Many thanks to our great friend (and high-minded painter) Andy Baird, who both conceived and jump started this attempt to contemporaneously record at least some of the eventings of one move abroad. Regarding content, the narrower column on the left is the supposedly more timeless and reference stuff; ongoing entries are in the larger-width column on the right of the script below - following the (red)


by-line below. The plan is for these at least to be augmented over time.

It should also follow, therefore, that the most recently added post will always be at the top of this right-hand column; so if you want to get a flavour from earlier times, scroll and start NEARER TO or EVEN AT THE BOTTOM (only, please, please if you chose this option, allow yourself a series of snack-breaks; it can be repetitive, and boredom is guaranteed to increase with intensity of effort!)- but ANY comments are not only also welcomed ->but positively encouraged

Remember this folks ......

Remember this folks ......

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A couple of consecutive postings from March 2012

Fingers crossed, we`ll have a completely insulated AND re-painted house by close of play this evening, although even the hanging about of the past couple of weeks has been handy enough in that at least some outstanding paperwork has been attended to.
Temperatures rising, frequently surpassing the mid-twenties this week; but Portugal, too, has a looming drought.
Just had our top VAT rate hoiked to 23% (eg up from 9% on electricity), and certainly supermarket prices are showing increases, but we struggle on.
Post `painters lull` we are, in fact, out for lunch both to-morrow and Friday with various friends not seen for a while. Managing to continue to eat out reasonably regularly – albeit that times are ever-more-clearly getting tighter here, Restaurants are for now holding prices at the `expense` of the quality cuts or through a provision of fewer diario options.
Retirement will eventually come to you all.


Updated for specific soon-to-be visitors, but worth a reminder:
Hopefully – your one-stop Visit info-pack, to
Central Portugal ……

We hope that, like us, you are looking forward to your stay in Portugal. This really IS a marvellous country, and we are blessed to live in a superb area. You will enjoy a marvellous time in a beautiful, gloriously green part of the world which, whilst being somewhat unrefined retains many of the better aspects of our own bygone ages. True, there is next-to-no public transport structure as such in this area, (other than taxis, plentiful and presumably inexpensive) it is HOT and Portuguese washing machines operate with cold water only, but life is tranquil, there is virtually no crime in the locality, and the whole pace is relaxed, the people friendly, `straight` and honest. But YOUR considerations will necessarily include more of the `How to survive` and `What to do`; so herewith a few pointers. In the end it’s your holiday: decisions and choices entirely at your whim.

Bumgalow BILL    the practicalities (including Catering)
An Estate Agent would probably describe the accommodation as `bijou`!
The cottage has two bedrooms, each with a double bed. It is possible –if cramped- to lay out a double futon in the lounge. The greater the uptake on all of this, obviously the less perambleable (!) floor space, but since we would hope that any visitors` spells indoors would be limited essentially to chilling & sleeping; overall, space should not be a problem Running off the main house is a further sizable common space which could be used as an additional sleeping area. There is an outside, enclosed courtyard. The kitchen (no cooker, but sink, fridge, kettle, microwave, dining table) is armed with ample crockery to facilitate continental-type breakfast, snack or light catering. Two reasonably sized supermarkets stocking all basic requirements are less than ten minutes away by car. There is only one toilet, with integrated shower cubicle. Hot water is via a bottled-gas geyser, but cold showers can be so invigorating, don’t you think?

