Newsletter March / April 2009

by: Carol Carpenter

Hello--- anyone out there? Are any of you actually still reading these newsletters? Somebody speak to me please---- not a single comment last time! I really don’t mind if you say I sound boring or you are fed up with them or even “shut up Carol”, is better than no comments at all. Absolute silence!!! - even from the Crane’s. Now that really is bad, Michael - I honestly never told anyone about your ‘Full Monty’ on the Cruise last year - OOP’S sorry!! Oh well you can’t win them all, I have tried to find you a replacement but as yet nobody has volunteered so I guess you are stuck with me, for the foreseeable future. I shall get the boring bits out of the way first, like the weather, the economy, the effects of the credit crunch etc--- well I have to stretch this newsletter out somehow, I will then inform you of our shambles of a village – enjoy, well at least try, anyway.
After suffering one of the worst winters we were all hoping for a really good February. This was not to be as the bad weather continued with heavy rain, strong winds and high waves which caused a lot of damage and devastation across the region. The Algarve was put under a yellow alert situation the second on a scale of four, during the first week of February. The ports of Vila Real de Santo Antonio, Tavira and Olhao were closed by the maritime authority over this weekend “because waves of 7 metres were recorded by buoys out at sea”. The access to Faro Island was restricted to permanent residents and the maritime authority registered 17 incidents at sea which included the grounding and sinking of recreational boats. In Ferragudo 3 sail boats were grounded on Praia Grande beach with one being smashed against the rocks. Although this recent bad weather has brought disruption we still need more rain to fill the reservoirs to sufficient levels for 2009.
Apparently the Arade dam is still only 56.1 per cent full while the Barlavento dam is at 74.5 but reservoirs in Silves area are now at normal levels.
The governor of the Bank of Portugal has said “The economic outlook in Portugal is worse than anticipated.”
However, he also said that while they were worse than announced on January 6, they were not as bleak as painted by the European Commission. The European Union has warned that unemployment could hit nearly 9 per cent in 2009.
The construction industry in Portugal registered a fall of 1.1 per cent in 2008 according to the Portuguese Construction Federation. FEPICOP, the Federacao Portuguesa da Construcao, said although the crisis was more intense than had been forecast, they did expect some recovery in 2009.
Hotel occupancy rates for the month of February in the Algarve have fallen to the lowest since 1995. Villamoura, Quarteira and Quinta do Lago all experienced a decrease of 33 per cent. Albufeira suffered a drop of 25 per cent. The lowest Hotel and resort occupancy occurred in Lagos and Sagres, which were only 26.4 per cent full. The biggest drops were felt in 5 star accommodations as more people were opting to stay in lower- rated hotels and apart-hotels. The number of tourist from UK, Germany and Spain fell in 2008 being replaced by visitors from France, Holland, Russia, Poland and Brazil.
On a more cheerful note which really did amuse me, there is a ‘beat the credit crunch’ street party, hosted and organised by several businesses in Almancil, due to take place on Saturday, April 18. The event is organised by the Griffin Bookshop, Joro Lda. and Rui’s Chicken and will include a variety of activities such as cookery demonstrations, salsa dancing, children’s entertainment and book signings with Clive Dunn and other local authors. Brilliant! That’s the spirit - it’s a shame we will be in the UK.
Professional Dutch chocolatier and pastry chef Jack Breedveld, a local resident, hosted two chocolate exhibitions at his home in Vale de Milho. On Sunday February 8 he hosted a Valentines chocolate exhibition. Visitors were able to purchase a selection of freshly made chocolate confections including filled chocolate hearts, marzipan figures, truffles and bon-bons. We were unable to attend but according to friends they were both well attended. If you would like more information, please call 939 792 911 or email:
Since returning from our Panama Canal Cruise on March 6 the weather here has reached over 20 degrees. At long last spring has arrived. We arrived home to find the garden in full bloom, it looked really colourful with all the seasonal flowers and I have never seen the Jasmine looking so beautiful. The wet weather obviously did them a power of good. It’s great to go on holiday but it’s also great to be home.
I shall refrain from boring you all to tears with a running commentary of the cruise, as I think you all suffered enough last year, so I shall just tell you the highlights and that it was fantastic and we had a great time. Our ports of call were Haiti, Columbia, Panama Canal – unfortunately for us though we choose the wrong tour, if you are thinking of going you should avoid the Dome train tour, which proved to be thoroughly boring, with very little information on the Panama Canal or the building of it. I was very disappointed for Roy, as he had wanted to visit Panama for years and was informed that at the Pacific end there was a museum. He was so disappointed to find only a rather tatty observation area and a café. Definitely a tour to avoid as it was over 100 dollars.

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 The next port of call was Costa Rica and a visit to Sloth Sanctuary and where I fell in love with these delightful creatures. We also enjoyed a tour through the rain forest and Roy actually got me in a canoe. Six people, in a canoe, with all the men on one side going along at an angle, was definitely not a good idea and I spent most of the journey saying “Don’t you DARE move” to Roy which they all found highly amusing. Half-way down this river the guide passed us details of all the creatures we were likely to see on route. To my horror staring at me was the eye-lidded pit–viper one of the deadliest snakes on earth. I remembered watching a program on Costa Rica where this guy was actually looking for and had found this snake, it is the brightest yellow, deadly, but quite beautiful. I remember mentioning it to Roy whose comment was, “That’s deep in the jungle and the chances of seeing one is nil” - obviously not then as I am now looking at a picture of one that we could possibly see on route. The jungle is so quiet during the day but at night apparently the noise is horrendous. There were a lot of colourful birds and huge lizards which moved so fast that we were unable to take any photos.

