We packed up our belongings and drove 3 hours south to the Algarve region of Portugal. Many people say, including us in the past, that the Algarve is NOT real Portugal. Instead this area has been called, "little Britain," for the large number of people from the United Kingdom that call it home. Many of the Portuguese in this region speak English, at least those that work in the tourist industry. But unlike the Silver Coast area, in the Central Region of the country, where we lived for the past two years, here we are warm! Strangely enough, the expats that we have met so far here speak American or Canadian English without a British accent. There are also people from other European countries that speak English as a second language.
Entry into our subdivision
The Algarve is to Portugal as Florida is to the rest of the US. If this is not real Portugal then Florida is not real America. Because of the hot summers and miles of white, sandy beaches, the Algarve is packed with tourists most summers. Of course this summer is the exception due to Covid 19. There are still tourists here but all that we have encountered are Portuguese from up north. Some have holiday homes here while others are just renting a place for a family vacation. And since we live in the upscale community of Vilamoura, the tourists here are young families with children, some with grandparents in tow. None have been the noisy or rowdy party type, just people enjoying some family time, fun in the sun and relaxation.
The Algarve is unbelievably a totally different world from the rest of Portugal. Lined with palm trees, people dressed in shorts, summer dresses and swim suits galore, we are experiencing full on summertime. I had NOT wore any of my summer clothes since we moved here two years ago. Back in our old neighbourhood near Caldas da Rainha, we rarely took off our sweatshirts. In fact the house we rented there was so cold that we were still using heat and running our pellet burner into July until the day we moved. Cool, cloudy days were the norm with temperatures barely hitting 70 on a good day. Humidity was high which made it feel even cooler. Night time temperatures dropped into the 60's and we would snuggle under a quilt every night in bed.
Here we leave the sliding glass doors open most of the time to enjoy the sea breezes cooling off the condo. The air is much drier here so even though temperatures plummet into the 60's overnight, we are still warm and comfortable.
When we decided to make this move we had no idea where in the Algarve we wanted to live. But after visiting with friends in Albufeira we decided we wanted to find a place somewhere in the central Algarve. Being central would allow us to easily access the best of both worlds on either side of the region. An International Airport in Faro is a mere 20-minute drive from our home, for the day when we can travel once again. The border into Spain is just an hour or two drive from here with the beautiful city of Seville just a few hours away.
Just like our first rental house on the Silver Coast that seemed to find us, this condo also did the same. Since Clyde and I both used to be morbidly obese, lost a great deal of weight and have made daily exercise and a healthy diet part of our lives, we could not have stumbled upon a better location to call home.
The area of Vilamoura sits within the community of Quarteria on Portugal's southern coast. It makes up one of the largest single tourist complexes in Europe, covering nearly 5,000 acres of land. The resort was built around a small harbour in between sandy beaches, and close to the Roman ruins of Serro de Vila. In Roman times the area was important because it produced a fish paste called, "garum." Back in the day the fisherman would bathe in the Roman baths nearby. The resort was founded by Portuguese banker Cupertino de Miranda in 1966. The Vilamoura marina is the largest in Portugal with enough berths to hold 1000 vessels. The resort has two beaches, five golf courses, lawn bowling, a sports complex, shooting club, tennis club, riding school, and casino with glamorous nightly shows.
Besides all of that Vilamoura has miles of perfectly manicured paths for walking, running or cycling and all are right on our doorstep. When quarantine began back in March we did walk near our home on the Silver Coast for an hour or more each day. Walks there were hilly and often out in the road, but did offer us some spectacular scenery. Here we are much safer on specially designed walkways, lined with flowers and shrubs, complete with drinking fountains and exercise stations along the way. Here our scenery is hard-bodied, tan, muscled men jogging by or scantily clad females. Yes, it's a tough price to pay but makes our walks a bit more enjoyable.
And the best part is that we have been warm since we arrived here two weeks ago! From what we have been told next month life will return to normal here as the tourists leave and all will become quiet. Our small condo complex has 14 units and only four are occupied full time. There is a small Spar grocery store just a five minute walk from our condo along with a handful of restaurants and a bakery too. Nearby is a large array of shopping including mega-malls, grocery stores, clinics, hospitals and gyms. Thus far we have been lifting weights and exercising at home, but will eventually join a gym when we feel safe again.
We have attended a few small, expat mixers in Albufeira. They are held outside with social distancing in place, so we do feel safe there. Portugal has handled the virus well and people seem to observe the mandatory use of masks and hand sanitizer everywhere we go. The country has been shut off to tourists from most countries and those that are allowed must show a negative Covid test upon arrival. Special surgical masks are required when entering clinics and medical offices to ensure safety of everyone there. Before leaving the Silver Coast I saw my allergy doctor one last time. She wore a special mask with visor and when she came over to examine me she covered her entire body with a plastic gown and gloves that went up the length of each arm.
So life is good in our new home and new area of Portugal. We look forward to getting out to explore more once the tourists are gone and we can discover some treasures of this region.....along the gringo trail.