To conclude my retrospective look at our first exciting year in Portugal, here, as promised in my last posts are our high points and respective low points of our first year in the Algarve.
1. Sharing our new home with friends and family - some of our happiest times here to date have been those we have shared with our visitors. A big thank you, in no particular order, to Richard, Pam, Kat, Rob, Rick, Bill, Mike, Tom, Amy, Hannah, Ben, Dionne, Jacob, Emma, Steve and Nat, and all the other people coming to see us soon.
2. Enjoying all the scenery the Algarve has to offer – and soaking in water from the cold (lake under the waterfall at Pego Do Inferno,) to the warm (Montegordo in August.)
3. Eating and cooking – from fish feasts at the cheap and wonderful Vela 2 in Tavira, to barbecues on the terrace, and tapas over the border in Seville. The gastronomic wonders of this part of the world have lived up to all of our expectations.
4. Meeting people - Portugal has made us very welcome. Various people spring to mind: friendly neighbours in Tavira who put up with our slow Portuguese, a certain bar owner who offered us advice and encouragement during the wobbliest of our early days (you know who you are,) and all the lovely people who provide advice on the forums and here on this blog. There are some very good people in this part of the world. I must also give a special mention to the surly young shop assistant in our local mini mercado, who now greets us with a smile and saves her visible disdain for the tourists
5. Small victories: Finally getting our residency, finally getting our broadband and cable TV, successfully building on our limited Portuguese, and finally getting a smile from the girl in the shop (see above.)
1. Winter 2009. Finding out first hand, by enduring the wettest winter since 1870, that Portugal is a cold country with hot sun, and NOT a tropical paradise. Our first four months in the mouldy disaster that was our house in Tavira are not a period of my life I would be keen to repeat.
2. High Summer. Realising that the Algarve just gets TOO busy in July and August.
3. Trips to England. A means to an end, but it would be great to have less of them – they really mess with your routine.
4. Red Tape. Although when you finally get the piece of paper you need it feels like a triumph, getting there can be hellish – and you do end up having a sense of foreboding with regard to your next encounter with officialdom.
5. Meeting people. Figured I would put this in both sections. Most people we have encountered in this past year have been great, but as ever there have been a few exceptions. Cliquey, gossipy types, jobsworths, people who push you out the way in Easyjet’s speedy boarding queue and people from HM Revenue and Customs who can’t read forms properly have all made my shit list over the past twelve months!
So what advice would we offer to those considering chasing their own dream to Portugal or another sunny location?
Do your research, make sure you are sure, then save some money and do it – and when you are going through the hugely stressful last six months before the big move, always remember to soak up every minute of the adventure – you may come to miss the non-stop raw, emotional, scary excitement of changing your life. I’d certainly do it all again