Newsletter February 2013

Margarida Sampaio @

January is not my favourite month of the year thanks to feeling too fat from excesses at Christmas and New Year and far too poor after spending all hard earned money on getting so fat, but just because it is not the best time of year in Carvoeiro it doesn’t mean that nothing is going on.
For most of the month we were blessed in Carvoeiro with great weather making the long poverty stricken days a little easier – it costs nothing to sit in the sun after all! Unfortunately we had a spell of pretty bad weather during January that was a little more than reminiscent of the recent tornado that swept across the area.
Now it is hard to tell if the knocked over sign posts, fallen down billboards and destroyed trees are remnants from the tornado, results of recent high winds or simply looking shabby due to a lack of funds to put them right.

It has been pretty quiet in Carvoeiro over January and thanks to the cost of all the bars and restaurants having to buy new all singing all dancing tills, things seem to have been tougher than ever for local businesses.  The new tills are part of new legislation by the government to make sure that everyone is declaring everything that is going through the till – long gone are the days of the waiter writing the bill on the table cloth and passing over some euros – now we have facturas everywhere!
It turns out that despite these new tills costing a couple of thousand euros each they don’t actually sing or dance and they mainly spew out reams of unwanted paper that you then gather in your handbag – I have been using mine to keep the home fires burning of an evening.
If you haven’t been in Portugal since the start of the year then don’t be surprised that the next time you buy anything – from a coffee to a car and everything else in between – that you asked if you want a facture.  Unfortunately the Portuguese government will not be letting you actually use these facturas to get any money off your tax bill is 99% of the cases and my accountant has assured me that bottles of Cristal do not count as a tax deductible product, even if I do have a factura for it.

The new till system as well as the hikes in taxes for restaurants and bars has meant that 2013 will see many of the favourite businesses in Carvoeiro close their doors for a final time.
Already we have seen Tim from Up the Pub in Monte Carvoeiro close up and leave, while the Irish Times stands empty and ready for rent and if rumours on the grapevine are to be believed even the Jailhouse will not be opening this summer.
Granted, there probably were too many pubs, bars and restaurants in Carvoeiro but it is never good to hear of so many people going out of business while those that remain open struggle to make the bills.
I would like to wish Graham and the team at Irish Times the best of luck in what they do in the future and the same to Tim and team at Up The Pub and to Dave and Karen at the Jailhouse.  I personally have some very fond memories (some of them a little hazy) of all the different places, from fun darts nights and fresh sausage rolls in Irish Times to following Graham along the street in a St Patrick’s Day procession.
Thanks to Tim for his never ending supply of Cristal and funny stories and to Dave and Karen for their years of service to Carvoeiro – the town will not be the same place without the nightly presence of Bobby Stardust!
This is a difficult time of year for all businesses in Carvoeiro traditionally but it seems that the government has only gone and made a bad situation worse – I told you I didn’t like January!

Luckily we are now into February and this is always a time of year when people start to feel a little more optimistic about the year.  As the almond blossom starts to appear on the sides of the roads the days get longer and warmer and there is a generally positive feel around the place.
After the entire region pretty much hibernating for January it is good to see that this month there are plenty of events going on to keep us all busy and more importantly to make the Algarve look a little more appealing to anyone considering a holiday here at this time of year.
If the words “mega” and “fun” in the same sentence don’t fill you with horror then you are either a very developed reader of six years old or are looking for some way to offload over excited children and the first weekend in February will see the Mega Fun Days held at the Portimão Arena (the slug) fulfilling this need.
This is the first time this event has been held in Portimão and promises to be the largest of its kind in Portugal and will see bouncy castles, human table football, bungee trampolines and a whole host of other bright and bouncy forms of entertainment for children between the ages of two and 16.
Entry to the park for the day cost €6 a day for children and €9 for a two day ticket with both available to buy at the venue which will be open daily from 10am until 7pm.
If you are brave enough to enter into the arena and can handle the smell of fresh plastic mixed with the screams of hundreds of children then this is the event for you – if not, then make sure you avoid the area at all costs over this weekend.

