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

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

Posted on August 12, 2013 by Ben Algarve

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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Expats in Portugal: 5 Tips for Summer 6

Posted on July 22, 2013 by Ben Algarve

Expats in Portugal tend to have a love/hate relationship with the summer. While we look forward to the arrival of sunshine, atmosphere and things to do, we usually start to complain by mid-July when the roads get busy, restaurant service becomes shambolic, and timing a trip the supermarket badly can mean queuing like it’s Christmas Eve!

Crowded Praia da Dona Ana - Lagos

Crowded Praia da Dona Ana – Lagos

So, in honour of the fact that we’ve now arrived at the time when we all begin to complain, here are five lighthearted tips to help residents in the Algarve cope with the summer.

 

1.      Time trips to the supermarket carefully

The worst possible time to arrive at the supermarket is when everyone’s on their way home from the beach. Sunday afternoons can be pretty hateful too.

All you have to do is think outside the box. Go early, when the tourists are sleeping off their hangovers, for minimal queues and maximum choice. Late doesn’t work quite so well, as although there may not be many people there, there’s probably not much stock either. Right in the middle of a hot day can work too – if, of course, you don’t have to work!

Sunshine - it's here all summer

Sunshine – it’s here all summer

2.      Get out of the expat mindset

It’s hard to get used to the fact that the sun is guaranteed to shine every day in the summer, and break out of the expat mentality that makes you feel compelled to get outside so as not to “waste the weather.”

Four years on, we’re still struggling to break our conditioning, but we’re getting there. We just have to get our work done and trust that the sun will still be there tomorrow.

 

3.      Go off the beaten track

There’s no getting around the fact that you may resent the thousands of people on “your” usually-near-deserted beach, but the tourists are the lifeblood of the Algarve economy.

Solitude - it's there if you know where to look!

Solitude – it’s there if you know where to look!

Instead, you must learn to go to places that the tourists haven’t discovered. We know a river beach that is never thronged, and also plenty of busy beaches where solitude can still be found after a 15 minute walk.

Best of all though, get to know some people with a house in the hills and ideally a pool. Then, spend your weekends there and save the beach for mid-September. We’re very lucky to have relatives in the country!

 

4.      Put water under the air conditioning

We always thought that putting a bowl of water in an air-conditioned room was an old wives’ tale. It’s not. If you spend a lot of time with the air conditioning on, the extra humidity from the water will prevent the worst of the peeling lips and sore throats.

Summer festivities

Summer festivities

5.      Remember you’re not on holiday

If you’ve retired then go ahead and enjoy yourself. If, like us, you still have a hefty Monday to Friday workload, you’ve still got to get it all done, and doing it with sunburn, heatstroke or a hangover is no fun at all.

 

So, sad though it is to accept, you must get your head down and get it done – and what better incentive is there to hammer through it than a beach at the end of the road – even if it is really bloody crowded!

 

Image credits: Wikimedia Commons

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Flying to Portugal 4

Posted on July 05, 2011 by Ben Algarve

As I type this I am 30-odd thousand feet above Portugal or Spain on my journey back to the Algarve, after a quick week working and socialising in London.

We are very much looking forward to re-establishing a routine after our recent residency nightmares, which were exacerbated by three weeks of toothache, which thankfully has abated since a trip to the dentist in London.

Heading home to Portugal

Heading home to Portugal

All in all, June was probably our most unsettled month since moving to Portugal, so I am relishing the thought of something approaching normality, or as least as close to normality as we can get as the real holiday season beings in the Algarve. This means strategic planning is required when visiting shops, beaches and restaurants, to avoid the worst of the hordes.

Montegordo Beach - in quieter times

Montegordo Beach - in quieter times

Tomorrow should be a rather exciting day, as we are finally picking up our own car after 18 months of supporting the local car hire companies. Car hire has proved so affordable throughout the winter that if we could get those rates year round, we would be tempted to just keep renting ad infinitum. The trouble is that in the summer, we can end up paying the same to hire a car for a week as we usually pay per month off-season…..and that is if one is available.

Shortly after finally getting our residency, we were approved for car finance on something nearly new–quite a feat when our income all comes from the UK. I apologise to the environment for the trees that must have been felled to produce all the paperwork that was required! If anyone wants information on what we did and what was required, let me know, but I won´t bore everyone reading the blog with the details here.

I don´t have a lot more to say, having been away from Portugal for a week. Once we arrive back, I look forward to embracing life in the sun, which I have been unable to do fully with residency stress as well as toothache!

All is good right now, but I imagine within a week or two I´ll be complaining about the tourists….there are certainly plenty of them on this plane 😉

QUICK UPDATE: After typing this on Friday on the plane, I didn’t get round to posting it until Tuesday. We are now back, the sun is shining….and…….we have our car! It was a quick and easy process, but at some point soon we really ought to attempt to translate all the bits of paper we mindlessly signed when we collected it. Oh, and my wife is already complaining about traffic and “dawdling tourists.” All much as predicted then really!

Image Credits: Deanster1983 Bert Kaufmann

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Summer in the Algarve 0

Posted on May 18, 2011 by Ben Algarve

Only time for a quick post today as it’s changeover day for us here in the Algarve. Some friends of ours left here yesterday and my niece arrives in just a few hours – so all hands are on deck to sweep the sand from the floor and restock the fridge and wine-rack ready for round 2!

One thing that surprised us when we moved to Portugal, was that over a year into the experience we still hadn’t once experienced that deeply happy “I’m on holiday” frame of mind we felt when we used to come here on holiday. It’s not quite the same when you live in a holiday destination as, for one thing, you are not protected from daily sightings of bills, emails and credit card statements!

Approaching Ilha de Tavira Beach

Approaching Ilha de Tavira Beach

When we have guests here, it’s the closest we come to that wonderful holiday vibe, as we get to piggy-back on their holiday mood. On that note, the last week or so has been fabulous, with gorgeous sunny weather and plenty of good times.

There have been some real “Wow, I LIVE here, I’d better pinch myself” moments over the past days. Here are some of the highlights:

1. Seeing the sun set over the river whilst driving back over the bridge to Portugal after a day in Spain.

2. Seasoning vast piles of meat and fish to share with our friends and three generations of extended family.

3. Making mojitos outside late at night with the temperature still comfortably into the 20s.

4. Escaping the beach on Monday due to exfoliatingly high winds to find the waterfall at Pego do Inferno almost deserted, and swimming in the crystal-clear pool below.

5. Falling into bed each night and sleeping almost instantly with the type of tiredness that only comes from long days swimming through the waves and throwing a Frisbee around a hot beach.

Pego do Inferno Waterfall Portugal

Pego do Inferno Waterfall Portugal

Sometimes I post on this blog and complain about various things: bureaucracy, poor quality meat or having to travel to London too often. Sometimes though, I get reminded why all of it is worth it—this was our dream, and every now and then we have enough time to realize we are living it. We have plenty of blessings to count.

The arrival of my niece heralds an active week ahead—long-term readers of the blog may recall her last visit involved us going kayaking. This time we’re climbing mountains—just what’s needing to shed the last week’s excess barbecue weight—expect a mountain-walking-related post very soon!

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