Category Archives: Portuguese Living

guidance and advice on living in Portugal, from a couple of novices. Learn from our mistakes!

Weather or Not – Health Benefits of Moving to a Warmer Climate

Apologies to Will…

One of the main reasons for people moving to Portugal is the health benefits of living in a warmer climate. As ‘Her Outdoors’ and I (Sundance) both suffer from different forms of arthritis, ailments and mood swings (I’m a self confessed SAD sufferer!) it was certainly a major factor in our decision to move here.

And what lovely weather we have had, up to mid February that is, when the first significant rain fell. At the time I was considering changing Angela’s nickname from ‘Her Outoors’ to ‘Raindancer’. (Mmm, Sundance and Raindancer, think we’ve got all bases covered there…)  As a gardener she was delighted when the rain did come.

So is there evidence of health benefits to be derived from living in a warmer (usually) climate, or are they just part of the Estate Agent’s hype? Personally, I have been fitter, more active and healthier since we moved to Portugal. However, these last three cold, wet months have had a negative effect on my health.  I’ve felt lethargic, more joint pain and been prone to changing moods. I wanted to know whether it was because of the weather, so here’s my take on my limited Google research.

One of the main benefits of a warmer climate is the increased exposure to the sun, which increases your body’s vitamin D levels. Vitamin D has been claimed to prevent cancer, provide higher energy levels, and keep your bones strong and healthy by helping your body absorb calcium.

Some of the comments I came across were; “Pain thresholds drop in colder weather”,  “cold, rainy days affect mood, “during colder weather people are less likely to be outside and get the exercise that normally helps keep arthritis pain in check.

A warmer climate will probably make you more motivated to exercise, or maybe just give you more get up and go! Motivation to exercise is certainly the case for me as I’ve taken up the Portuguese Triathlon; I swim in the pool most days, check the fridge to ensure I haven’t run out of beers and cycle to the local Bar when I have!

Joking aside, I have taken up playing football again. Or to be more specific, walking football (WF). The game is becoming increasingly popular with the over 50’s, 60’s and even 70’s both here in Portugal and  in the UK and! But here’s where the health benefits might be questionable, on a personal level. Since I started playing WF I’ve suffered: groin strains, a ruptured achilles tendon, a muscle tear and strained knee ligaments. But I keep playing. I clearly have a liking for pain, or maybe I just like to keep active!

We do lead a more active, outdoor life these days, largely due to the garden we are maintaining and developing. Any exercise is seen to be beneficial and apparently, improves memory and might even reduce the risk of Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. It does this by increasing the necessary blood and oxygen the brain needs to function, which in turn create new, healthy cells. You just have to remember to get out in the garden each day!

Thinking of moving to a warmer climate?  My advice would be to do what works for you, but don’t just rely on the sunshine!

Algarve Sunrise

We think we’ve been cheated. We have had over a week now with very little sun and not much in prospect in the next few days. Talking with friends, they are admitting to depression because of a lack of sun. I was wondering what I could do to bring some cheer to our friends and ourselves. Whilst looking through some old video material I’ve shot I found the solution. So here it is, enjoy!

Paderne Medieval Festival

Paderne is a typical village in the  Algarve. To celebrate the history of the area, Paderne turns back the clock to Medieval times for four days over the festive period.

Thousands of visitors are attracted to the old centre of Paderne, where there’s a Medieval  market, bars and stalls with delicious food, arts and crafts, exhibitions, musical performances, street theatre, a violent siege and a historical procession.

Where else can you travel back in time for the princely sum of a couple of euros!

O CARNAVAL MAIS ANTIGO DE PORTUGAL

THE OLDEST CARNIVAL IN PORTUGAL!

The flags were flying and the town was buzzing when we arrived on the third day of the Loulé Carnival. Steeped in more than a century of history the Carnaval is one of the must-see events of the Algarve calendar …. the riot of colour, vibrancy and spectacle is not to be missed even if the music can be deafening at times.

The theme for 2018 was “Carnaval Summit de Loulé”, a parody of the Lisbon Web Summit. But if you did miss it, here’s a little collaborative snapshot produced by Her Outdoors, Sundance and son of Sundance.

The Loulé Carnival has been held for more than a 100 years and was originally a pagan festival to herald the new spring. Carnival nowadays is celebrated predominantly by Catholics in the lead up to the start of Shrovetide (pre-Lent), the traditional Christian time for fasting.

Paint not pastries for modern day Carnivalists

The festivities these days are now mainly based on the style of the Brazilian Samba. However, the history of the event chronicles much mischief, offering people the opportunity to settle old scores, “by throwing cream pastries, eggs, flour and sandbags” designed to hurt or at least get the others dirty. There was also some elements of violence. including one person who burnt down a rival’s workshop!

