Five years ago, I decided to leave the UK and my wondrous (gawd, it was boring!) career in IT. I’d spent the previous six years working for Arla down in the West country, helping build a warehouse and various systems that could be used to produce copious amounts of butter.
I’d enjoyed the company of the people I worked with, but not the job itself, so when the opportunity arose, I jumped.
A friend told me that he was moving to Portugal. He told me that property was cheap, as was day to day living. He told me that Brexit was coming. He said it was a great opportunity.
I didn’t need telling twice, having been to the Algarve several times in previous years. I put my house in the UK up for sale and started house-hunting in Portugal.
My favourite place was Ilha da Armona, part of the Ria Formosa Natural Park, one of five barrier islands that had helped protect the Algarve coast from the Tsunami caused by the great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755. I decided to look there first.
I found a great option, incorporating two apartments (offering seven bedrooms) and a separate annexe with a single bedroom.“Great,’ I thought. “Somewhere to live and rooms to rent out at the same time!”
It was a ready-made income, although the property would need some touching up here and there. Well, everywhere if I’m being honest.
Then someone broke the news to me: “You can buy a house on Armona, but you won’t own the land. You can risk it if you want, but I wouldn’t.”
I investigated further, and yes, there could have been a problem. At the time, there was a possibility that certain properties on the island would be knocked down due to a dispute between the Camara and a number of property owners on the island. It was back to the drawing board for me.
It was then that my friend mentioned Fuseta, a small fishing village. It’s on the coast, snuggled between Olhão and Tavira and only 30 minutes from the airport.
It has a beach. It has a ferry service out to Ilha da Fuseta (the other end of Ilha da Armona – a wonderful walk if you want to try it). It retains a local feel. It offers some fantastic restaurants. It has a fresh fish and vegetable market. It has a fishing fleet working nearby waters (those boys enjoy a beer!). It has a nice assortment of bars (I also enjoy a beer!). It has two railway stations. It has monthly fairs filling the beach-front car park and adjoining streets.
I loved the place from the start, so I started looking at property. I decided that I preferred the old part of Fuseta down by the water, rather than the new builds that seem to be growing in number towards the top of the village.
There were a few properties available, but only one appealed to me. It had three bedrooms and a roof terrace with a view of the Ria Formosa all the way east, past Barril to Tavira. I didn’t hesitate – I bought it.
That first evening of ownership, I did nothing but sit on the roof terrace with a cooler of cold beers at my feet, supping a bottle of Sagres with the sun on my neck, relishing the view I now owned: the sea, the hills, the Salinas… and the flamingos!
The locals are wonderful. As people began to realise that I was here for the long haul, they began to make me feel welcome. The men would say ‘Bom Dia’ or ‘Boa Tarde’ as I passed, which slowly evolved into a simple ‘Ola!’. The old ladies were even more welcoming.
On several occasions after I had flown in from the UK (having nipped back to see friends and family) I would hear a banging on my front door. It would be ‘Granny’, the lady from the adjacent house, demanding that I come around and eat a bowl of whatever she had made that evening. We couldn’t communicate verbally, but she was just SO happy to sit and watch me enjoying her food.
And then there are the ‘estrangeiros’ like me – people who have decided that Fuseta is the place for them. It’s an eclectic mix: Norwegians, Danes, Swedes, the Dutch, Americans, and of course, a smattering of Brits – but not so many that we dilute the ethnicity of this stunning place. I haven’t come across anyone I don’t like here.
As well as the people, I love the bars: Snack-bar beira mar 18, Cubanito, O Farol, O Pescador – there are so many. But in particular, I love Nanobrew, run by Kjetil and Tone. Yes, Fuseta has its own microbrewery with up to 18 beers on tap at any one time. You might even see one called ‘Dave’s All Dayer’ if you’re lucky. Yes, named after yours truly. I challenged Kjetil to brew me something around the 4% mark so that I could enjoy it rather than feel the after effects of his stronger offerings. He duly obliged. It only took him four years. I’m very patient.
I did have a van for a while, which helped greatly when renovating the house, but then I managed to kill the engine. I really should have put some oil in.
That sounds like a disaster, I know, but I quickly realised that I really didn’t need a vehicle. Fuseta has a multitude of small supermarkets. It also has a couple of train stations (weird, I know), making travel to Olhão, Tavira and Faro pretty straight forward. In these three towns I can get just about everything I want, and they also act as hubs if I want to go further afield.
My only formal mode of transport now is my bicycle – and I love it. Fuseta is on the Ecovia Litoral, the cycle route that follows the Algarvian coast from Vila real de Santa Antonio in the east to Sagres in the west. I like to cycle to Olhão and back, to Tavira and back, to Cerro de São Miguel. I also love walking, enjoying the peace and quiet of the Algarve that most tourists seem to ignore. I like to catch a train to somewhere like VRSA and then just head homewards, maybe getting as far as Cacela where I can have a beer whilst waiting for the next train to take me home.
Yes, a perfect day for me is to cycle or walk along the coast, through the Ria Formosa, through the Salinas, enjoying the plethora of wildlife as I go, followed by a quick dip in the sea.
And most of all, I love seeing those Blinking Flamingos…
Read Dave’s full story in the August issue of AlgarvePLUS