Newsletter January 2005

  by: Nigel Anteney Hoare

Happy New Year to all Newsletter readers!

November went out with a big bang of a storm as I mentioned last month. I didn’t realize at the time how extensive the flooding was, particularly in Estombar, Parchal and Ferragudo with many basements flooded and much damage caused to domestic equipment and furnishings as a result. Carvoeiro escaped relatively unscathed in comparison and perhaps we are fortunate that the flood water simply sweeps down Rua do Barranco and across the square out to sea (Barranco means a gully or ravine and it is where the water from the Carvoeiro valley used to run to the sea years ago). I heard that ERICAS hairdressing salon at Curva do Casino was temporarily evacuated due to the feared subsidence of a wall behind her building. In true British spirit she went back to the home of the unfortunate client she was dealing with at the time and finished it there!

The flood sure made a mess of everything with silt build ups all over the place keeping the Carvoeiro band of lady street cleaners busy. I recall when there was just one street sweeper here. An elderly man, the father of Carlos “Cowboy” who now also works for the Junta de Freguesia. Perhaps a barometer of the success of a town is the number of street sweepers needed to keep the place tidy? I must say the present band do a pretty good job.

The weather settled down for a while and it was very pleasant again. We celebrated our wedding anniversary by taking a trip to LA PROVENCE a restaurant that opened about 8 months back and which was recently reviewed in both THE NEWS and ESSENTIAL ALGARVE. This is out of Carvoeiro on the V6 road from Portimão toward Praia da Rocha. This is the road that goes by MODELO shopping centre. La Provence is an unpretentious place and unfortunately (or fortunately?) located on the ground floor of a tall block next door to a strip club. The chef/owner, Walter, is French and his wife Mariana, Portuguese. They also have a business partner, Benny. The food is simply wonderful and sensibly priced in view of the quality. I guess an average would be 40 Euros a head. I don’t like to recommend readers to abandon Carvoeiro restaurants in favour of an outsider but as this is not a place to go every day I do recommend any lovers of fine food to take a look.

On Saturday I watched the Newcastle v Portsmouth football match in SULLYS BAR and met some friendly posters, Gary and Gaynor, a British couple living and working in Holland together with Gaynors sister Dianne and son Alex who was on a welcome break from the R.A.F. They were visiting Carvoeiro kitting out their new property. It was interesting to hear their comments on the place and especially where they had been eating out. Generally they were very complimentary of the standard. Gary originally from Portsmouth was well pleased with the one point Portsmouth gained!

Howard at Sullys Bar

Sunday morning bright and early and a trifle fuzzy-headed after Saturdays exertions in Sullys I was up early to play golf on the Gramacho course. Rain had been forecast and the wind really got up and sky darkened as we played the final 9 holes. I thought we might be in for another dowsing and sure enough we had plenty of rain that evening and the next day. Sunday it was back down to Sullys this time to catch the big Arsenal v Chelsea game. Always a few people in Sullys but most of the lower part of town was by now pretty well closed. I think that in addition the TAPAS BAR and GRAND CAFÉ/PIU were soldiering on and along Rua do Barranco IMPREVISTO and HEMINGWAYS are also open. Further afield I am not so sure but think OFICINA, ZECAS and ANTEAK are still working. Anteak has been advertising ILZE singing on a Monday and further along the “out” road, MISTRAL was showing fado every Thursday – not sure if that is still on this time of the year though.

Monday 13th continued dull but was livened up at 14.16 in the afternoon by the biggest earth tremor I have ever felt here. My eldest daughter later said that the one in June 2003 was bigger but I was in Spain at that time so can’t compare. Anyway this was enough to shake the building I was in and seemed to go on for several seconds. Bit unnerving actually especially when we read later that the epicenter was 117 kms south west of Cape St Vincent – more or less the same area of the 'quake that flattened many parts of Portugal back in 1755!! Anyway having a good shake up seemed to work because the next day was much clearer and the rest of that week the weather was very good.

