When we talk about Portugal’s Algarve region, we usually focus on the beaches, fishing villages, and dramatic ocean views. But there’s another side to the Algarve…
Melanie (who you heard from in last week’s issue) recently interviewed her friends Mandy and Peter for our Overseas Living Letter. This British couple also chose to call the Algarve home. But, in their search for “authentic Portugal,” they’ve set up home inland.
To give you another side of the Algarve’s story, I’m sharing the interview below. Check it out…
“It’s All About The Relaxation”—Why This Expat Couple Chose Eastern Algarve
“We wanted to retire somewhere where the weather is better, where the pace of life is slower, and where the quality of life is higher…”
As we sit in their quiet, spacious kitchen, Mandy, originally from England, explains why she and her husband Peter chose Portugal…
“What brought us to Portugal, initially, was holiday. We’d come here for years and the whole family loved it. We’d pose the question of where to go on vacation to the family and say, ‘Look, we always go to Portugal. Maybe we should try something new.’ But the rest of the family would respond, ‘Why would we go anywhere else? We love Portugal. We think we should go there…’ which is exactly what we did.”
Mandy and Peter live in the interior of the Algarve. The closest city of size is Loulé. The Algarve is notorious for its long coastline and supersunny weather… Why would anyone relocate here and not choose to live by the sea?
Mandy explains, “We wanted to live here year-round, and we were very aware that the coast could be touristy with lots of holiday-goers. It’s packed out in July and August, but empty in the winter. Some of the complexes are very quiet because people have gone away. We wanted to be somewhere we could live all year with a stable community nearby. Also, we wanted to embrace the Portuguese lifestyle and its people.”
Peter adds, “When we used to bring the kids here on holiday, in the evening we would bring them inland and eat where the Portuguese ate. And the kids loved that.”
Mandy continues, “We wanted to be in authentic Portugal rather than on the coast, where you could be anywhere in Europe, really. In July and August, when it’s very busy, you’ve got the option of going down there. But at the same time, like now, you’re sitting here in August, and it’s so quiet. It’s bliss.”
“You can easily get around, too. And we really like the people here,” Peter adds. “And it’s less expensive in this area…”
When I ask if they’ve always been the rural types, Peter explains, “We always lived in more rural areas, but our jobs were city-based. Whether it was London or in the London area.”
Mandy adds, “We knew we wanted to be inland. We had been in this area before as a friend moved here five years before we did. He retired early and introduced us to this area. We looked at quite a few places, actually.”
But what is it about this inland area that draws them in? Mandy answers, “It’s not too far from civilization if you want it. We’re 3 kms from the nearest town where you’ve got the post office, a doctor, the supermarket, etc. It’s well situated. We’re near enough to the motorway up to Lisbon, but you’re not affected by all the traffic.” Peter interjects, “We can be most places on the coast in 20 minutes.”
So, how is different from the coast? What makes the inland area so special? “We love the view here inland, the lifestyle is very relaxing, and it’s not expensive. The local people are wonderful, very friendly, and have embraced us. We’ve never had any issues. People couldn’t be more helpful. It’s just very relaxing,” Mandy explains.
Peter adds, “There is a network of expats that we like but we don’t have to engage with totally or all the time. We love the climate. It’s peaceful. It’s the quality of life…”
So there are other expats in the area? “There are quite a few expats living near us, which surprised us, really. We just imagined that all the expats would be on the coast,” Peter says.
“There are a lot of like-minded people… And I think anywhere in Portugal you’ll find expats nearby. But that wasn’t why we chose to be here. It evolved,” says Mandy.
“What do you do in a typical day?” I ask. Peter chuckles, “I get asked that a lot, actually. It varies quite a bit. We don’t set an alarm clock anymore. It’s all about the relaxation.
“We’ve got the time to do things for ourselves now and we can do things more thoroughly. We’ve got a garden, which we never had time for before. We go to northern Portugal and Spain, do a bit of traveling…”
Mandy smiles and reminds him, “You do a lot of cooking now, too.” “Which I never did before,” Peter adds. “We do quite a lot of walking. We spend time down at the marina. It’s nice; the best of both worlds. You’ve got the coast if you want it and then, if you want a break, you go to the city. We work out, try to keep healthy. Everything is on our doorstep, here. And the great thing is, there aren’t many people or traffic, and most of the roads have been improved.”
Mandy continues, “And we can travel throughout Europe. Everything’s on our doorstep. We’ve just got so much to choose from. We’re enjoying our time, not being up against it, time-wise… doing the things we never had time to do. Then we have the family. We have a lot of visitors. It’s quite busy but a nice lifestyle,” Mandy adds.
“And I volunteer at a soup kitchen on Sundays.” I nod and laugh in agreement, as that’s how Mandy and I met. I joined the volunteers in the soup kitchen one Sunday, over a year ago…
Was it an easy transition for Mandy and Peter? Mandy surprises me. “I wasn’t sure how I would adapt, not working with other people daily. But I have adapted, and it’s fine. Life is so different over here. We spend more time outdoors. Many people play golf, go to the beach… there are so many options.”
“Yes, there are a lot of outdoor activities if that’s what you’re interested in,” Peter agrees. “It’s a healthy lifestyle. It’s a healthy place to live.”