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

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Archive for the ‘portugal’


Christmas in Portugal: Vila Real de Santo Antonio 6

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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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

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