Passing through Alcantarilha on my way back to Carvoeiro one morning I noticed that the sculptor was hard at work on the massive marble statue in front of the marble works by the big roundabout leading to the motorway access. I had mentioned this in an earlier newsletter and stopped to have a word with him. I was surprised to find out that he is a Georgian named Hercules having learnt his sculpting skills in his native land. We conversed in Portuguese - me with my Anglo-Algarvian accent and he with in his own odd manner. However, we got by and he explained that he had finished the sculpture and was just putting the finishing touches to it brushing it with some sort of liquid wax or resin to cover the raw cut faces of the marble. The plinth has been left in its rough state as how that will be finished depends on its eventual location. He confirmed his view that this was the first time that anyone since Michaelangelo 500 years ago had carved such a statue from a single block of stone without any premature design and working from the top down. The block of stone alone had cost over 5,000 Euros and Whether you like it or not it is truly amazing. He told me that the local Council had offered him 50,0000 Euros for it but as he values it at 500,000 Euros it seems that it may take while to find a buyer. Perhaps the readers and subscribers could have a whip round and present it to the local Junta da Freguesia to stand in the square?!

My wife, being away in the UK collecting the children for their Christmas holiday, meant that I had to fend for myself. I was assisted in that “fending” process by friends Graham Groom and Luis who introduced me to the amiable Scottish landlord named Murray who is running HEMINGWAYS BAR. Quite a cosy atmosphere there in the winter and always someone to chat to. That sorted the liquid part of my diet and to assist with the solid I had a couple of lunches close to my office in Lagoa at BARCA VELHA, just opposite the Fatacil park, near the sofa retail shop - BRITSOFA. Barca Velha is run by André, a pleasant enough chap from Algoz who took the financial plunge by opening the restaurant with a large function room behind where he caters for all manner of events, weddings, baptisms etc. Barca Velha is well appointed and serves good food at a modest price. I think it is well worth a look especially at lunchtime.

Barca Velha however doesn’t quite clinch the “Cheap Lunch Award for 2004” as announced in an earlier Newsletter. This must go to the restaurant FATACIL situated actually within the Fatacil showground in Lagoa, who have swept the board with a complete lunch including soup, a drink, main course, pudding and coffee and even a “digestif” of brandy, medronho or similar for an all inclusive 7 Euros. Notwithstanding the price – they give large portions!! I have not sampled this yet but I understand that they are packed every day - seating about 200 diners!

Tuesday 21st December – the shortest day of the year and so it seemed as I got up just before 7am, still dark enough to see the regular flash of the Alfanzina lighthouse but with the first hint of daybreak giving an orange glow in the direction of Centianes. A clear starlit start with a biting northerly wind.

It seemed as if the Christmas holiday would be as it often is in Carvoeiro, bright, sunny, clear but cold in the shade. Just the job for the Christmas influx of visitors. I hadn’t really noticed too many places reopening to welcome them but traditionally around 21st is when many Christmas flights arrive bringing visitors from the UK and taking residents back to spend time with friends and family in the UK. I wondered if the next two weeks or so would give the local traders a much needed boost after a relatively poor summer.

The town finally livened up with the Christmas visitors. Unfortunately the hoped for sunny weather eluded us and we had a mixture of cloud, showers and cold north winds over the holiday. As usual there was a change at the full moon with the north wind dropping which at least gave the impression of an increase in temperature at least.

Fate often seems to deal a cruel hand around Christmas time in terms of human misery and this year was no exception with the dreadful news on Boxing Day of the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in south east Asia. As one British newspaper wrote - a disaster of biblical proportions. With the experience of the chaos caused by quite minor flash flooding in Carvoeiro some years back it was frightening to think what might happen to the lower parts of our town if we were to experience a similar fate. A few days before Christmas I had spoken to some neighbours and long standing residents of Carvoeiro, David and Pat Carter-Green who told me they were off to Sri Lanka to spend time with family. I also heard that John Butterworth head of the International School was in Thailand and wondered if he was safe. Before this newsletter went to press we heard that they were all safe and well.

