Tag Archives: Portugal

A fiery year

When I went outside yesterday the horizon was a red glow. And not very far away, on the other side of the valley and then a little further …. by my estimate Figueira da Foz. It’s only 12 km as the crow flies. There is a large dune area there with a lot of flammable greenery …. and it has been dry for months …. and now it’s really warm, for this time of the year.

Yesterday it was 28.9º in the shade

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We always have to see when the autumn is coming in. Will it be mid or late October? It can easily stay sunny till the end of October. You can often sit outside in the evenings. It’s getting darker earlier, and you can’t go in the pool anymore – actually it’s often the best time of the year. The warmth of summer is everywhere, but the fresh and spicy smell of autumn is also around.

It’s been dry for months. It hasn’t rained since June, and the rain before that it also didn’t deserve to be called rain: a few drops here and a few drops there. And that becomes noticeable.

Then you only have to look at a dry shrub with fire in your eyes and it lights up

Last night there was a fire, and not so far away. My son’s friends live nearby, so they kept us informed. “It’s near my father’s house,” said Hugo when he called for the first time, “watch out for the Termas, all firefighters are here! And we can not miss anyone!”

I understand exactly what he means. The fire travels through the sky and crawls over the ground. You need to be careful with sparks. But it was too far away, and there is a very large valley between – which serves as a huge fire corridor. At the beginning of the year we cut everything well, there is little danger.

Perhaps this is lit. There are crazy people doing that; all kinds of stories go around. Sometimes the firefighters want to be insured of work, sometimes people who want to clean a terrain (on assignment). Sometimes people want to take out insurance funds, or project developers who have certain intentions. And sometimes it’s fools who think it’s great to see such a fire.

True arsonists are rare

Usually it’s sloppy people or it’s a small flame, and it gets out of hand. And once there is a forest fire you won’t be able to put it out easily again. The fire brigade, and the residents themselves, usually take care of the houses. Staying and keeping things wet is the motto. There are voting to make evacuations compulsory, people can’t stay with their homes anymore. They will not manage to pass that law and I understand that.

I’d rather stay in my house and do whatever I can.

Now that’s easy for us to say, with that huge fire corridor in front and a bare hill in our back

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Of course, we have plenty of water in our old spa, and the valley is full of ditches and even a river. There is free space all around.

We experienced it once, that it came close by, and there were firefighters cars and planes everywhere. I then had the contents of such an airplane over me when I helped out in the hill – I haven’t been that wet in my life.

It was quite the experience. I understand the fascination, because it is incredibly impressive, such a fire. Just like yesterday evening, it was very beautiful, that orange glow in the dark. Pity to know: this is bad news.

So far, we have been spared a fire nearby. Hopefully that will stay that way. We do everything because one time is enough!

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We moved here in 2000 from Rotterdam, Holland to the Termas da Azenha, Portugal. A big step, especially with two small children. We are busy to rebuild one of portugal’s cultural heirlooms. Termas da Azenha, a old spa which has been turned into several holiday homes, rooms and camping ground, there’s also a swimming pool. You’ll find mosaics and paintings everywhere. The old bathhouse is a museum, where you can see how things have changed.

Each week a little blog about what is happening around us. An easy read. A few minutes in another world. A little about what it going on in Portugal. If you plan your holiday to Portugal, it might be a nice preparation. We have some nice special offers on our site.

You can subscribe to this blog:

 

You’ll get it every weekend in your mailbox.

On Sunday morning we publish it on our Facebook Page, on Google+, on Pinterest, and on monday on LinkedIn.

 

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Childrens’ holidays

Not easy to write a blog in the high season. It’s busy! We have a record number of children of about the same age – so much fun! Yesterday I saw the hustling between them while I was doing a mosaic workshop with two of the bigger children. There was a group in the little swimming pool playing a fantasy game, and a larger group roaming around with water pistols, sticks or ukeleles, who surprised eachother with their “shooting faster than their shadows”. 

I had a thought:

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“It would be nice to take a photo of all those children together,” but at the same time I knew that was an impossible task. Children who are running after each other you shouldn’t disturb, and children swimming in a pool buckle water into eachother’s buckets while enjoying a chat, you must leave in peace completely.

The parents are happy to read in peace

Because all that is perfectly fine, and they can’t do no harm. It’s noise, but it’s good noise. You don’t suffer from that. Similar to the noise of frogs. In the evening, when you’re enjoying your rest, you can hear 4 billion frogs, and that actually makes a lot of noise. But it’s good noise. It doesn’t bother you.

