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


Books and Bivalves 4

Posted on August 21, 2012 by Ben Algarve

Exciting news today: our book has finally been published and is available from Amazon!

Moving to Portugal – the book, tells the story of our move to Portugal right from the start. The narrative has been written from my wife’s point of view, so while those who have followed the blog from the start may recognise some events and situations, the content is nearly all brand new.

This post marks the first time we have announced the availability of the book, so if you buy it now you will be one of the first to hold a copy in your hands! A formal launch will follow in a couple of weeks, by which time the Kindle version should be ready too.

In the meantime, you can find our book via the link below. Needless to say, we will be very grateful to anyone who buys it and hope it will provide lots of entertainment and helpful information:

Readers in the US can find the book on, and those in mainland Europe should also be able to find it via regional Amazon sites.

While most of my working time has been taken up with finishing off the book, we have also had some recent time off and enjoyed spending time with some dear friends and their son, who celebrated his third birthday while he was here.

Aside for spending time in the pool and time chewing the fat whilst working through a couple of bottles of duty-free booze, we managed to venture out to various local events. One of the highlights was the Olhão shellfish festival.

The shellfish festival is one of the largest of its kind in Portugal, and a sizeable area of Olhão´s waterfront is fenced off for the occasion. A small admission charge covers entry to the venue, where a large stage is erected and hundreds of tables and chairs are set up ready for some serious eating.

Olhao Festival do Marisco 2012 

Olhao Festival do Marisco 2012

Upon arrival at the first bar, we were told we couldn’t pay with cash as a token system was in operation. When we reached the token counter, we were a little surprised by how things worked: eleven Euros bought us each a token book that was good for five beers, two soft drinks, a bag of bread and some butter. To us beginners, this initially seemed rather bizarre.

It all began to make more sense once we collected our bags of bread and (having bought a token book each) a huge collection of beers. The bread and butter came complete with a number of tablemats. We staked our claim to a table and started exploring the shellfish stalls.

The idea is that you buy the shellfish you want, much of which is sold by weight, then retire to your table and enjoy it with your beer, bread and butter. Shells are piled onto the paper tablemats and frequently cleared away by the friendly staff.

It’s fair to say we went for it. We started with a huge shellfish platter containing everything from large crabs to tiny prawns, and progressed to a lobster, a big plate of razor clams and some giant prawn skewers.

It truly was a shellfish lovers dream, although we did find ourselves wishing we had been a little more discerning in our choice of stalls. The last one we used clearly put a lot more time and care into preparing the food and, as such, our experience may have been even better had we spent the lion’s share of our money there instead.

Shellfish Festival Beers

Shellfish Festival Beers

When all of us were full to the brim, we still had a couple of bags of bread left, which went on to become barbecued garlic bread the following day. With the eating out the way, all that remained was to get through our abundance of beer while we watched the entertainment, which on the night we visited was a fabulous Beatles tribute band called the Bandit Beatles.

I never expected to enjoy the band as much as I did (though I imagine the beers helped!) Even our three-year-old companion joined the happy and good-natured crowd and enjoyed a few Beatles hits.

The Olhão shellfish festival really was a fantastic night; an occasion I’ll remember for a long time and prioritize as something to visit next year. If you’re in the Algarve next August, don’t miss it.

Before I sign off for the day, please don’t forget to check out our book on Amazon (link below) – we put a lot of love into creating it and hope you enjoy reading it.

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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Books about Portugal (and an Exciting Announcement!) 3

Posted on July 12, 2012 by Ben Algarve

I say it a lot, but if you’re planning a move to Portugal, it’s simply not possible to do too much research.

Before we moved, a small collection of books about Portugal helped to answer questions, inspire us and increase our excitement levels.

After three years here, we’re still finding more to read and our Portugal book collection continues to expand. For some time, I have been intending to produce a list of all of these books for those interested in starting a similar collection of their own. I’ve finally got round to it and have included links to all of the books on Amazon UK (in red). Enjoy, and please read right to the end for an exciting announcement!

