Sunday, May 30, 2010

A new car

We were told that buying second hand car in Portugal is a bit of a mission. Dodgy dealers, lots of tax, changing your driving licences into Portuguese ones...the list goes on. What is common knowledge is the price of second hand cars, I mean my old metro could have been sold here for about £500 and anyone who knows my old car knows it ain't worth £500!

Our neighbour Jon, introduced us to Joao who runs a second hand car garage and repair shop in one of the towns locally. First great thing - he speaks perfect English, second great thing - any car he sells comes with a years guarantee, third great thing - his brother in law runs an insurance company and final great thing - he is prepared to find us a diesel car for our budget of 500 Euros!

Trouble is, it can take some time...a week later we get the call, he's found a Seat Ibiza converted car into two seater (cheaper here as the tax is lower on 'commercial cars'). It's a bit old, about 10 years old and needs some attention.

We tell Joao 'yes' and about three weeks later, once it is done up we have ourselves a car! Although it does take ALL day to get - things happen slowly here. Very slow sometimes. But 9 hours after we start to collect the car we have it in our posession!

It's black, OK maybe not great for the 35 degree heat, but lets ignore that. It's diesel which is about 40 cents cheaper a gallon than normal petrol!

Needless to say, I have not be allowed to drive it yet!

Monday, May 24, 2010

A cold dip and sunburn

Oh dear, I got sunburnt. I knew it would happen at some point, but alas alas it has happened so early on. This May weather always catches me out. I'm pink (and slightly red) down one side, yet Peter the swine is very brown. Went for a swim in a river beach - a man made pool, with constant water flow from the mountain rivers. Damn it was cold cold cold, the kind of cold that should be refreshing yet makes your hands go numb...actually quite pleasant once the stinging sensation has gone.

This is a short video of me freezing...before I sunbathed to get warm and burnt my shoulder and leg. Don't worry though, there is no video of that!!!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Tarta de Nata Recipe

I love these little cakes. Nothing like the dried up ones we got in Jersey, these are wonderful. I have not tried making them yet, but just googled this Portuguese recipe and translated it. Going to give it a go sometime, but at 1 euro for a tata and a coffee I am not going to give it up anytime soon.

We had these ones in the cafe down in town, for breakfast!!!


1 package puff pastry purchase
pint milk
4 whole eggs
150 g sugar (7 tablespoons)
30 grams of cornstarch (3 tablespoons shallow)
lemon peel
cinnamon stick


Rub margarine and line a pie tray with removable bottom pastry (I used the whole package - he had 400 grams - but not worth it. It should be better with only half the mass extended more thin).

In a bowl mix the sugar with the flour and eggs (I used whole eggs). Mexi well.
I took a pan to heat the milk with lemon peel and cinnamon stick and almost let boil.
Joined the two preparations, stirred well and brought back to the stove until the mixture thickens.

Pricked the dough with a fork (do not know why, but I have fulfilled this rule ...) and poured inside the preparation.
I took the oven.
I set the oven to 200 ยบ and cook for 25 minutes.

Monday, May 17, 2010

A weekend Adventure

The sun was shinning on Saturday morning, so we went for a coastal adventure. Surf board lodged between us in the car we drove off down the IC8 road to the coast.

There is simply miles and miles of coastland, sweeping beaches of sand and sea. The drive to the coast takes about an hour. Empty roads through empty holiday villages along the coast brings you to Nazare, a wonderful seaside town.

We parked perched on top of a hill with the view of Nazare behind Peter. It felt like we were on holiday. Walking down the winding path to the main down (not taking the railway down the hill) we passed others on their travels upwards (not going to enjoy that in the sun I can tell you).

Lunch at a lovely place in the square, fish fish and shellfish for all. A stroll along the seafront brought us to the famous Nazare fishermen (mostly women as I suspect the men where in the cafe having a strong coffee and a fag). They dry their fish on racks made on the beach where they sell their dried fish to the passing crowd. Each Saturday in the season the local tourist office organises the old boats to be pushed out on wooden rollers into the sea.

Onwards we went down the coast looking for somewhere to stay the night, but because it is out of season (we're told that the population in the mountain towns and seaside villages doubles in the summer with local holiday makers), there was little life in the villages dotting the drive down the coast.

While I was out having a pee (local cafes are a god send as far as my bladder is concerned), Peter looked at the map and found Obidos a fantastic medieval town set inland a little. Finding a guest house (Pensoa) was easy, and for 45 euros we had the hardest bed in all of Portugal, but breakfast included, so not all bad. A trip around the town had us walking on the walls of the old city, bumping into hundreds of Spanish teenagers and taking a drink of the local Cherry Wine (yum) in a Medieval bar, lined with thousands of mini bottles of drink along the ceiling.
The owner, Bruno and some random man showing a German tour operator around told us the story of the bar and its previous life as an antiques shop.

