Oh what a glorious time of the year this is! Spring. Our citrus and fruit trees are blossoming. Pesky flies. Buzz. Buzz. Non-stop buzz. Pollen. A-a-aaa-tishooo! Oh, and lots more birds than usual are singing in our garden. Tweety-tweet cheep-cheep. It is also much warmer now. Our property is south-facing, so there are some areas in our garden where it feels like you’re sitting in a pizza oven. Okay, pizza-nating here, but we’ve just been at a pizzeria with our dear friends. Pizza was hot, piri-piri hot, so there. Anyway, you get it, we have a hot garden. Zzzztt.
When it’s hot, you hydrate. There we were, sitting in our pizza oven, enjoying some cool refreshments and minding our own business when a relentless bzzzz-bzzzz-bzzzz flying object thought it was a good idea to swim in a glass of beer. So it was too hot for you too, eh Mack Fly? It fell through the foam, so we could not see it unless someone takes a sip, but wait, lo and behold, there it was, crawling back out. It flapped its wings and flew into our winter garden, why there, Mack, why, then fell down on its back and started spinning like crazy. Was it drunk?? Was this the last dance before nirvana? Then it stopped. Sleeping? Comatose? Dead? Whatever, one less buzz-buzz to swat. To our amazement, fifteen minutes later it “woke up” and flew away! You go Mack! Whoop-whoop! Yeah, some of us are entertained by such nonsense. Buzzhaha-haha-buzz.
This morning we had a bit of a drama. Winter garden. Breakfast. BANG! What the dot-dot was that? A little bird had crashed into a large window. Poor little thing kami-zanged right there, fell down, had a poop, then just sat there motionless for a couple of seconds. Then it tipped over, bum in air and head buried in the grass. Was it dead? No Schatzi, it would’ve fallen over if it was dead. But it has fallen over! Nooo, it’s still on its feet. Should we do something? Should we be worried? Yes, we were now very worried. We asked doctor goggle, yes, spelling mistake intended, but found too many conflicting information. As always. So instead of, as per goggles, putting it immediately in an organic cardboard box (uhm…where do you find such a thing?), or call the wildlife veterinarians (more goggling), we opted for the wait and see. Wait two minutes then see what happens. It was still standing. A good sign, yes? We did not want to disturb it either as it might have stressed it out more. A while later he lifted his head. We now knew it was a male blackcap bird. He sat there for another ten minutes before flying into the forest. Will it survive? Sincerely hope so! Oh, and there’s a large bush about two metres away from where he landed. This bush is filled with birds, like a bird sky-rise appartment building. Did he belong to any of them? Hmmmm…
Phew! What a week! Busy. Busy. Busy. Today we planned to have a slow and relaxing day. Eat breakfast. Dawdle. Take a shower. Dawdle. Dally. Go out for lunch. Dawdle. Dally. Dilly-Dally. That’s it. Day over. But noooooo. Our village had other plans.
We were on our first dawdle when the doorbell rings. The police. Oh holy number two, what have we done?! The one still in pyjamas opens the door. Bom dia. He smiles and Bom dia’s back. He smiled. We’re good. He says something then realizes that lady with uncombed frizzy hair does not understand (lady sort of understood but was too busy spitting on hand to comb down frizz), so he switches to perfect English. This is a fire drill. We should evacuate our property and go down to the lavanderia, the village communal laundry. When? Right now, Senhora.
The lavanderia is not far from our house, but it still took us almost ten minutes to get there. The pyjamas. The hair. The Senhor of the house.
Our village is very proud of the fact that we have had no forest fires, especially last year, when it seemed like the whole of Portugal was burning. Here they are very vigilant and exercises like today are done regularly. Everyone helps where they can. We even had a visit from a very important minister. After his speech, he came to chat to us, also to explain what he’d just said because he saw a neighbour trying to translate for us. The press was also there, so let’s wait and see if we appear in the newspapers, hee-hee.
When the drill was over, one of the villagers invited us over to his place to have lunch with his family. Obrigada! It was still an hour away, so we went home and undawdled. At one o’clock we were there. On the dot. Eye roll. We took one of our homemade orange jams as a thank-you-for-having-us gift, and some leberwurst. Our host could speak some German, so he explained to everyone what it was. We in turn were offered to nibble on delicious roasted pumpkin seeds while waiting for the meat to braai (grill, bbq). There were at least thirty family members from all ages there, all very warm and friendly. What an amazing time we had. We ate, we drank, we talked. We met the architect who designed our house, also the one who built it, and heard a few titbits about the original owner. And yep, all are related to one another. We love this village! By the way, the leberwurst was a hit.
A few hours later, after lots of slurp-slurp uhm…wine, meat on soft rolls, juicy orange cake for dessert, we toddled home with such joy in our hearts, oh, and a big bag of oranges. What a wonderful day!
