Category Archives: Portuguese Lifestyle

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

Early, Surly and Burly – how to register your Driving Licence in Portugal.

Excitedly, we rose at 6am to get ready for our day out. We’d heard about how popular it was, and that only 50 people were allowed in per day so that people were queuing from the early hours of the morning for the privilege. Not wanting to miss out and to avoid waiting for 7/8 hours, we got there for 7.30am and were relieved to find ourselves 16th in the queue. Success, we thought! But then we started to worry when other people started joining the ones in front of us! More on this later…

Our day out, you ask? To the O Instituto da Mobilidade e dos Transportes (IMT) office in Faro to register our British driving licences before the Brexit deadline. (Apologies for mentioning B*****, but it’s a vital part of the story.) The implications of not registering driving licences include fines, being unable to drive and possibly having to take a driving test!

7.30am in the growing queue… which stretched around the corner!

While in the queue, we had a panic when we realised that we had a vital bit of evidence missing, so had to dash off to a nearby kiosk for photocopies of driving licences and passports, returning just as they were opening the office. Once inside, we were given a ticket like the ones at the supermarket meat counter – quite apt really…) and readied ourselves for a long wait.

Krafty Kow Sauce!

What became apparent was that one woman, who had ‘snook’ in the queue, somehow got a handful of tickets from the security guard who was issuing tickets, (apparently there because of scuffles previously because of queue jumpers…). We wondered whether she’d mistaken the IMT for a supermarket meat counter and was planning on having a BBQ, or whether she was an agent, getting tickets for her clients. It turned out to be the latter, not the fatter! Lots of looks and murmurings ensued from some of the disgruntled, but less than rebellious crowd, but no direct challenges. What a sauce that woman had – but not the BBQ type!

IMT Lottery Numbers…

After 90 minutes of waiting patiently, our numbers came up. Her Outdoors (indoors for a change) was lucky, being served by a pleasant, friendly woman, I on the other hand wasn’t! I was served by a burly, surly woman who took to banging on the glass partition to suppress the noisy, increasingly rebellious hordes. She did this while chomping on her breakfast, avoiding eye contact typing one fingered and who returned my licence by throwing it at me. I have some sympathy for someone doing a boring, repetitive job but… It’s one of Portugal’s mysteries how a country full of such lovely, friendly people chooses some of the less lovely and friendly ones to work in the IMT/Camara etc. Or is it that British expats are losing their charm and welcomeness?

The actual admin part was quite straightforward, with only a smattering of Portuguese used and some gesticulating. I avoided using any rude gesticulations to convey my thoughts on the experience and was sent on my merry way with a withering hand wave.

To register your licence you should go armed with originals and photocopies of:

  • A completed IMT Modelo 13 application form;
  • Proof of residency;
  • Proof of identity; (Passport/ID)
  • Your Fiscal (tax) number (NIF);
  • Your current driving licence (both sides);

Afterwards, you will be given a paper that allows you to drive, albeit within Portugal. If the validity of the paper expires before you receive your new licence, all you need to do is to get up at 6am, queue for hours and… Happy driving!

Algarve Building Planning Process

Congratulations…

We’ve just celebrated our third anniversary, it being three years since we embarked on our latest venture. We were warned by several friends that we could be in for a rocky ride. We didn’t expect it to be plain sailing, but neither did we expect three years later to be still having basic communication problems! And who do we have to thank: Loulé Camara? Our Architect? Our own naivety?  Obviously I’m not referring to our marriage, (although we did get wed three years ago) I’m referring to our planning application for a bathroom extension.

Fine for some people…

We’ve been very happy since we moved to Portugal and have particularly enjoyed developing our garden. We wish we could say the same for our house. The main issue is that we have a very small bathroom: no proper shower and not even a full bath. Having lived in the Sudan, ‘Her Outdoors’ thinks what we have is luxurious, however not everyone likes the ‘Bohemian’ lifestyle. When family and friends stay, we want them to feel comfortable, hence our need for a modest bathroom extension and outdoor shower near the pool.

We employed an Architect to start the planning process in January 2016, thinking it would take probably a year to submit the plans and complete the build. However, three years on, we’ve only recently had our building project rejected, mainly because our annex is not connected to the main building. It seems that even with the best scenario, it’s likely to take at least another 12 months before we can start building.

