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


My Portugal A to Z – P to R 1

Posted on May 11, 2012 by Ben Algarve

P is for Praia da Rocha

P just had to be for praia (beach). I’ve chosen Praia da Rocha, as it was the first place we ever visited in Portugal and remains close to our hearts.

Praia da Rocha was one of the first tourist resorts in the Algarve. It is suitably high-rise and tacky in places and to some I’m sure it is the very opposite of what they look for in a holiday.

To see it in just those terms, however, is to do the place a disservice. It is an unpretentious resort that doesn’t claim to be anything other than a destination for sun, sea and cocktails. Most importantly, the beach itself is absolutely stunning, with a gigantic manmade beach at one end and a more natural series of rocks and coves to the west (the western end is in fact correctly known as Praia de Tres Castelos).

Praia da Rocha December 2011

Praia da Rocha December 2011

A visit to Praia da Rocha is a frequent day out for us, especially when we have guests and want to show them the contrasting scenery at the other end of the Algarve. A typical day starts at the modern marina, facing Ferragudo to the east. This complex includes lots of restaurants and upscale beach bars. A long walk can then take us either along the new boardwalk at sea level or through the fort at the top.

There are numerous places to stop to take in the views and although we tend to accelerate a little through the touristy strip in the middle with its sports bars and “lookie-lookie” men, we have been there long enough to know a few restaurants that are worth a stop for lunch.

I make no apology for loving this brash resort and the healthy mix of tourists and locals seems to suggest it is popular with plenty of others too.

When we lived in London, we used to make the occasional trip to Brighton. Now we go to Praia da Rocha instead.

Q is for Quinta do Lago

Having discussed a popular Algarve tourist resort that I like, let’s move onto one I don’t – Quinta do Lago.

The official website says “synonymous with elegance and privacy.” I say “more synonymous with Kensington and Chelsea than with anything REMOTELY Portuguese.”

Sanitised to within an inch of its life and designed in such a way that the wealthy can move from golf course to BMW to restaurant without even having to think about being abroad, Quinta do Lago just……bugs me.

Menus in English, poorly-behaved Lacoste-clad little darlings and an abundance of Surrey-yummy-mummies who look just as annoyed and stressed in Apolonia as they do in Waitrose back home, Quinta do Lago makes me cross and (perhaps related) makes me feel like I’m back in London.

When I DID live in London I lived quite near to Richmond and I didn’t go there very often. The same applies.

R is for Rosé Wine

Let’s get one thing clear – I DON’T mean the nasty yet famous concoction that is Mateus Rosé – I am really not a fan.

With that out the way though, Portugal boasts some fabulous rosé and although we largely forget it during the winter, as soon as the sun comes out we drink it like water.

Mosaraz Rose - a favourite

Mosaraz Rose - a favourite

Two favourites are Mosaraz Rosé and Porta de Ravessa Rosé – both pink variants of workaday Portuguese wines that are also available in white and red. Both of these seem to have a distinct season, disappearing from the shelves and appearing again, usefully, at just the point we decide we want to drink them.

You can read about a few of the rosés we like over at Food and Wine Portugal.

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Portugal A to Z Project – M, N and O 4

Posted on April 03, 2012 by Ben Algarve

M is for Mopeds

Anyone who knows me personally will know that these had to get a mention. After all, they are my current favourite toy (move over iPhone, you’re no longer the new kid on the block).

A few weeks back we took delivery of the two shiny electric scooters you will see in the photograph. These are the perfect transportation between apartment, café and beach (but not bar – you wouldn’t want to wobble too much on these little things!)

Electric Mopeds in Portugal

Electric Mopeds in Portugal

These electric mopeds seem to be becoming increasingly popular in our area. Restricted to just 25km/h, they have pedals and are legally treated as pushbikes. You don’t need license, registration or insurance and, best of all, you can ride them on the lovely network of Algarve cycle paths.

Above all, I’m now a southern-European; I could hardly NOT have bought a moped now could I? 😉

N is for Nobre (Hotdogs!)

