Newsletter September 2005

  by: Nigel Anteney Hoare

August began with the hot sunny weather continuing and of course the usual flood of tourists from both home and abroad stretching Carvoeiros facilities to the limit. The occasional “waft” as you walked or drove down Estrada do Farol was proof enough that the elaborate drainage scheme now under way is badly needed. SMILERS front terrace was packed as usual and all the restaurants busy with reservations only if you wanted a meal in a particular one.

Last newsletter I mentioned the upcoming elections. No sooner had the Lagoa Mayors large hoarding been erected than a presumably disgruntled voter threw black paint over his picture.

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Friends arrived from Norwich to stay with us and we ate at KOH SAMUI, the Thai restaurant. With my elderly mother in law with us, and two steep hills to negotiate between our house and the restaurant, I drove to KOH SAMUI and dropped them all off. Trying to park I noticed a new “Ecoponte” underground waste recycling station was being set into the ground further up the road towards Algar Seco. Heavy going for the installers as they were having to dig a huge hole in solid rock, albeit sandstone. Waste disposal has always been a problem in Carvoeiro especially in the summer months and has been a subject preoccupying successive parish councils and the Lagoa council. More frequent collections have eased the problem we used to get years ago with rubbish bins piled high at weekends but clearly the underground recycling points are a great help in reducing the problem.

The meal at Koh Samui was great as usual. This restaurant is proving very popular and let’s hope the standard maintains.

The children had planned a day at SLIDE AND SPLASH. They wanted an early start to get there before the coaches, so after scratching around for the inevitable discount coupons off they went to enjoy a full day armed with food, drink, hats, T-shirts and sun oil. For those that don’t know, the local water parks are THE place to get sun burn! There is always an argument about which is best - Slide and Spash or Aqualand (previously the Big One). This summer the vote has gone to Aqualand!

The 4th August saw the start of the Festival Sud’Oeste which is like a mini Glastonbury 4 day music festival at Zambujeira de Mar on the west coast above Aljezur. Several big name bands were playing and we had decided that we would go on Friday 5th to see, amongst others, OASIS. Zambujeira is only about 90 minutes up the road but boy was it a hot drive - especially for our friends who were in an open top jeep. Stopping at a roadside café on the way to take on liquid refreshments, it was a pleasure to pay the reduced hinterland rates for 8 of us to enjoy Cokes, coffees, water etc for just over 6 Euros! I won’t bore you with details of the festival but suffice to say that the Portuguese band DA WEASEL knocked spots of the much more famous OASIS when it came to professionalism. Another plus, if you are that way inclined, was that there was no need to take any “hash” as you just had to stick your nose in the air and inhale!!

We had a real “Portuguese moment” when we came to leave. The car parking was on rough fields and I have never seen so many parked cars in all my life. We had found an easy space when we arrived about 10 hours earlier but as there was no parking control whatsoever, latecomers had simply abandoned their vehicles and blocked all the entrances so we were trapped amongst a mass of parked metal! Ingenuity won the day and with some Portuguese guys who were also trapped we manhandled an offending VW Golf out of the way to allow an exit! Home at 4am and knackered - too old for rock concerts!

August is traditionally a time of many concerts and festivals and this year has been no exception with BRYAN FERRY playing at a dinner show at The Sheraton, SONIQUE and JAMIROQUAI playing at a festival in Albufeira and a host of other happenings going on. Probably the biggest of the summer was U2 in Lisbon for which friends of ours from Spain travelled over and stayed with us on their way up to the Alvalade football stadium to see them

On the subject of music, early in the month my wife and daughter had gone to Faro airport to pick up a school friend of hers who was to stay with us for 2 weeks. With the already late flight from Gatwick delayed 3 hours they were still there at about 2am waiting alongside local celebrity CLIFF RICHARD who was also bleary eyed and waiting to meet someone. As always he was charming signing an autograph for my daughter.

Short of food at home we planned to get pizzas from FORNO DE FRASER but when we called him at 7pm to place the order Fraser was simply so busy that he could only guarantee them at 9,30pm! Fraser is a victim of his own success and being a one man band simply can only do what he can do. I suggested we get them from CATZ PYJAMAS which we did. The take away service was friendly and efficient and we enjoyed them. Not quite as good as Frasers though!