A little later the canoe in front of us came across a Cayman but unfortunately we could not see it. After a few minuets the lady in front of me saw a snake pop his head out of the river, now everyone was saying “Don’t move Roy” we all survived the trip however and it was really great fun. Although I know I am very girlie and absolutely hate all creepy crawlies, I would actually love to return someday and help at the Sloth sanctuary for a few weeks, they are such adorable creatures. Our next port of call was Grand Cayman which we have visited before and is a delightful island. On this cruise we also had five sea days which enabled us to relax and enjoy the ships entertainment. We can really recommend this cruise - the ship was Royal Caribbean ‘Jewel of the Sea’ and was superb.

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“What’s happening to our village?” CVO alterations are an absolute nightmare. It is a shambles down at the square. (You can follow the progress here webmasters note). Last year I was shown some really colourful patterned slabs which they said were going to be laid as the calçadas was so dangerously slippery. Where are they? They are laying more calçadas and the slabs are more like concrete blocks. There are some dark grey slabs being laid but nothing looks like the plan I was shown, it looks more like a tram way than anything else. They have widened the pathways of the in road from the chemist up to the post office, with calçadas on this side and also extended outside The Irish Times.

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On the opposite side they are laying the slaps. The road is about a car width and they have dark grey stones set at an angle about 1 metre apart all along the edge to avoid parking on the pavement. There is rumour that the road past Sully’s bar will be a down road, but it will be a very narrow turn as these blocks are not leaving much space. There are no spaces left for the planting of trees so they will probably be in tubs. They have erected red and black parasols outside the restaurants in the square, but the toilet block is not yet built although they have cut out the side of the cliff close to the road and rebuilt the retaining wall. This is where they were also laying bricks in a reddish brown colour before realizing that a digger was needed and promptly took them up again!

The village is in utter turmoil and it has affected every business. The restaurants by the beach were all closed and they have lost a huge amount of money as they still had to pay their staff. Yesterday I could not walk down to the beach as they had closed it off again. Utter chaos!! - the square was supposed to be completed by Easter - April 9 was the date, but to do that they need more workmen. I went in to speak to Jorge only to find him off sick, I hope it’s not stress related. He was quite happy to discuss the changes before but now they tell me that I must speak with Lagoa Camara.

There have been so many complaints from the public and businesses, so perhaps that’s the reason. More than 30 businesses have signed a petition to stop the road works until after the summer season. I was told June 6 was the actual date for completion of all the alterations somehow I don’t see this happening. The Monte Dourado road is also a nightmare as the traffic is coming down at horrendous speed. The traffic is also going up this road which is proving to be extremely dangerous and very noisy. In the summer months there are a lot of children on this complex so I think they should make it one way at least. That’s about all the update for the square at present.

Just before our trip we went to Colina da Lapa for a drink with Andy, Lesley and little Rebecca. It’s such a shame that not many people know about this place. It’s quite a large complex with a large swimming pool, children’s pool, table tennis and pool table, a good sized sun bathing area, pool bar and BBQ area and a very large terrace. It has a really nice cosy bar and restaurant with a good menu and is very reasonably priced. There is a good size children’s play area and a new building being erected for activities. It also has a lawn bowling green and on Sunday mornings Tony Westwood the golf Pro holds coaching lessons for children. There is also a small shop adjacent to the restaurant. It is run by Diago and Trisha a really friendly couple who have great ideas for the summer. It’s a really nice place to eat or just for a relaxing drink especially for families as you will know the children will be kept amused and in safe surroundings. That same day I also met Daisy who I am happy to say has found a new home.

There is a new café situated at the beginning of the in road next to the golf shop called Fabrica Velha reasonably priced and really good coffee. Their cakes and fresh bread looked delicious and they have a very impressive display case of all the speciality cakes they can make. The owner is Portuguese, very friendly who also allowed me to take some photos, well worth a visit.

Harald and Kim, although continuing Ele e Ela, have now taken over the Medina Restaurant which they plan to open on May 4. It will be an International menu but will also have small dishes similar to tapas, wine will also be available by the glass.

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The St Patrick’s Day celebrations in Carvoeiro went really well this year with Eilis Barreto of Dirty Nellies again supplying her delicious Irish-Stew. After this delicious meal and several Guinesses everyone took off for the famous bar crawl. Graham, then led the parade to The Irish Times where Eilis and several others gave a great performance with their singing followed by a game show. The celebrations continued into the early hours and a great time was had by all.

The St Patrick’s Society party held again at Vila Petra in Albufeira was also a great success. This year the entertainment was provided by Kiss FM along with the newly formed “Tamar” Nigel (of Klonakilty) and Iona who gave a super performance. Tamar will also be playing at Ma Ja’s on Saturday 11th April.

Well that’s all for this month I think I have covered just about everything. We are now off to the UK for 3 weeks for dental work, attend the International Optical Conference and most importantly to spend time seeing the family. Hopefully by the time we return the square will be finished.