Newsletter May 2005

  by: Nigel Anteney Hoare

April began cloudy and with a few of the proverbial April showers. Very welcome but nowhere near what we needed to sort out the water shortage. As mentioned last month an official drought has been announced but no enforced water bans as yet such as are seen in the UK and elsewhere when water levels get low (how do they get low there anyway?!)

Instead, the national and local newspapers, Portuguese and foreign alike are asking readers to do their bit by saving water. Handy hints fill the Press such as filling a plastic 1,5 litre water bottle with tap water and placing it into the toilet cistern to displace the usual excessive quantity that flushes away, not running the tap whilst brushing your teeth, turning the shower off whilst you soap up, reporting leaks etc. It all reminds me of the water saving tips in the UK years ago - bath with a friend!

Dishwashers and washing machines are also guilty of using so much water - a dishwasher can use up to 40 litres I believe so these should only be used with a full load. Visiting tourists please take note and go easy!

Friday 1st we decided to have our first FORNO DE FRASER pizzas of the year. Excellent in our opinion and good value.

Saturday I was persuaded to play golf by my son. Having looked at the price of green fees at local courses we opted for a "twilight round" at Pinta starting at 4.30 pm and playing as much as you can before the light beats you. We managed 16 holes before having to give up which was not too bad. Still cost 30 euros each and I do wonder how the courses expect local golfers to stump up 70 plus Euros a round. Even with the various discounts available you can still expect to pay 50 Euros plus, and that is without buggies or anything “exotic” like that. As we finished at about 8pm the heavens opened for another good - but short - downpour. VALE DO MILHO are also doing a twilight deal – 20 Euros after 4,30pm and play as much as you can.

Sunday 3rd we were invited to a baptism at Lagoa Church. Coinciding with the regular Sunday mass and the death of Pope John Paul II meant that the church pews were packed with many people standing at the back. About 8 young babies and children were baptized and afterwards, as is traditional, we went on to a baptism feast which on this occasion was at the Restaurant Fatacil in Lagoa. This is a massive restaurant and ideal for parties of that nature. If you ever get the chance to attend a Portuguese wedding or baptism don't miss it. Starve yourself for about 3 days first though as there is no holding back on the catering! They are always very jolly affairs with the usual mix of young and old enjoying themselves in a very informal setting. You don’t seem to get the obligatory speeches that you get in the UK but just an occasional bout of glass tapping with cutlery to demand a public kiss by bride and groom.

Monday started clear and bright with a beautiful sunrise and the promise of a fine day. By midday it was quite hot and with the occasional gusts of wind, ideal weather. The abundant fig trees never fail to amaze me at this time of the year. They look dead most of the time. Not being much of a gardener, when I first came here in winter I thought they WERE dead and was using them for my fire!! Overnight they simply burst into life with the familiar green fig leaves appearing and then grow so fast you can almost see it happening. Fresh Algarve figs – delicious and of course very good for keeping ones system in full operational form!

Try them slit open or halved and then steeped for a day or so in a bowl with brandy and some sugar. My own recipe - Hic!

Friday 8th was my childrens last night before returning to school in the UK so we ate in one of their favourites - VIA ITALIA. I have always found this ok despite some adverse Forum comments and we enjoyed it a lot that night. Price has crept up over the years though. After dinner we couldn’t resist a peek into the ROUND UP which was in full swing with DAVE and Co. on good form. I can’t resist either posting a photo of my poor mum in law in BIG WILLS friendly embrace.

