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Fast Track Europe…to France!

Adrian Leeds at the Adrian Leeds Group's table at the International Living Fast Track Europe Conference in Portugal

By the time you read this, Patty Sadauskas and I will have been back in Lisbon for one night before flying to Nice tomorrow. It was a one-week adventure in Portugal that included the International Living Fast Track Europe Conference, which sold out its 300 seats in a flash.

The conference took place in a big resort hotel in Albufeira, the Grande Real Santa Eulália Resort & Hotel Spa, right on the sea with beautiful views. The easiest and least expensive way for Patty and I to meet there (she, coming from Nice, and me, coming from Paris), or so it seemed at the time, was to fly to Lisbon, spend a night in Lisbon and then take a rental car to Albufeira, a three-hour drive away. And that’s what we did. It was perfect.

The beachfront at the Grande Real Santa Eulália

The beachfront at the Grande Real Santa Eulália

Our first morning in Portugal, a new House Hunters International episode aired, “New Job, Two Dogs, Second Baby, Forever Paris”—Season 193, Episode 3. Patty and I had trouble connecting to HGTV to view it, but fortunately the producers sent me a link to the video. Once again, it was a really fun show, and a very unusual one, as one of the properties got rejected from the outset! It didn’t even make it to the last round.

New Job, Two Dogs, Second Baby, Forever Paris - House Hunters International with Adrian Leeds

The first day in Lisbon gave us a chance to explore the center of the city a bit on foot (not an easy task, on the cobblestones and hills) and then have a really good dinner on Portuguese fare. Having been to Santa Bica a couple years ago with my daughter, we opted to return there, have dinner on their outside terrace, watch the funicular ride past and have view of the sunset over the water. Adding to the charm of this spot is the pink house situated across the street, with one window filled with plants and the other adorned by drying laundry. The electrical cords and power lines contribute to the charm of Lisbon, something you don’t see so much of in France where it’s often illegal to hang your skivvies in public.

A Lisbon funicular

The view from Restaurant Santa Bica in Lisbon

The view from Restaurant Santa Bica in Lisbon

The food at Santa Bica was excellent and ridiculously inexpensive. We ordered way more than we could eat, mostly to try as much as we could, and as I was feeling the guilt for leaving so much. I was reminded of what my mother always said to me, “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach.” It’s the story of my life.

The next morning we checked out of our hotel and taxied to Sixt to pick up a rental car. Unlike my bad experience in Los Angeles with Budget Rental Car, this could not have been more pleasant. The process at the counter took only a few moments. A staff member drove up next to us in a bright candy apple red Renault Clio that he set up for us, loaded our luggage and we drove away. (What’s with me and the red cars?) Getting out of town was a lot easier than we expected and within minutes we were on the A2 autoroute headed south to the Algarve.

Adrian and Patty's bright red Clio

By noon we were ready for a real Portuguese lunch experience. Patty set out to find something authentic in one of the tiny towns along the way and managed to score a local spot that very few tourists will ever get to see or experience. We went very off the beaten path, down potholed narrow country roads to reach the town of Messejana to find the Restaurante Bangula (Rua da Bicada 2, 7600-320 Messejana) that Google gives a 4.6 rating.

Restaurant Bangula

Restaurant Bangula

The town is made up of 100% little white and blue houses lined up like teeth. There is nothing in the town except this one restaurant. From the outside, it looked deserted, but once inside, past the bar where two old codgers were drinking their morning spirits, we ventured all the way into a big back room that could seat about one hundred people. It was nearly filled to capacity with locals and workers. The smell of the food was intoxicating. We knew we had scored.

The Algarve town of Messejana, home to the Restaurant Bangula

The Algarve town of Messejana,

That’s not even the word. Patty ordered grilled chicken breasts with fries. I ordered grilled squid with vegetables, the day’s special. Then, we added a mixed green salad. It was all seriously delicious, insanely copious (I could only eat half) and when the check came, we totally cracked up. The total bill was 35€ for our two main courses, salad, olives, two glasses of wine, sparkling water, and two coffees! The coffee was 80¢. The wine was 1€ a glass! The whole experience was well worth the extra detour of 30 minutes or so. We’re already talking about when we can go back.

Grilled squid at Bangula in Messejana

Grilled squid at Bangula in Messejana

The Grande Real Santa Eulália Resort & Hotel Spa is a large complex on the beach that was well-suited for the conference. As we checked in at the front desk and got settled into the hotel, people from my past started to cross our path. Some were people from our own past conferences, as well as International Living staff whom I hadn’t seen in at least 20 years. It was such a delight to reconnect with all of them and take a bit of time to reminisce and catch up on where our lives had taken us.

