All EOS blogs All Spain blogs  Start your own blog Start your own blog 

Travelling Spain with Two Dogs & a Parrot

With a good internet connection, I can work remotely from anywhere, so my husband Rob & I took advantage of this & are travelling Spain with our pets & everything we own packed into an estate car with roof-box.

Patience & Perseverence - it's Spain!
19 April 2019

After a week in Gandia Francesc de Borja Hospital, I was discharged.

I'd progressed to being stripped naked in ICU, to a back-tied ass revealing gown & finally into a button front number. When I knew I'd be admitted, I'd instructed Rob to pop out & buy me a nightie, an old-fashioned thought really as I'd not realised the hospital would prefer their fresh laundered camis for hygiene reasons.

However, the long-sleeved wynceyette nightie would certainly be welcome for the cold Spanish Winter nights wink

What a week!

After what had appeared to be an efficient & seamless healthcare service whilst in hospital, it all seemed to fall apart upon discharge.

I was discharged by my 'young' efficient, fast speaking (in English, fortunately) doctor. She handed me a sheaf of paperwork, which I understand was for:

  • Details of a check-up at the hospital with her 2 months hence

  • Instructions to make 2 appointments (both required before my appointment with her):

    • 1 for CT scan

    • 1 for echo-cardiogram

  • Dosage sheet for my anti coagulants & date for a blood test in just 3 days time.

Despite trying to think of everything, I forgot to ask:

  • where & how to make the 2 scan appointments

  • whether to take my prescription to the hospital pharmacy, or one in town

  • if the blood clot checks would be at the health centre or hospital.

The doctor left informing me I could leave immediately, so I I emptied my snack drawer, got dressed & did-so!

It was odd, I just wandered out of my room, leaving everything tidy, like leaving a hotel room.

I'd messaged Rob & suggested he wait for me in the entrance hall.  Meanwhile I asked the receptionist where & how to make the appointments. Apparently I needed to go to both Out-Patient & Radiology departments to do this, so we trooped off to find them.

We picked Out-Patients first where three receptionists were all behind the desk chatting together as there were no patients in the waiting room. Apparently they couldn't (wouldn't?) Book my appointment there & then so I had to leave my phone number as they said they'd call.

We left, but as my poor Spanish understanding/listening skills are worse on the phone, I decided to nip back & ask if the appointment details could be texted or emailed, but no, it would be a phone call only. I'll wait to hear from them & have been practising times & days of the week, but am hoping for a letter too.....

Next we headed to Radiology, but arrived at 2.40pm to discover that reception for the general public closed at 2.30pm so we'd need to go back the next day.

The queue at the hospital farmacia was long so whilst we waited at the end, shuffling my discharge papers & debating whether I could go to one in town instead, a lovely English speaking doctor stopped to ask if we needed help. He confirmed any farmacia should be able to fulfil the prescription.  Desparate to leave the hospital by now, I keenly exited into fresh air!

Only to arrive in town just after 3pm in the middle of siesta closing time!

We killed time at a cafe over a coffee & snack until 5pm (better than this hospital food!) & a really lovely farmacéutica sorted out my prescription.

Finally I could return home to the pets, but knowing I needed to be back to both the hospital & health centre in the morning.

I donned my warm nightie (so comfy), but couldn't sleep.

I'd Googled 'thrombosis in the lungs' & only then realised I'd had a Pulmonary Embolism!

My lack of medical knowledge together with the lack of English spoken by the doctor at the medical centre prevented me truly understanding the seriousness of my condition!

This was a blessing really as I was chirpy & confident about my recovery when speaking with family, not realising they were falling apart with concern & worry.

The doctor who transferred me from the Urgencias admission ward to ICU had shown me my heart with & expressed her concern.  But at 2.30am in the morning, after a long, stressful, uncomfortable day on oxygen & drips, wired-up to monitors, I'd peered at the image on her portable echo-cardiogram machine, but didn't really understand.

Anyway, the day after discharge, we drove back to the hospital, a little later than planned after a lazy morning, took a ticket in Radiology & waited 30 minutes or-so for our turn. Only to find out I was apparently missing a TAC authorisation form (Tomografía Computerizada) from the doctor - sigh.

We returned to Cardiology & Pneumology ward to obtain the form &, at 2.25pm, dashed back to Radiology, just in time before they closed. This time I was allocated an appointment - yeaay!

But too late for Oliva Health Centre which closed at 3pm - more sighs.

Two days after discharge we arrived at the health centre at 11am to be advised to take a number & come back at midday due to SIP card administration being open 12pm - 2pm.  We only had to wait 90 minutes before being served & issued our temporary SIP cards wink I could then make an appointment to see the doctor for my blood test the following day.

My first blood test showed the anti coagulant level to be too high & the doctor would have to phone the hospital for guidance.  I was instructed to return a couple of hours later to be issued with a new dosage sheet & appointment in 3 days.  I imagine the same routine may be necessary until the correct levels of blood thinning meds are determined.

