One look and we were sold

This month we meet Alyson (47) and Dave (59) Sheldrake and ask them 12 questions about their move to the Algarve. Originally from the UK, the artistic couple bought a house in the south of Portugal in 2006 and moved there permanently four years later. Living in Ferragudo, Alyson is a painter and Dave a photographer. They’re also known for their Algarve blog.

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

What inspired you to move to the Algarve?

Dave: I lost a very good friend who passed away at the age of 41. That makes you think: I only have one life, do I really want to spend it all working?

Alyson: We both had good careers in the UK, Dave with the police and me in education. But when Dave retired, it was time for a more minimalistic lifestyle. Before Portugal, we’d never go on holiday to the same place twice. We’ve been all over the world, bucket list destinations like Venice and Hong Kong, and then we visited Ferragudo in 2002. In the following few years, we went back seven times. One evening, there was a big summer festival with people of all ages partying together in the main square. We never really considered living abroad, but that night we looked at each other and said ‘We could live here’.

Dave: The estate agent who sold us the house knew what she was doing: she immediately took us up to the upper balcony which overlooks the Monchique mountains. One look at the view and we were sold.


When did you feel at home here?

Alyson & Dave: The moment we started living here permanently, because our house was already filled with our own art and furniture. Seeing as we’d already bought it four years earlier and used to come over for holidays a lot, the eventual move to the Algarve felt like moving home.

Was it hard to get accustomed to the Portuguese lifestyle?

Dave: Not really; we were ready for it. Every time we came here on holiday, it was a bit harder to leave, and after every vacation, Britain felt a bit more alienated. Once, I even drove on the wrong side on the road in the UK. Funny enough I’ve never done that in Portugal.

Alyson: I sometimes said ‘Bom dia’ instead of ‘Hello’ in the UK. And we started shopping in Lidl and Aldi in the UK to get the same products as we were using in Portugal.


How does your life differ now you live here?

Alyson: The weather, of course, is lovely, and the people are as well; it’s the little touches like neighbours leaving a bag of lemons on your doorstep. Overall, the quality of life is better. We have the time to do what we want, like photography and painting. But also when we’re driving along the road and suddenly see a little lane: we have the freedom to discover where it leads to. I think you can only fully appreciate this freedom if you’ve been really busy before, like we were in Britain.

Dave: I spent years being available 24/7, carrying a radio so people knew exactly where I was at any moment of the day. Now, I sometimes forget my mobile phone at home. I can organise my time as I like and that’s great. I’m happiest at the west coast. Me, my camera, and an empty beach, it’s bliss.


What is your favourite Algarve moment?

Alyson: Eating piri-piri chicken in A Rampa restaurant in the Monchique mountains, 50m below the top of Fóia. They do the best piri-piri chicken in the Algarve, plus amazing black pork. I also love walking Kat our dog on the empty Praia Grande beach every morning.

Dave: Visiting Silves’ Medieval Festival. I go every year for most of the days, taking hundreds of pictures. It’s very colourful and the people there all know us by now, so it’s like meeting a lot of friends.

What annoys you here?

Alyson and Dave: Bureaucracy. Every sheet of paper has to be signed three times and stapled in the left top corner. In the post office, for example, even though you come in there all the time, they won’t give you the parcel when you haven’t got your ID card. We’re not so much frustrated by these things, more amazed.

Alyson: Taking change to the bank is also a hilarious example. They ask you the estimated amount, you answer ‘about 50 euros’ and they put this in your bank account. Then, they send the money to Lisbon where it gets counted. Afterwards any difference from the amount you guessed is added to or deducted from your account.

Dave: I was amazed at the police’s attitude. In the UK, you need a legitimate reason to stop a driver, for example that something’s wrong with the car. Here, I got stopped six times in half a year. The last time I asked the policeman why he pulled me over. His answer: ‘Because I can’.


What do you miss most from the UK?

Alyson: Nothing, really.

Dave: Football. I’m a fan of Ipswich Town and I used to go to a lot of their matches.


Which 5 words would best describe the Algarve for you?

Alyson & Dave: Relaxing, welcoming, sunny, inspiring, home.


What’s your favourite spot?

Alyson & Dave: Sítio das Fontes, near Estômbar. It’s a fresh water pond, just off the river. It’s unspoilt woodland countryside with a great river walk; we often take our dog. There’s also a huge area with about 15 BBQs where people share food. When visiting in the summer months, do make sure to wear mosquito repellent.

In what way does the Algarve inspire you?

Alyson: It’s a huge inspiration when painting. Most of my paintings focus around local features, like a stork or a lighthouse. Also the blue colours that are unique to the Algarve can be found in all of my paintings. It’s hard not to be inspired here.

Dave: The quality of light here is beautiful; the Algarve is ideal for photography. Back in the UK, I went out taking pictures about six times a year, even when I already was retired. Here, you’ve got amazing photo opportunities every day. Even with bad weather; towns might look dreary when the weather is bad, but the sea looks great, very dramatic.


How’s your Portuguese coming along?

Alyson: Hard to say. At times I don’t think I’m getting any better, but then I surprise myself by having a whole conversation in Portuguese. From the other hand, every time I visit the local hairdressers and hear the Portuguese ladies chatting there, I only get every tenth word. I hear ‘tree’, ‘cat’ and ‘grandma’ and make up my own story.

Dave: It’s like my old school reports used to say: ‘could be better’.


Do you have a secret tip for our readers?

Alyson: Eat where the locals eat and where the menu is in Portuguese.

Dave: Be brave and don’t be afraid to venture away from the tourist areas and the big hotels. Instead of staying where you know, visit the small villages and explore the real Algarve.

Background and Estômbar picture by Dave Sheldrake. All other pictures by Kyle Rodriguez.


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

Posted in Algarve expat stories.