Newsletter June 2004


by: Nigel Anteney Hoare

Following two weeks away from Carvoeiro visiting Brazil with our friends, and regular Carvoeiro visitors, from Norwich, England, Paul, Michelle and son Ryan, we were looking forward to getting back to "normal". A nine hour flight on Varig airline, to Lisbon (is there an award for worst, or at least most unusual in-flight catering?!) was followed by a hunt for lost luggage checked in at São Paulo airport 20 or so hours earlier and then a brisk run through the seemingly endless corridors of Lisbon airport to catch the Faro flight. This meant that we arrived at Faro in need of food and more importantly drink - strong drink! We had arranged a Faro pick up by GO EASY TRAVEL of Lagoa and, completely unfazed by our 9 hour delay, the driver was there to greet us with a minibus - great service. We had hoped to hit the LANTERNA VELHA for the all important fuel injection we needed but a quick mobile call just after 10pm told us that the kitchen had already closed. Can this mean Carvoeiro is not busy we thought? It was still the end of the Easter vacation so we had expected it to be reasonably lively.

Arriving in Carvoeiro the only place available was the new first floor Chinese restaurant nearest the square which, having turned off the lights as I walked in to check they were still open, quickly switched them on again most obligingly when they heard there were 7 of us and we were starving! Some swift G & T's restored our equilibrium although after 4 flights in 24 hours the room was spinning round without any help from the alcohol. A fine meal was delivered to us and promptly devoured - the staff ever polite with these very late visitors. This restaurant jumped several points in my Order of Merit as a result!

That weekend was spent getting organised and the weather was simply great. Our children flew back to the UK on Sunday with our friends who were to take them to their school near Ipswich and for us it was back to routine. Having left the Newsletter in the safe hands of KAREN, I wondered if anything noteworthy had happened. I was not to meet up with her until the last day of April having had a few drinks in SULLYS and a bite to eat, we stopped at THE HAVANA BAR where she and husband NICK were just leaving. Karen told me the Easter weekend had as usual been busy especially with the Spanish and visitors from Lisbon and the North however from what I could see the old place looked a bit on the quiet side.

The first weekend of May saw the arrival of grey clouds and some rain which was welcome for the gardens and to lay the dust. It has been a very dry winter from what I can recall. The lovely temperatures that had greeted our return from Brazil had disappeared and it turned cold and dismal. The burst of enthusiasm whereby sun beds etc had been got out of storage was, as often in previous years, premature and I was reminded of the old English saying "Don't cast a clout 'til May is out", always very apt here in the Algarve as it is only really from June onwards that we can guarantee good weather.

Until the weather finally broke on Saturday 8th with a beautiful clear bright sunny day it had been unseasonably cold and wet. Certainly a big change from the last week in March when it had been warm enough one evening to go to the square and sit outside PIU in short sleeves enjoying a post dinner "bica". I saw JAN ZEGER, the owner and we spoke about the revamp of the first floor. He told me they had changed the name from "Churrasqueira da Praia" to MARTINS GRILL simply because many people didn't understand what was up there! It certainly looks very attractive and several were enjoying a meal - another one to try and certainly a lovely spot overlooking the bay. We also spoke about the music in the square for the coming summer. Many will not know that the cost of that has in the past been supported by Jan and his businesses and quite rightly I thought, he is a little reluctant to continue shouldering that cost. I would have thought this was something that the Junta da Freguesia should take a look at as it is very popular.

Another name change I noticed as I was driving home through POÇO PARTIDO was that of Restaurant Poço Partido now known by the grand name of IMPERIO DO PALADOR. Must give that a try too in the interest of the website!

Wednesday 5th saw the long awaited 2nd leg between PORTO F.C. and DEPORTIVO LA CORUÑA. Porto played magnificently to become the first Portuguese football team to reach the final of the Champions League (the old European Cup) since they won it back in 1987. Very fitting with the European Championships being held here in June. I fancy them to win on 26th May in Germany.

On 6th we had enjoyed an early movie at Algarve Shopping and dropped into the LANTERNA VELHA for dinner. FRANK told me that business was picking up but rather slowly. It was certainly fairly quiet around town. Friday night I met up with BERT the painter and we dropped into the ROUND UP SALOON where there was plenty of action as usual. BIG WILL was pining for his apartment in Brazil and we swapped stories about the place. From there we went to ZECAS which was also doing brisk business. With his large screen it is a good bar to watch live sports and I made a mental note to consider that for the Champions League Final.

As I said the following day broke with clear skies. It was off to MESTRE MACO the do it yourself hardware warehouse in Lagoa. It seemed that the sunshine had enthused everybody as sales of garden and pool furniture, sun bed mattresses, pot plants and the like were brisk.

The fine weather never held though and continued mixed with grey skies, showers and the occasional spell of sunshine - not good for the early tourists especially those with young children. The week starting 10th May was particularly unsettled with showers and heavy thunder claps at times until the Friday when the sun broke through hot and strong.

