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Posts Tagged ‘Portugal A-Z’


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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OK, so Valencia isn’t actually in Portugal, so what is it doing here in my “Personal A to Z of Portugal”?

Well, seeing as it’s a “personal” A to Z, the fact that we live here is what led to Nik visiting there last weekend for the final round of the MotoGP. He and a friend (and friend’s 17-year-old son) drove nearly 1000km from Lagos to Valencia!

So, in my books, that’s qualifies it for inclusion. I won’t make it a long post – it’s kinda cheating really 😉

They were by no means alone at the MotoGP last weekend. For those who don’t follow it, rookie Marc Marquez, reigning Moto2 champion, in his first year in Moto GP was leading the championship by 13 points. Jorge Lorenzo, current and defending MotoGP world champion, was in second place, and it was ALL down to the wire in the last race.

The fact that the top 3 riders in the championship (Marquez, Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa who, although in third place, couldn’t win overall) were all Spanish, meant that the track was packed to capacity. Over 104,000 people in attendance!

Lorenzo needed to win, no doubt about that, and Marquez needed to come 4th to win the championship… in his rookie year… as the youngest winner ever.

The guy is, already at 20 years of age, a motorcycling legend. He broke so many records this year. Youngest to do this, first to do that. His riding style is completely different to the more experienced riders but, to his credit (and unlike many rookie riders) this doesn’t mean he takes risks and falls off. It means that he KNOWS his limits and pushes himself to them… usually with great success.

Knee-down is for losers! Elbow-down is the way to go!

Lorenzo, being the skilled rider that he is, did win. It was all he could do. He tried, in early laps, to keep the riders in close quarters to each other, with the hope that someone, somewhere could take or affect Marquez’s performance but, ultimately, it didn’t work.

It was Lorenzo, Pedrosa, Marquez for much of the first half of the race until Lorenzo got thoroughly peeved with Pedrosa’s continual taking of the lead and bumped him out of the racing line and back into fifth.

Lorenzo, Pedrosa, Marquez, Bautista and Rossi.

Marquez was in second place for much of the race after this, only conceding it to his teammate Pedrosa (who had made it back to third from fifth) towards the end (Marquez only needed to come fourth, after all)

Marquez hot on Lorenzo’s heels

Marquez did make it past Lorenzo at one point but Lorenzo, with so much to lose, fought back into first place once more. He deserved the win, he really did. He fought hard for it, but it was all just too late for him, and Marc Marquez was crowned Yougnest Every MotoGP World Champion in his rookie year.

After the race, Nik and posse rushed to get home – as much as anybody can “rush” to drive 1000km! (athough the speed camera flashes and policeman who stopped them (well, Matt) for speeding would attest to the fact that they did, in fact, rush home!)

satnav

He had a great weekend overall. There were a few disasters along the way, such as not actually getting ANY sleep and the digs they had booked being a complete dive, but he’d do it again in an instant.

In fact, we are doing.

It’ll be our holiday next year – a MotoGP weekend in Spain. Jake is staying home, and I think he’s as excited about that as we are about the GP!

Nik and I, along with Eliot and Nik’s mum Pat, are all going to Jerez in Spain for the MotoGP 2014 race in May. It’s about a 3.5hr drive from here – positive local in comparison to driving to Valencia – and it’ll be my first every trip to Spain. Hopefully, because it’s rather closers and we’ll be spending considerably less time driving, we’ll be able to appreciate Spain a little bit more and, if we happen to call into Seville to a supermarket, on the way home, and fill up the car with cheaper groceries (and cheaper fuel!), then that’s a bonus!

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Two posts in as many weeks! I know, right! Actually, I have my V planned too so that’ll be along shortly!

Meantime…

U is for Ups and Downs

kidsjump

Let nobody ever tell you that moving to another country – and I’m sure this doesn’t just apply to leaving your home country. A major domestic move can be just as tricky – is easy!

Some days, you’ll look out at the rolling waves, the clear, blue skies and the warm sunshine and all will be right with the world.

Some days, however, no amount of beauty will make you believe that you did the right thing.

It’s not all blue skies and positivity

Recently, we – well, I – had a particularly wobbly moment when I truly believed that everything we had done in our three years here was a mistake.
I won’t go into too much depth but we had a bit of a to-do with Eliot which resulted in him accusing us of ruining his life by bringing him to Portugal and taking him away from his friends and his native language.

Unfortunately, my psyche at that time agreed with him and I sat for some considerable length of time, in floods of tears, ready to pack my bags and move us all back to England the very same day.

Fortunately, Jake stepped up and said that he was happy here, and this went some way towards bringing my emotions back to a more rational level.

Now, those of you who don’t know Jake very well probably won’t think too much of this, but those who do will appreciate that this kind of admission wouldn’t have come lightly from my 13-year-old. He has struggled constantly (and, for the most part, silently and tolerantly) since we moved here. He’s a quiet, unsociable sort so settling in was (and still is, to a certain degree) difficult for him, so for him to come out and say this, was a HUGE thing. I think that’s why it affected me so much.

Eliot, on the other hand, at 10-years-old, is a hot-head. He’s out-going, confident and temperamental. This has meant that his settling in at school has been somewhat easier than Jake’s, but his outburst just reminded us, I think, that it’s not all plain sailing for him; for either of them, in fact.