At the time of writing, I haven't had a phone call regarding my echo-cardiogram out-patient appointment...

Patience & perseverence - this is Spain!!

Like 2        Published at 08:14   Comments (5)

My Spanish Hospital Experience
12 April 2019

Last Spring were were in the far South West of Spain, this year in Valencia.  I'll pick-up the account of our journey soon, but wanted to share my most recent story as it was certainly an unexpected & unwelcome experience!

After twisting my foot on the rocks near Moraira beach on Saturday, I rested it Sunday & worked at the computer with it raised on Monday.  In hindsight, this was definitely not the best thing to do (isn't hindsight great?), but my foot was swollen & it hurt.

On the Tuesday morning, I rose &, couldn't walk the dogs, but pottered about the rest of my usual routine for a couple of hours, before heading to the shower. Apart from a sore left foot, I'd been fine, but all of a sudden I felt faint & sick, with a pain in my sternum, thumping heart & breathlessness!

My first thought was perhaps a panic attack (though I've never had one & wasn't hyper-ventilating) so I crawled to bed to rest. I was out of breath as though I'd climbed a steep flight of stairs, not gasping, but breathing so very deeply which calmed a little after a short lie down. It was the most frightenening experience of my life.

Until I rose again when the sheer exhaustion & breathlessness returned, so we were off to the medical centre.

I was put straight on various monitors with clips to my chest, fingers, ankles & wrists, followed by oxygen, then a CT scan of my chest. I was wheeled to a room & lay sucking in oxygen whilst Rob & I waited what seemed like hours for the doctor to return.

Rob had to disappear a couple of times to check the parking ticket on the car, then move it, whilst I mentally made peace with potentially receiving bad news.

I reflected on taking the decision to leave home in the UK & travel Europe, though we only made it to Portugal & then stayed in Spain. I was happy we'd enjoyed some great experiences & if that was it, if I had less time than expected to continue on, so be it.

When the doctor returned with nurses in tow, then shooed Rob from the room, I was really scared.

The doctor didn't speak much English, so one of the nurses passed on the message that I had thrombosis in both lungs so would be transported by ambulance to Intensive Care in Gandia main hospital.

Wired-up to machines & monitors, with twice daily blood thinning injections, scans & x-rays, I wasn't allowed out of bed.  I tried to remain positive, but didn't feel great & slept a lot so time didn't pass too slowly especially as my bed was the last in the ward & all the staff had to pass on the way to their rest room.

A young trendy bloke clocked on to work in his shiny shoes, tight jeans & smart leather jacket.  On the first day, he remained in this outfit so I assumed he was in admin or IT.  However on day 2, he was in scrubs - someone elses I think as his trousers were waaay too big & he walked about hitching & holding them up.  Definitely a knock to his cool image!

When visiting, Rob commented on the waveforms on my monitor, attributing a sound to each so I changed the 'noise' by wiggling my finger & moving my arms wink

Only once though as I didn't want the nurses to come running unecessarily!

My progress was good & late Thursday afternoon I was transferred to the Cardiology & Pneumology ward, not allowed out of bed until 24 hours later, but then still limited to my room.

After having to call for a bed pan & having nurses give me bed baths, being able to get up was wonderful & Rob helped me shower. The feel of warm water on my skin was sheer bliss.  I'd a decent view out of my window too, over orange groves to the hills & Rob even brought me tea in a flask!  Other than this, my only 'warm drinks' were tepid milky coffees at breakfast & late afternoon.

Little things, but life was good as I was alive & recovering.

I was so grateful to be alive, likely to fully recover (albeit on meds for a while), grateful for the efficiency of the Spanish Healthcare system, the tireless work of the healthcare professionals, who should be praised & thanked in whichever role or nation they work.

It was probable that my blood coagulated in response to the shock of the strained foot & resting it allowed a clot to form before working it's way to my heart & lungs. I should have moved more, but my foot hurt & prevented my doing-so - a natural instinct.

I was receiving anti coagulants, having frequent blood tests & sent for scans on my legs & heart. My chest pain subsided & I gradually felt stronger. I'd kept my clients up-to-date by WhatsApp & had an associate colleague covering work for the largest.

It's been a really surreal experience for Rob & I, a worry for our loved ones, but thanks to having my smart phone we were easily able to keep in touch. This was crucial, for them, to know I was improving, & for me as being so far away from family, Rob was my only visitor.

It's said so many times - live life to the full & don't take a moment for granted, love your family & friends, take time for & spend time with them - it's true, you just don't know what will happen tomorrow, next week, month or year etc.

Not all our family understand why we left them & chose a nomadic lifestyle, & we do miss them.  I'll be back to see my loved ones in the summer when I'm fully well.

But we wanted to try a new life too, before it's too late because no matter your age, you just never know how long you have left....