The evenings were light until 9pm now and I longed for the weather to settle to be able to make the most of them. Local gossip told me that a huge haul of hashish had been recovered on a beach near Albandeira and a few arrests made. I missed this in the newspaper but this is a frequent event here with our relatively unguarded coastline an easy target for those bringing the stuff in from Morocco en route to northern Europe. It seems that those arrested were merely the "labourers" hauling the stuff up the cliff and the real culprits escaped albeit without their bounty.

As has been reported on the Forum, Carvoeiro's long standing - and indeed tallest standing - landmark, the tower crane in the square, suddenly disappeared making the place look a little tidier for summer. Friday evening we went off to Portimão Shopping Centre to see Brad Pitt take on a whole Greek army single handed in the movie TROY. Once again I was amazed to see that the movie premiered in Cannes at the film festival on the same evening it was first shown at Guia Shopping and Portimão. There you have it, the movie capitals of the world - Cannes, Guia, Portimão - nice ring to it! After the movie we went up the Monchique road and ate at O ROUXINOL just past the spa town of CALDAS DE MONCHIQUE. O Rouxinol (the nightingale) is a lovely old quinta type building, very attractive inside and with a nice outside terrace for lunchtime and warm evenings. The place is Scandinavian run, Danish I think, and the food is good and different. It is a good place to have a spot of lunch and then go on up to FOIA (for the hell of it!), have a tour round Caldas or even to see the OMEGA PARK, a vast wildlife park that has opened up there just south of Caldas.

The weekend of 15/16th turned out to be beautiful. The Portuguese Parliament in its wisdom and faced still with much economic crisis, terrorist concerns over Euro 2004 and all the other weighty matters of state has found time to bring in a law naming 7 breeds of dogs including Rottweilers, Pit Bull Terriers, Staffordshires etc as dangerous. These wild animals have to be micro chipped and transported in cages. If walked they have to be on a lead not longer than one metre and otherwise have to be muzzled. They also have to be insured for public liability. The Rottweiler Club of Portugal has protested, they have 40,000 registered dogs and recorded two incidents last year. I can sort of understand the law but it is not the breed but rather the owner that needs the legislation and sometimes muzzling! I have met little snappy poodles that will give you a right nip on the ankle!

Mustn't get too controversial in the Newsletter! So it was off to see CARLOS the vet at the Municipal vets in Lagoa by the Fatacil showground to get my own Rottweiler dog micro chipped. People have mixed views on Carlos but I have always found him pleasant and helpful. Perhaps because he too is a Rottweiler owner!? Anyway I got there at 9.15am to find they only open at 10. I exercised the animal on the large flat area where they hold the gipsy fairs. The dog loved it as that had recently been used by the circus and he was able to experience the delight of lion and camel "scents" for the first, and probably last, time! The microchip process was rapid and painless. The vet’s bill was topped up with various tablets to ward off all sorts of dog ailments for the coming summer and off we went home. If you see a man and a Rottweiler walking the streets over the coming months, both muzzled, you will know it is us!

The F1 Power boat race was held over that weekend and although I have been for the last 2 years, this year, with no children here to encourage my attendance, I gave it a miss. Last years race was rather processional but I understand this year was much better and with a few thrills and spills added in. They say 30,000 spectators enjoyed the fine weather to watch the race this year.

The weather stayed gloriously sunny all week until Thursday when mystery clouds welled up. Up early, over to LIDL at SILVES for some basic provisions and then to our local ALISUPER for other stuff. I am a great one for supporting local small supermarkets as much as possible as I believe they do a good service especially for the tourist. Even the small ones try their best by stocking familiar items for the foreigner.

Some friends had arrived earlier to stay at their place at ROCHA BRAVA so we fixed up to go to dinner with them on Saturday at A BORDO COM CARLOS, between BENAGIL and PRAIA DA MARINHA. I enjoyed it, especially the unusual Alentejo "vinho caseiro" (home made wine), but others felt it was a little too much "Hobson’s Choice" as loads of starters kept being brought out and there was a limited choice of main courses. As I say, I personally enjoyed it. The restaurant is well appointed, with courteous service from CARLOS and his staff, different and worth a try I think.

The Sunday morning started with a thick early morning mist which quickly burnt off with the strong sun breaking through. We decided to take a look at ARMAÇÃO DE PERA and were tempted to try the sardines at the beach restaurant by the fisherman’s beach, ESTRELA DA MAR. Delicious! First for us this year and juts 7 Euros for about 6 sardines, bread, olives, salad and small potatoes boiled in their skins. Some house wine to wash things down, coffees, a brandy and a bill for about 27 Euros for the three of us. Silves council make a big effort every year at Armação erecting plentiful volley ball and beach football courts on the sands and these were already in use by local boys and girls. A fabulous sunny day with the sea already tempting some hardy souls.

That week passed quickly as we were preparing for a trip to the UK to meet our children for half term. On Friday morning it was an early trip to the kennels run by the eternally youthful JAN COGHLAN at O CARAVANSERAI at Vale d'el Rei close to QUINTA DO ROSAL to deposit our dog and then off to Faro.

I look forward to returning in early June when the summer fun should really start!