But Really, Why the Algarve?
Updated: Aug 18, 2020
It occurred to me last night as I got ready for bed that I haven't posted an answer to the question posed by this site's url. "Why the Algarve?" Easy question. Here's why, in no particular order:
Food and Drink
Cost of Living
It is well-known that the Algarve enjoys a warm, dry climate with generally sunny weather. Think southern California. While it never really gets that cold, it can get very hot - 40° C or more not infrequently during the summer, especially inland and away from the cooling breeze off of the Atlantic. It's no coincidence that most houses in the Algarve have some kind of pool, even if it's just a converted cistern to make a "plunge pool" (a.k.a. Wow, that is one tiny pool). This kind of climate is good for people with respiratory or inflammation problems. It is very good for those suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder to any degree.The famous 300 sunny days a year allows for more outdoor activities, most of which include exercise at some level, even if it's just weeding the garden.
The Algarve boasts a variety of beautiful and spectacular landscapes, a primary attraction for millions of tourists every year. Well, most years. Prompting the question, if the sun caresses cave-riddled cliffs encapsulating a pocket beach where turquoise green water laps the golden sands and there's no one there to live stream it, does it make a Gram? But I digress. The beaches, caves and cliffs get almost all the attention, but the back country deserves a look or three. The mountainous vistas of Monchique, the rolling farmlands of Silves, and, frankly, most of the Algarve - these places provide quiet, beauty, and an opportunity for reflection. Speaking personally (all I do here, really), I can't wait to get back there and see that countryside with my family. One day!
There are, of course, a plethora of water-oriented activities, from surfing to stand-up paddle boarding. On-land things to do include walking/hiking, cycling, dining, shopping, visiting landmarks and historical sites (Silves castle, anyone?), horticulture, health retreats, attractions, horse riding, winery and farm tours, and just driving around through an amazingly picturesque part of the world. Even better, many of these things are free or next to it.
Food and Drink
The Algarve is well-known for both its cuisine and its wine. Food preparation focuses on fresh, high-quality ingredients cooked simply. Influences from the area's Moorish and Roman heritage are felt, as well as other traditional Portuguese fare. Seafood predominates near the coast, while inland there are more terrestrial offerings, pig being chief among them. Don't forget the pastries! As for wine, Lisa and I don't imbibe, but I understand that Portuguese wine has really taken off over the last couple of decades. I've certainly heard a lot of people singing its praises.
Portugal is a very safe and family-friendly country. It is consistently ranked around third or fourth of the most safe places to live in the world. This is true of the Algarve as well, of course, being part of Portugal. There is no gun culture in Portugal, the threat of terrorism is very low, and the most likely problem one might encounter is property theft, e.g., purse-snatching, pickpocketing, theft-from-vehicle. The Algarve does have an unfortunate history of crime targeting isolated rural luxury villas, with rashes of these types of crime around 2005 and 2010. Much effort has been expended to successfully rectify this problem. See Safe Communities Algarve for excellent information about safety and security.
There are two aspects of health to consider here - healthcare and health promotion. Regarding the former, Portugal's healthcare system resembles Canada's quite a bit. It is ranked 9th in the EU and 12th in the world. "The Portuguese, who are among the world's healthiest people, have one of the highest life expectancies in the European Union" (.). This is due to the second consideration, health promotion. The Algarve provides warm, dry, sunny weather, a traditionally healthy diet, and a laid-back attitude. The dry weather makes outdoor activities more attractive, and all those days of sunshine destroy the Winter Blues. Good for your body, good for your head.
Cost of Living
Please see Cost of Living Algarve for a deeper dive into this subject. Portugal is one of the least expensive places to live in the EU, particularly if living inland a bit away from the coastline. The ex-pat "invasion" has driven up real estate prices near the water, but rural properties can often be had quite cheaply. Food and staples are inexpensive (and healthy) when bought locally, direct from growers. If you avoid tourist traps, restaurant meals can be quite inexpensive. Some things are pricey, like cars and fuel, but that is more than offset by savings in other areas. If you are willing to devote time and effort into growing fruits and vegetables for personal consumption and, ideally, a surplus crop you can use for trade, costs reduce still further.
These are difficult and turbulent times. The situation is far too complex to get into here, but suffice it to say that the uncertainty of the near and not-so-near future makes living in a way that is more self-reliant, in a setting that has a low population density, in a country that supports its citizens and provides good health care as a fundamental right, very attractive. We have it pretty good in Canada, I will be the first to say, and so for us the attraction is one mostly of a rewarding and proactive lifestyle in a political setting not too different from our own. However, if we were living in the US right now, I don't know. No shade on you guys, love you as people, but the shit show that is brewing down there now and for the past three years is very, very worrying to those of us up here. You are the elephant. We are the mouse, or perhaps something a little proportionately larger. A seal maybe? Anyway, interesting times...
I still have a lot to learn about Portuguese culture. I find their history fascinating. Such a huge influence on exploration and trade for such a small country. The ancient Roman presence, the Moorish occupation. I am very much looking forward to learning more. From all accounts the Portuguese place a great value on family. It's a predominantly Catholic country, so the emphasis on family is perhaps not surprising. They are also known as a very friendly, generous, and accommodating people, though not overly demonstrative. I've heard it noted a number of times that their more reserved character can stand in sharp contrast to the flamboyance of the Spanish. This aspect of the Portuguese style is probably best represented by fado, "a form of music characterized by mournful tunes and lyrics, often about the sea or the life of the poor, and infused with a sentiment of resignation, fate and melancholia" (.)
Climate photo: https://climatereanalyzer.org/wx/DailySummary/#t2 from Climate Reanalyzer (https://ClimateReanalyzer.org), Climate Change Institute, University of Maine, USA.
Landscape photo is a screen grab, by me, using Google Maps Street View. Check out Meanwhile, Somewhere in Sagres...