Newsletter March 2008

by: Carol Carpenter

A great start to February with us celebrating the opening of Escondidinho restaurant at Praia Grande. Every year Rui re-opens on his birthday 3rd February and with his wife Diane supplies all the food and sangria - completely free of charge! There is always a choice of Chicken curry, Chilli, or Hot pot. The restaurant is always full on this day and everyone has great fun. It was a pity about the weather though, wet and blowing a gale, in comparison to last year, which was very hot with everyone sitting outside on the terrace or the beach having lunch. Nevertheless we all had a great time although, just as we were leaving we saw Rui bringing out fresh crab, but Roy had already managed to eat two helpings of lunch, plus birthday cake and I am on a strict diet (for health reasons) so we declined the offer, so hopefully it will be on the menu next year?

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I mentioned the Almond blossom in my last letter announcing the arrival of spring, so I have included a picture of some Almond trees making a fantastic display. I am not sure whether you all know the tale of the Almond tree, a tale that dates back to the time of the moors, a tale of a flower that once took a Nordic princess heart – here it is.

Once upon a time, when the Algarve or Al-Gharb as it was known when it was still dominated by the Moors, there lived a king who fell in love with a Nordic princess called Gilda. After conquering her Father’s land the Moorish king conquered Princess Gilda’s heart and took her hand in marriage. But during the marriage he noticed his wife was very sad. Unsettled by his wife’s sadness he called all the physicians in the world to find the reason for her sadness, yet none of them came with an answer. One day a Nordic doctor found the answer to the king’s troubles; quite simply Gilda missed the whiteness of the snow-filled countryside of her motherland. Hearing this, the king planted thousands of Almond trees throughout the region so that, when they flowered, they would cover the Algarve in a sheet of white, reminding the princess of her snow covered home and thus giving her back her happiness. Ahh!!! That’s one of the things I miss about the U.K all the different shades of green in summer and the vibrant colours that the trees bring in the Autumn.

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Carnaval (always spelt this way over here) started on Saturday 2nd February at 3pm. The Algarve comes alive at this time of year with every City, town and village putting on a fantastic display. Every year people put a lot of time and effort into this event. Last year I choose Carvoeiro, but this year I decided that it would be Loule, purely because I didn’t want to repeat last year’s newsletter showing you all the same floats. According to a lot of people I have since spoken too, I didn’t miss anything as it consisted of only four floats. I think a discussion with the Freguesia (parish council) regarding the lack of interest in Christmas decorations and the Carnival parade would be a good idea. I’ll have a word with some Portuguese friends and find out the best way to tackle this.

Loule Carnaval is actually my favourite and is so colourful. It starts with the Childrens Carnival of Loule, where students from both private and public schools parade throughout the Jose da Costa Mealha Avenue. Pre and primary school children show off their outfits, which are made during school hours, and Loule Council subsidises several schools for the costs of materials and the snacks provided. The Children’s Carnaval has been around for a long time in the Loule school community and provides the Carnaval spirit the council is so proud of. Unfortunately, due to an important bowls match, we missed this parade, but we did attend the Mardi Gras on Tuesday. This is the adult’s procession and luckily I managed to get some photos of children in costume, whilst Roy was busily taking photos of all the different floats. There was one particular float that he really enjoyed watching, it was the float where all the women were painted from head to toe in gold, or silver resembling leotards, it was extremely well done but they must have been freezing. They paraded around this route at least three times whilst throwing streamers and sweets to all the spectators. It is really good fun and comes very close to the Carnival’s in Brazil although not quite as elaborate.

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Keeping you updated on Carvoeiro I can now confirm that Tom Singelo has definitely closed. The restaurant next door, called Catz Pyjamas, had a sign outside saying “Under new management” so I popped in to have a look, but the owner assured me that he is only renovating but Tom Singelo had closed. O Patio is being completely gutted but after speaking with the owner is still under the same management. There is a new Florist shop, which is called Catinho da Graca situated up the hill just passed the Post Office, looks impressive, I missed St Valentines displays but managed to take photos of some really lovely bouquets and arrangements. This shop belongs to the owner of the Lingerie shop, which is next door.

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JotoLita Restaurant caught fire due to a credit-card machine over-heating- it’s in a sorry state and all the family including the children were clearing up the mess on Friday when I passed by. Aladdins boutique has been refurbished and they have extended into the shop next door which belonged to them anyway and sold mainly shoes and handbags. They have made good use of the space but unfortunately I was not allowed to take photos- the assistant preferring me to come back when the owners were around. The pavements leading up to Mungo’s bar are fenced off, probably re- laying the calcadas like last year. I can’t see much change in anything else, everything is much the same, I have not tried the Cattleman Restaurant yet but I have heard from friends that it is very good, The Cattleman’s Mixed Platter, a mixed steak variation served with an assortment of side orders, according to friends is extremely good.

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We had a great Valentines Day and Night this year. During the day we had bowls match and we were told to wear something red for the match. Everyone turned up wearing hearts, flowers, Red under-wear and hats. Of-course being Valentines day we had to play with our other halfs, which as you know is not the best idea, as most of us argued, but it was good fun. After the match Connie who runs the club put on a really fantastic buffet and there were prizes for the winners. We won the bobby prize for the lowest score, but who cares anyway.
In the evening we were invited to a Masked Ball, which was held at Silves old Cine Theatre. Friends of ours who belong to an Amateur Dramatic Society have clubbed together and bought the Old Theatre. Restoring it will take a lot of time and money but eventually they hope to return it to its former glory. The bar has already opened and you can become a member for a small fee. All proceeds from Valentines Night will be ploughed back into restoring this Theatre. It was a really good evening with a superb buffet. Masks were compulsory and if you arrived without one you could buy one at the door. There was a prize for the best masks and I have included photos of the winners.

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In Carvoeiro apparently the restaurants were quite full. I spoke to Mark and Jan from Ma–Jar’s and they had a Valentine quiz night, restaurant Ele e Ela were full and one of my favourite’s L’Orange on the road to Sesmaries was also full. The Anteak Bar in Carvoeiro held a Valentines Night for Singles, Divorced and the Dysfunctional ??!!
The Irish Society held a “Putting for Fun Event” at Balaia Golf Village in Albufeira. It was very successful and everyone enjoyed the day. After the putting a superb buffet lunch was provided by the club. The next event will be The St. Patrick’s Night Celebration on Saturday 15th March. This is held at Vila Petra Hotel in Albufeira, there are still a few tickets left, priced at 47.50 for a superb buffet and a free bar from 1900 until 2am. Entertainment will be provided by local favourites Klonakilty together with Marc Damon and the Kiss FM Disco and the local Irish Dance Team. Anyone who is interested should ring Marie Heley on 00351 – 282352530. It’s a really brilliant evening so hope to see you there.

We have just returned from a visit to Madeira an absolutely stunning island and will tell you about that with some photos in the next newsletter.