My debut novel, The House That Alice Built, is set in Portugal – a place that has enchanted, captivated and enriched my life for many years. I have friends who feel the same, so I decided to ask them how they feel about the place. Over to you, Alex..
Alex Grundon is a Senior Producer and radio presenter at the BBC in London. He’s worked on a huge variety of stories around the globe – both serious and light-hearted – and in 2018 his work took him to Portugal as he was the radio producer for coverage of the Eurovision Song Contest in Lisbon. He’s been a regular visitor to the Algarve for twenty years and last year bought a place of his own in the seaside town of Lagos.
How long have you been visiting Portugal for?
I first came to the Algarve in the late 90s. It was a very different place to the one we know now. I’m sure a steam train pulled trains from Faro to Lagos. Since then, I’ve noticed the vibrancy and popularity grow. The trains run on diesel now too! Buying a place in the sun has been without doubt the best thing I have ever done. I have no regrets at all.
What does Portugal mean to you?
Portugal is my second home. I feel totally comfortable when I’m here. I LOVE the place. I have a circle of amazing friends there, the climate is wonderful, the beaches and towns are amazing, the food and drink is gorgeous and the welcome from Portuguese people never ceases to delight me. It’s a piece of affordable paradise.
How do you feel when you are there?
I relax. And I smile more than usual. And anything on my mind tends to feel a long way away. How could you not be delighted to have the sun shining, the sea a stunning cobalt blue, with just seagulls and the sound of the waves to provide a soundtrack. Close your eyes in any restaurant and even the chatter has a melody. Perhaps the most overwhelming feeling is one of luck – that I have my place in the sun, my place of happiness, my place of calm, that I can share with my family and friends. There’s no such thing as a perfect life, just perfect moments – and most of them happen for me in Portugal.
What are your favourite places?
I love a beach. And the Algarve is blessed with hundreds. Porto blew my mind with its beauty – quaffing Porto Branco com Tonica (white port and tonic – so much better than a G&T!) in Vila Nova de Gaia as the sun sets over Porto is a wonderful memory. Eurovision enhanced the vibrant colours of Lisbon beautifully…and the 28 tram is a thrilling journey through the capital city. I could bang on for hours about my favourite places in Portugal. Just come and experience it for yourself and find those beautiful memories of your own!
Tell us about the Eurovision Song Contest in Lisbon
Eurovision was fabulous fun. It was my fifteenth Eurovision Song Contest to work on, in my favourite country, and Lisbon embraced its arrival. Fun, positivity, warm, sunshine. The river Tagus looked stunning. The party never stopped. Salvador Sobral’s gentle lullaby which won the contest previous year somehow enhanced the vibe.
You even broadcast from your favourite beach, didn’t you…?
I did. After Eurovision in Lisbon I headed to Lagos for a little R and R. I was asked to broadcast how the contest went – and the only place that felt fitting to report from was my favourite beach – Porto de Mos – with my feet in the sea. Perhaps the best office I will ever work from and the sound of people having fun on the beach made a great audio backdrop.
The House That Alice Built, available in e-book and audio now, and in paperback in 2020.