There comes a point where, when you change country with kids, you kind of reach a point of no return. They’ve now had 3 years of Portuguese schooling, and I cannot even begin to imagine how they could just settle back into an English curriculum again. We’re past that point now, I’m certain of it.

It’s not all doom and gloom though.

Eliot at Praia da Rocha for sunset.

At the skate park (which is usually MUCH busier!)

Our Eliot, he’s an outdoor-sy kinda kid. Once the wobble was over, he settled back into everyday life and went back to enjoy being able to spend weekends at the beach or the skate park. He’s even started walking home from school on his own several days a week (it’s about a 15-20 minute walk for him from school to our apartment).

This is a big thing for him. It gives him the opportunity to feel like a big kid, and he likes that. When he moves to Jake’s school (hopefully next year), he’ll only have a 5 minute walk and he is enjoying the freedom right now. He doesn’t do it every day. He does 2 days until 4pm (usually finish time) and 3 days til 5.30 (when he has PE twice after school and Science once). At the moment, it’s looking like he is happy to walk at 4pm and sometimes after science but he prefers not to after PE (which is kinda understandable. I wouldn’t want to after an hour of running about either!)

He’s a pretty independent sort really. He has his whole life planned out already. He really could NOT be any more different to his big brother!

So, anyway. Suffice to say that it’s not all sunshine, sandy beaches and cheap beer when you move abroad. Sometimes, there are seemingly endless grey skies (metaphorically speaking, of course), and it helps to remind ourselves once in a while, that nothing is perfect but everything usually turns out OK in the end.

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Oh, the irony of this post!

There’s one thing I’ve realised since our move to the Algarve.

Time is like money. However much you have of either, it is never enough!

T is for Time

One of the things that prompted our move to the Algarve was the idea of having more “time”.

Well, OK, not actually more time, there are only 24 hours in a day after all, but removing ourselves from the dull, grey humdrum of the UK has afforded us the opportunity to be more selective about how we spend that time.

Sure, we spent a lot of time before leaving the UK, setting the business up so we could manage it more effectively from our slightly-remote location, but it has definitely been time well spent.

Now, we are blessed with enough time to do more fun things… such as…

Entertaining friends and family when they visit.

Pursuing new outdoor hobbies such as archery…

… and go-karting. (expensive hobby – for occasional use only!)

Exploring new places (This is at the Barragem da Bravura) up high…

… and down low (Ponta da Piedade, Lagos)

Enjoy a sunrise…

…or a sunset.

To play at the beach…

…or the water park…

…or relax by a pool

To cook…

…or bake.

To eat out…

… or with friends.

To experience local traditions…

…or play tourist.

All in all, it’s not a bad life really

Eliot approves!

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Yay! I’m back on my A to Z, finally!

I had a whole load of choices to pick from, for my “S is for” post but, in the name of photo goodness, I’ve made my choice.

S is for Seasons

Meia Praia Beacj

Meia Praia Beach

One of the first things that people ask about, whenever we find ourselves talking to people about where we live, is, of course, the weather!

Everybody knows that Southern Europe knows how to “do” summer. Long hot sunny days during the summer are pretty much a guarantee. I won’t lie that it was definitely one of our reasons for moving!

What many people don’t know, however, is what kind of weather the Algarve gets during the other seasons.

Spring weather in the Algarve

Since being here, we’ve become aware that, during the Spring (particularly early Spring), when the UK has, in recent years, enjoyed it’s “summer” weather, we in the Algarve have actually been having worse weather than the UK! It can be cool and wet for days on end although often there will be periods of warm sunshine mixed in (for example, one day in early May 2012, it registered near 40C!)

Sunny Spring afternoon in Portimao - April 2012

Sunny Spring afternoon in Portimao – April 2012

Autumn weather in the Algarve

Autumn seems to be rather an unpredictable seasons. It seems perfectly capable of holding on to its summer heat one minute and the next minute it can rain for a full 24 hours straight!

Recent visitors of ours will agree that you take your chances the further through Autumn you decide to visit. After about mid-October, don’t bank on wall-to-wall sunshine for days on end. Factor in some “rainy days” too”

Some of the wildest weather comes in Autumn too. From the 2011 mini-hurricane that relieved Faro Airport of much of its roof (mentioned in this post), to the 2012 tornado that causes significant damage through the central Algarve (which I mentioned in this post) it’s easy to see that hot 30+C days come at a price!

Beach afternoon late October

Winter weather in the Algarve

Perhaps the most surprising season, here in the Algarve, is winter.

Mild days and cool nights are pretty much par for the course. If the sun shines (which it usually does!) temperatures can regularly reach the high teens and low 20s during the day but beware the cool breeze as it can certainly make you feel a good bit cooler in the shade (something the tourists seem not to bother about, as they pad about in their shorts and t-shirts!)

Overnight temperatures on the coast rarely drop below about 5C but, with houses having little in the way of heating (we just use our wood burning fire, not central heating) it can feel particularly chilly during the evenings and night-times. Slightly further inland or on higher ground, frost can develop but we have never seen it here on the coast, since moving here.

If you’re heading out in the daytime, just grab a few layers because, if the sun is in and out, you’ll be warm/cold/chilly/hot in possibly equal measures over the course of a day!

Portimao early November (note the removed jacket!)

Vilamoura early February

It is even biking weather in early December!

Summer weather in the Algarve

Of course, it goes without saying that summer in the Algarve is beautiful. But you didn’t need me to tell you that, right?

boys in pool

 

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