If you are more interested in watching some top class sport this month then you are in luck – especially as the events on offer are free to watch – perfect for the New Year budget!
Firstly, teams from England, Portugal, Holland and Germany will be coming to the Algarve to play in the international under 17s competition.  This is a great chance to see some of the international stars of the future at these free matches with some even being held locally at the new Bela Vista stadium in Parchal (easy to find if you drive through Parchal from Lagoa and when you get to the roundabout where Angel Pilot is, the stadium is on the other side of the road – you can’t miss it: big, grey and slightly reminiscent of Eastern Germany circa 1950).
If you are interested in attending any of the matches then the full schedule of games is as follows: February 8, 3pm Portugal v Holland at the Parque Desportivo da Nora (Ferreiras, Albufeira) and England v Holland at the Estádio Municipal de Lagos.  Then on February 10, 3pm it is Portugal v England at the Estádio Municipal da Bela Vista (Parchal) and Germany v Holland at the Estádio Municipal de Lagos.  The final day of games is on February 12 with Holland v England at the Estádio Municipal de Lagos (12pm) and finally Portugal v Germany at the Estádio Municipal da Bela Vista (3pm).
The other big event coming to the Algarve this month is the Volta ao Algarve cycle race (our version of the Tour de France sort of).  There had been massive speculation as to if this event would even take place this year due to unpaid debts of the organisers to lots of people including the GNR, however they have managed to sort everything out and the race is confirmed to be taking place across the region between February 14 and 17.
Some big names in the world of cycling have been confirmed as taking part in the race this year including Cavendish and Froome from the UK and Martins from Germany and this should be a really great race to watch – especially the time trials which are a day out in itself.
Full details and maps of the race were still not available at the start of the month but it has been confirmed that the first stage on February 14 will be taking place over 198.8km between faro and Albufeira with the second stage being in the local Carvoeiro area and starting and finishing in Lagoa on February 15 over 195km.  On February 16 the third stage will be raced between Portimão and Alto do Malhão (Loulé) over 193km with the final stage being a time trial and held between Castro Marim and Tavira over 34.2km.

Exactly what will be happening in Carvoeiro for Carnival is still up in the air with all I can confirm being that there will be a procession from the local school children on February 8 at around 10.30am.  The children from the local crèche, pre-school and the primary school will all dress up and walk about throwing bits of paper at people, however as for main Carnival celebrations what is happening in Carvoeiro is unknown.
What is certain is that there will be a parade from the children of the local school in Ferragudo on February 9 from 3pm and then there will be a larger procession in Lagoa on February 10 from 3pm from next to the auditorium and final there will be another parade on February 12 at Mex. Carregação from 3pm from the Urb Fazenda Grande.
There are of course massive celebrations taking place in Loulé for carnival again this year with the theme of the carnival being Troika and entry to the parade area costing €2 per person – but well worth it if you want to see the amazing floats and the professional dancers – as well as the lovely ladies in their VERY skimpy outfits shaking a tail feather along the street!

Back in Carvoeiro the most exciting thing that has been really happening in the last month has been the building of a couple of very strange roundabouts between Carvoeiro and Lagoa to accommodate the rush of traffic that will be using the soon to open Aldi supermarket in this area.
The supermarket itself is almost ready for the food to be stacked onto the shelves and the two new roundabouts are causing quiet havoc, especially at night and in the fog where the lack of lighting, white lines and directions make this an interesting addition to any route.
Luckily, there is very little traffic on the roads at this time of year, I guess we will have to wait and see how it goes in the summer –you have been warned!

I am sorry if there has been lots of doom and gloom in this edition, it really isn’t all bad here and at least we don’t have snow!  I am off to dig out a costume for Carnival  - I will do a one woman parade if there is nobody else willing to join me – although you can always be sure of a man dressed as a baby, another as a woman and a biker with a dog strapped to the back…ahh, the Algarve!