The next morning was surf day, except the wind was too strong. A quick ten min drive into Peniche (you then need to say, the surf capital of central portugal), showed Peter that surf was probably off the menu that day (but it'll be good tomorrow)....We walked around Peniche, which has grown larger and more touristy than when Peter was last there 10 years ago. A lovely lunch above Super Tubes surf spot (where some learners where getting thrashed about by the waves). Then one last look at the surf. Still rubbish waves but well over 100 people in the water!!!

A lovely perfect weekend, and I wasn't even left on a beach to watch Peter surf!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Clean power

Portugal is just full of wind turbines, they line the mountains surrounding us, they stretch across the country from the north through to the Algarve. The turbines dot the landscape where ever you look. They are strangely beautiful, although anyone who remembers the series The Tripods will have a flash back to hiding behind the sofa behind scared of the machines.

Tracks run across the mountain ridges, connecting each turbine. Parks are made at the top of the mountains to encourage people to walk amongst these white giants softly making woash woash noises 24 hours a day. Up close the turbines are huge, they are imposing and really dominate the landscape.

Driving across the mountain ridge is amazing, the sounds, the changes in the light as the blades pass across the sun.

At night they light up the top of them, creating a red light (like Mars) in the night sky.

I'm a fan (get it?).

Monday, May 10, 2010

A House Tour, for those that have asked.

Our view from the bedroom balcony doors.

The view from the back door out to our garden.
The garden is on three levels, the middle level has this area and then the veg patch down the bottem. The lower area has a number of olive trees (but not enough to bother collecting them for the local press).

Our living room, not as dark with the shutters open. It gets cold at night so the small rooms help to keep the heat in. But in the summer the lack of windows means the heat won't get into the house.

Our bedroom needs repainting. But the view across the village in the mornings is pretty stunning.

Sitting on top of the world

A drive out to the mountains took us to the top of the world, well not quite.
We climbed up and up this mountain then along a ridge only to find at the end of the ridge a church and BBQ area (and we thought we were being daring going out so far along the ridge). A short climb up some steps takes you to a look out post (with a big church cross of course) which gives 360 degree views of the area. From the sea in the West to the Serra de Estrella Mountain range in the East. The views wers amazing. The quick video shows the 360 views with the noise of the wind from the top of the world.


After buying an axe this is what happens!
Chainsaw madness.
Very cold overnight so the fire has to be stocked with wood. Our neighbour John helped us out with the chainsaw. Rain forecast again today and for a number of days yet to come. That's spring for you!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Running with the water

Took a walk up to the water tank on top of the village. Our house is one of the four in the village that has water rights. This means, the tank, fed by the mountain stream, leads down the mountain, through the village pools (which are cleaned in the summer to make swimming pools)and into our garden.

The channels (in the picture) flow through our garden. To walk along the channels down the mountain today was really lovely. It felt very ancient (although the cannels are probably not that old). If anyone has read, Driving Over Lemons, it is much like his experience of walking with the water.

After we tested the water, it started to pour down! It's going to rain for the next five days we are told! Oh well, a good chance to learn some Portuguese.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

So, how lovely is it?

OK we are online. We have a phone, we have internet access.

Been an amazing week here in Portugal. So much done...Planted veg (carrots, beetroot, onions, squash, corn, potatoes, cabbage) mostly bought from the market. Photo to follow in later posts.
Our neighbours are great. American couple, ex US Marine and an artist - they know everyone.
Local bar (social club) is great, like the Farmers Inn before they asked the people to stop swearing in the lounge bar!

Card games taken too seriously here, loud beyond loud.
Or so I thought until Port V Benifica on the TV on Sunday. Boy they take their football seriously here. I told the bar boys that Chelsea were the team to beat!

We've been exploring too. The Zezere Rio and Coimbra. The Rio is so wonderful, we spent a great day driving around, eating a picnic by the Rio where the fish were jumping. One thing I have noticed is that they take their amazing countryside for granted. Example - Fantastic view across the Rio from this bar, but the seating area did not take account of this, instead the seating area and bar overlooked the road. Maybe when it is all around you, you just don't need to view it so much!

Coimbra today, hilly (I need to get rid of that half stone weight). A great city, but once you leave the cool air of the mountains you can feel the heat of the day. We ate dinner in the cantine for the Peace and Law faculty. The views from the top of the city, across the Mondago Rio were fantastic.

Tomorrow we'll be clearing the water way channels for the river flow to water our gardens, look out for snakes!

So far so good here, although I'm finding the language difficult, not knowing how to communicate is pretty hard. Hurrah for Peter though, totally relaxed with the way of life and can make himself understood like a native.