Newsletter April 2004


by: Nigel Anteney Hoare

March began with some very cold weather for these parts. Leaving for work early in the morning, the temperature reading on several days was down to 3ºC. This was accompanied by the classic blue skies we often get at this time of the year. After the first few days however cloud appeared and the temperature rose. It had been so much better to have those clear crisp days rather than the sad grey skies that followed.

On the first Friday we met up with our friends from the "hills", TOM and BARBARA CAMPH whom we had not seen for some while and caught up with the news from the Silves/Messines area whilst enjoying some tasty piri piri at RESTAURANT KAZY in Silves. Every time we go to Silves it seems to have changed - for the better. It really is becoming a charming town under the guidance of the Mayor Dra ISOBEL SOARES whom I noticed, later in the month, was the only mayor in the region receiving a positive rating following a poll of readers held by THE NEWS. It seems 88% of the readers polled are pleased with what she has done and having lived in the Silves "Concelho", or Council area, for 11 years under Dra Isobel and her predecessor I have to agree that she has done a good job.

On the Saturday evening we decided to go to the cinema at GUIA SHOPPING to see the Jack Nicholson movie "Somethings gotta give". Not being a regular filmgoer it amazes me how these multi cinemas make it, economically, as there are never many people in them and the prices they charge are relatively low compared to other countries. On a Monday you pay an even cheaper entrance fee! A good location for the rainy days of winter and spring.

The film was, for me, very "different" and enjoyable and after we visited the restaurant IDEAL tucked away in GUIA. Unusually for Guia this is not primarily a chicken piri piri place and they have a full menu including fresh fish. The restaurant is very pleasantly decorated and the food is always good and reasonably priced at about 20 Euros a head.

Sunday saw a mixed bag weather-wise but generally the skies were clearing and we were treated to some fantastic sunsets. That night was very still with wood smoke in the air smelling like coffee roasting. Someone was burning almond or some other scented wood and no doubt with the weather warming each day the fire places and wood burners would soon be cleaned out for the summer and logs stacked out of the way for next winter.

Please find larger photos here

The following week began clear and sunny but still quite fresh in the mornings. Excitement grew amongst football supporters as Tuesday was to see the second leg of the Champions League clash between Manchester United and Porto. For such a game even the Benfica and Sporting supporters were behind Porto and there was an element of an "underdog" Porto going into the Manchester United lair particularly after a bitter clash between the rival managers after the first leg which Porto had won 2 - 1. What happened is history but for those who don't know, Manchester United scored giving them the edge as their away goal was worth double in the event of a tie. Like a story book ending, in the dying seconds of the game, Porto scored and held on for a win. Great excitement here and bold predictions that they will go all the way to the Final!

The following day we saw a real change, the day started beautifully clear and sunny and it was actually warm at 7am when I walked my dog. The mixed weather continued however with Friday 12th grey and wet followed by a surprisingly clear and sunny weekend, but with a bitter North wind whistling down on us from northern Europe.
At this time of the year, it seems that no sooner has the blossom disappeared, the almond trees are already bearing fruit encased in their velvety shells.

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The pink and white almond blossom is replaced by beautiful yellow mimosa dotting the countryside and already we notice that heady, almost pungent, scent from the orange blossom just beginning to form. Spring is truly here.

We had promised ourselves a visit to the DANISH STEAK HOUSE in Rua Sta Isabel, Portimão. We had tried in January but they were closed for a holiday so off we went again to find it open but empty. This is not always unusual for a Saturday night in Portimão which tends to die a bit at weekends once the shops close at lunchtime. Our meal was enjoyable enough and 3 courses with wine etc would cost about 30 Euros a head.

On Saturday 13th some of the Irish community had organised a pre-St. Patrick's Day celebration at a hotel in Montechoro, Albufeira. This had been posted on the page with a price of 35 Euros for all you could eat and drink. I discussed this with my pal GRAHAM GROOM who was involved with the organising committee. I took the negative view that after the hotel had experienced about 120 Irish folk drinking, dining, dancing and singing until 2 a.m. they may decide that they had got the arithmetic wrong when they offered this deal! Apparently the whole thing went off so well that the hotel have asked them to do it again next year!

