Algarvean Daze

Events & Activities - mainly during the daytime - across the Algarve

Rally de Portugal - Route Maps For All Stages

The Vodaphone Rally de Portugal festivities kick off on Thursday April 2 at Estadio Algarvio, with a special 2.2 km stage.

Day 1 (Friday, April 3) of the Rally sees the action kick off for real, with stages at Ourique (23km), Silves (22km), Malhao (22km), ending the day with a shakedown stage near Vale Judeu

Day 2 (Saturday, April 4) sees the action at Santa Clara (23km), then Almodovar (27km), ending at Vascao (23km)

The third and final day (Sunday, April 5) takes Loule (22km) and Sao Bras (16km) into view, ending back at Estadio Algarvio

Full details of the rally can be had from the official Rally de Portugal website.

Reasons To Live In Portugal - Part 2

It's just about now that the UK Council Tax kicks itself into life for the current year. I've just gone onto the council website to see what I would have been paying for my small 2 bed, 1 bath, 300 year old detached cottage on a small plot of land in Buckinghamshire. Keeping it simple, I'll call it £1750.

Looking at the cost of our 2 bed , 1 bath, 150 year old coastal apartment on the Isle of Wight, the cost would be £950, although I will admit that the local council did agree to give us a 10% discount when we were using the apartment as a second home.

Then I am forced to look at the cost to us in Portugal. Accepting that the exchange rate is now, for all intents and purposes 1 to 1, the cost here is £750. Even allowing for the 10% discount we got on the cheapest bill, that is still a saving of over £100 on the least valuable property we owned in the UK.

Hardly worth comparing, and certainly not a reason to abandon the UK, one could deduce.

True, except, for the £750 paid here, I am satisfying my civil indebtedness on a small 2 bed, 2 bath, casa antiga on a small plot of land, much akin to the cottage in Bucks. Oh, yes, and a further two apartments on the coast.

If I were to extend the cost of the two apartments in line with the IoW costs and discounts, I would be paying £950 plus £855, add the £1750 of the similar inland cottages, and arrrive at a total of £3555 for what I pay £750 here. A net saving of more than £2800, annually.

Is that any kind of reason to prefer Portugal? You're damn right it is!

More: Reasons, Part 1

TGIF - Algarve Style

Let me preface my remarks by saying that I'm a late riser.

It's 7am and the mobile on the bedside table (it is NEVER is on the bedside table) has just made a rude noise. Responding to my other half's question, I say that it was just a text message coming in. I roll over and fall back asleep, just in time for the musical nuisance to burst again into life, albeit this time expectedly.

It's now 8am and I had set the alarm, as today we are expecting early morning visitors to complete the installation of the flyscreens. So that's it, now I'm awake. "That text message that came in was probably the screen man cancelling", says the OH. "That was my alarm" says I. Ascertaining that the reference made was to the first interruption of a good night's sleep, I look at the phone to find a message from the installer, begging off due to illness at home. Damn, I hate it when I'm wrong before I even get out of bed!

So, now we're up, with the intention of returning to bed as soon as the cats are fed.

First things first - check to see if the water which stopped flowing yesterday has returned. No, it hasn't.
Now feed the cats. This means ours, and the vagabond that now regularly visits, looking for handouts. The hairy hobo first, so as to attempt to keep it out of the kitchen while ours are fed. Nanoseconds after putting it's plate down on the patio the plate is empty and the furball is in the kitchen with it's head in our cat's plate. The elder of ours accepts this bemusedly, while the younger, who has been removed three times from the countertop, is crawling up the winerack. The source of it's interest is soon located as a bird flies across the kitchen, disappearing into a pantry.

The kitchen door open, so that the bird can fly out, is now an open invitation for the stray to yet again return to our cats' breakfast. The bird flies wildly from the pantry, not out the open door, but now into the lounge, with the young one in hot pursuit.

In the meantime, the PC which I switched on first thing is locked in death throes with my email server, as there is a corrupt email preventing the download cycle from completing and deleting the posts from the server. With each fresh attempt at receiving, the entire cache of email is again downloaded, then the system times out and 5 minutes later another full tranche of mail arrives, numbering now in the hundreds.

The interloping cat is now asleep on the patio, our little one has lost - or lost interest in - the bird. We still have no water. The screens will not be installed. My computer has just retrieved another parcel of redundant emails. It's 9:30 and I should still be in bed.

T.G.I.F.

