Newsletter January 2007

by: Karen Telling

Well, after months of nagging I finally gave in, and towards the end of November we left on our first holiday in 3 years, with all the animals entrusted to Jan’s capable hands at her kennels/cattery in Vale d’el Rei, we set off for Faro. We landed at Gatwick and had to make our way to Heathrow for an overnight stay, before continuing our journey the next morning. Although I should know better, I was still surprised at the marked difference between the Algarve and the UK, even though it was quite late at night when we arrived, the airport and the roads were still much busier than those we had left behind – and it was much colder too! We had a very relaxing holiday but it was still good to arrive back at Faro a few weeks later, pick up the animals - whose reactions ranged from delighted to see us, to complete indifference – and get back to normal!
When we left the weather was still quite showery and overcast, in fact the autumn rainfall was 180% of the average, and the wettest since 1931, but by the time we returned in mid December it was to warm, sunny days and colder evenings – at last real log burner weather! The good weather continued until the end of the month, with only one morning of cloud and rain just after Christmas, and although the weather is often good at this time of year, it is fairly unusual to have such a long spell of beautiful, sunny days. As the number of visitors arriving to spend Christmas and New Year in Carvoeiro gradually increased, there were plenty of people on the beaches and sitting outside the various bars and restaurants in the village. In the week before Christmas it was almost as difficult to get a parking space in Estrada do Farol as it is in the summer, and with some restaurants closed, those that were still open were very busy.

As I explained last month, the build-up to Christmas is much less frantic here, and it almost seems to ‘creep up’ on you – well on me anyway! The new Modelo supermarket, a smaller version of Continente at Algarve Shopping in Guia, opened on 13 December in Lagoa/Estômbar, next to Slide and Splash water park, and when we visited it on 22 December there were plenty of parking spaces, no fights over the last bag of sprouts, and no huge queues at the checkout – in fact it was just like any other day. I could just imagine what all the branches of Marks and Spencer, Tesco etc were like in the UK on the same day! Next to the new Modelo is a small branch of Worten, giving us yet more choice of shops nearby, much as I appreciate the wider variety of goods and (hopefully) more competitive prices we now have – I think there are now enough supermarkets in the local area, I wonder if the planners will agree?

On Christmas Eve, we had lunch at Galé beach, which was very busy with people sunbathing, fishing and surfing in the brilliant sunshine. Along with most of the rest of Europe this is the more important day for the Portuguese, and businesses start to close from around midday as families prepare for midnight mass, followed by the traditional meal of bacalhau and the opening of presents. In the evening, Carvoeiro was fairly quiet, with many bars and restaurants closed, but we met up with friends for a Christmas drink in Jailhouse. We were lucky enough to have Christmas lunch cooked for us by my brother-in-law and his girlfriend, and afterwards, we sat out on the terrace to open our presents in the sun! There is no Boxing Day here, so the 26th is a normal day – and if Christmas Day or New Year’s Day happens to fall on a weekend there is no ‘day off in lieu’ either – one of the few times in the year that Portugal has fewer bank holidays than the UK. The following week was fairly busy as we caught up with friends and family, my brother and his girlfriend arrived quite late on the 30th, just in time for a late dinner at Maximes. On New Year’s Eve, ten of us went to Cheers where Kurt and Monika provided a lovely buffet, and just before midnight they switched on the television to show ‘Dinner for One’. It’s bizarre, and I have no idea why, but this short, English language, black and white comedy sketch is a New Year tradition in Germany, and every year it is shown several times during the evening, yet it is virtually unknown in the UK! It was written in the 1920’s, but the version shown was filmed in the 60s starring Freddie Frinton and May Warden playing the parts of Miss Sophie and her butler James. There was a mixture of British and German guests in the bar, and everyone enjoyed watching it; most of the Germans could recite the sketch word for word, but for most of the Brits it was the first time they had seen it – an interesting culture swap! At midnight we went outside with our party poppers and glasses of champagne, and we could hear fireworks, if not see them. We stayed in Cheers until about 1.30, then walked up to Jailhouse to meet up with some friends there, finally staggering home about 4 am – the only problem was that we were hosting a bbq on New Years Day, so there wasn’t much chance of a lie-in to recover!

On a less happy note, earlier in the year there was a change in the law concerning the leasing of houses and apartments, and business premises. One aspect which wasn’t widely reported at the time, but may have a significant impact on many businesses, is the change to the ‘trespasse’ system, something that doesn’t really have an equivalent in the UK. The main difference between a trespasse and a normal lease is that when buying a trespasse, it lasts indefinitely, giving the tenant the right to sell the trespasse on at any time, and re-coup the initial investment paid to the freeholder. After paying for the trespasse, which can be a very substantial amount in the tens of thousands of euros depending on the size and location of the property, the tenant then pays a very low monthly rent, which only increases with the cost of inflation each year, whilst the freeholder is still responsible for the maintenance of the building. According to the government, the low monthly rentals mean that the freeholders have insufficient income or interest in maintaining their properties, leading to run-down buildings with peeling paint etc. Now, a trespasse will only be valid for 5 years, then the freeholder can re-negotiate the monthly rent, with unlimited increases, or even sell the trespasse to someone else without giving the existing tenant first refusal so the changes that have been made will make all existing trespasse leases virtually worthless. Yet another piece of legislation that seems to have been rushed through with little thought or discussion, which could have a huge impact on local businesses and tourism, perhaps the lessons of the offshore property legislation haven’t been learnt after all!

The last twelve months have flown by and I hope there have been some interesting or useful pieces of information in the newsletters, but for various reasons, this will be my last one for now. Thank you to everyone who as shown an interest, and for all the messages and e-mails over the past year and ‘bom ano novo a todos’.