Six years ago, at the age of 54, I felt it was time to have a mid-course correction and change of lifestyle to follow the dream. With my partner the thespian, we had notched up more than 25 years of holidaying in Tavira, East Algarve.
Every year, at the point of return, tears would be shed on a Portuguese pillowcase, on the same bed that we’d slept on during every summer holiday. It became harder to leave. After all those years, friendships had been established, favourite restaurants and destinations put on the map. Surely now it was time to be where our hearts belonged?
So, in September 2005, while on holiday, we decided to start property searching, and returned to the Algarve in November. We had to decide what type of property we needed, guided by the all-important factor that we were not looking for a retirement property (many of which we had fallen in love with), but a money spinner; a home that could double up as a bed and breakfast.
The following January, we spent a concentrated week travelling up hill and down coast in the company of an estate agent. The three of us needed to focus on location and, more importantly, property configuration. Only on the last day did we find what was to be our not-so-distant future home.
By June 2006, our London house was sold and our life and furniture packed into 480 boxes (yes, you guessed it, we both read a lot and over the years have built up a substantial library). With unerring speed, it seemed, our lives were transported to another country.
“Thank God we didn’t sell the Billy Bookshelves,” I muttered as I unpacked yet another box of volumes. In those early days, a pinch on the cheek was often needed to wake myself up to the reality of the new life I was living and the reality of a floodlit castle at the bottom of our garden.
Now, almost six years later, two 50-somethings are in a dream that has become a reality. It’s a far cry from the hectic media hubbub and crazy corporate catering that we both left behind for the running of a successful boutique guest house in the East Algarve.
From the moment we arrived in Castro Marim, we knew this was it. It is the eastern-most village nestled in the Algarvian foothills, five minutes across the Guadiana river from neighbouring Andalucia. Every day we get up and throw open the shutters to another day of ‘tudo azul’, pure blue Algarvian skies, the view of an orange tree laden with oranges and glorious sunshine.
For the most part, work has become pleasure and I have even mastered the art of basic re-wiring, guttering, plastering, blogging and other such jobs that, in a hectic city schedule, would have required a phone call to ‘emergency man’.
Regrets? Non, nous ne regrettons rien. The reality is not so difficult: a bit of courage and determination and anyone can do it.
O Cozinheiro is a trained graphic designer and self-taught cook with a passion for food and how it can cross boundaries and cultures. His B&B is Casa Rosada
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