Newsletter January 2004
by: Nigel Anteney Hoare
Having been on a quick weekend trip to the UK on our arrival on 1st of December we were greeted by the welcoming Boas Festas Christmas illumination across the road but apart from that and another similar one as you arrived at the square the local Council had not splashed out on festive lights to inject a festive atmosphere. We found the weather was continuing wet and windy. The two December bank holidays on the 1st and the 8th fell very nicely on Mondays making long weekends for those employed.
Carvoeiro had, however, more or less closed down with many bars and restaurants taking a break before the Christmas holiday. Returning from work in the evenings the lower part of the town was very dark and quiet with only a few places open up the hill towards Centianes (Estrada do Farol). I noticed that MAXINES was one of those that had decided to soldier on during this quiet time along with the inevitably ever open Chinese owned establishments.
Having worked late one evening trying to catch up on work we decided to go to RESTAURANT CICLO in Lagoa. I have mentioned this before as a very reasonably priced, clean, well run restaurant serving regional dishes in full or half portions. After the LOTUS (by the Galp station) I think it is the best Portuguese restaurant in Lagoa and always busy at lunchtime with locals - lawyers, accountants and other business people. You even get the Mayor and his cohorts in there sometimes! JOÃO the owner had recently installed a very smart, aerated tank for live crabs and crayfish and I had noticed he was serving "sapateira recheada" (dressed crab) at Euros 12 per kilo. It sounded good and reasonable to me so we tried one between us. It was delicious with the main shell meat having been mixed up together with other ingredients including a drop of draught beer, and refilled in the shell. The claws etc had been cracked for us and of course we were give the usual wooden hammer and block to crack the rest. Served with hot buttered toast it was splendid. Bit of a wait whilst it was done but why hurry a good meal anyway! Well worth a try.
On the 6th, a friend from Pembroke in Wales, arrived for a lightning visit. At his request we made our regular trip to KAZY in Silves for chicken piri piri. Nearly all our guests request a visit there when they come to stay. The next day he had to travel to Gibraltar on some business but found the normally easy journey made nearly impossible by driving rain and washed away roads where the Spanish are completing the last stretches of the motorway. Having not visited for 2 years he found prices had jumped considerably confirming the feeling that we residents have. I recall that on December 8th - the bank holiday - it rained the whole day so it was no problem to be at home and watch the England Rugby celebration parade on the television. My colleague Miguel Cristo returned from London that day where he had been for the weekend and had got caught up in the parade with a taxi from Marble Arch to Victoria costing him £20 whilst it dodged the closed or crowded streets. He had loved pre-Christmas London however and with the now cheap flights it is feasible to weekend there occasionally. He had flown with Monarch and we both agreed that whilst it is not always the cheapest it is surely the best service between Faro and UK (wake up B.A.!)
The 11th is our wedding anniversary and with many other celebratory dining possibilities closed or with private parties booked in, we decided to eat at ELE E ELA. The food was again splendid and as they were advertising a New Years Eve special we decided that we would see in the New Year there booking a table to make sure we were not disappointed. Our friend GRAHAM GROOME came in after we had finished our meal and persuaded us to join him at the ANTEAK BAR which used to be the antique shop on the left hand side of the road leaving town. It is a nice bar and we ended up staying longer than intended having bumped into a few friends so it was a late night and slightly heavy head next morning for work!
The weekend of 14th and 15th saw glorious sunshine but becoming very damp once the sun had dipped. My sister and brother in law arrived from the UK to spend Christmas and New year partly with us and at their quarter share at Rocha Brava. On the Friday we visited O CANTINHO where I finalised arrangements for our office lunch planned for the following Friday. O Cantinho was pretty quiet by now and getting ready for the increased Christmas and New Year business. Saturday I took my sister to Maxines and found the place to be very nicely decorated for Christmas. They certainly had tried hard to get some atmosphere and as usual the food was very good.
Last minute touches had been made to SULLYS and it reopened after a 10 day revamp on Sunday morning looking very fresh and smart indeed. Well done HOWARD, FLAVIO, PAT and staff.
