Newsletter September 2003


by: Nigel Anteney Hoare

This Newsletter was delayed due to a two week visit to the UK on 24th August which turned into a three week absence due to a family bereavement. Anyway on the basis that something is better than nothing here is what was already prepared. The next Newsletter will cover the second half of September to the end of October.

August started as July finished with the heat wave continuing. I remember that the first weekend was as hot as I can remember in the Algarve. Woodland fires broke out in central Portugal with rumours that they had been started deliberately. As usual the bombeiros were doing a marvellous job in trying to contain them with a shortage of equipment but regrettably some lives were lost.

On Wednesday 6th I was lucky enough to be invited to the Vale do Lobo Grand Champions Tennis Tournament - an invited veterans event which is part of the Delta Airlines sponsored ATP Senior Tour of Champions.

Grand Champions Tennis

I took my son and he was thrilled to see some of the great tennis names of a few years ago - John McEnroe, Mats Wilander, Jeremy Bates, Michael Stich and Henri Leconte amongst them. The event was very well organised and the tennis was splendid. It is good to see this sort of event being put on here and I am sure it is beneficial to the Algarve as the event was televised with wide coverage throughout the world. With the first game between Jeremy Bates and Emilio Sanchez starting at 5pm the heat was intense and the two players visibly struggled with it. Bates ran out an easy winner and as the sun dropped the heat became more bearable. We stayed to see the last match between McEnroe and Andres Gomez, being entertained by one of McEnroes famous tantrums! My son was delighted as he got autographs from each player and his photo taken with SuperBrat. Spot the brat!

John and Sam

The nights were very hot making sleep difficult to come by. The night of 7th August was especially hot and everywhere people were outside their houses until late at night trying to get some respite. The heatwave had pushed up the temperature of the usually cold sea to over 26º which is the warmest anybody I spoke to could remember it.

On the 8th I had a bonus by calling in to KISS FM radio station with the correct answer to a simple question and winning a prize of - 2 tickets for the final of the Vale do Lobo tennis!! Off we went again, this time the whole family, as I had managed to buy 2 more tickets. The final was disappointing with Michael Stich easily beating a jaded McEnroe. Good atmosphere though and great to watch these famous players.

My niece Julia, her husband, children and other family members were staying at ROCHA BRAVA on holiday so on 9th we all met up and went to A LANTERNA. The Lanterna is good in August as you can nearly always get a table, or only have a short wait for one. As always staff so friendly and food excellent - great value.

News spread about fires raging in the Aljezur area of western Algarve and as we watched it became obvious this was a serious one and out of control. People were being evacuated and the bombeiros struggling to cope. On the night of 12th and 13th the fires started to rage around Monchique and Silves and again the way they were springing up suggested arson. Having to fight so much fire on so many fronts was not easy for the bombeiros and they had to be selective as to what they let burn and what they saved. This topic has been well covered on the website so it does not serve to go into detail but it was very frightening for those living in that area. Here in Carvoeiro we had a very strong smell of a smoke and then the ashes and cinders stated dropping borne by the heat high into the air and carried on the wind to cover everything with a fine grey ash and the odd blackened eucalyptus leaf.

Smoke over the valley 13th August 2003

Early on the morning of the 13th as I walked my dog, the smoke smell was noticeably less but the horizon toward Silves was completely grey with the hills shrouded in smoke and the rising sun taking on a strange brown colour. It was hot and very still. That evening the waning moon was an odd reddish brown with the effect of the smoke and the following morning the sun was a bright orange ball with a large halo all around again from the effect of the smoke still hanging in the air.

In Lagoa late afternoon it was like winter with a leaden sky filled with smoke Fires were still breaking out, this time towards Falacho. How the bombeiros could keep going night and day I can't imagine. Word spread that day that the fire had "jumped" the river at Silves and was burning towards Estombar. Fortunately the bombeiros controlled it.

Smoke over Lagoa 14th August 2003

On 14th a work colleague arrived from Gibraltar and again we dined at the Lanterna. Later we visited a couple of bars and with the town absolutely packed with holiday makers they were all doing a brisk trade.