So why has it taken so long you ask (well you might not ask, but I’ll tell you anyway!). One factor in the process taking so long is because we are trying to follow the ‘correct process’; find an architect, draw up plans, submit an application, find a builder etc. The ‘incorrect way’ is to find a builder,  build,  then employ an architect to draw up what has already been built. The final stage is to submit the project and argue the toss with the Camara, or get fines/penalties. Many don’t even bother with the final step. Submitting a project that is, fines or penalties are non negotiable! Getting planning approval is essential in obtaining an ‘Habitation Licence‘ which is vital if you want to sell your property.

Perhaps our biggest mistake was that we never met our architect. Because of the language difficulties, it seemed easier to communicate online. We did approach a number of Architects and went with a ‘local’ architect who had a good command of English besides being competitively priced! Or so we thought. During the course of the process we have discovered that he is currently based in the UK and that the business address he uses on official documents is from N Portugal. One of our prime requirements when seeking an architect was a local person, with experience of dealing with Loulé Camara as they are notoriously difficult to deal with!

We knew when we bought the property that the pool wasn’t legal, but this is a common occurrence in Portugal. We were assured that the legalisation process would be relatively straightforward and negotiated a reduction on the price to cover costs. However, when submitting our building plans we discovered that the annex is also not legal and therefore we had to re-submit plans. We have subsequently discovered that some roadside walls surrounding the property have not been included in the project plans. So, more plans to submit!

Apart from realising how gullible we are, we’ve learned quite a lot from the process of buying a property and embarking on building plans. We now know the limitations of building in ‘RAN’ or semi-agriculture zones. We’ve learned that it takes over a month to get an appointment at the Council and that if the Camera official decides to take a holiday then the appointment is cancelled. We know that if we did it again we’d definitely approach it differently:

  • Get the full history of the property before you buy.
  • Check that the habitation licence reflects the property you are buying.
  • Don’t rely on your Lawyer to check all is in place.
  • Meet the architect before starting the process.
  • Check out the Architect’s credentials, past projects and experience of working with the local Camara.
  • Insist on regular communications and receiving copies of any letters etc from the Camara.
  • Attend any meetings with the architect and Camara officials where possible.
  • Make fee payments based on progress.

Now, where’s that bottle so we can celebrate… or rather commiserate with each other!

Health & Fitness – Exercise for the Over 50’s

Being involved in walking football at Browns Leisure & Sports Club in Vilamoura, has become a major factor in settling into Portugal and  also improving my health and fitness. Take a look at the following videos and you might understand why.

Fitness for Over 50’s Part 1 introduces some of the Brown’s characters and also explains how to get involved with either Brown’s  Walking Football, or your local club. Fitness for Over 50’s Part 2 highlights some of the health and social benefits of regular exercise.

 

 

ALGARVE ENTERTAINMENT, CULTURE & … BARBERSHOP

Like any country, Portugal, and particularly the Algarve region, offers a real mix of cultural festas (Festivals), traditions and events. These traditions are a result of Portugal’s historical influences over many centuries. Festivals include the Paderne Mediaeval Festival and Loulé Festival

What of Portugal’s more recent history, from post revolution 1976 to the joining of the EU and to the present day.  The influx of expats from many of the EU countries is having a profound effect on the present day cultural scene, at least for expats. There are clubs for: gardening, language learning, culture, various hobbies and miscellaneous entertainments. Many of the clubs and societies actively seek new members and offer a warm welcome.

There are a number of choirs in the region and I have a French friend who has tried to recruit me for a Barbershop choir she sings with in Portugal. “Barbershop in Portugal?” I hear you cry. If you look around you’ll find most things to do in the Algarve, but Barbershop is not the top of the list for most people. However, I have had a very entertaining time recently producing music videos for Bella a Cappella, the Algarve’s only Barbershop Choir. Check them out!

ALGARVE WALKING FOOTBALL CUP 2018

32 Teams, 200+ players, one congested pitch!

Brown’s Players. Note: The location is just a figment of the author’s imagination…

Brown’s Sports & Leisure Club in Vilamoura hosted the Algarve Walking Football Cup in October 2018. Thirty two teams took part, sixteen in both the over 50’s and over 60’s categories. Brown’s had three teams; Brown’s 1 were entered in the over 60’s  category, Brown’s 2 & 3 were entered in the over 50’s.

Brown’s 1 take on Ormskirk North in the Saturday knockout stage of the over 60’s category. Managed by the mighty Ron, they won a penalty shoot out courtesy of some fine shots, but also three saves from “H”‘.

Blog author Sundance (no. 5, aka ‘The Sprinkler’), player, blogger, and videographer sporting his sleek new look in Brown 2’s first  group game against Sheffield Wednesday CP1. The result was 3-2 to Brown’s.

