and give into festive cheer! Or at least that’s the theory!

With that in mind, today I’m going to suggest a few items that would make great Christmas presents for people who love Portugal, or perhaps even plan to move to the country like we did.

1. Piri Piri Starfish

This is our all-time favourite Portuguese recipe book, with lots of evocative writing about the country and it’s cuisine.

Piri Piri Starfish - A great Portuguese recipe book

Piri Piri Starfish – A great Portuguese recipe book

It’s also (sadly) one of only a couple of the recipe books we’ve bought over the years that’s still in print and readily available, with others now becoming rather hard to find. Grab it while you can!

It’s on Amazon UK here:

Piri Piri Starfish: Portugal Found

Readers in the US should find a copy here:

Piri Piri Starfish

2. Moving to Portugal – The Book

Yes, it’s our own book, and yes, this is a shameless plug. But if you buy if, for yourself or a friend, we get a small Christmas present in the form of a royalty payment too ;-)

Moving to Portugal

Moving to Portugal

Find it here on Amazon UK:

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

3. Rosetta Stone Portuguese

If you’re really serious about learning Portuguese, then Rosetta Stone really is the “gold standard” in language-learning.

Rosetta Stone Portuguese

Rosetta Stone Portuguese

It’s worth pointing out that Rosetta Stone teaches Brazillian Portuguese, which is a little different from European Portuguse – rather like speaking American English rather than UK English, but you’ll still be understood – and certainly understood better (and respected more) than the many expats who think that speaking English loudly in Portugal is the way forward!

Rosetta Stone Portuguese is on Amazon UK here:

Rosetta Stone Portuguese (Brazil) Complete Course (PC/Mac)

And on Amazon.COM here:

Learn Portuguese: Rosetta Stone Portuguese (Brazil) – Level 1-3 Set

4. The Book of Disquiet

The Portuguese are very proud of their literary heritage, and there’s no better place to start than with this translation of Fernando Pessoa’s “Book of Disquiet.”

Fernando Pessoa - The Book of Disquiet

Fernando Pessoa – The Book of Disquiet

It’s not the easiest of reads, but an essential for anyone who wishes to immerse themselves in Portuguese history and culture.

It’s on Amazon UK here:

The Book of Disquiet (Serpent’s Tail Classics)

US Readers will find it here:

The Book of Disquiet (Penguin Classics)

5. The Rough Guide to Portugal

We have a shelf full of Portugal guide books for the use of us and our guests, but if we could only have one, it would have to be the Rough Guide.

Rough Guide to Portugal

Rough Guide to Portugal

Some of our other guidebooks are better in terms of photos, but often gloss over places that are worthy of explanation. So if you’re setting off to really explore Portugal (and you really should!) this is the book you need.

Find it on Amazon UK here:

The Rough Guide to Portugal

Or on Amazon US here:

The Rough Guide to Portugal

We hope this list helps you with a few ideas for you and your Portugal-loving friends! Seasons Greetings!

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Life in Portugal: An Algarve Mini Break 2

Posted on November 05, 2014 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

There are plenty of great things about living in Portugal, but we particularly love the ability to enjoy everything the Algarve has to offer in the off-season period. 

There’s nowhere in the whole region that’s much more than an hour’s drive away, which allows us to enjoy last minute breaks when the weather is fine and the prices are cheap. It’s genuinely possible to stay for around €40 per night in resorts that people will have been paying €250+ for just a couple of months ago. 

That’s exactly what we did last weekend, as we noticed from the long term forecast that we probably had our last chance to enjoy some hot sunshine before Autumn truly set in. Although it’s still warm during the day, it’s getting decidedly chilly once the sun goes down, and the clock change a couple of weeks ago has certainly made the days feel far shorter.

Our very own cove in Portugal

Our very own cove in Portugal

We set off after work on Friday for a cliff-top resort near Carvoeiro. We were undecided on where to go until we realised that the one thing we hadn’t done this summer is spend much time on the beach. The resort in question had direct access to a gorgeous little cove, so seemed perfect.

As it turned out, we spent very little time on the beach itself. The path down to it was very steep and rocky, making the journey rather arduous with a five-month old and a buggy. The water was also rather rough. However, it was no problem to us, as we spent all of Saturday relaxing in the hotel grounds, reading and enjoying the view.

