This Algarve blog is intended to keep you in touch with
the latest in Algarve affairs. As best I can, I
try to keep you updated with what's going on in the
Algarve (on Portugal's southern coast) and around those
So, here's my take on occurrences in what used to be my favourite vacation spot...
then became my favourite place to live, and is
now, for a little while longer yet, my favourite
place to visit.
Summer Madness begins...
Maybe it's the warmer weather
that starts off 'silly seasons'. The warmer
weather has arrived in the Algarve, I'm happy to
report. I'd been here for two weeks and hadn't
worn shorts to play tennis, but that all changed
around ten days ago, just before husband Nev
arrived to join me on holidays.
A bit of 'madness' to accompany
the warmth arrived in the form of a newspaper
article about challenges to fines handed out by
Portuguese police to drivers who had not been
cautioned (or perhaps chastened) in their own
language! Given the variety of tongues spoken by
tourists visiting Portugal, the number of
translators required would probably bankrupt the
State. Not that its being a potty concept doesn't
mean it can't happen in Euroland.
with the weather theme, I learned recently that
March's high winds in the Algarve had badly
damaged many storks' nests near Lagoa and Portimao.
The unfortunate effect of this had been to
threaten the survival of many stork fledgelings,
who weren't yet ready to do without their lofty
homes. It's doubly unfortunate, since Algarve's
storks already lag behind their counterparts in
other parts of Portugal in the matter of producing
I was also surprised to learn
that many storks are no longer migratory and live
in Portugal the whole year round. They reuse the
same nests, adding to them as necessary, which
means some of those constructions you see atop
chimneys and other high points can weigh up to
half a tonne! Obviously, some unfortunate storks
are going to have a lot of unlooked-for
reconstruction work to restore their nests to
The good news is that, because
the stork population has been increasing over
recent years, their numbers are not likely to be
significantly threatened by the March mishap. Not
much consolation if your nest was destroyed, of
course, but not the end of things for Algarve
Bearing in mind that the stork
(see picture above) is the symbol of Faro,
Algarve's capital, perhaps the authorities might
be moved to help by erecting more nest-friendly
high points throughout the region.
13 May 2013
The Cakes Bill
It probably won't affect you if you are a tourist visiting the Algarve, but – in its efforts to balance the budget to satisfy the Euro bankers' bail-out terms - the Portuguese government is becoming increasingly desperate.
It recently ruled that all transactions must result in the buyer collecting a 'factura' – a receipt. These must be retained by the purchaser, to show to the police, if stopped!
I recently tried to buy two pasteis de Nata (Portuguese custard cakes) and was disappointed that all the larger versions had gone. I purchased instead four tiny cakes (I'll call them pastelinhos). The factura, when it was handed over, was probably twice the area of the cakes I'd purchased. I was tempted to throw it away, but instead made a joke to the woman who'd sold it to me.
This bureaucratic nightmare (unfortunately typical of Portugal's government) is reportedly sending small companies out of business! The machinery needed to produce the requisite factura type, including the type of paper – and even ink, I believe! – is too expensive for many micro-businesses, which simply give up and fold.
Add to this that the tolls imposed on those using the A22 motorway are actually costing the government money (less is taken in than they must pay the operators) and you can see why Portugal is going to be in the mire for a long time yet.
A funny tale I heard about the facturas farrago shows the sense of humour and resilience of the Portuguese man and woman in the street, however….
Someone came up with a nifty idea, which then went viral –
When demanding a factura, people have begun to give the details of Cavaco Silva, the president of Portugal, and a native of the Algarve. This means that millions of euros' worth of facturas are produced in his name and he'll be investigated for spending more than he earns. Since he presumably rubber-stamped the measure when it was passed, serve him right, I say.
None of this is helping to stimulate demand, and some of the steps by the government (see elsewhere in this blog) are likely to discourage tourism, which is vital for the Algarve.
So, please don't let this stuff put you off. Visit the Algarve and have a great time. Just make sure you get to the cake shop earlier than I did - and don't worry about the receipt; the Portuguese government doesn't know where you live!