The Great and the not so Great
Putin on the style

 

 

 

 

The present day Carnival owes much to the Carnation Revolution of  1975 which got rid of the repressive system in place and opened up a more liberal climate in which the arts were able to flourish. Loulé Carnaval however, whilst embracing  a style akin to Brazilian Samba, retains the essence of its historical traditions, focussing on political and “celebrity” caricatures and parodies. Among the characters parodied this year are Cristiano Ronaldo and his Golden Balls; Donald Trump and his Mexican Wall, Valdimir Putin hosting the 2018 World Cup, and Angela Merkel, dancing with the new Eurogroup president, Mário Centeno.

Next  March 5, 2019 (Tuesday)

 

Health, Wealth & Welfare?

We decided to visit an organic farm, as Her Outdoors was trying to find some turmeric to grow in our garden. ‘Organic’ is usually a term added to the description of items for sale in order to charge more. Cynical, I know, but perhaps there is some truth in it. What the term does suggest, is that the items are healthier, or ‘good’ for you.  Not for me though, our visit landed me in the hospital casualty and gave me an unwanted insight into the Portuguese health system.

I’ve not played serious football since1983 when I sustained a serious knee injury. Shoot forward to November 2017 and I started playing football again. Or rather the walking football variety of football; no running, three touches and the ball is not allowed above head height. I strained my calf muscle playing, but hobbled on in goal, so as not to let my teammates down. Silly me! Two days later Her Outdoors and I went for a look round the organic farm. I limped round, but when leaving the farm I tried putting my full weight on my foot. Big mistake! To the sound of a loud ‘pop’ and an excruciating pain in my ankle crumpled. I thought Her Outdoors had kicked me to hurry me up! The pain was serious, so we decided to visit the nearest hospital. This was my second mistake; the Hospital Lusiades is actually a private hospital.

Old codgers playing walking football.

At the Lusiades we got a great reception – wheelchair brought to me immediately, charming receptionist speaking excellent English. But when she realised we didn’t have private health insurance (other than our EHIC), I was kicked out of the wheelchair and directed to the ‘Centro de Saude’. (Actually I jumped out immediately, fearing that she would start charging me for its use. Just trying to evoke some sympathy here.) Why no private health insurance you might ask? It’s a long standing socialist principle with me, I have trouble supporting elitist systems or divisive public services.

‘Her Outdoors’ suggested we went to Faro Hospital. My third mistake of the day was insisting we went to the local Centro de Saude. Once there, I quickly got registered and saw the triage nurse where I was colour coded. Well my arm band was coded, not me personally. I was the second lowest ‘urgencia’ band. One above the “don’t waste our time” category. A notice suggested my colour code would entail up to 2 hours wait. The waiting room was full, so we settled in for a wait. We sat back and I researched the likely diagnosis: rupture or partial rupture of the achilles tendon.

Spanish, but similar!

Two hours later, the waiting room had emptied somewhat and I was hopeful… (mistake number 4!) Unfortunately the next two hours saw no progress. We learned later that there were no Doctors in attendance at that time. When things did start to move again, there was a commotion. A new, greenbanded incomer was immediately seen by a Doctor because she knew him. Docile patients immediately started rebelling and the sacred complaints book, Livro de Reclamações was brought out. We also complained, but it seemed to fall on deaf ears. Clearly there were no doctors in Ear, Nose and Throat either…

Another two hours ensued, at which point Her Outdoors asked the receptionist why I had waited so long and when I would be seen. Very shortly after (!) I was taken in to see the Doctor. I explained the problem in English, with the odd Portuguese word thrown in for effect (It didn’t have one!) and also gave my own diagnosis. The Doctor didn’t seem too impressed with my new found medical expertise but called in the receptionist, not for a second/third opinion as I thought, but to translate. She explained that I needed an ultrasound, but they didn’t have one I was offered an X-ray. I pointed out that I understood it wouldn’t show a ruptured tendon. I needed to go to Faro Hospital, (cue a ‘look’ from Her Outdoors) but it was unlikely to be done that night, as there is usually a two month wait. This all happened without any examination of my ankle at all. We were amazed at either; the Doctor’s skills in diagnosing injuries telepathically, or how convincing I must have been in my diagnosis. Google has a lot to answer for!

I waited a short while to get my ankle ‘immobilised’ (bandaged!), and took the time to stop an older man leaping out of bed while attached to a drip and oxygen mask. I paid the €14 tax for the appointment, which would have been €20 if I’d had an X-ray and we headed home with the instructions to go to Faro Hospital at 8am the following day.

Author, with borrowed crutches.

