Newsletter October 2004

  by: Nigel Anteney Hoare

The sign as you enter Carvoeiro says “Welcome” and advertises this webpage. So a welcome as well to any new subscribers to the Newsletter.

Even though the sunny weather seems to go on and on the Algarve in general and Carvoeiro in our case emptied out as usual at the end of August to coincide with the return to school for students in the UK and other north European countries. In Portugal on the other hand the schools go back much later and there is a weird system whereby no one really seems to know exactly when school starts. You sort of have to listen out for the “jungle drums” to find out!

This year was even worse. A new education department computer system was introduced whereby teachers had to log on and insert their details. It gets complicated here as you have to realise that many teachers are not regarded as “efectivo” or permanent and have to re-apply for teaching jobs each year. They then get sent to all sorts of strange places from what I can make out, for example a teacher from Beja will be sent to teach in Silves and a Silves teacher will go to Beja! It is all a bit odd to comprehend. Anyway the non permanent teachers had to input their data on/line and the computer system threw a wobbly and blew a fuse or something. This thus delayed the start of term and a manual system was to be introduced. In the end, it seems some other computer programmers managed to rewrite the offending programme in a few days and school eventually started for most on or about the 27th of September. The Lagoa Middle school only started on 30th September and it is rumoured that they may have to work through July 2005 to catch up with the syllabus. Chaotic really.

It will soon be time to break for Christmas and as I write this on Tuesday 5th October, a bank holiday here celebrating the overthrow of the monarchy and installation of the republic, it is comforting to know that most teachers and civil servants also took yesterday off to make a very nice 4 day weekend!!

Of course the end of August also signals the end of the traditional Lisbon holiday period and thus hundreds of Portuguese tourists also departed northwards. A few years ago, before the road were improved, the Portuguese August break used to signal massive traffic jams down from Lisbon in early August and the same at the end as they all went back. It was almost like the tide coming in and going out! The traffic jams used to continue all night as people decided to leave Lisbon at unearthly hours to beat the jams – NOT! It also used to signify a massive rise in the accident toll but that thankfully has at least been averted. A Portuguese friend of mine used to say that the Lisbon people were so used to crowds that the first thing they did when they arrived to the Algarve was to visit Modelo Supermarket along with a thousand or more others just so they would feel at home and not acrophobic!

We had friends Paul and Michelle and son Ryan from Norwich staying with us for a surprise week having got a cheap Air Luxor flight out of Norwich which is about 5 minutes from their home. They have been visiting Carvoeiro since the early 80’s when they honeymooned here and they kindly took our two children down to the Go Kart track at Almancil where a great time was had. They were impressed with the facilities and the price which was fair. My kids said it was much better organised than when they had a similar deal on the Isle of Man at a track run by the famous motorcycle rider, Geoff Duke. There have been a few posts about the Lagoa go kart track which seems all complete but unlicensed and has been thus for some years. I am unsure what the bureaucratic problems are but it is a shame the facility isn’t open to give more variety, especially for visitors here out of season.

On the 3rd, with our children about to go back to UK for the autumn term, we all went to the KOH SAMUI THAI RESTAURANT up the hill at the side of O CANTINHO. This is run by the same people who used to have the small Thai restaurant near CASA ALGARVIA. We have been there a few times now and always enjoy it. It doesn’t seem to be doing too much business at the moment probably because it is a bit tucked away with a lack of signage telling people it is there. I hope it keeps going as it is a welcome addition to the Carvoeiro restaurant scene.

My wife left on the Saturday to take our children back to UK and as our friends had a very early Sunday morning flight back to Norwich we took things easy by dropping in to FLIC FLAC BAR to watch the England v Austria football match. Not too many about and after the game music struck up with a Brazilian guy called RAFFA on guitar and drum machine. Flic Flac seems to liven up later, after the restaurants have finished for the evening. We wandered down to A LANTERNA and had the usual good meal with Frank the owner saying that things had really started to calm down and that the season generally had been down.

