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


Weather in Portugal – Winter and Spring 2

Posted on March 05, 2013 by Ben Algarve

It’s been a while since I talked about the weather in Portugal, so today I’m going to talk about winter and spring here in the Algarve.

Winter and spring tend to merge together somewhat in Portugal, and these seasons have become rather unpredictable in recent years.

The winter of 2009 was so wet that our entire house went moldy – a fact that long-term readers of our blog will know plenty about, as will those who have read our book (details below).

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

The last couple of winters have been dry and fairly warm. In fact, during Christmas 2010, the weather in Portugal was such that I sunburned my nose on Boxing Day! But clear, warm days make for sharp, cold nights.

Sometimes to weather in Portugal is like this

Sometimes the weather in Portugal is like this

Last year, the time between November and February was so dry that people started to mention the word “drought.” Then April, a month that often sees us beginning to visit the beach regularly, brought weeks of wind and rain.

I’m not going to go all technical and start talking about climate change. These observations are aimed at those who are considering a move to Portugal. Sometimes, those who haven’t lived here through a few winters are blinded by marketing literature that boasts of “over 300 days of annual sunshine.” And while this information is perfectly true, it doesn’t give the full picture. Not at all.

There are some key points to consider here. Firstly, many properties are poorly insulated and built so they stay cool in summer, rather than warm in winter. Secondly, central heating is absent in all but the most luxurious of properties, and anyone who tells you that reverse cycle air-conditioning is a realistic substitute is talking nonsense.

So, when you look online at the winter weather in Faro from a centrally heated property in a “colder” country and see lots of days that say “16C, Sunny,” you can put the envy on hold. While, admittedly, we are feeling the occasional bit of sun on our faces, we are, in fact, spending most of the time running up extortionate electricity bills trying to stay warm indoors.

But sometimes the weather in Portugal is like this

But sometimes the weather in Portugal is like this

Even tourists get a false impression of the weather here at this time of year, with many enjoying drinks and snacks outside during the warmest part of the day on pleasant suntrap terraces. If you live here and have to work, you don’t often get the chance to do this.

Now, all of this probably sounds like a big moan, and I guess, to a point, it is – because no one back in the UK ever seems to believe that people who live in the Algarve find themselves willing on the start of summer just as much as they did before they moved. The point of this post is to provide a strong warning that winter can be just as cold, crappy and disheartening in Portugal as it is anywhere else.

On the bright side however, it is sunny rather a lot, and once summer arrives, you can guarantee it will stay put. I would never want to return to those UK years where you get to September and have to accept that you’re simply not getting a summer this year. You can avoid that by moving to the Algarve, but you can’t avoid feeling cold in the winter. Unless, perhaps, you move to Madeira…

PS. The above details our experiences of weather in the Algarve. Far more varied and extreme weather can be found elsewhere in the country – just pointing that out before anyone else feels compelled to!

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The End of The Algarve Summer 1

Posted on October 26, 2011 by Ben Algarve

The Algarve is far from a sunshine paradise right now.

Summer ended with a humdinger of a wind and rainstorm on Sunday night. We were woken up throughout the night by beating rain and gales rattling the shutters. When we got up on Monday morning, the tops of some of our local palm trees had blown clean off, and when my wife stepped out onto the terrace to retrieve our soaking laundry, she ended up ankle-deep in water as debris had managed to block our drainage pipe.

Our home got off far more lightly than Faro airport, where some of the roof was damaged resulting in a number of injuries. Local news reports suggest it may be several months before the damage is fully repaired, but flights seem to now be returning to normal, after some were diverted to Lisbon and Seville earlier in the week.

Faro Airport - No longer looks quite like this

Faro Airport - No longer looks quite like this

To complete the rather depressing moment when we had to pull our warm clothes from the back of the wardrobes, we both came down with coughs and colds – in my case the third round of bugs I have had in a couple of months. Frequent trips back to the UK along with visitors bringing UK germs here with them has resulted in a very irritating run of illness that I will be pleased to see the end of!

With all this in mind, I don’t have an awful lot to tell since my last post, as all we have really done is struggled through our working days, watched TV, eaten a lot of hot curries and breathed plentiful Olbas oil. So for anyone reading this and considering a life in the Algarve, be warned that sometimes it really doesn’t differ all that much from life in the UK!

Image credit: orudge

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Talking About the Weather 5

Posted on August 22, 2011 by Ben Algarve

It rained at the weekend. Now, for those of you who don’t live in the Algarve, that won’t seem particularly interesting, but for August in these parts, it’s actually quite unusual.

Given that a lot of people move to Portugal for the climate (and it certainly played a large part in our own decision), it is strange how much your attitude to the weather changes once you get used to it.

After a couple of years, I have finally managed to get out of my system the urgent need to get outside as soon as I see the sun is shining. It is important to do this if you live here, otherwise it’s impossible to get anything productive done between June and October!

When I was in the UK recently, a friend said to me “what’s the weather supposed to be like when you get back?” My reply? “Hot, I imagine.” The fact is, once summer starts, I don’t really even check the weather any more.

