June, our first full month living in the Algarve
Updated: Jul 23
We're settling in and beginning to feel what it is like to live in a foreign country. Learning to speak and more importantly understand spoken and written communications is one of our top priorities. Although English is predominant throughout the country most people initially engage you in Portuguese until they understand that you don't understand a word that they are saying.
The hardest part is reading labels in stores, reading websites for services like utilities, and getting a phone call or voice mail in Portuguese. Were adapting by learning keywords and watching shows on TV that are in English but subtitled in Portuguese. Thank god for Google translate which allows us to translate most websites, have conversations with people like our neighbors, and point our phones at signs or labels to get information translated. It's really more of a slight inconvenience than anything.
The Algarve where we live at the Southern tip of Portugal is a beautiful area with gorgeous wide sandy beaches interspersed with grassy dunes, red cliffs & rock formations, farms of citrus, avocado, carob, almonds, wine vineyards inland, and mountains with pine and oak forests and small villages throughout.
Trying to paint a picture of this area for those who haven't been here. It reminds me both in weather and in landscape, as similar to Cabo San Lucas in Mexico with a touch of Florida beaches. Not quite third world, but not as "planned" development or manicured as you might find in the US except for the resort developments and golf resorts (200 golf courses in the Algarve!). Abandoned centuries-old homesteads are dotted across the landscape alongside new homes and condos that are sprouting up quickly to accommodate the growing need for housing.
So far June has been warm with a few early visitors, warm sunny days, slightly tropical humidity, and cool breezes at night. July and August are the peak tourist months in the Algarve with Portuguese, French, British, German, and Italian visitors who flock to the beaches for their "Holidays". We're fortunate to live in a very small village, just far enough away from the buzz but close enough to get in the mix when we want to.
Most rural homes, including our neighbors, have abundant gardens that supply everyone around them. As I may have mentioned before we have been blessed with the best neighbor who also happens to be our landlord. Teresa is a native of Portugal but has lived most of her life in France, along with her husband Luis, they now live here full time. She has a large garden in addition to the abundance of fruit trees on the property. You can tell she loves her garden and is very proud of what it produces. We continue to be the lucky recipients of the bounty from her garden, Lately, it's tomatoes galore, cucumbers, melons, bell peppers, onions, etc… There are 5 fig trees on the property about to ripen, violet and white figs. Pomegranates are close to being ripe too, and Avocados are not too far behind. Our grocery bill has been reduced greatly! We find that were adjusting our menu at home based on the deliveries from Teresa.
To work off some of that great food there is some really great hiking/walking to be done here. Beach, cliff, riverfront, etc… Photos below from recent excursions;
Along the Torre River @ Alvor. At low tide, you will see several locals out digging for Navalhas (razor clams), a local delicacy
The Bluffs between Alvor & Portimao
Alvor River and Beach along the boardwalk
Nearby Praia da Rocha in Portimao.
The Restaurants have been very good, most are heavily geared toward fresh fish and seafood. A traditional Portuguese menu usually includes grilled fish & meat, Caldos which are traditional seafood and meat stews, and Rice stews similar to Paella. Many will specialize in a dish or two and you can always find a great deal on the Prato do Dia (plate of the day) which usually includes a starter, entree, glass of wine, Sobremesa (dessert), and coffee for generally 10-12 euros depending where you are. Here are a few pics from our recent dining.
Chico Ze, Al Sud at Palmares Golf Club, Pizza @ Pepperino, Homemade crepes and Berry sauce from Teresa, Choupana (Hut), Wild’s sandwich boutique, Sourdough from Confeitaria d'alvor, Pastries from our local store, Bounty from Alvor Sunday farmers market
We took a day trip to the historic town of Silves. A beautiful drive through the foothills behind Alvor through farms of Silves oranges, groves of cork oak, several vineyards, and pine forests.
Silves' occupation dates back to the second century, first conquered by the Romans, Silves was once the capital of the Algarve region. During the time of the Moors, from the 9th to the 12th centuries, Silves was a key trading city due to its access by the Arade River to the Atlantic.
Best known for its historic castle, thought to have been originally built by the Romans in the 9th century, is one of the best-preserved castles in the Algarve.
Our home in Montes de Alvor is located between two larger cities that are about 10 minutes in either direction, Portimao to the east and Lagos to the west. Both are centered on their large Marina but Lagos seems to host more of a yachting culture than Portimao. Recently several races were held and although we didn't get to see them, we caught a glimpse of a few racing boats in the marina.
Exploring the small fishing village of Ferragudo on the eastern banks of the Arade across from Portimao. Great seafood restaurants along the river, the Castelo de Sao Joao do Arade, more beautiful beaches, and a Latin Jazz Concert at night
Portimao Museum pays tribute to regional heritage in an old sardine cannery located along the riverfront. Comida e Arte is a temporary exhibition exploring the affinities between art and gastronomy. The museum does a great job preserving the old cannery and exhibiting the processes behind the sardine industry and the importance of the cannery to the local economy. Sardines are still very abundant in Portugal, both fresh and canned but only a few canneries remain.
Our container of stuff that we shipped right before our departure has finally made it to Rotterdam, awaiting unloading and customer clearance it should arrive sometime in mid-July. Can't wait to get our stuff!
We also found this little gem that fits perfectly on our dining table, some competitive matches of ping pong await.
Barney and Sonny have finally settled in and are loving all the windows, great for bird watching, and eyeing the neighborhood cats to ensure they don't encroach on their territory. They are taking in all the new sounds around them, Dogs, Chickens, Peacocks, etc...
Adeus for now, more to come soon...