From Essex to the Algarve

Sunday, December 01, 2013

From Essex to the Algarve

Nicholas Gape, a former Cornish tour guide from Leigh on Sea, is keen to keep himself busy during his retirement on the Western Algarve.

Having earlier this year purchased a four-bed home with a 2,000m2 garden cut into a hillside that needs reworking, he and wife Gillian have certainly not taken the easiest route to a new home.

"We're not going to be opening the gin at 10.30 every morning," jokes Nicholas, 60, despite the "rumbustious" Dutch neighbour who is prone to breaking open a bottle of his Alsace wine.

"And it's ironic that neither of us play golf when there are so many courses on our doorstep. But I love swimming in the sea, and thinking of finding a boat to crew on and it's great just to absorb life having a coffee in a cafe in Lagos."

It's in the heart of the vibrant town of Lagos that the Gapes bought their first home in Portugal, a two-bed apartment for around €90,000.

It's a large apartment, located in a three-storey block populated by Portuguese owners.

"We came to Portugal because of family connections. Gillian's daughter (from her first marriage) lived with our grandchildren close by, although we'd both been coming to the Algarve since the 1980s.

"The Western Algarve has a rugged charm that the Central Algarve doesn't have, and there's a friendly ambience in Lagos, which is lively all year round.

"When we bought the apartment we wanted somewhere a short walk from all the amenities of the town, and also an ideal lock up and leave property as we used it about three times a year.

The Gapes are now selling the apartment for £135,000 (service charges €25 a month and property taxes €700 a year) through Sarah Noble at Elite Reality ( because they upsized in February to a rather lovely detached villa on Funchal Ridge, or Monte Piscaretta, between Lagos and Praia de Luz.

"We'd been looking around, and decided that if we managed to sell our bungalow in Leigh-on-Sea, we'd go for it and move here full time, despite the fact Gillian's daughter has now taken her family to live in Glasgow," says Nicholas.

"The Funchal Ridge home had been on the market for a while, and because we were able to offer cash, having just sold our bungalow, we were in a good position. It was being sold by a widow from the UK with whom we were able to agree a price in sterling.

"We paid £320,000, but have been told that it was worth at least 50 per cent more than that 2-3 years ago, maybe even 100 per cent."

The detached four-bed, five-bath property was built by the vendor 17 years ago and sits on a 2,000m2 hillside plot with olive trees and views towards Praia da Luiz- amongst a small colony of similar properties.

Each of their villa's four bedrooms lead onto the pool area, and their bathrooms are about to be updated by the Gapes, who are also re-landscaping the garden.

"It's ideal to have family and friends to stay and it's also the type of property we know we could sell straight away if we needed to," suggests Nicholas.

Hopefully they won't need to. Days start with a daily swim at 7.30am in the pool for Gillian, a leisurely breakfast outside and then a morning pottering in the garden before the sun gets too hot.

"We eat all our meals outside and love the outdoor lifestyle that the climate allows," says Nicholas.

"On Christmas Day we can be walking along the Maia Praia [the 4.5km long beach at Lagos] in a balmy 22-degrees. Although it could equally be a raging storm, we feel very lucky to live here."

The only thing that Gillian misses is the quality of shops. For example, the nearest Ikea is in Lisbon - or Seville across the border- although a new one is due to be opened in Faro next year, reports Nicholas.

"The population of Portugal is only 10.7 million, whereas London itself has 8.17 million! You can't expect retailers to provide the quantity and range of goods you get in the UK!" he adds.


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