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

movingtoportugal


Archive for the ‘portugal’


Living in Portugal: Our New Home 0

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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East Algarve Paradise – Fábrica 3

Posted on September 15, 2014 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

When you’ve lived in the same location for several years, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and continue to visit the same places.

Often this is because you’ve found places you love, such as bars, restaurants and beaches, and see no real point in branching out. However, from time to time it’s refreshing to try to view your area with fresh eyes, and attack exploring it with the same zeal as when you first moved there.

Fabrica - Algarve Paradise

Fabrica – Algarve Paradise

With this in mind, when I decided to go for a quick Sunday moped ride, I opted against my usual cruise across the saltpans and around Tavira, and instead headed East along the Algarve Ecovia route, in the direction of the tiny coastal hamlet of Fábrica.

I’d been to Fábrica plenty of times before. In fact, the picture below was once a contender as the cover for our book.

Fabrica - Nearly the Moving to Portugal book cover!

Fabrica – Nearly the Moving to Portugal book cover!

However, this time around the tide was lower than I had ever seen it, and as I sat and had a drink, I noticed that people were able to make it on foot all the way out to the main beach and ocean, across the Ria Formosa.

It was clear that there would be some wading involved but I couldn’t resist. I hitched up my shorts and set off.

Within a short ten minutes I had found a route through the low water and arrived at the rear of the beach, which is technically the far eastern end of Cabanas Island. At high tide, this is a mere strip of sand (accessible by boat only), but I arrived at a vast paradise, populated by just a few people and some kite-surfers.

Fabrica - East Algarve - Portugal

Fabrica – East Algarve – Portugal

With the best will in the world, you do start to take for granted the beauty of where you live, but this was a real “wow” moment. I lingered and took a quick video clip that you’ll find on the Moving to Portugal Facebook page.

As I headed back, the previously warm shallow pools seemed considerably deeper than before, making a trip across this seascape perhaps a little foolhardy without watching the tides carefully to avoid becoming stranded. But that’s exactly what I intend to do over the coming years, as I can think of no better seaside paradise for my new son to play in once he begins to run around.

Wading across to Fabrica Beach

Wading across to Fabrica Beach

As I neared the shore once more, I noticed a couple staring intently at the sand before them. Unsure of what they were looking at, I paused a moment, and in all directions noticed an array of tiny scuttling crabs in all kinds of outlandish colours. Any human approach resulted in them disappearing down the hundreds of small holes in the sand, which I’d also failed to notice.

And that seems a fitting way to end this post. Just as familiarity with an area can stop you noticing its charms, failing to slow down, look and think can stop you noticing what is (and was in this case) right before your eyes. It’s time to redouble my efforts to explore this extraordinarily beautiful part of the world.

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Moving to Portugal Book Sale: One Week! 4

Posted on September 08, 2014 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

So, it’s September, the kids are back at school and the summer is drawing to a close.

Back to school

Back to school

It can be a rather depressing time of year for many, although it’s fair to say it’s not bad at all in the Algarve, where warm weather is all but guaranteed for another couple of months ;-)

If you’ve holidayed in Portugal this summer and are eager to come back, or if you’re already planning to move to Portugal, I have a little something to cheer you up on this Monday morning:

For one week only, I have initiated a “Kindle Countdown deal” on our Moving to Portugal book.

From now until next Monday, you can download the book to your Kindle for just £1.99 in the UK store or $3.25 in the US store—representing more than 50% off!

You’ll just need to jump in there quick, as the offer will end in one week’s time.

We hope you enjoy the book. It contains almost entirely unique content that hasn’t been on the blog before. If you do enjoy it, we’d be very grateful if you could leave a kind review on Amazon for us :-)

We hope this offer helps you relieve the post-summer blues. Have a good week.

UK Readers will find the book here:

Moving to Portugal

US Readers will find the book here:

Moving to Portugal

IMAGE CREDIT: Flikr

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10 Things I’m Loving 3

Posted on September 05, 2014 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

(Ben) I’ve been a bit up and down over the past few weeks, and sunk into the doldrums at one point, as several readers noticed when I posted this earlier update.

I’m pleased to say I seem to have snapped out of it, so I thought now would be a good time for a truly positive (if perhaps slightly random) post.