Oh, To Bee In The Algarve Now That Spring Is Here

I had absolutely no intention to follow up from my Mosquitos posting with anything else to do with flying critters, but as nature will frequently have it, there is a sting in the tail of my good intentions.

It's mid morning, and as we haven't seen one of the neighbourhood cats who regularly graces our kitchen patio each morning in anticipation of a handout of our cats' yesterday's leftovers, we went to the shed just to check that he hadn't been locked in as has happened in the past.

Approaching the door, sounds could be heard from inside, but not quite the meow that was expected. Upon opening the door my initial thought was akin to that of Pandora setting free all the bad things previously contained. However, in our case it was not the high-voltage buzz of evil, but the sound of bees.

Millions of bees may be an exaggeration, thousands a possibility, hundreds a certainty. Who's counting?

The bees, now no longer forced to enter and exit by some small, hidden orifice immediately moved into a defensive position occupying the doorway, a position they defended throughout the day.

As evening drew closer I had to muster the courage to advance upon this foe, as there was no potable water in the house and my liquid cache was on the other side of that buzzing portal. Showing no fear (hah!) I casually walked through the sentinels, picked up a 4-pack of water bottles, glanced up to the ceiling, to the two grapefruit sized clusters of writhing pollinators, turned and definitely got the hell out of Dodge!

Pleas for information and assistance, posted on multiple local forums, resulted in many and varied suggestions, some relating to the elimination of my visitors, others warning me of the dangers to future human existence should I do something so reckless as to attempt to eliminate my problem by 'eliminating' my problem. It was never my intention to perform an act of insecticide, nay, in true NIMBY style I simply wanted the problem to be owned by someone else, somewhere else.

Well, now it seems that someone else does own the problem. One day on from our playing host to our many buzzy buddies, they have all gone.

I can only hope that their new landlord treats them with the dignity and respect they deserve.

The Return Of The Mosquito In Moccasins

It's starting. For the last few days, lying awake in the early hours, I could hear them taunting me. Maybe I'm over-reacting to the situation. Possibly it was only one of them taunting me.

The pattern was consistent, and easily identifiable. Akin to a car desperately in need of a tune up, the sound - commencing in the distance and barely discernible - grew louder and closer. A sound made up of alphabetic Ns and Zs, something like nnnzznznnznnnzzz - then the interjection of a silent pause, like an engine mis-firing, then the sequence repeated but this time closer, louder, more ominous.

Eventually, the sound descended toward my face and emitted a doppler-shift change in tone as it rushed past close enough for me to feel on my cheek, the wind generated by it's unseen wings. (Maybe the Chaos Theory has some credence? Sorry, I digress!) I take my hand, already poised in anticipation of the attack, swat violently, making contact with my cheek and seemingly the invisible, nocturnal interloper. I can now go to sleep.

Or can I? Ten minutes elapses, I begin to nod. Then the sound, the mis-firing consonants, returns. Closer again, this time with the intent of dining in my ear. Slap! Silence, barring the self-inflicted ringing, returns. Success.

Wrong. The sequence is repeated at ten minute intervals for the next two hours. If I weren't so lazy, or so confident that I really did send the pest to oblivion during my last attempt at securing a dominant position on the food chain, I would get up and put the bug machine on. But no, I lie there and remain on the defensive, and do so until I eventually drift off.

I awake with an itchy knuckle, a slight puffy redness begging to be scratched. OK, I lost. But something really confuses me. While I could hear, on every occasion, the waxing attack, at no time did I ever hear the waning retreat. Never 'nzzznnzn, oops, you almost got me, nzzznnzn, I'm outta here, nzzznnzn'. Not a word, nothing, nada, zero, zip.

The conclusion I have been forced to draw is that the humble mosquito has learned much from the stealthy native American Indian, wears 3 pairs of minuscule moccasins upon it's diminutive feet so as not to be heard as it sneaks away 'a pé' to confuse it's prey and to plan it's next foray.

And just in case you think I'm one tube of 1% hydrocortisone cream short of relief, I'd really like to hear your explanation!

Sunny Side Down and Out? Never!

If you haven't read the recent BBC News Magazine article, Sunny Side Down, click HERE and have a look before you read any further. Done that? OK, we'll carry on.

Doom and gloom merchants abound whenever things get a bit doomish and gloomish. That's only natural. But in the midst of this impending meltdown there may just be some tunnel light that isn't the train headed straight towards us.