Moving abroad / Moving to Portugal

Buying Property in Portugal by Gabrielle Collison is the first book I recommend to people planning a move, and not just because it includes a case study on my wife and I! The book was updated in 2011 and contains a ton of useful and (importantly) current information.

Buying Property in Portugal (second edition) – insider tips for buying, selling and renting

Buying Property in Portugal - a great book - and I am in it!

Buying Property in Portugal - a great book - and I am in it!

Live and Work in Portugal is another tome we referred to before we moved. Sadly, it hasn’t been updated in several years and, let’s face it, the world was a very different place economically in 2005. Still, it’s cheap and worth a read!

Live & Work in Portugal

Au Revoir Angleterre: Making a Go of Moving Abroad is essential reading for every potential expat. It addresses all of the typical rose-tinted dreams of wannabe-migrants and dishes up a valuable dose of reality. It’s not a book designed to put anybody off – more as a reality check.

Au Revoir Angleterre: Making a Go of Moving Abroad

Should I Stay or Should I Go delivers more of the same and, to be frank, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. In tight economic times moving abroad is a huge decision and one that may not be as easy to reverse as it was five years ago. Money spent on a reality check is money well spent.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?: The Truth About Moving Abroad and Whether It’s Right for Yo

Tales from a Travelling Mum by Alice Griffin isn’t, strictly speaking, a moving abroad book, but I include it here as it is invaluable reading for anyone travelling or moving with young children. Alongside her engaging narrative, Alice provides many useful tips for travelling with kids in a stress-free way and the book was much appreciated by friends of ours who brought their 8-month old son here to Portugal for his first holiday.

Tales from a Travelling Mum: Navigating Europe with a Babe-in-Arms

Speaking Portuguese

There are no end of Portuguese language-learning books, so I have concentrated here on those that have worked for us.

Teach Yourself Complete Portuguese was the first course we used, and having the CD in the car over a period of time was what taught us to deal competently with greetings, shops and restaurants. It’s been modernized and revamped since we used it too.

Complete Portuguese: Teach Yourself (Book/CD Pack)

Earworms Portuguese is a bit different, as it uses music to drum in basic words and phrases – well worth importing to an iPod for walks and runs.

Rapid Portuguese: v. 1: 200+ Essential Words and Phrases Anchored into Your Long Term Memory with Great Music (Earworms)

BBC Active Portuguese is our Portuguese tutor’s book of choice and follows a good, logical way of teaching the language, similar to how you may have learned languages at school.

Talk Portuguese Book and CDs

501 Portuguese verbs is an essential once you get a little further down the line. It’s hard work and heavy going and more of a reference book than a course, but with a language with so many irregular verbs, it is a necessary purchase.

501 Portuguese Verbs (Barron’s 501 Portuguese Verbs)

Essential Portuguese Grammar is another must and probably the book we now refer to the most.

Essential Portuguese Grammar (Dover Books on Language)

Rosetta Stone - The Daddy of Language Learning

Rosetta Stone - The Daddy of Language Learning

Rosetta Stone is the big-daddy of language courses, and those with the money to afford it could do a lot worse – it does work and some family members have used it with good results. Note, however, that it teaches you Brazilian Portuguese – which is like learning American before moving to London.

Rosetta Stone Version 4 TOTALe: Portuguese (Brazil) Level 1, 2 & 3 (Mac/PC)

Travel and Inspiration

We are residents and not tourists, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need guidebooks, both to learn about our own area and for when we go exploring.

AA Keyguide Portugal is probably my favourite of all. We constantly refer back to it, primarily because it includes some fantastic car tours and walks which are great for getting a quick sense of a new area.

Portugal (AA Key Guide) (AA Key Guides Series)

The DK Top 10 Algarve book is another of my favourites, as much for the design and layout as for the information. We tend to get one of these whenever we visit somewhere new.

DK Eyewitness Top 10 Travel Guide: Algarve

DK’s Eyewitness Travel Guide to Portugal is also a great choice, and has just been updated (as of June 2012) – I will be ordering the new version myself soon.

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Portugal: Hilltowns / Golf / History / Crafts / Architekture / Festivals / Restaurants / Hotels / Shopping / Beaches

The Rough Guide to Portugal is also frequently thumbed in our house, but it seems to me to be a little overdue for an update right now.