OK, so my choice for “N” is perhaps a little weak. But these inexplicably popular and rather nondescript hotdog frankfurters were the first thing that sprang to mind – and, if I’m being honest, I couldn’t think of anything else!

All Portuguese supermarkets have a surprisingly large section of tinned hotdog sausages. While we often go months without eating them, there is usually a tin of this Nobre brand in our cupboard ready to be thrown in a burger bun with fried onions and mustard when a particularly troublesome hangover rears its head.

Nobre Hotdogs in Portugal

Nobre Hotdogs in Portugal

We have also encountered Nobre hotdogs at tourist attractions such as Zoomarine Algarve. These come with little thin potato chips inside that make for a surprisingly agreeable, crunchy addition. So, there you have it. N is for Nobre.

O is for Olhão

I have chosen Olhão for my “O” for two reasons.

First of all this town in the East Algarve is quite unique in that it is still essentially a working town that remains stubbornly untouched by tourism (although a very posh hotel and spa at the western end of the seafront is doing its best to change that).

Olhão is a down to earth kind of town with lots of restaurants and shops, and also an agreeable place to walk along the waterfront. From here, ferries run to the beautiful beach islands of Armona and Culatra – where a five minute walk can provide you with peace and tranquility, even in the peak of the summer season.

Ilha da Armona - Accessed from Olhao

Ilha da Armona - Accessed from Olhao

My second reason for choosing Olhão is that the word itself separates the men from the boys in terms of Portuguese pronunciation. While phonetically, an English speaker may be tempted to say “Ol-how,” “ão” with the accent over the “a” in Portuguese make a “yaow” sound (“yaow” as in “how,” not as in “sow”).

So, what you are looking for is “OL-YAOW” – go on, practice it!

Now you’re in the mood for Portuguse, perhaps it’s time to learn a bit more? Here’s how we started off!

Get Talking Portuguese in Ten Days (Teach Yourself)

Image credit: Visitar Portugal

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My Portugal A to Z – D to F 6

Posted on January 24, 2012 by Ben Algarve

This week I am continuing the personal A to Z of Portugal that I began last week. Today, I present you with letters D to F:

D is for Dona Barca:

Dona Barca in Portimao is one of our favourite Algarve restaurants. We found it thanks to a guidebook whilst on holiday, long before moving here. The place has changed a fair bit since we first visited. It’s fame and popularity amongst tourists and locals alike has led it to expand into a larger area in the pretty square of Largo de Barca, and corporate touches like postcards and logoed uniforms have crept in.

Dona Barca Restaurant Portimao

Dona Barca Restaurant Portimao

It’s still the same place though, offering wonderful fresh fish (especially sardines), great house wine in generous carafes, and low prices. For more details, you will find a review of Dona Barca on my Food and Wine Portugal blog.

E is for Espanha:

Now I realise that Espanha may seem a strange choice for a Portugal A to Z, but it feels right to include it amongst my personal choices.

When we first moved here, I used to find it tremendously exciting to see “Espanha” on the road signs. After living in the UK, being somewhere where you can just set off in the car and keep driving until you are in a whole different country gives you a wonderful sense of freedom (and I know that we could have always driven to Wales or Scotland – it just doesn’t feel the same, somehow).

Seville - Just Down the Road from the Algarve

Seville - Just Down the Road from the Algarve

We often head to Spain for weekend breaks, when we would previously have headed for Cornwall or Norfolk. We have enjoyed cheap weekends in Seville, Marbella and Cadiz already, and are soon off to see what Jerez is all about. Espanha, being only 20 minutes away, is also our go-to destination for taco shells and Iberico ham (Carrefour), tealights and furniture (Ikea), and langoustines by the sea (Punta d’Umbria).

F is for Farturas:

The arrival of a van selling farturas and churros in Portugal usually signifies that some kind of local event or festival is about to happen. Farturas and churros are the southern European interpretation of donuts. Churros are essentially the same as a UK seaside donut, but they are squeezed into the hot oil with a piping bag and served as straight sticks, rather than rings.

