Scouting trip completed. Enlightening. More determined than ever to make my move to Portugal happen.
As I’ve read or watched other people’s scouting trips, many are looking for their perfect property. Often the list is long. Making compromise a challenge.
My approach was different. I entered Portugal with a very short list of criteria on the property. I believe this helped me in two ways.
Firstly, it ensured I was open to viewing properties that weren’t on a list. And secondly, (I hoped) nothing would come as a surprise.
So, how was the scouting trip?
On the fourth attempt to get to Portgual, I succeeded. Finally. And the wait was worth it.
Village or town?
As I start to write this, the sun is blazing down. I am sat in the communal gardens in Belmonte. A small town located to the west of the Serra da Estrella mountains. To my left is Belmonte castle and, to the right, is a water tower which just happens to remind you which village you are in.
Central Portugal is beautiful. The rolling hills, contrasting with the rivers flowing through the valleys. Small villages and hamlets just dotted around. The Portuguese were welcoming and delightful.
Idyllic? Yes. Tranquil? Yes. Beautiful views of the mountains? Yes.
Belmonte is a fabulous village. Unlike a UK village, as it has nearly 7,000 residents living in the village boundaries. I was politely reminded that most ‘towns’ in Portugal are in fact villages. Even Tábua with a population of over 12,000 is a village. Although it is classed as ‘grande’.
The centre of Belmonte has few properties that look unloved. I’ve barely seen a ruin. A couple of houses right in the centre have a ‘vende se’ sign on the balcony. But other than that, it feels like a prosperous village. Belmonte has a thriving Jewish community and a large synagogue. Clearly an active community.
I’ve arrived in Belmonte as I am undertaking a clockwise route around the Serra da Estrella mountains. This was one of the plans for my original trip earlier this year. However, as I have considered locations in Portugal, the area to the west and south of the mountains fell down the list.
To be honest, I’m not sure why. Possibly because those areas just became more appealing. I am reconsidering. And, perhaps today I could’ve spent time viewing properties around this area.
I made a swift trip into Nespereira (where I know there is a large quinta for sale) and then quickly into Gouveia. A lovely small village (which I arrived at school drop off time) followed by a larger village. I’m learning. Nespereira was picturesque and located on a hillside. The usual amenities and enough to support everyday living. Not too far is an industrial zone with all the larger warehouse-style retail, builders merchants and suppliers.
As I headed around the northern tip of the mountains, towards Guarda, the district city (and it is a city), I diverted through several villages. One, Celorico da Beira, was beautiful. I stopped, had a wander and a coffee. Like most places, the Bomberio were sat outside the station. Hats off to them and the work they do.
I also took the opportunity to drop in to see a property that has only recently come on the market. No chance of viewing at short notice, and I head away from the area soon, but worth an external look.
From the outside, it’s a great looking property and in a super little village. I’m gutted I can’t arrange a viewing as there just isn’t time. Still, if it’s not to be, it’s not to be.
I then headed south. Belmonte and Covilha were my destinations. Throughout my trips, I have been grateful for the satnav in the car. It does make life so much easier. And my driving better as I can focus on the road rather than the signpost.
As mentioned, I stopped in Belmonte. I had lunch and made every effort to only speak in Portuguese. As expected, I clearly stood out and the waitresses continually spoke to me in English. I persevered. They persevered.
Categorically I can confirm I didn’t speak fluent Portuguese. But I used few English words. I am sure my Portuguese teacher would have been correcting me consistently, but I tried hard.
After leaving Belmonte I took the scenic route to Covilha. Well, every route in Portugal is scenic so I didn’t really have much of a choice. Let’s say that I didn’t take the direct route. To get to the next village, I usually take a detour through another village or two. Observing so many villages really helps me focus on the best bits of each village and the bits that I really don’t like.
This reflects back to one of my objectives for the trip – to cross things off the list. Define what I don’t want, rather than what I do want.
Having seen so many villages, I have a better understanding of what each village will offer. I remain focused that I don’t want to live in the middle of a village. More on the edge of a small village. It needs to be in quite close proximity to a larger village where it has all the amenities.
A lot of villages appear to be a combination of permanent residents and holiday homes. The deterioration of some of the villages is evident although just because a village has well-kept properties, it does not mean that they are permanently lived in. Often, the best-kept properties are second homes where the family live in one of the main cities.
I had also given thought to the proximity of the Silver Coast. The beach and sea are appealing. However, following visits to many river beaches, being close to Silver Coast is lower on the list. River beaches are amazing.
Also in my target area were places to walk. Well, I didn’t really need to worry about that. There are walks everywhere. There is definitely no shortage of footpaths.
Narrowing down locations
After spending ten days in central Portugal. I have a much better appreciation of Portugal, the landscape and the topography.
I am now running two lists regarding the location. The first is what I am looking for, and the second is what I’m not looking for. On these lists are some opposites. But it has definitely given me more clarity.
Through all of this, I have an area narrowed down. Well, two in fact. They are different, but both meet or don’t meet depending on which list I am checking it against. The geographical area has been narrowed significantly which is focusing the property search better.
With a much better understanding of the location, next are the properties.
Obrigado por ler.
Footnote – I have focused on the location and villages as opposed to properties. The next blog will focus on properties. May I take the opportunity to apologise for skipping a blog last week? I am sure I will be excused as I was otherwise occupied in Portugal.