Sunday 28 April 2013
I wrote that blog title with both senses of the phrase in mind...
On the one hand, the tourist season is starting to swing into action in the Algarve -
And, on the other, the sheer senselessness of what's happening in the country as a result of the euro's hiccups means that ordinary people are yet again at the mercy of the nutters we keep electing.
"But, how does this affect me and my Algarve vacation?" you might ask.
Well, there's still the nonsense about using the Algarve's only motorway to consider. There are about six different ways to pay the toll, depending on whether you're resident or visiting, in a Portuguese-plated car or a foreign one. The point is, don't holidaymakers have better things to do than worrry about the authorities' bureaucratic inanities?
Then, there are more practical concerns, like personal safety. Take, for instance, the reports that there are large numbers of jellyfish off Algarve beaches at present. I bet that won't be made plain to visitors, in case they are put off from using the beaches and the associated businesses that depend on beach-loving tourists.
Add to that the news that many Portuguese nurses are leaving the country and headed for countries like England and you can see that it might not be a good time to rely on the Portuguese health service while you're on vacation.
None of the above constitute a reason to stay away from the Algarve and its many attractions, but knowledge is power, so -
If you use the Algarve A22 motorway, don't worry about the tolls, just wait for the authorities to contact you at home (at their pace, it'll never happen). Hit the beaches as normal but, if you go swimming, hire a kevlar suit (anti-jellyfish protection) and, if you do become ill, struggle home and use your own country's health service, which will probably be adequately staffed.
But, above all, visit the Algarve, and have a great time!
Sunday 14 April 2013
The Politics of Tourism
Portugal and the Algarve need it, global recession makes it harder to come by, and the competition is fierce – for tourism, that is.
So, why wasn't I shocked to learn that some airlines are threatening to provide fewer flights – or even abandon Portuguese airports altogether – because of rising fees lumped onto their costs by the airport authorities.
The answer has to be that little in the political world makes sense to the outsider, so don't expect to understand what goes on.
The previously-State-owned airports have been sold (95% anyway) to a private company. So, rather than a state-run monopoly, there is now a privatised version. And when you have a hostage to fortune, you squeeze it until it squeaks...
Except that, in this instance, the airlines aren't squeaking – they're threatening to walk away and take their airport fees elsewhere.
Crippling Portugal's tourism in a time when many other destinations would be more than happy to provide cheaper alternatives would be extremely stupid. And exploiting a virtual monopoly would run counter to EU rules, of course -
Which is why it'll probably happen.
Book your vacation flights to Portugal and the Algarve ASAP – while they're still there to book!
Sunday 10 February 2013
Taking the Algarve Abroad
Another initiative that's planned for Algarve tourism (as part of a greater Portugal tourism scheme) is a two-year 'road show'.
That means travelling around likely countries with a mobile display set, to show various European nationals what they're missing by not visiting Portugal. In particular, they're trying to promote the idea of owning a holiday home in Portugal.
It's an idea that I think has merit. But there are also drawbacks.
The main problem, I think, is the level of bureaucracy encountered in Portugal. Foreign ownership of Portuguese property is hedged about by all sorts of rules and regulations that don't apply to residents. Compare that with London, which is probably almost all foreign-owned (the best parts, at least) – precisely because it's been made possible by cutting red tape and restrictions.
Whether it's a good idea in the long term is debatable, but it does get the money sloshing around in times of poor fiscal conditions. So, can Portugal emulate such a sea-change in property ownership?
It's not impossible, but it will take a log-jam clearance, and put a few bureaucratic noses out of joint, if it's to work.
Even though I'm something of an optimist, my advice is: watch this space.
Sunday 3 February 2013
Great news for Albufeira: the 'beach season' is to be lengthened (cue wild cheering).
From now on, the official season will stretch from 18 May to 20 October, in order to try to maximise the enjoyment
that wonderful Algarve climate, and to ease the 'squeeze' of concentrated tourist visits during peak periods.
