Enchanted in Monchique

Why has a couple with a penchant for travelling the world on one-way tickets and living in some far-flung places decided to settle down in the small town of Monchique?

I am soon to find out. Curious about what’s behind the façade of the intriguing-looking shop Loja do Chocolate e Chá Mágico in Monchique, I step inside. The man who I take to be the owner is standing behind the counter serving a customer. With his slightly swarthy appearance, dark hair, and bushy moustache, I presume he is Portuguese and greet him with a cheery “Bom dia.” The jovial response in English is tinged with an unmistakable, broad Welsh accent. I then spend a fascinating morning with Tony Boland and his wife Lisa, who emerged from the back of the shop. 

They confirm that they are both from Wales, Lisa being from Cardiff and Tony from Haverfordwest. When I remark that it is rather a pleasant part of the world, Tony laughs. “Yes, it is,” he replies. “But having a 30-year mortgage around our necks, and a permanent job in one place just wasn’t for us. As we wanted adventure and the unpredictable, we were struck by a serious case of wanderlust.” 

This took them to the Shetland Islands on a one-way ticket as they didn’t want the safety net of a hasty retreat. “It was just an amazing place – flat, rugged and bleak but with a beauty of its own,” Tony confirms, “Anyone who can cope with cold winds, darkness and snow will find it a spectacular place – not to mention the northern lights!” Their three young children adapted to life there very well and enjoyed looking after their Shetland ponies. 

Although Tony is a builder by trade, his first job was washing dishes in a hospital kitchen. At the same time, Lisa worked in a local bakery, learning how to make confectionery and chocolate. I sense the emergence of the theme of chocolate here!

After five years, it was time to move on and this time to the south of Ireland. A one-way ticket, of course. As he tells the story, Tony becomes even more animated. “I landed my dream job of all times. I was employed to rebuild Kilcoe Castle in Skibbereen, West Cork – for no other than the film star, Jeremy Irons. We were given plans of the 15th-century castle dating back to 1632 and set about reconstructing it. It was a hugely expensive project and was eventually finished in six years.” 

Surely it was time to settle down for good? Nope. They both assure me that the experiences in Ireland were terrific but felt that one more trip beckoned. So, this time, they headed to Portugal. “Clutching a brochure with a pretty picture of the town of Monchique that reminded us of Wales, we arrived with hardly any baggage and no jobs waiting for us. We intended to stay for two years, but it didn’t turn out that way,” Tony laughs. 

It took a while to find their feet. They first rented a small cottage in a nearby hamlet. Lisa had a job as a waitress in a local restaurant, and Tony did odd jobs such as gardening and decorating. After a few months, Lisa was in love with the place, while Tony had doubts. However, his son adapted well, made friends, and learnt the language, but Tony found it challenging at first.

And how did the shop come about? “It was all thanks to local people. My skills as a builder didn’t particularly impress anyone, but when it became known that Lisa could make chocolate, it created quite a stir: ‘Wow! Real chocolate that you can buy in boxes?’ And before we knew it, the pressure had mounted for us to open a chocolate shop.” They started in smaller premises but eventually needed a larger space. The present old building that now houses the shop was renovated. Lisa wanted it to be like a fairy grotto with the interior all done in old wood, appearing as if it had been there for 100 years. It certainly gives it a unique charm. 

There were hurdles, of course, with the initial paperwork being a nightmare. The fires in Monchique some years ago and the pandemic affected business. It has now picked up, with 60% of its customers being locals while the rest are tourists. 

The shop is called Enchanted. Due to the restrictions of the pandemic, chocolate and fudge production has been suspended but there are many other products to catch your imagination. 

There are handmade soaps, oils, solid shampoos, an assembly of colourful teapots and various cork artefacts. Since my initial visits, I have always come away with a new blend of herbal teas or coffee mix to try. Local producers and artisans are supported; you can find medronho, the local firewater, melosa liqueur, jams, preserves and various handicrafts. Products are displayed free of charge. “We might get some vegetables in return!” Tony chuckles. 

Are there any memorable incidents he would like to share? Yes, there are many, but Tony clearly remembers the day the shop opened. “Our first customer was an old lady who probably entered out of curiosity. When she asked for pastilhas elásticas, Lisa and I just looked blankly at each other. It dawned on the lady that we didn’t have a clue, and she burst out laughing. She picked up a packet of chewing gum from the counter and repeated slowly, ‘pastilhas elásticas, senhor.’ Things did improve from then on.”

They are still in Monchique after nearly three decades. What happened to the resolution to stay only for two years? They both agree that the quality of life in Monchique is superb. They enjoy the tranquillity and beauty of the place. Their cottage with plenty of land is just right for their needs. Lisa loves animals and their chickens, ducks, dwarf goats, pot belly pigs and three rescue dogs are well cared for. 

“I can’t stress enough the friendliness and warmth of the people here,” Tony smiles, “Our wanderlust days are over. We are here in Portugal for the duration.”

I now make a beeline for the shop during my visits to Monchique. I know I will find some treasures to cherish, and I look forward to a friendly chat. These days Tony greets me with a fluent “Bom dia.”

Open 7 days a week, from 9 am to 6 pm (including lunchtimes) 

+351 282 111 219

Praça Alexandre Herculano, Monchique

From the main square with all the cafes, walk up the steep steps and you find the shop on the left at the top. Well worth the climb! 


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