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

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Portugal Photography 2

Posted on January 20, 2014 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

Towards the end of last year I posted some wonderful Algarve photos that my brother-in-law, an aspiring photographer, took during his extended stay here in Portugal in the summer.

Today, I am following up (as promised) with a second collection of his photographs. I must confess that after a weekend filled with wind and rain, they are making me badly yearn for the summer, but sorting through them lifted my spirits – I hope they do the same for you.

Tavira by Night

Tavira by Night

Clear Algarve Water

Clear Algarve Water

Relaxing at No Solo Agua

Relaxing at No Solo Agua

The rural Algarve

The rural Algarve

Summer Golf at Vale de Milho

Summer Golf at Vale de Milho

Algarve West Coast Cliffs

Algarve West Coast Cliffs

Summer sunset

Summer sunset

Castro Marim Medieval Fair

Castro Marim Medieval Fair

A Pensive Algarve Goat

A Pensive Algarve Goat

Meerkat at Lagos Zoo

Meerkat at Lagos Zoo

Kittens by the sea

Kittens by the sea

The Alentejo Coast

The Alentejo Coast

All images (c) Robert Herring, all rights reserved.

Want to hear all about real life in Portugal? Please buy our book!

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

US readers can find it here: Moving to Portugal – the book.

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New Year, New Horizons – Portugal 2014 4

Posted on January 12, 2014 by Ben Algarve

(Lou) Having lived in Portugal for over four years now, it’s fair to say that some aspects of daily life in our new country have become routine. Certain interactions that would have invoked serious anxiety (mixed with excitement, of course) when we first arrived are now carried out without a moment’s thought.

A new era begins

A new era begins

2014, though, is going to be a year that is in many ways as nerve-wracking as our first months in Portugal – if not more so! It will be a year of firsts for us, as we navigate the unknown seas of having our first child and of yet more Portuguese bureaucracy as we go through the process of sorting out all of his paperwork.

With the news a few months ago that we were expecting a baby, we began our journey through the Portuguese state healthcare system. After a very bumpy start (numerous fruitless trips to the local Centro do Saude and being reduced to sobbing in frustration in the car park), I finally got to see my GP. From that point onward, things began looking up in terms of my experience of the medical profession.

Though the administration side of seeing the doctor still fills me with dread as each appointment approaches, the care that the bump and I have received from the medical staff has been truly excellent. Waiting times can be lengthy, but this is understandable once you get as far as the doctor. At each appointment so far, I have spent time with both the nurse and the doctor, with my face to face time with them ranging from 15 to 30 minutes.

New footsteps in the sand are eagerly/nervously awaited

New footsteps in the sand are eagerly/nervously awaited

It is a far cry from the five minute turnaround time I was used to in the UK. I’m still in two minds as to which system is better – one where you have fast access to the doctor but where your time with her is limited (as in the UK) or one where access is slow but you have as long as you need with the doctor, to ask as many questions as you feel you need to (as in Portugal).

Seeing the nurse has been an excellent experience for me personally, as she doesn’t speak any English. This forced me to learn a great many medical/birth-related Portuguese terms very quickly in order to communicate fully with her, which was excellent practice for when the big day arrives, as I have no reason to think that the midwife who eventually deals with me will happen to be fluent in English.

Portuguese language learning - all sorts of new words are now needed

Portuguese language learning – all sorts of new words are now needed

We still have four months to go, during which time we will no doubt experience many Portuguese ‘firsts,’ just as we did when we originally moved here. Many of those moments will be daunting, others will bring a sense of triumph, while yet more will no doubt result in a few more tears of frustration. I, for one, can’t wait.

If you would like to know more about our experiences of moving to Portugal, 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 can find it here: Moving to Portugal – the book.

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The Simple Life – Lou’s Update 8

Posted on November 18, 2013 by Ben Algarve

It’s a time of change for us at the moment. With summer behind us and a baby on the way, life is looking rather different than it did three months ago.

Autumn is the time for perfect sunsets

Autumn is the time for perfect sunsets

The change in the weather has meant we are enjoying long walks now that the sun has lost the ferocity of its mid-summer heat. We have been stretching our legs around our local villages, towns and beaches, relishing the peace that the Algarve offers now that the tourists have gone home for another season. Our walks have treated us to beautiful sunsets, desolate beachscapes and the reward of coffee and cake in near-deserted cafés.

