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Posts Tagged ‘Algarve’


We were blessed enough to be invited to the Portuguese wedding this weekend.

One of Nik’s biker friends was getting married to his beautiful girlfriend.

At first, I was a bit apprehensive. Actually, we all were. We knew we wouldn’t really know what was going on and, on top of that, we had absolutely NOTHING whatsoever to wear. Nothing suitable for a wedding anyway. Neither boy owns “smart” clothes: not a shirt or trousers between them, let alone footwear that wasn’t Crocs or trainers, and Nik, having recently lost weight, didn’t fit into any of his.

I came across a perfect dress in a store in town and coupled it with a newly-purchased (2 days before the wedding, when I could finally work out what the weather was going to do) fake fur bolero.

The boys – all 3 of them – had to go shopping for the full ensemble: trousers, shirts, and, for Jake (whose feet are far bigger than anybody else in the house), shoes.

They didn’t scrub up bad, if I say so myself!

(Bolero not being worn here due to lovely mid-November sunshine at the time!)

We met up with some friends beforehand and headed to the church in Guia for midday, as instructed.

The groom (to his credit!) turned up with much of his party just before 12, with the bride traditionally (whether a wedding tradition or a Portuguese one is debatable!) about 20 minutes or so later.

There was a short part of the ceremony in the doorway to the church before we all moved inside for the main service. Thankfully, no singing because I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have managed anything in Portuguese! It was all I could do to recite an English version of The Lord’s Prayer alongside their Portuguese one (and yes, I still remember it from school!).

After the church service, there was some standing around while the photographers did their bit with the church as their backdrop before we all headed off, in a convoy of cars, through Albufeira. This is apparently a tradition. The wedding party all attached ribbons to their car aerials and follow each other in convoy, beeping their horns loudly and persistently in celebration.

Many passing cars beeped back and lots of people came out to wave. It was great – even if Nik was too embarrassed to beep back and I had to keep reaching over to do it for him!

On arrival at the reception venue, we were greeted with drinks and snacks while the photographers took many more photos of the couple and guests in the beautiful grounds of the restaurant.

Both bride and groom are blessed with beautiful families, so I am sure their wedding photos will be stunning. Out of respect to all present and the photographers, however, I am not going to post too many photos here on this blog. It’s not the place.

The weather was lovely, considering it is mid-November. The sun mostly shone, the temperature was pleasant, and the rain definitely held off when it mattered.

When photos were done, we all headed inside for the reception and party. Fortunately, we were seated on a table with friends (English – no, English-speaking! Respect the Scots!) and the bride and groom’s friends and family were so lovely to us, ensuring that we understood what was going on at all time.

(Please excuse my moronic children!)

There was fabulous food, of course, plentiful drinks, and a very talented musician who not only sang beautifully, but also fully accompanied herself on the accordion (sometimes as she wandered around the room) and interacted with her crowd. She was fabulous.

A little later on, after the main food service (and much alcohol, of course), party games began and provided much additional amusement!

The food – and I feel I should give it a particular mention – was endless! The usual soup, fish and meat courses, followed by a huge selection of desserts (I wish I had photographed them!) and, a short while later, an even bigger selection of fresh hot and cold buffet! And just as we were leaving at around 9.30pm, more soup came out! I suspect the party continued on without us LONG into the night!

The whole day was fabulous and, as they head off on their short honeymoon to Italy today (me? jealous?), we wish Antonio and Ana Rita all the happiness in the world and thank them from the bottom of our hearts for inviting us to share in their special day.

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Boy, these summer holidays seem to be lasting forEVER! It seems like Christmas was more recent than my boys breaking up this year. My two have been off for 11 weeks already and they still have 4 left!

On the plus side, even El seems to be ready to get back to school, and anybody who knows him will know that this really is quite something! He’s missing his friends and, quite honestly, just missing something to do with his days. He’s a social kid and he needs school so much, especially the change of school. It’ll be great for him and he’s really excited about it. I honestly never thought I’d use the words “Eliot, Excited and School” in the same phrase. There ya go!

On the subject of school, I’ve just added a bit of information about school reports when moving from UK to Portugal. It’s neither gospel or exhaustive (different schools have different interpretations and levels of jobsworths, unfortunately) but it’s a very definite guide based on our and others’ experiences. If it helps someone, it’ll be worth the type up.

We’ve had a fairly uneventful summer really. Not too many visitors and pretty much just sunny weekends and working weekdays (with the occasional** obligatory trip to the Marina for a “business meeting”, of course).

