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

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The End of an Era 7

Posted on March 10, 2015 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

It’s three months since I posted on this blog, so regular readers have perhaps been wondering what’s going on.

Well, the time has come to finally bring you up to speed.

At the beginning of the year, my wife and I came to the difficult decision to relocate back to England with our now nine-month-old son.

I guess at this point the big question is “why?” and it’s certainly one I’ve spent a lot of time answering amongst family and friends over recent weeks.

The fact is that there simply isn’t one easy answer to the question. It’s more like twenty different factors, each contributing to five-percent of the decision.

Our new beach - not in Portugal but in the UK

Our new beach – not in Portugal but in the UK

We spent some wonderful years in Portugal. Some of our time there came close to how we dreamed it would be; some things were easier than we expected; some things were far more difficult.

We learned a lot about ourselves in the process too. We learned what we need for a truly happy existence; we learned that you can be content in the cold and rain, and thoroughly miserable with the sun blazing through the window. Ironically, we also learned to build careers that allow us both to work from home, meaning that we now have more flexibility as to where we live in the UK than we did before we left!

Perhaps this is all a bit cryptic, and I guess that’s intentional, as I intend to refocus some energy on the blog in the near future and discuss all the things that contributed to our decision, as well as reporting on the ups and downs of our final months in the country.

For now, I will reassure you that our decision, although heart-wrenching in many ways, was the one that we unanimously made, and one we are extremely happy with. When we left for Portugal we were far more young and carefree; Now we’re a young family, with a different set of wants, needs and priorities. We feel the UK ticks more of our boxes for this next phase of our lives.

Meanwhile though, Portugal retains the part of our hearts it captured forever, and will surely call us back soon, if only for a holiday. Who knows what that priority list will look like in another five years?

 

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Moving House in Portugal 4

Posted on October 06, 2014 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

It’s a well-known theory that moving house is “one of the most stressful things you can do.”

I’m not convinced I buy into the theory, as I can think of plenty of other far more stressful things, but it’s certainly tiring, time-consuming and arduous. It’s what we’ve been doing for the past week and half, and the reason this blog has gone rather quiet lately.

Algarve sunset from our new home

Algarve sunset from our new home

We’ve not completed the move yet. I’d say we’re perhaps 70% of the way there, but thankfully we still have plenty of “cross over period” left, so we don’t have to rush too much with the final bits.

A simple post about the move would be rather dull, so I’ve decided to do a list post, talking about the good and bad bits of the move so far, which should paint an overall picture of how we’ve been getting on.

The Good Bits

  1. Taking in our beautiful new sea view from the roof terrace. I’ll be surprised if I ever get bored with this or take it for granted. One surprise has been the fact that it never occurred to us that the night view would be just as wonderful, when all the lights of the town twinkle below, and we can make out each of the departing fishing boats as night begins to fall.
  1. Buying lots of new things for our home, from electrical goods, via shelf units and bins, to treats for our infant son, including the pictured “jumperoo,” which is a great success, even though it’s twice as big as it looked on the box picture and could do with a room of its own!
New kids toys in the new house

New kids toys in the new house

  1. Feeling surprisingly fit and healthy, as a result of every single day being a non-stop mission of climbing stairs and lifting boxes—who needs the gym?!
  1. Cooking and eating our first meals in our new home, and enjoying the extra kitchen space—even though muscle memory is causing me to reach for everything in the wrong place and bumble about clumsily.
  1. Enjoying having south facing outside space, so that we can appreciate the evening sun. We did have a south facing terrace on our old apartment, but the one place where there was room for a lounger was directly below where the swallows nest each year, making sunbathing a treacherous and dirty experience…

