Choosing the Serra de Monchique for your annual holiday or even a short break is becoming very popular for many discerning holiday makers. David Cameron would attest to this since he spent 2 weeks here in July 2013. Margaret Thatcher also stayed here from time to time. World tourism has taken a turn in the last 10- 20 years, the attraction of sitting on crowded beaches soaking up harmful UV Rays and building sand castles with your kids, who sadly would rather play with their ipad, has become a thing of the past. This trend has created an ever increasing demand for more rural holidays and the demand for private villas and self catering cottages has spurned a whole new and growing accommodation sector within the tourism world.
Monchique is no exception and both commercial and private tourist accommodation establishments have mushroomed lately with the most recent additions being the Longevity Wellness Centre and the complete renovation of the Village of Caldas de Monchique now offering individual hotels, apartments and health Spa all run from one central reception office.
The way we like it......
The current Mayor and council of Monchique recognise the growth potential of tourism in the area and actively encourage growth, by providing assistance and organising local events throughout the year and especially in the summer months to entertain both locals and tourists alike. Don't worry, the quaint authenticity of the Serra de Monchique and its towns and villages will not be overwhelmed by hoards of tourists, this is the "Real Portugal" and growth will be gradual.....the way we like it!
Regardless of whether you choose to stay in a hotel, cottage or private villa you will always be within walking distance or a short drive of local restaurants or the town of Monchique or Village of Caldas de Monchique. With very quiet roads, no crowds and free parking everywhere your life will be come stress free on your first day here........this is the only way to start your holiday, you just have to try it! David Cameron did! That's right the British Prime minister and his family chose to stay in Monchique for their 2013 summer holiday....was it just the free parking...you will have to come and find out for your self!
Unwind and enjoy........
After a few days of unwinding, taking in the fresh air, drinking the local spring water and sampling the local culinary delights you might be ready to venture further afield. Most of the Algarve's major tourist attractions are just a short drive away. Zoo Marine, Sand Sculptures, Castles, Museums, Dolphin Viewing, Karting, the pretty south coast beaches and the wild unspoiled west coast beaches just to name a few are easy to find. Then after a hard day of "Just doing it" you can return from the hustle and bustle to take a cool glass of wine at a cafe in the square in Monchique, or return to the peace and quiet of your villa for a swim and light the BBQ.
The Algarves White Elephant, F1 Race Track
The Autodromo International do Algarve (AIA) has to be one of Portugal's biggest disappointments! The idea, funding, design and construction were second to none, but that's where it ends, the management and promotion of it has been disastrous. Or was the Algarve the right place to build it at all, the verdict is still open on that one?
Since the Estoril track near Lisbon became too decrepit to host Formula 1 races, Portugal was left behind in the International Auto racing world. The idea to reintroduce Portugal into the international racing scene was not a bad idea but the choice of venue is now doubtful. The Algarve had the roads, the sunny dry weather and relatively cheap land and plenty of hotel accommodation for the visiting masses, ..............that never came. Whilst Lisbon had the local populace to fill the stands, it was a trade off. Unfortunately the masses who would love to attend races all live between Lisbon and Porto further north and of course Spain but getting to the Algarve for a days racing on the Toll roads was just too expensive, so what did the organisers expect.
Best opportunity lost
Then came the opportunity to impress the F1 organisers, Bernie Ecclestone and crew attended with the main event being F2, it was poorly advertised and therefore poorly attended, they even forgot to print the drivers names of the main event in the printed program, need I say anymore. Since then it has gone down hill with less and less events each year and no hope of seeing any international events, well not whilst it is under current ownership and management. So if there are any brave entrepreneurs out there with a bit of cash and vision then shoot me an email, I'll organise something!
But you can still enjoy something!
Putting aside the managements failings and lack of attended events, you can still take your own car or bike on one of the many track days that are scheduled, or if you prefer go to the Karting track and enjoy some thrills and hopefully not too many spills. If you are rich enough then you can take lessons and drive one of the supplied race cars, Nissan Gtr, Porche and Ferrari are/were available.
