Posts Tagged ‘tourists’

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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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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Really, how could I have chosen anything else?

With a "home office" like this, what more could you want?

L is for Lifestyle

When people ask us why we moved to Portugal, we come out with a whole list of reasons but, for the most part, they can all be grouped under one overall title – Lifestyle.

Moving to a country which is far deeper into recession (not to mention overall poverty and disadvantage) might seem like a strange move for a young family (I’ll ‘fess up. By “young family”, I mean the children are young. The parents, not so much!)

Fortunately for us, our income itself isn’t reliant on the Portuguese economy or, quite honestly, we wouldn’t be here. There are no jobs. End of. (see my J is for Jobs post, if you haven’t already read it)

We’re certainly not wealthier for living here. Far from it. In fact we are, financially, quite a lot worse off, having lost our “benefits” that the UK was kind enough to bestow on us for being “low earners” in England. The cost of living, on the whole, isn’t much cheaper here in Portugal either. Rent is costly, utilities are about on par with England (maybe a little lower), grocery bills are about equal. Nowadays, in Portugal, we live on about 2/3 of the income we had in the UK so we have a LOT less disposable income than we had before we moved here. Yet, in life, we feel “better off”.

Our “lifestyle” in England consisted of get up, take kids to school, go to work, pick kids up, eat dinner, go to bed, start over. It’s how most people’s lives go, isn’t it?

Weather is unreliable and unpredictable so plans, for days out, are tentative at best.

Kids rarely have anywhere safe to play. No safe roads to bike. Few safe neighbourhoods to play out in. Jake was pretty much resigned to “four walls” whenever he wasn’t at school and, while Eliot would play out in the garden occasionally, his fate would, sooner or later, be the same.

We also didn’t have much of a social life. Let’s face it, once you have kids, your social life pretty much revolves around your kids and people they are associated with (kids’ parents etc) Certainly, from my point of view, I didn’t really have any “real life” friends in the UK. Friends I saw personally on a day-to-day basis, that is. I have plenty of online friends though (some of whom I have met) and, of course, I get to keep those just as close to me even after we move. Bonus! (Check out my “F is for Family and Friends” post, if you missed it earlier)

Here, everything is a completely different pace… and feel.

We would never, ever in a month of Sundays let Jake go, alone, into town in England. It was a bus-ride away (not an issue) but totally not somewhere I could even contemplate him “hanging out”.

Here, pretty much since we moved here (at age 10) he has been cycling into town on his own.  He’s done errands to the supermarket and newspaper shops and cycled to the other side of Lagos to meet and spend the afternoon with friends. It’s a million worlds away from our life in the UK, just on that issue alone.

Even Eliot takes himself out and plays. He’ll often be seen running around our “Urbanização”, dressed as some superhero or another, fighting invisible enemies and keeping the peace. Or riding his bike round the block. Or taking the recycling to the bins on the other side of the estate.

My little Superman. Keeping your streets safe!

Our day-to-day pace of life is completely different here too. Nik and Eliot very often go for unplanned cycles to the beach after school. It’s part of the beauty of the place that, for 90% of the year, the weather is favourable enough to do that!

Nik and Eliot cycle to the beach after school

An unplanned visit to "our" beach in November. Almost deserted AND warm enough to be wearing just short sleeves!

Of course, as we are lucky enough to work for ourselves here in Portugal, we are able to take advantage of the occasional *cough* cafe visit during the week too. This is purely to “fit in”, of course.  It’s what the locals do etc. etc. When in Rome ‘n’ all that!

Hanging out for a coffee and/or beer. As the locals do!

It’s not all “sun, sea and sangria” though, of course. Life certainly isn’t one long holiday like some people might imagine (or perhaps hope!) it is. Sure, we do our share of “touristy” stuff when we have visitors over, it’d be rude not to but, for the most part, we do work. The Portuguese (those who are lucky enough to have jobs) work very hard for little pay but even they, in these “gloomy times”, enjoy a 2 hour lunch break where they can relax, kick back, eat good food and be social. A far cry from sandwiches at your desk in 30 minutes, eh?

Lunch special at the Waterfront Café in Portimão

Work hard, play hard. That’s what we’ve been enjoying here.

It’s a far cry from the work hard (?), moan a lot mentality.

I know which I prefer.