The Rough Guide to Portugal

Walking in the Algarve is a must for the active and was heavily used when my niece visited to train for the 3-Peaks challenge in the UK.

Walking in the Algarve: 40 Coastal and Mountain Walks (Cicerone International Walking)

Living in Portugal by Anne de Stoop is in a category all of its own and is my one Portugal-related “coffee table book.” It contains loads of history and some gorgeous photography. Before we moved here it may us feel extremely wistful!

Living in Portugal (Living in….. Series)

Living in Portugal - a beautiful coffee table book

Living in Portugal - a beautiful coffee table book

Food and Drink

I could write about foodie books all day long, so this section has been intentionally kept short to only include my favourites!

The Wine and Food Lovers Guide to Portugal is a beautiful book and contains information on vineyards, restaurants and speciality dishes in each area. This book was my constant companion when the days running up to our move date seemed to drag on forever.

The Wine and Food Lover’s Guide to Portugal

Piri Piri Starfish was a gift from my niece and is my favourite Portuguese cook book. As well as beautiful black and white photography it includes lots of inspiring writing about Portuguese food along with the recipes.

Piri Piri Starfish: Portugal Found

Lonely Planet’s World Food Portugal is fabulous and includes historical information, a Portuguese food glossary, details on regional specialties and a scattering of recipes. As far as I can work out, the book is now out of print, so I would suggest grabbing one of the handful of second hand copies stil available via Amazon.

Portugal (Lonely Planet World Food)

More Portugal Reading

The First Global Village is a really easy to read and engaging tome on Portuguese history – and that is coming from someone who usually sticks to the five page historical round-ups in the back of the guidebooks! Amazon has the book, but it is pricey – for those visiting Faro airport, they have it cheaper in the newsagents in departures!

First Global Village: How Portugal Changed the World

Night Train to Lisbon gets a mention here as it is one of few English language books set in Portugal. It is a soulful, poetic book that my wife enjoyed, as did several members of our book club – it didn’t really float my boat though, to be honest.

Night Train to Lisbon

A Small Death in Lisbon is a more engaging choice, in my opinion, and based on its “Gold Dagger” award for best crime novel I’m not alone. Perfect for providing a sense of atmosphere whilst on a sunlounger!

A Small Death in Lisbon

Nobody’s Son by Maria Serpa is less well known, but comes on recommendation from my wife. We were approached to review the book and she enjoyed the romantic tale centered around a child abandoned at birth on the Portuguese island of Pico, in the Azores. The book has a somewhat quirky translation but is well worth a read, even for those not usually attracted to romantic novels.

Nobody’s Son

Now you’ve got to the end of that, it’s time for my announcement:

Very soon, I will be able to add another book to this list. For the past 18 months, my wife and I have been working on a book telling the story of our move to Portugal.

The book is in two parts – the first is a narrative of our first two years in Portugal, told from my wife’s perspective. This is almost all new material that has not previously been featured here – so while long-term blog readers may recognise some events and situations, they should find plenty new to enjoy. The second section provides practical information on moving to Portugal – some has been adapted from the blog, but the majority is brand new.

Stay tuned for information on the book, which will be available through Amazon, directly from me, and via the Kindle store. If you haven’t already, subscribe to updates to be the first to know when it becomes available.

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A Fresh Outlook – and a Wonderful Book 9

Posted on March 28, 2011 by Ben Algarve

As a regular reader of the blog pointed out, my last post was “uncharacteristically negative,” so I’m pleased to report that last week was a better one! We heard from our Portuguese bank that our paperwork was finally back from London and were invited in to apply for our car finance. We have yet to hear back as to whether or not we can go car shopping, but fingers are firmly crossed. If we are successful, we can go shopping for something with a service history and a warranty, rather than having to take a €5000 gamble!

Just as suddenly as it had arrived, our homesickness vanished, helped by some fine weather and a conscious effort not to allow the slow-turning wheels of bureaucracy to phase us.