As I write they have started to construct a new website, or have they, mmmm not sure, I will keep you posted. Here is the new website http://www.autodromodoalgarve.com/Default.aspx it's an improvement on the old one although it is still lacking in "real" content and not too user friendly. It is also only in Portuguese not English, however the Google Toolbar Translator does a reasonable job. It appears that there are only 5 racing events scheduled for 2013....a poor show for such an amazing venue and awesome track! If F1 bring back more testing in 2013/2014 then perhaps we will see a return of some of the teams to the AIA at least in the winter months.
C'mon Bernie Ecclestone get a consortium together and buy out this amazing track and turn it into the gold mine that it has the potential to be!
News at last!!! Courtesy "Algarve Resident"
State takes over racetrack Updated: 27-Sep-2013
Algarve’s International Autodrome is to be taken over by the State-owned Portugal Capital Ventures, Sociedade de Capital de Risco, S.A., which has acquired Parkalgar Serviços S.A., the racetrack owner.
A formal document released by the Autoridade de Concorrência, the competition authority, which overlooks takeovers of this nature, stated: “Portugal Capital Ventures has acquired exclusive control over Parkalgar Serviços SA and consequently gains sole control over assets that make up a commercial establishment located in Portimão.”
The “establishment” comprises the Algarve International Autodrome, the kart circuit and the off-road circuit.
Portugal Capital Ventures is now awaiting the approval from the competition authority.
The Algarve International Autodrome has been a stage for many of the world’s most prestigious races. Receiving such events as the Superbike World Championship, the International GT Open and the Superstars International Series, the track has proved itself as a top-class circuit. Not even these events, however, could keep the management of the racetrack from near ruin.
As reported in the Algarve Resident edition of June 22 2012, Parkalgar had announced that a special revitalisation programme (Processo Especial de Revitalização de empresas, or PER) had been initiated to ensure the company’s future and the viability of its projects under the current economic and financial crisis.
The company said that the programme was made viable by its two main creditors, Millennium BCP and Bemposta – Empreendimentos Turísticos do Algarve, SA.
“Parkalgar has begun negotiations with its creditors to ensure its revitalisation and, through the PER, secure solid foundations for the financial stability of its overall project, which includes investments being made for the conclusion of tourist apartments and a hotel as well as vital projects set out in the initial strategy of the company.”
Before, in late May, CEO of Parkalgar, Paulo Pinheiro, said that an agreement had been reached with a consortium that had demanded the insolvency of Parkalgar for the lack of payment of a €1.6 million debt.
“We reached an agreement over this last instalment owed to the consortium,” Pinheiro said, adding that the request for insolvency by the consortium, made up of companies Siemens, Ensul Meci and SPIE, was a way of “exerting pressure” on Parkalgar.
The three companies were responsible for the electrical infrastructures at the racetrack and adjacent land, where the Technology Park is sited.
Later, in November 2012 (as reported in the edition of November 30 2012), Parkalgar was saved from insolvency when the court in Portimão approved a financial restructuring plan which waived €40 million of its €160 million accumulated debt as a counterpart for the company carrying out layoffs and selling assets.
BCP bank and construction company Bemposta held over two thirds of Parkalgar’s debt and were required to accept the plan in order for it to be put into effect.
As a result, BCP dropped its demands from €117.4 million to €94.3 million while Bemposta kept its debt at €10.3 million.
However, the procedure did not keep the racetrack or Parkalgar from falling into the hands of the government.
With the foreseeable approval of this operation, the debts of Parkalgar will become the debts of the government and of its company Portugal Ventures, which will be taking on the responsibility of handling the company’s delicate financial situation as well as managing the structures of the Algarve circuit.
Founded only in June 2012, the State-run company describes itself as “a private equity firm, focusing its investments in innovative, scientific and technology-based companies, as well as in companies from the more traditional Portuguese tourism and industrial sectors with significant competitive advantages and export-oriented”. It also considers its activity “an active partnership based on capital investment and management support, focused on sales growth and the creation of value for the shareholders through a successful Trade-Sale or IPO of our portfolio companies”.
It is controlled by the support institute for small and medium-sized enterprises IAPMEI (Instituto de Apoio às Pequenas e Médias Empresas), which falls under the responsibility of the Portuguese Ministry of the Economy.
Lets hope that the state can turn things around and get this track and events back in the limelight!