Like 3        Published at 08:21   Comments (12)

Moving Back to Spain
29 March 2019

It was moving day!   This was in March 2018.

After three months in the Algarve, we were moving over the border to Spain & were ready.

Perhaps it was beacause the weather in February had been shocking, or that we were ready for a change of scenery.

I had to admit I'd been a little disappointed with the Winter weather as I'd  expected more bright, sunny days.

However, it had actually been windy most of the time, cloudy & downright wet.

England had bad snow storms & Europe in general had unsettled weather, with snow in Barcelona disrupting the F1 Grand Prix 2018 post Winter testing sessions.  Here in the Algarve we'd had torrential rain & even tornados which caused damage along the sea-front & to homes.

We'd taken a couple of trips to Spain as the border was only 40 minutes drive away & there was damage to the sea wall at Isla Cristina whilst most of the wooden board walks & steps to the beach at Islantilla were broken & cordoned-off.

Our Algarvian cottage had been rustic with shutters & single-glazed sash windows.  The windows & doors had large gaps so we could see the effect of the strong draughts from the wind blowing the curtains around indoors.  The rain blew in under the doors too, making puddles on the brick-tiled floor.  Whilst not icy cold like the Northen yellow house, the cottage had been cool & fresh with the constant movement of draughty air & we'd had the electric radiators on almost non-stop.

So we were ready to move-on.

Our next home in Sanlúcar de Barrameda in Spain was only a three hour drive away,  so I'd informed our host we'd be there at 3pm.

In fact, this was too ambitious as packing the car (between heavy showers) & finishing cleaning took longer than anticipated so I'd had to message at 11.30am to add an hour onto our arrival time.

I'd checked our progress & time after a comfort break, thinking it would take a little over an hour to get to Sanlucar, I had an hour to inform our host of any changes.  But then it dawned!  Spain was an hour ahead of Portugal so at 4.05pm (not the expected 3.05pm), we were already late...

Following a hastily written apology, the host responded to say she'd leave written instructions at the house & not to forget that the clocks would also move forward an hour at 2am in the morning.

In less than 24 hours we'd 'lose' two hours.  Would we ever get them back?

We drove towards Seville & followed the motorway across the river to the South of the city with just an hour left of our journey to the coast & estury of the Guadalquivir river.  We were amazed at just how flat the landscape was, with fields extending for miles.  Closer to Sanlucar, there were low rolling hills with no hedgerows or substantial trees, few towns or turnoffs from the main road.

Typical to Spain, it was a well-maintained fast road, but both Rob & I agreed the journey seemed to be one of the longest hours we'd experienced!

In the end, after following Google Maps through Sanlucar to the house without problem, the host was there with her hubby & to help translate, their son-in-law & two lovely grandaughters.

We emptied the car & dumped everything in the house, cracked open the two bottles of Sagres beer we'd brought, then Googled direcions to the nearest supermarket to fetch provisions.  A qickly cooked meal later & we were in our new home for the next month.

Like 1        Published at 09:06   Comments (4)

How Many Pairs of Shoes Do You Have?
08 March 2019

"How many pairs of shoes do you have?"

This was a question I was asked recently.  I'd flown to London for a meeting with one of my clients, her team & board.  As I work remotely, although I'd been in contact with everyone by email or phone, I'd actually met very few of the people there.

Some may have known that I was based outside of London, but few were aware that I lived & worked from Spain.  Naturally they were curious & wanted to know more about my lifestyle.

Learning that all hubby Rob & I own fits into a car prompted the question about the number of shoes I have & a peer under the table to see what I was wearing!

This was funny & I half wished I could show something more shocking than my smart brown & red ankle boots!

12 pairs if you're wondering, plus wellies.

In just under 18 months, I've never worn my black kitten heels or cream wedge sandals, whilst there's a few other pairs have only rarely been used.

With wide size 8 feet, fashion footwear has generally never fit so when I find smart comfy shoes, I look after & keep them for as long as possible.

So even if I worked in London, I'd still not own many more pairs than I do now, but then I'd never work in London & consider myself fortunate not to have to conform with appropriate attire to be accepted in the corporate world.

Not when being a Virtual Assistant has given me the opportunity to work from Spain in my flip-flops!

We pack carefully, having a couple of suitcases in case we go on holiday elsewhere, but with most of our clothing & a change of towels & bedding in vacuum sealed plastic bags with the air sucked-out.  This idea didn't seem quite so bright once I realised continental homes have tiled floors & no vacuum cleaners...

I resort to first rolling on the bags to expel air & then sucking as much more out as I can by, well, sucking!  It's the reverse of getting light-headed when blowing-up a balloon laugh  But it works well-enough.

I have a few packing cubes for our smalls, but did cram so much in these that some of the zips broke.  My shoes are in a (now tatty) canvas storage case & I stuff my socks into the boots & trainers.