Walking around the Algarve at this time of year has reminded us of the simple life that we came here for in the first place. We swapped a London commute for strolls in the sand and, while we do sometimes miss the convenience of life in the big city, the Algarve is now our home through and through. I can’t imagine any circumstances that would cause us to swap back.

Deserted beaches abound at this time of year

Deserted beaches abound at this time of year

This week also afforded us the chance to test out our blossoming language skills, when we were invited to a friend’s birthday dinner. The guests were half English and half Portuguese and it’s fair to say that we held our own in terms of conversation during the meal. It was a real triumph compared to how we would have managed even six months ago. It finally feels as though we are really getting somewhere with the language, which has given us a lovely confidence boost. Of course I’m also hard at work learning all sorts of pregnancy and birth-related words in Portuguese at the moment!

Perfect walking weather

Perfect walking weather

Our friend’s birthday dinner was a chance to enjoy life in Portugal at its finest. A huge table of us sat outside in the (extremely chilly) evening, feasting on prawns, grilled meat, bacalhau com natas and other savoury treats. The food was simple and delicious and followed by some fabulous Portuguese desserts. I confess I used the ‘eating for two’ excuse to consume a giant slice of tarte de natas. The meal was lengthy and packed with entertaining conversation and laughter – a truly wonderful experience and exactly the kind of thing we moved here for in the first place.

Enjoying the solitude

Enjoying the solitude

The next few months are going to bring even more changes for us as ‘the bump’ gets bigger and we prepare for the arrival of the newest member of our family. The pregnancy has refocused us and, despite the hateful hours spent on medical administration matters, made us realise that we are precisely where we want to be to bring up a child. The year ahead is going to be a rollercoaster, but I can’t think of anywhere else that I would rather be.

If you would like to know more about our move to Portugal to enjoy the simple life, why not 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 can find it here: Moving to Portugal – the book.

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A Positive Removals Experience 7

Posted on November 14, 2013 by Ben Algarve

Last week saw us pass a very significant milestone in our lives in Portugal: the 5th of November marked the start of our fifth year in the country.

The “anniversary” found us reflecting on how much has happened since, and also caused me to nostalgically look back at the early days of our move – not just getting here, but preparing for the move as well.

The other day, someone on a forum asked for recommendations for a removal company, and I gladly recommended Algarve Removals, the company we used for our initial move over here.

Algarve Removals

We were guided very helpfully though the process, especially in estimating how many cubic meters of possessions we had to move. We had sold most of our large items in the UK, but it was surprising just how many boxes we still had. However, it’s also surprising just how much you can fit into a carefully packed cubic meter.

When the transit van arrived in South London, it really was the point of no return for us! We spent out last few days in England with a bare minimum of possessions – and we even borrowed a duvet for the final three nights that we took back to a friend en route to Gatwick airport.

We’ve since used Algarve Removals to move another couple of cubic meters of accumulated possessions, and also made use of their online shopping service.

Lots to unpack on arrival in Portugal

All we had to do was make a big order from Asda Online, and have it delivered to their Essex depot. A few days later, it had been brought on their weekly delivery, and we had the fun of driving to collect it from their Alcantarilha site and then arrived home to unpack many bags of much-missed foodstuffs!

The home shopping service works for all kinds of items, and companies such as John Lewis and Screwfix are all happy to deliver to their depot. The shipping costs are very low, and with many items costing much more in Portugal, it’s possible to make substantial savings.

So if you’re planning to move to Portugal, don’t worry too much about what you may or may not be able to buy here in the country. You only need to allow a few more days, and you can continue to shop from your favourite UK stores.

I can sincerely recommend the service from Algarve Removals after three trouble-free jobs – and there will be more. At some point next year we need to visit the homes of some family and friends and round up all the things people have been “looking after” for us. With four years under our belts and a baby on the way, I don’t think we’ll be going back to the UK any time soon!

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Pregnancy and Anxiety in Portugal 11

Posted on November 07, 2013 by Ben Algarve

Hello from still very sunny Portugal! Today, I’m not going to offer my normal apology for neglecting the blog, as I have a very good (and happy) excuse: Louise and I are expecting a baby!