It sure is a tough life!

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Ok, so there were several topics I could have gone with for my “H is for” offering. Holidays? Home? Hands? (that’s us!) I decided to go for “Heat” because, well, it’s one of the things we moved for!

H is for Heat

Summer Temperatures Soar

I think it’s fairly safe to say that, when people find out we’ve moved to Portugal from the UK, it doesn’t take long for them to ask “is it hot there then?” Well, if you’re wondering, yes! The Algarve region has an average maximum temperature ranging from 15C and 6 hours of sunshine in the winter (yes, winter!) to 28C and 12 hours of sunshine in the summer. Not bad for an average, eh? Compare that to the UK’s winter average maximum of 7C and a summer average high of 20C, it’s not difficult to see why we prefer the Algarve.

We have a lot of dealings with folk back in the UK and take a lot of calls from business-related contacts who can’t help themselves asking “So, what’s the weather like?” Usually, they follow this with “not that I really want to know” but we know that it’s a kind of morbid curiosity really.

Winters, of course, much more temperate here but undoubtedly nicer than any winter we’ve ever experienced in England. We’ve had t-shirt days and days on the beach in the middle of winter. The weather is fairly stable too. It can chop and change a bit but nothing as erratic as it does in the UK. If the weatherman says there’ll be sun here, we believe him! (If the UK weatherman says there’ll be sun in the UK, we’ll usually pack a jacket “just in case”, right?)

Ice creams and t-shirts in January

Trust me, it gets much hotter in both summer and winter too. Hot summer heat can be unpleasant, there’s no denying it. Some days, by about midday, we’ve battened down the hatches (dropped the roller shutters, at least partway) and holed up for a few hours to escape the scorching heat. We’re lucky, as we work from home, we can do that. The schools have 3 months off over summer and we work from home so, if we really don’t fancy venturing out into the sun, we just don’t!

If you’re feeling brave, you can head to a water park. We have several here in the Algarve but our preference is Slide ‘n’ Splash in Lagoa. We wouldn’t go in the height of summer mind you, it’s too busy, but outside of July and August, it can be a great way to keep cool (mind the sunburn!)

Cooling off at Slide n Splash

There’s Zoomarine too, of course. It’s more of a marine park but it also has pool areas which are great for cooling off when the slides, rides and attractions get too much.

Time out in the pools at Zoomarine

So, this is Southern Europe, of course it’s hot in the summer. We know it’ll be hot and, not forgetting, that’s why thousands of tourists pay good money to come here and bask in our sunshine rather than stay “home” and endure the Great British Summer.

The rest of the year though, that’s a whole other thing. Spring and Autumn are definitely more changeable. A little less predictable and consistent but still likely to throw you a decent number of 20C+ days. Opening your blinds or curtains to endless blue sky in the morning sure does have a way of putting a smile on your face too. Even 2 years on, my mood never fails to be lifted by a blue sky morning.

Blue sky from the balcony. Who wouldn't be cheered up by that!?

(Gosh, the trees were so big then! They’re all cut back right now!)

Mild days in winter may be a bonus, but don’t think we get off completely scott-free. With our mild winter days come cold (by comparison, at least!) winter nights. Lows of 5C may not seem cold but you have to bear in mind that here in the Algarve, few properties, if any, have any sort of central heating system to run through the winter. We have a wood burning fire in the lounge and that’s the sum total of our heating! We pay about €120-140 for a ton of firewood and use anything between 1 and 1.5 tons per winter. Considering that is our entire year’s heating costs, it’s really not so bad.

Our cosy wood burner

Our lounge gets lovely and warm but, boy, the bedrooms sure feel cold by comparison! Electric blankets, hot water bottles and microwavable wheat bags are sometimes required!

It’s a small price to pay though. Hot summers, warm spring and autumn and a mild winter. I think I can handle that, thank you very much.

Algarve summer was just too much for this thermometer which got too hot to handle and burst!

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Ahh, how I agonised over a topic for my “G is for..” Then it came to me. I was hoovering (I do that sometimes) and it just came to me in a flash of inspiration (it happens sometimes. Very rarely, but sometimes!)

I must also apologise for the long delay between my last post and this one! Stuff happens and this post remained half-written while “life” got in the way

Anyway, here we go.