I have to be organised with packing so I know where to find everything.  This works most of the time as we have toiletries bags, a blue holdall for wires, cables & extension leads, a cream one for small electrical items (hairdryer, straigteners & travel kettle etc), a bag for my sewing notions, large laptop bag for my computer & accessories & nylon backpack for pet paraphernalia.

But there's always a last-minute bag or two for all the bits & pieces that naturally collect on tables & worktops, or that we need right-up to leaving a home.  These are the items that drive us nuts when we attempt to find them & cannot remember in which bag they may be.

We've undoubtedly left stuff behind, but if we cannot remember what & haven't missed it, then we cannot have really needed whatever it was we left!

We've never been possession oriented & I'm appalled by today's throw-away society & shiny-object syndrome, having to have the latest new thing, when the one you already have still works fine.

I've been surprised that I haven't missed anything we used to have but don't now.  Admittedly, we need to rent furnished property & accept the varying degrees of comfort, how well the kitchen is equiped, (or not) & someone elses taste in ornaments & art.  But that's a minor detail to the life that we're enjoying.  We move stuff around to suit when arriving somewhere new & hide the most appalling clutter, then put it all back when we leave.

No problem.  Where to next? 

Like 3        Published at 09:26   Comments (2)

Living in Temporary Homes
08 February 2019

Not having a permanent home isn't for everyone as many people take pride in their posessions, furniture, decor, kitchens & gardnes etc & would hate to give them up!  We're more than happy however, to stay in temporary homes in new places & countries :-)

When I'd booked the Algarve house, I'd mentioned being cold in the North to our host.  So when we arrived, João showed me that he'd plugged electric radiators in every room to warm the house through - so lovely.

One of the benefits of an Air B&B holiday rental, even for long-term lets, was that power costs & internet were usually included.  You pay a service & cleaning fee with the rental cost & that's it.

Although we'd paid almost 50% less for a month's rental for the yellow house, the €100 cleaning fee & €250 deposit brought the initial booking cost up to about the same.  We were also later to discover that we 'apparently' owed an additional €63 for cleaning & an extra €218 for electricity as apparently, the power for the month cost a total of €468!

Lesson learned...

We also know from shorter self-catering holidays, that it's necessary to:

  • Find the fuse box - there was a fan heater at the Galician house which, when switched on, fused the circuit if there were too many other appliances already turned on.
  • Have a torch to hand - handy in the event of the fuse flipping out, or an overall power cut.  To-date, we've had power cuts in all but one of our temporary homes.
  • Have a spare gas bottle - if hot water is supplied by gas from a bottle, ensure there's a spare.  You can guarantee the gas will run out part-way through having a shower!
  • Ascertain how the water is heated - we've had electric hot water tanks (of varying sizes) & combo gas boilers (which needed batteries for the ignition).  If your hot water turns cold, you'll need to know why.
  • The water supply - is it town water, or from a bore-hole?  If a bore-hole, then the pump won't work if you have a power cut.
  • Torches & candles - keep a supply of batteries for the torches & matches for the candles (which do seem to be acceptable & available in some rentals).

Renting fully furnished & fully serviced accommodation is great, but you do have to put up with what's provided, rather than haven chosen it yourself.  Sofas & beds may not be comfortable either & appliances may not work well.

In the Algarve, the elderly washing machine didn't initially work correctly & there were no instructions, in Portuguese or otherwise.  After it didn't stop at the end of a cycle & went around a second time, I sat & watched & waited for it to finish.  (I'm not at all photogenic & this is not the most flattering photo!)

We've had cooker hobs where the diagrams & temperature guide has been rubbed-off & ovens with just two temperatures, very low & very hot!

I also work as a virtual assistant full-time so am sat in front of a computer for long hours.  Back in the UK, had a comfortable chair & dedicated desk setup at the right height.  Travelling means I have to use chairs of varying comfort & the kitchen or dining table as my desk.

I brought a laptop height riser & have separate keyboard & mouse, but often have pillows & cushions on my chair to find a comfy position.

But these issues are all part of the journey & the experience, they provide stories to tell, blogs to write & I wouldn't swap my current lifestyle!

Like 4        Published at 09:45   Comments (6)

The Black Kitten
25 January 2019

We've acquired a kitten!

We don't want a kitten & cannot have a kitten because of the parrot, but the kitten doesn't care.  It came running down the drive towards us when we returned home one evening & stayed, crying outiside.  We didn't feed it for two days thinking it would realise that there was no food here & that the dogs would chase it away, but kitten's not afraid of the dogs.

It was insistent & persistent, mewling pitifully & obviously starving.  It wasn't a typical stray, scavenging & hunting, happy to walk alone, it craved love & attention. 

We're in a single story house & it sits crying on the window sill of whichever room that we're in, including the bedroom - all night.  So we relented & gave it dog food, being fully aware it wouldn't then leave.

