Newsletter February 2004

  by: Nigel Anteney Hoare
2004 started with marvellous weather. Bright sunshine all the way. There seemed to be plenty of people in Carvoeiro and I enjoyed a couple of hours on Friday the 2nd sitting on the sea wall in front of the beach simply people watching. Some of the "elders" were gathered there reminiscing. My sister and her husband took a spin to Armação de Pera and walked along that super beach finding people sunbathing and even swimming! (brr!).

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We decided to try the restaurant VIMAR which is at the top of the long hill heading out of town toward Centianes (Estrada do Farol or Lighthouse Street). It was busy and we enjoyed our meal. Nothing extraordinary but attentive service from the waiter and mine host 'Quim'. Nicely decorated and very clean. Good for fish and other Portuguese dishes I think.

The first few days continued with splendid weather and when my sister left to return to the UK on 4th we commented on how she had enjoyed 3 weeks of superb weather. On the 6th we saw some of the first clouds and then on 7th, as often happens, the full moon brought a weather change with some cloud and scattered showers.

We took a trip to the CAFE CICLO in Lagoa which I mentioned last month and noticed the dressed crab I extolled had gone from Euros 12 a kilo to Euros 18!! I didn't ask JOÃO, the owner why, but am assuming it is market trend and seasonal costs rather than profiteering or bad pricing first time round!

On the 8th the weather cleared again and continued with this great start to the year. The next day, Friday we decided to eat out and went past CHRISSYS in Lagoa to see if it had re-opened. It had and we couldn't resist. Only one other table occupied and really superb food as usual. After dinner we called in to the ANTEAK BAR where we bumped into friends EILISH and IAN. The ANTEAK BAR is located on the road going out of town to Lagoa and is in what I call the "new? part of town. This is building up nicely with some useful businesses springing up.

With already more consumed than was good for me we moved on to ZECAS BAR for some last, totally unnecessary, nightcaps. ZECAS in case you do not know it is one of the first bars on the right as you hit town from Lagoa, it's on the other side of the one way system to the Anteak Bar. Zeca is the master of a "ship that sails at night". You slip in to Zecas as most sane people are slipping into their pyjamas and you may well slip out as they are taking them off! Zeca incidentally is brother in law to FLAVIO of SULLY'S fame, being married to Flavios sister NELIA. It is nice to keep a pub crawl in the family!

The weekend saw some really lovely sunny weather and I gave my dog a long walk along one of the many green valleys that surround Carvoeiro. There are some pleasant walks to be found if you know where to look and not all of them along the cliff top.

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SMILERS re-opened on the 10th, daytime only at this stage and with the super weather was immediately packed on the front terrace! I noticed that restaurant JOTA LITA. half way up the Estrada do Farol, was having a paint up and face lift and was pleased to see that the almond trees had burst into bloom with their lovely white and pink blossom. It seems to get earlier every year. Spring smelt to be in the air - tempting fate again!

On the 15th I had to drive up to Portalegre on business and then over to Lisbon before returning on Friday. With the motorways this is a fairly easy journey although more or less 1,000 kms round trip. On the way back from Lisbon having seen enough motorway to last me for a while I turned off to ST. BARTOLOMEU DE MESSINES to come back to Lagoa on the old EN 124. As you leave Messines for Silves on the left, you can see down to the coast at Armação and a mass of almond trees at Benaciate. It was a sea of white and reminded me of the old legend that a King of Portugal had married a Nordic princess who pined for the snow of her native land. The king ordered the planting of masses of almond trees to please her at this time of the year. It really did seem like snow as I looked across the top of the trees to the coast.

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On Friday evening I took my wife to Faro to catch EasyJet to Luton. We had the odd shower that day but Saturday returned bright and clear. The BAR HAVANA had announced a grand reopening on that Saturday but I was caught out with some sort of "bug" and didn't feel up to making that one. On Sunday it continued clear and sunny but the wind had veered to the north east and was bringing cold down from the mountains. Feeling a bit chirpier I took a drive to Portimão to see how the Marina was shaping up. Lots of people promenading in the sun and many small dinghies enjoying the brisk wind to do some racing just outside the harbour walls. The whole Marina area and the waterfront from that to the road bridge and indeed beyond is taking shape but such a shame they built what looks like garages to house the old sardine restaurants. The architect had the opportunity to do something really creative in keeping with the other old buildings around and under the bridge and missed it.

On the Monday evening I collected my wife and her mother from Faro airport on return from the UK. We stopped at TEODOSIOS in GUIA, better known as O REI DOS FRANGOS (the chicken king!) Packed as usual! How many chickens does this place cook and serve? Where do they all come from? I don't think it is as good as KAZY in Silves though and a bit more expensive.