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Even when you’re older, like me, and your children are big, you’re not affected by it

Then you still know how that works. Harmonic noise isn’t bad, it just goes past you. Like those frogs. You never hear anyone complaining about that – “Oioi, I couldn’t sleep because of that frog noise …” This is how it is with little children too. You just read through their noises, but as soon as it goes wrong, and the harmony is distorted – it will be annoying.

The conversations you can have are also very nice

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Two children in the pool this morning when it was still quiet. They are the first, because the youngest. Little girl is 3, and has thrown all her toys in the small pool. That sounds impressive, but it’s not that big of a deal, because you can’t take all your toys on holiday. There was a mermaid with a pink tail. And neon colored stuff to dive up, which you definitely can’t miss on the bottom of the pool.

But that was more for her big brother

“Hey, look now, what I’ve picked up !?” I say surprised, “a mermaid! With a pink tail! How did you get here?” The blonde girl feels happy: “That’s mine, that’s mine! She can swim!” Big brother now throws his neon colored toys down and says, “I can easily pop that up, I can swim under water from here to there.” “Jeez, how handsome,” I say, while I take black little things and eucalyptus leaves out of the water with my net, “I wouldn’t dare. There are octopuses in the water, have you seen that?!” Now it’s the turn to scream of laughing: “Those are of mosaic! You don’t have to worry about that!”

Such a nice conversation, early in the morning

Most of the guests are still sleeping, but some children are early birds like me. The highlight is already over, because yesterday a few families went to other places or back home. But it was a very enjoyable time with the 20 pieces of those noise makers around!

And there are more on the way!

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We moved here in 2000 from Rotterdam, Holland to the Termas da Azenha, Portugal. A big step, especially with two small children. We are busy to rebuild one of portugal’s cultural heirlooms. Termas da Azenha, a old spa which has been turned into several holiday homes, rooms and camping ground, there’s also a swimming pool. You’ll find mosaics and paintings everywhere. The old bathhouse is a museum, where you can see how things have changed.

Each week a little blog about what is happening around us. An easy read. A few minutes in another world. A little about what it going on in Portugal. If you plan your holiday to Portugal, it might be a nice preparation. We have some nice special offers on our site. You can subscribe to this blog:  

You’ll get it every weekend in your mailbox. On Sunday morning we publish it on our Facebook Page, on Google+, on Pinterest, and on monday on LinkedIn.  

 

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Single vacation

Sometimes you have moments you think …. Ooooo what a life I want to go on vacation !!
You reached the point that it’s enough.
I had such a moment last winter.

As a comfort, I began to think what kind of vacation I would like to go on. I have no relationship, and live with my adult son in our village. I don’t see it happening that we are going on vacation, because he likes very different things than me.

So I would be going alone

woman-on-the-beach

Now that’s not a problem, because I can enjoy myself very well and I like being alone, but on holiday it’s a bit different. I did it a long time ago, looking for The Place here in Portugal, but to say that that was fun …. not really.
Alone in your car, on a journey is fine. But you have to eat something too. Then there you are alone in a restaurant. Doesn’t have to be a 5 star restaurant – it is a bit uncomfortable.

Add to that, that a portuguese woman will never eat alone in a restaurant, and there you are: a strange womanperson. That they peek around the corner of the kitchen door to look especially at you.

You don’t feel very comfortable

I soon came across the phenomenon “group trip”. Now, sometimes, you can see those huge insects driving on the highway with darkened windows and probably a bunch of people in their stomach, but that doesn’t attract me. On the contrary, that seems to be the worst thing I can think of.

What is a fun group trip?

Going on with my comfort-thinking, it didn’t seem very relaxing if it would be a mixed group, just aside from where it should be. Only women is much more easy. No one has to keep their belly in. You don’t have that annoying giggling – or worse: men who are going to explain whatever and women who act as if they’re interested.

With only women, you can debate the benefits of pyamas or sleeping naked, without anybody making rancid jokes. You can rub unobtrusively over your belly after dinner when it’s been nice and loosen your pants. You can have a relaxed breakfast without putting your bra on first, and thén shower. You can talk about your childbirths and other gynaecological things without anyone getting creeped out. (Well, there was a single woman who didn’t have children, and there & then lost all her doubts about that.)

So only women

And then what are you going to do? Read magazines all day doesn’t seem like fun. Anyway sitting around is not really my thing. You get a butt-ache if you sit all day. A little gardening, little mosaicing, a little walking, strolling a little through a town, on the beach, going for a little italian icecream …. that kind of thing. Keep busy with this or that, not too complicated but sufficiently challenging.