A fine Algarve view to wake up to

A fine Algarve view to wake up to

Unfortunately, after a sunny start on Sunday, the clouds descended. All three of us (baby included) were feeling so relaxed that we were in danger of napping the day away, so we decided to drive to Portimão to visit the Algarve’s only Primark store (sad, I know!)

This perhaps wasn’t the best decision. Although we managed to bag several bargains (including our son’s first Christmas outfit), it did occur to us on our return to the resort that we’d wasted one of two “holiday days” at a shopping centre!

So, after a fine dinner of arroz de pato (duck rice) and salad in our accommodation, Monday came around, all too quickly, and it was time to head home and get on with our work. On the way, however, we did fit in a trip to our favourite burger joint in Almancil for a delicious lunch.

Burgers on the way home

Burgers on the way home

Although our mini break was over in the blink of an eye, it ticked the relaxation box and gave our motivation a much needed boost. We enjoyed loads of precious family time, took some great photos, and made some memories. Best of all, we didn’t need to feel too sad about it coming to an end, as living in Portugal means we can do it all again some other weekend without breaking the bank. It’s all good.

Interested in living in Portugal? Check out out book! Moving to Portugal

Readers in the USA will find it here.

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Only in Portugal! 3

Posted on October 27, 2014 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

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
Meravista

(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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Portugal versus Spain 0

Posted on October 17, 2014 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

(Lou) In my professional capacity I often come across couples who, like Ben and I, have decided that life is not limited to the UK simply because that was where they happened to be born. I’m often curious to hear about their experiences of buying homes overseas and, when I recently came across two couples, one of which had bought in Portugal and the other in Spain, I was eager to compare and contrast their experiences.

Moira and Colin Hutchinson opted for Portugal, buying a delightful apartment on a modern development in the pretty fishing village of Cabanas in the eastern Algarve through Ideal Homes Portugal. Their move out here will take place once Colin retires and at present they are splitting their time between the UK and Portugal.

Moira Hutchinson Photo at O Pomar LRThe Hutchinsons came across Ideal Homes Portugal through a TV advert – an advert that was to have a greater impact on their lives than either of them could have predicted. They flew out on an inspection trip and found the holiday/retirement apartment of their dreams. They arranged to furnish it over the internet, then shipped out their possessions through Algarve Removals.

Their key piece of advice to those looking to move to Portugal is to organise the furniture for their new home before moving to it, as it can be a lengthy process, something which Ben and I discovered recently when we were told the dining table we wanted to buy would take at least a month to deliver. Knowing that a Portuguese ‘five minutes’ can be anything up to two hours, goodness only knows how long a month’s delivery might take!

Moria and Colin are delighted with their apartment and are already enjoying spending an increasing amount of time in Portugal, prior to moving out here fulltime when Colin retires. The culture, cuisine and weather top their list of reasons for loving Portugal.

DSCN0100 LRMeanwhile, across the border in Spain, Mike and Val Reay cite the weather, wine and food as the key drivers behind their choice of country, as well as the stunning scenery to be found when one veers from the beaten track. Like the Hutchinsons, they opted for a new build, high spec development, buying through Taylor Wimpey España. Again like the Hutchinsons, a sea view was important, along with plentiful outside space.

Having read so many horror stories about Brits buying in Spain, they were relieved to find that the buying process was actually very clear and straightforward. They now split their time between the UK and Calpe in Spain, spending two months alternately in each.

The key piece of advice to come out of the Reays’ experience was the use of a bilingual lawyer. Having someone who spoke both Spanish and English fluently and was able to explain legal terms to them was a very reassuring part of the whole process. (Ben and I have definitely found this to be the case here in Portugal, where our fabulous lawyer is able to explain the finer points of Portuguese law to us in flawless English.)

Mike and Val ReayBoth the Hutchinsons and the Reays found their overseas property purchase to be easier than they might have anticipated. They have quick access from the UK to their second homes and are able to enjoy the glorious weather, welcoming atmosphere and distinctive cuisine of their country of choice whenever they wish.

As to who chose the better country (Spain or Portugal), it will come as no surprise to readers that Portugal gets my vote. While I love spending time in Spain and Ben and I cross the border frequently to stock up on Spanish foodie treats and explore western Spain, there’s always a big smile on my face at the end of the day when we cross the river and head back into Portugal.

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