This Algarve blog is intended to keep you in touch with the latest in Algarve affairs. Now that I'm living here,
I'm trying to keep you
updated with what's going on in the Algarve and around those wonderful beaches.
So, here's my regular take on occurrences in what used to be my favourite vacation spot...
but is now my favourite place to live.
Bits and pieces that I've read just lately:
British Airways have let EasyJet take over the franchise
airline (GB Airways) that undertook its Faro route. So, from
30 March 2008, there'll be no Algarve flights carrying the
BA livery to the Algarve's capital for the first time in
over 40 years! There's also speculation that EasyJet may
make Faro airport another of its mini-Euro HQs.
BA, meanwhile, seems intent on operating its own Faro
flights in future, but from when and at how competitive a
cost are yet to be clarified.
Algarve tourism appears to flourish unabated, with the
official tourism body, the RTA announcing recently that the
trade has grown continuously over the past three years.
Although a tiny region of Portugal, Algarve is responsible
for around 40% of the nation's total income from tourism,
emphasising how important it is to the Portuguese economy.
All the more galling then that the local authorities in
Algarve feel left out of the major decisions that central
The alleged misuse of the Algarve brand name by the
Spanish property development in Ayamonte seems still to be
rumbling on (read
more here). The RTA (yes, them again) has filed a
complaint about the matter with the Attorney General in
Lisbon. I never did find out, though, why they think it
makes sense to carry the 'Luz de la Costa' magazine in their
own Turismo outlets, when it advertises
nothing but the Spanish opposition...
Must be that left-hand/right hand thing I blogged about -
or perhaps it's just this lovely October heat?
Tuesday 30 October 2007
Good news for those who enjoy playing golf in beautiful
surroundings, as Oceânico announces a large investment in
Vilamoura Golf and Garden Resort.
... stunning scenery at an Algarve golf course
It's planned to cover a 170-acre site, with
Moorish-inspired buildings, gardens and pools, and a
gymnasium in which to work off the effects of the bars and
restaurants that are promised!
Those who purchase the luxury villas and apartments will
receive membership of Oceânico's seven existing
Algarve golf courses. Given the likely prices of such real
estate, those membership savings will be a drop in the
ocean, but I suppose every little helps!
Not forgetting... Meridian Penina has planned some
winter-months refurbishments, ready for the 2008 fray. The
driving range is to receive an extensive overhaul including
covered bays with lighting. There'll also be a new
irrigation system, a new chipping green, a new putting
green, new car park allocations and cart paths.
These investments will certainly help to cement Algarve's
place as Europe's premier golf destination.
Book your '08 visits now if you're a keen golfer, and...
... read more about these developments on the Algarve
Golf page when there's more news available.
Sunday 28 October 2007
Death and Taxes
You know how the quotation goes - they're the only two
I read recently that Portuguese businesses had made a
plea for a reduction in the rate of VAT (value added tax -
called IVA in Portugal). The upper rate is presently an
eye-watering 21%. The Portuguese finance minister's response
confirmed that it was unlikely taxes would be decreased in
the near future, because the country was on track to comply
with the EU's Stability and Growth Pact.
That'll make consumers feel better, then...
On top of that, I read that inflation rose by 0.4 percent
in August, fuel prices are due to rise by 2 cents per litre
from January 2008, and that taxi fares will be increased
The answer, I suppose is to enter politics, get elected
to office and enjoy all the tax-free perks they award
If only I could be bothered...
Saturday 27 October 2007
A Transport of Delight?
are afoot (if that term is applicable in this instance) for
an overhaul of regional transport in the Algarve. Some of
the existing railway infrastructure may be incorporated into
a form of 'over-ground subway' (don't ask - it's Portugal!)
It may even turn out to be a tram network, if that would
prove most suitable...
... But, don't hold your breath. As is ever the way with
governmental decisions, the requisite in-depth study won't
be complete until later next year. And it will need to
incorporate other mooted projects, such as the
'twixt-Faro-and-Loulé Parque de Cidades and the
Central Algarve Hospital, which seem to have been on a
back-burner since 2004.
Patience being a necessity if you're to enjoy life here,
it may be quite a while before I get to announce the
celebratory opening ceremony of any of these schemes in a
blog on this page.
Meanwhile, we'll just have to steel ourselves to enjoy travel
in the Algarve as it is.
Tuesday 23 October 2007
Out driving around that neck of the woods, we decided
that it had been too long since we'd checked out the state
of play in good ol' Albufeira,
so off we went.
