A more conscious life

This month we meet Marga van Schendel (49) and Rob Derks (47) and ask them 12 questions about their move to the Algarve. In 2007 the Dutch couple swapped the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam for the quiet Portuguese countryside. Since 2011 they run a small-scale holiday farm near Santa Catarina, called Quinta Corcunda.

See original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine August 2015



What inspired you to move to the Algarve?

Marga & Rob: the enthusiastic stories of our neighbour. When we lived on our houseboat in the Netherlands, we had a neighbour who had lived in the Tavira area. Somehow, all the conversations we had with her ended up being about the Algarve. Her enthusiasm was contagious and we visited the region in the summer of 2007. We’d never been in Portugal before, but after one week of holiday we were sold and decided to move here; it just felt good.


When did you feel at home here?

Marga & Rob: that took a while. Although we made up our mind to move here really quick, settling in took a bit longer. We ran a Bed & Breakfast on our houseboat in Amsterdam and this was something we really wanted to continue in the Algarve. But we didn’t know anyone in Portugal and had to start a whole new life here. Because of the crisis in 2008, we couldn’t get a mortgage and it looked like we had to give up our dream of working with guests. Luckily, in 2011 we were able to start our holiday farm and things all fell into place.


Was it hard to get accustomed to the Portuguese lifestyle?

Marga & Rob: it was like a detox. We had to get used to the fact that things here aren’t always as efficient or effective as they are in Holland. Changing Marga’s driver’s licence from a Dutch into a Portuguese one, for example, took two years. When it finally arrived, her date of birth was incorrect… Some expats can’t get used to these conditions so they move back again.



How does your life differ now you live here?

Marga & Rob: we spend more time outside as the climate here is just great. Contrary to what you might think, our lives haven’t gotten quieter: running Quinta Corcunda keeps us busy from the early morning to late at night! It’s great though, we love the contact with the guests. We organise communal BBQs which are much appreciated and Rob occasionally climbs the mountains in the region with the more active guests. It’s nice to share the beautiful Portuguese nature with other people.


What is your favourite Algarve moment?

Marga & Rob: the mornings. We usually get up early and it feels like the whole countryside is still asleep. The temperature isn’t that high yet, so you can get a lot of work done. We also like the evenings; mostly we chat with our guests and have a beer or two at the centrally located outdoor table. It’s made of the old workbench of the previous owner. Originally it’s from France and was used as a place to store aging barrels of wine. Now, it’s been turned into Quinta Corcunda’s unofficial central meeting point.



What annoys you here?

Rob: the bad service you get in most Portuguese shops. We once bought a new oven, which turned out to be broken when we unpacked it. It took two months until they finally gave us a proper replacement.

Marga: I understand the frustration of youngsters who have studied at university and then have to work at the tills in a shop for €450 a month, I really do. But it would be so much nicer if they’d just serve you with a smile. Not only for the customers, a more positive attitude would also brighten up their own working day.


What do you miss most from home?

Marga & Rob: the amazing parties in Amsterdam, such as Queensday, the New Year’s Eve festivities and the Gay Pride canal parade. Those are giant social events with everyone dancing and having fun together.


Five words you’d use to describe the Algarve?

Marga & Rob: nature, affordable, authentic, beach and a simple but pure Portuguese cuisine.


What’s your favourite spot here?

Rob: can we say Quinta Corcunda? Seriously, we love this place; I’m always busy here, but my job is also my hobby. I like being outside, working in the garden and drinking beer with our guests.

Marga: in the high season I’m mostly at the quinta as well. My way of relaxing is riding the home trainer; I’ve just cycled along with a few sections of the Tour the France in our living room.



In what way does the Algarve inspire you?

Marga: moving here has completely changed and enriched my life. I’ve become way more conscious and creative since living in the Algarve: seeing all the flea markets full of old stuff inspires you to fix instead of replace. When you notice that people around you have to live on 450 euros a month, you get more economical as well and recycle whenever possible. In Holland, if something was broken, we’d buy a new version. We’ve even bought a new TV when our old one was still working perfectly, just because we fancied a bigger one.

Rob: I’ve become quite the handyman; you have to, because the nearest shop with building materials isn’t around the corner. When something was wrong with our house in Holland, I’d just call someone who’d come and fix it – here, I try and do it myself. We’ve recently bought a 30-years-old caravan. In Holland, people would take it to the trash, but we’ve lovingly restored it, and built a bathroom and shower next to it. Now, it’s our most recent accommodation.



How’s your Portuguese coming along?

Marga: I know enough to do the shopping as I took lessons for a month.

Rob: I didn’t take any lessons, but I learned it on the streets. I know the more technical terms, so together we make a good team.


Do you have a secret tip for our readers?

Rob: there’s a restaurant in the mountains near us in Bemparece, called Cantinho da Serra. The food is good and the family who runs it is extremely nice.

Marga: visit Alcoutim (pictured). The city makes for a great day trip and its location is very romantic, getting there over the mountain roads is half the fun. I also love the history of this town: when Spain and Portugal were at war, there were fights between cities everywhere along the border, apart from Alcoutim and its Spanish neighbour, Sanlúcar de Guadiana. Because they were so remote, they depended on each other to survive.


Pictures by Marijke Verschuren

See original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine August 2015

Posted in Algarve expat stories and tagged , .

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