Living in Portugal - April 2023
Now eleven months since our arrival in Portugal and we are loving our decision to move here more and more each day. It's not perfect by any means but that's part of the charm of living here.
This month feels like we've jumped right into summer! A few mild showers and moderate temperatures in the mid 70º for the start but we ended up with a really nice heat wave toward the end with temps exceeding 90º, Love it! The beach chair concessions are coming back to life and the travelers are starting to show up especially at the beaches. Everything is in full bloom causing havoc with our sinuses and allergies on occasion but the warm weather is worth it and spending time at the beach seems to help when allergies flare up.
Portugal's economy remains strong and continues to show growth even with prices for basic groceries and housing continuing to rise. Housing seems to be slowing down a bit from the huge gains in the past few years thanks to new supply coming on and more to follow. Purchase and rental prices remain high and inflated in the popular areas like Lisbon, Porto, and along the beaches in the Algarve, but once you get out of those areas it seems to be returning to less inflated levels. With the new housing initiatives that I summarized last month, I expect housing prices will continue their decline to more reasonable growth. We've also seen Gasoline, Electricity, and clothing seem to be on a slow continued decline in price.
This month finally saw the 0% tax implemented for a large number of basic need grocery items, which means the IVA/VAT tax of up to 23% has been removed for these items until the end of October, when the situation will be evaluated again. For the Portuguese this is a huge help since the majority have been feeling the pinch of inflation and rising costs. This along with minimum wages and Social security increases are helping to maintain cost of living.
Closer to home and on the farm... Our plantings last month, although mainly ornamental are taking hold quickly. The Lavender and Thyme have doubled in size, and Mary's flowers, trees and bulbs are adding great beauty to the surrounding areas.
Teresa´s Garden continues to expand and produce. This month harvesting the last of the lettuce, the onions, shallots, carrots, radish, fava beans, Peas, loquats, herbs, oranges, mandarins, and lemons are ripe and ready for consumption. The citrus trees flowers have given way to small new fruits even though the last crop is yet to finish! Almost ready are the green beans, spinach, and potatoes and recent additions of tomatoes, bell peppers, and zucchini are growing quickly. Teresa loves her garden and is out caring for it just about daily. We chip in a little where we can with watering and weeding.
It is such a blessing to be able to step out our door, pick an armload of oranges and whip up some of the best fresh orange juice ever! This month Teresa has provided us gifts from her garden of Fava Beans, Peas, Lettuce, and twice she has brought us a large container of Favas a Algarve, a traditional dish she prepares of Fava Beans, Portuguese Chouriço and Black Sausage, Pork rib meat, potatoes, garlic, and Olive oil.
This months activities and photos.
Since the weather was so nice we took an afternoon road trip on Easter sunday to the Village of Aljezur and the Western Atlantic coast. Another first for us exploring an area about 45 minutes North West from our home. We've heard about the town of Aljezur, which is famous for its annual fall Sweet Potato festival as the area is apparently ideal for growing them. What's not widely publicized is the crazy beautiful countryside and beaches in the area!
The Village of Aljezur itself is inland a bit maybe 15 minutes from the coastal areas and small in size similar to Alvor. We drove through a few narrow streets and climbed the steep hill to the Castle perched atop the Village. There is very little of the Castle itself remaining except for a few walls and foundations, but does provide for an the expansive view of the surrounding areas. Walking through the remains of the Castle you can begin to imagine what life was like constantly on the lookout for invading marauders looking for any opportunity to attack. Artifacts have been found on this site that date back to the end of the Bronze age (700BC!), while most early activities date to continuous occupation from 10th century. Built and occupied by Arab/Muslim occupants the castle was the last fortress in Portugal to surrender to the Christian Reconquista in 1249.
A little further down the road we encountered the coastal towns and beaches of Praia de Monte Clérigo, Praia do Coelha, Arrifana, and Praia do Amado. More amazing semi secluded cliffs and beaches that were sparsely occupied despite gorgeous warm sunny weather. We did notice quite a few license plates from Denmark, Sweden and France. Many were camper vans with surfboards in tow as the area is known for its great waves. These beaches are the closest reminders to the coast of Central and Northern California although the weather is more like Santa Barbara/Ventura. With the semi isolated locations, camping and surfing vibe it reminds me a lot of Jalama, near Lompoc on the Central coast of California.
