Newsletter March 2004
|by: Nigel Anteney Hoare|
|February started with an improvement in the weather and still no sign of the much-needed rain. I had already noticed that the LANTERNA VELHA had been undergoing a thorough spring clean prior to their intended opening at the beginning of February and sure enough on 1st of the month, with Dutch precision, they opened. We thought we would visit them but found they had only opened the top restaurant which was full and with customers waiting! Off we went to O CANTINHO which was as good as ever.
We had won a Euro 40 voucher in a charity raffle which was to be used against a meal at O VIEIRA restaurant in GUIA - the chicken piri-piri capital of the world! I recall O Vieira from many years ago. A small group of unattached men from Carvoeiro used to ritually go there every Tuesday and I guess I had only been there once in the last 15 years. It is one of the original piri piri places and used to be VERY basic. Located in the main street of Guia, you still enter via a bar cum cervejaria to find the restaurant behind. It used to have long bare wood tables and trestle benches which meant you often ended up joining in some during and post dinner japes with other diners you had never met before. It was fun.
The place is more sophisticated now with separate tables but the grilling is still done on an enormous charcoal grill at the end of the restaurant. I recognized the owner as well - still the same but older and fatter like myself! Four of us ate and enjoyed very tasty, spicy chicken piri piri. The bill came to a reasonable Euros 58 so we presented the coupon. Uproar ensued when it was claimed that the coupon was a forgery, or, at least, it was only valid for a bottle of wine! I suggested that in that case they could bring us a Euro,40 bottle of wine but that fell on deaf ears! One of those marvellous loud Portuguese arguments ensued the result of which was that the restaurant insisted on accepting the coupon even though they claimed it was bogus and we were intent on paying for the meal and taking the matter up with the raffle organisers. We prevailed and left on good terms being offered "one for the road"! O Vieira is worth a try for a small taste of what those chicken shacks were like in days past. They serve all sorts of other food as well.
On the 5th the day started misty but with a clear sky and the promise of more good weather. My wife went off on one of her now regular UK trips this time to collect our children for a two week half term holiday. I was left "babysitting" my mother in law who was with us for another fortnight. That is always a good excuse not to self cater and take her out so on the Friday we went to VIMAR at the top of Estrada O Farol (restaurant hill). The two of us ate very well for Euros 40 finishing with a drink on the house.
On the Saturday, after the obligatory trip to take her to the 6.30pm Mass at Lagoa Church we went to ELE E ELLA where a different type of meal entirely cost Euros 70 including puddings. Again we enjoyed a complimentary house drink. At more or less the same time I discovered, my wife and children were enjoying the HARD ROCK CAFE in central London at £66 for the three of them. Not sure how you draw a line through those figures but apart from an occasional visit to the Hard Rock or Rainforest Café etc I know where I would rather be!
With the family back on Sunday morning on the early flight from Luton we rounded off the weekend by getting into the Lanterna Velha which was as good as ever.
As usual at this time of the year a big clean up starts and I noticed the block of apartments above the GRANDE MURALHA Chinese restaurant and JOTA LITA, O GALÉ etc were having a power wash and professional paint up treatment. The Chinese in particular seemed to be having a real good go at it having taken all their signs down. I also noticed that O BARCO on the square had reopened and was doing brisk business. I took my children and their friend ZAK down to the square where I was able to take a few photographs and they enjoyed ice creams and crepes from the ice cream shop.
It had been pretty fresh in the mornings as they were clear but by about the 10th it started to cloud over which raised the temperatures somewhat. I noticed that we were experiencing the annual invasion of the motor homes. Like migrating birds they flock to the Algarve to escape the northern winter. Usually crewed by older retirees and mostly bearing British, German or Dutch registrations - the latter with the obligatory two bicycles hung on the rear. This year I even saw one with Czech plates. Like swallows returning each year to the same nest, they seem to always gather in the same areas, year in year out. The open space opposite the football ground in Silves is a favourite watering hole for them, You can often see more than a dozen parked up in a circle almost like the old wagon trains of the Wild West! It is good to see them here - spending both their quality time and their retirement income helping boost the winter trade.
It was noticeably milder on Wednesday 11th with the next day really beautiful creating a heavy mist that night due to the huge temperature drop once the sun set. Anyone who has lived here or stayed here for a period in the winter will be aware of the dampness that descends once the sun dips. Even on a splendid hot winters day, you really need to start closing windows at about 4pm to avoid the damp. You will see houses with all sorts of bedding airing over the window sills in the midday sun but better retrieve that in mid afternoon or it will be worse than when it went out. Many people think the climate here is healthy which I believe it is from the pollution angle but anyone with bronchial problems could well suffer here in the winter
Friday 13th loomed and for me it was a hectic day as we were scheduled to move offices. Only about 50 meters from our present location but with everything that goes with it quiet traumatic! With superb help from the lads of ALGARVE INTERNATONAL REMOVERS (AIM) who have now moved us 3 times, things went well so we shot round to O CICLO for a quick celebratory lunch- always good and reasonable. Fortunately the sun shone all day to make our lives easier.
