Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Comment: A new Azores – Algarve connection coming



Both the Azores and the Algarve are likely to benefit economically and socially when the SATA Group starts operating direct flights next year between Ponta Delgada and Faro.


Visitors from SATA’s destinations in the United States, Canada and Britain may decide to make use of the new flights to visit both the Azores and the Algarve on the same holiday.


Furthermore, Algarve residents will be able to take a break and escape to the Azores from the hustle and bustle of tourism in their home territory, particularly at the crowded height of summer.


The Faro connection will start on 2 June 2024 with flights on Wednesdays and Sundays departing from Ponta Delgada at 9am and departing Faro at 12.25pm.  The duration of the flights will be about two hours and 25 minutes.


Airbus A320 planes with seats for 168 passengers are expected to be used for the service. Faro International Airport is the second busiest air terminal for foreign passengers in Portugal after Lisbon.


Ponta Delgada on the island of Sã0 Miguel is already connected directly with regular flights to and from Boston, Toronto, London, Lisbon, Oporto, Funchal and Cape Verde.


Both the SATA Air Açores and the other member of the group, Azores Airline, carried a record number of passengers in 2022. The total was 1,920,451, an increase of almost 50% in 2021, and just over 12% on 2019, which was the previous record year.


Then the COVID pandemic set in. Last year’s figures were achieved despite the negative effects of COVID remaining in the first quarter of 2022. A further increase in passenger traffic is anticipated for 2023, though probably not as dramatic as last year. 


Both the Azores and the Algarve are steeped in attractions for visitors. The Azorean capital Ponta Delgada and elsewhere on São Miguel as well as the seven other inhabited islands in the archipelago, offer good accommodation for travellers.


The islands are far out in the Atlantic Ocean, almost halfway to North America. That’s about 1,600 Km (1,000 miles) from mainland Portugal. This remoteness is a big attraction in itself. So is the astonishing natural beauty and biodiversity on the islands.


They are frequently referred to as “an absolute paradise” for all kinds of nature lovers. The historic streets on the island of Terceira, for example, are a UNESCO World Heritage site. São Miguel is a great place to look out for whales and dolphins. São Jorge and the tiny island of Corvo are ideal for watching seabirds, such as shearwaters, skuas, and terns.


The Algarve is best known for its superb beaches amid historic headlands such as Cape Saint Vincent, and for its luxury resorts as well as less-expensive coastal villages. Tavira, Quinta do Lago, Vale do Lobo, Vilamoura, Albufeira, Carvoeiro, and Lagos lure many visitors back time and time again.


The rural and natural inland areas of the region are particularly popular among hikers and cyclists. The west coast in September and October is best for watching birds in migration. Scores of Buzzards, Eagles, and Vultures may soar overhead while you are sitting on the terrace of a Sagres restaurant.


One of the main differences between the Azores and the Algarve is the climate. The “off- season”, October to April, are usually the best months for hiking in both. January to March is the coolest and quietest period – good for golfers in the Algarve - but also when rain is most likely.


The highest summer temperatures in the Azores are usually about 30 degrees C (86F). July and August in the Algarve, however, will probably be exceptionally hot again next summer – often well over 30 to 40 degrees C (90 to 104 F).


An inquisitive and adventurous spirit is all it needs to arrange and look forward to a memorable first visit to the Azores and or the Algarve.


Monday, August 21, 2023

Portugal welcomes Americans interested in settling

The worsening political and social divisions within the United States are driving more and more Americans across the Atlantic Ocean to seek a better life in the European Union, particularly Portugal.

Lower property and other cost of living prices, plus an attractive and peaceful lifestyle are encouraging the eastward movement.  So too is the ease with which people can work remotely.

Close to 10,000 Americans were living in Portugal in 2022, an increase of almost 240% in five years, according to Portuguese government data. The number of students attending the Carlucci American International School in Lisbon has significantly increased in recent years and now represents a quarter of the student body, according to The New York Times. 

The variety of urban, rural and coastal locations available to buy or rent property is another major attraction. Some newcomers head straight for Lisbon or Oporto. Others prefer the quieter central regions or the beautiful beach resorts in the southern Algarve. The ease with which you can work remotely is also encouraging.

As most readers of this journal will know, many Azoreans and Madeirans emigrated to the United States and Canada in the 20th century. Many of their descendants are now moving back to live amid the natural beauty of these amazing, Portuguese autonomous islands.

Starting in 2024, Americans will need to register online with the ETIAS system before their trip to get visa-free entry to Portugal. According to SchengenVisaInfo.com U.S. citizens do not need a visa to enter Portugal, as long as their stay does not exceed 90 days within a 180-day period for purposes such as tourism, business, short-term studies, cultural or sports events, or medical treatment.