Yes, it rained. The most in 15 years. But the reservoirs aren't yet full, so as far as I'm concerned it can rain some more. Everybody else's apartments and villas may be rotting away under black coats of mildew, but ours isn't. Other Algarve residents may have been shivering, but we weren't. Income derived from UK investments has dwindled, but for those living within their means this is an inconvenience, not a catastrophe.

Some of the economic difficulties we have witnessed businesses and restaurants experiencing were those borne out of a strong pound and greed. Yes, the pound is no longer strong, but the greed remains. It may have been acceptable to charge near-on €20 in a restaurant for a €4 bottle of wine a year ago (Not to me, but maybe to others). This attitude must now change. Prices which were artificially high due to hedging against the strong pound must now be rationalised. Driving the customers away because they now won't pay inflated prices benefits nobody.

Look at the restaurants that cater for the Portuguese, one of the poorest paid nationalities in Europe. These establishments are heaving with natives. Why? Because they offer value for money. The owners are not attempting to extort money from their patrons under the guise of trendy chic. It's time to wake up and smell the coffee. Some fatal injuries are self inflicted.

For me, I'd rather be here where my property and car taxes are substantially less than in the UK, where my heating bill is substantially less than the UK, where my TV licence is... You get the picture (pun intended).

The sun is beginning to shine again. And that's not subject to economic fluctuations.

Fire On The Mountain

Not the classic song by The Marshall Tucker Band, but rather the possibility that exists with the arrival of warmer, drier weather.

We didn't see the firefighting helicopter the first time that it flew over, but when a second journey took a route which went directly over our heads it was very difficult to miss. So difficult to miss that a camera pointed skyward caught it as it rushed out of sight. As majestic - and noisy - as the machine was, what it represents is far more sinister. A summer where the ever present threat of forest fires will, or should, be always somewhere in our conscious minds. Too much damage has been done in the past to allow a repetition in the future.

Preaching has never been the intention of my blog entries, but I think on this occasion it's justifiable.

Fire kills.

It really doesn't matter whether a fire starts accidentally or is intentionally lit, the result is the same. Damage and death.

Hopefully the helicopter we saw was on a training flight. The Algarve needs to be prepared. But please, everyone, be that little bit more careful so that the next time I see this great yellow bird it will again be in readiness, not in anger.

And so not to end on such a sombre note, click the link to enjoy the acceptable side of Fire On The Mountain.

Bestaurant: Rouxinol at Caldas de Monchique

How many people, I wonder, take the time to visit Caldas de Monchique and never bother to cross the road to see what's on the other side?

The next time you are in the area, follow the road a little further than the turn into Caldas (heading in the direction of Monchique) and just as the last house in Caldas is on your left - the horizontal striped one - look right. You've just found Rouxinol.

We've known about Rouxinol for years because our good friend Carlos, of Carlos's Restaurant in Aylesbury, was chef there many moons ago. But for some unknown reason we never visited there until last year, just before the restaurant closed for Christmas. We were pleasantly surprised that the menu was not totally Algarvean/Portuguese, but had a quite a cosmopolitan feel (or should I say taste). This, obviously due to the influence of the owners, Stefan and Lisa Ljung, who have run restaurants in the Caribbean, Morocco, West Africa and the Canaries. The meals at Rouxinol are not the cheapest you'll find in the Algarve, but the food and service help you draw the conclusion that this is not a restaurant that you want to save for special occassions.

As Stefan is proud to state "Life is uncertain - eat dessert first". And if you like raspberries, you may just want to take Stefan at his word.

It's Better To Light One Candle Than To Curse The Darkness...

...But it's a hell of a lot more expensive!

A few months ago our esquentador (water heater to mere mortals) decided to embark on a go slow. As it had been in situ for more than ten years I opted to replace, rather than repair. This in itself was a silly move, as the problem was not with the appliance but was discovered to be a partially blocked pipe running from the WH to the tap. Naturally this was not discovered until the new one was in place and functioning equally as poorly as the original, necessitating my removal of the WH and repeated flushing and back flushing of the tubular trap.

So now the new one is in place and works fine - as would the old one had I just cleaned the pipes. But that's just the preface.

Having decided that we would buy a unit without a pilot light, one that ignites electronically when the water is turned on, eventually I came around to trying to calculate what savings may be derived by only flaming-on when required.

Three times I recalculated the benefit, and the results were the same every time (NOTE: I'm not saying they are correct, only that they are consistent). Not having a pilot light burning saves seven (7) tanks of gas a year. That's a payback on the WH in one and a half years!

All this advice about switching off items on standby may just be true. And for seven tanks of fuel annually I'll learn to curse the darkness.