For anyone who is unfamiliar with “A Life in the Sun”, the television production company True North stated “In this series we meet people who’ve chosen to leave life in their homeland behind in favour of a new start in Europe. Locations to include, but not limited to, Spain, Italy, Portugal and France. The series will follow people through the highs and lows of setting up a business in a foreign country.”

How Cheryl and Graham got on the show

Cheryl Smith told me that “in early Spring this year, Graham spotted a post on social media inviting applicants to apply, who have left their homeland in favour of a new start in a sunny location.” They were excitingly successful and will be appearing on the hugely popular UK TV show which often the highest rated daytime programme on the channel, most recently consolidating over one million viewers per episode”

I asked Cheryl if they are both avid viewers of the show and she told me that “It all started back in 2002 when we viewed a similar programme on TV about couples starting businesses and living the dream in a sunny location. This inspired us to leave our homeland in favour of a new start and to seek out a location in sunny Portugal for our ‘New Life in the Sun’ destination.”

Figs on the Funcho’s business model

“It was during the first lockdown in 2020 that we realised, whilst out walking and discovering new walking paths to and from the villa, that we needed to break our current cycle of running the business from the UK as it was not fulfilling our dream of forming a new quieter lifestyle in a European sunny destination that we aspired to over ten years ago.”

“The only obstacle moving to Portugal is that we had nowhere to stay if the villa was occupied with holiday clients so we needed to change the current business model of offering exclusive self-catering breaks to a framework that promoted special-interest holidays such as walking and painting holidays and allocate the peak holiday period i.e., June – September to exclusive self-catering holiday rentals. During the exclusive holiday rental period we will be free to visit family members who are spread around the world and explore other destinations.”

“We created events that turned out to be very well supported by expats living on the Algarve as they had the option of attending as day guests and/or book an overnight stay. We intend to run the outdoor experiences again this year as they proved to be very popular.”

Filming

We then went on to speak about what they hope the show will have captured and she told me that “there were several days of filming on and off location. We don’t know what will be aired but we expect to see many parts of the countryside of São Bartolomeu Messines and our village, including the local produce market where we shop for fresh produce. The scenes not filmed at Figs of the Funcho were nearby and the scenes that could be included in the show would probably be a nearby location showing our new style of living, a visit to a local agriculture spot, a recce day, a shopping day or an area of interest.”

Channel 4 - A New Life in the Sun

The experience

Cheryl told me that “although some couples on the show have been filmed for almost 2 years, filming us for their seventh series started in June this year and completed early October. Our business model is different to most of the participants as we renovated our villa 10 years ago and managed our self-catering holiday rental business online from the UK.”

“We had an international team of camera men filming us during this period, a Brit, Italian and a Portuguese but only one camera man filmed us at any one time! All the camera men were fun and easy to get on and they have a knack of making you feel at ease that you forget you are being filmed. We love cooking and discovering new healthy and flavoursome vegetarian meals and the camera men had healthy appetites! We enjoyed several meals with them before and after filming days.”

Hopes from being on the show

Figs on the Funcho promotes the wonderful nature in the local area so I asked Cheryl, what they hope to get out of being on the show and she explained that “filming the views in the idyllic countryside will hopefully reveal the beauty of the Algarve landscape and put São Bartolomeu Messines firmly on the map for all nature lovers and hikers. We hope that the country escapes will inspire walkers and nature lovers to disconnect from their daily lives and connect with nature when visiting our riverside location. There are many birds to be discovered in this inland area and several interesting walking trails such as the Lynx walk to one of the breeding centres of the Iberian Peninsula, the Archaeological Circuit of Vilarinha and nearby cultural walks to name a few.”

“Many couples looking for a wedding location on the Algarve generally seek out beach locations as they are not aware of the beautiful and bucolic Algarve country lifestyle that is ideal for country and boho weddings.” “Figs on the Funcho is a hidden gem and perfect for a rustic wedding celebration for up to 70 guests, with clean country air and spectacular sunsets to provide an unforgettable backdrop for those important photos.”

Figs on the Funcho’s bright future

Finally, I asked Cheryl what their plans are following the TV show and what the future holds for Figs on the Funcho, Cheryl answered that “we would like to encourage wellness leaders to run their own retreats for their followers at Figs on the Funcho. There are a variety of outdoor activity options to select that can enhance their bespoke retreat. Whatever theme they have in mind, this idyllic retreat location is a perfect location for their group to deepen connection, unwind tension and bathe in the beauty of nature.”

Additionally, “they would like to encourage more visitors from central and north of Portugal to visit our riverside retreat and enjoy outdoor activities such as walking, kayaking, paddle boarding, bird watching and benefit from the healing benefits of outdoor life as researchers have found that nature simply makes us happy.”

In terms of what the future holds at Figs on the Funcho, Cheryl told me that “with the recent installation of fibre optic internet, what digital nomad won’t want to start the day with morning yoga on the waterfront deck, enjoy kayaking in the afternoon and end the day sipping a sunset cocktail whilst admiring a brilliantly red and orange sunset. Of course, all activities are enjoyed between meetings! Graham is currently a coach and training consultant for technology companies and he plans to offer business training courses at Figs on the Funcho in the not-too-distant future. Cheryl, a previous IT consultant, plans to offer a social media training course very soon.”

If you would like to catch Cheryl and Graham’s journey of their new start in sunny Portugal, please tune into Channel 4’s “A New Life in the Sun” starting on Wednesday the 2nd February to the 4th February at 4pm. The Seventh Series of “A New Life in the Sun” runs until the 18th February. For more information about the show please see https://www.facebook.com/ANewLifeInTheSun

For further information about Figs on the Funcho, please see https://figsonthefuncho.com/ . To get in touch with Cheryl and Graham, please email Cheryl@figsonthefuncho.com or alternatively, you can call +351 912 595 539.