So I’ll make no apology for opting for every blogger’s “go to” post when they can’t think of anything else to write about. Here follows a list of ten things I’m loving right now.

  1. My Boy

Our son Freddie is nearly four months old at the time of writing. Sometimes it feels like it was only yesterday that we were in the hospital for the birth, but yet it simultaneously seems like a lifetime ago.

My primary source of joy

My primary source of joy

Regardless, the new addition to our little family brings me joy every single day. He constantly surprises me with new sounds, cute new expressions and new abilities (such as last night’s feat of moving to the opposite end of his cot when we weren’t even aware he could move that far!)

I won’t be a “baby bore,” but if you do want to read more about our early days with Freddie, you can check out my new Nervous New Dad blog.

  1. Continente’s Self Service Tills

Even though it’s September now, our local Continente supermarket is still a hell-hole, with queues stretching down the aisles and hundreds of people who can’t seem to master the simple process of weighing and labelling their fruit without making a song and dance out of it.

Thankfully, the bank of self service tills makes it possible to bypass the bulk of the hatefulness and get out of there quickly, and for that I must show my gratitude.

  1. My New Bowl

OK, this is a quirky one. About three years ago I made a tomato salad from a Jamie Oliver recipe in BBC Good Food magazine. In the magazine, the salad was pictured in a beautiful rustic porcelain bowl, and ever since I’ve wanted a bowl like it.

The trouble is, I’m a fussy sod, and I must have critically inspected hundreds of potential bowls in the intervening years, never being satisfied with what I found.

All that changed during a recent trip to Lisbon, where I found the “bowl of my dreams” at the Feira da Ladra market.

My bowl from Lisbon market

My bowl from Lisbon market

The bowl is now in general use, but I insisted that it was used to present a tomato salad first, which we served with rustic local bread, goats cheese and cured ham.

  1. Autumn

OK, it’s not really autumn yet. The sun’s blazing outside and the temperature will pass 30 degrees by lunchtime—but autumn is a great time in the Algarve. It’s still hot, the sea’s warm, and we get the beaches and restaurants back from the tourists.

  1. Apple

Although I’m an IT consultant “by trade,” I seem to find myself doing more and more creative work these days and less and less with computers.

However, the past week has seen me having to work on a few Windows machines, often resulting in swearing and irritation.

It’s for this reason I’m feeling particular affection for Apple right now. Turning back to my MacBook after working with Windows 8 makes me truly glad I made the switch away from Microsoft, and I’m also rather excited about the forthcoming announcement of the iPhone 6.

Loving my MacBook

Loving my MacBook

Once you go Mac, you never go back.

  1. Portugal’s Re-emergence

Portugal’s been through some really rough times over past years, but now the country seems to be having a run of good news. The bail-out is done and dusted, demand for government bonds is outstripping supply, and unemployment is down.

On a local level, we’re seeing new businesses launching successfully, including a very high end hotel near Tavira and an unusually posh restaurant in Cabanas. There are plenty of people around, and they seem to be finally spending. The estate agents all seem to be finally shifting properties too.

All of this is great news for the community, and the general sense of positivity should breed more opportunities and business ventures. I’ve even got a couple in mind myself!

  1. Dimitri from Paris

I said this list would be random!

I have to mention Dimitri from Paris, my favourite DJ, who released a superb compilation called “Dimitri from Paris in the House of Disco” back in early June.

My Album of the Summer

My Album of the Summer

Given that I buy new music almost constantly, the fact that it’s still that album playing in the background as I type this post is testament to my appreciation for it. My friends, on the other hand, are quite possibly bored to tears with it!

  1. The Trews

OK, time to stick my neck out a little, because Russell Brand is the Marmite (love him or hate him) of celebrities. However, watching his “Trews” updates on YouTube has become a daily activity for my wife and I.

Whether or not you agree with his politics, the fact he’s taking his time to explain how the media really works and exposing the lies and hypocrisy “the system” is truly based on is, in my eyes, highly admirable. I’ll leave it there.

  1. Eating Out

My wife and I have “rediscovered” eating out since we had Freddie, as it often proves easier to drive to a restaurant and dine while he sleeps next to us than it is to fight the supermarket crowds and cook at the end of our working day.

As a result, we’ve found a new appreciation for the variety and quality of restaurants on our doorstep, and been given inspiration for more content over at Food and Wine Portugal.