On the chicken piri piri subject which I know is dear to the heart of many visitors, I forgot to mention that our friends ALY and MICK who are tastefully converting an old farm out near the BARRAGEM DO ARADE (the reservoir between Silves and Messines) had invited us for lunch on 3rd January to what they refer to as TWO FAT LADIES, This is a chicken only joint on the front at Silves opposite the river and forms part of the Market building. In fact the place is called VALDEMAR I think and the two lady owners are not all that fat, at least not from where I am standing! Anyway it was interesting to try the chicken there and judge against others. 7 of us ate, 3 being youngsters who eat more than us anyway and with copious salad, chips, bread, olives, wine, beers, water and soft drinks the bill came to Euros 46!! Can you believe this? OK it is sort of basic but the chicken is very good.

So lets see my WHICH report on chicken piri piri not forgetting that we always up the order of chicken by about 30% to ensure sufficient quantity and no stinting on the rest!:

TEODOROS, GUIA - good chicken but sometimes a little dry, small portions, slightly thin spicy sauce and about Euros 18 a head;

KAZY, SILVES - excellent chicken, great sauce, super mixed salad about Euros 15 a head;

TWO FAT LADIES - good chicken, nice salad, great bread about Euros 7 a head!!

VIERA, GUIA ? in the main street of Guia ? one of the original chicken places and still good, also do other food. Good chicken, nice spicy sauce, nice mixed salad about Euros 14 a head.
This must be a good topic for the FORUM surely!!

Anyway back to Monday, as I walked my dog later that night the sky was clear and starlit. The sweet smell of wood smoke hung in the air and it seemed that we might be in for a cold spell at last.

Sure enough the early morning of the 20th was very clear and cold. Ice had formed on the windows and roofs of some parked cars and there was a fair frost on the grass. The following morning was colder still with the temperature only registering 3ºC when I headed off for work at just after 8 am. It didn't strike so cold though as there was no wind but again there was a pronounced frost on the grass and hedgerows. The following mornings changed from cold to mild and misty with some cloud cover but as the sun came up the days cleared and were beautiful again.

Friday 23rd we planned to go to HAPPYS. We rang and booked a table and it was a good job as it was packed as usual. It is good value without a doubt and although I never intended to I couldn't resist HAPPYS battered cod! Excellent! The boss called my bluff when I told him his brandy measure was short so by the time we left I was nicely warmed up!

After dinner we went next door to the ROUNDUP. Funny old night - all men! It seemed as if it was an Irish stag night or something. They were sure enjoying themselves singing and dancing. IRISH DAVE seemed to have had a voice box transplant as you could actually understand what he was singing (sorry Dave!). I carried on to ZECAS BAR for a late one (fool). In came LOUIS of SCREWY LOUIS BAR and some friends. I had noticed in the ALGARVE RESIDENT that Louis, (or may I call him Screwy?), was advertising a Quiz Night on 27th January in aid of the Lagoa Bombeiros, a very worthy cause following last summers forest fires, and I also heard that he was having a "singles night". I would prefer a "doubles night" personally but there you go!

The weekend started delightfully with little wind and bright sun but clouded over late Saturday, and Sunday saw an overcast day. On the Sunday I went to Vale do Milho Golf Clubhouse to catch the Man United v Northampton F.A. Cup clash. Being a West Ham supporter, I was hoping for a miracle but it was not to be. SERGIO the barman was there clearing up after what had obviously been a busy lunchtime. It seems many residents and visitors alike use the club house for Sunday lunch. I must say that it is very pleasant there.

The Monday was dull but warm not like the UK for which we had been watching the weather forecasters warning of icy blasts and snowfalls!

Circumstances meant that we had availed ourselves several times of Vanessa de Beers catering service "WORD OF MOUTH". I mentioned Vanessa in a previous newsletter and I believe the service she provides is excellent. She has a list of 2 or 3 specific dishes each day and if you call in the morning she will deliver a hot meal in the evening, within the Carvoeiro area. Her food is excellent and priced right. I feel sure that this will make a welcome option for people on holiday that don't want to go out every night but also don't want to cook.

The last Saturday of the month my wife and her mother decided to check out COLLECTIONS ladies fashions as they were having a sale at Vale de Milho Golf Clubhouse. It was a good opportunity to combine it with some lunch and I was pleased to see they were showing Manchester United v Southampton on the new big screen in the bar. Again there were several people enjoying lunch and the wide menu means that there is something to suit everybody.

The last week of the month had been mixed with much cloud and some rain but quite warm, in fact so far it has been a mild and very dry winter causing concern for water levels for the coming summer. I understand that the Barragem do Funcho is very low and the Barragem do Arade is empty undergoing repair and maintenance work. Doesn't sound too good. Perhaps we will get a wet February?

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