The weekend was delightful with clear sunny blue skies and the thermometer up into the 20’s to please the post Easter holiday makers. The square in front of the CARVOEIRO SOL and O BARCO and also in front of SMILERS BAR had been dug up to deal with drainage matters. This was causing a little confusion with both Estrada do Farol closed off from Restaurant XICO ZÉ down and also the hill to the left of the beach past TAPAS BAR and the GNR up to the church also closed. This drainage work is part of a very large scheme by which all the Carvoeiro sewage that is currently piped from catchment tanks under the square 1,6 kms out to sea will be pumped to a treatment plant near BOA VISTA which will also deal with all the effluent from the Mato Serrão, Sesmarias and Presa da Moura areas.
It is not entirely clear how long these works will take but at least this part is being done during the post Easter and pre summer period and will benefit the residents and visitors alike. The official view is that the new works will be sufficient to serve a population in excess of 22,000 whilst Carvoeiro has a resident population of only 6,000 which doubles in the summer. Why do they all seem to be in HAPPYS at the same time?!

The road to SESMARIAS past the road to CARVOEIRO TENNIS CLUB has been closed to traffic whilst pipes are laid along the middle of the road from Sesmarias to Boa Vista. In fact I have to say that the town and surrounding areas look a little as if we have been “twinned” with Beirut with so much being dug up and also being put up! On the latter point new construction seems to have increased dramatically lately with work going on at Monte Servo (the hill on the left hand side just before you reach the outskirts of the town from Lagoa); opposite the RAFAIOL restaurant where land has been cleared to make way for presumably more apartments; of in the area well behind COLINA VILLAGE where a tall tower crane has been erected over what seems to be a small development; around the SOLFERIAS HOTEL in the Mato Serrão area and in fact all over the outskirts of the town.

Whilst mentioning Carvoeiro Tennis Club, it may interest residents and visitors alike to hear that Ronald Henneberke and wife Elke who run that tennis centre have now taken over the management of the tennis and fitness centre at ROCHA BRAVA. After renovating the reception and terrace area the centre is now open for a variety of sports activities. They have mixed doubles afternoons starting at 4 pm (Sundays at 10 am), private or group tennis lessons for children or adults with a qualified tennis coach and a fully equipped gym open 7 days a week. They are also offering a wide range of fitness classes and have an outdoor table tennis table. All in all a really good facility especially for the younger visitor maybe and if it turns out to be the success that Carvoeiro Tennis Club has become it will be a big bonus for the Rocha Brava resort.

That weekend also saw the “Royal Wedding” and the Grand National horse steeplechase in the UK. With no betting shops here the only opportunity I found for a “flutter” was by joining in the “sweepstake” held at HEMINGWAYS. 5 Euros a ticket, guaranteed a horse and the cash divided up amongst the first 3 runners home. I drew two 25/1 semi outsiders and my large Irish friend followed by drawing the favourite “Hedgehunter” which went on to win! Typical!!

“That wedding” was heavily featured on Portuguese TV, preceded the evening before with a lengthy subtitled documentary charting Charles life which showed film clips I hadn’t seen before. Some of those from his early days made it fairly clear to me why he had difficulty with personal relationships in his later life.

Dom Duarte da Braganza, the Duke of Braganza and official pretender to the Portuguese throne was not invited to the wedding though he had been to the Vatican City for the Popes funeral and also to Monaco for that of Prince Rainier.

Dom Duarte for those of you that don’t know claims to be the only representative of the Royal House of Portugal entitled to use the Portuguese royal styles and titles being descended from the Duke of Braganza who assumed the role of King back in the mid 17th century having himself been the son of an illegitimate son of King João I. Phew! – complicated isn’t it? Anyway I think that Dom Duarte may have been a little put out at not having been invited to parade with other Kings, Queens, Princes and Princesses at the wedding and after all even Mr Bean (Rowan Atkinson) got an invite!

My wife, being back in the UK (again!), it was up to me to “babysit” my mother-in-law. I decided to take her to JULIOS on the Sunday evening as parking is relatively easy there compared to the town restaurants and I thought Julios “style” would suit her tastes. Julios continues to do very well and even at this time of the year booking would be recommended. We managed to get a table on the enclosed terrace which was already quite full. Despite some less than favourable comments about this restaurant on the Forum, you have to hand it to Julio as he certainly has the formula right for many diners. The place is spotless – we sat by a window with a view into the kitchen - and it is a credit to the staff. The food was above average and plentiful, service was perfectly adequate without being intrusive and the bill was what one would expect for the standard received. I have known Julio for over 23 years and after dinner had a chat with him about the new restaurant nearing completion further up the road just before Rocha Brava and which I understand is owned by Sr. Salvador from restaurant O RAFAIOL. Julio doesn’t feel threatened by it and feels that it might take some of the pressure off him, as to keep serving so many clients through the year must take some doing.