About this time a large banner was erected over the old derelict building between O PATIO and the Tourism Office. The banner, which criticises the Ministry of the Environment, had presumably been organised by JAN ZEGERS, owner of O PATIO and the derelict building as a protest over the bureaucracy that has prevented him turning it into some commercial premises. It does seem stupid that the authorities would rather leave a derelict place in such a central location rather than allowing him to erect something useful and sensitively designed.

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The 9th began with grey skies and even a few showers. Not enough to do any good but just to make all the cars dirty. The following day was similar but Thursday dawned bright if a little cooler. We were recommended by friends to see the show MAYUMANA at the Fabrica Inglese in Silves. This is a similar format to the hit show STOMP which has been showing in London, New York and other places. It is described as a combination of percussion, movement and visual comedy and was performed by a young multi racial cast working their hearts out to entertain. This didn’t get a great review on the Cvo Forum but I enjoyed the whole visual spectacle – maybe because we had good seats? It is running until the end of August so will have moved on by the time this newsletter sees the light of day but well worth catching it if you do see it showing anywhere.

With that show starting at 10,30 we ate first and decided to try a chicken restaurant called MONKA at Parchal on the road to Portimão. This is a Portuguese restaurant which in addition to the main menu has a choice of special lunch dishes each day on a regular basis. For example if you particularly like Bacalhau á Bras you would know they always do that on a Tuesday. Anyway we went for chicken piri piri. Our order came up so fast that we were amazed. I’m sorry to say I wasn’t impressed with their version though!

Sunday morning it was my duty to deliver mother in law to Church. There is always a full house on Sunday morning with many people standing outside listening to the service. It was a simply beautiful morning with blue sky, blue sea and an already crowded Carvoeiro beach below us.

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On Monday 15th, a bank holiday, there was the potential of a big disaster just down the coast at Galé when the catamaran “Top Cat” which does party type cruises along the coast caught fire at about midday with 89 passengers on board. The fire, which may have been caused by a sardine barbecue on board, was spotted by bathers on Galé beach and many small boats and private jet skis went out to assist. Another boat raised the alarm to the authorities at about 12,30. Rescue craft were scrambled from Ferragudo, and other locations and all passengers were safely removed before the Top Cat sunk at about 13,10. The passengers were taken ashore at Galé and eventually bussed to Vilamoura from whence they had come. A very lucky escape.

As part of the “summer family entertainment programme” for the children we took a trip to the Go Kart track near Almancil. It’s been a long time since I was there but I was impressed with the facilities. Such a pity that the Lagoa track has never got licensed and underway. The entrepreneur behind it, Raul Correia, died recently so I wonder if it will ever “happen” without his pressure? On subject of race tracks – word has it that the planned circuit west of Portimão IS going ahead.

The weather turned very cloudy indeed for start of Fatacil 2005, Lagoas annual agricultural, industrial, commercial and handicrafts fair which began on Friday 19th. The show was officially opened at 6pm by some Ministerial bigwig and the whole area was completely chaotic from 4pm onwards.

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We decided we would wait a few days before taking a look and went over for some chicken piri piri at KAZY in Silves. Still a favourite for chicken with us. Friends with us from London use “Nandos Frangos” in the UK, originally set up by some Portuguese guy a few years back and now a franchised chain, but they reckoned Kazy knocked the spots off that!

Despite the prophesy of more cloudy weather by the KISS FM weather news, Saturday morning began with the full moon still hanging in a bright clear sky. It turned out to be a glorious day and we decided to hit the beach – delighted to find the water was warm!

After dinner at home that day we wandered down to meet friends at GRAND CAFÉ on the square. ILZE struck up at about 10pm and was in fine form entertaining a large crowd. She performed a particularly fine rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody which had all the crowd joining in with the popular bits! After the music we were tempted by a good crowd into the ROUND UP BAR where karaoke was the order of the evening with the usual mix of quite good, quite bad and “are you sure about this”!

As a final totally unnecessary nightcap we went to BAR HAVANA where Craig and Jenny were busy tending the needs of a good late night crowd with their cocktails.