A good massage would be pleasant. And a good book as well. Nice food, little rumbling in the kitchen, all of which can also be very cozy. A nice glass to go with it – what else could a person want more?

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Who, what, why and how are covered, now where

Somewhere near the Middle East, I doubt it it’s not really my thing, I could hear the bombs in Italy already, as a figure of speech.
Up north? Ireland? I’ve never been there, but my sister says it’s beautiful. Easy also that you can understand the people. More or less then. Denmark, the most peaceful country in the world? Hm.

Difficult decision.

And suddenly it struck me. Why go anywhere? All I want is here. Much more relaxed, no suitcases, no stress, not expenses … and I am a homey person, confessed that already in a previous blog.

Then it was a short way to think of a holiday for single women of 45+

And it was great. Every week was very different, because of the different groups – read: little groups because it is not mass tourism!  It was cozy, where everyone could do her own thing. If you want to sleep until 10, 11 o’clock: fine. Would you prefer to get up at 6, also fine.

Feel at home and do your own thing

The last week in June was warm. Liturally and figuratively. It was only a small group, but there were 2 returners. For a few years, they have been refreshing for a few weeks and are completely at home. A good example!

The photos probably illustrate how relaxing a week of single women is!
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We moved here in 2000 from Rotterdam, Holland to the Termas da Azenha, Portugal. A big step, especially with two small children. We are busy to rebuild one of portugal’s cultural heirlooms. Termas da Azenha, a old spa which has been turned into several holiday homes, rooms and camping ground, there’s also a swimming pool. You’ll find mosaics and paintings everywhere. The old bathhouse is a museum, where you can see how things have changed.
Each week a little blog about what is happening around us. An easy read. A few minutes in another world. A little about what it going on in Portugal. If you plan your holiday to Portugal, it might be a nice preparation. We have some nice special offers on our site.
You can subscribe to this blog:
 
You’ll get it every weekend in your mailbox.
On Sunday morning we publish it on our Facebook Page, on Google+, on Pinterest, and on tuesday on LinkedIn.

You like? Please like! And sharing is not forbidden ....

Donkeycracy – special kind of portuguese democracy

Another culture, other traditions …

All cultures have their own traditions. Being from the Netherlands I didn’t know much about portuguese culture and tradition. I was only a tourist. Since my first steps in the country I noticed everything was different. Of course it is, that’s why we travel. To see new places, meet new people and discover new cultures.people-eating-on-a-terrace

It was a very surprising difference, it was very present

Together with my first steps came the surprise of meeting so many sympathetic people. Everywhere there were people laughing, they were friendly and they offered help voluntarily when I had a problem, since I didn’t speak a word of portuguese yet. 

A big difference from all those moody faces you see in the north, always stressed, always in a hurry. It felt like Rotterdam was on another planet.

I traveled with a group and all of us were surprised, in a very pleasant way. “We’ll see how it is in Lisbon. In the big city it’s probably different.” we said to one another.

But no. Everywhere people were friendly, amicable, educated, attentive.

I fell in love with a whole country

However, just like in a marriage, this changed. It became a profound love, in which you accept the cultural misunderstandings, while continuing to like the beauty and richness of the culture.

And I’ve come across these misunderstandings, but I’ve always managed to deal with it.

The only thing that really troubles me is the habit of not answering when a question appears to be difficult. When I want something that is beyond someone.

An example? In the beginning we needed a plumber but we didn’t know anyone (note: this was 17 years ago, the time without the internet). A neighbour sent over a friend and he made a provisionary installation. Afterwards I called so often he’d start saying: “Yes, yes, I’ll come by on monday”, but he never came by again. And afterwards he stopped answering my calls, he probably recognized my number.

Recently, I needed a seamstress

She came by, we talked, made some arrangements, I would contact her when the fabric arrived. All was well. I thought. But now … nothing. She doesn’t respond, doesn’t answer my calls, apparently she’s not interested.

Ok. I think it’s a somewhat complicated habit, since I lose a lot of time calling and I think everything was arranged, but no ….

But when elected officials also do this, it surprises me even more. And it’s not a pleasant surprise. A government official who doesn’t answer to your letters, because he’s probably not going to like what you have to say? It’s part of their job description, isn’t it?

We live in a democracy, don’t we?

I spoke to some friends, João said: “Sometimes I get the impression that all government officials do, is check if the rules are still there. Rules, rules, rules and more rules. They kill all initiative, it saps the citizens’ energy, leaving an apathetic people with no drive to do anything as they will be confronted with all that bureaucracy.”