With wife back and mum in law about to go we had a “last supper” at HAPPYS on Wednesday. We had to book (of course!) and got squeezed in at 7,30. By 8pm the place was packed. We all enjoyed the house special deep fried cod and it was apparent that most of the diners were regulars. Good food – good value.

The weather had by now settled into a steady pattern of clear skies and sunny days. No sign of rain at all and warnings of some possible cuts were being voiced on Portuguese TV. This was qualified later in the month by the authority saying that they would not cut water during the tourist season but may have to after that in October. They are also looking at desalination alternatives but these seem very expensive.

I mentioned in a previous newsletter that the Lagoa Camâra had given planning permission for 4 more hyper/super markets within their council area. These include another Intermarché, a Lidl, Plus and a Modelo I think. That sounds to me like the final nail in the coffin of the small neighbourhood stores. The new Intermarché will be run under the name “NETTO” which is a brand they use in France I believe. This will be constructed on the old Bombeiros site in Lagoa. Work had already been under way on another of the selected sites, behind the Lagoa wine co-operative and sure enough mid month the security fencing erected was removed to reveal the building in final stages of completion! This will be the PLUS supermarket and should open by end of May (they say!). A roundabout is to be constructed (by restaurant Paleta?) to ease the flow of traffic by and into this new facility. PLUS already has an outlet in Portimão and I understand is similar to Lidl in style.

The 15th April saw the celebration of Lagoas elevation to city status which occurred 4 years ago. This coincided with the inauguration of the new Lagoa 300 seater Municipal Theatre in the “new” part of Lagoa by the health Centre and Finanças. This is a splendid facility and promises to bring some much needed artistic culture to the area.

On Sunday 18th it was an afternoon trip to Lisbon for us as we had some business to attend to the next day. Such an easy journey now and very little traffic. We stayed in the Hotel Real Palacio - a new hotel just out of the centre, part of which is a restored convent. It is good to see that many old buildings in Lisbon are now being restored rather than being pulled down as was the trend in the 80’s. After dinner at an Argentinean steak restaurant in the Bairro Alto with great views over night time Lisbon, we had a long walk and an after dinner nightcap at the HARD ROCK CAFÉ in the Avenida da Liberdade where what seemed to be half of Lisbons young people were having a good time!

Week commencing 25th the weather hotted up with temperatures in the mid 20’s. The town was coming alive and despite the ongoing drainage works right in front of SMILERS, people were still sat outside enjoying the sun and a beer. In fact the road works seemed to fascinate most! Some rain was forecast for the last weekend of the month but apart from a few clouds on the Friday, things continued bright and warm.

The last day of the month dawned grey and overcast. Were we to get some rain at last to fulfil the old Portuguese proverb – “Mês do Abril – Aguas Mil”? I had to go into Lagoa for some things and on the way back took a detour to one of Carvoeiros neighbouring beaches at Albandeira. The grey start meant that the beach bar hadn’t opened so the “bica” I fancied had to wait. The beach was deserted with just one Spanish family sitting at the wooden tables on the cliff top having a picnic. Albandeira is very beautiful but I just wonder how much longer the huge cliff overhang will stay put! Plenty of “Warning – Danger” notices about but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near when it does go. My sister in law was on Benagil beach about 20 years ago when that cliff crashed into the sea causing a dust storm and mini tsunami and it took a while for her to visit a rocky beach again!

Back home and walking my faithful hound I met Francisco, the local gardener. Swapping views on the weather with him I asked if he thought it might rain. He replied “No” and went on to say that he called this “Politicians weather – promises much but never delivers!” Topical eh?

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