PROFESOR HERRERO, a well known Lagoa based Portuguese magician, hypnotist and delver into the occult, was holding one of his regular Friday 13th spooky dinners in a new restaurant called NOVO SALA of an entrepreneur called ANDRE OLIVEIRA that has opened in Lagoa. This place specialises in weddings, baptisms and special occasions. The Friday 13th dinners have become well known in Portuguese circles and very well attended. The food on the menu is always named after spooky stuff - bat soup for example, the table cloths are black, lots of candles, skulls and black cats etc etc. At this one even the press and TV were represented. A colleague of mine went and for only about Euros 20 had a great time with loads of magic and other entertainment. I think you would have to be well versed in Portuguese to get the most of it but it sounds like fun if you are around on any Friday 13th. I think one of the spookiest things about Prof. Hererro is his hairstyle as he is now bald apart from a long pony tale which is a bit spooky on a man of his age.
Saturday was a nice day but I remained busy so no real chance to see the Six Nations. ZECAS BAR held a pool competition in aid of LAGOA BOMBEIROS (Fire Brigade) but I couldn't make it. A very worthy cause though especially after last years fires as the Bombeiros rely almost entirely on voluntary support.
Sunday was simply glorious. Having some small building works done outside my house I was reminded what a multi national place the Algarve has become. Working for me was a Portuguese guy - LUIS GRANDE (as opposed to Luis Pequeno who is married to a Manchester girl), a Belgian chap PATRICE, a Moldovan called YURI and an Ukrainian named DAVID. As if that wasn't enough when the builders lorry delivered some sand and cement it was driven by a Russian called IVAN!! Also the three eastern Europeans are all legally here in Portugal with wives and families and children attending school.
The beginning of the week became fresher in the mornings with clear skies and still no rain. Tuesday saw a lovely sunrise and Wednesday was colder still. This was the day we had waited for! Portugal v England football friendly at the new Faro-Loulé stadium. We had miraculously got 4 tickets after some whacky Portuguese organisation. We had applied in the correct way for foreigners resident here and sent off all the right forms and a cheque for Euros 120 and awaited our tickets to arrive by post. Reasonable? No!
By the Thursday before the match we still had no tickets. Nobody I knew did! Then through the grapevine I heard that you should ring the Algarve F.A. in Faro. I rang and a rather disinterested chap said that I should go to Faro to pick up the tickets and that he was only open 10 till 12 and 2.30 to 5. I asked when I should pick them up and he said "Before Friday" GULP! Faced with the "emergency" my wife raced to Faro, produced I.D. and got 'em. I rang round various friends telling them what had happened and there was a general exodus to Faro and of course the inevitable queues.
Realising that no event had seen almost 30,000 people descend on one arena in the whole existence of the Algarve except perhaps when the Moors hit Silves, without tickets by the way, in the 8th Century, we decided to go early. A quick bite at Algarve Shopping and on our way down the motorway to Faro. We caught the end of the traffic queue just after the tunnel before the Faro airport exit and from then on it was a crawl. With car parks full we had to abandon the Jeep in some field and walk, getting into the ground at 8.45. We did well as there were still people arriving at half time! I have to say the signage and general information was non existent and I just hope they get it sorted before June. Leaving was ok for us as we had parked well away but for the really early arrivals that had got into the car parks it was a 2am or later arrival back home!
The following day, after, but not due to, the excitement of the football I was booked in for a check up with Dr ROBERT POPKEN, the friendly Dutch doctor practicing in ESTRADA DO FAROL. Robert Popken has been here about 20 years I reckon and it was nice to reminisce with him over the old times. He is married to NINA whose parents were one of the earliest to settle in Carvoeiro. We spoke about their first journey here when the metalled road south from Lisbon stopped around ALCAÇER DO SAL and from then on it was dirt tracks with an occasional wooden sign nailed to a tree pointed to "Algarve"! When I settled here in the early 80's RUA DO BARRANCO was still a sand road. You can see it like that in picture 5 of the superb photographs of Carvoeiro from Hans-Peter Uebe posted on the website at www.gallery.carvoeiro.com
In those day’s diners outside at OS 3 JOTAS had to cover their plates when the bus came down the road and turned for fear of a plate full of dust. Robert told me when his in-laws first arrived you couldn't buy toilet paper in the village - wonder what they used to use?!
Friday arrived with some rain at last. It rained a fair bit that day and the following day was mixed with a nice start but showers late. Things were gearing up for Carnival but the weather didn't look promising. There were more tourists around but not as many as we would expect for Carnival. Carnival Tuesday always gives the opportunity for the Lisboetas to make a "ponte" or "bridge" by taking the Monday off as well and making a nice long weekend. That is why there are always plenty of Portuguese "tourists" in Carvoeiro at this time.
Saturday evening was our children’s last night before their return to study in the UK so we asked them where they wanted to go for a special dinner. Unanimous decision was to visit CASA DO BIFE on restaurant hill. For some reason we never vested there during 2003 - no idea why because we found it as good as ever. A cut above many of the usual places and at Euros 30 a head for 3 courses and plentiful wine not a bad deal at all. After we went to the HAVANA BAR which I was surprised to find had changed hands. It is now run by two charming guys JAN and MARK. Whilst they have of course retained the Cuban theme they have tidied the place up and added their own touches. They are very actively promoting the cocktails and I thought the place was fun!
