Newsletter September 2004

  by: Nigel Anteney Hoare

Early August saw a cooling down from the extremely high temperatures we had experienced in late July. The fires in the hills had left 40,000 hectares of the Algarve devastated with the worst hit area this year being the Loulé council area with nearly 15,000 hectares affected.

Sunday 1st had started off misty but cleared as the sun rose. However soon we saw a very heavy sea mist come rolling in obscuring visibility to about 100 metres. You could see the mist swirling about in the light breeze and I wondered what the Sunday tourist arrivals to Carvoeiro would make of it!

It was a quiet week for us and on Thursday I decided to take my son and grandson who was staying with us from the UK to Vale do Lobo where the Grand Champions tennis tournament was being held. This is part of a Seniors World Series. There was no McEnroe this year to entertain the crowd with his tantrums but we saw 4 great games including one between Michael Stich and Richard Kraijzek who made it to the final. We later saw another super match between Mats Willander and Jim Courier. The latter, a recent entrant to this tournament having only just reached the lower age limit, went on to win that match and also the final on the Saturday. This seems now to be a firm annual Algarve fixture and very well organized and attended. Autograph sessions were available which pleased many younger visitors.

A real treat for the two boys was seeing the Portuguese Olympic soccer team present prior to their departure to Athens. Christiano Ronaldo was being mobbed for autographs. Little did they know what a miserable Games they would have!

On the evening of Friday 5th an earth tremor of 2,5 on the Richter Scale was recorded, the centre being in the sea 50kms off Faro. The newspaper reported that the Algarve is a very active area for tremors with minor ones being registered almost every day. They say this is a good thing, like a safety valve letting out the pressure – as long as it doesn’t let out too much in one go!

Saturday was a beautiful day. I had arranged to meet a friend in Silves to take a look at an old property he has for sale and afterwards 13 of us had a chicken piri piri lunch at O MONCHIQUEIRO by the river outside the municipal market. It was great, good chicken and a small bill!

Sunday 8th I woke early and looking out, the whole of Carvoeiro was shrouded in a thick mist. Having got up I decided to take my dog for an early walk and the mist was so thick it was wet on my face and making his coat wet. Later that morning it rained! In the 22 years I have lived here I have never known this at this stage of the summer. It was really odd, hot and cloudy but raining quite heavily. It seems we had caught the tail end of Hurricane Alex. The sun never really shone at all that day.

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I read in the paper that the local police (GNR) had raided some bars in Carvoeiro using 24 men and some dogs. Seems they had detained 3 men who had been in the LSD BAR (aren’t you just sure to get raided with a name like that?!). They were in possession of about 1,000 doses of cannabis and cocaine and apparently the Police had been keeping an eye on their antics for some time. Like most everywhere drugs are a problem down here. The coastline is perfect to land the stuff from Morocco and elsewhere with few coastguard and Police patrols to cover a fairly large area.

In the evening we went to Flic Flac where we met friends of ours, Martin and Gerry and children, from the Isle of Man. Gerry is a long time visitor to Carvoeiro and have now bought a house here. We all went off to the Lanterna where boss Frank was a bit glum about the season so far and the prospects for August. I must say never seen the old town so quiet.

Monday morning as if just to emphasise what a poor season we were having it started to rain again. Quite a lot of rain! At least the fires would be a thing of the past hopefully.

The following day was much fresher in the morning, cloudy but looked to be dry so there was some hope for the tourists who had been dodging the showers. Late that afternoon from my house I saw what looked like the S.S. Oriana steaming away toward the horizon from Praia da Rocha. A super sight – pity we don’t get more of these pass by and that Portimão can’t be dredged to get smaller cruise liners or at least large ferries in. That would help the local economy! I remember when the QE2 used to call in to Praia da Rocha. It used to stand off and ferry the passengers ashore by launch. We used to get regular cruisers and some crew come by taxi from Rocha to Carvoeiro just to sit outside Smilers and have a few beers watching the world pass by. Simple pleasures!

