A year ago today, I left Norfolk, drove to the Eurotunnel, and made great progress to the south of France. After a couple of hours of sleep in the car, my journey took me through Spain and on to Portugal.
I still vividly remember the feeling of “I’ve arrived” when I passed the Portugal sign and the final few hours of my marathon drive. I recall arriving at my rental property, swiftly unloading the car late at night, and the hunt for the mains water tap.
That night, I slept on the floor as I had no furniture. The day after, it was a purposeful trip to Lisbon to get something to sleep on and something to sit on. Even a year later, I don’t have much more than that (although I do have a guest bed and more than one chair).
As I remember that journey, I have had a few tears today. Mainly as these pivotal points exacerbate the gut-wrenching feeling of being away from my daughters. It is tough, really tough. In a strange way, we probably communicate more, or maybe just differently, than before. But it doesn’t make up for going out for a meal with them.
Not done much in a year
After arriving in Portugal, I took the opportunity to walk, eat healthier, lose weight, get my bearings and enjoy the first month or so.
I visited quite a few towns to look around, lots of river beaches, walked a few mountains, watched the Volta a Portugal, visited new friends and ate quite a few pastel de nata.
This was all coupled with lots of personal admin work to wrap things up in the UK and commence things in Portugal. And there were a lot of emails (UK) and paperwork (Portugal).
Other than that, I read, sunbathed, swam and slept. In fact, I’ve not done much in a year.
I’ve kept myself occupied finding somewhere to live and something to do.
Before I moved to Portugal, I was looking for a restoration project. Not a complete rebuild, but a house that needed work done. However, after enjoying the beauty of Portugal for a few weeks, I quickly realised that I didn’t want to be spending all my time having to restore a property when I could be out doing other things.
My property search began to change, and restoration became redecoration. The house I bought needed redecoration, but it wasn’t a rebuild and definitely did not need a new roof! I’ve done most of it myself (with some help from a friend), but I’ve still got a tile in the kitchen that needs sorting, a little rendering to be done, and a couple of walls that need some attention. But there is always “amanhã”,
I take my hat off to those people who buy a ruin, but while I thought that was what I wanted, once spending a few weeks in Portugal, it wasn’t.
Keeping busy on the quinta
So, to occupy my time, I bought a “quinta” or some would call a “horta”. And it’s been busy.
For the majority of the time over the last nine months, I feel that I’ve been a rabbit in the headlights. I’ve been naïve about so many things, but I’m learning and building my knowledge fast.
In my previous corporate world, I would beat myself up for not having all the answers and the knowledge to do a job, but here in Portugal, I am being kinder to myself (a little). Try, try and try again has become a motto, and it really doesn’t matter if it doesn’t work out the first time.
Already I feel that I am being a little hard on myself as I’ve achieved so much. I’ve produced my own olive oil and learnt how to make jam from doce de marmelo [qince jam], doce de dióspiro [persimmon jam] and my favourite doce de pêssego, mel e canela [peach, honey and cinnamon jam].
I’m gradually filling the freezer with homegrown peas, beans, onions, peppers, zucchini, carrots, and tomatoes. Not to mention the many soups I’ve made and frozen. I’ve still got lots of jars of olives to add to the olive oil.
And have a steady supply of salads and fruit which means I can avoid the supermarket most weeks. I tend to snack on fruit and salads while at the quinta, it’s so easy to just eat a plum, apple or pear straight off the tree. I’ve also got lots of watermelon growing, sweet potatoes, peppers, butternut squash and lots more.
Let’s not forget the aquardente de medronhos (medronho), loquat liquor and ginjinha that I have made.
I’m now preparing for my first grape harvest and focusing on various projects that I want to complete over the autumn in readiness for next year. It’s keeping me busy, but I am being measured and adopting the “não trabalhar no domingo” approach [no work on Sunday].
But its not all been plain sailing
At the quinta, there have been some major learnings (failures) with some plants getting frazzled in the sun or simply not growing. It’s all learning and I am already trying different ways and looking at improving things.
Learning Portuguese has been difficult. I am getting better at picking out keywords in both spoken and written Portuguese although I do find it difficult to articulate, and pronounce, a sentence. However, over the last fortnight, there have been a few occasions when local people have complimented me on my efforts.
But I find Portuguese very difficult and challenging, and I do get frustrated at the limited progress I am making.
I feel that the Portuguese bureaucracy has been on my side as I have not experienced some of the challenges other people have. However, it has not been trouble-free as the matriculation of my car gave me quite a few problems, and a few more grey hairs.
Settled in Portugal
A year in though, and I feel very settled in Portugal. The “locals” have accepted me as a resident of their village and, while a few still give me strange looks, often when I walk past one of the cafés I am beckoned in for a coffee (or a beer).
I genuinely feel richer in life, and I am enjoying the new challenges of looking after and improving, the quinta. Portugal is pretty damn good, but I still terribly miss my daughters.
As always, thank you for taking the time to read my blog.
Thank you, your continued support is much appreciated, and I am grateful for your interest in my adventure in Portugal!
Melhores cumprimentos. Até logo.