The Bad Bits

  1. Breaking a few treasured items in the process of moving, including some serving dishes, and a much-loved steel saucepan that bit the dust in an “unfortunate” mini-inferno while I was foolishly trying to multi-task.
  1. Taking my holidaying father-in-law to hospital in Faro in the dead of night due to a stomach issue. (This is a “good bit” too, as he’s absolutely fine now, and was impressed with the care he received).
  1. Worrying that me treating said father-in-law to too much rich food and wine may have been the cause of the above!
Our first meal in our new house in Portugal

Our first meal in our new house in Portugal

  1. Being really proactive in changing all of our addresses only to find that we’d been given the incorrect postcode for our new home, requiring us to start all over again. This has resulted in a stern ticking off from one accountant, and silence ever since from another, who’s clearly unimpressed about having to do the work twice. It wasn’t my fault!
  1. Buying a five-gang socket to place behind the TV unit, then buying a six-gang socket as I realised I was one short, then realising today that the Internet people would need another one for the router. On the bright side, at least we will now have plenty of adaptors for Christmas lights later in the year.
  1. Realising, while I write this, that there’s still absolutely tons of stuff to move.
  1. Feeling sad watching all of the homeliness gradually being stripped away from our old apartment, where we’ve been very content for nearly five years. I feel oddly disloyal when I pop back there to grab something else. I’m a sentimental soul.

So there you have it. Our new house is gradually taking shape, and I hope that a week from now, we’ll feel like we’ve at least nearly finished. “Visitor season” is now upon us; after my father in law leaves on Wednesday we have six more people visiting between now and the beginning of November. Even with a nearly new baby, I wonder if we’ll wonder what we did with our time once all this calms down!

If you’re considering a move to Portugal, please check out our book!

UK Readers will find the book here:

Moving to Portugal

US Readers will find the book here:

Moving to Portugal

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Moving to Portugal Book Sale: One Week! 4

Posted on September 08, 2014 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

So, it’s September, the kids are back at school and the summer is drawing to a close.

Back to school

Back to school

It can be a rather depressing time of year for many, although it’s fair to say it’s not bad at all in the Algarve, where warm weather is all but guaranteed for another couple of months ;-)

If you’ve holidayed in Portugal this summer and are eager to come back, or if you’re already planning to move to Portugal, I have a little something to cheer you up on this Monday morning:

For one week only, I have initiated a “Kindle Countdown deal” on our Moving to Portugal book.

From now until next Monday, you can download the book to your Kindle for just £1.99 in the UK store or $3.25 in the US store—representing more than 50% off!

You’ll just need to jump in there quick, as the offer will end in one week’s time.

We hope you enjoy the book. It contains almost entirely unique content that hasn’t been on the blog before. If you do enjoy it, we’d be very grateful if you could leave a kind review on Amazon for us :-)

We hope this offer helps you relieve the post-summer blues. Have a good week.

UK Readers will find the book here:

Moving to Portugal

US Readers will find the book here:

Moving to Portugal

IMAGE CREDIT: Flikr

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Our little bundle of joy 21

Posted on May 28, 2014 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

(Lou) Living in Portugal was our dream for several years before we moved here. We fell in love with the country the first time we visited it and it was on that holiday that as we lazed on the beach, idly watching a man build sand castles with his little daughter, we decided that we didn’t want to bring our children up in London.

The decision was a significant one – we were still years from getting married and having a family, but it signalled the beginning of the end of our love affair with London. From that point forward, the idea of raising our children within walking distance of a sun-kissed seashore was planted firmly in both our minds.

Living in Portugal - sun-kissed sands

Living in Portugal – sun-kissed sands

After several years of planning, saving and working towards our dream, we finally moved to Portugal. The move was over four years ago now and, though at times living here has been stressful (mainly when completing paperwork and dealing with bureaucracy), we have no regrets about leaving the UK far behind.

We have embraced the Portuguese way of life and it has changed us both since we have lived here, though perhaps not in the ways we would have expected before we left England. One constant since our move has been our certainty that Portugal is the place where we want to raise a family. Children are cherished here – a toddler ambling around a restaurant will receive pats on the head from the waiters and smiles from the diners, rather than the annoyed looks that the same scenario would produce in a London eatery.