Tapas at The Lighthouse on the Marina

A quick trip to Meia Praia beach

Lazing around by the local pool

 

Apart from back-to-school (can I get a “woohoo!”?), we do have a few other things to look forwards to too. At the beginning of October, I’m visiting my little sister in England for her birthday so that’s nice for us both! When I return from the UK, my Mum and Rod are flying back out here to Portugal for 8 days, so we’re all looking forwards to that also. Oh, and before I go, we have friends coming to the Algarve for a few weeks, so we’ll hopefully get to see them once or twice, which is always lovely.

By the time Mum and Rod go back, it’ll be mid-October! How the heck does it get to be two months until Christmas so soon? Good thing I’ve started Christmas shopping or it’d be homemade ginger cookies all round!

** in the loosest sense of the word.

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In some ways, it feels like we have been here forEVER, but in other ways, it’s hard to believe that four whole years have gone by already!

I suppose I should do a bit of a general update really. It has been a while and, while much of the past months have been “same old, same old”, stuff has happened as well.

For example, school finished for summer – over a MONTH ago!

Jake’s last day was 3rd June, I think, and El finished classes on 30th May, only going in on the Monday and Tuesday after that for half-day events and school trips. That already feels like YEARS ago!

Actually, I should start with school updates, shouldn’t I?

Eliot passed his year 4 exams – BARELY! Like, by 2%. God knows how he is going to cope with year 5, but I think he is ready for the change of school. The big school (which now does years 5 through 8 – more about that in a minute!) is right around the corner from us, and I think even he is ready to move onwards and upwards, although how he will do with a year 5 curriculum is anybody’s guess.
At least he is starting in year 5 with a decent knowledge of spoken and aural Portuguese, which is more than Jake had when he plunged in at year 6!

So yeah, that’s good anyway. Eliot moving school is definitely a big step.
He’s a big boy now. Hardly my baby any more (although I still call him that, and he’s fine with it!)

My big boy! Now, who put that beer there??!!

My big boy! Now, who put that beer there??!!

Jake is repeating year 9. He actually could have taken exams and probably passed all of his failing year 9 subjects, but we (Jake and I) both decided that it was better that he repeated the year. At 14, he is quite young to be moving into what is the equivalent of doing 3 year A-levels/college, so I’m pleased to have him in year 9 for a bit longer.

That news would have been even better if it wasn’t for the fact that they are stopping teaching year 9 (academic subjects anyway) at Das Naus (the school next to us).
We were quite looking forwards to having both boys in the same place, with no worries about transport, but now Jake will have to go elsewhere for year 9.

He’s chosen Gil Eanes (there was more than one choice in town) and we’re fine with that. Hopefully, we’ll get him signed up in a few weeks without any problems (hahahahahahahahahahaha – no, seriously!) and he’ll just have to use a bus for school. He’s quite old enough to do so, and the whole experience of having to actually “commute” to school will do him good.

Fortunately, he isn’t bothered about it all. He’s quite content to repeat year 9, not at all bothered that he’ll be repeating it in an entirely different school (a lot of his friends are going to the other one) and isn’t bothered about using the bus.
Oh well, I suppose indifference is better than him hating the idea!

My "mature" teen on a rare sighting outside the bedroom!

My “mature” teen on a rare sighting outside the bedroom!

What else has happened?

Wendy (my sister) came to visit for my birthday, which was nice. We spent a few days eating, drinking and generally lounging about, all of which was great fun! She then flew home and signed for her first ever house! Having lived in rented accommodation since she left home, finally putting down roots and buying a home is a HUGE step for her!

Way to go, sis!

My new skinny sis on her visit (well, she’s not a new sister, obviously, but she IS newly super-skinny!)

We’re super-busy with work (always good) and we have very few visitor bookings this year. None who need to stay with us anyway, which is even better, because it means that the boys get to keep their own space. Recently purchased bunk beds for El’s room make it slightly less disruptive if we have to move Jake into there, but it’s much nicer not to, obviously, and for Jake to keep his own room.

Not that Jake is much bothered really, because, well, he’s an indifferent teen and doesn’t much bother about anything (except chores. Boy, does he mither about those!)

Oh yes, we went to Jerez for the MotoGP at the beginning of May (I really HAVE been slack about updating this blog!).
We left Jake at home (with plenty of food supplies) and drove over from Friday to Sunday.

We had a completely awesome weekend. Drive took us about 4 hours, we stayed in a decent enough apartment (rock hard and creaky beds aside!) in Jerez and watched fabulous racing, including a race from the unstoppable Marc Marquez!
We took soooooooooo many photos, I don’t even know where to start, but here’s a few.