On St Patricks Day itself, 17th March, DIRTY NELLYS seemed to be the place to be! We arrived at about 7.30pm and the place was absolutely jumping!

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A St Patrick look alike was glued to a bar stooland a mixture of Irish and non Irish residents and holiday makers were having a ball.  I heard that earlier, at about 4.30pm, MANUEL of Dirty Nellies had borrowed an open beach buggy from CARLOS of the CEPSA SERVICE STATION and the Irish had held an impromptu motorcade around the town stopping the traffic in the process!
Please find more St. Patrick's day 2004 pictures here.

Please find larger photos here

EILISH was in full flight serving tasty bowls of Irish Stew and the Guinness was flowing faster than the pump could deliver it.  It was a very good evening indeed, full of Irish humour and bonhomie. Our friend, THOMAS CORRIDAN from Almancil, joined us with his girlfriend SARAH and mindful that the next day was a working day we reluctantly left the party well before the end and invited them to eat at ELE E ELLA before they drove home.
Excellent food as always my wifes only complaint is that the extraction needs sorting!

It was turning out to be a hectic week as the next day was my pal TONY DA SILVAS birthday and we had been invited by his mother in law (must be a great son in law!) to a celebration dinner at RESTAURANT O TASCO, Senhora da Verde. This is along the road that is almost opposite PENINA HOTEL heading up towards the hills. I approached it from the other direction which is off the Portimão/Monchique road taking a left turn towards the new MORGADO DE REGUENGOS GOLF COURSE. Like many of these Portuguese country restaurants, O Tasco looks a bit scruffy from the outside but the restaurant is very good. I was amazed to find it full - and all foreigners, resident and tourists. Tony and his wife Pam said that it was a favourite haunt of foreign residents of whom there are many in the Senhora da Verde, Monte Judeu, Cerro e Mar areas. This was clear evidence of the spending power of the foreign community and tourists that I would have liked to show the respective Ministers for Tourism and Finance!

Friday saw a clear bright day with a blustery cold wind. Sadly we went to Silves at midday for the funeral service of an old friend and neighbour from our days living in Cumeada, PETER SAWYER, who had died on the previous Monday after a lengthy illness. The chapel was filled with his family from UK, friends and neighbours and it was warming to see that several of Peters Portuguese neighbours had turned up. In beautiful sunshine we followed the hearse on the long walk through the streets of Silves from chapel to cemetery with local people stopping to cross themselves as we passed. Peter was a great bloke and as we heard the words of the English Priest, I recalled that it was not so many years ago when he was teaching my young son Sam the first rudiments of football having been a fine footballer himself. I have to say moments like that do make me appreciate life and determine me to try and make the most of it whilst I am able.

Saturday and Sunday were simply glorious. On the Saturday having been to Lagoa I decided to come back to Carvoeiro via PRAIA DA MARINHA and BENAGIL. Benagil beach was spectacular, deserted but just like a summers day. I went on through the little village of Benagil and along the coast to overlook PRAIA DO CARVALHO (Smugglers Cove). Absolutely stunning, with one or two people on the beach and just two children skipping in the waves.

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That night we had been invited by friends NELSON and ANA, to join SARAH, CARLOS and family of CEPSA SERVICE STATION to eat at A MARISQUEIRA, the restaurant of João Luis at the top of Estrada do Farol (restaurant hill!) just past the new hotel. This is a small restaurant inside with a few tables outside on the terrace. Those residents and tourists who have "discovered" it go back time and again for fresh fish and generally good food at sensible prices. I don't know what the bill came to as I never paid but the food was excellent. With just a little too much wine on board maybe, the decision was taken to hit Dirty Nellies where the final damage was done courtesy of Manuel.

Sunday was HOT! This was now just like June and the ideal day to get some gardening done and try to get a bit of colour on my skin. Great way to remove a hangover too!