G is for Gratitude

As you go through the day-to-day humdrum of life, it’s very easy to forget to be thankful for the things that make that life special.

Every once in a while, it’s healthy to stop and appreciate life. Our family, our friends, our homes, our health and our wealth (however big or small)

Since moving to the Algarve, I think I’ve felt a lot more gratitude than I ever did before.

I am grateful for how “lucky” we are to be living somewhere so beautiful. 

Ponta de Piedade towards Portimao

I’m grateful for seemingly year-round sunshine

Christmas Eve on Praia de Batata beach, Lagos

I’m grateful that we are blessed to live somewhere that thousands of people see as a holiday destination and pay thousands of pounds to visit in summer!

Praia da Luz Beach in summer

I’m grateful for the huge variety of beaches we have surrounding us. 

Praia de Castelejo, West Algarve Coast

And the fact that our closest beach is only 5 minutes walk away 🙂

A February afternoon on Meia Praia beach

I’m grateful for the beautiful landscapes and views that we are surrounded by.

Camping inland at Silves

Barragem de Bravura

Sunset over Lagos Marina and Town, taken from our main balcony

I’m grateful every day for my beautiful boys who, frustrating as they may be sometimes, are a blessing.

Brothers! (Lagos Marina)

 I’m grateful for Jake’s beauty and intelligence

My big boy! (Alvor, December 2011)

How grown up he is! (Loulé Carnaval - February 2012)

I’m grateful for Eliot’s completely bonkers exuberance!

My mad boy! (January 2012)

Pirate boy - Loulé Carnaval February 2012

I’m grateful for Nik’s thriving business and my work which enables us to live here. 

I’m grateful for our apartment and how perfectly it suits our every day needs

Not bad for a home office 🙂

Working from a campsite! Laptop and Dongle!

I’m grateful for being able to go “on holiday” without having to go very far at all!

Camping in Silves, April 2011

The Old Village, Vilamoura. February 2012

I’m grateful for all the friends and family who to come visit us and all the friends and family left behind in the UK

(I’ll spare these guys the photos because many of them appeared in my Friends and Family post recently!)

There are so many things I am grateful for and it’s not difficult to remind myself most days how lucky we are.

Sure there are hard times and difficulties. Money worries, school worries, usual parenting worries, family worries (some of you will already know about our most recent family worries) but, in reality, we would have to deal with many of them, and many more, wherever we live.

I’m  just grateful we get to deal with them here.

Fun on the beach. February 2012

If you’re a blogger, why not join in the “Personal A-Z” posting?

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We’ve had a bit of a run on visitors and visiting over the past 2 months.

Wendy came and went, Nik went to the UK and flew back with his parents who stayed for 2 weeks. Then, after they left, I went to London for 6 days and, the day I flew back, my Mum and Rod came out for a week! They left today – hence my catching up!

I visited London to spend some time with my little sis, on her “home turf”. It was her birthday on the 3rd so we had a long weekend (she had Friday/Monday off work too) to do touristy type stuff in the capital.

We visited Ripley’s Believe it or Not

This isn't actually a real man but it is very VERY lifelike!!

Various curiosities

'Tis a very big rocking chair!

Oh no!! Who took my legs?!! *shocked face*

A very tall man! (well, a model of him anyway)

And we did M&M World!

Any colour/combination you wish! I think there were 5 banks of these!

Guess who/where?!

Wendy poses...

... and even I posed (it wasn't very busy in there)

So anyway, after several hours posing, walking and drooling in there, we bought a pencil and some erasers but no chocolate!

Later that evening, Wendy had a surprise for me. We were walking back to the train, from dinner, (or so I thought!) and she stopped. I happened to notice a lot of people queuing and waiting around for something so passed comment that I wondered what they were waiting for. Her reply was “the same thing we are”. Apparently and unbeknownst to me, she’d bought tickets to see this

Priscilla Queen of the Desert - London

It was the most awesome evening and a fantastic surprise. Excellent show. Best night ever!!

And this was just Friday!!

Saturday and Sunday (being ridiculously hot days, for London) were spent dossing about and doing a bit of shopping. BBQ on Saturday, not much doing on Sunday. All in preparation for Monday (Wendy’s birthday) when we visited London Zoo for the day,

Prepare for photo overload!