Manager, captain and all round good guy Rodders et al show off their prowess in a hard fought group game against Sáo Bras. Apologies for poor sound quality due to wind noise.

 

More to follow when time allows…

Health, Fitness and Diets

DIET BLOG

Her Outdoors has started a new regime, the ‘Ketogenic diet’. Over the years she has tried a succession of diets. Name a popular diet regime (Atkins, Fatkins, Notsofatkins…) and she has probably tried it. One or two have been very successful, others less so. Her last one, which she embarked on 4 years ago was very successful, losing 4 stones in a period of 10 months. Unfortunately, as with other diets, the weight has slowly returned. This latest one, which she started 4 weeks ago, seems different. For a start, she isn’t on it to lose weight, but to improve her health, so as she doesn’t weigh herself, she doesn’t know whether she is losing weigh. Rather strikingly though, within 10/14 days, the pair of shorts she bought the day she started the diet are now falling down. This was  quite embarrassing when we were walking around the local Aldi! (Other supermarkets are now being used.)

One of the many things I love about H.O. is that she likes to look after me and particularly my health. At least, I think that is why she is always trying to get me to share her diets. I won’t admit to being a bit overweight and needing to diet, but instead I could be considered to be short for my weight…

Ok, full disclosure here, I wrote that last paragraph and then went online to find my ideal weight…

NSC Clinics

According to the above chart, I now have to admit to being a tiny bit obese and therefore needing to diet. In my defence, (from who or what I’m not sure) I think these charts are subjective or even biased against ‘big boned’ people. Anyway, I swim, cycle, walk and have even started playing football again. Walking Football (WF) admittedly, but it is still football. It’s my love for sweets, cakes, chocolate and puddings that is my downfall. I could happily eat a packet of biscuits in one go. I don’t, but I could. (Actually, I have done, but not often and they were small packets!)

Now Her Outdoors can also be very persuasive. Since she started her new regime I have had a stream of negative comments about me being overweight, flabby, having a poor diet, but also more positive views about the health and fitness benefits, having more energy and sleeping better as you don’t need to get up in the middle of the night…. And so I started to contemplate joining her on the diet. (What she failed to highlight though was not drinking beer! )

The deciding factor about joining Her Outdoors on the regime was her comment about the potential of being fitter and more mobile to play football. Oh, and another factor was the visit to the hospital for an annual check up on my psoriatic arthritis which revealed my weight had gone up to over 13 stone and the blood test revealed that my liver function was ‘a slight concern’.

So I’ve joined her, at least for a trial period, leading up to a Walking Football tournament in October. I’ve started on my very first (possibly last) diet and will blog my progress, or lack of it, on a weekly basis. It’s not going to be pretty as I intend to use pics to chart the contraction, or expansion, of the tape measure. The goal, or goals (see what I did there?) is to follow the Ketogenic diet, lose the flab, get fitter, and score more goals in the tournament. Actually I’ve never scored a goal in a WF tournament, so any goal would be a bonus.

Not a pretty Sight!

Apologies

  1. This blog about diets is written by a man who normally scoffs about diets. (He also scoffs a lot of sweet things, which is what led us here…)
  2. The pic immediately above may or may not be the 66 year old author of this blog. Please be kind with any comments.

WHICH BUILDERS TO USE – EXPATS OR PORTUGUESE?

STAGE 1 – GETTING A QUOTE

Which would you rather use, an English/French/German builder or  a  Portuguese? There’s a danger that we lapse into using stereotypes when making this choice, but is there any difference between nationalities?

Look closely – “U” could be in the Builders Arms…

I ask because we are waiting to have an extension built, along with other work. Having used builders in UK on different properties and having a background in the building industry I’ve found it an interesting process seeking quotes in Portugal. One expat blog advocated using Portuguese builders, seemingly based on a negative experience with a British builder and a positive experience with Portuguese company. Their advice to go with the Portuguese builder was reinforced when the UK builder wanted to leave a comment. According to the blogger “I couldn’t post his comment because the attitude and language was appalling”.

I wonder whether Google’s search suggestions are a contributory factor on stereotypical views of builders and sway peoples views…

There is clearly a big gap between client expectations and tradesman’s ability to deliver. Why? Could it be the language? Not English, nor Portuguese, but ‘Tradespeak’ – Tradesmen’s language, with a dash of tradesmen psychology. You have to be in the know to decipher the actual meaning.

Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/31434

Prepare to go through the whole gamut of emotions if you want a quote. This begins right from the start. “Tomorrow ok?”  invokes the response: ‘Wow, they are on the ball, how professional. We’ll  have it done in no time!’