Monday I had to meet a business contact late afternoon and things having taken longer than expected I called my wife to join us as he had invited us to eat at the RAJ at GARBE - the Indian restaurant which is part of the Hotel Garbe in Armaçaõ de Pêra. Calling for a table he found it was closed. Dismay led to hope when he decided that we would go instead to Carvoeiro's own Indian restaurant, O INDIANO on Estrada do Farol. The place was really busy and a pleasant meal was enjoyed for a pleasant price

The rest of the week was beautifully sunny with temperatures well above average. This is the life I thought looking forward to the weekend. Murphy's Law hit hard and late Friday grey clouds came in from the south west.

We had been invited to a Japanese restaurant at Bouganvilea Plaza, on the outskirts of Quinta do Lago. The table being booked for 8,30, we set off at 7.45 - that journey always taking longer than one expects. We have never eaten Japanese food other than some sushi here and there. At this restaurant, called T CLUB, on a Friday and Saturday they have a Japanese buffet. It was simply marvellous! I have no real idea of cost but the set charge must be high. A central semi-circular buffet is laden with all manner of tasty starters with a sushi chef behind preparing more fresh food as it disappears. Afterwards there are a variety of main courses and puddings. The food was plentiful and fantastic and service was excellent.

The place was not as busy as had been expected by our host who was surprised that he could book a table at short notice. It did fill up a little later but we are hearing from business people in the Quinta do Lago/ Vale do Lobo areas that trade is generally well down apparently due to the negative and unsettling effects of the new tax laws particularly that affecting offshore property which has hit hardest in that area where 99% of those large expensive homes are held by offshore companies. Additionally, we hear that bookings for villas and apartments in June are slow as many potential visitors are being put off by the prospect of the 2004 Euro Football Finals. Surely it can't be that such a big sporting occasion could have the opposite effect on tourism than is hoped?!

The long drive home to Carvoeiro was worth the gastronomic experience and I am now saving up to go back! Sure enough the grey clouds of Friday evening heralded overnight rain and after such a long dry spell I quite enjoyed the steady rain as I gave my dog a run early Saturday morning. However by 11 am the clouds had broken and we had mixed sun and cloud for all to enjoy. Returning from a shopping trip the town looked quite busy in this run up to Easter. Everything looks spick and span and open and work continues on the old house to the right of the HOTEL CARVOEIRO SOL overlooking the square which I hear is to be yet another bar! This old house, which is one of the few left that can be seen in many old photos of Carvoeiro, has been for sale as long as I recall but the reputed price had deterred everybody. You can spot it in picture 4 of Hans Peter Uebe's fabulous set of 1969 photos of Carvoeiro - it being the first building with a pitched roof from the left of the photo. Anyway some bold soul has taken the plunge and as you can see from this picture taken a week or so ago a complete overhaul is taking place.

Oh well, another watering hole for the tired and thirsty!
Please find larger photos here

The final Saturday of the month saw a charity dinner at CHEFE O ANTONIO'S in aid of a local children's charity. A quiz night had been arranged with dinner and wine included for an inclusive price, half of which was to go to the charity. About 120 people attended on a rather cold and damp evening which was warmed up by the innovative quiz bingo held by SIMON PERRY and some lively auctioneering of donated prizes by PAT ROBINSON the organiser of the event. NOBERT LANGENSIEPEN provided music and a good time was had by all. At the end it was announced that ANTONIO, the owner, had waived his charge for provision of food and drink so that the entire proceeds went to the charity. This was a magnificent gesture and a huge boost for the charity funds. Well done António!

After dinner we dropped in to the HAVANA BAR for a couple of nightcaps and again I thought what a good job JAN and MARK are doing there.

That wraps up this Newsletter for March on this rather rainy Sunday with the clocks having jumped forward an hour and me about to leave for Faro airport with my wife to collect our children from school for the Easter holidays. I will be away from Carvoeiro on holiday for the first two weeks of April so will give you all a rest from this nonsense until the end of May. Happy Easter!

Please find more St. Patrick's day 2004 pictures here.

Please find larger versions of the pictures here.