The newly-pedestrianised areas of the Old Town seem to be
a success, though the municipal vehicles that still have
access might drive just a little less
dangerously, I suppose.
It was a lovely mid-October day and there were
surprisingly large numbers of visitors around. Good news for
the businesses of various stripes that depend on them. Down
at the town beach cafés, there was an accordion/trumpet
band playing some decent jazz, so we lingered for a while.
We also called by the Minar
Tandoori Restaurant to say hello and see how things had gone
since it reopened after the extensive works around
Fisherman's Beach. We were pleased to hear that things had
been busy during the Summer. The restaurant itself had
undergone 'elements of refurbishment' (to quote the phrase
immortalised by the US Ambassador to the Court of St. James,
Mr Annenberg, some decades ago).
New 'French doors' along the whole of the entrance have
increased the amount of internal light, and the new decor is
quite fine, too. We'll have to arrange to get back there
when we're in the area again and feeling peckish.
Fisherman's Beach seems to have had lots of new sand put
down, leaving a steep ramp that acts as a 'sea wall' and
holds the water back from the upper reaches of the beach.
The 'on the beach' fish restaurant - at the bottom of the
cliff below the 'Albufeira is cursed...' stone bench - has
disappeared, presumably never to return. A shame, we
thought, as it was rather a quaint feature.
The area where we enjoyed the Fishermen's Festival in
2004 is now completely paved and pedestrianised (and
sanitised?) We used to have lots of fun watching drivers
trying to find parking spaces there, when we were taking an
evening stroll. Another spectator sport confined to history.
We'll doubtless be back in Albufeira soon, and will try
to give a more fulsome review of the changes that have taken
Sunday 21 October 2007
Mobiles, cellphones... whatever you call them, they seem
to be a mixed blessing. Now that they're widely available
and, unless you're a fashion victim, so cheap, there seems
to be no good reason not to have one, and yet -
I read recently in an English-language freebie newspaper
a plaintive letter from an elderly lady somewhere in the
north of the country (or it might have been Spain). She was
upset that some recent rain had knocked out the local
exchange and, with it, her landline telephone. On top of
which, the area where she lives has terrible cellphone
reception, so she was, effectively, incommunicado in her own
Her fear was that, should anything happen to her, she had
no means of letting anyone know. As she lived alone, this
was a frightening situation.
And yet - I also read that residents in another district
had successfully applied to a court for the removal of a
mobile phone transmitter-cum-generator (from the description
given) that had been built on top of their condominium.
And that's the thing with cellphones; everyone wants good
reception, but nobody wants a mast or other transmitter
anywhere near where they live!
As for the effect of rain on an Iberian land-line
service, our own recent experience was very similar. It
rained on two consecutive days and was followed by two weeks
of terrible problems, until we finally managed to have
Portugal Telecom do something about it.
Fortunately, we seem to be in a strong signal area, so
our family (Nev won't have one of his own) cellphone is
The bit that bothers me about the health-risks associated
with cellphones is that the research done to confirm their
relative harmlessness to human grey matter seems to be done
by people employed by the telecomms industry.
I'm sure they're all terribly nice people, but are their
findings truly independent? While 'two heads are better than
one' may be true in certain circumstances, that doesn't mean
I'd like to grow another one, courtesy of microwave
Friday 19 October 2007
Girls in Kayaks!
When my friend Flip and husband Paul visited recently, we
went along to try out the 'Hobie kayak'
experience. I'll be putting up an Algarve
kayaks page with all the relevant
details soon, but here are a few 'tasters' to whet your
Our armada set out in the morning from Ilha de Faro,
after due explanations from main man Steve (of whom more later) about
how everything worked. The kayaks are imported craft, that
are propelled by pedals that work underwater fins. Sounds weird, but works very well,
and you can work up quite a rate of knots once you get the
Unlike normal kayaks, Hobies don't require you to be
strong of arm or super-fit to propel yourself along. The
kayaks can also be fitted with sails, whereupon they fairly scud along
in a decent wind. Best of all, if you decide you need a rest, or have 'run out of puff', there's a support boat
that will take you the rest of the way, while towing your
The big attraction for me, as well as entertaining my guests,
was that the time would be spent sailing around the beautiful
Formosa nature reserve, for which eastern Algarve is justly
The flotilla embarks... not a paddle
During our day out, we saw masses of amazing marine life, plus
some interestingly large birds, including pink flamingos, a huge
blue heron, storks and assorted waders. It's a
wildlife-lover's paradise! On top of which it was all nicely
sociable, and we had food and drinks provided at the regular
As you may have read elsewhere on this website, I'm not
the best sailor in the world, but the ride was fine, I
enjoyed myself immensely, and will definitely be going back
for another shot at Hobie kayaking!