Tropical fish are always the prettiest to photograph

See the weird thing in the red/white stripy tights, bottom left?

This coral would make an excellent wrapping paper pattern, I reckon!

"Compare the Meerkat dot com"

This one didn't want to look at us (who can blame it?!)

This one didn't want to stand still! (it was trying to get out!)

Teeny tiny froggies

Big, hairy camels

Tall, lanky giraffes

We watched the giraffes for ages. They're definitely worthy of 2 photos

Hungry lions

Bored (and, doubtless, very hot!) Tigers

Mischievous Monkeys (these guys ran freely around us, in the monkey walk)

Party Penguins

We spent ages watching these guys too!

Storks (no babies! Well, only baby storks!)

Creepy Locusts (yuk! Although Stiggy would love it)

Busy Ants (these guys were cool but just a little too icky to watch for long!)

And really, no zoo trip would be complete without a look in the mirror!

All in all, another fantastic day out! Not bad value either as you can get in using a “2 for 1” voucher, if you have valid rail tickets (which we did) so definitely another recommended visit 🙂

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Phewy, it’s August! I’d forgotten how relentless August heat can be! That said, yesterday (Saturday) we had a break in the weather and it was actually cloudy and drizzly for most of the day. This  was a welcome break from the wall-to-wall sunshine (although a drop in temperature, along with it, would have been nice – it was excruciatingly muggy yesterday!) and, while normality has been restored today (clear blue skies and sunshine) the temperature has now lowered to more manageable levels – being in the high 20s (with a cooler, sea breeze) instead of the high 30s!

Anyway, yesterday. We finally got around to visiting the Centro Ciência Viva de Lagos. The Science centre is so close to us (10 minutes walk, maximum) and is located above market building in town (the market deserves its own post! Fish market and butcheries downstairs. Fruit, veg and other produce on 1st floor and a cafe (which is still not open, since we moved here!) and entrance to the science centre on the 2nd floor – along with, on a clear day(!), fantastic views of the main Avenida, Marina, sea, beaches and our apartment!

From view-point towards Marina (our apartment is towards to right end of the buildings on the other side of the water)

From viewpoint towards boatyard. Our apartment is more towards the left end now

From view-point towards Meia Praia end of the river.

From view-point towards sea/river outlet.

It should be pointed out that these photos were not taken yesterday. They were taken during Nik’s and my first trip to our apartment, way back in May 2010 🙂

The entrance to the Science Centre is up where this view-point is and, with a family ticket only costing £5, it’s a pretty cheap trip out.

Centro Ciência Viva de Lagos (taken from water play area)

Inside the centre, there are lots of “hands on” exhibits demonstrating light, sound, energy and so much more. It was quite busy (no doubt due to the rain – and it being August) but we still managed to get our Hands’ hands on most things and probably spent about 2+ hours there in total.

The boys loved the play areas (as opposed to the more educational one – typical boys!) most, including the demo submarine, with sonar, periscope and webcam with email facility, the outdoor “lighthouse” area and the water play.

Play submarine

Lighthouse play area with solar-powered flag and light (not working in that weather!)

Building walls (and port holes) on lighthouse area

Giant air blowers for sailing boats, in water play area

Archimedes’ screw!

Eliot lifts his own weight

Jake "attempts" to lift Nik's! (he fails!)

The 3 of us attempt one side of the "world puzzle" blocks. Harder than it looks!

All in all, it was a great afternoon and well worth a fiver. We’ll definitely go back out of tourist season though as we’ll be able to play around much more (Jake wanted to have a go with the semaphore flags but it was too busy) Hopefully, we’ll go when it’s a bit cooler too as there wasn’t any aircon in the centre (or, at least, not switched on) and it was almost unbearably muggy inside. It was nice to be stood outside in the rain which is why there are so many outdoor photos!

Just so you can see the difference in weather, here’s a shot, taken from the lighthouse play area, towards our apartment (immediately behind the white boats, in the back, right of the photo)

Nice Algarvean weather 🙂

We didn’t mind the rain though. Granted, we could have stayed home in it (unlike tourists who don’t want to waste a day doing that) but it was a nice change and at least it has cleared the air a bit now so it’s pleasant outside today.

This is how it looks today (although this is an older photo as you can see the salmon-coloured Science Centre (top left) isn't painted in its squares design here)

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