the immediate vicinity
Do NOT be concerned, you won`t be disappointed, but ultimately what you get out will reflect your own understanding, input and effort. You should remember that Lourical is still essentially a piece of rural  Portugal. There is plenty to see and do within five min to under an hour’s drive from where we are Foz, `Portrush` for the Portuguese, with miles of beach, highly developed entertainment and international facilities up to and including a Casino>.  Conversely, neighbourhood attractions -even those deemed quite extravagant by the locals- are relatively basic, with perhaps their appeal being a distinctly `novelty` feel. Café/bars all over the place serve snack-food and alcohol, but dedicated “pubs” don’t really exist, and Restaurants may not open at all or have quite restricted hours at night. Again, this is not a problem for us (I’ve worn a collar and tie ONCE in nine years, but that certainly doesn’t mean we don’t have fun: real  Louricensians often don’t even get changed to change> to go out!), but again there are options for a more outgoing and exciting break, should that be your fancy. And notwithstanding earlier comments, we are both lucky enough to have a perfectly acceptable Restaurant within walking distance, and be within a ten minute car ride from a very popular public outdoor barbecue facility (another Portuguese favourite). Portuguese food can be somewhat agricultural, with Menus often featuring more pork than beef, but steak of some description will invariable be available <`cuts` are slightly different, too> and in any event it’s the sauce that provides most of the taste. Dishes can be comparatively roughly presented, but it’s good fare. The ubiquitous food `filler` is a Mista -ham and cheese in bread of some sort- and a version will be available whenever, wherever. Pizzas -easily obtainable in the supermarkets- are just about never on a menu, however, pasta only rarely, and they don’t seem to understand the concept of `vegetarian`. There are McDonalds in the major centres, but otherwise, for hamburgers read soup or filled rolls. A chicken & chip takeaway exists in Lourical, open in the evenings from 7.30 p.m. 
More traditional options include various cuts of meat, Chanfana (“Shan-fan-a”, a goat or sheep meaty-boney-leggybits stew), Alentejano (shellfish and pork, named after the area inland from Lisbon) - but grilled meat and steaks are nearly always also available.

The Portuguese way
An essentially subsistence lifestyle means that for residents the day starts earlier than most of us might be used to, and whilst we are aware that they often re-emerge for pursuits late on in the evening (they do siesta, but “not very”), the general thrust of their routine centres on having lunch from about 12.30 p.m. WE fairly often have our one `meal` per day out, with convenience and cost simply outweighing the hassle of home preparation.
And anyway, “bloated stomach syndrome” usually limits back-to-back runs, unless we’re celebrating.          We celebrate mostly between February and December.

Clearly, perhaps especially since we have a garden and two (playful, energetic) dogs, lazing around taking the sun is an almost perpetual and perfectly acceptable constituent of the daily routine: but there are any number of any length of walking or cycling circuits from the house, not to mention again our `blue flag` beach ten miles away, as alternatives. There is also a large and comprehensive tented market in Lourical every Sunday -apart from Easter and the August town Festa (“Feshta”)- so what with occasional friends` visits, village festas and eatings-out, we pretty well manage!

Not necessarily in any order, but we can survive rather well –especially in the much quieter winter- with television (NOT in the cottage however), music, games or even that old-fashioned conversation thing!           

Often over a drink, you understand.  …..  We did say they had drink here, didn’t we?

PLUS ... a  little detail……

Rather like we Brits, the Portuguese eat. 
     Quite a lot.          
Largely perforce their lifestyles, where, in employment or subsistence, they tend to rise early and work long days.
but there are nonetheless a few points , your knowledge of which may be of assistance on your travels. These notes refer to one set of experiences in more rural areas of Central/Northern Portugal.           Each to their own, of course.

Firstly, Timings and Routines. Many locals may well be up & about from 0700. They will often skip breakfast (pequeno almoco), opting instead for a coffee on the hoof. By lunch (almoco) time, they are hungry and tend to race through the mechanics of the process - regularly eating `out` in a Café/Restaurant. Although the quoted lunch-break is 2 hours, they don’t siesta as in Spain, and certainly trades/craftsmen are quite likely to have only a one hour stop. Then, at the end of a long working day, the evening meal is normally taken at home and earlyish, allowing for beddy-byes before the process kicks off again int` morning.

How this affects `others` (ie US!). Some time ago now, our Agent told us “The Portuguese have been here much longer than ANY of us, so even though it clearly upsets some Brits not to be fawned over, THEY -the Portuguese- aren’t about to change the way they’ve been doing things for centuries, simply in order to please us”.  Remains valid advice.

We have interpreted that to mean that to play the Portuguese game, with any hope of success, and certainly to benefit most YOURSELF, you may wish to adopt a strategy. Without doubt, it would be possible -for a price- to go `full English` and have everything laid back (ie late!), but that might be missing the point.

We usually start the day with toast, cereals, whatever <+, of course, tea!>, prepared at home. Before 0900, 0930. This latter is because a) We would normally have only one main meal per day OR dinner>, and b) if we’re eating out for lunch (something we would do at least once a week, more often in the summer months) we know that we’re aiming to be seated from around 1230, rarely later than 1300. This, in turn, is because we normally eat where it’s popular (AND where they serve `diario` - the two usually go together).