The Grande Real Santa Eulália Hotel Resort and Spa

The Grande Real Santa Eulália Hotel Resort and Spa

The Grande Real Santa Eulália Hotel Resort and Spa Pool

Barb and Michele Sedita, of Opportunity Travel, were some of the first we encountered. This is the sister-team from Florida that has run our own conferences. They had escorted a group through Portugal before ending their tour at the conference.

Dan Prescher and Susan Haskins, the husband-wife team who joined IL the year I did and who are very integral in its success, gave me big hugs after a 20-year absence. Dan emceed the entire conference.

Moneycorp’s Kelly Cutchin and Iva Slavtcheva, with whom we do business on a regular basis, had a table in the presenters’ salon next to ours. Kelly gave the most professional presentation of anyone—in 10 minutes she knocked ’em dead.

Iva Slavtcheva and Kelly Cutchin of Moneycorp Currency Services

Iva Slavtcheva and Kelly Cutchin of Moneycorp Currency Services

Jennifer Stevens has been International Living’s Executive Editor since 1996. She is the author of the Ultimate Travel Writer’s Program. In 2002 she and I recreated what was on paper at the time to a live, in-Paris program. She also taught me how to write engaging copy. Unfortunately, the live course no longer exists, but she’s still going strong with IL.

Mary Carroll, IL's Publisher, with Adrian Leeds and Jen Stevens, IL's Executive Editor

Mary Carroll, IL’s Publisher, with Adrian Leeds and Jen Stevens, IL’s Executive Editor

Tuula Rampont, IL’s France Correspondent, who has spoken at our own conferences, was at the table on the other side of us. She spoke on several occasions about France including a detailed look at the healthcare system.

The conference, with more than 300 attendees, started on Friday afternoon with opening remarks about each of the represented countries by their IL representatives: Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece and France. The European countries were basically pitted against one another in a battle to seduce the most attendees. As they were speaking, I was thinking that none of the other countries could hold a candle to France and wasn’t worried.

The 300 conferees seated in the conference room

Patty and I manned our table, equipped with brochures, business cards, give-aways and maps of France and French cities. As the weekend went on and presentations were made, we made more and more “friends” as the attendees discovered all the positive aspects of living in France.

Saturday morning, a panel discussion was held to outline the visa requirements. I was the last to make a presentation. After hearing all the others, I couldn’t help but open mine with a chuckle. By comparison, the ability to get a French visitor visa was such a “piece of cake” that I opened with, “I’m going to make this really easy for you!” And then I did by explaining the simple facts:

Slide from Adrian Leeds' conference presentation on French visa requirements

That got France off to a good start. In the afternoon, I made a 15-minute PowerPoint presentation titled “What You Need to Know to Live and Invest in France” that could have easily taken twice that time…but that’s all that was given me. The presentation clinched the deal so much so that our table was swarmed during the coffee break with attendees who almost all said, “France wasn’t on my radar until I heard what you had to say.” As I said from the beginning, no other country in Europe could hold a candle to France for greatest place in Europe to live for all of its benefits.

Slides from Adrian Leeds' conference presentation on the benefits of living in France

Slides from Adrian Leeds' conference presentation on the benefits of living in France

One evening we ventured into the old town of Albufeira for dinner and found a Portuguese restaurant high up on a terrace with beautiful views of the beach, Tasca do Viegas Terraço. On the way up the town’s stairs and the stairs to the terrace was a local bar entirely made of mosaic tile and stone that was wonderland rivaling Barcelona. It was on the terrace with the Sedita sisters and their two other family members that we shared a seafood “Cataplana”—a traditional dish of monkfish, clams and shrimp with potatoes in a tomatoey sauce. No question about it, the food in Portugal was a constant delight, especially if you like seafood.

A local bar in Albufeira's old town

A local bar in Albufeira’s old town

From left to right: Patty Sadauskas, Barb Sedita, Jamie Sedita, Leslie (Jamie's future mother-in-law), Adrian Leeds and Michele Sedita

From left to right: Patty Sadauskas, Barb Sedita, Jamie Sedita, Leslie Scheper (Jamie’s future mother-in-law), Adrian Leeds and Michele Sedita

Seafood Cataplana

Seafood Cataplana

The conference was an eye-opening experience. Three-hundred people came together to learn the differences in the various European countries. Overwhelmingly, we were swarmed by people at our table who were surprised how France had moved up on their list of possible places to live. We knew from the outset that there was no contest with the others, but they had come with romantic ideas that were changed when they heard my presentations about all France as to offer as a retirement destination. We ended up making a lot of friends and potential clients who we’re sure we’ll see in the near future.

To watch my 15-minute presentation at the conference, click here.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds at Restaurante Bangula in Messejana, Algarve PortugalAdrian Leeds
The Adrian Leeds Group®

P.S. We host or speak at a number of events each year. To see what we’re up to next, please see our Events page on our website.


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