Newsletter October 2006

by: Karen Telling

Well, for me, just about the whole of September has been dominated by our adopted street dog, Barney, and his seemingly endless trips to the vet – unfortunately the first operation at the end of August wasn’t entirely successful and had to be repeated a couple of weeks later, followed by a third op towards the end of the month. As he panics if he is left alone in the house, and we couldn’t leave him in the garden while he had stitches in, I barely went out at all. However, I can’t really complain at being forced to sit in the garden, enjoying the heat wave that covered Portugal at the beginning of September, with temperatures between 32 and 38 degrees. The forecast was for the weather to break around the 12th of the month, and sure enough we had quite a heavy shower on the evening of the 13th - just as my mother-in-law’s flight landed at Faro!

After a few weeks at home with the invalid, cabin fever set in, and as Barney’s condition improved, we decided to try taking him down to Carvoeiro for an evening. The weather was much better again, and the evenings still warm enough to sit out, so we sat at one of the pavement tables outside A Vela while Barney became something of a celebrity, attracting a lot of attention with his ‘lampshade’ collar on, and one of my husband’s old T-shirts worn over his rear end to protect his stitches! The outing was a great success which we repeated a few more times later in the month, once back to A Vela and another time at Oasis, followed by a nightcap at Imprevisto. Barney seemed to enjoy his new social life, so we will probably take him out even more once he is fully recovered.

Carvoeiro seemed very busy and parking spaces were still at a premium – almost as bad as in August! The summer season generally seems to have been quite good this year, with the Tourist Board reporting the highest number of visitors to the Algarve since 2002. In particular there seems to be a return of Dutch and German tourists, and the number of British, Irish and northern Portuguese choosing to spend their holidays in the area, continues to grow. I understand that from next year, due to a new banking agreement, German, Spanish, Italian and British tourists will be able to use their debit cards in Portugal, just the same as they would at home – how things have changed since the days of standing in queues for hours, waiting to cash travellers cheques in the bank!

For many people, part of the fun of a holiday in Portugal is hiring a car and discovering some of the more remote beaches and picturesque inland villages in the area, however, driving here can sometimes be something of a challenge! Hopefully this is improving now as, despite the increased number of visitors this year, road deaths have dropped dramatically. In the last ten years the number of people killed on Portuguese roads has almost halved, and the figures show a particularly marked drop between 2005 and 2006 – perhaps we can now leave behind the reputation of having the most dangerous roads in Europe!

On the 21st of the month, the Algarve felt the effects of the tail end of Hurricane Gordon, which swept across most of Western Europe, and brought a few unsettled, stormy days. After an early shower on the 23rd, the weather improved again, and continued fine until the end of the month. Although still warm, around 25-28 degrees daytime, the cooler temperatures at the end of September also mean the end of the fire season. The Algarve continued to escape any serious fires this year, although the north of the country was more severely affected and around 58,000 hectares of land were destroyed, this seems a fairly high figure, but it is only 20% of the 300,000 hectares lost last year, and considering the high temperatures we had in August, it’s a great improvement on 2005.

There is yet more good news, with signs that the Portuguese economy is finally improving, albeit slowly. The last few years have been quite tough and although there are very high levels of personal debt in the country, government figures show inflation is dropping and output is growing at last. Let’s hope it continues! There certainly seems to be no shortage of foreign companies investing in Portugal – the new Carrefour hypermarket at Portimão Retail Park is finally due to open at the end of October, C&A will open a store at the Forum centre in Faro in the middle of October, and Tesco are rumoured to be investigating the possibility of opening several outlets across Portugal – including Albufeira and Faro. With a new branch of Modelo already under construction near Slide and Splash in Estômbar, we’ll soon be spoilt for choice!