However, as everyone knows, or should know, tomorrow never comes! And, quite often, neither does the tradesman.

You are disappointed, but make allowances – ‘it must be because they are busy and in demand’ or ‘they are probably dealing with an emergency’.

After a few days you start to wonder whether they are as professional as you first thought. So you ring them again, but have to leave a message. Irritating, but you excuse this because it probably confirms how ‘busy and in demand they are’.

So you wait another week before you ring again, but get the same result.

Another wait, another call, but the same result. By this time you have reached the limit of your patience – “useless _______ (insert your own expletive)” .

Time to start looking for a new quote. Perceived wisdom suggests that you get at least three quotes. So you have to go through that process three times, at least!

Occasionally though, you obtain a quote. Well done, you picked a good one! But beware! It could be the tradesman didn’t really want to do the work. Did you notice he was going to charge a fortune. Why?  To either put you off, or make a packet out of your deparate plight.

Next post,.. Stage 2 –Getting them to do the work.

I’d love to hear your views – please leave a comment below.

CLIMATE WARMING UP FOR A HEALTHY FIGHT?

Hands up those who have had an argument about the thermostat on the central heating? Come on, be honest! I know I have and it resulted in me moving 1500 miles to Portugal to avoid the frosty climate, both inside the house and outside! Well actually we both moved here, but I was going for a dramatic opening to this blog about perceived or apparent temperatures. Read on to the end to get my top tips for surviving the unexpected cold snaps. 

I was sat outside the local bar with a group of expat acquaintances and we were bemoaning the fact that it was cold, the temperature having gone down to 18 degrees! Admittedly I was wearing shorts and a ‘T’ shirt but I thought of myself as a ‘roughtie toughtie’ northerner, (north of England) and so used to lower temperatures. I remembered when we first moved to Portugal three years ago, I was struck by how wrapped up the locals were and particularly some of the expats, in 20-22 degrees. But now I was succumbing to the same ‘southern softness’, or so I thought. This was a serious situation, so I decided to investigate and turned up some interesting information, myths and a possible reason for feeling cold…

According to Dr Sweiss of the University of Chicago’s Cold Hands Clinic (cool name!), a recent development of sensitivity to cold could be a sign of significant medical issues, including thyroid diseases. However, there are simpler reasons that we all know or suspect; thinner people get colder than heavier people, older rather than younger individuals. Some surprising ones; married women generally handle the cold better! I always  thought it was mainly men that had to handle cold shoulders…

One of the myths about apparent temperature involves the concept of developing ‘thinner’ blood. Medical evidence suggests it is more likely due to a person’s tolerance to the cold weather changing, or perhaps to a loss of some “insulating” fat due.

The perception of cold begins when nerves in the skin send impulses to the brain about skin temperature. These impulses respond not only to the temperature of the skin, but also to the rate of change in skin temperature. Impulses arriving at the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain where reasoning occurs, generate information about how cold we feel. These combine with impulses arriving from the limbic system, responsible for our emotional state, to determine how miserably cold we feel. These feelings motivate us to perform certain behaviours, such as putting on more clothes, complaining about the weather, arguing about the thermostat!

Now some of us also may feel cold simply because of how others close to us look or are behaving, a phenomenon called “cold contagion”. It’s a bit like yawning – ever notice how they spread when someone starts yawning?  In one medical study, healthy volunteers felt colder if they were shown videos of actors pretending to be cold, than if the actors pretended to be warm. Now I can relate to this, remember me sitting outside the bar? Well one of the guys was continually complaining about the cold I was soon shivering and yawning!

SUNDANCE’S SURVIVAL SUGGESTIONS

  • Stop dieting, remember that fat is good for insulation.
  • Take a dip in the pool, even when the water gets down to 10 degrees. You’ll be glad of the warmer (although cool) air temperature when you get out!
  • Cycle to the bar. The exertion will warm you up and stop you complaining as soon as you get there. Wait a while before you start complaining.
  • Take control of your cerebral cortex – tell it you are just having one more beer.

FOOTNOTE: Most of us who are healthy but claim to feel cold may only have ourselves to blame. In today’s world, we rarely expose ourselves to cold. Instead, we spend money on expensive clothing to protect us from the lower temperatures and spend huge amounts warming our living and working spaces. This in turn may actually contribute to obesity as we are not using as much energy ‘stoking’ ourselves up. We’d probably all be much better off if we spent more time sitting outside the bar and being cold. But it might be a good idea to get some new friends who don’t continually complain about the weather!

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!