Diario (careful with the pronunciation Ted, it’s “De-are-e-o”) means that a fixed price covers the entire (set) menu from soup to coffee - with bread, olives, wine, main course and sweet in between. This is standard fare for lunching locals, quality & value being roughly reflected by the numbers of cars / trucks etc., in the car park. The downside can be that -although you’ll probably be served up until about 1400ish- the more popular menu `choices` will disappear pretty sharply. Thankfully, in our area staff won`t try to `take advantage`, and in general you’ll be treated exactly like everyone else.

A couple of hints. Depending on the size of Restaurant, the lunchtime menu will normally offer (at least initially) a choice of one or two fish (peixe, pronounced `pesh`!), plus two or more meat (carne) mains (and, frankly, with tables turning over rapidly, they don’t really want to start “a la carte” during that hectic period); but they will invariably to able to rustle up a `grelhado` (grilled steak of some sort: whatever `cut` happens to be in the fridge!) – and this may or may not cost a tad extra. Oh, and heated plates don’t exist, so when it arrives eat it. Condiments are not usually offered, but will usually be available.

The second point is about choices. As above, at lunch, they are busy, so probably best to head  (through experience or advice ?) for somewhere `safe`, stay with what’s offered, eat what you can, pay your seven or eight Euros, smile and leave.  The Portuguese aren’t really in to portion control, and you’d expect plenty of change from 10 Euro a head for the whole lot.  Inevitably, you’ll make a mistake once in a while, but rarely will you not manage to leave with a full stomach. Even if you are `picky`, you`ll eventually find places to suit and please. Tipping is not necessary in the daytime.

Depending on clientele, dinner will often either FINISH BY or effectively only START AT, 2130. At night, you may find more choice (possibly because you’ll be offered the house Menu) but this could be reflected in the Bill. If you have sensitive pockets, be especially careful about asking for a bottle (garaffe) of wine. The normally-included house wine is vinho da casa, either the normal tinto (red) or branco (white). Water is agua, natural (room temperature), fresca (chilled), or com gaz (fizzy). When we (and it’s rare) go out at night, there are far fewer diners - many Restaurants don’t even bother with evening hours. In any event, at night we would normally `round up` the bill, (usually involving nothing like 10% of the Bill (conta)), and the same general `meal` guidelines apply, except probably for August, or – presumably! -  posh places or sharp staff. 

Meal choices. Although, with the economy, becoming `tighter`, there really are sooo many variations and names, that one sensible approach, used by us, is to go out fairly often -possibly in company, sharing and experimenting- to try and decide.

Be aware, though
  • Genuine Portuguese food (“Menu Tipica”) could be described as an acquired taste **
  • Fish may very well be looking up at you from the plate **
  • There are endless varieties (& colours!) OF fish, depending on what has been caught – probably within twenty miles & the last ten or twelve hours.
  • Salmao, lulas and polvo are salmon, squid and octopus, respectively **
  • They tend to eat more pork (porco) than beef
  • `bife` translates directly as `steak` (so you can have a pork steak) and cuts do vary somewhat from the UK. Sirloin is lombo de vaca
  • yer actual beef could be vitela (veal, arguably the most common), novilho (bullock), or vaca (cow). They also eat things that we would throw away, &  Cozido Portuguese is an entire meal of just that – ears, noses, cheeks, tripe.
  • variations include sheep (ovelha) cordeiro) is not usually available>, goat (cabra), chicken (frango) and duck (pato). “Barbecued” is `churrasco`.
  • they eat rabbit (coelha); and leitao (suckling pig) is a speciality, usually served cold **
  • meat is often fairly well seasoned; thus it is not normal to deliver condiments to the table (but you can always ask: their cruet contains olive oil and vinegar, if you want salt, it’s sal)
  • nor do they generally have side plates – though you’ll quite possibly lift off a serving dish (yourself) to your dinner plate
  • they don’t really do vegetarian; nor Pizzas, except in a specialist Pizza place
  • the final fall-back <after grelhado> would be an omelette **

** in most places, they will recognise estrangerios (strangers) and usually give guidance – even if they -or you!- have to quickly develop new skills in sign language; think zoo!

Above all; have fun.  Bom `petite.


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