After Christmas the weather became colder getting down to 3 or 4 degrees some mornings with evidence of overnight frost on the grass. Ordering some gas for our central heating at Electrolagoense, the gas, electrical and domestic appliance store near to the Caixa Geral de Depositos Bank, in central Lagoa, I met and spoke to a non resident who had not experienced the cold here before. He was researching ways to make his house a little more comfortable. Unfortunately, not all “holiday homes” here can cope with this sort of weather and it is a point worth considering if you are thinking of buying. The sun doesn’t always shine and even when it does, the nights can get very cold indeed!

The other noticeable event over Christmas was the heavy GNR presence with frequent road blocks. Two separate roadblocks just on the road from Lagoa to Carvoeiro presumably to catch anyone over the limit!

On the Monday after Christmas I took advantage of a day off to have a round of golf at VALE DE PINTA with my son and two friends, Graham and Stuart. Very enjoyable indeed but again quite a strong cold wind on the higher parts of the course. After the game we went for a swift beer in SULLYS, now staffed during the day by the delightful MARIA as PAT has left after her long stint of service behind the bar. We had noticed on the way into town that HEMINGWAYS was busy so wandered along there to see who was around. It was pretty full as it always seems to be lately but of course it is quite small so even a dozen makes a crowd.

Tuesday we took a trip to Algarve Shopping to get a few items and I was surprised to see how many people were there browsing and buying. Even though the Monday and Tuesday following Christmas were normal working days and not bank holidays here it was obvious that plenty of people had taken holiday or at least time off to celebrate Christmas. There looked to be plenty of purchasing power as well. Economic crisis? What crisis?

Time to get ready for New Year celebrations. There were as usual many offers of parties and festivities from various hotels and restaurants etc but I feel many of these are overpriced – especially when you have to pay for 4! We had opted for a meal at O CANTINHO as we had heard that last year was good fun there.

The 31st arrived all too quickly and we met up at FLIC FLAC BAR with the others who were joining us to see in the New Year. The bar staff were getting geared up for a busy night although it was still quiet when we met up at 8,30pm - still a long haul to the new Year! We crossed the road to Cantinho which had been well decked out with dozens of balloons fixed to the ceiling. They had filled the place to capacity. The food was good and plentiful and before midnight arrived they came round giving out hats, whistles, rattles, streamers, bottles of espumante and all the usual New Years Eve paraphernalia!

New years eve at the Cantinho

The moment came, the espumante popped, everybody was kissing each other, the music was jacked up, people started dancing on the terrace in front of the restaurant and lo and behold the mystery, non-existent, much Forum discussed Carvoeiro fireworks erupted above us in the night sky. It seemed that they had been let off by António of O CHEFE ANTÓNIO who had also hosted a New Years Eve party at his own restaurant.

New years eve at the Cantinho

We stayed put for a while and then decided to see what was happening elsewhere. Down the road to the HAVANA BAR which is now run by a young lady, the last two occupants having "done a runner" I was told!? Not too much action there so on down to the ROUNDUP where Big Will was outside as usual trying to flatten a parked car by leaning on it and Dave was in full flight inside entertaining quite a good crowd. We stayed there for one or two drinks and then on again to MUNGOS where Bob and staff were unwinding after a busy session. Pretty quiet there by this time really. On the way in we met SIMON PERRY, our well known local quizmaster and man about town leaving Mungos to go home and he seemed to have enjoyed his night! Tired by this time we got a lift up the road home and to bed at about 3,30 am. All in all the town seemed quiet this year.

Dave at Round Up Bar

Lets see what 2005 brings for the Algarve and Carvoeiro!