However, Americans who plan to work long-term, study, or move to Portugal must apply for a National (D) Visa, explains Marla Barrett, who specialises in giving second citizenship advice and help.

ETIAS, she adds, is “an electronic travel authorization that will allow all citizens who come from visa exempt countries the opportunity to travel in the Schengen area without having to go through any visa application process. It will be valid for three years or until a passport expiry date, whichever comes first.”

As for the documents required, here are some of the most important ones:
+ Your valid passport.

Two passport photos.
+ Copies of your previous visas.
+ Round-trip flight Itinerary.
+ Proof of accommodation.
+ Proof of sufficient financial means for the period of stay in Portugal.
+ A cover letter.



Sunday, August 6, 2023

Pope Francis’ historic visit to Portugal a great success.

The World Youth Day festival in Lisbon lasted a week. It will continue to be seriously discussed for at least another month, and it will stay in the memories of more than a million young pilgrims for years.

Christians in their teens and twenties from nearly every country in the world arrived barely knowing a word of Portuguese, but hugs immediately became the international “language of love.” 

A few days before the arrival of Pope Francis, the highly innovative Portuguese artist Bordalo II managed to break into one of the main venues and roll out a “walkway of shame”, a carpet up steps to an altar from which the pope was to deliver speeches. The carpet consisted of huge images of €500 banknotes. It was a symbolic protest against the amount of public money being spent on the religious event while so many people in the capital and nearby cities are homeless or living in poverty. 

Prime Minister Antonio Costa downplayed the costs and said the government and municipalities involved would benefit from their investments in the World Youth Day (WYD) event. 

The “walkway of shame” was also a reminder of the “shame of silence”, the cover-up of child sex abuse by the clergy that persisted within the Catholic Church for decades. Shortly before the pope’s arrival, the cardinal-patriarch of Lisbon said the church was “fully committed” to resolving the scandal.  

Local Lisbon residents were far from happy about the disruption being caused to their normal daily lives by the mass of young Christian visitors. And there was some very unchristian behaviour going on as well. Pilgrims had to be warned of scams such as car drivers, falsely claiming to be closely associated with the event organisers, charging exorbitant taxi fares.     

Protests and strikes by local transport workers, doctors, nurses, teachers and rubbish collectors did not seem to disrupt the tsunami of festivities that got underway on Tuesday August 1, the eve of the pope’s arrival. By then more than a million pilgrims were reportedly in the city ready to enjoy various celebrations, including not only special religious services, but musical and theatrical performances and sporting competitions. 

Less than half of the pilgrims had formally registered for the festivities. Of those who did register, the biggest groups were Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. More than 27,000 had crossed the Atlantic from the United States.

On flying in from Rome, the pontiff’s plane was escorted by Portuguese air force fighter jets. Portugal’s President, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, welcomed the pope and his entourage “with open arms” at the Figo Maduro military airport. The tight security in place included an extra large police presence in Lisbon and a ban on drones flying over Fatima when the pope went there. While the safety arrangements were secure, the Portuguese PSP police union pointed to “deplorable hygiene and cleanliness standards” for it members.

On his first day in Lisbon the pope expressed concerns about euthanasia, the environment and war within Europe. Later, in a private meeting, the pope spoke with 13 victims who had been sexually abused by members of the clergy. He “listened to them intently,” according to a Vatican spokesperson. Francis clearly deplored the weak response of the Portuguese Catholic hierarchy to the hideous scandal in this country. Before the truth fully emerged, the church hierarchy had claimed that “only a handful” of priests were involved. Francis lamented that this had driven many of the faithful away from the church. 

Later in the week, the pontiff shared his thoughts on many other subjects including abortion, climate change, the importance of charity, and the need to avoid being fooled by false social media disinformation.

Two hundred thousand turned out to greet the pope with cheers of delight by the time he had arrived at 8.35 on Friday morning for his short visit to Fatima. The crowds lined the route for the popemobile from the Fatima heliport, and filled into the vast concourse within the sanctuary in front of the Fatima Basilica overlooking the Shrine where the three shepherd children are believed to have witnessed the apparitions of the Virgin Mary in 1917. Francis met and blessed babies during his two-hour stay before returning to Lisbon.

Having spoken repeatedly about the gravest challenges facing humanity and the Catholic Church, including the war in Ukraine and child sex abuse, during Mass on his final day in Portugal, the pontiff pleaded with young people “not to be afraid” and that they are “the present and the future.”