Faro hospital was a better experience. I only waited two hours to be seen, or rather before asking the nurse why it appeared that nobody was being seen by a Doctor. Two minutes after asking, I was ushered into the consulting room. After a brief examination, but no ultrasound, I was diagnosed with a partially ruptured achilles tendon (well done Google!). I was then plastered, (a cast that is and by the Doctor!) told not to put any weight on my foot, to come back in a week and then wheeled to reception in a decrepit old wheelchair and left to sort myself out. Without crutches as they don’t supply them!

Faro was a better experience, although I was shocked after taking a wrong turn and coming across a basement room with about 50 beds/trolleys, full of old people with drips and breathing masks. No privacy curtains, no windows and standing room only between beds. It looked like a war zone hospital. Not that I’ve ever experienced a war zone hospital…

A week later I returned to Faro Hospital, as directed. I wasn’t given an actual appointment and got the impression that an appointments system is an unknown concept. The reception was full, although I was able to go straight to the reception. Language was a bit difficult, but I gleaned that I had to wait for the triaje nurse, which took about 20 minutes. Once I had explained to the triaje nurse why I was there (I was beginning to wonder…) I was directed to the ‘ortho’ waiting area which was already full of walking, and non walking wounded. (Forgive me another war zone reference.)

THREE hours later I was eventually seen but the Doctor didn’t know why I was asked to return. He told me that the Doctor I’d seen the previous week “would be here in half an hour/an hour” and for me to wait. I did, for a further 90 minutes until he arrived but it was 2 hours until I was seen. The cast was removed (again by Doctor!), my hand was shook (I forgot to wash my hands!) and I was discharged with a smile and a wave. No explaination, no follow up, no fitness regime, no advice other than “be careful”. And he gave me no date to start playing football again. It was all an anti climax.

On leaving the hospital via the triage area, I was again shocked by the sea of bodies (alive!), trolleys, ambulance crews, Bompeiros crews and the faces of people who I am sure had been there before me. It was a scene you would expect to see after a disaster, yet it was relatively calm. The Portuguese are remarkably patient at being patients in a seemingly chaotic system.

Did I tell you we were invited to a breakfast at the Organic Farm we visited? I think I’ll give it a miss…

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Sunshine in the rain

With no significant rain from early May to November, Portugal has had it’s worst drought in over 20 years. Her Outdoors tried pleading, praying and dancing to break the dry spell. See her reaction as the heavens opened.

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UNWELCOME VISITOR (pt. 2)

I thought Her Outdoors would be happy to see one of her friends, or what I thought was one of her friends. Since we moved here to Portugal we haven’t seen many of them. We have so many places for them to stay now that I thought they’d both be happy. I was wrong. I was in trouble.

It came about as I was re-laying a path. The path runs from the side of the house, down past the pool, into the lower meadow.  When we have a downpour (Her Outdoors is praying for one at the moment) the water runs off the roof onto the hard landscaped area and onto the path. When I say downpour I mean POUR and DOWN. It flows at a rapid rate. It gushes. It overshoots. It washes things away, hence the need to re-lay the path.

So I was down at the bottom of the path, next to the meadow which is next to the road. I’d just lifted a flagstone when I spotted the ‘friend’. I was excited. The first such friend I’d seen in a long time. “Hello my little beauty” I said, “Her Outdoors will be so happy to see you”. With that I scooped the friend up and carried her, whooping with joy to regale Her Outdoors with her presence. That was me whooping with joy, not the friend. The friend was wriggling, but mute.

I reached Her Outdoors and presented her friend to her. She shrieked. Her Outdoors that is. The friend is mute, remember. “Take it away” she said, “I don’t want to see it!”

“Why not” I hesitatingly asked, still holding the friend that was wriggling uncomfortably by now. “I thought you’d be happy to have this visitor in your garden. Aren’t they good for the soil?”

“Worms are, but that’s a bloody snake!”

LATER…

After some research…It turns out that we were both wrong, it was an Iberian worm lizard. Although I was partially right…

Iberian Worm Lizard photo by Jorozko

If you are an internet worm (as opposed to a bookworm) you can find out more on this interesting blog – https://allyouneedisbiology.wordpress.com

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Unwelcome Visitors

Her Outdoors and myself have become racists. Well at least anti Gypsy. Well, more specifically anti the family who camped in the field next to our house! We didn’t want to become anti Gypsy and have spent a lot of our adult life challenging other people’s attitudes to different cultures. For me, my abhorrence of racism stems from being brought up in a family with an Irish Catholic background in 1950’s England and the prejudices that prevailed at that time. For ‘Her Outdoors’ it’s because she is such a lovely, accepting woman who abhors prejudice of any kind, to anyone.