It's a cute little thing, jet black with bright green eyes & not very old.  It's also lightening fast, shooting in the crack of any open door & obviously doesn't have whiskers to indicate the gap is too small.  When taking it some food out, kitty squeezed past me & dove between Max's legs to tuck into his food.  Max wouldn't give up his dinner & snarled nastily, but did I mention that kitten's not frightened of dogs?

Roxy's intrigued by the constant feline presence & has now befriended it so they follow each other around.  I can imagine them eventually snuggling-up together, but we cannot keep a cat with a parrot as the smallest scratch can be leathal.  I took the dogs a good half-hour walk & kitty followed us all the way down the lane & around the fields & back.  It wants to play, but we can't form a bond or become attatched because what will happen to it then, when we leave the house & the Algarve?

I found an animal rescue centre in nearby Loule (Canil de São Francisco de Assis - AAAA Associação dos Amigos dos Animais Abandonados) so we set-off with the cat in the only box we had - a Sagres beer box.  Or tried to set-off, but the car battery was flat.  Due to this happening in Galicia, we'd bought a battery charger, but couldn't charge-up in time before the centre closed.

So, when they're back open in the morning, we'll try to take kitty there again...

But the car battery was flat again!  It didn't fully charge the previous day & we only went a short drive into Loulé so not far enough to really put the charge back in.  The engine was attempting to turn-over, so we left the charger plugged in whilst we turned the ignition...

& blew the charger fuse!

So we had a flat battery, a car too heavy to push, a charger that wasn't working & no transport to go anywhere!  I was about to call on our Air B&B host (once again), then thought to look in the box & found a spare fuse :-)

We'll now need another fuse for a spare, but then again, we'll not attempt to start the car whilst the charger is attached...

Is something in the universe informing us that it's not our place to take the cat to the rescue centre?

It's Friday now & they're not open again until Tuesday.

On Tuesday morning, after a weekend of throwing the kitten out of the house time & time again, we determined, once more to take it to the rescue centre.  However, although the car started, the kitten was absent!  This creature which had permanently been under our feet for a few weeks!  Although we were tempted to call "Puss, puss", we didn't as we'd deliberately tried to avoid any affection.

Fortunately (or unfortunately), kitty soon appeared & was settled into his box.  Arriving at the St Francis of Assis animal rescue centre, we were informed that the decision makers were in a meeting & asked to wait, or take the cat to the municipal pound.

We waited.

It was sheltered in the yard & hot & the dogs barked, especially loud when workers walked through the pound.  The kitten was very wary for a while, then as he was being fussed, settled down to enjoy the warmth & attention.  An hour passed & once again, we were beginning to think kitty was destined to stay with us, so we waited.  The centre closed to the public for the day, but we were inside, so we stayed put.  Eventually a be-suited man, accompanied by a couple of women, exited the building & into the pound.  We'd arrived during opening hours, but apparently in the middle of an impromptu local authority inspection so had to wait a little longer whilst the official made his checks.

Finally, a friendly worker came over & fussed the kitten, exclaiming that he was so cute & friendly, then she took him out of the box & wandered off.  Although the centre was apparently full, they kindly accepted black kitty & we made a donation in thanks.

The rest of the week, I still thought I heard cries & expected a furry black shape to come shooting indoors.  I hope little kitty finds a good home as he'll be an affectionate pet for someone.

Like 2        Published at 09:03   Comments (4)

First Christmas & New Year Abroad
11 January 2019

I was determined to walk the beach on Christmas Day.  At the beginning of the year, we'd holidayed in Gran Canaria so for the very first time, I'd enjoyed my Winter birthday in the sun & a Christmas beach walk would just top-off the year nicely.

Although Christmas Day was cloudy it was also warm & we headed to Faro beach.  It was so great to wander across the sand with the dogs, before enjoying a beer & 'Pastel de Nata' Portuguese custard tart.  I was very content & we returned home for our quiet Christmas dinner.

Our Portuguese friends drove down from Setubal on 30th December so we had good company for New Year.

On New Year's Eve, the moon was just one day from being full & had a dramatic ring around it. The night was cool, so we built a fire-pit in the back garden & sat round the warmth with drinks & the two drums (djembe & cahonita) that Rob had brought. At midnight, we stood on the roof terrace to watch (& listen to) the fireworks in the local towns in the distance all around us.

The stray black kitten which had arrived a few days earlier (& which we'd tried not to encourage), loved having some knees to sit on. We hoped that our friends would take it back with them (I know they were tempted), but in the end, having a number of dogs & cats already, they didn't & it stayed to beg & constantly cry outside.

New Year's Day was bright & sunny so we walked on Faro beach & it was obviously warm enough for sunbathing for some. One man in shorts only, was sat meditating on the sand. It was a lovely way to greet a new year which we hoped would be packed with adventure & new expeiences.

As mentioned, my birthday is at the beginning of January & we don't have space to acommodate physical gifts so I was keen to find something memorable to do. A Google search revealed Rooster Quad Tours just down the road.


