Newsletter July 2003
by: Nigel Anteney Hoare
| June over and silly season about to commence!
It might be "silly" but it is GREAT as far as I am concerned! We will have all sorts of old friends coming to stay, more excuses to get out wining and dining and it is so good to see the old place come alive even if you have to be at the shops early to get bread and at the cash machine as soon as the bank has filled it to get some dosh! It must be great as well for all trades people as they will have a chance to fill their tills and salt some away prior to winter.
June - it was a hot one as usual! In the 22 plus years I have enjoyed living in the Algarve I feel sure the seasons have swung back a few weeks and we now get the really hot weather earlier than we used to. As far as I am concerned June is always one of the hottest times - when you feel the need for some aircon at night to help get some comfortable shut eye. August on the other hand, a month most people expect to be really hot can be quite autumnal in its second half with cool damp evenings and dewy mornings. June is a great month to holiday in Carvoeiro, full summer sun and feel but without the crowds.
So what has been happening during June? The month began for me with a visit to Lisbon as a birthday trip for my 11 year old son. The weather was pleasant, not too hot yet and with a little cloud and breezes. The drive up is so easy and pleasant through the undulating Alentejo landscape. The new motorway has cut through hitherto virgin countryside bringing old Alentejo houses and farms, "montes" as they are called, into view. They must have been so inaccessible before the highway intruded on them. The traditional coffee stops of Mimosa and Canal Caveira are now bypassed and I guess they now rely on lorries and coaches that prefer to continue travelling on the old road avoiding the quite high tolls on the motorway. Up and back by car now costs you about Euro 30.
We went up on Saturday as you can get some really good Lisbon hotel deals at the weekend. I have always found Lisbon hotels to be expensive compared to the general cost of living but at weekends prices can drop dramatically. Booking on the Internet we managed a Holiday Inn family room, which turned out to be a suite in the refurbished part, for Euro 90 incl. breakfast. Pretty good I thought.
We did the tourist bit, the Belem Tower on the river front followed by the Maritime Museum and the Planetarium. After dinner we went to the Feira Popular in Avenida da Liberdade which is a permanent fairground and just ideal for an 11 year olds birthday. Watching some of the rides made me queasy but the cool Super Bock beer soon calmed me down! Sunday was intended to be devoted to Lisbon Zoo which has undergone a big revamp in recent years. We had forgotten though that Sunday 1st June was International Children's Day! Wow! - we were at the Zoo at 10,30 and it was jammed with queues round the block. After a hasty democratic family discussion it was agreed to give the Zoo a miss on the basis that it isn't going away and we can catch it another time. Nothing else to do but to visit the giant Colombo shopping centre where a mini fair/theme park has been developed on the roof. Lisbon is a fine old city and well worth a visit for a couple of days, if you are holidaying in the Algarve, now it is so accessible.
Sunday evening, back to the Algarve and our normal lifestyle. On Friday evening I arranged to meet some friends in SULLYS for some "early doors" as I knew it in London years ago. Sullys on a Friday evening is a sort of club with various working residents relaxing after their weeks efforts! They mingle easily with the holiday makers and can sometimes offer bits of good advice to them! It can be a good "crack" with plenty of banter on offer.
That made a good start to the weekend and on the Saturday we had already decided to visit somewhere I had always intended to go - Ilha Deserta just off Faro (see www.ilha-deserta.com ).
This is a bit special! A very pleasant 40 minute boat ride from the town quay at Faro, just outside the old city walls, takes you to a very unspoilt place which is the last outpost of the various islands bordering Faro facing the Atlantic Ocean. We took the first boat at 10.30 which was quite full mostly with Portuguese and a smattering of foreign tourists. We paid I think Euro 6 return for adults and Euro 3 return for the kids, you can also get boat taxis to take you there. On arrival it is a weird feeling to know that you are the first on that beach that day. We rented sun beds and enjoyed much warmer water than we are used to around Carvoeiro. Apparently the sea is always warmer there. We explored the long curve of the beach for some distance and were surprised by the abundance of beautiful shells which we collected and lugged al the way home for no apparent reason! This beach is also known as Praia da Concha (shell beach). Apart from some small fishermen's huts, there is just one building there, nestled in among the dunes back from the sea and not far from the quay where the boat ties up. It is the restaurant O ESTAMINÉ and we lunched there on some great fresh fish. We stayed and caught the last boat back at 6 pm arriving back in Carvoeiro having really enjoyed our day. Well worth the visit and we shall go again before the boat stops running at the end of September.