Another friend says: ” If the Termas-da-Azenha belonged to the councilman, the road you’re fighting for at the moment, would already been taken care of … good asphalt, gardened sides, nice signposts, you name it …”

I don’t believe that’s the case. If we citizens have to follow the rules, so do they, right? Portugal is a democracy, isn’t it? Or is this a special kind of – the portuguese variety of democracy?

This confuses me. I stay here with a lot of questions. I probably have to live here longer before I understand it completely. But before that I have to resolve this thing about the road with the city council. And I won’t stop before it is resolved.

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I truely hope my hope is justified …

If you have hope, or if you have trouble communicating with your leaders, follow us on facebook! Read our blog every week on sunday. It’s not always about bureau-demo-klepto-or other kinds of -cracies, it’s also about the good life in Portugal. It is an exceptional country, and far too modest.

Visite us at the Termas-da-Azenha – you’re always welcome!

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No Boat & Breakfast anymore

“It smelled delicious at your place last night – wonderful smells on the breeze.” I’m kidding, “and then I didn’t dare to pass by with a glass of wine. That would have been too obvious.”
“Aaah! Really? “Ramona looks at me perplexed, “ogosh, that’s too bad! I cooked way too much, and I thought: Ellen could easily eat with me. But I thought it was silly to ask! ”

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We’re at the Multibanco in the next village because Ramona never has cash with her. She needed some, and I was going to do some shopping anyway at this super supermarket here.
Like this it’s not necessary to go with that huge motorhome.

It’s off season. It is still quiet

And that’s exactly what she wants. Birds singing, a tractor far away in the fields …. enough noise. She has been at the beach recently:
“I have something like: can you put that sound off? after a couple of days. Then I really had enough.”

Travelling with your motorhome to the wide horizons and do what your heart tells you. Who wouldn’t want that? Yet there are not many who actually do it. It’s not always easy, especially if you’ve just met someone back home. But if your heart continues to yearn, well, who are you to fight that? So, on your way to Portugal!

The Boat & Breakfast was doing well

but there were just too many downsides. People from all over the world came to that beautiful spot, but the boat was her own house also. If there was a booking, she had to remove her belongings, and went improvising in an old motorhome nearby. Now that’s not so bad, especially if it yields nice guests and ditto merits, but eventually it’s enough.

“It was just an ad on Airbnb: “Boat & Breakfast”, and it went very well. I got everything fixed up and bought most things secondhand, and I put that whole story on Airbnb. People thought that was sympathetic. I’ve had really nice guests.”
Ramona is a little wistfully at the memory, “It was a beautiful place with a great view, but it was too much.”

And people were increasingly booking last-minute

“They were at the airport, I got a call that they would be there in a few hours. I had to pack up everything again, and start cleaning lickedy split. Mwah … less you know! ”
“Yes, I know,” I say, “at least, that last minute. That is indeed increasing. Very annoying, because you have to drop everything and you have to run in overdrive as it should be done now now now. I always try to ensure that a number of houses are ready, but you couldn’t do that, of course. ”

“No, I didn’t feel like improvising all the time in that old campervan because of the possibility to get a booking.” she says, “so well, when I had the idea of going to Portugal. I sold the boat and bought the motorhome, and here I am! ”

“Any idea what you’re going to do?” I ask, a little afraid that she’ll answer: start a B B, because I have the feeling that the market is saturated. Quite some start-ups in recent years, in this region certainly a dozen alone. Now Turkey has fallen as a holiday destination, and Portugal seems to be having the best year since ever – but there is a limit.

Luckily no, not a fixed place yet

Maybe a place in a community, such as “Vegan Hill” in the Algarve. You also have something like that in the Serra da Estrela, but hey, it’s very cold there in the winter. It’s a ski area. You wouldn’t expect that in Portugal, but yes: the first year I was driving around here, I was sitting on a sleigh in the snow in the middle of February. Much to my own surprise!

We have to say goodbye. It’s time to move on again

“I have a wonderful time here, nice and quiet, it is such a good place,” Ramona says and gives me a big hug, “and I was thinking if I would take the little dog because it’s a real sweetheart. But anyway … no. ”
“So sorry,” I say, but actually I’m a little relieved. Although I didn’t want the dog, when she landed a few weeks ago – out of the blue, I’ve become quite fond of her. It is indeed a sweetheart, so she stays here.

There should remain a few permanent residents here after all!

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