….everywhere I go in Portugal, with colorful lights sparkling and holiday decorations filling the windows of shops and restaurants. The above is a photo of my Christmas ‘bough.’ It’s not a whole tree, just a limb from a pine tree growing in the backyard of the parents of my landlord Jorge’s beautiful wife, Maria Joáo. But it proves it really is the thought that matters. The whole family came over to deliver and prop up ‘my tree’ in a pot of sand. They also provided the lights and tinsel and ornaments – just so I would not feel left out at Christmastime.
I will be spending Christmas Day with Jorge, Maria Joáo, Maria, Rosalina, Joáo and many more members of this wonderful family. It will be a great pleasure, and an honor, to their guest for a real Portugues Christmas dinner. I’m bringing 2 very American dishes – deviled eggs and sweet potatoes baked with brown sugar, butter, walnuts, and topped with marshmallows!
But before we get to Christmas, I must apologize for not being a very good blogger. I realize that I haven’t posted in almost a month. Have I been so busy that I couldn’t find the time? No, but almost! So you ask, what have you been doing that has kept you away from the computer? Well…
I’ve done a little traveling. I was invited by the Americans in Portugal organization for their annual Thanksgiving Day celebration. The dinner is held in the town of Cascais, a 40-minute train ride along the coast from Lisbon. To get from here to there, I took the local train from Ferragudo to Tunes (40 minutes), caught another (much nicer) train to Lisbon ( 3 1/2 hours), got off at Sete Rios and walked downstairs to the underground metro station. I purchased my Lisbon metro pass and took the subway 4 stops to Cais do Soldré (10 minutes). Here I climbed a whole lot of stairs back up to the train station where I caught the local train to Cascais (40 minutes)! Total cost one-way was €15 = $16.28. Public transportation in Portugal is very reasonable!
What can I say about Cascais? I fell madly in love!!! Photos don’t begin to do it justice. It’s beautiful, clean, cosmopolitan, filled with great museums, glorious ocean views, a great bike path with free! bike rentals, super nice people, lots of green space, funky street art, loads of history (even a castle) plenty of shopping and close to Lisbon. What more could you ask for?
I met some wonderful people during my two-day stay. I was the guest of the President of AIP in her apartment in the historic district. The dinner was delicious – turkey, dressing, even spiral-cut ham and pumpkin pie! Annette and Jose Rio invited me to attend the monthly cocktail party of the Royal British Club. I arranged a coffee meet-up of fellow American ex-pats who were willing and so very helpful while being bombarded with all my questions about relocating and visas. And I got to enjoy a long lunch with Susan K. who I know will become a good friend.
|Cascais tiled street – can be a bit disorienting when you stare at it for a long time
|Cascais Community Center
|Waiting for turkey& all the trimmings
|Cascais street art
Too soon it was time to return home to the Algarve and everyday life in this area. So what does everyday life consist of you might ask? On Tuesday and Friday mornings, I take a ‘gymnastics class’ for women over the age of 55 at the local rec center. It’s me, one Brit and 25 Portuguese ladies, none of whom speak English, who giggle and joke and have a grand time flirting with our 20-something male instructor and exercising very little!
They host a holiday luncheon each year for the instructor. Since he speaks a few words of English, they had him tell me that I had to join them! What a hoot! The food was delicious, the wine flowed (the ladies add 7-Up to theirs), the desserts were decadent and homemade and then they brought out the Medronho! (moonshine) which had been flavored with honey or almonds. As you can see, a good time was had by all. My contribution was to lead the singing of Jingle Bells – in English.
The ladies of my gymnastics class! Our instructor and one of his fans!
The past month I’ve spent many wonderful days exploring the Algarve with my Portuguese friend, Raquel. She is a friend of my landlord’s family, loves to read books in English (Diana Gabaldon and Nora Roberts are her favorites) and practice speaking English. We hit it off the first time we met so on her days off from work as a veterinary assistant (where she works 50-60 hours a week and earns €500 a month!!) we head out to some where new-to-me.
