Newsletter November 2006


by: Karen Telling

Finally, the ongoing saga of Barney’s operations came to an end, after one last evening out at Oasis on 5th October, the last stitches were removed on the following day – and our lives could return to some sort of normality. To celebrate our new-found freedom, we took some friends to Bella Vita at Clube Atlântico, which was excellent as usual. On Saturday 7th we were invited to a bbq with friends at their house close to Poço Partido, towards the end of the meal we were treated to a firework display, which appeared to come from the direction of the Almansor Hotel. I’m not sure what the occasion was, or whether it was the hotel or a neighbouring property, but the display seemed very professional and rounded off our meal nicely!

The weather was still warm and sunny, and to celebrate my birthday the following day, we went to Le Mistral – we had tried to eat at this restaurant a few times during the summer without success, but in October we had no problem getting a table. The food was very good, and it is one of the few places in Carvoeiro where you can sit outside in a ‘tropical garden’ environment.

On Wednesday 11th, we were invited to visit a friend at his house on Farol Island which is just off the coast of the eastern Algarve. As we set off to catch the ferry from Olhão the weather was slightly overcast, and as the previous day had also been quite cloudy, I wasn’t sure whether it was the best day to visit the island. However, I needn’t have worried, as we made our way along the Algarve the skies brightened, and by the time we arrived in Olhão the sun was shining and it was lovely and warm. There are no cars on the island, so we parked close to the market and made our way to the ticket office where our return tickets were a grand total of 3.20 euros per person! The boat was quite small, seating around 60 people on two decks, and as there is no shop on the island at this time of year, we were soon surrounded by locals bringing their supplies over from Olhão in supermarket trolleys!

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The ferry left promptly at 11am, and we set off past the flats that you can see from the air when landing at Faro, and which were full of people digging for clams in the sand. The first stop was at Culatra at the other end of the island, and most people got off there, but we stayed on as the boat continued along the length of the island until we reached the pier at Farol – the journey takes around 45 minutes in total. You can also walk the 7km along the beach from Culatra to Farol. Our friend was waiting to meet us, and led the way down the narrow paths to his house – as there is no traffic, there are no roads, just footpaths. Farol is a really remarkable place – so quiet and peaceful with absolutely no background noise of traffic and civilisation. We sat on the terrace with a cool drink, and admired the view of the sand dunes in front of the house, then went for a walk to explore the beach, just the other side of the dunes.

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The beach is spectacular, with a wide expanse of golden sand and the sea is crystal clear – and we had it all to ourselves! Most of the houses on the island are holiday homes belonging to north Portuguese, and the island is packed in July and August but virtually deserted the rest of the time. There are a few permanent residents, and only two restaurants, both of which open all year round – in summer there is also a small grocery store and a café. We had lunch at one of the restaurants and another walk back along the beach before catching the ferry back to Olhão at 4pm, this time of year there are only 3 or 4 ferries per day, but they run more frequently in summer. The island is beautiful, perfect for a bit of ‘time out’ from our normal busy lives, and a paradise for bird-watching and fishing – it’s definitely worth the trip and I’m sure we’ll be back soon. We headed back to Carvoeiro and were surprised to see that the roads were wet and the weather appeared to have been worse than at the other end of the Algarve.

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The weekend of the 14th/15th October saw the annual Better Living in Portugal exhibition (BLiP) in Portimão. The event, organised by AFPOP, has grown every year, and this time there were over 250 exhibitors in finance, healthcare, interior design etc, in fact everything a resident or holiday home owner may need. Alongside the exhibition was the Mamaratona charity ‘fun run’ to fund improvements in the research and treatment of breast cancer – this year 1150 people took part, hoping to raise 10,000 euros for the radiotherapy unit in Faro.

On the Saturday evening we went to Village Inn, as we booked at very short notice we were lucky to get the last table, and when we arrived, were very surprised to bump into some old friends that we hadn’t seen for a while. We had a lovely meal, as usual, and my mother-in-law enjoyed browsing through the paperbacks that Kathy sells for charity.

A few days later we got the bad news that a friend of ours here in the Algarve had died following a short illness, as funerals take place much quicker here than in the UK, the cremation was arranged for 2 days later. Burials are much more common in Portugal and the nearest crematorium is in Beja, in the Alentejo. We didn’t know exactly where it was, and there was very little information on the internet, so we decided to set off in the general direction and stop to ask for more information as we got closer. The forecast was for fairly unsettled weather, and we ran into a very heavy shower just after we left Carvoeiro. The weather improved slightly as we crossed into the Alentejo, and we found the village we were looking for quite easily, however there were no signs for the crematorium so we stopped a woman passer-by and asked for directions, instead of just describing where to go she insisted we follow her, and she very kindly led us straight to the cemetery car park. There were still no signs for the crematorium, but after a short walk around the cemetery we finally found the building tucked away to one side, and fortunately we were still in plenty of time for the simple, but moving ceremony.

