Posts Tagged ‘weather’

You know how school terms seem long in the UK?
Well, I don’t think I ever actually truly appreciated the point of “half term”… until now. They don’t have half term breaks here in Portugal and the Christmas break seems like a lifetime away.

It must seem like only minutes since our two went back to school after their 3-month-plus summer break, but I am so over it already. With both boys having early starts (El starts at 8.25, and Jake has to catch a bus at 8), I’m finding out that I don’t function well, if at all, on 7am starts!
The worst part is that the mornings go…on…for…EVER! We’re child-free from 8.30, more or less, and that extra hour of “work” time in the morning means I’m reaching for the kettle for my “elevenses” when it’s barely 9.30!

Mind you, even Eliot experienced how interminably long a day was here when he was off sick last week. By 11am he was looking to the clocks, swearing that they were moving backwards in time. It does feel like that sometimes!

(Eliot is fine now, btw. He had some sort of throat infection or laryngitis which resulted in his being quite unwell and without a voice for an entire week! Eliot being silent is actually quite disturbing, it turns out!)

So anyway, we’re adjusting to new work schedules, I suppose. Earlier starts with earlier finishes. It’s all compounded by the fact that my eBay account has recently been banned from selling (long story: my fault) so we’ve lost a source of work/income along the way. That’s been a whole other challenge that is still ongoing and yet another thing to which we need to adapt. I can only be thankful that I had finished our Christmas shopping before it happened. Now, if the boys could just stop growing and requiring new clothes…

Speaking of Christmas, I am looking forwards to it. Not just the lie-ins, but the whole break from the norm. Work will be scaled back in general (there will be no dispatch from Jesters which invariably means fewer orders. Great for Christmas and New Year, less so for January income!) and we will ALL have a bit of time off. We’ve (well, I’ve) decided I am not doing a full turkey dinner this year. Quite honestly, it’s a pain. We’re going to do an all-day party food/snack buffet type Christmas. I like that idea much better. I can bake stuff (which I LOVE!) instead of cooking (which I LOATHE). Sounds like a plan. We also have Nik’s sister, Donna, here for the week, so that’ll be a change too.

We did look into eating out for Christmas dinner instead. You can imagine how that panned out!

A lot! That's how much!

It is difficult to think about Christmas while it still feels like summer some days. Sure, the weather is changeable at the minute, but, when the sun shines, it’s warm. Still over 30C in the sun some days, depending on wind direction. Having said that, there is a definite weather shift at the moment and, although I’m still getting my laundry dried outside most days, it’s definitely cooler once that sun goes down. We’re looking forwards to being able to light our wood burner. The dark evenings just make the fire seem right, don’t they?

We’re holding off at the moment though.
There’s something definitely NOT right about lighting the wood fire in the evening when you’re still sleeping with the balcony doors open and no duvet on the bed!

I think that’s all our news really. Nothing much is happening at the moment. We’re struggling a bit with work being a bit quieter this time of year (sales from the countries that are enjoying their Spring/Summer season right now never quite make up for the fact that it is Autumn/Winter in the Europe!) so I guess we’re not going to be doing anything mind-blowingly exciting any time soon!

If anything does happen, I’ll be sure to let you all know!



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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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As some of you may know, we recently had a short family break to Gibraltar.
Having watched the Channel 5 series “Gibraltar: Britain in the Sun”, we googled to find out just where Gib actually IS. Turns out it’s positively next door!


OK, so four hours drive is possibly not quite “next door”, but in the grand scheme of things, it isn’t far and it would certainly be a change of scenery. Basically, we were curious and decided to go for it.

So, we booked ourselves into a family room at the Holiday Inn Express in Algeciras/Campo de Gibraltar, about 15 minutes Spain-side of Gib, and took a 4 day break while the boys were off school for Carnival.

I figured that an A to Z might be a fun way to blog about it!

Personal A to Z of Gibraltar.