I asked my Portuguese barber why this area is not more frequented by Portuguese locals or general tourism. He was very familiar with the area and said he takes his wife and child there frequently to enjoy the less crowded beaches. Because it's not built up and that its "too far" for most and away from the mainstream. If he says he would prefer for it to remain a secret.
Since the weather is warmer we've found ourselves spending more time at the beach for cooler weather while we re-acclimate to summer temperatures. These photos are from our walk between nearby Praia do Vau and Praia de Rocha. Another morning of spectacular weather and amazing beaches.
You can tell that the summer season has begun as the beaches start to fill with more visitors, the beach lounge chair concessions are re-establishing their presence, and the infamous vendors are walking the beach selling things such as the famous Bolinhas or ‘Bolas de Berlim’. These tasty treats common on most Portuguese beaches are the mother of Malasadas made famous by the roadside vendors in Hawaii. They are basically a sugar doughnut filled with pastry cream, Chocolate creme, or numerous varieties of fruit fillings.
Our friend Scott took a training flight in an Micro-light plane based in the nearby town of Lagos. The airport here is very small, so small that these are about the biggest planes that can take off and land. No staffed tower and you can see the only airport fire fighting quad below. Mostly recreational in nature you can hire ultra lights, hot air balloons and other toys here. According to Scott its a very easy plane to fly and the scenery along the coast was breathtaking
We attended another Algarve wine society dinner, this one at Limoni, an Italian restaurant located in Quinta do Lago golf resort. The featured wines are from Howards Foley located in Estremoz Alentejo. Founded by Howard Bilton, and Australian wine maker, David Baverstock, known not only for their wines, but for the proceeds from the winery sponsor an arts based charity for underprivileged children, the Sovereign Art Foundation. The majority of the art on their labels are from the foundations children's work. Both Howard and his son, Tom, shared stories of the wines and foundation during the dinner. Once again the food was very good (Porcini mushroom & Parmesan risotto, and the Eggplant Parmesan were the standouts tonight), wines were nice and the people we continue to meet are extremely interesting. Tonight we got to know Sharon and Steve who are from Sesimbra, just south of Lisbon. Sharon is Portuguese but has traveled the world as a former journalist who spent time in Afghanistan, Iraq, and South America. Steve is from New Zealand and has traveled the world working for the United Nations. The people we meet at these are by far the most interesting part of the wine society, the food and wine take a back seat to the conversations and new acquaintances.
Taking advantage of a little cooler weather in the morning, a walk along the boardwalk of Alvor. The path consists of mostly raised wooden pathways built to protect the marsh grasses and wildlife but transitions to a sandy pathway that runs to the mouth of the river. Sandwiched between Alvor beach and the Atlantic on one side and the river/estuary and the marina and village on the other providing endless views along the strands of sandy beach with the town of Lagos in the distance and the marsh and grasses leading up to the Marina and village of Alvor
Occasionally we need to satisfy our craving for Mexican food, or at least make an attempt. I have found what Mary makes at home is by far the best representation of Mexican food from California. Authentic ingredients like tortillas and chilis just aren't the same here but we make do with what's available. La Fiesta Mexicana in Alvor does a nice job as one of the very few Mexican restaurants in the Algarve. The Margaritas are the most authentic (and probably the easiest to reproduce) The tortilla chips and guacamole are also very good (some of the most authentic tasting chips around, Homemade). The Molcajete we shared tonight was OK, but lacking the chili flavor and spice that we love. Possibly the first Molcajete we've had that includes Portuguese Chouriço sausage?
Walking through the village after dinner we heard music and headed down to the riverfront. There was an impromptu group of amazing voices performing, a small choir visiting from Glasco.
Our friends at Rolha wine bar in Porches put together another fun food event, Primavera Food Market in the small streets of the village. Three restaurants/chefs were featured from Rohla wine bar, O´Leao de Porches, and Botanica in Almancil. Chef Josh from Botanica is a recent transplant to Portugal and has an impressive resume of restaurants he has worked in, most recently executive sous chef at Saison in San Francisco.
An afternoon stop at Marinha Beach about 30 minutes east of us. Beautiful cliffs and caves along this part of the coast. There is a classic european food truck near the parking lot, an older Citroen truck converted to fit the need.
Barney and Sonny living the dream...
As always we hope everyone is doing well, healthy, happy, and thriving. We miss you and love you all...A lot!