It’s weird to think that Marquez is now 8 wins for 8 races! It’s quite mind-blowing really. Am looking forwards, as always, to the race this weekend to see if he can make it 9 for 9!

And speaking of this weekend, we are off to Seville for a long weekend (we go tomorrow: Thursday) for Eliot’s 11th birthday.

Having driven past it twice now, first en route to Gibraltar and then on the way to Jerez, we’ve realised it’s actually quite close, and there’s an apparently very good theme park and water park, called Isla Magica, there which should a) make a great day out for El’s birthday and b) quench our long-deprived need to a return to Orlando!

We’re doing Isla Magica on Friday and have Saturday free to either go for a second day or mooch around Seville a bit. Even Jake is coming with us this time. It wasn’t optional (being a birthday celebration weekend ‘n’ all) but he doesn’t seem to mind. A few days in the “real world” will be good for him. Even if he doesn’t own and refuses to wear a pair of shorts. So he’ll be baking and melting in the 40C which is forecast in Seville this weekend!

Teenagers, eh?!

I think that’s our news really.

I know I’m behind with my Gibraltar A to Z, but quite honestly, at this point, it probably won’t get done. Don’t hold your breath anyway. It’s not THAT good LOL

I’ll try to do a Seville post sometime after we’re back. Maybe one for the trip and a separate one for Isla Magica. Depends what we get up to and whether it warrants more than one post. Might just do a picture post. We’ll see.

And speaking of pictures, let’s have some sunny, blue sky posts. I know the UK has been enjoying some (can I say “unseasonably”?) summer weather lately, and our summer pretty much here to stay until about October now, so I’ll try to keep sharing the sunny pics for when the “real” British summer arrives (you know, the one where it rains for days on end.)

Just so y’all know what you could be visiting if you popped over to see us!

It’s always nice when people come here on holiday and we get chance to meet up. A school friend of mine recently came to the Algarve with her family and it was fantastic to see her again, after 20+ years, and meet her brood!

So yeah, if you ever visit the Algarve on holiday, give us a yell and we’ll show you this lot!

View from the pool table at our local – The Lighthouse on Lagos Marina

Across Praia de Batata, Lagos

Our beautiful “green tiled shop”, complete with the Jacaranda tree in bloom.

View from the Science Centre and roof of the market building on the Avenida

Nik’s bike when he took it up to the Autodromo race track for the World Superbikes last weekend

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Can you believe it? I’m actually on Z!
I’ve done the entire alphabet, in order, and it’s taken me a little over TWO YEARS to do so. How’s that for sticking power?

Here’s A. Remember that? Seems like a lifetime ago.

As you can imagine, it’s been difficult finding a suitable word for my Z topic. The English language really doesn’t have too many Z words and, while being able to use Portuguese afforded me a bit more choice, it was still pretty tricky.

I actually decided to cheat a bit a lot! I’m not actually going to DO a word for Z!

We’ve covered a lot of ground during this challenge, and I suppose it’s a fair reflection of how our lives have been since we made the leap across Europe in 2010.

There have been highs and lows, laughter and tears, sunshine and… well, more sunshine (but it does occasionally rain too!)

Lagos Marina – regular followers will probably recognise it!

As we approach our 4 year anniversary in Portugal, it seems to have gone so fast yet, at the same time, seems like we have been here forever.

Eliot has grown from being a 6-year-old to being a strong, independent 10-year-old: definitely his own person!

 THEN…

Eliot aged 6!

Jake aged 10! This photo makes me laugh so much. He actually used to be cute and funny!

…AND NOW

Eliot aged 10 can usually be found outside playing…

or dressed up…

Or just generally being cool!

Jake aged 14 is a rarely-photographed beast! This one was taken in Gibraltar during a very rare forced moment away from technology!

This is a much more usual sight nowadays!

How things change in 4 years!

But it’s not all bad. The boys have grown, become independent and have all the freedom they could ever want to play out, visit friends etc (even if one of those boys isn’t remotely interested!)

I’m pretty certain we’ve probably reached a “point of no return” though. Switching back to the UK would be harder than staying right now, even if only from a schooling point of view.

What they decide to do, once they leave school, is anybody’s guess.

Maybe they’ll stay, maybe they’ll return to England, but one thing’s for sure, it’s been an adventure so far!

I seeeeeeeeeeeeeeee you!!

 

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Now, I must thank my teenager for the topic of my “Y is for” post, because there is no way in a million years that I’d ever have come up with it!
He said it in jest, but as soon as he did, I thought, “Yes! Perfect!”

Y is for YOLO

Some people have, I think, a natural leaning towards “going for it”, whatever ‘it’ happens to be. Some people, however, have an inbuilt caution – a fear, perhaps – of doing anything out of the ordinary; of putting themselves out there and taking a chance.