Rediscovering eating out in Portugal

Rediscovering eating out in Portugal

10. Anticipation

When I’m having a “low” period, I find it hard to look to the future, so it’s always invigorating to emerge on the other side and realise how bright things really are.

So, I’m concluding my list with “anticipation,” as we have tons of it right now. Next month we move to a new house (more on that soon). We also have several visitors coming from the UK, and (assuming the stars align correctly) these will hopefully include my mother who will finally be able to meet her new grandson.

Going on beyond that we have Freddie’s first Christmas, several interesting new work projects, and a trip to the UK (assuming Freddie’s passport is processed!) It’s all rather good.

I was going to contrast this list with a selection of “things I’m hating” for the sake of balance, but on reflection I’ve decided not to spoil the mood. Have a splendid weekend.

If you want to read more about moving to Portugal, check out our book here:

Moving to Portugal

Readers in the US can use this link to find the book:

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

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Escaping to Lisbon 7

Posted on August 26, 2014 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

(Ben) The Algarve is always mobbed with tourists at this point in the summer, and it’s fair to say that we usually reach a point where we’ve had enough of the invasion.

This year, we were at breaking point by the start of August, and felt the urge to get away. I was given the opportunity to do a bit of work in Lisbon, and we figured that as most of Lisbon’s population seemed to be in our little town, it would make sense to swap with them, and spend a little time in the city.

Lisbon Centre

Lisbon Centre

I headed up on the train by myself last Wednesday, with wife and baby following the next day by car. The train journey was a great experience (and good value too), but I’ll write about that in more detail in a future post.

As I had most of the first day to myself, I headed onto the metro system and took a wander around downtown Lisbon. I started off at Lisbon’s main food market, the Mercado da Ribeira, and was delighted to find that half of it has been turned into a huge “tapas hall” run by Time Out. I enjoyed various fishy tapas, which fuelled me for the long, hot walk up through the Baixa and Rossio districts.

Time Out Lisbon - Sardine Escabeche Roll

Time Out Lisbon – Fish Escabeche Roll

Once my wife arrived, we went and had dinner in the hotel restaurant, which I’ve reviewed on my Food and Wine Portugal blog here.

The following day, I went to check out the twice-weekly flea market, known as the Feira da Ladra. This was a truly fascinating experience, with stalls selling everything from tourist tat to complete tat, via genuine collectables and antiques.

Some of the “stalls” were no more than sheets on the ground covered with random items – I saw everything from single shoes(?) to old computer motherboards and 60s porn magazines. Much of what I saw wasn’t even fit for landfill, and I’m sure many stallholders sell nothing at all, but I have no doubt that people with the right eye could find real treasures amongst the millions of items on offer. Below are a few photos to give you an idea of what the market has to offer.

Lisbon Flea Market

Lisbon Flea Market

Lisbon Market - Random Items

Lisbon Market – Random Items

Lisbon Feira da Ladra

Lisbon Feira da Ladra – Dog not for sale..

Feira da Ladra Lisboa

Feira da Ladra Lisboa

After a quick lunch, and an exhausting uphill walk that got me nowhere near the castle (thanks for that Apple Maps), I returned to the hotel via some kind of inner city ghetto zone (thanks again, Apple Maps), where our three-month old son had truly made the room his own. If you’re interested, I’ve written an article about holidaying with a new baby on my new Nervous New Dad blog here.

We dedicated the rest of our stay to exploring a couple of places on the outskirts of Lisbon, with a view to a potential move up there at some point in the future. We tend to blow hot and cold about staying in the Algarve, and sometimes feel the urge to move closer to the city. For now, however, we’re just interested in getting a feel for some of the places we could live.

The first place we explored was the surfing mecca of Ericeira, around 40 minutes drive from central Lisbon. Although the place was absolutely stunning (see photo), it wasn’t for us. It seemed rather too self-consciously quirky, and parking was horrific. For us, it was like getting Brighton’s “The Lanes” district, without getting all the other good stuff in Brighton. It was a fine day out, but neither of us got that “we could live here” feeling.

Ericeira Near Lisbon

Ericeira Near Lisbon

We felt very differently about Alcochete, a small town facing Lisbon over the Tejo estuary. The town had a great feel, and the journey to Lisbon was both simple and beautiful, over the iconic Vasco de Gama bridge. The town also had a river beach with warm (but sadly rather dirty looking) water. There were people swimming there, but I’m not sure it was the best idea—there was certainly no blue flag to be seen.

