So, where do we live I hear you ask? River Cottage! No Hugh F-W unfortunately, but a lovely place nonetheless.
We are in a little hamlet in the mountains west of Castanheira de Pera in central Portugal. We are north-east of Lisbon, although I’m not sure how far away it is – travel time would depend on whether you use toll roads (quick and expensive) or not (slow but free). Castanheira de Pera is known for its ‘praia fluvial’ or river beach, Praia do Rocas, complete with wave machine and palm trees. It is a nice little town which we haven’t really explored much yet as we seem to spend more of our time in Figueiro dos Vinhos, a large town south of us which has free wifi in the library. One day soon, we’ll have a good look around both towns rather than just visiting for wifi/shop/vet etc.!
Our hamlet has 12 houses, only two of which are occupied full time – ours and the one shared by Fernando and his mum, who we’ll call Mrs Fernando. We had quite a long conversation with Mrs Fernando the other day when she came to ask if she could buy some matches from us. We were probably talking to her for about an hour, despite the fact that our Portuguese is extremely limited and she doesn’t speak any English. Well, she talked – we listened and tried to make sense of what she was saying. We recognised some words – bread, cake, children, Spain, washing machine, firemen, Lisbon – but had no real idea what she was talking about. She waved her hands around a bit, mentioned the name of another nearby hamlet and looked quite sad at one point – we wondered whether she was reminiscing about the good old days when people still lived in the hamlets and she had friends around. Without transport, they would certainly be pretty lonely places to live… until the holidays that is, as several of the other houses here are holiday homes owned by, we think, Portuguese people.
So, back to our cottage. We live on Rua Principal – the name suggests that there might be roads other than the principal one, but there aren’t. It is cobbled and extremely steep. Access to our cottage involves turning in a tiny square and then reversing down the rather narrow lane. See the gap between the buildings in the photo below? That is our lane…
The house on the left is occupied at the weekends – we’ve seen the couple to say ‘Bom dia!’ to, but haven’t met them yet. The house on the right is for sale! I think that would be called a renovator’s dream. A bit more work than we are looking for.
We are surrounded by magnificent views and have a row of wind turbines on the opposite ridge which we think look rather graceful.
Although the cottage has quite a bit of land, most of it is pretty steep – we do have a very nice terrace though which gets sun for most of the day. We haven’t spent much time sitting out here enjoying the sun and the views at all.
There is a little track which runs past the kitchen windows at the front of the property into the forest, which makes for a very nice walk. Although we can’t see where the track goes from the cottage (too many trees!), we can see the cottage from further along the track. How does that work?
(We’re pretty tiny in that photo, but we’re there if you look hard enough!)
The bread van has just been! It comes to the hamlet every day, beeping its horn all the way down the road to warn you its on its way. The guy has worked in the UK so speaks English. He said that if we want something but are going to be out, we can leave a note and a bag hanging on the fence at the end of our lane – he’ll leave our bread and we can pay him next time. How very civilised!
We now have a phone that works at the house, thanks to the librarian at our local library (which I guess is where you usually find librarians). David asked for her help translating something on the Vodafone Portugal website last week and she suggested a particular SIM card to us that is free to buy, has good rates etc. She said that you apply online and they will send it to you. On Monday, she asked whether we had arranged one yet – we hadn’t and she offered us one that the she had applied for but not used. She had brought it in from home in case she saw us again. She explained the charges to us and told us how and where we could get credit added. Again, how very civilised!
Although outside temperatures are warming up nicely, it is taking a little longer to warm up inside, although we did manage a balmy 18° yesterday evening, the warmest it has been inside so far. No doubt we will be very grateful for the cool stone walls come July. Bring it on!