We drove back down to the Algarve under heavy, grey skies, and the weather deteriorated further during the evening, until we were woken during the night by a thunderstorm. The next few days continued unsettled with a further thunderstorm the following night, after a long, hot summer it was quite refreshing to see some rain, and the temperature was still very mild, but even so it was nice to see some sunshine again on the afternoon of the 18th. We went out to Casa de Bife that evening, and sat at a table outside while we introduced my mother-in-law to her first ‘stone steak’! The following Saturday afternoon was beautiful, and we took advantage of the sunshine to have lunch at Pedras Amarelas beach restaurant at Galé – the beach was full of sunbathers and fishermen, and there were even people swimming and surfing in the sea. Even though the weather continued with a mixture of sunshine and heavy showers, unfortunately it still wasn’t cold enough to light the log burner, but I did manage to light a few fires – purely to test out the new chimney that we had built for us over the summer!

The beginning of the following week was the annual budget and the government’s continued attempts to ‘balance the books’. The country currently has a budget deficit of almost 7 billion euros, which has prompted cuts in public services and social security, and reforms in public administration and bureaucracy. These measure are, unsurprisingly, unpopular with government employees and there have been demonstrations in Lisbon, and a two day strike by teachers, protesting at their low salaries. The minimum wage in Portugal is only 385.90 euros per month, compared to the European average of 804,22 euros per month, and only Turkey, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and Estonia have a lower minimum wage – that really puts the situation into perspective. To add to the financial constraints on the average Portuguese citizen, electricity prices could rise by up to 15% next year. The market is being de-regulated, which usually means more competition and cheaper prices – but not in this case! Prices have been kept artificially low and there is now a deficit of 399 million euros to be repaid, plus the government is investing in more environmentally-friendly power sources, and passing the expensive set-up costs on to the consumer. According to the government, the proposed increases will be capped at 7.85%, but whatever happens it seems that we will be paying more for our electricity next year.

Overnight on 24th October we had more violent thunderstorms, and even a mini tornado that uprooted trees and caused quite a lot of damage – the roof of the new Leroy Merlin DIY store buckled, and had to be partially removed, and one of the garden centres on the 125 near Almancil was also severely damaged. The rest of the week continued with strong winds and some very heavy showers – unfortunately the bad weather coincided with the half term holiday for many UK schools, and there were a lot of families in the village hoping for a last burst of sunshine before the winter set in back home. The only really nice days were on Friday 27th and Saturday 28th, but by then most of the families would have been making their way back home. The weather at this time of year is always a bit unpredictable, but usually better than this week!

Statistics published for September showed that there was an increase in arrivals at Faro of 40,000 passengers compared to September 2005 – about 50% of these from the UK. There are plans to increase capacity even further and by 2009, a new state of the art radar system will mean the airport will be able to accept 3500 passengers per hour, up from 2400 passengers per hour at the moment. I just hope there will be an equivalent increase in the number of ground staff employed, or there will be very long queues at the baggage carousels.

There are also plans for a new English language TV station ‘The Portugal Channel’ which is aiming to start broadcasting in mid 2007, by satellite to Europe, the UK and Ireland, and also online. The station hope to showcase all parts of the country, plus programmes on food and wine, and the sports and tourist facilities available, in addition to some Portuguese films and documentaries. If the channel succeeds in getting off the ground, it could be a great way for regular visitors to keep in touch with, and learn more about Portugal.

Another new development that may be of interest to holiday home owners, is the electronic mail delivery system from the Post Office. The service is free, and you can now register to receive some, or all of your mail online at (only in Portuguese). I’m not sure how it is going to work, but it could be very useful to make sure that bills etc are received on time so I have signed up and will report on my progress, if there is any, next month.

Just too late for most of the October visitors, the last couple of days were beautiful and we spent my mother-in-law’s last night in the village, sitting out at Oasis, with witches and ghosts running past celebrating Halloween. After a seven-week stay, she was a bit reluctant to being going back to the UK, but it made it a bit easier knowing that she already has flights booked to come back for a month over Christmas and New Year! We followed our meal with a nightcap at Imprevisto, we sat a table outside, chatting with friends until almost midnight – still not cold enough for a log fire, but never mind, I’m sure I’ll get to light the fire next month!