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

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Seasonally Affected in Portugal 8

Posted on February 19, 2014 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

It’s been a couple of weeks since I last posted on Moving to Portugal. I shall be honest and say it’s because I’ve not really found an awful lot to write about.

Until this week, the weather has been decidedly dull, and the simple fact of the matter is that there really isn’t that much to do in the Algarve when the weather is poor. We don’t have cosy country pubs with log fires, or Cafe Neros with big sofas (although we do have far better coffee).

Algarve Weather - nothing to write home about

Algarve Weather – nothing to write home about

With a heavily pregnant wife, choices are restricted further. The popular expat option of steadily drinking until the weather improves is certainly off the table!

Thankfully, the sun has returned this week, and just in the nick of time as I was beginning to feel decidedly down in the dumps. Despite plenty of work AND keeping up to date with my degree course, I was still saying “I’m BORED” like a sulky teenager at least a couple of times each week.

As soon as the sun came out, my mood was transformed. It’s not as if it’s suddenly spring, as the temperatures are struggling to rise much higher than about 15 degrees, but it’s still been enough to encourage me to get out and walk again. On Sunday, I even managed to sit outside and read in a T-shirt – in the suntrap of my balcony it actually felt warm.

Last night, Louise gently reminded me that it’s just 11 weeks until our baby is due. I’ve never known time to both drag and fly in such a contradictory way, but having spoken to other recent parents it seems it’s actually quite normal. Apparently in about 6 months time we will give anything to feel “bored” again.

On the subject of boredom, it’s actually a rather common state of mind amongst expats right now. A couple of weeks ago, there were some satellite changes, resulting in the loss of BBC and ITV channels. Currently, thousands of expats are scrabbling around trying to find ways to get Eastenders back.

UK TV Gone in Portugal

UK TV Gone in Portugal

To be frank, I find it all a bit depressing. When you see how mobilised a group of people can become about a topic, you can’t help but wonder how much GOOD such collective motivation could do if it were pointed at a worthy cause. Sadly, however, that’s not the world we live in. The government raise taxes to pay for their own mistakes? Nobody really minds that much. Huge scandals are uncovered? Nobody makes more than a passing comment…

But take Jeremy Kyle away…well SOMETHING MUST BE DONE! What strange priorities we have.

I do feel for elderly people out here. UK TV was a lifeline for them, and few of the alternative solutions are as easy to use as a Sky box. However, UK TV is not a right for anyone living in Portugal, and was never being offered as a legitimate service anyway. Portugal has TV too, and if a few more people watch it they might start to learn the language of the country they’ve chosen to live in.

I did write an article some time ago about an easy way to get UK TV in Portugal. Here is a link to it.

Having read all that back, I am conscious that it sounds a bit ranty, so I obviously haven’t had quite enough sunshine yet. I will do my best to get more cheerful before I post again!

Whenever you're ready summer

Whenever you’re ready summer

Just before I go, I’ve noticed that this in the 200th post on Moving to Portugal. Working on an average length of 750 words, that means we’ve now written 150,000 words – a good few books worth! If you’ve yet to read Moving to Portugal: The Book, which contains plenty of unique content, please check it out below. If you’re one of the people missing UK TV, it will keep you busy for a few hours ;-)

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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The Simple Life – Lou’s Update 8

Posted on November 18, 2013 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

It’s a time of change for us at the moment. With summer behind us and a baby on the way, life is looking rather different than it did three months ago.

Autumn is the time for perfect sunsets

Autumn is the time for perfect sunsets

The change in the weather has meant we are enjoying long walks now that the sun has lost the ferocity of its mid-summer heat. We have been stretching our legs around our local villages, towns and beaches, relishing the peace that the Algarve offers now that the tourists have gone home for another season. Our walks have treated us to beautiful sunsets, desolate beachscapes and the reward of coffee and cake in near-deserted cafés.

Walking around the Algarve at this time of year has reminded us of the simple life that we came here for in the first place. We swapped a London commute for strolls in the sand and, while we do sometimes miss the convenience of life in the big city, the Algarve is now our home through and through. I can’t imagine any circumstances that would cause us to swap back.

Deserted beaches abound at this time of year

Deserted beaches abound at this time of year

This week also afforded us the chance to test out our blossoming language skills, when we were invited to a friend’s birthday dinner. The guests were half English and half Portuguese and it’s fair to say that we held our own in terms of conversation during the meal. It was a real triumph compared to how we would have managed even six months ago. It finally feels as though we are really getting somewhere with the language, which has given us a lovely confidence boost. Of course I’m also hard at work learning all sorts of pregnancy and birth-related words in Portuguese at the moment!

Perfect walking weather

Perfect walking weather

Our friend’s birthday dinner was a chance to enjoy life in Portugal at its finest. A huge table of us sat outside in the (extremely chilly) evening, feasting on prawns, grilled meat, bacalhau com natas and other savoury treats. The food was simple and delicious and followed by some fabulous Portuguese desserts. I confess I used the ‘eating for two’ excuse to consume a giant slice of tarte de natas. The meal was lengthy and packed with entertaining conversation and laughter – a truly wonderful experience and exactly the kind of thing we moved here for in the first place.

Enjoying the solitude

Enjoying the solitude

The next few months are going to bring even more changes for us as ‘the bump’ gets bigger and we prepare for the arrival of the newest member of our family. The pregnancy has refocused us and, despite the hateful hours spent on medical administration matters, made us realise that we are precisely where we want to be to bring up a child. The year ahead is going to be a rollercoaster, but I can’t think of anywhere else that I would rather be.

If you would like to know more about our move to Portugal to enjoy the simple life, why not 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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Winter Life in Portugal – Rainy Days and Mondays 0

Posted on March 07, 2013 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

Life in Portugal doesn’t always involve sitting on the beach and drinking cocktails, although of course I do try to do that as often as possible (it’s Lou here today, by the way). This week, with high winds and torrential rain, we have hibernated indoors with the heating on full blast.

The miserable weather has given me a chance to spend some time furthering my studies of the Portuguese language, to watch a few movies and to spend some time in the kitchen, the results of which can be seen on our sister blog, Food and Wine Portugal. It has been a chance to regroup and relax in our lovely home.

So much rain, even the plants are suffering

So much rain, even the plants are suffering

However, a full week of this weather has led me to reflect on a fact often overlooked by holidaymakers and those considering moving to Portugal – there is really very little to do here when the weather is bad.

Once you have exhausted the shopping centres and worked your way through the cinema listings, the Algarve quickly runs out of bad-weather attractions. Strolling around pretty little towns, lazing on the beach and sitting outside a café for a coffee are all activities that quickly lose their appeal when it’s pouring with rain. The result has been – in our village at least – that locals have either stayed indoors or flocked to the village’s bars, seemingly content to simply sit and drink until the sun comes out.

Winter life in Portugal - the beach isn't so inviting in the rain

Winter life in Portugal – the beach isn’t so inviting in the rain

Thankfully we both work fulltime, so the bad weather hasn’t had the chance to lead to too much boredom. Once you add in the usual domestic chores, which sadly don’t go away when you move to another country, the day fills up pretty quickly. So for the moment it’s a case of battening down the hatches, working hard and saving up for the dreaded annual Portuguese tax bill. Still, it will all be worth it once the sun finally comes out again and we can begin to enjoy all the wonderful activities that summer life in Portugal has to offer.

Image credits: Wikimedia

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