Happiness is never far below the surface here

Expat Paul Rees (58) is originally from Britain. Having considered the Algarve his second home since the 1980s, he moved to the south of Portugal in 2003 and now lives in Olhão with Janet. Paul is the owner of community-based news and information site algarvedailynews.com.

Pictures by Jeff from Pension Bicuar, Olhão

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

What inspired you to move to the Algarve?

Paul: Janet and I followed the time-honoured excuse of ‘looking after an aging parent’, namely my father Donald, who retired here in 1983 and was widowed in 2002. We had always thought we’d move from the UK one future day and then rather suddenly we were on the road to Portugal in 2003.


When did you feel at home here?

Paul: The Algarve has been my second home since the early ’80s. Christmas and holidays frequently drew our large family together to celebrate here with our parents. Planning the annual trip always started with a buzz of excitement and ended with memories of pleasurable times.

I found refuge in the Algarve for a couple of years in the ’80s. From time to time I worked alongside my brother and his Portuguese workers in his landscaping business where exercise and fresh air soothed the soul. By great chance, this allowed me to be part of the end of an era in Algarve life when carts were plentiful but paved roads were few, when telephones took years to be installed, when water was sourced from a well or delivered by donkey, and shops were small and family run as shopping centres had not been built. It has been great to see living standards improve, but sometimes saddening to see many of the old ways gone forever.

Perhaps surprisingly, I have lived and worked in England, Scotland and Wales, and loved my time in each, but too often I remember Britain as grey and cold with folks scurrying to the shelter of home. After life in this great, outdoor environment, going back north would feel like going backwards.


Was it hard to get accustomed to the Portuguese lifestyle?

Paul: The tourist board image is of everyone in the Algarve being laid-back, spending their time sipping cocktails as the sun sets over a beautiful beach, and then there’s the reality for the majority of Algarve locals who struggle with low wages, long summertime hours and little work in the quiet season.

There are many different lifestyles here, but despite wildly different income levels, the lifestyle for Algarvians remains enviable: family-centered, slightly mysterious and often involving unidentifiable things covered in cinnamon and sugar.


How does your life differ now you live here?

Paul: A healthy Mediterranean diet surrounds us, especially living in Olhão where we are blessed with its twin markets. I rather foolishly gave up alcohol when we moved here as the Portuguese wines are especially good, so I’m reliably informed, and having Bailey the Flying Dog by my side means I get out in all weathers on regular walks.

I used to commute to work, but that regimentation is mercifully long gone. Now, Janet and I spend our time working during the day or the evening on the algarvedailynews website, which gives us some flexibility to enjoy social events and fun days out, yet still keep people up to date with news and events.


What is your favourite Algarve moment?

Paul: It has yet to happen! It’ll be either when the oil companies’ threat to the Algarve has gone and the exploration and drilling contracts torn up, or when the Ria Formosa islanders can live in peace, untroubled by the peril of seeing their homes bulldozed by the state. Hopefully, both will happen soon and the Algarve can get back to simply being the Algarve.

A recent great moment was Portugal’s victory in the 2016 European Football Championship. Our home town of Olhão kicked into party mode, as did the rest of the country, and the impromptu local street party was exceptional. Happiness is never far below the surface in the Algarve, but mixed with football – anything could happen.

What annoys you here?

Paul: Portugal is a democracy, yet people rarely appreciate the power that the 1974 revolution entailed. The recent anti-oil activism in the Algarve has shown what can be achieved when people join together and say ‘no.’

Readers of algarvedailynews will know that I’m against corruption and am deeply troubled by injustice and unfairness. The abuse of power at any level in society always denies everyday people their rights and lessens their prospects. As the saying goes, eternal vigilance is the price of liberty and authority should always be questioned.


What do you miss most from the UK?

Paul: Nothing at all. Occasionally I have a twinge of nostalgia when seeing a picture of the beautiful English countryside, but then I remember the relative rainfall statistics and any feeling of saudade is soon eased.


Which 5 words would best describe the Algarve for you?

Paul: Calm, independence, freedom, blue space and heat.


What’s your favourite spot?

Paul: On a boat in the Ria Formosa lagoon looking back on the Algarve coastline. Anyone claiming the Algarve to be overdeveloped should try this from any spot off the coast and see the amount of green space we have, especially when compared to the concrete cities along the Spanish costas.

For my birthday this summer we were taken by João Sabino on his tour boat for a sunset trip to the Ria Formosa’s Isla Deserta. This was just about as perfect as you can get: warm sand, cold drinks, good friends and plenty of laughter.


In what way does the Algarve inspire you?

Paul: Sunlight and warmth always make me feel positive and happy. Then there’s the enduring privilege of being made welcome living in this country while feeling free and independent.


How’s your Portuguese coming along?

Paul: I translate from Portuguese to English for several hours a day, so my comprehension of Portuguese is good. I can certainly read a newspaper and understand what’s going on. Speaking Portuguese will never be easy, but I ramble on with scant regard to verb endings and still seem to get stuff done, despite a memorable misunderstanding involving replacement batteries…


Do you have a secret tip for our readers?

Paul: I won’t presume to offer advice, but maybe just some encouragement to get involved in as many aspects of the local social life as possible, be it helping at a charity shop or simply joining a walking group or art class. The wider you cast you net, the more fun you’ll have.

Another tip when stuck with officialdom or obstinate service providers, is to ask: “What would you do in my position?”



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

Posted in Algarve expat stories.