For now, we’re happy enough where we are, but if we do decide to head closer to the city one day, Alcochete is certainly on our short list.

Alchochete Near Lisbon

Alcochete Near Lisbon

So, now we’re back in the Algarve with only a few weeks until the place quietens down. Until then, we will keep our heads down and get on with our work, and wait patiently to get our little town back!

As mentioned earlier, you can read more about our first breaks with the new baby over at my Nervous New Dad blog.

If you want to read more about moving to Portugal, check out our book here:

Moving to Portugal

Readers in the US can use this link to find the book:

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

Posts you might like:

Portugal vs. England! 6

Posted on July 10, 2014 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

(Ben) As you undoubtedly know if you’ve followed the blog for a while, it’s been a rather long time since I posted an update from Portugal.

I won’t apologise, as adjusting to having a new baby at home leaves us with little time, and I now plan to type quite a long update to make up for it.

Last week, I took a little trip to London. My mother had a major operation earlier in the year and I’d wanted to visit sooner, but the NHS decided to schedule the operation to coincide with Louise’s due date.

Going back to the UK always provides me with plenty of inspiration for the blog, because after so long in the Algarve I cannot help but make contrasts between my old life (and home) and my new one.

A taste of my old life

A taste of my old life

Over the years, I’ve learned that it’s best not to take to the keyboard and rant on the day of my arrival in London for fear of offending those who still live in the big city. However, it’s proof that I’m living in the right place that I usually spend my first 24 hours in the UK feeling unsettled, stressed and annoyed.

It always begins with the simple things: Why do I always have to wait nearly an hour for my luggage at Gatwick despite already having waited in an immigration queue for ages? HOW MUCH is my train ticket into London? Why are there SO MANY people here? Why don’t they TALK to one another instead of gazing at their iPhones? You probably get the picture.

This trip back was particularly gruelling as I arrived in London during the evening rush hour on the hottest day of the year. I got to my London-bound train just as the doors were closing, and was surprised that I managed to squeeze my suitcase into the vestibule. I was even more surprised when at least eight other people squeezed on behind me into the same vestibule, complete with eight more suitcases and a bike. As I gasped for air and tried to contort my arms enough to remove the antibacterial hand gel from my bag, I couldn’t help but wonder how on earth I managed to put up with London commuting for over a decade.

By the time I arrived at my destination I was hot and bothered and experiencing what could only be described as sensory overload. I stood outside the train station feeling truly overwhelmed by the number of people, and genuinely surprised that I felt like such a fish out of water in a place I’d lived for so long.

Clapham Junction - A Blast from the Past

Clapham Junction – A Blast from the Past

After a quick and easy hotel check-in, I popped in the bar for a bottle of beer, which I drained in minutes due to the heat. I then found myself wondering how much longer it would be until someone came and asked if I wanted another one. Then I remembered that it doesn’t work that way in England, and that I’d have to go and get it myself. I then calculated that (based on current exchange rates) two beers in the hotel bar would cost as much as 10.2 bottles of Sagres in my local at home, and decided to give the second one a miss.

The next morning, I truly was a visitor in my old life, as I had to set off first thing to do a job on a client site. By now I was beginning to enjoy the change of scenery rather more, but still couldn’t help but notice things, such as how miserable everybody looked despite the sunshine, and the fact that there must have been around £4000 worth of smartphones and tablets contained within every three metres of train space.

With my work complete, I went off to meet my mum, and it was at that point that I began to enjoy London life. We went to the theatre in the evening, something always certain to give me a reason to miss the easy access to culture that I used to benefit from. People spotting in Soho was lots of fun too, but most of all it was wonderful to see my mum after so long, and to see her looking so much better than she did last time I saw her. Indulging in various foods I’ve missed for months was pretty damn good too.

Gourmet burgers in London

Gourmet burgers in London

Thanks to the wonders of free hotel Wi-Fi and FaceTime, I was able to maintain regular contact with home, and I checked in with Louise and our baby at least a few times each day. I have a lovely screenshot of him smiling at me on the camera, although I think the fact that daddy had turned into an iPad may have spun his little head a bit.