On Sunday, our friends having left for the airport at 6am, and left to my own devices I wandered down to SMILERS at lunchtime to grab a bite to eat and watch some sport on their television. On the way down I saw that the terracing above where the new “eco ponte” recycling bins have been installed has been tidied up a bit more with the introduction of some plants. It is an improvement to an area close to the town that has not always looked too good in the past.

Urbanisation of the surrounds to Carvoeiro carries on a pace despite general feeling of a downturn in property sales and new construction due to changes in the property tax laws. I notice new construction on the hill to the left as you approach Carvoeiro, on the Monte Servo development, a site which has had the infrastructure for years but never developed and also closer to Carvoeiro on the hillside on the right as you leave Carvoeiro along Rua do Barranco – sort of opposite where ANTEAK BAR is.

There were plenty of people around outside Smilers, on the square at GRANDE CAFÉ and O BARCO and up at MATA BICHO BAR enjoying the sunshine and generally people watching. A lazy day for me and in the evening I had a walk back down to the town and took a look at RASCALS BAR which has had a lot of forum posts from younger people as one of the places to go. I guess it was too early as it was very quiet but I could see that it is run by a young gang and they are playing the music to attract that clientele. I think this is good as many of the bars in Carvoeiro do tend to be pitched at the older person.

On Monday evening I drove to Faro airport to collect my wife. We stopped on the way back to eat at MR GRILLO, tucked away in a narrow street sort of behind RESTAURANT O LEAO, in the old village of Porches. This had been recommended to me by Flavio of SULLYS and his partner Sally. It is a fine old building that has been tastefully and artistically revamped. The restaurant seems to be aimed at the visitor and foreign resident and was fairly full. Apart from other dishes they do flambes, both meats and puddings, which you do not get here that much. I hade a very good flambe steak with pepper sauce and my wife had duck which she enjoyed very much. Not bad price wise and well worth a visit.

Being too mean to pay for SKY sports, we decided to watch the England v Poland game on the big screen at VALE DO MILHO GOLF CLUBHOUSE and have dinner. I like it there. They have remodelled the menu a bit and now include two new items, ham shank and lamb shank. My wife opted for the ham shank and really enjoyed it. Perhaps a little pricey for a main course at 15 euros but then again something different, lots of it and nicely presented.
With the kids away a quiet week was forecast broken only by a lunchtime visit out in “the sticks” to CASA DO VINHO, a restaurant tucked away on the back road leading from the Arade Reservoir to a place called Amorosa, just west of Messines. The occasion was a lunch meeting of the Silves/Messines AFPOP members. If you do not know, AFPOP is an acronym for the Foreign Property Owners Association. This is a useful non profit body from which one can extract all sorts of information on a wide variety of topics that are likely to affect anyone owning property here. I am no great supporter of it but we decided to give this lunch a go. The idea is that the local area rep will organize various functions usually getting the price well down by negotiation with the restaurateur presumably on the basis of numbers and possible repeat business. This lunch was 12 Euros including bread, olives and other titbits, wine, water, soup, main course, pudding and coffee. We persuaded friends from the “hinterland, Alyson and Mick to go so made up a foursome. It was ok. Usual raffle etc and a collection for the Silves Bombeiros who have been donated a new fire appliance but need 3000 euros for the communications kit. All for a good cause really.

The weekend of 11th and 12th was very hot again although the early mornings were getting colder and on some days quite damp. Clear blue skies though and great for the later tourists. For the first two weeks of September we had noticed a marked decline in numbers and then the next wave of visitors started to arrive, older people with grown up kids and young couples with pre/schoolers. The “pushchair brigade” my wife calls them, not unkindly I hasten to add, as they trundle past our house on the way to the centre. I think it is worth noting from a sociological point of view that whilst on holiday the northern male does not only take charge of barbecuing and buying the groceries (always the wrong stuff!) but also pushing the push chair which invariably gets the wheels stuck in pavement ruts as he hasn’t a clue how to do it. If some student of human nature amongst our readers can explain this phenomenon I would be glad to hear it!