What a difference two trips can make. The first leg to Portugal was supposed to be close to nine hours until our first stopover in France. Ha! We opted avoid the toll roads, so though it was a very interesting drive through the countryside, especially in France, it was way too long. Lots of farming chugga-chugga’s. The second time we hit those toll roads. There. Are. Many. La France ka-ching ka-ching. We did not save much on kilometres but wanted to get there fast. We did.
We were about three hours into our journey, the first one, just having crossed the border from Germany into France when the mobile phone rings. Boo-shoe Madame or something like that. Madame was snoozing and that is what she heard. Boo-shoe. In a very heavy French accent the owner of our overnight stay tells us, in his version of English, that they must cancel our stay because one of them had just tested positive for covid.
Uhm, okay, sooo?? So, Madame, you cannot stay with us. Wait, what? Where are we going to stay then? We book you in hotel in city so and so. We do not want city, definitely not that city, that’s why we chose you. His accent got heavier and his sighs louder, and madame was getting nauseous. Mobile and moving car, big problem. Oh alright. Whatever. Send the details. Bye, and thank you. Ow Riv-waa, good-bye.
Madame did not like.
He sent a message a minute later. We were cancelled. Nothing to do, he’d booked us in city so and so. How nice of him. A cheap hotel in a big city. On top of that we now had to drive an extra unplanned hour. Oh well, what’s one more hour if you still have two thousand more to go. Felt like kicking something with that boo-shoe, but whatever.
It was quite difficult finding the hotel underground parking, so we parked illegally on some blue line, but again, whatever. Madame ran into the hotel to ask, but…
Who are you, we do not ev your booking!
No, no, NON! We called your hotel a few hours earlier to confirm.
Geez, like it was fun being in the middle of nowhere with limited mobile reception and those buzzards circling overhead while we were wetting the grass. All this stress and still we called the hotel. They said every-zing izz alright. Now nuzzing was alright! Where’s that boo-shoe…After clack-clacking on his computer for what seemed like forever, we got the last and only room available, yeah okay, but where do we park.
Just go around ze corner.
Oh, thank you, sounds easy, merci (clasping hands as if in prayer).
Should’ve saved the merci because the around ze corner was a very narrow lane and the bays inside the garage were not made for modern cars. Okay, BIG modern cars, but oh, look, there’s a biggish bay, so quick, park there. Lots of French toot-tooting because of driving in the wrong direction. Toot to ze hand. We were in.
The covid cancelled room had two large twin beds. We know how small the beds in most countries are, that’s why we mostly prefer twins. What we now had was one modest bed with not even enough space to the wall on the sides for a big bum to turn in. As if that wasn’t enough, the toilet was the lowest we’ve ever come across, with not even a single handle or bar thingy to hold onto. Plonk! Gravity and lots of ouch. Oh, okay, so the toilet paper holder is supposed to hit the head then. Might as well also start practicing those squats while at it.
We were tired, hungry and the telephone conversation we could hear from the neighbouring room didn’t bother us at all. Thin walls are not as bad as low toilets. Whatshisname next door was chatting to his partner, wife or girlfriend. It was a very l’amour kind of chat. Click, end of call. Then we heard him l’amouring again, but this time with a woman in his room. Ooh-la-la! Time to play. Let’s just leave it at that hee-hee. The French women we met here looked like a million dollars. Them ladies carried chic to another level, even in this cheap hotel. One elderly lady sat there with such a beautifully made-up face, sipping her coffee, that someone scrambled in her handbag for her lipstick. Red them lips.
The other French thing that is so amazing is the language and the accent. It’s like when they shout at you and all you hear is a love declaration. That’s why Madame loves it when beard-man throws out those French words. Shyoo are so crayzzeee. Shmoe-shmor-mmm
We slept well. The breakfast buffet was lifeless and meagre, with no black tea, only one of those machine thingies, so one of us had a milk coffee and the other one settled for hot chocolate. It was a hot and brown concoction because le chocolat had left the room. We were in France, but those long fresh crispy baguettes and fluffy croissants decided to stay in Paris. What we had were ice cold boiled eggs. Tap. Tap. Crack. Oh. Oops. What, they’re not boiled yet? Aah, look, there’s a big boiling pot (swear it wasn’t there before) next to the eggs. We plopped two in and waited. It took too long, so we left. Someone else might like blue boiled eggs. We were happy and ready for the next leg to Spain.
This time was much, much better. No calls. No stress. No surprises. Okay, one or two. Nice ones. The hairy one had booked us into a hotel in the countryside of France not far from that city so and so. As we drove through the imposing gate and crunched over a gravel path, we could not stop ooh-ing and aah-ing. What was this please? Ample parking and a distinguished gentleman waiting to welcome us. He took us up to our room. Whoa! This place oozed history. We were spending the night in a medieval castle. Ooh-la-la-le Chateau.
