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


Old Habits……Die Hard 6

Posted on September 06, 2010 by Ben Algarve

We had a bit of an unsettled week here in Portugal last week, followed by a very enjoyable weekend.

As any long term readers of the blog will know, every now and then we get “wobbly days” with regard to being here – something that most expats we speak to can relate to. We had a few last week.

Learning Portuguese - we are trying!

Learning Portuguese – we are trying!

We have made a real effort to learn some Portuguese. Maybe it is just because it was the end of the tourist season, but despite how well we pronounced things, practically everyone we interacted with last week insisted on speaking back to us in slow, condescending English.

This language based game usually entertains us. We call it “the fight.” We speak Portuguese, the Portuguese person speaks English and everyone sticks to their guns until eventually one party gives in. If we end the conversation speaking Portuguese it is a victory for us. If we give in and speak English then we lose.

I say it usually entertains us. Last week it happened so much it was frustrating. It made us think that even years down the line we are still going to be seen by strangers as stupid English people, which doesn’t seem fair when we are making an effort to learn the language.

We had one triumph last week though, when speaking Portuguese with a local lawyer. He complimented us on our Portuguese and was very surprised we had only been here ten months, even asking whether we had previously lived in Brazil or Spain.

He then said something that gets to the heart of the whole issue: “geralmente o Inglês, não tente aprender,” which means “generally the English do not try to learn.”

So, basically, we will continue to be tarred with the stupid brush because of the “two large beers please,” crowd who come here on holiday and don’t even attempt a “bom dia “ or “obrigada.” Irritating to say the least.

Anyway, after an annoying week we had a very pleasant weekend with lots of cooking and sunshine and a Saturday on Montegordo beach with some great waves – the best kind that knock you over if you don’t pay attention.

We followed this with a Chinese meal which has become a treat now due to the nearest good Chinese being 10 miles away – see Chinese Restaurants in Montegordo over at Food and Wine Portugal for details!

We then had one of those Sundays that just feels perfect. A lie in, Sunday papers in the sunshine, followed by roast chicken and ‘Friends” DVDs. This was exactly the kind of Sunday we

Chinese in Montegordo

Chinese in Montegordo

used to have when we lived in London and we hadn’t realised how much we missed it.

In the ten months we have been here we have been charging towards the beach every Sunday or exploring some new part of the local area. We failed to realise that our perfect Sunday had been born of extensive research into what we actually wanted to do.

As we were living in a new country, our brains tricked us into thinking we should do something new on a Sunday, when there was in fact nothing wrong with what we always used to do. True, we now have sunshine and access to a pool, which can be incorporated into our Sunday routine, but other than that we plan to revert to what our Sundays always used to be like. No more rushing around – it is not what Sundays are for!

So, having discussed one old habit we are reinstating, I guess I have to address another habit… up smoking. Last week was partially successful.

My electronic cigarette turned out to give me migraines, leading to a small relapse. However, I am now down to just three cigarettes per day, which is a huge improvement. I am still rather annoyed with myself but I have managed to reduce my consumption by 86% which isn’t bad at all.

I am awaiting a book from Amazon called Stop Smoking, Stay Cool: A Dedicated Smoker’s Guide to Not Smoking

This book has worked for several people who have not responded well to some of the more popular giving up smoking methods and appeals to me as someone who doesn’t particularly like being told what to do. Hopefully it will arrive this week – I will let you know how I get on.

Have a good week 🙂

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April – Ten Fabulous Things 1

Posted on April 26, 2010 by Ben Algarve

Monday mornings are a lot easier to deal with when the sun floods through the curtains as soon as we pull up the shutters. I am very thankful that I really can’t find a lot to complain

Montegordo - just before sunset

Montegordo - just before sunset

about right now, and yesterday as I sat on the beach, I started thinking about all the great times we have had this month. It’s time for a list! Here are ten fabulous things that we enjoyed in April:

1. Spending three hours (yesterday) bobbing around in an over-sized rubber ring in a calm and surprisingly warm Atlantic Ocean.

2. Learning how to prepare and cook fresh squid.

3. Watching fish swimming in the top of the waves at Barrill beach on the Isla De Tavira.

4. Sharing our new home with several of our nearest and dearest.

5. Going to the beach with our friend’s eight month old baby and introducing him to sand.

6. Mastering the use of our new barbeque, with the exception of learning how to stop having to clean it being a HUGE chore.

7. Playing boule on the beach. (Hmm, a bit of a beach theme emerging here…)

8. Driving around somewhere that now truly feels like home with loud, sunny music playing.

9. Sitting outside drinking cheap wine on the first of the really barmy, warm evenings.

10. Exploring some more of Portugal (some the Alentejo and the area around Coimbra – more to follow on the blog at some point!)

It is interesting, when I read back over the list, that none of these things really cost money. Luther Vandross and Janet Jackson were spot on: the best things in life ARE free!

In the interests of balance, as always, here are a few less fabulous things from this month!

1. Discovering that Spain, as well as the UK, must have its share of noisy chavs, demonstrated by the group of children throwing wood at each other on Montegordo beach while their tattooed parents shouted at them. Thankfully this was an isolated example!

2. Coming to the realisation that having to go back to the UK every few months to work is never going to stop being rather depressing.