The rest of my few days flew by, and before I knew it I was back in Faro, complete with lots of little presents for the family and a selection of bargains from the 99p shop, all of which will save us many Euros over the coming weeks.

So, all in all it was a good trip, but one that only went to reinforce the fact that Portugal is now my true home—something emphasised by the fact that it took me 48 hours to stop speaking Portuguese in shops by mistake.

Back to paradise

Back to paradise

Hopefully I’ve managed to be as balanced as possible in my account of my trip, and stopped short of offending my London associates. However, I must have a few little mini-rants before I step away from the keyboard:

  1. How does anyone cope with the dreadful mobile data network in the London area without smashing their smartphone in frustration? Perhaps it’s the sheer number of people, but I’ve not had such problems with connectivity anywhere else in the world.
  1. How is it that the UK media blame the EU for excessive rules and regulations when there are seemingly more of them IN the UK then anywhere else in Europe? “No glass bottles outside!” “No smoking on this section of pavement!” “No flip-flops in the bar!” “No cash payments on the bus!” Come on! Just let people live their lives.
  1. £4.80 for a 330ml bottle of beer? Seriously?!

Fancy a change from UK life? Read about how you can do it in our book: Moving to Portugal

Readers in the USA will find it here.

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Cleaning up Cabanas 2

Posted on March 26, 2014 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

(Ben) Due to the nature of my work, I have the wonderful luxury of keeping to the schedule my body prefers. Of course this is likely to change drastically in the coming weeks when our baby arrives, but up to now I have tended to revert to what could only be described as a “teenage schedule” – sleeping in and working into the evening.

Last Saturday, we decided to join a group of volunteers in cleaning up the beach and riverfront in the nearby resort town of Cabanas. We both liked the idea of actually doing something for the community for once. In my case, my most significant act of charity was definitely the fact I had to get out of bed before 8AM to meet in the town at nine!

Cleaning up Cabanas

Cleaning up Cabanas

On arrival, everything was very relaxed in a typically Portuguese way. In fact, I probably would have got away with an extra hour in bed! Local army members were there as part of the effort, and after some milling around we were all given some bin bags and water, and allocated parts of the area to clean up.

The army await the cleaning volunteers

The army await the cleaning volunteers

We were part of a group allocated to tidy up an area of marsh and sand to the West of the town. By the time we wandered that way the sun was blazing down. If this was supposed to be work, then I’d happily do a lot more of it. The views were beautiful, and complemented by the warm feeling you get from doing something good!

Not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning in Portugal

Not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning in Portugal

Thanks to the large number of volunteers, our area was cleaned up very quickly. We turned down the kind offer of a complementary barbecue lunch, as all the bending down had rendered a very pregnant Louise in need of a nap!

We thoroughly enjoyed helping to clean up Cabanas. Woe betide anyone we see dropping litter from now on! Best of all though, I was reminded of why it can sometimes be good to rise early from my bed. I was sunburned before I’d usually have pulled up the shutters. However, with sleep pattern decisions soon to be taken out of my hands, I will make no apologies for any late awakening until the baby arrives. At least he will have a lovely clean beach to play on in the summer.

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Butterflies, buds and bellies – Portugal in spring 7

Posted on March 03, 2014 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

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

Portugal in spring - buds and flowers are everywhere

Portugal in spring – buds and flowers are everywhere

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

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

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

“You’re not Portuguese, are you?”

Portugal in spring - pink sky at night

Portugal in spring – pink sky at night

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

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

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

Portugal in spring - pretty white flowers

Portugal in spring – pretty white flowers

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

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

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

Portugal in spring - river path

Portugal in spring – river path

If you would like to know more about our early days in Portugal and how we got to where we are now, please feel free to check out our book:

Moving to Portugal: How a young couple started a new life in the sun – and how you could do the same
US Readers will find it here.

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Seasonally Affected in Portugal 8

Posted on February 19, 2014 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

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

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

Algarve Weather - nothing to write home about

Algarve Weather – nothing to write home about

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

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

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

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

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

UK TV Gone in Portugal

UK TV Gone in Portugal

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

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

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

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

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

Whenever you're ready summer

Whenever you’re ready summer

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

Moving to Portugal: How a young couple started a new life in the sun – and how you could do the same
US Readers will find it here.

Posts you might like:

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