The 10th of June is a Bank Holiday here. It celebrates the death of one of Portugals most famous sons, the poet and adventurer, Luis Vaz de Camões who died in 1580. It is a special day for the Portuguese and known as their National Day so the public offices were closed and the beaches were busy. I always have mixed emotions on Dia de Camões as it was also the day I lost a great friend and my business partner here in Carvoeiro way back in 1987.
Friday 13th was as hot as it could be and was the day we chose to lunch at the Feira da Gastronomia. This is an annual June event at the Fatacil showground in Lagoa when restaurants representing various regions of Portugal cone together for a week or so to show off their culinary skills.
The 13th passed with no bad luck or great calamities and the local Lagoa wizard cum magician Professor Herrero held his regular Friday 13th spooky dinner, this time at the Hotel Tivoli Almansor. I never went but guests had to walk under a ladder, the cutlery was crossed on black table cloths, the menu included "bat" soup etc etc. A friend of mine went last year on one Friday 13th and said it was weird but good.
That very hot day was followed by two or three days of "levante" type weather with high cloud and strong hot winds from the east. We sometimes get that here and also occasionally in the summer a blast of hot wind from the south east presumably from North Africa. I remember one year, fine red dust being deposited all over Smilers terrace tables which locals said was desert sand from the Sahara sucked up, carried across the eastern Atlantic ocean and dumped on Carvoeiro!
Over the weekend of 14th and 15th. I took a look at Centianes Beach, it seemed sort of busy but no sign of the beach bar opening - plenty of work yet and I suspect it will be August before it opens. The beach is not what it was, I have to say, with large lumps of sandstone dotted about everywhere on the beach and in the sea making bathing less attractive. The Monday and Tuesday continued hot. As usual at this time of the year, I walk my dog at 7 am and about 10pm, as the middle of the day is too much for him and for me! I take him to a high piece of ground just above Carvoeiro and on this particular night with a balmy fragrant breeze and the surrounding villas below me lit up with people on the terraces enjoying their after dinner brandies and coffees I thought what a lovely place Carvoeiro is and I hope we don't spoil it.
Another Bank Holiday on the 19th, this time a religious one - Corpus Christi - now it was really hot again reaching 35º and over 40º in neighbouring Seville. We had been invited to go canoeing at Armaçao de Pêra. This was organised by Silves Cãmara, one of the most go ahead councils around and always supporting sporting and youth events. We arrived at the fishing beach at Armação at 9 am and it was already hot. Armação is a busy place in summer and a traditional Portuguese holiday resort. Beach soccer and volley balls nets had been erected on a section of the beach and the whole place looked ready to roll. The levante winds had left the sea too turbulent for sea canoeing as had been intended so we launched them on the lake just inland from the beach. About 30 of us took part and a great time was had by all. After the strenuous paddling it was time for relaxing on the beach and great fun in the rollers. A super, tasty and cheap sardine lunch on one of the beach bars and more swimming in the afternoon made for a perfect day.
On the Friday I was in Lisbon again, this time on business. Such an easy drive but with 41º in Lisbon it was a sticky place to be.
Saturday morning - a great day stated cloudy but the sun broke through just as the England rugby team scored their first try against Australia. With a Euro 50 bet on the match with my Aussie mate WOODY I was enthralled as England gave the Aussies a going over on their home soil. Without Sky Sports at home we had watched it from SULLYS BAR and took the opportunity to order a great English breakfast which was beautifully prepared by PAT. How she manages all those breakfasts in that tiny kitchen is a miracle. Full marks to her!!