I’ve said this before, but I think it bears repeating: moving to a warm, sunny country does NOT make you immune to life’s crap. Sure, I don’t have to start every Monday on the London underground, wedged cosily against a strangers armpit, but living in Portugal, when you have a living to earn and tax to pay, does not mean 365 days a year of “summer time, and the living is easy.”

Portugal Spring Flowers

Portugal Spring Flowers

However settled we feel here most of the time, decades of conditioning as to how things work in a different culture, and one where you speak the language, don’t just get shaken off after 18 months. I feel I have a duty to people considering a similar move to be completely honest about this. Things that were previously simple—such as making an enquiry to the tax office or seeing a doctor, become vastly complicated.

I sent two very simple questions by email, in perfect Portuguese (translated with the help of a Portuguese friend), to Portugal’s Financas several weeks ago and have received no response.

What would I have done in England? Well, I would have picked up the phone and used my extensive vocabulary to bitch and moan until I got the answers I required. Now here, that’s not an option. Despite my best efforts, my Portuguese vocabulary doesn’t yet stretch to complaining over the phone. Sure, I now know the difference between a dourada and a robalo, but proudly showing off my knowledge of fish is unlikely to get me anywhere with the tax office. It’s an unsettling feeling.

It’s my duty then to warn prospective expats of something the estate agents selling a new life in the sun are unlikely to mention: The language barrier has the potential to turn previously intelligent, articulate people into blathering fools. Stumbling your way through a two week holiday with nothing but “sim” and “obrigado” is one thing, negotiating the realities of life is quite another!

Shellfish on a Trip to Spain

Shellfish on a Trip to Spain

Anyway, as you can probably tell, I’ve now managed to be a lot more philosophical about all this, freeing up my brain to enjoy some of the good things we moved here for. Last week we found time to enjoy the beach, watch sea trout sizzle on our barbecue and venture into Spain for a feast of shellfish at the weekend. Our equilibrium has been restored.

Key to restoring my spirits last week was the arrival of a book called “The Moon, Come to Earth,” by Philip Graham, a series of dispatches from an American author who spent a year living in Lisbon.

I’m always keen to read tales of people integrating into other cultures, and the adventures of Philip and his family have so many parallels to our own experiences that I found the book truly compelling.

Graham has a fantastic gift for analogies. I particularly loved the observation that “making complex financial arrangements in a language one barely understands feels like riding white-water rapids using a teaspoon for an oar.” That sentence alone went a long way to shaking me out of my dark mood last week!

My wife can always judge how much I’m enjoying a book by how often I want to read a section out loud to her. I read her so much of “The Moon, Come to Earth,” that I hardly think it will be worth her reading it herself!

The author skillfully blends his Portuguese discoveries with his personal thoughts and feelings as he watches his daughter’s integration into Portuguese life and schooling, and her poignant last days of childhood as adolescence begins. This book is absolutely essential reading for anyone considering moving abroad with children.

“The Moon, Come to Earth” helped me in another way too. Graham spends a lot of his time in Lisbon sitting and observing – taking it all in. As our work and red-tape stress has increased, we have unconsciously stopped doing this, ending up back on a bit of a hamster wheel, albeit a sunnier hamster wheel with cleaner air. The wonderful observations in the book jolted me back to remembering why we moved here, and the need to slow down, soak up the culture and open our minds to understanding the different way of life. For that, I am very grateful to the author, and heartily recommend the book to anyone with an interest in life in Portugal.

You can find the book here:

The Moon, Come to Earth: Dispatches from Lisbon

With all that said, however much I remember why we moved here, manage to slow down and soak up the culture and adapt to that different way of life, I have a feeling that the tax office failing to respond to my queries is still going to piss me off.

Have a good week 🙂

Exploring Portugal - Castro Marim from the Castle

Exploring Portugal - Castro Marim from the Castle

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New Book Store! 3

Posted on February 10, 2010 by Ben Algarve
Portugal book store

Portugal book store

I have created an Amazon book store containing all of the wonderful books about Portugal we have enjoyed in the past few years, and all the titles which provided us with advice and inspiration in the run up to our move to Portugal.

All the books you will find come personally recommended, so please come and visit!

You can visit the book store via the link at the top of the blog, or by clicking below:

Take me to the book store!

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