Even as kids, there’s a split. Mine, for example, are very much 50/50. I have one go-getter and one who definitely is not (oddly, the one who gave me YOLO!)

I spent most of my life playing it safe. Since getting married, we had never even lived outside our settled area, but every time we holidayed, we were taunted by what else is out there. I don’t just mean in a “grass is greener” sense. Everywhere can look idyllic and wonderful when you’re only on holiday there for a fortnight. You don’t get to see the mundane, every day life of a place which could quite easily be just as dull, boring and humdrum as the grass you have right there at home.

I think that’s what makes making a decision to actually leave your “safe zone” so hard. You really don’t KNOW that anything is going to be any better until you actually GET there. You have to research, weigh up, make your decision and commit with a “nothing ventured, nothing gained” attitude.

Sure, it’s scary. Sure, it might not be as wonderful and perfect as you hoped. Sure, there’ll be days when you wonder what on earth you were thinking, but there might just be days, weeks, months or years when you know you did the right thing; when you look out of the window and see your kids playing with the local children (yeah, ok, so anybody who knows us will know this would only ever apply to ONE of our boys!), chattering away in their now-fluent second language as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
New friends are made, both in and out of school.

Eliot’s birthday trip to Aqualand with his schoolfriend André

Eliot playing with local kids at the Skate Park

You’ll find yourself sitting outside a cafe, in the middle of winter, with a cold beer or a coffee, imagining how different it would be if you hadn’t made that move.

Late November at the Marina

and ice creams in January

Or playing on the beach in February, stripped down to t shirts as if summer had arrived.

Yes, it really was February!

Having visitors is a treat that we never really had in the UK. We enjoy even more days out when they are shared with friends and family.

Nik’s cousin Andy (and Nik’s Mum) during Andy’s 40th birthday visit last year

My mad sister!

And not forgetting the wonderful friends that we ourselves have made since our arrival here.

Friends!

So yes, maybe it’ll be the right choice or maybe it’ll be a big mistake, but one thing’s for certain, if you don’t try it you’ll NEVER know. Can you live with that?

yolo_logo

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Not my original choice.
Not even my second original choice.
But something I decided might be a little bit different.

X is for Xenophobia

flagsSomething everybody probably considers (or certainly should!), before moving to a completely different country, is how they will be accepted by the locals; the people who become neighbours; colleagues; friends and possibly even family.

It would be naive, I think, to expect everybody to welcome you with open arms, particularly if you are coming over looking for work. In a time when local unemployment is high, nobody is going to appreciate “the foreigners” who come in “taking locals’ jobs”.

Sound familiar?

Regardless of whether it affects you or not, it’s a sentiment that is difficult to get away from in the media in ANY country.

Obviously, we are in the fortunate position of not needing local jobs so this isn’t something we have experienced here, but I would imagine that it happens here just as it does anywhere else.

We are also fortunate that we have never really experienced any form of xenophobia or prejudice based on the fact that we are English living in Portugal.

People have been, on the whole, very friendly and accommodating. The Portuguese are a sociable lot anyway, and even as we struggle along with the language, we find ourselves welcomed in by people who will often go out of their way to speak to us in our native language rather than theirs.

Sure, there have been (many) times when “Fala Inglês?” has been met with a po-faced “Não!” (often followed by fast-paced Portuguese on their part and mindless nodding on mine!) but even when there have been clear language barriers, we have never been made to feel unwelcome or alienated.

confusedJake’s first head of year, when we moved here, spoke little English (school teachers who don’t speak English cause me the most fear because it’s such an important thing to be discussing: schooling, and I’d hate to misinterpret something!) but he was very enthusiastic about having Jake in his class at a time when it was absolutely CRUCIAL that Jake be welcomed in. He (the teacher) went out of his way to speak to us in English, helping both us (as new arrivals in the country) and himself (wanting to improve his language skills) and spent considerable time ensuring that Jake understood what he needed to in their classes together (he was the science teacher). It was lovely, and it really made a difference.

Some teachers are more old school, of course. Eliot’s first teacher (she’s been mentioned before!) was a formidable force of nature. I kid you not! She spoke (or claimed as such, anyway) no English whatsoever so meetings between us were terrifying (I can only imagine how Eliot felt!)

Having said that, at no point did I ever feel that she held our lack of language skills against me or, more importantly, Eliot. We still see Professora Ana on a fairly regular basis (she teaches a class at Eliot’s current school) and she still scares the bejesus out of me, but she’s lovely really. Friendly and approachable, even in the face of my pigeon Portuguese!