On the Sunday the local parish council (Junta da Freguesia) had organised a children's Christmas party on the square. The weather was simply great, BETO and his band KALULU were playing away and apart from the children's songs were plugging their local "big hit" of the 80's "Praia do Carvoeiro". All the little kids were dancing and singing. A magician did his stuff and of course there was the traditional appearance of "Pai Natal" much to the delight of all the children. Presents were available for each child and bags of sweets were distributed. This is the sort of thing that the local parsih council are good at although I was not that happy with them on New Years Eve (see below!)
Monday was a lovely day and in the evening I drove my sister and her husband on a tour of Lagoa where the Christmas lights were simply splendid this year. We went to CICLO to try them out on the crab. This time it was so big my sister took away a doggy bag to make crab sandwiches the next day! Even so a very reasonable bill.
Though the day had been so warm and sunny the nights were cold and the next morning, Tuesday, was very foggy showing clearly the difference between the day and night temperatures at this time of the year.
On Friday 18th we had our office lunch at O CANTINHO. It was very good indeed - I think! I do recall the giant prawns in a garlic sauce and several bottles of wine but the rest is a little out of focus.
On 23rd we decided to have a last dinner out before Christmas and thought of going to the new Danish STEAK HOUSE in Rua Santa Isabel in Portimão. It was shut - in fact most of Portimão seemed shut so after trying about 5 of our favourite haunts we ended up at the Brazilian Rodizio next to the strip club(!) on the road towards Praia da Rocha (the Via that runs past Modelo and McDonalds). In case any readers don't know, a Rodizio consists of many, often 12, cuts of meat all deliciously barbecued on long sword like skewers. The waiter keeps bringing them to your table and with a huge razor sharp knife slices pieces on to your plate until you can't handle anymore! There is always a good salad bar and other traditional Rodizio type accompaniments - black beans in sauce, fried banana, rice etc. I must say this was very good indeed - not cheap but great for carnivores! Added interest was provided as it looked as if some of the strippers from next door were having a pre-work meal there!
Just before Christmas the old place sparked up. COLOMBOS reopened lending a sparkle to the lower reaches of town, CALIFORNIA PIZZA also opened and generally the Estrada do Farol was all lit up again. Christmas Eve day the weather was simply beautiful and the place was filling up with visitors from far and wide. The shops seemed to be having a good time, especially the perfumaries as dads and boyfriends got their last minute acts together!
Christmas Day arrived with the usual family get together. The Portuguese, you may know, celebrate Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day and usually with a late dinner often of bacalhau (salted cod) with present giving at midnight. We kept to our usual format with a Christmas turkey dinner on Christmas Day. Boxing Day doesn't usually count here as a holiday but as it fell on Friday many made a "ponte" over to the weekend.
The weather was very kind and gave me the opportunity to walk my dog in daylight hours, rare at this time of the year. Carvoeiro seems quite built up but there are many places you can walk, both coastal and in lovely green, hidden valleys just a stones throw from the centre. Such a contrast.
On Sunday the 28th we threw a house lunchtime drinks party for neighbours and friends which lasted a little longer than envisaged! Following a necessary recovery period it was then a rapid run into New Years Eve. As already mentioned we had decided to join friends Graham Groome, his son Arun and also STUART from the SAFARI BAR with respective ladies for dinner at Ele e Ela with the idea of watching a firework display at midnight on the square. I felt sure that there was usually a display and it had also been mentioned in one of the local papers. We met at 7.30 in SULLYS which was doing a fine trade with residents and visitors alike. The dinner in Ele e Ela was very good and then just before midnight we joined about 400 others on the square to watch the fireworks.
At midnight there was the usual cheering, handshaking, kissing and expectation but - nothing happened! In fact two small rockets soared up from the Paraiso side of the town obviously from a private house. The party atmosphere simply fizzled like a damp squib and everybody drifted away. Such a shame - perhaps I had just imagined there was a New Years Eve firework display? If so then the other 399 people there had done the same! The parish council always put on a splendid display in August for the celebration of Carvoeiro Saints Day but this year at New Year there was nowt. I think they made a mistake and feeling deflated I went off home whilst others joined parties in the local bars.
My daughter and son in law Carlos had a ball at O CANTINHO and got to bed at 5am. I also know that KTEEE [see Ktee's pictures] a frequent poster on the Forum and now Carvoeiro resident enjoyed the evening there.
Perhaps that is where we should have chosen to go!? Oh well, there is always next year.
A very happy and healthy 2004 to all.