Living in Portugal - a new arrival

Living in Portugal – a new arrival

We thought for a while that our dream of having a family in Portugal was one that wasn’t going to come true for us. I was actually booked in for an appointment to find out why we were struggling to conceive when we found out that we were expecting. Since then, our life has been a whirlwind of preparation, from spending endless hours waiting for doctors’ appointments, to creating the perfect nursery, to knitting countless tiny jumpers in preparation for the cold winter months.

Two and a half weeks ago, by which time I was the size of a whale, we had lunch with friends at the beautiful and relatively secluded beach of Lota in the eastern Algarve. We visited relatives in the afternoon and then headed home via the supermarket. It turned out to be our last day doing things as a couple, as shortly after we arrived home my body suddenly announced that it was time to head to the hospital.

Living in Portugal - tiny toes

Living in Portugal – tiny toes

Some twelve hours later, our tiny bundle of joy arrived via an emergency Caesarean section, filling us both with a happiness so intense we never knew it was possible.

The last two and a half weeks have been the most wonderful and emotional or our lives. We have been truly touched by the kindness of all those around us, from family and friends to the hospital staff and our next door neighbours. We have been overwhelmed by the amount of new things there are to learn (it turns out that winding a new-born baby who likes to wriggle a lot is harder than it looks in a book). Most of all, we have been amazed that we have managed to produce such a beautiful and perfect little boy, who has filled our hearts with love and our lives with joy.

Welcome to the world Frederico :-)

Living in Portugal - welcome to the world

Living in Portugal – welcome to the world

If you would like to know more about our adventures while living in Portugal, please 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 will find it here.

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Life in Portugal – Spring is in the Air 2

Posted on January 27, 2014 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

Lou here with a quick update. It seems strange that spring has arrived so fast this year. Christmas and New Year have barely passed and yet this weekend we’ve been enjoying days with temperatures of 20C plus. We’ve fished the sunglasses out from the back of the drawer, braved the outside world while in short sleeves and admired the blossom that has burst into life on the almond trees – one of the sweetest sights and scents that the Algarve has to offer.

Life in Portugal - not long until it's beach time again

Life in Portugal – not long until it’s beach time again

Having grown up in England, it seems strange that winter can have passed so quickly. Even after several years in Portugal it is not something that I am used to. My brain is still full of winter baking recipes to try out in the kitchen and we’ve only just made this year’s batch of chutney, so the sun drawing us inexorably to the beach has presented quite a mix of contradictory feelings.

On the one hand, it’s delightful to be cleaning down the barbecue ready for another long season of lazy weekends spent feasting on local produce. On the other, I’ve got all sorts of winter tasks still to be completed before we switch to our vastly different summer schedule. I can’t really believe I’m admitting it, but another couple of weeks of rain wouldn’t go amiss!

Thankfully, as this is our fifth winter in Portugal, I’m well aware that the first warm weekend of the year doesn’t signal the full on start of spring, but it’s been lovely to have a taster of it nonetheless.

Life in Portugal - spring is well on the way

Life in Portugal – spring is well on the way

Our daily lives in Portugal have settled into a well-balanced schedule over the winter months. Weekdays are spent working, with the odd diversion (after all, what’s the point of being freelance, if you don’t occasionally get to take time off between 9 and 5?); evenings are spent knitting baby clothes (me), trying out new recipes (Ben) and watching films; and weekends are for quiet, local activities.

It’s a routine that suits us for a couple of months each year, while we recover from the hectic pace of summer, but usually by February we are ready for the tourists to begin arriving again and livening up the calm, quiet town that we live in over the winter months.

For those considering starting a new life in Portugal, I would strongly recommend visiting it during all seasons. There can be precious little to do during the winter months in some areas, while others become so packed during the summer that they are unbearably crowded.