On Sunday we awoke to a very blustery day. From my bedroom window I can see the Atlantic Ocean and the wave tops were white well out to sea. I could see a small merchant ship just before the horizon heading for Cape St Vincent and thought that it must be a queasy journey for those on board. The weather was too poor for the traditional children’s Carnival fancy dress parade on the stage in the Largo da Praia (beachfront square) so it was transferred inside to the Associedade, a sort of village hall, which is above the perfume shop near the pharmacy on the right side just before you reach the square from Lagoa direction.
My wife took the children back to UK and returned immediately on Monday late morning. She had encountered bitter cold and snow there and here things were still very unsettled with wind and rain and I feared that the Tuesday Carnival bank holiday might be a washout.
Incredibly Tuesday was fair and the day improved weather wise as it went on. We decided to get a cheap lunch some place and went to Armação de Pêra which was quiet busy with both elderly foreigners and Portuguese tourists enjoying the sun. We found a favourite restaurant A HERA closed with a notice that the place was up for sale but undeterred we went on to the fisherman’s beach to ESTRELA DA MAR where we ate very well on their 3 course tourist menu at an inclusive Euros 10 per head including cover, wine and coffee! There was an ample choice of starters and main courses. I had fish soup and an enormous cutlet of grilled salmon which was delicious and served with vegetables that tasted like vegetables. My wife had prawn cocktail and declared that the main course of Solha (described as Flounder) was one of the nicest fish she had eaten for a long time. Such great value that the same menu was being enjoyed by several other tables of tourists, obviously regulars there.
Back in Carvoeiro it was by now a beautiful afternoon and a large crowd had gathered in the square outside HOTEL CARVOEIRO SOL to watch the Carnival action. The tables outside SMILERS and COLOMBO were full and SULLYS was jumping. Good fun.
The weather having been kind for Carnival changed the next day which started dull turning to more rain and with a cold north wind. Friday lunchtime, with no lunch at the office, I went to CASA O PESCADOR, a cevejaria or "casa do pasto" located more or less at the corner of the road that runs past FATACIL, Lagoa towards the Caramujeira/Benagil direction where it joins that which goes from the Poço Partido to Benagil road past Saliços. I bet that has confused everyone! Anyway on entering I found four local worthies - STEVE the plumber, MIKE the electrician, JOE the joiner and another guy who had just finished lunch and were enjoying coffees, port and brandy. Put off the Feijoada dish of the day by Joe who was taking most of his away in a doggy bag(!) I opted for fried carapau (mackerel) and was pleasantly surprised with a wholesome lunch which included bread, olives, fish and salad, wine, pudding and coffee all for Euros 7! I think this might be cheaper than the famous "Ritz" up behind Quinta do Paraiso and I am now on a quest for the cheapest lunch in the Carvoeiro area so watch this space!
On the final Saturday of the year I rose early as I had agreed to meet my friend ANTÓNIO who lives just outside Portimão at LADEIRA do VÃU to take a look at a large tract of land for sale. As I walked the dog before setting off I was surprised to see a light frost on the grass. The sky was crystal clear and a strong sun was rising. I met Tony and we drove towards Penina, then turned right into the country to Pereira. From there we went on to see the land and through the areas ravaged by the fires last summer. It is amazing the way some parts that were completely burnt are now green again with ground cover but many of the cork oak and other trees in this lovely area are finished. One particularly nice part, Quinta do Perdiz was badly hit and as this had been until recent years a purpose made hunting estate with partridge, pheasant, rabbit, hare and even wild boar presumably much wildlife also was destroyed. We stopped off at CAFE GONÇALVES, a cafe/restaurant in Pereira owned by a friend of Tony. They serve food by previous order at lunch and dinner and the large menu gave some good choice and nice prices including Javali (wild boar). Whilst we were well in the country it was interesting to see the blackboard menu translated into very good English so they must get a fair bit of foreign trade. There are many of these watering holes tucked away and they are often worth a look.
Dr Popken had diagnosed me with slightly high blood pressure (strange?!) and this topic came up in the bar where I very sensibly drank a decaff coffee and laid off the brandy - well more or less! I was told that the country remedy for hypertension is to make an infusion of the leaves of a wild olive tree. Off we went to locate such a tree and I came away armed with a couple of branches. Guaranteed to work they tell me! So before I get on the good doctors recommended tablets at Euros 35 a box over the counter, or reduced to Euros 7, if you subscribe to the National Health Service here, I will give the age old treatment a try.
Here we are at the end of February. A Leap Year, an extra day and a time for the ladies to propose marriage so the old custom says. As I put the closing touches to this ramble the sky is clear, the sun bright, the sea blue and I feel fortunate to live here and share these few bits and pieces with you.
Please find the Carnival 2004 pictures here.
Please find more pictures here.