An interesting little news item appeared around this time. One of the largest catches of blue swordfish was made by a boat out of Portimão fishing somewhere closer to the Spanish border. The angler caught a fish weighing 335 kilos (that’s bigger than Will from the Round Up Saloon). Just shows when you dangle your toes in the waters of Carvoeiro beach exactly what is out there!

Wednesday started sunny but clouded over later which looked to be disappointing as we were invited to our friend Alisons' house near the Barragem do Arade for a “meteor shower party”. Ignorant about meteor showers I looked on the net and sure enough found that to quote “August has one major meteor shower, the Perseids. The Perseids, one of the most famous showers, peaks during the pre-dawn hours of August 13. The bits of debris left behind by the comets, most no larger than a grain of sand, create a spectacular light show as they enter the earth's atmosphere”. The afternoon didn’t look promising but the skies miraculously cleared as evening came and indeed we were rewarded with some spectacular sights as they sped across the sky.

The weekend of 14/15th was hot again. We trundled down to what we call Carlos's Beach which is on that huge stretch of sand between Armação da Pêra and Galé/Albufeira (more the Armação end) It is a great beach with full facilities and a nice clean beach bar serving good food. I recall it from many years ago, pre Salgados golf course and other development when it was just a shack with boss Carlos grilling a few sardines to eat with rough bread and wash down with cold beer. Was it better then? Well we can’t stand in the way of progress and Carlos sure has made a big investment to satisfy today’s tastes.

On the topic of this beach, if you wander a few hundred metres further, towards Albufeira direction, you will notice that the sunbathers have a reluctance to put on their swimwear. This is the unofficial nudist beach and a report in the Portuguese press said that the Algarve Tourist Board are considering setting up a network of dedicated nudist beaches within the next 5 years as they regard them as “offering touristic interest for the Algarve”.

On the Sunday we decided to go over to see the Fiesa Sand Sculpture Festival on the road from Pêra to Algoz. I wasn’t sure what to expect but we were knocked out with what we saw there. The sculptures were simply amazing and depicted many Disney and nursery rhyme characters which delighted the many kids that were there. It was so hot that the cold drinks at the bar there were welcome and it was nice to see the prices were sensible too.

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On the way there we had passed by the marble works just after the big roundabout past the Big One slide park. A sculptor is carving a huge statue of what I am told is a sun god out of a solid block of marble. It is amazing! He has started at the top and with angle grinder, rock drill, hammer and chisel he is working downwards and creating the most marvellous statue. I am told that it is the first time this has been attempted since Michaelangelo as most large works are made in pieces and fitted together! I can’t believe that is true but in any event this is a sight to behold.

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In the evening we went to what we call the “top” Chinese Restaurant. Not that it is better than the others but it is the one furthest up “hamburger hill” sort of opposite O Cantinho. This always seems to do pretty good business and the food is good, plentiful, cheap and served with a smile.

On 17th heavy dark clouds appeared framing the Monchique hills and threatened a change in the weather. What an unstable month August had been. The following day again it was quite cloudy and there was a chance of rain which never materialised.

As if by magic the 19th saw the weather clear again in time for the final preparations for this years huge 25TH FATACIL 2004 exhibition in Lagoa. It was opened on Friday at 4pm by the Lagoa mayor and the Secretary of State for something or other amidst much noise and by the time it opened to the public at 6pm the place was heaving. Later press reports tell it was a great success.

We decided to opt for entertainment of a different nature and went to Albufeira where as part of the celebrations of its 500 years existence SIR CLIFF RICHARD had agreed to stage a free live concert on the fisherman’s beach. Surprisingly we could see from the cliff top that there was room on the beach to watch so we went down and enjoyed a free 90 minute Cliff Richard concert. Not a great fan but you gotta admire him at 63 putting on an energetic 90 minute show. The stage, sound, lighting and his band had all been brought out from the UK and many thousands were on the beach, the cliffs and even on boats moored in the bay to watch him. This was followed by a splendid 20 minute firework display at midnight which must have made a big hole in Albufeiras council coffers. A really good night.