We'd never tried quad biking so had the beginners tour with a German couple on a wet morning & loved it!  The sun came out & we got muddy from the puddles left by the recent rain. Mark & Claire looked after us & a week later, keen to replicate the experience, we had another longer & faster ride with an English duo. The Algarve has a surprising amount of undeveloped green space with many off-road tracks through the hills so we saw beautiful views that wouldn't otherwise be visible from a car.

We explored the Algarve, re-visiting favourite haunts & finding new ones.  We loved the beaches far East of Faro & even popped over to Western Spain on a couple of occasions, spending time in Huelva & Isla Cristina.  I loved the expansive beaches, especially as dogs were allowed on those out of town during Winter.  January's weather was generally dry & sunny so we walked the dogs up & down the coast most afternoons, finding beach bars to enjoy a beer or coffee.

We went further afield at the weekends, to the Monchique hills & the less developed West coast.  This was actually the second time we'd driven up-to Aljeur & Odexeixe & the second time the weather was dull & cool.  I liked the wildness, in particular the Ribeira de Seixe estury beach & Praia da Amoreira, but Rob wasn't too keen on the area the first time & the second visit still didn't impress.  We've done it twice now, so no need to go back - plenty of other places to see..

Loule annual carnival was in February & was an enjoyable afternoon out.  With a Brazilian feel, the music was lively & loud, the floats creative & bright, the dancers energetic & enthusiastic, the costumes colourful & exotic with little fabric & lots of flesh for some participants!  The main street was cordoned-off with just a €2.50 cost to enter the party atmosphere.  The bars & food stalls were doing a roaring trade & the procession went round & round the circular route with streamers & confetti soon filling the road.  We thought it great that no barriers kept people back so everyone mingled together, the dancers posing for photo after photo, especially the scantilly clad girls.












































Like 1        Published at 09:13   Comments (2)

Off to the Algarve
21 December 2018

We were off to the Algarve, approx 5.5 hours drive from Porto!

As my biggest client had begun their Christmas holidays close of business on Wednesday 20th December, instead of moving at the weekend, I wouldn't have work to do on the 21st, so that's when we'd go.

The week previosly I'd informed the landord of the yellow house who wasn't too happy to lose a months rental.  However, with no contract in place, whilst I don't like to let anyone down, our happiness was more important.

Once again we packed-up the car on a beautiful dry sunny day.  This time we had a couple of extra boxes as we'd purchased a battery charger & the halogen heater!  Fully laden, we headed-up the lane, but where the earth ended at cobbles & the track became steep, the wheels skidded with no purchase.  Rob revved & after a few tries, the car found enough grip to continue, but we pulled over on the flat to check the tyres were OK.  They were.

However, when we set-off again, there was a horrid grinding noise from the front right of the car.  It was a worrying intermittent sound, but we'd no idea what was causing it & it wouldn't necessarily repeat if a mechanic took the car for a test-drive.

THe Honda was a worry, being nearly 15 years old with 175k miles on the clock & we were in no-doubt that it would eventually break down at some point.  When we decided to travel, we considered selling it & buying another.  We looked at left-hand drive vehicles & in particular camper vans, but although a romantic idea, not ideal with two dogs & a parrot!  The deciding factor was funds, why change a car that was actually very reliable & use-up savings that we may well need for other necessities?  We were just keeping some money on one side for a car & would look at what was available wherever we happened to be should we ever desparately need a replacement vehicle.

Fortunately, by the time we hit the motorway the scraping had stopped so we relaxed into the journey.  Portuguese motorways are in excellent condition & not busy (likely due to the tolls which the locals don't want to, or cannot afford, to pay) so it was a pleasant, if slightly boring drive.  We'd looked at other routes, but they'd take longer & we anticipated an evening arrival as it was.

I was delighted that it was warmer on each of our rest stops as we travelled further South!  Bliss smiley

Each time we drive through the Alentejo, the journey always seems a really long one & it was also dropping dark by then - it was the 21st December & the shortest day.  The wide open spaces were certainly the best part of the route to see the fantastic sunset to our right in the distance.

Following Google from the link in the Air B&B app, we approached Santa Barbara de Nexe past a brightly lit shopping mall & we really hoped that wasn't in view from our house!  I'd kept our host up-to-date as we were an hour later than anticipated & Joao was waiting when we arrived with a welcome pack of cheese, biscuits & wine!  I'd mentioned how cold we'd been in the North & he'd placed radiators in the lounge & bedroom, but the overall temperature inside & out was warmer than we'd experienced the previous few weeks anyway.

Once he'd settled us in to a lovely rustic single-story house, a short distance off the road up a cobbled track, we returned to the small supermarket in Santa Barbara de Nexe 10 minutes down the road to buy something for tea.  After living in rural areas of Spain & Portugal for a number of weeks, it was actually a surprise that the assistant spoke English straight-away!