Life in Portugal - a winter sunset

Life in Portugal – a winter sunset

It’s one of Portugal’s many contrasts and one that we are still becoming accustomed to. By the end of the summer, we can’t wait for the tourists to go home and give us back the wonderful peace of the winter months. By the end of the winter, we are desperate for the tourists to return and crank up the pace of town life once again.

For the moment, I’ll have to find a way to juggle my brain’s incomplete list of winter tasks with my body’s desire to bask in the sun. I can think of worse dilemmas to have.

If you like the blog, why not try the 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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Moving to Portugal now on Facebook! 0

Posted on January 24, 2014 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

Hello everyone.

I’m a little ashamed that it’s taken so long to join Moving to Portugal to Facebook, but I’m pleased to say we’ve finally done it.

Moving to Portugal on Facebook

Louise and I would be ever so grateful if you could visit and “like” the page, where we will notify you of new posts, both from here and from our other site, Food and Wine Portugal, and also provide occasional offers, competitions and quick photo updates.

Thank you for your support! You will find our Facebook page here – or you can use the link to the right!

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New Year, New Horizons – Portugal 2014 4

Posted on January 12, 2014 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

(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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A Positive Removals Experience 7

Posted on November 14, 2013 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

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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From Portugal to England – a Reverse Perspective 8

Posted on September 16, 2013 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

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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Summer in Portugal – why the Portuguese don’t sleep 4

Posted on August 12, 2013 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

Summer in Portugal is a wonderful time and particularly so in the Algarve. Entertainment offerings crank up during July until they reach fever pitch in August. For holidaymakers evenings can be spent enjoying relaxed meals sitting outside restaurants, followed by shopping, drinking or dancing for endless hours at a range of venues, local festivals and travelling markets. Days are for tanning by the pool or swimming in the sea of one of the Algarve’s many stunning beaches.

Summer in Portugal - hot sushi and sangria by the sea

Summer in Portugal – hot sushi and sangria by the sea

For those of use who live here, fitting in the countless summer activities around a fulltime work schedule and a calendar of visiting guests can be tricky – and very tiring! In the past couple of weeks we have spent the day at a waterpark, visited a casino, listened to an amazing sunset DJ set, swum in the sea, been out for dinner, danced the night away at the local nightclub and attended numerous BBQs. All while working 8-10 hour days.

With this many activities to pack into the schedule, something has to give. In our case, it’s been sleep that we’ve passed up on in order to fit everything else in. So it was a treat last night to get our first full night of deep sleep in about two weeks – despite the noise from a late night football game in our village.

This week, with a couple of beach visits, a night out with friends and attending the Olhão shellfish festival already on the cards even if nothing else comes up, I suspect we will be straight back to cutting out sleep in order to enjoy everything the summer has to offer.

Summer in Portugal - beautiful bars welcome you at sunset

Summer in Portugal – beautiful bars welcome you at sunset

It’s a routine that has taken us some years to adjust to and we debated yesterday why it is that the Portuguese don’t seem to sleep. Our conclusions, based purely on personal observations since we’ve lived here, are that our Portuguese friends are able seemingly to stay up all night every night during the summer months because:

1)      It’s too hot to sleep, even if you wanted to

2)      There’s so much to do that the frenetic energy of the Algarve continues to pulse through your veins when your own stock of energy runs out

3)      The Algarve is so quiet during the nine non-summer months of the year that everyone enters into a state of semi-hibernation to prepare for the following summer, when they do it all over again

Summer in Portugal - balancing work and play

Summer in Portugal – balancing work and play

After four years, we are beginning to adapt to the routine, with snatched cat-naps here and there giving us the energy for long days of work and even longer evenings and weekends of play. It might be tiring at times, but come October when we are sitting indoors and watching the rain pour down for days on end, we will be glad to know that we squeezed every last drop out of the Portuguese summer.

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