I´m reluctant to say that I now take the weather for granted, but I have got used to this different climate.

Which is why rain in August came as such a surprise, and, it has to be said, a wonderful surprise too. It was fun to have to grab our BBQ food and run for shelter when the storm blew through. A day of rain turned out to be an unexpected treat, like a day of hot sunshine would in March in the UK. See how back-to-front our lives have become?

Algarve Portugal Weather - Back to Normal

Algarve Portugal Weather - Back to Normal

The following day, the rain had removed most of the humidity from the air, resulting in a cooler day (though perhaps the word “cooler” should be kept in perspective, given that we now call anything under 25C “cool.”) The bigger treat was a cool evening last night, which meant we could step IN from the balcony to a warm apartment, rather than in from a HOT balcony to a cool, air conditioned apartment. I can think of no better proof of our acclimatization than the fact that that in itself felt unusual.

So, what’s it like outside today? It’s back to normal: hot and sunny, with no change predicted for the next couple of weeks, which is fine by us. It was, however, wonderful to get a sneak preview of the change in seasons, and enjoy a cosy Sunday indoors, complete with newspapers, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.

In conclusion, we had a splendid weekend, BECAUSE it rained. Strange.

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Algarve Winter Weather 6

Posted on January 24, 2011 by Ben Algarve

It seems I spoke a little too soon about the weather. Yesterday was probably the coldest day of the Algarve winter so far.

We have long given up hoping for any sympathy from our friends and family back in England with regards to the weather. However, people we have spoken to who have lived in both countries all agree that when it’s cold in Portugal it feels somehow different – deep in your bones! Anyway, for the record, at one point yesterday in the early evening it was colder here than in London, and with an accompanying biting wind.

The other very relevant factor is that in England, most people have central heating. Air conditioning, even when set to the highest and hottest setting (the use of which effectively gives EDP, the Portuguese electricity company, free reign on all spare money in your bank account) doesn’t take the chill out of the air completely. Multiple layers and duvets in the living room are the only solution!

Algarve Winter Weather Forecast

Algarve Winter Weather Forecast

People planning to move to the “hot” Algarve should be aware of this. Although it doesn’t last long, when it gets cold it does get seriously cold, and it is often accompanied by very high winds off the Atlantic. Last night we could hear the waves crashing in the distance, even though the sea is about a mile away.

Judging by the weather forecast, we are also now due nearly two weeks of heavy rain. That’ll teach me to be smug about the January sunshine. Algarve rain can be a pretty impressive, drenched within seconds of leaving the house kind of rain, so it looks like we have that to look forward to, but I must admit I prefer rain that doesn’t mess about to the slow grey drizzle which often characterises London at the start of the year.

I admit this weather does in some ways make us miss England, with its ready supply of open fires, country pubs, atora suet and steak and ale pies, but hopefully it won’t be TOO long until spring returns.

With the weather talk out of the way, there’s not a huge amount to report from the past week. After getting rid of our post-Christmas illnesses and clutter it was just pleasing to be back to work and routine (something I never expect to hear myself say.) We did discover a superb restaurant in Tavira at the weekend though: Brisa do Rio – read the review at Food and Wine Portugal.

Have a good week!

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It’s Getting Hot in Here 6

Posted on July 16, 2010 by Ben Algarve

It’s time for a little confession. I have been reluctant to admit to this but it is important I give readers planning to move to Portugal a fair and honest assessment of our time here including the good and bad – so here goes:

This past week we have been struggling, a little tiny bit, with the heat. There you go, I said it.

Hot, hot, hot

Hot, hot, hot

Having complained about the English climate for years, it feels awfully ungrateful to complain in any way about a constant blue sky, temperatures in the low 30s every single day and not so much as a hint of rain, but the relentless heat does have its drawbacks.

It’s important to emphasise that when we have friends here and are spending days by the pool, in and out of the sea and relaxing on beaches, the heat isn’t a problem at all. It is more the times when we have work and chores to do when it is a bit of a struggle.

Mainly it is the nights. When for weeks it rarely goes below 25C in the middle of the night, sleeping becomes a problem, and even if you accept a huge bill for air conditioning, it is not a perfect solution. Air conditioned air is not particularly good for you, and if you inadvertently fall asleep with it on, you make up with a sore throat and not feeling particularly tip-top.

It is reassuring to see that it doesn’t just seem to be us. We walked into town the other day and there seemed to be a general air of lethargy amongst everyone from the Portuguese to the tourists. It is just a lot more effort to get anything done.

All this said, every day we feel more used to it, and we are working to wean ourselves off the air conditioning, relying more on fans and a water spray.

Watching the UK weather from afar in the past week – going from heat-wave and then back to grey and rainy reminds me what we left behind, and it was that sudden disappearance of summer that used to really get me down. I certainly wouldn’t want to swap back, even though I do have a secret desire to see a day of rain at some point!

Have a lovely sunny weekend.

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