It was too dark to see the surrounding area (so no shopping mall - yeaaay), but we felt a sense of olive groves.  Having visited the Algarve on holiday many times before, we felt welcome & immediately at home.

We awoke to a glorious Algarve day with clear blue skies & sun. Having had a long journey the previous day & bought supplies the previous evening, we styed-put at the house to unpack, settle & enjoy our surroundings.  We walked the dogs down the fields at the back & sat on the terrace enjoying the sun.

The following morning, we headed into nearby Loule for the town's well-know market. However, just a couple of days before Christmas, the gypsy market was a disappointment with just a few stalls. The produce market was buzzing & we bought fresh fruit, veg & cheese before heading off the the supermarket for food enough for Christmas & beyond.

Like 1        Published at 09:31   Comments (0)

Last Days in the Yellow House
30 November 2018

For a week, the plumber came each day.

He installed a new (bigger) water tank, but still the water barely heated to tepid.  Half-way through the week, he identified a leak so the water was draining straight out of the tank & not remaining in there long enough to heat up.  By keeping the valve closed at the bottom of the tank, the water heated up.  We just had to open it when we needed to use hot water, then close it to ensure the water heated.

Not ideal but OK for a few days.  Eventually, a week after we'd arrived, after moving a log store outside & drilling into the wall, the plumber fixed the leak & we had hot water.

In addition to clothes, I'd brought the basics of bed linen, towels & fleece blankets with us in the event that these were not provided. I suspended a couple of my large fleeces from the banisters to block-off the open stairs in an attempt to stop heat disappearing.  It definitely wasn't pretty, but it did cut out some draughts.  The small wall-mounted electric radiators in most rooms didn't kick out much heat, just enough to almost remove the chill in the air.  When we spotted a halogen heater in a shop window, on impulse, we bought it.  It was so bright we need sunglasses if sitting near or facing it!  We also became used to layering-up with clothes, thick socks & fingerless gloves, feeling like the Mitchelin Man, but still having cold extremities.

When it was sunny during the day, which was actually most of the time, it was warmer outside, but due to the garden being enclosed by high walls & gates, the sun only reached small areas inside.  I bet it's a beautiful place in the Summer.

As the house was half a mile down a single lane track & we didn't yet have a battery charger, we took the car out for a run every couple of days. It was also great to warm-up with the car heaters on!

Honestly, we had to go a drive in the car to truly feel warm...

At the beginning of December, I returned to the UK for my daughter's birthday & the three days I was away in freezing Manchester, Northern Portugal was battered by storms with high winds & torrential rain.  Poor Rob was more-or-less house-bound & had a total power cut for a few hours.  We cannot light candles as they are poisonous to parrots & with no gas at the property & everything, including the cooker hob all being electric, he couldn't do anything, not even make a hot cuppa.

It was a miserable time.

When he drove back up the lane, part of the retaining wall for the field at the side had collapsed & he had to roll away boulders to get the car past.  They were all large & heavy so he couldn't move them far & it was a tight squeeze to get past with the car. I'd previously spotted a worrying bulge in the wall, but it wasn't this that fell, but another part of the wall a short distance away.  We were understandably concerned that it wasn't an ideal long-term home for the Winter.

When booking the house, I'd paid the landlord a one-off €35 to upgrade to faster wifi as without a good internet connection, I cannot do my work. Due to the location of the house, we had a mobile connection which had been pretty good. However, as the weeks went by, the signal deteriorated & kept disconnecting which was frustrating. Added to the cold (the house was barely warmed though after nearly a month), we knew we had to get out.

Searching Air B&B, we found an available pretty blue & white house in the Algarve at a reasonable price. Though we'd intended to stay another month in the North, then slowly work our way South through Portugal in stages, stopping off to stay somewhere central for a few weeks, the thought of Christmas in the Algarve was certainly appealing.

We were determined to explore & one evening we headed off to Amarante to see the Christmas lights & pop into the supermarket. We'd Googled options so followed directions around some narrow one-way back roads to get to the Continente so we weren't sure of the best route out. Exiting the car park & heading down a very narrow cobbled (of course) one-way street, it ended in a T-junction at another equally narrow cobbled street, both with no pavement & tall houses on either side.

Our Honda estate was a long car & often it's only Rob's advanced driving skills which get us through. Even he had a challenge that time. With a car close behind us & another approaching from the right, this was at least a six point-turn & part-way through, I almost believed we were stuck! Thanks to Rob, there wasn't a scratch on the car as we continued down the steep road.

I didn't want to miss out on a trip to Porto see the vineyards descending the Douro river valley, seen in every brochure for the area, so on our last weekend, we took a riverside road into the city. Parking at the Estádio do Dragão, we took the metro into Porto & had a lovely afternoon.

However, there were no vinyards to see, so the following day we went upriver instead.  As it was Winter, there were a few brown leaves on the vines showing the brown earth of the terraces below, so not the green rows I'd imagined.  It was a good day though & we enjoyed the drive to Peso da Régua & through the fields to Vila Real.