Presumably, although the announcement was not specific on the matter, this means that lifeguard presence and provision of safety and security services will be available between the two dates mentioned.
Albufeira is probably the best-known area of southern Portugal, and is pretty much synonymous with Algarve beaches; a subject close to my heart. So it seems sensible to use
its fame in order to extend its appeal for a greater part of the year.
All the more puzzling, seasoned observers might think, that such a logical initiative has come from the bureaucrats. I pondered this one for a while and reached two notional conclusions:
1 It is probably a result of pressure from local entrepreneurs, who see a much-needed opportunity to increase visitor numbers by making Albufeira more obviously 'useable' for longer each year.
2 The euro-crisis has finally hit home with the national and local governmental bodies, and they realise that 'business as usual' isn't going to cut it during such straitened times.
Whatever the reason, there is now more opportunity to enjoy
the wealth of attractions of Albufeira... so who cares why?
In the meantime, if you'd like a pleasant break and don't insist on lying on a beach, why not visit in time for the
weekend, taking place between Friday 8 February and Tuesday 12 February. Great and charming fun, and you get to interact with all those lovely, friendly Algarveans while they're letting their hair down.
Friday 1 February 2013
The Cold Light of Day -
Back in Scotland mid-January; and just beat the snow (it came the day after we made it back). We have been 'acclimatising' for the last two weeks (for which read 'keeping the heating on full-time'), but have been spared some of the awful weather that's hit southern parts of England.
Unfortunately, our four blissful weeks in the Algarve sun are now just a fond memory, but I'm planning my next visit right now.
Judging from what we saw and heard during our stay, Portugal is in for an even worse time in 2013, with the austerity measures due to be ramped up even further. For those at the lower end of the income scale, that could prove to be the last straw. The only consolation (if that's even an appropriate term) is that Spain has it even worse.
One can only hope that the measures, and the unrest likely to result, won't further damage the prospects for Algarve tourism. I certainly don't intend to let it put me off visiting as often as I can manage.
Meantime, it's back to staving off the cold (which could be worse, as my friend in Norway tells me they have -9°C and are planning to go skating on the frozen lakes!)
Roll on more of that Algarve sun, I say!
Sunday 27 January 2013
A year older, and few lessons learned
The headline could apply to anyone, and it
certainly does to me. What's worrying, though, is
that it always applies to those in government, who
never seem to see the iceberg approaching the
I've blogged many times this year about how I
think the tolls imposed on the A22 road that
bisects the Algarve are a counter-productive move.
They restrict movement throughout the region, will
put off potential tourists and, most worryingly,
they make the alternative road, the EN125, even
more of a badly-repaired accident hazard!
desperately deserted A22 dual-carriageway; nary a
car to be seen!
Apparently, the European Commission has ruled
that the toll is likely illegal. While for a
citizen, that would be bad news, you can expect a
government to ignore it. The Portuguese government
is happy to pay an annual fine for breaking
European laws by having a swingeing tax on
imported cars. Since the fine is nowhere near what
the tax earns, why would they change their ways?
So, the latest wheeze to get the A22 toll to
stop losing money is 'EasyToll'. Honestly, I'm not
making it up; I read it in the Algarve newspaper.
In order to make it 'easier' for tourists to
pay the toll (it can be tricky; see related posts
page) they can opt to link their
bank card account to the relevant Portuguese
government tax account! Any tourist incautious
enough to do this has more faith in official IT
software than I do....
Since the toll was imposed, the government has
lost money on the deal. Rather than admit it was a
rotten idea, it proposes to hike the toll fees by
more than 2% next year. Now, I'm no trained
accountant and certainly no economist, but 2% of
not much amounts to very little. If it has the
effect of putting off even more motorists from
using the A22, then it could conceivably mean less
take for the government.
Since this whole exercise has felt like
watching someone try to clear a headache by
smashing his brow into a concrete block, perhaps
it's worth only one last comment:
the toll and get the money and the tourists
circulating through the Algarve again!
There, that feels better.
2 January 2013
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