Farturas and Churros in Portugal

Farturas and Churros in Portugal

Farturas are similar, but stuffed with a filling, usually a nutella-style chocolate sauce or something fruity. Visitors to Portugal should make a point of trying one of these sweet treats – but try to get them while they’re hot – a cold fartura left sitting on the counter for a while is not especially pleasant!

This time last year I was complaining in this post, about the chill in the Algarve air – which is interesting as I was doing just that when I spoke to my mother on the phone this morning. The headline temperatures do not tell the full story when you live in accommodation with only reverse-cycle air-conditioning to remove the chill from the air. Also back in January 2011 I had just discovered Brisa do Rio – probably still our favourite restaurant in the town of Tavira. It’s hard to believe it was only a year ago, given the amount of times we have eaten in there since!

Image Credits: Visit Portugal, Renata F. Oliveira.

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My Personal Portugal A to Z 11

Posted on January 18, 2012 by Ben Algarve

This week, I am pleased to be joining in with a rather fun blogging project, started off by Julie Dawn Fox at her own Portugal blog.

The idea for this leads on from the personal A-Z that some of us created after being awarded the Awesome Blog Content award earlier this month. Julie suggested it might be fun to each do a personal “A to Z of Portugal.” Several bloggers have joined in from various countries, and I am pleased to be getting involved myself.

My Personal A to Z of Portugal

My Personal A to Z of Portugal

As I tend to post on a weekly basis, I am doing to do a few letters at a time, and intersperse them with my regular posts. So, as a starting point, this week, I present you with letters A to C of my personal A to Z of Portugal.

A is for Aguardente.

Every country seems to have its own firewater-style spirit – the bottle that gets brought out at the end of a big meal. Greece has ouzo, Italy has grappa, and Denmark has aquavit. Portugal has aguardente.

Although this is a personal A-Z, I have to admit I am not a fan of this beverage. One shot has the raw power to change the course of an evening; any more than that can write off the following day as well!

We purchased a bottle of aguardente when we moved here, the rationale behind it being nothing more than “when in Rome.” Well, over two years on, I can confirm that all we have used the bottle for is to flame cook chorizo (a common use for aguardente), and to attempt to draw ticks out of my mother-in-law’s dog.

Interestingly, you do sometimes see some very posh looking, expensive aguardente on the shelves around Christmas time, so perhaps there are versions that don’t look and smell like paint stripper. So far though, we have yet to try them….

B is for Barbecue

I was talking about looking forward to BBQs on the terrace as far back as my sixth ever post on this blog, long before I even moved here.

We adore BBQs, and put a lot of effort into them. We are no strangers to butterflying a leg of lamb, or spatch-cocking a chicken and basting it with beer as it sizzles.

BBQ in Portugal

BBQ in Portugal

Sadly our time in London was never barbecue-friendly. When we eventually moved to a house that had outside space, our snooty elderly neighbour complained about “cooking smells” and slammed her windows shut whenever she so much as caught a glimpse of the grill. In the end, we just didn’t bother.

In the days before we got here, thoughts of sunny barbecues got us through the 16 hour days and the moving stress….and even years on the novelty hasn’t worn off. We barbecue at least weekly, all year round. Home made sauces, woodchips, bastes, dressings, even chickens upended on beer cans. Portugal and BBQs, for us, go hand in hand. We’re even having one tonight!

C is for Coffee

I never really drank coffee before I moved to Portugal, but the lure of a tiny, super-strong bica (espresso) has proved too

Portuguese Bica Coffee

Portuguese Bica Coffee

much to resist.

I probably only have two or three each week – after meals out, and always after our market shop on a Saturday morning. It’s a wonderful little ritual, and a super-cheap luxury, rarely costing more than about 60cents.

Insiders Tip: Portuguese bicas are also sufficiently strong to completely cancel out that final glass of wine that you never should have had during the meal!

IMAGE CREDIT: Ricardo Benardo

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