As such, we’ve (unsurprisingly) been rather busy. It turns out that getting pregnant in Portugal can be nearly as complicated as getting residency in Portugal. Not the actual getting pregnant part (minds out the gutter please people, this is a family blog).

What I’m talking about is the bureaucracy associated with getting pregnant in Portugal. While we’ve been more than happy with our interaction with the doctors here, getting to actually see them has been another matter entirely.

Baby time!

Baby time!

Getting the relevant paperwork took five visits to the local surgery and well over ten (increasingly exasperated) phone calls. On the bright side, we are now capable of complaining and “putting our foot down” in the Portuguese language to an almost native level!

Having obtained the paperwork, getting the correct dates put on it and the right boxes ticked took another three return visits to the surgery and around five hours of waiting and travel time. Maintaining our self-employed income whilst spending hours in doctor’s waiting rooms is a challenge to say the least.

We are both extremely happy and excited about the news. As our close friends will testify, “it’s taken us long enough.” However, as I’m sure anyone with children will already know, it’s all rather terrifying too.

Hospitals give me the fear

Hospitals give me the fear

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it on this blog before, but I suffer badly with medical anxiety, white coat syndrome, or whatever you’d choose to call it. Basically being shit-scared of anything to do with doctors and hospitals is probably the best way to describe it.

Having buried my head comfortably in the sand for nearly 40 years about anything remotely medical, I now find myself reading books that go into a level of detail that causes me frequent dizzy spells. Whilst out walking the other day, I told strong-stomached and stoical Louise about just a couple of the things I’d read, and she had to quickly grab a handrail!

Calming Portuguese Skies!

Calming Portuguese Skies!

We’ve long been decided that we will have our children in Portugal – and we don’t plan to go running back to the comfort of the NHS and our native language. But the reality is far scarier than we imagined. I think we just visualised these cute little suntanned kids running around on a beach effortlessly switching between speaking English and Portuguese – the few years in the middle hadn’t really occurred to us before!

So, it’s been a very happy time, but a very anxious one too. On hearing our news, one of my friends said “wow, he’s got some manning up to do in the next nine months.” I certainly have. But first I think I may go for a little lie down.

PS. Interested in living in Portugal? Why not buy our book? Currently 15% off! Makes a good xmas gift! And we have a baby to pay for!

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: Moving to Portugal – the book.

Image credits: GOVPA, Wikimedia Commons

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An Algarve Summer in Pictures – Part 1 4

Posted on October 29, 2013 by Ben Algarve

(Ben) This summer, my brother in law has spent a few months in the Algarve. He’s recently caught the photography bug, and has been turning out plenty of beautiful pictures that put our washed-out iPhone efforts to shame.

He’s also kindly agreed to let me share a selection of the photographs here. So today, I’m pleased to present an Algarve summer in photographic form. There will be more to come in a subsequent post.

Cabanas Beach, East Algarve

Cabanas Beach, East Algarve

Oranges in the orchard

Oranges in the orchard

A Tavira Terrapin

A Tavira Terrapin

The wild West coast

The Wild West coast

Alcoutim river beach

Alcoutim river beach

Castro Marim medieval fair

Castro Marim medieval fair

Octopus jerky at Castro Marim Medieval Fair

Octopus jerky at Castro Marim Medieval Fair

Praia da Luz in the peak of summer

Praia da Luz in the peak of summer

Fiesa Sand Sculptures

Fiesa Sand Sculptures

Strange red bug

Strange red bug

Canon at Sagres

Canon at Sagres

Castro Marim Castle

Castro Marim Castle

All images (C) Robert Herring 2013. All rights reserved.

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Cruising to Madeira 4

Posted on October 15, 2013 by Ben Algarve

(Ben) Every time I post on this blog nowadays I seem to begin with an apology for the length of time between my updates. I guess it’s no bad thing that I’ve got plenty of work to do, with employment being so hard to come by here in Portugal, but I do wish I had a little more blogging time.

Still, while the work keeps coming, I have to keep doing it, so I’m glad I have at least found a quick gap in which to type up this quick update.

Hitting the high seas

Hitting the high seas

I guess it’s technically autumn now here in the Algarve, but you wouldn’t know it with temperatures still frequently in the high 20s. Even so, the evenings are getting a little cooler, and though I’m stubbornly remaining in shorts and flip-flops, my wife is now in jeans by sundown most days!

