Connecting with nature

This month we meet Maré Martínez and ask her 12 questions about her move to the Algarve. Originally from Spain, Maré moved to the south of Portugal seven years ago; she now lives in the hills near Santo Estêvão. When she isn’t enjoying the Algarve nature, she works in Kozii, a clothes shop in Tavira.

See the original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine February 2016


What inspired you to move to the Algarve?

Maré: the sea, no doubt about it. In Spain, I was living in the mountains and I’ve always wanted to move closer to the sea. Now, it only takes 25 minutes on my bike to get to the coast. Also, living in a foreign country is natural for me. Before I moved to Portugal, I’ve lived all over the place, in Europe, South Africa and the Caribbean. Why not the Algarve next?


When did you feel at home here?

Maré: I’ve always felt at home in the East Algarve, but it wasn’t until I found this house in the hills next to Santo Estêvão that I’ve also found a home. The first two years I was moving all around the East Algarve area, looking for a place to settle. It wasn’t only a question of finding a property; it was more about finding the right environment, with friendly people, neighbours and a village nearby.


Was it hard to get accustomed to the Portuguese lifestyle?

Maré: No, originally I’m from Seville, and the lifestyle in Southern Spain doesn’t differ much from the Algarve. If I can, I have lunch at 3pm instead of the usual 1pm here, but it mostly ends up being somewhere in-between. There are some differences though: the Spanish talk louder and the Portuguese can be very formal. However, once you make a connection, the Portuguese are very open to foreigners and very welcoming.


How does your life differ now you live here?

Maré: Here, I’ve found things I love, like the ria, the sea and the countryside. Because of this connection with the environment, I also connect to the local people. We share the same appreciation for nature and get the same vibrations. In autumn the water is still warm and I lie in the sea, watching the flamingos pass overhead towards the salinas. In high season, I swim to beaches that are still completely deserted, apart from some seagulls. I feel very lucky and grateful to live in an area that people pay a lot of money for to visit by airplane.

Although I have tap water and electricity, I live in a wild place, full of all kind of trees, plants and flowers, everything from wild thyme to aloe vera. Every morning when I wake up, I spend half an hour working in the garden. I make tea out of plants and have a little salad garden, which the snails love. Instead of buying firewood, I’ll go to the forest and collect my own; it’s a form of therapy. When I have a bad day, I hug the trees in my garden. Plants are very important to me; I love the freedom that nature brings me.


What is your favourite Algarve moment?

Maré: sunset. Any time of year. In the summer, I go swimming in the sea when the sun sets, in the winter, I put on all my clothes and go for a walk with my neighbours’ dogs.


What annoys you here?

Maré: the machismo mentality of some of the countryside men. They have no respect for women and therefore it’s very hard to communicate with them. They are the way they are, stuck in their ways, and who am I, a city girl, to expect them to change? From the other hand, I can, and will, ask for respect.


What do you miss most from Spain?

Maré: the only thing I miss is RNE3, a Spanish radio channel. It’s a government radio station from the ‘80s, with amazing jazz, blues and flamenco. Apart from music, it also is about art, culture and cinema. It has opinions, but no politics, and current situations around the world are explained in a clear way with references to history. I’ll buy an antenna radio this year, so I won’t have to miss it anymore.


Which 5 words would best describe the Algarve for you?

Maré: paradise, ‘sosiego’ (inner peace and quietness), biodiversity (both human and environmental), freedom and respect.


What’s your favourite spot?

Maré: Cacela Velha, it’s an amazing natural paradise. It’s important to realise that there are people working hard to preserve and save it. Unlike other nice spots, in Cacela Velha you can really be a part of the protection and preservation, by visiting a public gallery and buying a postcard to support ADRIP (Associação de Defesa, Reabilitação, Investigação e Promoção do Património Natural e Cultural de Cacela). Cacela Velha also holds four seasonal markets a year and whenever possible, I collaborate with the animation there in the form of circle dance for the whole family. I especially like the connection between people living on both sides of the Guardiana River who come together at those markets.


In what way does the Algarve inspire you?

Maré: It has inspired me to go back to the roots, live in harmony with nature and do things the old fashioned way. From one hand, the Algarve is an environment which needs a lot of help. People still throw trash on the streets and don’t sterilise their animals, for example. From the other hand, people here live traditionally and are very self-sufficient. You’ll still find old folks treating nature and themselves with respect. They recycle milk cartons into plant pots, out of necessity, not pretending to be hip. They’re just doing what they know and that inspires me to follow their ways. I try to live and interact with them; help my neighbour with teaching her kids, borrow materials to bake bread from another neighbour. The people around me are very important to me; I can’t live apart from the local community.


How’s your Portuguese coming along?

Maré: my friends say that my Portuguese is very funny. One day I’ll manage to properly study the grammar. Yes, Spanish is more similar to Portuguese than English, German or Dutch is, but sometimes that makes it even more confusing. The two languages are ‘falsos amigos’, false friends. A word like ‘tirar’ means ‘throw’ in Spanish and ‘take’ in Portuguese. In the beginning, this of course led to very confusing situations. Luckily the people are very nice and tried to speak Spanish, which was more like ‘Portuñol’.


Do you have a secret tip for our readers?

Maré: when living here, try and integrate with the local people and appreciate their traditional craftsmanship. The paradise is here. Let’s all help to maintain it, preserve it, and feel a part of it, for example by planting a tree or cleaning the beach. There are already organisations who do this, like Tavira em Trancisao. It’s all about finding yourself while integrating in the Algarve.



See the original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine February 2016

Posted in Algarve expat stories.

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