We walked around the property that is surrounded by a forest, got followed by a dog that did not seem to bark, and eyed by two horses wondering what we were up to.
Later that evening we had a scrumptious meal cooked especially for us by the owner. Oh, and local wine. We sat in a huge dining room, with a table fit to seat at least twenty.
They explained some of the history of the chateau and allowed us to take some photos of the inside. It is after all, also their private home. We slept well, ate well, and ooh yes, there were croissants for breakfast.
Do we really want to move? That’s the question we kept on asking ourselves when we tripped over boxes scattered all over our entire place, and this for months on end. Exciting? Uhm, yeah. It was like completing an exercise course. Course one: ow toe (kick a box). Course two: balance (avoid a box). Course three: butterfly sit-ups (fall over a box). Course four: meditate (avoid looking at boxes). The other question was where does all this stuff come from? It’s amazing how much two people can collect over the years. Some things we forgot we had, others we didn’t even know we had, and then there were those that drew complete blanks, like seriously, did we really buy this? The whole preparing to move to another country process is not for sissies. Been there, done that, got the beer and the Weiss Wurst, but somehow this time it was, oh em gee, overwhelming. The last time was spontaneous and simple. Squeeze your whole lives into two suitcases, take your little child’s hand, say your good-byes, then sit in a plane for hours on end. This time there were a lot more decisions to be made. We had a new house to fill up. We were also keeping our current one indefinitely. Most of our furniture had to stay, but we tried to divide some other things between the two. There were lots of other things. Geez!
The first thing we did when we bought our house in Portugal at the beginning of the year was contact a few removal companies to get some quotes. The first one was astronomical. Okay, there’s currently a crisis going on, but we only wanted to move a few stuff, not buy the truck. The second one we streamlined our take-with items, but this too was expensive, so we cancelled the others and decided that it might be better to just post some boxes. Lots and lots of boxes. We fortunately also had a car with a large boot space, so when we drove to Portugal in July, we packed everything delicate and personal in it. We did the same when we finally moved a few weeks ago. Oh, and the posting of boxes idea was absolutely super. They were collected directly from our house, and four days later they were delivered in Portugal.
The last six weeks were the busiest. One still had a very busy full-time job, the other one was helping to unpack in another appartment, then there were farewell dinners and parties, and…and…and. We also used the opportunity to re-organise the cellar, sell some stuff and still find the time to breathe. By the time we left, we really needed a holiday lol.
But first we had to get to Portugal. We wanted to drive all the way. Oi. Oi. Oi. Four countries, three days, two stopovers. Crazy yes, but we needed our own vroom-vroom. This whole moving business added some serious kilometres to our tachometer. We first drove over during summer, then back again after two weeks, then a few weeks ago, finally to Portugal.
It was a little more than eight years ago when we visited Portugal for the very first time that we decided, sort of, that it would be nice to live here one day…a long, long in the future one day…as retirees. Seed planted and life carried on. We continued to travel the world, also spending a few weeks in Portugal, our annual break from those very long winters further up north. Bye-bye brrrr…
Just over three years ago we seriously started scouting for a property to buy. An agent chauffeured us around and explained more about the areas we were looking at. After a few viewings, we found one we liked. As we had at least many, many more years to go before retirement, we considered offering it as a holiday rental during those times when we were not using it ourselves. Another couple were apparently more desperate to buy it than we were, so they offered way too much for what it was worth. We stopped bidding. You can have it darlings.
Then the world got crazy. Pandemic. Lockdown. Isolation. It was also a very emotional year for us, as we both lost our mothers within three months of each other. The next year wasn’t rosy either. Twenty-twenty sucked real plenty! Twenty-twenty-one, that’s it, we were done! It was time for drastic changes. Some super-duper fertilizer on our planted seed and yay, decision made. One put in a request for early retirement and the other flew to Portugal to buy a property.
There were still some strict pandemic regulations to adhere to, but after seeing at least fifteen properties, a beautiful house made the heart go boom-boom. We made an offer and let our lawyer check the legalities. Arghhh! We had to let this one go too. Madam beautiful was mostly built illegally. Bye-bye to the house and thank you to our very sharp lawyer.
To cut a long story short, we both spent weeks looking for another house. The one we ended up buying was not on our must-see viewing list, but when we’d finished looking at it, we decided that this is the one. Boom-chucka-boom-boom! Deal sealed. Six months later we travelled to Portugal, by car, in the middle of a very hot summer, to properly introduce ourselves to our new house. Hello baby, what’s with the flies? Three months after that, we moved in. Now here we are. Yippee-yay-yay! We will be telling you a bit more about our life in Portugal, including, as usual, our travels wherever we may be.