The following evening with my niece and family again, 11 of us drove over to Silves to eat chicken piri piri at RESTAURANT KAZY near the river. On the way over we could clearly see the fires still raging to the west of Silves. Back to Carvoeiro and we called in at MUNGOS and the ROUND UP which were both in full swing.

Saturday 16th brought the start of the Premiership football in UK and all the various bars in town had signs out attracting customers to the games being shown. I had a twinge of remorse when I saw the list of games and my beloved West Ham no longer there!

The prime minister, Durão Barroso, had come from Lisbon to the Algarve to see for himself the immense damage caused by the fires. They say that one third of the Algarve has been burnt and at the time of writing I hear officially that 5% of Portugal has been destroyed!

The weekend of 16th/17th brought more tennis as my company sponsors a veterans tournament at CARVOEIRO CLUBE DE TENNIS which is up towards Sesmarias. We have been doing this for 9 years now and it attracts entries from all over the country and beyond. Carvoeiro Tennis Club is such a good facility, apart from the tennis there is a gym, aerobics, dance classes, table tennis, snooker in fact so much going on. The owner Ronald and his wife Elke are always organising some event or other and the social side of the club is fantastic. Well worth a look if you are here. On 16th they organised a barbecue, 10 Euros only and more grilled food than you could wish for. Bit of a late finish though and just a touch too much wine(!) left me a bit weak on Sunday. I managed to drag myself back up to the club at 10 a.m. to watch the men's over 55 singles final and the ladies over 35 singles. Very hot still but with a nice cool breeze.

Our friends Gerry and Martin were over from the Isle of Man staying at their holiday home close to the ROMA RESTAURANT on the Poço Partido - Benagil road. We went to their lovely converted old house for drinks and then to O CANTINHO for dinner. I know I mention some restaurants all the time but everyone tends to patronise their favourites and I am not a roving restaurant reviewer although perhaps the WebMaster could think of financially supporting me in such a worthy cause! O Cantinho continues to give excellent value for money. With work beckoning the next day it was a quick nightcap in FLIC FLAC BAR and an early-ish night. I like Flic Flac - a proper "bar" in my opinion.

Monday morning was like my head, fortunately, - bright and clear. It was considerably cooler and I noticed that the mornings were darker when I get up to walk the dog. The nights were now much much cooler and the air conditioning could have a rest.

When I woke on 22nd I looked out and said to myself "It's happened!" That inevitable turn towards Autumn which we always get in the second half of August. The parked cars had wet roofs catching out those with sun roofs left open and soft tops down, there was dew on the grass and a general lean toward the "season of mists and mellow fruitfulness". I walked the dog and breathed in that clear fresh, pure Algarve air and thought that's it, I have nearly survived another summer, this one including earthquake and fire!

Early evening my colleague Howard arrived from Spain to stay a day or so and generously took us to PRIMAVERA. An excellent meal and some fine wine to go with it. I rate this as a very good restaurant. As we left to take a nightcap down the hill the evening air was cool and damp and those hot nights seem gone for another year.

The 24th saw us jetting off to the UK for a mixture of holiday, visiting relatives and depositing our two children at their new boarding school! The weather in the UK was simply splendid but as usual we found eating and drinking quite expensive on the whole. The other thing is the lack of access to reasonably priced water. Here you can buy mineral water very cheaply for home use or simply pop in any pastelaria to down a quick ?agua? if the heat has got to you. In the UK you must expect to pay plenty for the same privilege and with temperatures soaring we found this a big disadvantage.

Smoke over Lagoa 14th August 2003

On our return on 14th September I was surprised by how hot is still was, especially at night and shocked by the fact that the forest fires had erupted, apparently deliberately, again. It is said that 90% of the Monchique council area has been burnt. The death toll reached 19 with the macabre discovery of burnt remains of some yet to be identified individual. Some authority has to learn lessons from this year before something even more serious occurs.

See you at the end of October.