The tourists seem happy with the weather, and there are still plenty of them around, but we’ve had to accept the end of summer and get back to the grindstone.

However, we have booked ourselves a little holiday! Next month we head off on a cruise to Morocco, Madeira and the Canary Islands. A cruise is something we’ve always wanted to try, even though many of our friends have appeared baffled by our desire to do so!

This time we will see Madeira from the opposite direction

This time we will see Madeira from the opposite direction

We’ve looked into cruising before, but the thing that’s put us off has been that the majority of routes start in Barcelona, which for us involves a drive to Seville, followed by a flight, before we even get to board our ship.

Last week, I discovered a very inexpensive cruise beginning in Malaga, which is much easier as we can get there in the car in around four hours, the last hour of which is through stunning mountain scenery.

So we set off next month and will be calling at Barcelona, Casablanca, Madeira and Lanzarote. Ironically, it’s revisiting the Portuguese island of Madeira that we’re most excited about, but setting foot in Africa for the first time is also rather thrilling.

Somewhere to revisit in Madeira

Somewhere to revisit in Madeira

We’ve clearly taken quite a gamble with a November cruise. The weather will be hit and miss at best, so we’re glad we stocked up on high strength travel sickness pills when we were in the US earlier this year! But ultimately it’s all about having a break from the routine and finding out, once and for all, if cruises are something we enjoy. Given that I’ve always got awfully excited about simple ferry journeys, I think there will be enough to keep me entertained!

And if it’s all a disaster…well, at least then we’ll have some funny stories to tell on this blog when we get back.

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Moving to Portugal – What was your Inspiration? 8

Posted on October 07, 2013 by Ben Algarve

For us, moving to Portugal was something we decided to do for a number of reasons. We had holidayed here several times and loved the scenery, the food and the sunshine. We are both beach people, so we loved the idea that we could live close to the sea. We were also tired of the ‘work till you drop’ pace of London and were ready for an improved work/life balance – one where we had time to hold hands and curl our toes in the sand.

Life in Portugal - time to notice prints in the sand

Life in Portugal – time to notice prints in the sand

Four years later, we still love our life in Portugal. Yesterday we spent the day at Praia da Rocha, the beach that first inspired us to think about emigrating. Despite it being October, the sun was beating down and the sea was shimmering with a million tiny sparkles. A handful of late season tourists were scattered across the sands and a few brave souls (my brother included) ventured into the sea, which last week’s bad weather has served to cool considerably. It was the perfect lazy Sunday and exactly what we had in mind when we moved here.

Given our love of Portugal and our own personal adventure of moving here, we were intrigued when approached last week by Meravista – the largest online portal for Algarve property – to support the promotion of their survey on why people have moved to the Algarve. The Meravista survey delves into why expats have selected the Algarve as their destination of choice, as well as examining topics such as their experience of working here and how they like to spend their free time.

The team at Meravista are looking to hear from a wide range of expats, of all ages and nationalities. The survey takes just a few minutes to complete and participation will help to improve understanding of just what it is about the Algarve that draws so many of us here to stay. As if that weren’t motivation enough, entrants can also elect to take part in a prize draw, where three winners will be selected to receive a case of wine after the survey closes on 9 November. Those wishing to take part can access the survey here.

Praia da Rocha - those sparkles never get boring

Praia da Rocha – those sparkles never get boring

As we’ve somehow arrived at Monday again, we have another long week of work ahead of us before there will be sufficient time to go out and play in the sun. Still, I’m sure we’ll find time to squeeze in a lovely, relaxed mid-week barbecue with a few family members who are currently here on holiday. Compared with what we would have been doing on October evenings if we had remained in London, sitting out on the balcony with a glass of wine while the smell of sardines drifts across to us from the grill really doesn’t sound too bad :-)

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A Great Book about Portugal 2

Posted on September 23, 2013 by Ben Algarve

Ben here, and today I’m going to discuss a book about Portugal that I’ve really enjoyed recently. The biggest surprise to regular readers will be that the book in question ISN’T mine! However, here’s a gratuitous and cheeky link to mine on Amazon in case you want to take a look! At the time of writing, Amazon have it at 15% off!

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

Anyway, before I talk about this Portugal book, I’d like to offer a quick apology for being absent from this blog for a prolonged period. All my recent time has been taken up with a big work project, and us freelancers must grab the business when it’s there. I trust that Louise has kept you entertained with her regular posts.