Now, I suppose all of the above is helped by the fact that we live in a tourist area. The locals, in general, are used to being amongst English (and Germans and Dutch and Aussies and many more!) and I am sure that the fact that we actually live here goes unnoticed by many in our day to day life.
It is entirely possible that it would be very different if we had moved to a small village in the hills. I can’t speak for those people. I’m sure there are communities where “outsiders” or “immigrants” (which is what we are!) are ostracised, particularly as not everybody who moves to a different country is quite so mindful of their new locale.

I am certain that there will be pockets of English who live like they are still in England (I’m choosing the English just as an example. Not because other nations are not guilty of this also)They make little or no effort to learn or speak the local language, they don’t socialise beyond their little group of English friends, and they wouldn’t be seen dead eating the local cuisine.

It happens in England, right? I have no doubts that it probably happens here too, and in these cases you could argue that the locals would have every right to feel somewhat resentful. It puts out an erroneous impression though, both of the English and of the Portuguese, and it’s a shame. But, I suppose, it happens world over.

At the end of the day, if you move to a new place with the intention to RESPECT that country, its traditions and its locals, I am fairly certain that you will usually be welcomed openly.

Certainly in the Algarve, we have encountered very little prejudice against us for being English. We have made an effort to get out and make friends, to learn the language and to generally get along.

That’s what life’s about, right?

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… although you wouldn’t really know it if you lived in our house!

The kids have now finished school for Christmas and already they are bored! Oh joy!

As you may or may not know, for the first time since we moved here, we are visiting the UK for Christmas and New Year. This means that all our Christmas preparations are not here, they’re there. Nik’s poor Mum has a room filled with presents which have been arriving steadily over the past month or so and are awaiting my attention when we arrive. I’d like to say that I can’t wait… but I’d be lying! The thought of having to sort through and WRAP everything in a short space of time is quite daunting actually, but hey, it’s for a good cause, right?

It sort of never quite properly feels like Christmas here in the Algarve, and I have a few theories why that is.

Firstly, the climate! It’s rather difficult to feel “Christmassy” when you’re sat outside the pub in a t-shirt in 25C! When we visited in mid-November, I commented on how odd it was that they were putting up decorations in the Marina already. ALREADY?? It was 6 weeks to Christmas at this point, and I had absolutely NO idea! I’ve no doubt that in the UK, decorations have been up for weeks, if not months, before that!

Sitting outside with a beer at the Marina in mid-December.

I can’t help thinking that this aspect of it not-feeling-like-Christmas will really come back to haunt me when I am shivering in the freezing temperatures of December in England. All I can say is, “Please don’t snow!”

Secondly, we work from home so there is no workplace Christmas banter, decoration or build-up to holidays. Also, we rarely visit town and we grocery shop in Aldi (who don’t decorate their store) so we don’t find ourselves lost in amongst oversized trees, baubles and tinsel.

Also, because we are not here for Christmas, we have no tree or decorations up ourselves.. Actually, that’s a little white lie. Eliot, quite put out by the fact that we weren’t getting a tree this year, asked if he could have one of the mini desktop trees, from our storage room, for his bedroom. At the same time as that was being raved out (our storage room is one of those rooms where, if you breathe on box wrong, the whole lot might go!) we pulled out another mini tree and some tinsel. So, there’s a light sprinkling of festive decorations, I suppose.

Last year's Christmas tree

Last year’s Christmas tree

As our UK trip gets closer, it is starting to stress everyone out a bit. We have so much to do and so many people to try to visit that I am slightly concerned that we won’t manage to get around to everything and everyone!

The kids both want to visit some of their English school friends: that alone will take some coordinating. Nik and Jake both want to meet up with Xbox Live buddies, and me? Well, quite honestly, I’d take 10 days locked in a room alone! Nah, just kidding. We have family to visit from all over. Nik’s cousin, Sue, and her family (husband, Steve, 10-year-old Beth and toddler Zac) are over from Australia for 3 weeks so it’ll be nice to catch up with them. We haven’t seen them since we visited for Christmas and New Year 2009/2010 (and we hold them entirely to blame for our leaving the UK and moving to Portugal!) except for a brief coincidence of visits to the UK between them and Nik a couple of years ago.

We’re also looking forwards to Boxing Day at my sister’s. She’s never really hosted Christmas (she’s been here with us in Portugal for the past 3!) and we’re visiting Boxing Day when more family are converging in one place!

It’s going to be a busy, busy 10 days, for sure.

So, those of you who I won’t see while I’m in England, I’ll see you all on the other side!

Meantime…

feliznatal

 

 

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