My apologies for such an absence.
The Quinta’s been buzzing lately and time is always short during the Spring as our Nature activities here mean early morning starts.
Today however I have some news for anyone interested in our battle to save Salgados.
For those who don’t know, this is a wetland down in the Algarve and here at the Quinta we’ve been actively engaged for over ten years in trying to save it from an unwanted development.
There’s a full report over on my birding site, but in short we’ve discovered the largest colony in the world of a red-listed plant, Linaria algarviana, growing on the site to be developed, so we have hopes that this will put the kybosh on the destruction of the site. Nothing in the bag yet of course as there are some large players with deep pockets involved, but at least there is hope and the issue is beginning to be reported on by the local news channels.
What else? Oh yes, despite my rant back in January, we’re rather proud to have won the industry’s highest Guest-generated award!
It’s not often that I become this wound-up - well, not that I show publicly in any case - but right now I’m steaming. It’s all to do with Tripadvisor.
It’s a brilliant concept of course, (and we wish sometimes that we had the same sort of thing for some of our less welcome guests, but that’s another story!), but what a lot of people don’t realise is that it’s not free. It looks free, sure, and of course it remains free to the general public and if you don’t want to “use” its marketing potential, but at this end of the equation we pay for our “Business Listing”, and for those of us who do promote our position in its rankings, for those of us who DO use it, it is an expensive tool, and this is especially so of places like the Quinta, i.e. small independent enterprises.
To date it has been worth the money - even if it was expensive - but I’m not so sure any more and the attitude shown towards us by this massive company has left such a sour taste in our mouths that we will be actively searching alternatives from now on.
Y’see, we’ve always told potential guests, “Check us out on Tripadvisor and see what other guests have said about us.” In other words we’ve increased their hits in our own tiny, tiny way, but there must be many others just like us around the world, and taken together we must be HUGE, and this is where their attitude and actions towards us have made me so upset.
They have just re-vamped their website - not that anything needed re-vamping as it worked fine just as it was - but with this unnecessary re-vamping has come a price increase. “So, what’s so bad about that?”, I hear you ask. Well, they’ve worked out their price rise via our Tripadvisor ranking and the number of rooms we have, that’s what.
In essence it means that the better we are the more we have to pay; if we’ve put a load of effort in over the years to be a wickedly good place to have a holiday and asked our guests to write reviews on their site, sent potential guests there and generally interacted positively with them, thus increasing their hits and securing excellent rankings on their site, WE ARE CHARGED MORE than someone who never sent anyone their way at all.
It’s not peanuts either; last year the cost was 350 euros - this year it has increased by 17.5%, (yes, that’s not a typo - in the worst recession in a century they’ve increased their charge to us overnight by 17.5%) to 446 euros.
You will understand why I am not putting a hyper-link to their site into this post … I will be researching this further starting here …
Now, where’s that stiff drink?
We’re not called “Paradise in Portugal” for nothing of course, but every now and again something happens to bring it home to us and right now it’s the sunsets we’re lucky enough to be experiencing every evening, and they just seem to get better and better!
This one was a few nights ago and I just had to share it.
Our Salgados fight goes on and the latest news is on our Birding site, Birding-in-Portugal.com so pop over there to read all about it - and forgive me for not writing it all out again!
Another year, another Birdfair! Wonderful to have the chance to chat to so many old friends there and we’re looking forward to the next one already. However, let’s have a Salgados update before I dip my hand in the bag.
Your response to my request for comments on the EIA was humbling. So many of you wrote in and the government offices concerned have been swamped by well over 700 emails of disgust that this development should still be on the cards. I hope we’ll be able to swing them around.
They have a few of weeks left to read all your emails and then we’ll find out what they’ve decided. In the meantime we’re trying to talk to as many politicians as we can - there are fuller details on my Birding Blog about this, and I will post up there any news.
I must take this opportunity though to let it be known that I wrote twice to Dr. Artur Rego, the Algarve’s MP, to ask for his views on this matter. He never replied, which was upsetting but probably gives an idea of his thoughts about this. A point to bear in mind in the forthcoming elections!
On a more positive note, we have a very well known national politician holidaying here at the Quinta and I will be trying to get him on our side over the next week during dinner.
I’m also in touch with the Wetlands Manager for the World Wildlife Fund thanks to an introduction from an old friend. He in turn has raised Salgados with the Regional Advisor for the European Region at the Ramsar Convention Secretariat and they will be having a meeting later on this week where Salgados will be at the top of the agenda.
Now it’s just a waiting game …. but let’s not wait any more as regards the raffle, so who feels lucky?
:::::::::::::::::::: UPDATE 11.9.2013
We drew the Raffle once and only one of the lucky winners claimed their prize, (well done David Brooks), so we’ve drawn it again and the winners’ names are published on our Birding Blog.
You remember that we started a petition last year to urge the Portuguese authorities to think again regarding their permission to allow the area surrounding the Lagoa dos Salgados near Armação de Pêra, Silves, be “developed” with the construction of three hotels, two tourist villages and yet another golf course - adding to the 40 or so golf courses already built in the Algarve.