Her Outdoors and myself like travelling and have occasionally enjoyed the ‘Gypsy’ lifestyle. (Our longest trip in the motorhome was for six months) We enjoyed meeting fellow ‘silver surfers’ although many of them were appalled at me describing them as ‘Travellers’. “So, you are living in your motorhome, wandering around Europe and are not working, but you wouldn’t describe yourselves as… “.

Sundance and ‘Her Outdoors’ in Albi, France.

So, we were making our way back to our home in Portugal having been back to the UK to visit our families, then on to France visiting French friends, before meandering our way back through the Pyrenees and Spain. We intended to take 3/4 days for the last leg through Spain, but got a call from a friend telling us someone had broken into our garage. “Oh dear” we thought, “at least there isn’t much in the garage”. Except our two motorbikes, four bicycles some building materials and all my DIY tools. But we were not too dismayed; at least they didn’t get into the house.

Shortly after, we got another call from our friend, saying they had also broken into the house! The burglars had apparently pulled the doors closed when they left, so it looked secure. Our “Oh dear” was replaced with “Oh b******s””. At which point we decided the leisurely drive through Spain should be curtailed by pressing a firmer foot on the accelerator.

Welcome sign after an eventful day

We managed to get home by late evening. For any Spanish or Portuguese police that may be monitoring our blogs, we assure you that no speed limits were exceeded. And anyway, our campervan isn’t capable of the120 mph motorway limit…

Strangely, by the time we got home we were quite philosophical about the situation. We’d had several hours to digest the news and so were not overly shocked or upset at the scene of devastation. (Actually there was only my office that had been ransacked but I’m trying to elicit a sympathetic audience response here.)

We started cataloguing missing items, as the GNR (local police) were expected and we thought they would be interested in what had been stolen. TV, DVD player and remote controls, two old laptops, a computer monitor, video tripod and sound recorder, video lights, a washer (for laundry, that is, not as in nuts, bolts and…) The list got longer and longer. But we noted items that had been left; microwave, kettle, and toaster. At this point ‘Her Outdoors’ got irate. “What’s wrong with our British goods?” she wailed. Actually it was more of a contemptuous statement (I’m trying to elicit sympathy again).

Image ‘illegally’ taken, as advised by GNR, so doctored to protect the ‘innocent’. Allegedly.

The GNR duly arrived as we’d arranged. “Por favor Senor, how did you manage to drive through Spain and Portugal so quickly?” wasn’t asked, but they went about their business poking around looking for fingerprints. But it seemed just a cursory poke. There was no evidence of them having honed their investigative skills by watching any of the CSI programmes. There was no brushing on of face powder or whatever they use, no taking samples for DNA analysis. No criminal profiling. (See my own CSI profiling at the end of this blog.) We were deflated, although not quite as deflated as my bike tyres that I can’t pump up until I replace the stolen pump! (Added to list!)

The immediate problem we had was the doors and how to secure them overnight. Because of the layout to our Quinta, we have three doors on our terrace that give access to various rooms. They broke through all three (as well as the garage). One room is my office, which we decided to leave unlocked overnight, partly hoping that the burglars would come back to tidy up. The office is next to our utility/larder from which they took our beers, wines and other less precious items such as bottled water and large bottles of our homegrown olives, which were curing. Fortunately they didn’t take our stash of marmite! The door to the main house was barricaded inside with heavy furniture. We were concerned they might come back for the kettle and toaster.

The next day I had to go to the GNR to make a formal report. What a horrible experience that was. It started with me apologising that I don’t speak Portuguese and asking if they spoke English. “NO, ONLY PORTUGUESE!” came the response from a rather arrogant young GNR. Eventually, a translator was summoned and a report was written with a list of stolen items and values. The arrogant one’s single finger typing took some time. I started to feel like I was the criminal, confessing my crimes.

Report writing was punctuated by quizzical looks and wry smiles between the arrogant one and the friendlier translator. The olives obviously resonated with them. The report writing was also punctuated by other officers coming through the office to say hello to the arrogant one and tell him about their previous night out. Or so I thought. Eu náo falo Portuguese, remember.

The burglary has elicited a real rollercoaster of emotions. From the initial shock of the news, to the anger of ‘how dare they’! There was the petty annoyance when finding a ball of string had gone, to the huge inconvenience of changing passwords and setting up a process to wipe my old computer, if it came online. But then we had a lovely surprise when tidying up to find 2 packets of chocolate eclairs. (My family hide them for us to find after their visits. I know that as a parent I should be the one hiding for the kids, but it’s a lovely tradition, which they should keep up!)

Life has got back to normal now. Her Outdoors is spending even more time outdoors. She’s not quite gardening with her head torch on yet, but she is finding it difficult to find her way back to the house in the dark, ever since the solar powered fairy lights disappeared. Bugger! Another one for the list! I wonder if I could type that one myself?

CRIMINOSO PERFIL/CRIMINAL PROFILE

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