Mid month one of my staff took time off to attend the funeral of Carlos Boto of Lagoa. Some of you may know Carlos, a very pleasant fair haired chap who sported a beard and who worked at BNC Bank in Lagoa. He was only in his forties and had been struck down with cancer for an untimely end. I know he was very well liked by many foreign residents and property owners who bank there.

Midweek we went off to Algarve Shopping to catch the movie Fahrenheit 9/11 which I enjoyed very much. Quite an eye opener whichever viewpoint of the Iraq war you hold. We decided to return to Carvoeiro and ate again at the Thai restaurant. Once again very good indeed and at a reasonable price.

Around this time the press was dominated by the story of a missing 8 year old Portuguese girl, Joana, at Figueira, a small village just beyond Penina. It was feared that she had been kidnapped and everyone was asked to watch out for her. The drama unfolded over several days when it was revealed that she may have been “sold” by her mother who had several children and could not care for her. By the end of the month it became apparent that a worse fate had befallen the poor child and that she had been killed, apparently by her mother who was taken into custody. At the time of writing the child's body has not been recovered and it seems that in that regard the mother has been less than helpful. In UK and northern Europe abuse of young children sadly seems to get reported quite often but here in Portugal with the family influence still very strong and children seemingly idolized by parents, grandparents and siblings such things are unheard of and indeed unthinkable. No doubt the full report of what happened will come to light but it has left shockwaves amongst the Portuguese people.

The end of august and beginning of September is grape harvest time and it is common to see tractors hauling trailers loaded high with fat, shiny black grapes on their way to the local “adega cooperatives” or to private wine producers to be made into this years wine. The harvest was a week or so late due I hear to the strange August weather spell we had. I also hear that Portugal is producing much more wine than present sales and consumption can cope with and prices offered to producers is very low. Thus I urge all readers to do their bit! Also please avoid those plastic “corks” and support the Portuguese cork industry by insisting on real cork stoppers! On this point I wonder if good quality but cheap Portuguese red and white table wine, you know the quaffable type, was readily available in one or other of the supermarket chains, that you would choose it instead of the new world wines that are dominating the market? Let me know please, maybe it is a new business for me!

I heard from a wine distributor friend that the reason Portuguese wine is scarce in the UK, for example, is that the wine producers here neglected the export market for many years. They could sell all they produced domestically. With over 50 new wineries producing in the Alentejo alone, the balance has altered. Apart from Mateus, who attacked the UK market with gusto years ago with their Rose wine, (own up, who has still got a Mateus Rose table lamp!) and also Lancers who export to the USA, wine export from Portugal is on a very small scale. To change this would take years especially with Australian wines having gained such a foothold and altered drinkers tastes to their own style of flavour.

With a business colleague over from Gibraltar for a few days we went to LA COCOTTE in Lagoa one evening. This has been posted on the Restaurant Forum recently but we had not been there since it was Chrissys. The food is a delight and we enjoyed it very much but did not think it quite matched the old Chrissys for quality. Well worth a visit though.

The local news carried the all too frequent reports of more road deaths, some quite close to home. At Boliquieme, on the EN125 a car ploughed head on into the front of a bus killing the two young occupants and a recent craze of illegal “street racing” at Palmela, further north, claimed the lives of 3 people when a car lost control, the car driver involved being unhurt was arrested and held in custody. Both were due to excess speed. Until people understand that a car at speed is a dangerous weapon this will continue.

The evenings and mornings were by now cooler and often damp but the good weather just carried on and on with the days hot and sunny. The full moon on 28th or thereabouts was brilliant in a cloudless and starlit sky. It made it almost as light as day when I walked my dog late at night. As I have often heard before, the residents at Colina Village on the Poco Partido to Carvoeiro road were being entertained by a band belting out 4 Non Blondes and some Boy Band numbers and I guessed that we must be getting towards the end of the outside barbecue season even though the weather was still great. Likewise the water slide parks were closing and could still have taken good money with the weather holding up so well. Will we pay for it this winter? Watch this space!