The book I’m introducing here is called “Portugal and the Algarve – Now and Then,” by long-term resident, Jenny Grainer.

A Book about Portugal

I’m surprised that the book’s existence passed me by until now. As soon as I saw it I immediately downloaded it to my iPad via Kindle.

Jenny moved to the Algarve in 1968, when Portugal was still a dictatorship, the Algarve was a relatively obscure tourist destination, and Faro didn’t have an airport.

The book is essentially a collection of observations about Portugal between then and now, and the evocative descriptions of Portugal before I was even born were truly illuminating.

Reading the book has made the history of the Algarve come alive, especially when we’re on our travels and see how places have changed in the intervening years. Of particular interest to me were the chapters describing Portugal in the 60s and 70s, when many people lived in genuine poverty and “make and make do” was a way of life. It certainly brought the “first world problems” of the current age into embarrassingly sharp focus!

I heartily recommend Jenny Grainer’s book about Portugal. It’s quite short, and I devoured it in just a few sessions, but I feel I now know more about my adopted country than I ever did before. You can find it on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle. You will find the link below:

Portugal and the Algarve: Now and Then

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From Portugal to England – a Reverse Perspective 8

Posted on September 16, 2013 by Ben Algarve

As regular readers will know, Moving to Portugal is all about our move from rainy England to sunny Portugal and our experiences of settling in to our wonderful new country. This week, inspired by one of the comments on last week’s blog post, we thought it would be fun to turn everything on its head and look at the opposite perspective – what things are like for a Portuguese expat living in England.

Union Jack

Kat, her parents and her eldest sister moved to England in 2004, when Kat was 13. Here’s what she has to say about the experience:

M2P: What were the main reasons for the move?

Kat: There were a few different reasons. Firstly, my middle sister was living in England with her partner at the time. My mum wanted to be nearer to her, so that was the initial thought. Then there was the reason that my parents wanted to give me a better education. Out in Portugal education can be very expensive, paying hundreds of euros every year for books and the other things associated with school. If it hadn’t been for me, they say they would never have moved, so I owe them all for that, as I had the best education I could have asked for.

M2P: Did you find it hard to learn the language? How long did it take you?

Kat: Learning the language was a bit daunting. For the first few months I didn’t really talk much in school – I was more taking it all in and learning it. Surprisingly, however, I remember understanding a lot more than I expected.

M2P: What was it like starting school in England when up until the move you had been educated in Portugal?

Kat: School was fun. Weird to begin with because we have different holidays (no half terms in Portugal), and there is no uniform in Portugal either, so that was a bit weird. But I loved school so I found it all good.

School uniform

M2P: What do you like most about living in England?

Kat: England is home. I grew into an adult here, I am used to the language, the system, how everything works. I can’t pinpoint one specific thing about England, coz almost everything is good – MINUS THE WEATHER. That irritates me, I like sunshine so much, and England doesn’t get much of it.

M2P: Would you ever consider moving back to Portugal?

Kat: Moving to Portugal? I don’t think so. Extended holidays maybe, but actually living and working in Portugal… I wouldn’t (unless I was offered a job that paid me millions hehe!).

M2P: After so many years in England, do you consider yourself to be more English than Portuguese?

Kat: I am both. I will always be Portuguese. I don’t think it matters how far away you are from your home country, you still carry your roots with you. Portugal is my darling home and I have to go home almost every year. But, I also consider myself English, because England has provided me with so many opportunities that I am so thankful for.

Portuguese beach

M2P: Is your diet mainly English or mainly Portuguese?

Kat: If I am at home with my family, the diet is Portuguese. If I am with friends or my partner then it will be English. Although I love the variety of foods that England offers, from English to Indian, Chinese etc. I just love ALL FOODS. I get good variety here.

M2P: What do you miss about living in Portugal?

Kat: I miss the sun, the beaches, the clear skies, the hotness, the pace of life. I miss my family and just generally relaxing without a worry in the world.

Portuguese Beach 2

So it seems that wherever you move from and to, there are certain parts of your culture that go along with you and certain parts of your new culture that you quickly embrace. Thank you Kat for taking the time to speak to Moving to Portugal and providing us with the opposite perspective :-)

Image credits: Flickr, Wikimedia Commons, Rob Herring

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