A is for Airport

Unless you’re lucky enough to be close enough to drive to Gibraltar, chances are you’ll arrive by plane. Gibraltar’s airport is a bit of a thing. Its runway actually serves as the border between Spain and Gibraltar and you have to either walk or drive across it to enter the country.


B is for Border Control

That was handy, huh?

In our (albeit short) experience, border control between Spain and Gibraltar is both sporadic and erratic! The first day we drove in (on a Sunday), we drove pretty much straight up to the border and, on production of our passports, went straight in. Likewise when we came back out again.

On the Monday, however, we did queue for nearly 30 minutes to get into Gib. Apparently this is normal. We were also warned about the likelihood of long queues to get out too, as customs check what you are taking away with you (with Gib being VAT-free, there are limits, but I’ll come to that later), but we didn’t really have to wait long to get out again either.

I know there have been times when border controls between Spain and Gibraltar have made international news, but fortunately we didn’t really experience any issues on either side.

Lots of people choose to park on the Spanish side of the border and walk in. Probably it wouldn’t have taken any longer on the days we got delayed, but the thought of a 30-40 minute walk back to the car at the end of the day certainly didn’t appeal so we chose to take our chances and drive in.


C is for Caves

Fascinating fact. Did you know that within Gibraltar’s 2.6sq miles of   “Rock”, there are around 34 miles of tunnels. 34 miles!! That’s twice as much tunnel on the inside as it has roads outside!

During the time when these tunnels were being dug out, many pre-existing caves were discovered. Huge caves. Apparently, about 200 of them above ground. That Rock must be like a piece of Swiss cheese!

The cave we visited had been kitted out with its own auditorium and colour-changing mood lighting which enabled you to see just how vast the cave was. It looked beautiful and had numerous steps and stairs along which you could visit other caves and marvel at the many stalactites and stalagmites that had formed over the years.


D is for Density.

Quick fact. Did you know that Gibraltar is one of the most densely populated countries in the world?

In its 2.6sq miles (and that includes The Rock, don’t forget!), there were, in 2011, nearly 30,000 inhabitants, making nearly 5,000 per square kilometre.

From up above, you can see just how they accommodate all those people: high-rise and land reclamation.

Yeh, I think I’ll give that a miss, thanks!


E is for English

This was going to come up sooner or later, wasn’t it? I’m sure you know that Gibraltar’s first language is actually English. To be honest, we weren’t too sure what to expect, but, knowing this, we did kinda presume it’d be all we saw and heard.

That actually turned out not to be the case, or less so than we thought anyway.

Sure, street signs and shops were in English. Tourist leaflets were English and even the shops themselves were English (think Morrisons, M&S, Mothercare, BHS, WH Smiths etc), but what we were surprised to note was that the majority of shop staff themselves seemed to be Spanish. That was unexpected. What all the English inhabitants are doing with themselves, I’ve no idea. Maybe they’re just sunning themselves on the beach or running the tourist bars and attractions, leaving the less desirable jobs for the Spanish. I don’t know, but it did surprise me.

I think that’s enough for now. More to come later!

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I was tempted to choose “weather” for the W part of my Portugal A-Z, but decided against it. However, I suspect it will feature greatly in my chosen topic anyway!

W is for Winter.

Believe it or not, this is late December weather. 2012

It is entirely not unusual to end an outing, during the Algarve winter, with jackets and jumpers removed and sleeves pushed up.

It’s become a tradition for us, since moving to Portugal, to do a Boxing Day trip to Alvor, walking along the beach front (and new promenade) to the end where we then climb up the hill and walk along the estuary.

The above photo was 2012. The below photo is 2011.

Alvor Boxing Day Riverside Walk 2011

Alvor Boxing Day Riverside Walk 2011

And this one below is from 2010 – you can see that the weather is fairly consistent throughout!

Alvor walk 2010

Alvor walk 2010

Suffice to say, that winters are rather milder in the Algarve than in the UK – one of the main reasons that some people like to spend their winters here, of course.