To remind you, the area surrounding the lagoon is pretty well the last intact piece of countryside adjoining the central Algarve coastline, and any building nearby will be hugely detrimental to the wildlife that uses the lagoon itself and the natural area surrounding it. The lagoon is unique and used not only by thousands of birds on migration, but also as an over-wintering and nesting location, and there are various rare species that use it and that the Portuguese Government is under an obligation to preserve. This preservation will not happen if the go-ahead is given for the Finalgarve ‘Praia Grande’ development.
Thanks to your help and the almost incredible success of the online petition, which so far has gathered over 21,000 signatures, you helped persuade the government to insist that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was carried out before any further action by the developer. This was a huge step forward in the campaign - but it is only one step along the way.
This EIA has now been published, but unfortunately it is in no way an independent one as it has been commissioned and paid for by the developer.
Of course this is an extraordinary situation, but that is how the game is played here.
We have until the 26th July to submit our ‘comments’.
The Portuguese wildlife and nature NGOs that have helped enormously in this fight are responding to the technical aspects of the EIA, but what is also needed are the comments of “everyday folk”, in other words everyone and anyone that has valued the area in the past and hopes to be able to enjoy it in the future, i.e. US!
However, the full document in Portuguese can only be seen as a hard copy in various places in Portugal, and nobody can leave comments unless they actually travel there in person.
The non-tecnical resumé of the EIA is on-line in Portuguese here for anyone who wants to take a look, but for those of us who either don’t speak or understand Portuguese too well there seems to be little that we can contribute at this stage … WRONG!
Please take a minute out of your day, (why not right now?), and write your thoughts as to why the Lagoa dos Salgados and the surrounding area should be preserved as a countryside and wildlife area and not be turned into another development. There are already far too many of these littering what used to be the Algarve’s pristine countryside; many of them are failed projects, and we really don’t need more when the area that will be “developed” is, quite literally, so importantly unique and the last one of its kind.
Once gone it will never come back. Think about it …
All emails should be addressed to “Exmo. Presidente CCDR”, sent to email@example.com and cc’d to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com with the subject line “EIA Praia Grande”.
The fight is not over and with your help enormous progress has already been made to preserve this wonderful area, much to the disappointment of the developer, which by its own admission lacks the funds necessary to build the development and which intends to sell the project on at the first opportunity.
Together we have the chance to make our voices heard and to save this very special place.
It will take you very little time to drop them an email and I feel deeply that is the responsibility of all of us to give a voice to those who cannot be heard - both the wildlife that uses the area now and our descendants who have yet to see and appreciate this unique Algarve habitat that we are still lucky enough to enjoy.
Paradise in Portugal receives another Certificate of Excellence from Tripadviser for offering great Holidays in PortugaJune 26th, 2013
We’re absolutely over the moon at receiving our third Certificate of Excellence from Tripadviser.
We’d like to thank all our past guests for having such confidence in us - and we’ll look forward to seeing you again soon!
It’s time I introduced you all to a new addition to the Quinta, Napoleão. He’s the little chap you see in the picture and is now Salgado’s best friend - it’s hilarious to watch them playing together every evening on the lawn.
Napoleão came from a little village, Corte Pequena, out on the Plains where we often stop for a coffee when out birding. I’ve known him for years and always asked the owner that if ever she wanted a new home for him one was available at the Quinta, and a few weeks ago she said “Yes, OK”.
His name then was Loopé, but as soon as he got here and started bossing everyone else around the name Napoleão seemed far more appropriate! He settled in amazingly quickly and is now a much loved friend and firm favourite with all guests.
While I’m here I want to do a plug for an old friend; you will have noted that I don’t do this often so this, being exceptional, must be cool …
Some of you might remember the “Bish Bosh Boys”, Tony, Keif and Vern, from way back when … well years and years ago!
Keif now has a band and they’re very good. They’re called Pimlico Road and their style is “a totally different sound, acoustic americana/country vocal harmony”. Their Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pimlico-Road/128770147180009?sk=app_2405167945 and their web is http://www.pimlicoroad.co.uk They’re hitting it big now with a new EP in the offing. You should have a listen and sign up for their mailing list. I especially like their song, “Juliana” which you get for free when joining. Remember you heard it here first!
And, talking of listening to stuff, I woke this morning to the song of a Nightingale. Nothing unusual about that at the Quinta, but this song sounded different, foreign somehow. Opening my eyes I realised it was Daniela listening on her computer to a link sent by a friend to us. Very poignant.
The BBC were doing a live recording of bird song from a Surrey garden on the evening of 19th May 1942 and they inadvertently picked up the sounds of a bomber raid departing. Here it is, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_MHqW5KVds
It got me thinking of all the current fuss about the UK and the EU and how in our family mine is the first generation that hasn’t been in the Forces as there has been no major European war. I put this down to the EU, the Common Market, “Europe”, call it what you will. Moreover I am married to an Austrian, we live in Portugal, we’re bringing up children of five different nationalities or “part-nationalities” and we’re able to give really wonderful holidays to people from all over the world … that is also due to the relative peace we have enjoyed over the last 60 years.
No matter how much we might dislike the idea of “losing our sovereignty” and “big brother” - and I dislike it just as much as anyone! - it’s worth bearing in mind … and being thankful for.
We’ve been doing an awful lot of birding - and nature-watching in general - over the last few weeks here at the Quinta, (you can see full updates and photos on our Birdwatching site), but one owl we didn’t expect to see was this one we found in one of our local villages!