It's suitable for most ages, it's fun, and the scenery's
wonderful. What more could you ask of an adventure day out?
Tuesday 16 October 2007
Poor Old Querença...
They're still at it, the boys in the Municipal Works
department, that is. Having begun the refurbishment works
(necessary or not) in May, at the start of the tourist
season, they were supposed to be finished within four
months, as I wrote here.
Alas, another fine plan has come to naught, and the
lovely village is still in a very unlovely state, as my
picture of yesterday shows.
I was tempted to cut out the figures on the left, but
thought I'd leave them, just to show that there are still
some hardy souls braving the mess and disruption (apart from
your trusty correspondent, that is).
Watch this space for the unveiling of the new-look
Querença (I liked the old look), and take pity on the poor
folk who try to make a living there, like the restaurant and
craft shop owners.
Monday 8 October 2007
Tourism, I understand, is a very fragile flower. For a
country or region to remain top of the places-to-vacation
list, it must either offer a unique experience, or perhaps
unbeatable value for money.
I'm always interested when I read or hear anything about Algarve
tourism - and I have been ever since I first became
an Algarve tourist...
... But I have never understood the concept of
'twinning'. What is it meant to achieve?
Latest example to grab my attention was the upcoming
signing of the documentation that will twin Albufeira
with Linz in Austria. If this action brings the 'Algarve
brand' to the attention of the good burghers of Linz, all
well and good. (I'm not sure how many of them can have
escaped hearing about Algarve thus far, but let's put that
I can see how it might appeal to the local politicians in
both locations, entailing as I'm sure it will,
taxpayer-funded 'fact-finding visits'. Whether it will
encourage residents of Albufeira to vacation in Linz is a
moot point. I'm sure it's a lovely place, but is it a
vacation magnet? If so, it's evaded my notice (but perhaps
that's why Linz is keen on the twinning).
The official version is that the association of the two
places will promote events and partnerships in areas such as
"culture, sports and tourism" (and many others,
Thinking back to my last spell living in Bournemouth, UK,
I drove almost daily past the road-side signs that told me
of all the places it was 'twinned' with. I'm pretty sure it
was approaching 'sextuplet' status...
And I can't recall a single relevant cultural exchange
that was reported, except for the visits from the worthy
Of course, there's a good chance that's down to my
shockingly poor memory (not!)
Anyway, if this results in a sudden glut of off-season
visitors to Albufeira to fill up all those empty beds in
hotels, residencias and pensões, then good on the lot of
them say I! And I'll eat some humble pie right here in this
Wednesday 3 October 2007
Road to Ruin...
There are rumours about action over the state of the
EN125 road that runs east to west along the Algarve coast.
It used to be the main arterial road serving the Algarve
until the Via do Infante (the A22, previously the
IP1) was constructed using European Union money.
Although the new motorway eased the traffic from the
EN125, it has still managed to fall into a state of
disrepair along most of its route.
during peak times, when folk are driving to work or doing
'the school run', it can be frustratingly jam-packed. So,
any measures to ease such problems and make the highway more
useable should be welcomed.
But (there's always a 'but', isn't there?) the mayors of
the municipalities through which the EN125 passes are all
chiming in with high expectations of what should be done to
improve access points and layout within their own fiefdoms.
Which probably means that the central government will have
to come up with cash injections, if they can be so
My fear is that, should the wrangling prove to be too
protracted, the EN125 will deteriorate to the point where
repairs will mean its closure for a long period. And that
would throw extra burdens onto alternative roads that were
probably built when cars, trucks and coaches were much
scarcer than is the case today!
In that case, it'll be 'watch out for Algarve road
chaos'! It'd be tourism suicide if they mess up easy access
to those Algarve beaches...
(I should add that EN125 stands for Estrada
Nacional 125, which my Portuguese friend, Nanda,
insists is the 'Estrada Nacional cento vinte e cinco',
but 'one-two-five' is so much shorter! I kid her that it'd
be quicker to drive along its length than to say its name
in full. Especially when those proposed repairs have made
it more easily navigable.)
More news on this when I learn of any developments.
Monday 1 October 2007
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