And that’s something we notice – a complete shift in the type of visitor that the Algarve tends to get in the winter.

In summer, the towns and beaches are filled with every genre of person: from families to back-packers and from young couples to pensioners.
During the cooler, winter months, however, there are far fewer families and couples, and there is a general shift towards the “older generation” who appear, at times, by the coach load!

Some come just on bus trips, enjoying the significantly milder weather (compared to their native countries, that is) and the quieter pace of the Algarve winter (in comparison to the craziness of the Algarve summer season). They pull up in their fancy coaches and pile out en masse, following chirpy tour guides. It always makes me smile to see a large group of people making a special day of a trip to the town where we live. It’s nice to think that our hometown is somewhere worthy.

Some, of course, come for much longer, with many retired apartment-owners visiting for the entire winter. Quite how these people then drag themselves away again, at the end of it, I’ve no idea!

Outside the weather rarely drops into single figures during the day and even more rarely below freezing at night. There might be a light frost on high ground but we have never noticed it. The sun, through glass, gives the impression of being sat in a conservatory during an English summer, which is actually rather nice! Some days, it reaches the 20s, some nights it might hover in the mid single figures, but overall, it’s pretty pleasant.

Average temperatures throughout the year.

Average temperatures throughout the year.

When you compare that to England (I’ve chosen Leicester, being sort of fairly middle-ish in the country from the list I could choose from!)

It's rather chillier! I know where I'd rather be (no offence, Leicester!)

It’s rather chillier! I know where I’d rather be (no offence, Leicester!)

Obviously, the winter isn’t all warm sunshine and statuses to make your Facebook friends envious. We do, in fact, get some pretty horrid weather too occasionally.

Sometimes, it’ll rain and rain and rain for days on end, and we moan about it. We complain about one full day of rain, not because we are generally wont to moan, but just because we forget how horrid it is and we feel cheated when it rains! We get over it pretty quickly when the sun comes back out again though 🙂

Barragem da Bravura (Dam) in January

One thing that we do suffer with in winter is very cold homes! Many Algarve homes don’t have central heating, with most only having a wood-burning fire in the main room. We have one which kicks out fabulous heat but, of course, only in the lounge! The rest of the apartment feels even colder in comparison and we often spend our evenings snuggled up by the fire before shivering off to the bedroom where we will then snuggle into the electric blanket (shhh, don’t tell the kids – they don’t have them! That said, they rarely even sleep in pyjamas!).

The rooms get cold though! Very cold. I can often be found wearing my big fleece dressing gown over my clothes, during the day, or begging Nik to light the fire early!

Our wood-burning fire. Ambient AND warm.

Another thing that changes as we reach the Algarve winter, is the sunset. We go from clear orange sky sunsets to a stunning kaleidascope of reds, oranges, yellows and pinks.

A summer sunset over town, from our balcony.

A slightly cloudier-looking early winter sunset

And, of course, in the winter, it’s a much more sensible hour in which to see the sun RISE! (It does that too!)

So, while we may shiver and moan a bit indoors, during the winter, we probably actually spend MORE time outdoors, where the weather is more bearable than the searing heat of the summer. Of course, Autumn is the season with the better weather, I think. Spring tends to be a bit unpredictable (think British summer-type weather! Boiling one day and tipping it down the next!) before it heats up for summer and then tapers off for autumn.

This is a “winter” post, of course, so I shan’t dwell on those. Maybe if I’d chosen weather…

Something else we do more of in winter is bake! It’s quite nice for the kitchen to be bearable, with the oven on for hours, as I cook hearty teas (that’s dinner for you Southerners) and bake scrummy cakes. Pies, casseroles and bakes are all back on the menu. Yay!

Winter pies take over from plates of salad (yay!)

There’s one thing I will say about winter in the Algarve though, I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

Looking out from Silves Castle in early February.

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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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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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