My life in the Algarve - Christopher Papagini

My life in the Algarve, Christopher Papagini

Christopher Papagini

Where do you come from and why here? and when did you arrive?
I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. I spent a few years in Maine before moving to Faro in April 2018. I had not planned on retiring and possibly leaving the States until after 2025; however, the election of Donald Trump and some other concerns about the U.S. led me to a social democracy. I chose Portugal for many reasons, most importantly the people, the food, the weather, and the affordability. I love that I can reduce my carbon footprint by not owning a car here; public transportation, my bicycle, and my feet, get me where I need to go. Not owning a car is more freeing than I had imagined.

What kind of work do you do here, if at all?
I am mostly retired, but I honestly do not like to think of myself that way. I self-publish a weekly blog,, and I do some hospitality consulting work when asked. I have been traveling quite a bit and sampling the culinary delights of the world whenever possible.

How has it been settling here, and as a gay man?
I did some research before relocating to Portugal and I was happy to learn that my sexual orientation would not be an issue here. Although I am single, I am currently not seeking a partner. I am instead spending a good bit of time getting to know myself better and healing a wounded heart. Long walks with my adopted dog Paco, my blog, and travel,have helped me to discover what I truly want out of life. Portugal is a great place for this sort of work and I'm grateful for that.

I did not know if and what kind of gay community existed in Faro prior to moving here. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there is a gay club in the Old Town area -- a short walk from home. I'm only 61, but a midnight start to any kind of nightlife is way too late for me. I guess that's how they keep those places young. When I first moved to Faro I met a couple of Brazilian residents, one of whom I dated briefly. I have found Portuguese men in the Algarve to be extremely closeted. I've been told culture and religion play a role in this unfortunate reality. I have made some heterosexual Portuguese friends and I hope to someday meet some out Portuguese gay men. Until that happens, I'm happy to assimilate. 

Something of interest outside of work... art, novel writing, photography, that you can spend time doing here when you are not working or socializing.
Christopher Papagini

I'm an avid reader:  fiction, non-fiction, doesn't matter. I have shelves of books in English that I'd love to give away. I'm also interested in swapping books when possible.
I have found a wonderful croquet club, Pink Flamingos, in Tavira; we play and socialize over drinks and meals. I'm looking for a regular poker game. Art is a passion and since I sold most of my collection before I left the States, I've been building a collection here.
I purchased my condominium and plan to use it as my home base for the foreseeable future. It's been a pleasure to create a home here. Faro has a couple of beautiful theatre and dance venues; I purchase tickets when I'm in town.
Since arriving here almost three years ago, I have watched the food scene improve greatly. Traditional Portuguese restaurants are excellent, but I'm easily bored with the same dishes. We now have wood stove pizza, a ramen noodle bar, and a great burger (New York style) place. The Municipal Market is a food lovers paradise, with fresh fish and produce seven days a week. We also have a Sunday outdoor market.
Club Ferense is a downtown jazz club and I may be one of their best customers -- also close to home. Faro is becoming more than just a place to catch the train or plane on the way to somewhere else, for many it's a destination.

Where you like to take visitors on a day trip, places to eat etc.
I've had visitors almost every month since arriving to Portugal (except now of course; darned COVID-19). In the early days we always went to Tavira, Lagos, Vilamoura, Praia da Marinha, Lisbon and a few other popular destinations. Now I mostly provide a map and point guests in the right direction.
I love when guests say, "Let's explore a place you've never been." My favorite places to eat are Tosca Jota (Lagos), Casa do Tocha (Portimão), O Castelo (Tavira), Thai in Vilamoura (several), and dozens of others (see my blog) throughout Portugal.

Advice for anyone who is thinking of settling here.
Three bits of advice:
1) There are touristy towns and towns/cities that are mostly Portuguese, you need to do some exploring in order to find "your place" before you settle here.
2) Do all the things you need to do to trade-in your driver's license for a Portuguese license while you're still in the States. The process took me over a year because I didn't do my homework prior to moving here.
3) You will of course want to meet people and create your own community in the Algarve. Like any relationship, it's best to take it slow and get to know the person first. I have found that not everyone that comes here is worthy of my friendship; it was a hard lesson to learn.
Lastly, let me say that choosing the Algarve as my permanent home has been the single best decision of my life. My only regret is that I wasn't born here -- perhaps in my next life.

A few photos of you, favourite places etc
My favorite places are all around me in every direction, but I was born to be near water.

Faro Ria Formosa