On Sunday night, mother in law took us all to MAXINES. Every table had been previously booked and as usual all wanted to eat at about 8pm! The owner and staff were flat out dealing with the orders but all went well with no fuss and a splendid meal was enjoyed as usual. Many prospective walk in clients were turned away. Booking essential now.

To the Fatacil showground to see this years event on Tuesday. Very impressive this year indeed, larger than ever and well laid out. Parking is always a problem though. One girl I know parked in one of the pay parks, left Fatacil at midnight but only got to her home in Parchal at 3 am due to the traffic chaos.

The fires in central and northern Portugal reached their worst over the weekend of 20/21 with over 50 fires out of control and over 3,000 firemen trying to fight them. The situation led the authorities to call for help from other countries by providing aerial firefighting methods with planes and helicopters. France, Germany, Italy, Holland and Spain have responded with the necessary equipment but many firefighters fear that the request for help came too late. The firefighters were operating under what they refer to as the “Rule of 30”, this is when the winds are above 30 kms per hour, the temperature is 30ºC or above and humidity is 30% or less. In these conditions the fires quickly rage out of control and can only really be attacked from the air. With the helicopters unable to fly at night it gives the fires chance to get a new hold. Several helicopters and one fire fighting plane have crash landed, thankfully with no fatalities.

More friends arrived, this time from Bristol. They were staying one week at ROCHA BRAVA and their second week with us. We met up with them the evening they arrived at the ROCHA BRAVA CAFÉ where again we bumped into Ilze belting it out to a very large crowd of diners/drinkers who were stretching the staff resources to supply them. All in all very good indeed. What a change in that café compared to a few years ago.

Out of bed very early on the morning of the 23rd, the smell of wood smoke was very strong indeed. As I walked my dog I could see that Lagoa and Carvoeiro were shrouded in what was either mist or smoke. I called a friend living behind Silves to see what was happening and she said the smoke up there was thick but she couldn’t tell where it was coming from. Later it seemed the smoke was from fires in the Alentejo or even further north being blown south by the quite strong winds which were making the firefighting so difficult.

After a couple of days the smoke haze cleared and the weather sorted itself out. We were near the end of the month and Carvoeiro started to get ready for the weekend Saints Day celebration on the 27th and 28th.

A full programme of entertainment had been announced with various musical acts planned to appear each evening. A mini merry go round had been installed on the car park in front of the square and there were a few stalls around selling “farturas” and sweets. It was a shame that the many stalls selling goods which lined the sides of Estrada do Farol were missing this year as they lent so much atmosphere to the weekend in 2004.

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On Saturday the music began with a duo which was followed by a fire eating act and then an unusual youthful 6 piece band named VáDeModas who played traditional music from the lower Alentejo. This included much rhythmic drumming and they really got things going. Although the majority of the crowd didn’t understand a word they were obviously much appreciated. We had a grandstand seat outside GRAND CAFÉ which was packed of course. Crowds lined the walls of the road down from the church and all in all it was a great atmosphere.

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The main entertainment on Sunday evening was a song and dance act including singer “Michaela” and a troupe of young male dancers. Very energetic indeed and went down well with the large crowd. This act had been preceded by a warm up female singer belting out popular Portuguese songs that had many dancing and singing along. As usual the whole thing was rounded off just after midnight with a spectacular firework display which must have lasted all of 20 minutes. The square and the beach were crowded with people seeing the fireworks go off from the cliff to the left of the bay to the accompaniment of suitable stirring music! I must congratulate the Junta da Freguesia (Parish Council) for a splendid and well organised event this year.

Last day of the month saw us being entertained by our friends from Bristol at VIA ITALIA. The Restaurant Forum has had some very mixed reviews on this place. I have never had any complaints personally except maybe the size of the pasta portions which I feel could be increased a bit. On this occasion we had booked a table for 7 of us and had to wait a short while as the place was packed. Attentive all male waiting staff looked after us well, especially the girls, and all enjoyed their meals especially as our friends are vegetarian and they do have a good vegetarian selection on the menu. A final quick nightcap cocktail with Jennie and Craig in BAR HAVANA and off to bed having survived August for another year.

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