More space to be creative

This month we meet Miep (62) and Peter (67) Hollinga and ask them 12 questions about their move to the Algarve. Originally from Holland, Miep and Peter moved to the south of Portugal 16 years ago and now live close to Fuseta, where they own a caravan storage. Their son Frank (21) currently studies in Belgium. Miep’s passion is gardening, while Peter spends most of his time making creations out of stained glass and metal in his workshop.

See original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine March 2016

What inspired you to move to the Algarve?

Miep & Peter: when we lived in Holland, every year we used to go on a sunny winter holiday. Whenever we got back, usually in January or February, we were very disappointed with the weather at home, which was grey and cold. We almost felt locked inside the house, craving warmth. Knowing that there were places where people could still sit out in the sunshine in winter, we started to long for something else.


When did you feel at home here?

Miep & Peter: that was when we bought our house. We left Holland in 1999, with our caravan on top of a truck. In the first year we didn’t find anything suitable, so we travelled around. After we finally bought a place in 2000, we were ready to settle and make it into our home. In order to start working straight away, we shipped over all of Peter’s glass and materials for his workrooms; 10 sea containers with a combined weight of 60 tonnes, almost a military operation. The Portuguese neighbours were all very welcoming. We bought a derelict piece of land, so they loved to see us renovate and make it into something nice again.

Was it hard to get accustomed to the Portuguese lifestyle?

Miep: no, that went easy as we did our best to adapt. Our son Frank was five years old when we first arrived in Portugal. When he turned six, he went to school here, so we really wanted to integrate into the Portuguese culture.

Peter: the only difficult bit was doing business here. When I started Glass Fantasies, I had some problems understanding the Portuguese people. When doing business in Holland, everyone is pretty direct and says what they mean; you discuss the matter, it’s clear for all the parties involved, you shake hands and have a deal. In Portugal, there’s a different mentality; people don’t want to appear impolite, so at first I didn’t know what they meant.

How does your life differ now you live here?

Miep & Peter: life in the Algarve feels easier, looser and not as rigid as in Holland. It’s also very much an outdoor lifestyle; our door is always open. We love to sit outside a café and have a coffee together. Not every day, but maybe twice a week. In Holland, it’s way too cold for that most of the year. To us, these coffee breaks feel like holiday. Watching the people walk by and seeing the daily village life happening as you sit on a terrace; it’s a very Portuguese atmosphere that is hard to describe.


What is your favourite Algarve moment?

Miep: evenings. I stay outside, musing until the mosquitos come. I love watching the sunset.

Peter: I prefer mornings. Especially waking up early to see the sun rise when everything around me is still quiet.

What annoys you here?

Miep & Peter: waiting for a long time, then finally getting to the desk and finding out there is still one piece of paper missing. And all that with information being unclear from the start and the people behind the desk not even trying to speak English, Europe’s main language. Bureaucracy, basically. It’s probably also connected to the fact that we aren’t native Portuguese speakers and thus don’t speak the language well enough to express ourselves properly. This makes you feel powerless.


What do you miss most from Holland?

Miep & Peter: family and friends. It’s only a short flight away, but it’s not like you can go and visit them every time you feel like it.Miep: and the colours of autumn. I’m a real nature person and I love a forest walk with all the yellow-red leaves falling down.Peter: I miss snow. But not too much.


Which 5 words would best describe the Algarve for you?

Miep & Peter: bright light, orange blossoms, summer nights, holiday feeling and paciência (patience)

What’s your favourite spot?

Miep: the island of Fuseta and then especially the barra, the bit where the sea comes into the lagoon. I love swimming, both on the side of the laguna and on the sea side. Every now and then, when I’m walking somewhere in the Ria Formosa nature reserve, I suddenly realise that I’m in this gorgeous place in Europe’s southernmost point, breathing in clean air and that it’s pretty amazing.

Peter: my favourite spot is a place in the neighbourhood of Fábrica. I’m not going to tell you exactly where because that’s my secret. It’s hard to find and I love the fact that there are hardly any people there.

In what way does the Algarve inspire you?

Miep: we both love working with our hands and because there’s so much more space here, you’ve got room for your creativity. With me, that shows in gardening. There wasn’t anything growing on the land when we bought it and over time, I’ve planted a small forest. Back in Holland I had a big roof garden, but all in pots. Here, I can put in the ground whatever I want. And it grows so fast; 15 years ago I bought tiny seedlings and now they’re high trees! We also have a greenhouse, for special succulents, orchids and small cacti – they can’t just be put into the ground as they’d be instantly overgrown by weeds and grass.

Peter: Because there is less stress and more space here, I started thinking more creative and that has really changed my work. Since living in the Algarve, my creations have become more abstract. I started using more colours because the light here is so bright, it really works well with vibrant shades and tones. Stained glass changes with the strength of light and with the Algarve light, the glass seems to be alive. Still, it’s important not to go crazy and make something carnevalesque, because that’ll soon become boring to look at. Keeping it simple, that’s the art. In our house, you’ll find little stained glass accents everywhere. I’ve also made a lot of custom pieces and provided windows for two capelas, one in Cabo de São Vicente and the other in Raposeira. Here I started making metal figures as well, which I’d never have done in Holland. It all started from recycling different motors for the copper and being left with all kinds of metal parts. When creating, I just start and add things as I go along. I pay a lot of attention to details, but the end result is always a surprise, even for me. I’m now working on a complete collection, as I plan on exhibiting them in an Algarve gallery.

How’s your Portuguese coming along?

Miep: when Frank had Portuguese lessons in school, we learned along. We also took some private courses. Portuguese is a lovely language and I take every opportunity to start a conversation with someone so I can practise. I can read and write it, but I’m not 100% fluent in speaking.

Peter: Miep’s Portuguese is really good, mine is OK. Some days I don’t speak it at all and then the knowledge quickly fades away. The verbs are so complicated, like the verbos irregulares and the two different past tenses. I can understand some of my neighbours, but not all of them. Oh, and I’ve learned never to talk about politics.


Do you have a secret tip for our readers?

Miep: join a choir! My hobby is singing and becoming a member of the Algarve Barbershop Chorus has brought me a lot of joy. We could use some new members, so do feel free to join us. And if you don’t fancy singing yourself, go to one of the ‘música nas igrejas’. Every Saturday at 6pm, there’s a musical performance in one of the churches in Tavira, varying from classical guitar to Fado.

Peter: now I’m retired, I can enjoy the easy-going way of life. But if someone wants to start a business in the Algarve, I would advise them to show interest into the Portuguese manners, in order to avoid misunderstandings!

Interested in Peter’s stained glass and metal art? Contact him by email:

Pictures by Marijke Verschuren


See original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine March 2016

Posted in Algarve expat stories.