That weekend Lagoa Council had organised a 3 day jazz festival at the open air amphitheatre at the fontes at Estombar. The fontes are natural springs just behind Estombar on the old Lagoa Portimão road that runs past Slide and Splash. It is a beautiful natural area that has been sympathetically restored and conserved by the council. There are fixed wooden picnic tables there and built in BBQ's where you can go and cook your own picnic. You can swim in the cool clear waters that come from the fonte and feed a large area just in front of the old water mill. It is lovely! The Council had organised a bar with drinks and snacks which was run by HOWARD and his capable staff from the ROCHA BRAVA CAFE. Very well done indeed. The music started at around 10 pm and about 600 people seated in the amphitheatre enjoyed a a 12 piece band called TORA TORA BIG BAND. Twelve musicians from 11 different countries, truly an international event and it was simply great. I am not particularly a jazz fan but do love live music and in that setting it was spectacular. All for Euro 5 a ticket! Super initiative by Lagoa council and hopefully an annual event.
On Sunday we enjoyed an invitation by our friends TONY and PAM da SILVA to baptise their new wooden 16 seater BBQ table with a fine barbecue of sardines, chicken, pork etc. Wine flowed as always and it was really enjoyable. It gave us a chance to see the how road works are taking shape on the new route into Portimao from the motorway which will make easy access to that side of the city.
During the following week I arranged to meet some friends for an early evening drink at the CARVOEIRO BAR. As always I was impressed with how well run the place is. As usual there was a backgammon game in progress and any backgammon fans visiting Carvoeiro can always be sure of getting a game early evening there.
We went next door to HAPPYS to eat and as is frequently said on the website this is a really popular and good friendly restaurant. Getting in there is always the problem but we went quite late so were ok.
On Saturday 29th I had to take my wife to Faro airport so that she could visit the UK for a few days. I had promised the children we would go straight to the beach and decided on GALÉ which is at the other end of that huge sand sweep from ARMAÇAÔ de PÊRA. Galé is very nice indeed, a lovely beach, great water sports available (at a price!) and newly renovated beach bars. We enjoyed a very reasonably priced lunch (grilled sardines with salad and boiled potatoes were Euro 5) and spent the afternoon swimming and relaxing.
Instead of returning home we went via BUBBLES BAR to see Tim Henman go through to the last 16 at Wimbledon. Barman Keith was on good form with some amazing new card tricks and it was nice to see this well run pool bar well supported. Do take a look if you are in that area - it's worth it for the card tricks alone!
On Sunday it was gardening and relaxing with a SKY news forecast of rain for Portugal!? It was difficult to imagine with the sun thundering down on me as I cleaned the pool. With my wife away feeding and entertaining the children was priority. Their last day at school before the summer break was on Monday 31st and we celebrated by having dinner at LANTERNA VELHA. FRANK was in attendance as usual and explained that whilst the early season had been not that good for business now things were hotting up. We had started quite early and sure enough at about 8.30 dozens of diners started arriving. Like most restaurants in Carvoeiro, Lanterna Velha is very kid friendly and a favourite with families. The 3 of us ate well, two with plaice meuniere, the other with calamares, with cover charge, wine, soft drinks, puddings, coffee at under Euro 20 a head I thought it was a good deal.
We finished the evening and the month by visiting the bar at PALM GARDENS where my old mate COLIN BURGESS, ex PINK CADILLACS and GOLD CADILLACS was appearing with his new trio apparently not called Cadillacs at all!. With Colin on guitar, saxophone and mouth harp (not all at the same time!), a Dutch male vocalist on acoustic rhythm guitar and an able Portuguese drummer, they turned out some good stuff, old standards mixed with some new but it was very poorly attended. I don't know where all the people are at Palm Gardens but they missed a good evening. PETE who is known to many around here from his days in Praia da Rocha is running the bar and I hope he gets a bit more support to make his efforts there worthwhile.
All for now see you end of July when things will really hot up!