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Next day I was invited by my old neighbours from Cumeada, between Silves and Messines to visit them to celebrate the “near” opening of their newly asphalted road. Sitting in the UK or other countries you may think it strange to celebrate such a thing but the deal with this particular road goes back a long way when some of the local foreign residents, including myself, got together to persuade Silves Council that the road was so bad it should be sorted out. Lack of money meant a delay of about 4 years but it was finally being done. An ex Carvoeiro resident and regular poster Martin Hepton had organized the celebration in true Algarvian style under a tree by the side of the road with each person bringing a bottle or two to celebrate! Other ex Carvoeiro residents now living up there John and Anne Scott (ex Qta do Paraiso) were also there. The road crew finished work and joined us for a drink or two and promised completion “by the end of next week” – hmmmmm I wonder?

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Sunday 22nd we were invited down to Meia Praia, that long stretch of beach just before Lagos Marina where a new pool, leisure and fitness complex JARDIM DAS DUNAS had recently opened. The PINK CADILLACS, the recently reformed rock’n’roll band, entertained us and the complex sure is well appointed with gym, indoor and outdoor pool, saunas etc etc. Bit far for Carvoeiro though?

Monday was cool and slightly overcast and I read that day that the seas had again claimed many lives with 17 people having been drowned since 1st June despite the attentions of the lifeguards. The west coast beaches in particular, though beautiful, can be very treacherous with strong currents and undertows catching out even fit, strong swimmers. Any visit there should be treated with caution especially if with children.

With family staying with us from the Isle of Man we decided to eat out at the restaurant at Quinta do Rosal, over towards Vale d’el Rei on the road from Carvoeiro to Caramujeira. We had really enjoyed this restaurant in the past but felt that the previous high standard had fallen rather. Perhaps the chef has changed or was having an “off day”?

With the summer holidays coming to an end we took a Friday off to take the children to Isla Magica, Seville. This is a great day out and only 2 hours away now the road on the Spanish side of the border has improved. If you have children it is worth a trip and is like a mini Disney. Prices are sensible and we had managed to find a deal by pre purchasing tickets at a travel agency in Portimão where one child went free. It is good as you can more or less “do the lot” in one day. On the way back we stopped off in Ayamonte at a restaurant we know serving those small Spanish legs of lamb. Delicious!

The weather was staying hot during the day but evenings and nights started to get that familiar end of August feel with misty and damp mornings. Carvoeiro was beginning to empty out as families with children prepared to return home and get ready for the new school term. I must mention to prospective visitors that a couple of times during the month we had bought take away frango piri piri from the take away on the left as you enter Carvoeiro, O Galo D’Ouro, as has been recommended by “Gambrinus” on the restaurant forum before now. It really is very good and so reasonable. Apart from the frango other dishes are available and it makes an economical way to feed a hungry family.

With our family visitors having gone back to the UK we had a surprise visit from friends from Norwich who had managed to get £79 return from their local airport. With the time available they couldn’t miss an extra week in Carvoeiro. It made a sort of mini holiday for us prior to the end of the summer holiday and our children returning to their school in the UK (even though yours truly had to work!). On Wednesday night we went to MITCHS to try the Indonesian Rice Table. Very nice indeed, but make sure you are hungry because they certainly satisfy you!

The month ended with a bang, literally! Carvoeiros festival of Nossa Senhora da Conceição on 27, 28 and 29 of the month was bigger this year than I ever remember it! Estrado do Farol was shut to passing traffic and dozens of stalls set up either side of the road and around the square with gypsies selling all manner of goods. I was amazed to see how Louis Vuitton and other designer outlets had entered into franchise arrangements with them! Cheap watches, cheap DVD’s (the latest movies!), towels, shoes, shirts, socks, bras and pants you name it you could buy it. It was very colourful with hundreds of people milling about and lights strung from stall to stall. Music in the square each night with a “Boy Band” one night to please the local girls and a general party atmosphere.

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On Sunday was the procession from the church. Although I took some shots Ktee took some great photographs and has already posted them on the website. At midnight on Sunday the Junta da Freguesia splashed out on a super firework display watched by hundreds in the square and on the hills either side of the beach. All in all good fun and a nice end to a strange month.

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