3. Trying to sleep when mosquitoes are determined to make noisy dives at your ears.

4. Finding out that even though Portugal is a far more friendly country than the UK, there are still a few people in customer facing jobs who need to learn to smile. Chinese restaurant on Montegordo seafront, I am thinking of you 🙂

That’s it for today. Have a look at my other blog, for five fabulous foods from this month!

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Exploring the coast –Part 2 – Montegordo and Praia Verde 0

Posted on November 27, 2009 by movingtoportugal

Heading East towards the Spanish border, we arrived at Montegordo. The guidebooks had warned us this would be a brash and over-touristy resort, but I must admit I have a bit of a fondness for tourist tat (perhaps because I grew up near Great Yarmouth,) so we were eager to see what it was like.

Montegordo is only about 2km away from the Spanish border and it did have the feel of a Spanish resort. Yes, there were plenty of high-rises and nasty 60s and 70s hotel buildings. Yes, there were more places doing burgers and pizzas than genuine Portuguese cuisine and YES, there was a cheesy cocktail bar that was actually called the “Copacabana!”

MontegordoOff season though, it was hard not to be charmed by the lovely big beach, so long as you stayed facing the sea and didn’t concentrate on the high-rise skyline behind it. Is seemed somehow to be a lot more sheltered and warm than around Tavira, despite being no more than 15 miles away, and were it not for the vast amount of washed up jellyfish and lack of protective footwear, I may have been tempted to have a November swim. We had a very pleasant meal of giant prawns and freshly grilled sole. Unfortunately it went downhill with the dessert which had been sprinkled with cinnamon that tasted like it had been scraped from the back of a musty old wardrobe. The owner had been so nice we didn’t have the heart to tell him, so we went and paid inside and beat a hasty retreat before he realised we hadn’t eaten it (seems it may take a while before we stop acting English!)

On the road back, we turned off to visit another beach called Praia Verde, (green beach,) so named because of the forest on the dunes behind it, which is quite unique in this part of Portugal. The beach is at the end of a tourist complex, which you can imagine being very busy in season, but off-season it was truly deserted. There is something quite strange about these places when there is no-one there at all, they make me think of the deserted amusement park in the 80s film “Big” with Tom Hanks. They are both romantic and slightly spooky. The beach itself was beautiful – like Montegordo without the high-rises, or indeed any of the people. This would be a wonderful place to come back to, but you would need to take everything you could possibly need as there are no facilities open at all off-season.

We didn’t hang around that long, as we needed to make use of the kind of sanitary facilities not available at this time of year(!) As we drove away there was someone who obviously lived on the complex playing with his young child in the car-park and I found myself wondering whether living somewhere which is SO quiet for half of the year would be very liberating or very lonely, and couldn’t decide either way….

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Exploring the coast –Part 1 – Santa Luzia and Praia Do Barril 0

Posted on November 23, 2009 by movingtoportugal

For the next few days, we spent our time exploring our local coast. Our first stop, just to the west of Tavira, was a beach called Praia Do Barril. As with the majority of beaches along the Eastern Algarve, the beach is on a sand-spit island. Several of the beaches require you to take a very short ferry ride or water-taxi to reach the sands.

Praia do BarrilPraia Do Barril is slightly different in that you can take a tiny narrow-gauge train to the beach from a very pretty white-washed resort called Pedras Del Rei, or alternatively take a wonderful 15 minute walk beside the tracks – across the marshes and lagoons and through fragrant woods.

When you arrive at Barril, which forms part of the Isla De Tavira, you can quickly see why the Isla was listed in a recent survey of the top ten beaches in the world. The sands are an almost Caribbean white and soft like fine sugar and the sand and sea stretches as far as the eye can see in both directions. Being off-season, there was hardly anybody around – however there are a couple of cafes present to provide some somewhat overpriced sustenance, or, in our case, a small icy glass of Sagres beer.

Although windswept, the low dunes provide shelter from the wind and people were sunbathing happily, despite it being mid-November! Sadly, the very fun looking 6-seater pedaloes with a built in slide to splash into the sea were not for hire at this time of year, but I plan to be first in the queue when the next season begins!

On the way back to Tavira, we stopped in Santa Luzia, a rustic fishing villageSanta Luzia Village with a number of seafood restaurants. We deliberately chose the shabbiest place for a shellfish snack –determined to remain outside our comfort-zone and be forced to attempt to speak Portugese (it would be very easy to be lazy in the Algarve as anywhere even vaguely touristy-looking will assume you only speak English.) We had a plate of large prawns and in place of the clams, which were not available, we had cockles. I expected cockles to be the small chewy things in vinegar like you get in jars in the UK, but these were served in their shells, steaming hot and fresh, with wine, garlic and olive oil. They were a revelation, and I intend to slurp an awful lot more of these delicious morsels from their shells in weeks to come. Every last bit of the garlicky sauce was soaked up in the fresh bread and we left very happy.

Santa Luzia itself was a charming little place, a lot more “local” than many of the places in the Algarve, with the river shimmering at the bottom and small fishing boats bobbing around. During the Summer, it is apparently possible to take a boat across to the beach (Santa Luzia beach also forms part of the Isla De Tavira) but this didn’t appear to be running off season.

Tomorrow: Monte Gordo and Praia Verde

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