So far we have gone to Sagres, the furthest southwestern point in Europe from which Henry the Navigator sailed; Alvor, a fishing village who’s marshland is covered by water from the saltwater river during high tide and is perfect for clam digging when the tide is out; and Carvoeiro, the cliffside town where I originally was to have rented while here. Here are just a few photos of each.
|A surfer’s paradise, just one of the large beaches at Sagres
A view from the top of the Sagres lighthouse Cape St. Vincent Lighthouse – 1894
A man fishing off a cliff – OMG!
The boardwalk path on top of the cliffs
What else? I’ve made friends with a great British couple, Maureen & Patty, who’ve lived in the Algarve for 32 years. They love to shop the ‘charity shops’ for ‘bits & pieces’ to resell at the ‘boot sales’ they participate in on the weekends. I tag along and pick up some great paperback books to read, then enjoy lunch someplace new. Maureen has also introduced me to the Chinese shops in Portimao. There are about a 1/2 dozen large, 2-story shops filled with everything from tools to kitchenware to clothes (high-end knock-offs) to shoes and bathroom supplies. Name it – they’ve got – all ‘Made in China.’
Anita Oliver and Dick Nash, Americans, world travelers and pet-sitters have finally arrived! We have been corresponding for months while they went through the residency visa process and made the relocation to Portugal. They are now happily settled in an apartment overlooking the marina in Lagos while they take their time to wander and explore and see which town or village they want to call home.
I continue to go ‘grocery shopping’ each week with Rosalina and Joáo. Each week is a different store – Continenté, InterMarché, Jumbo, Aldi, Apolólina, Lidl. All are different and we always stop for a coffee – my treat. It’s very special time I get to spend with this lovely couple.
I finally found my very own ‘rolly cart’ (like I used in Chicago only much more colorful!) and I can ‘pull’ my groceries home when I shop at Lidl’s! (a 20 minute walk each way)
What was a fun surprise, while shopping for my sweet potato ingredients, was to find these walnuts at Aldi’s. Memories of home!
I attended the Christmas Féte in Ferragudo; had fun at the CASA Social Club Christmas dinner; enjoyed the Christmas concert held in the local church and presented by a choir from Lagoa who sang songs in 7 different languages; toured a fantastic local ceramic studio; been wined-and-dined by my Portuguese ‘family’ which included an evening of home-made hot chocolate and a yellow sponge cake you eat pick apart and eat with your fingers.
I managed to find the movie theater in Portimao and have seen Spectre, the last of the Hunger Games movies and tomorrow I’m going to see the new Ron Howard movie, In the Heart of the Sea. I’ve got several more holiday lunches to attend before the big day. New Year’s will be spent with a bottle of wine, sipping while sitting up on the cliff overlooking the river and watching the fireworks being shot off from the marina across the water in Portimao. Then it will January and my last 30 days in Portugal before flying home to babysit my darling granddaughter in San Diego.
During the two months I’ll be back in the States I will apply for a Portuguese Residency Visa which would allow me to live here as a local – at least the majority of the time. I find the life here much more calm and safe – not nearly as stressful as it is back in the States at the moment. Between the almost-weekly mass shooting and the political craziness, I can’t find enough reasons to return full time. My son’s are grown with families of their own that don’t include an opinionated, aging mother.
I owe nothing and own nothing and I like a nomadic lifestyle. I will base myself in beautiful Portugal where the cost-of-living is 1/2, if not less than that in Chicago. I will enjoy the lovely weather, the friendships I am making and the availability of cheap flights to almost anywhere else in the world I care to explore. And if at some future time I want to return to the States (only if Donald Trump isn’t President) I will. I do miss my friends so I will come visit – but I’ll be sure to let you know well in advance before I drop in for a cup of coffee!
To each of you who read this blog or journal or photo diary – thank you. Wishing you the merriest of Merry Christmases and a joyous and Happy New Year!
Until next time….