Like 2        Published at 08:51   Comments (4)

Settling into our Yellow Portuguese Home
16 November 2018

The yellow house was cold.

We were cold from the very first evening & things didn't improve. We quickly realised that the lovely log fire actually kicked out very little heat.  The cast-iron free standing log burner in our Galician home acted as a storage heater.  Once it was heated through, it continued to eminate heat long after the logs had burned to ashes.  The fire here, built into the wall didn't.  Even if we were sat right in front of it, there was very little warmth.

The fire was linked to an electric pump which, once a certain temperature was reached, blew hot air through vents into the upstairs rooms in a kind of basic central heating.  However, in order to do this, air was sucked in which caused the logs to blaze & burn quickly.  Burn quickly they did & we knew our complimentary tonne would soon deplete.  There was an electic radiator in each room & we had these turned on full-time, but with an open staircase, the lounge-kitchen-diner below was uncomfortably cool.

I think the house had been empty a while as the bedding was chilled & felt damp.  The walls were cold through & it would take an age before they would warm up enough not to suck the warmth right out of each room.

To make things worse, the morning after arriving we had no hot water & the temperature dial on the tank hadn't moved from the position shown to me on our arrival.  The house was icy cold & now we couldn't even have a hot shower.  Needing provisions, we abandoned all thought of a wash & headed to Marco de Canaveses, the closest large town & found an Intermarche - all supermarkets in Portugal are open on a Sunday.  As we set off, we'd programmed Billy so we could find our way home.  However, as our house was off the main road, we'd had to choose a crossroads close-by on the lane above as the fix-point.

On the way back, we diligently followed Billy's instructions which led us up a cobbled lane neither Rob nor I could remember travelling on the way down into town.  Non-the-less we assumed that Billy had found a quicker or more direct route back.

No he hadn't & this was one of the many occasions that we exclaimed "FFS Billy!"

We climbed up, closely avoiding a red sports car driving downhill towards us, on our side of the road, round a blind bend - Portuguese drivers!  Another country & another near miss on the second day after arrival.  Just so long as they continued to be near misses & no worse...

Negotiating a fallen Eucalyptus tree, we continued to climb the cobbles right to the top of the hill.  The view was spectacular & the hillside was covered in massive rounded granite boulders.  Wanting to get back home with the food, we didn't stay, but planned to return with the dogs another time.

The cobbled road eventually ended in a single-lane of hard-packed dirt track, but still up for an adventure we continued on.  Eventually, after decsending down a steep lane we tipped out at the crossroads opposite our lane!  For some reason Billy had taken us up & over the mountain rather than the more direct & gentle route we'd taken into town.

Oh Billy!!

I knew that due to our new chosen lifestyle & adventures, that we'd have good & bad experiences with accommodation.  However, I didn't realise that we'd be able to feel if a house was right straight-away, but we did.  Just as we knew the pink Galician cottage was perfect as soon as we arrived, somehow we didn't warm to the yellow house.

It was a decent size, had all the facilities we needed (apart from hot water), had a secure garden & excellent views, but it didn't feel like home.  Both Rob & I sensed this exactly the same.

The lack of hot water was a problem & I'd emailed the landlord to ascertain if we'd omitted to do something. Following his instructions, I took photos to prove that all the switches were on in the fuse-box, the water tank was plugged in & the power indicator light was lit on it to prove this.

He promised to send a plumber the following day.

However, I was flying to London the following day for an annual client event & couldn't do-so feeling dirty.  We'd not had a bath since the previous morning & had packed, travelled, unpacked & shopped so were definitely feeling grotty.

As the flight was early from Porto an hour away, instead of getting up at the crack of dawn to drive, at 5pm, I booked a very cheap airport hotel for that night.  At least I'd (hopefully) be warm & could have a shower, so we set-off for Porto on Sunday evening.

As we'd travelled to the hotel on the motorway through many tolls, Rob decided to programme Billy to avoid tolls on the way back.  This was both to save a few Euros & in our right-hand drive car, Rob wouldn't have to get out of the car to walk around to retrieve the toll ticket & then make payment.

The journey there took less than an hour, so I was getting worried when he'd not called two hours after he'd set-off back.  Eventually a very frustrated Rob phoned.  He'd had a hell of a journey back, alone in the dark through the centre of Porto & it would have been worth the tolls to avoid the extra time taken, miles & fuel used!

Lesson learned!

Arriving in London by plane on Monday morning didn't feel any stranger than it did when trvelling by train from Nottinghamshire.  It was an alien environment for me either way.  I love working from home as a virtual PA & would hate to have an office job in the capital.  The event (which I'd helped organise) was a success & I returned to Porto early the following morning.  Now that did feel a little odd to be going 'home' to Portugal!

Like 3        Published at 09:46   Comments (4)

Spam post or Abuse? Please let us know

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse you are agreeing to our use of cookies. More information here. x