Meet Cheryl – our host in the Algarve

Recently, we’ve been chatting to Cheryl, who runs our painting and walking holiday over in the Algarve, Portugal. She’s been trying to use her time in isolation to develop good habits that will stand her in good stead once the crisis subsides. Her house – in the picturesque hills of Southern Portugal – seems the perfect spot for it!

So Cheryl, tell us a little bit about yourself!

I am passionate about Portugal; holidaying, exploring, experiencing new creative hobbies, good food, joyful living, well-being and mindful connection, especially with regard to a healthy work-life balance.

I love to share my love of healthy, delicious, simple cooking with friends.  I enjoy exploring raw, vegan and vegetarian recipes.  My knowledge of the locally grown produce enables me to source the best and prepare deliciously creative fresh food on our painting holidays.

Having visited the Algarve for more than 20 years I am keen to share my Algarve experience with travellers, as I love to explore the area, find new beaches, restaurants and activities, visit the traditional villages nearby!

Cheryl holding a piece of her art work

How did you come to be living and working in the Algarve then?

I am originally from sunny South Africa, where I was brought up on a farm to enjoy the slow pace of life. We moved to the “town” where I completed the latter years of my school education and then moved onto the “big city”, Johannesburg, to pursue a career in Information Technology.

We moved to the UK more than 20 years ago but our dream for the future was to settle in the south of Portugal, which we chose as our ‘living the dream’ destination, having been inspired by the Channel 4 series ’No Going Back’. Having visited the Algarve region for many years, we decided it was the right place for us to eventually set up home.

river lined with trees

What do you love about the region?

If you enjoy the outdoors, then this is the place to be! The Portuguese walking trail (the via Algarviana) passes our location and it is a clearly signed walking route. It’s perfect for guests to enjoy solo walking or running.

Being on your own in the heart of the countryside here is a great opportunity to clear the mind of chatter and make space for clear thinking. It allows you to focus on the peaceful surroundings and enjoy the present.

Birdwatching is ideal as our location is set in a natural reserve and on the banks of a river, so it attracts many bird species – we even have a resident heron who frequents the stretch of river past the villa.

Our location is also ideal for “Plein Air” painting, with breath-taking views of the river, countryside and hills. You paint on location and there is no need to carry art equipment. You can understand light and shadows as you can revisit your chosen onsite spot anytime to familiarise yourself and anticipate how the light will change without having to go too far.

And there are also amazing towns and villages all around. On one of the days, our painting holiday guests visit the historical village, Silves, as it has one of the best-preserved Moorish castles in Portugal, a magnificent gothic cathedral and an archaeological museum.  We explore the cobbled streets and visit a beautiful Portuguese tearoom, decorated with blue and white tiles that depict scenes of the village.

The tearoom leads on to a charming square with a water fountain in the centre where we can enjoy the traditional Algarvian confectionary, pastel de nata (custard tart), and coffee. In the evenings we enjoy live music and a delicious Portuguese meal at the restaurant that is just a stone’s throw from the castle.

ruins in an overgrown field

With everything that’s going on, how are you keeping busy at the moment?

My daughter, Lara-Ann, has encouraged me to enter her “Race Isolate” challenge and the money raised will go to the NHS.

Earlier this year she finally signed up for a 10K race in June but was cancelled due to Covid-19.  She wanted to keep training and was aware that many people were in the same position, so she’s organised a virtual race to continue training and at the same time raise funds for the NHS.

It takes place between the 6th-13th of June – anyone can complete an entry on any day between that week and submit your results by midnight, on the 13th June. Entries will be a recording on your Strava app so you will need to download this free app and get used to using it before! You can follow us here!

Do you have any tips for keeping busy during isolation?

Stay in touch with your friends and family, but don’t get Zoomed out! We are so blessed to have technology that can unite us so seamlessly with video calling, but there’s no need to feel obliged to accept every virtual meet-up invite. Do what feels right for you! Our family is scattered around the world, so we created a group video chat connecting our family members in Portugal, UK and South Africa.  Even my mother who is over 80 years old has grasped the procedure and enjoys joining!

Even my book club has moved to a Zoom meet-up! I prefer to read a paper, but receiving books in the post is not an option at my countryside location, so I’m using audiobooks instead. That way I can take part in the book discussion and still take a break from my computer when I’m reading.

During lockdown, there is no pressure to be anywhere or in fact, do anything. Take stock of your good and bad habits and draw up a new schedule that includes your good habits and eliminate the bad ones.  Now is the opportunity to include new riches in your life that you never dreamed of pursuing. It takes three weeks to instil a routine so now is a good time to start a new habit. I started having cold showers in the morning and by the end of week two, I now look forward to them! I believe they are good for circulation and definitely wakes you up in the morning.

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