Christmas with Chris & Mary and Katherine & James was completely different and a big success. At dusk on Christmas Eve our German neighbour called round with a heart shaped chocolate for each of us – a German tradition and very lovely one too. We then began the celebrations proper with a Christmas Eve dinner of salmon and salad – a nod to the local custom of eating fish on this day. This was followed by Katherine’s fabulous chocolate and peanut cheesecake. Wow that was wonderful, especially as we managed to convince ourselves that it was ok to have two helpings because the first course was so healthy.
On Christmas Day we ate, drank and made merry. We sat out in the sun and played silly games whilst eating Katherine’s wonderful tapas starters then, when the afternoon wore on and it began to cool a bit, we took the dogs for a long walk before settling down to two more courses in Chris and Mary’s chalet aka party central. The main course was Portuguese chicken casserole and dessert was Mary’s fabulous home made Christmas pudding. Altogether a thoroughly fine day that didn’t end until about 11 p.m. when the last of the revellers gave in and crawled home to bed.
The rest of the week with Chris and Mary involved walking on beaches, exploring local places, a little culture in Faro and loads of chat and games. We ate some lovely food and drank some very pleasant wine. Who knew that Portuguese wine was so quaffable? One highlight was a visit to the ‘end of the world’ – the most south westerly point on the European mainland at Cape St Vincent. We went on Boxing Day and were sad but not surprised to find that the lighthouse and coffee shop was closed but we were still able to look out over the Atlantic Ocean and explore the high cliffs with views of the amazing rock formations as far as the eye could see. Mary and I were anxious about Chris’s imitation of a mountain goat, especially as there were numerous plaques to remember people who had fallen off in the past.
Being with Chris and Mary for eight days was a real treat. It was wonderful to spend time together away from our usual environment and we were a bit, no a lot, sad to wave them off at the airport. OK, I admit it, I was a bit leaky round the gills when we drove away, leaving them behind to wait for their flight.
I was pensive before Christmas and now it’s all over I’ve gone all pensive again. We’re approaching a new year and we’ve been on the road for ten months with only four weeks at home in our house. Katherine & James are full timers and they’ve asked us once or twice what is stopping us from going full time. It’s a good question and one that has given us food for thought. The lifestyle is completely addictive with all the possibilities of new places to visit and new people to meet. On the down side it means that time with family and friends is limited.
In case any of our readers are curious what a full time motorhome living existence would mean in reality I’ll try to explain the difference. Currently we have our house waiting at home in Bathgate ready for us at any time we want to go back. We value that because we love our family and friends and want to see them for at least part of the year. A full timer would either let out their house or perhaps sell it and buy two smaller ones to rent out, giving them extra income and thereby closing the door to going back to bricks and mortar if the urge should take them. Of course there is nothing to stop us being nearby on local sites in the van regularly to visit everyone and they can come to us like Chris and Mary did at Christmas. Eventually, when the travelling bug has finally left, it’s easy enough to either give tenants notice and return home or sell up and buy whatever kind of house or apartment suits your lifestyle.
So we’re in a pensive mood. This year has been wonderful but we’ve missed everyone at home a lot. In the first half of the year we were often around our home patch and we enjoyed meeting up with everyone. In the second half we’ve had adventures, sunshine and a wonderful time exploring new places. As well as missing the special people in our lives I’ve also missed my musical instruments. I could, at a pinch, have brought my flute but certainly not my clarinets. Those babies are far too noisy to be played on a campsite. I’ve got my whistle but it’s not the same at all.
Anyway, it’s far too soon to be thinking about what it will be like when we go home. We still have ten weeks before we return to Scotland and we plan to live it to the full.
This part of Portugal is famous for its fish. Most restaurants specialise in locally landed fish and everything we’ve tried has been wonderful. Today we visited one of the local fish markets. We didn’t buy anything this time, mostly because we had no idea what the different varieties were as we don’t speak any Portuguese. The place was heaving with people buying great slabs of beautiful looking produce. The fishmongers were standing in lines behind the counters, weighing and filleting whatever the customer had chosen. The speed and skill of these men and women was a sight to behold. Upstairs from the fish counters there are the vegetable stalls with every variety of local produce laid out for inspection. It occurred to me that the lifestyle here must be very healthy.
A seasonal speciality here is salted cod (Bacalhau). We see it everywhere in the supermarkets as it is a traditional festive meal, usually eaten on Christmas Eve or at New Year. We’re told that it is the only fish not eaten completely fresh in Portugal. It is bought in a flat piece, dried and covered in salt giving it the appearance of cardboard. Once bought it is soaked for at least 24 hours in fresh water, which is changed regularly, and then cooked with a variety of sauces. The flat dried fish plumps right up and becomes more recognisable as the cod we’re used to. It is absolutely delicious and we did consider buying some and attempting to cook it. Finally we chickened out and decided to enjoy it in the site restaurant.
Falling in Love with Portugal
Whenever we move from one country to another we have pangs of sadness leaving one and slight misgivings about the new one. Even leaving Germany to go into our best friend France felt a bit sad because we’d loved Germany so much. We were soon back into our love affair with France and were completely happy until we moved into Spain where we went through the same thing again. Driving into Portugal was a little different because we’ve never been here in the motorhome before. In fact this is my first visit here and Shirley has only been here on golfing holidays. We felt distinctly sad to be leaving Spain and more than a little miffed by the rise in prices for diesel and food, the shocking state of the roads and the fact that we couldn’t make ourselves understood unless the recipient spoke English. Before long we started to notice the beautiful scenery, the amount of greenery, the variety and beauty of the trees, the gorgeous beaches and coves and the immense friendliness of the people. Within a week we were in love with the place and now it has become one of our ‘must come back’ destinations. A journey like this one requires a fair bit of adjustment to different cultures yet it feels like an immense privilege to have the time and the ability to stroll around Europe discovering new places. At the risk of being repetitive – how lucky are we?