The Portugal Diaries #2

As I sit here on my parents decking, it still hasn’t quite sunk in that we are now four weeks into our Portuguese adventure. Our arrival was not without its bumps along the way.

The day before leaving we fitted the dog cage to our Land Rover and that took some figuring out, even reading the manual. We had bought it soon after buying the car but had never fitted it and were going to get rid of it. However, I felt it would be better to have it installed in case the dog thought about joining BattleKid in the back seat. Or God forbid if we had an accident. After almost an hour we got it in.

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Dog guard installed!

The next morning, after some last packing, signing of papers for the sale of our first house, and clearing the last of furniture out of the house to buyers, we left South Wales. Sunny as it was that Tuesday, following the trucks containing our belongings until we passed Abergavenny, we passed over the Severn bridge with a little bit of emotion. We headed for Portsmouth, stopping at Leigh Delamere services to grab some much-needed food before containing on.

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Following the contents of our house in the two trucks in front
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Goodbye Wales, until we meet again

Five minutes down the road we heard “mammy I need a wee wee” and into the next services we pulled. He’d only done one in the previous services! Toddlers, hey! Bladder emptied, we soon turned off from the M4 and headed south along a route we hadn’t taken before. We arrived at Portsmouth just before 3 as we planned and checked in.

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Nearly at Portsmouth Docks
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On our way to Spain

Both our own passports, as well as BattleDog’s, were checked and we even had to use a micro-chip scanner to prove his microchip was still there. I was quite impressed by the Port Authority’s thoroughness. At 4pm we started heading to our ship, the Pont-Aven, a very nice looking Brittany Ferry indeed. Once on board, BattleDad got BattleDog up to his kennels and soon came racing back for his bed, which we had stashed in the back. Dog settled, we headed upstairs to find our cabin and unload our things for the 24-hour sailing.

I must say I was very impressed with the ferry indeed. Two cinemas, several restaurants and cafes, a large shop and even a pool (unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to try it out). Ferries have certainly come a long way since my overnight trip to France as a teenager for a school trip.  Even the dog facilities were better than I expected although the kennel could have been slightly bigger for our large German Shepherd.

I had been quite worried about how BattleDog would travel after reading some stories but he was brilliant. Some dogs around him got sick, one had a bad stomach the other end, and some just didn’t stop barking the whole time. However, he was fine, just excited to see us when we went up to him to walk and toilet him.

We even got some great compliments about him, especially in the late evening when it was just me and him. BattleDog was trained by Chaperone K9, a company we have dealt with before when we got BattleDog #1 (who sadly passed away last September). BattleDog #2 is fully obedience trained and is also a personal protection dog. He is so chilled and relaxed but hugely loyal and obedient.

During this particular visit to the dog walking area, there were lots of dogs and owners so I kept him close to me and just walked around in circles. It soon started raining and everyone cleared the deck except us. I took the opportunity to do some extra training and heel work off the lead, and after a few minutes another owner arrived to walk their dog. I put BattleDog back on his lead and carried on with heel work.

She was very impressed and asked if we did Crufts! I said no, that he was trained to police standards (which he is) and she then asked if I was police woman! She was mightily impressed by how good he was and how well he walked to heel. I went back to BattleDad to tell him, all chuffed with myself.

The next morning we had breakfast and took BattleKid to the soft play area which was nice enough. While there, I stupidly faced backwards and soon started feeling ill. A cup of black tea and two packets of salt and vinegar crisps soon settled my stomach. We chilled out mostly, allowing BattleKid as much screen time as he wanted. I did get a snooze in the early afternoon as I hadn’t been able to sleep much thanks to a sweet cake and caffeinated tea after 8pm, which is always a no-no for me. Caffeine and sugar after 7pm does nothing for my mind switching off at bedtime.

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Selfie with my boy on board the Pont Aven

The most exciting part of the trip was seeing hundreds of bottle-nosed dolphins swimming off the port of the ship. They were amazing to see, jumping out of the water and swimming alongside the ship.

We docked 30 minutes behind schedule and were unfortunately the last ones off the ship. We made our way through Santander and headed for the motorway which connects Santander with Bilboa, as we were staying an hour outside of Santander in a dog-friendly hotel I had managed to find online. After refuelling, we were on our way, heading into the mountains of Northern Spain….

To be continued…

Cath x


The Portugal Diaries #1

The Battle Family have a big announcement to make….

No, BattleKid isn’t going to be a big brother. No we haven’t won the lottery. But I have left my job, just over 6 weeks ago and for good reason. We are moving! And not just house. We are packing up lock, stock and barrel and emigrating. I still cannot believe we are doing it. It seems unreal and yet as you read this post we’ll be on our way to a completely new life, in another country we have only visited twice.The Portugal Diaries

We made this monumental decision while on holiday in Tenerife at Christmas. But first a little bit of a back story.

When we moved into our current house we were fortunate enough to be in a position to keep our first house and rent it out. And for three years we had a lovely, quiet couple renting it. We never heard from them apart from once during their time there. The issue was sorted quickly and we carried on as normal.

Then unfortunately, last October, the couple separated and had to give up their tenancy. This in itself wasn’t a problem as we knew we would quickly get more tenants as the rental market in that town is quite buoyant. Rental properties are snapped up quite quickly. And within a week, our letting agency had new tenants for us.

All sorted we thought. That was until a few days later, the night BattleDad arrived back home after 2 weeks in India with work, during which time he’d had some family problems to contend with. We got a call from the letting agent to say the tenants had some problems with the property that we’d have to sort. What problems? The property was in great condition, having had the internal plasterwork redone two years previously, as well as the external render redone to address a damp/condensation problem.

The builder who did the work, via the letting agent, told BattleDad he’d deal with the tenant and let us know what exactly needed to be done and costs too. He soon came back saying the niggles they had were utterly ridiculous and the guy was simply trying to be awkward. He’d had quite an attitude with the builder and he said to us “don’t worry, I’ve seen his type before, leave him to me. I’ll sort this out”. Fair enough we said.

However, it got us thinking. We had been very lucky with our previous tenants who were as good as gold, and we really didn’t want to start dealing with problem, awkward tenants. Fair enough if the house wasn’t up to scratch, but it was. I told BattleDad that he didn’t need the stress with the work and travelling he was doing. We thought then that it might be best to sell the property and think about buying a holiday home.

Now my parents had not long bought their retirement home in Portugal and we thought it might be nice to have something close to them that we and family could use, as well as maybe renting it out during part of the summer to cover costs. Although the area is within the Algarve, it is the East Algarve so a bit quieter and more cultural than your Albufeira or Portimao.

So we made the decision to tell the letting agents to make plans for putting the property on the market. And the decision to buy a holiday home in Portugal had been made.

However, while we were on holidays in Tenerife over Christmas, it went a bit further. We loved seeing BattleKid enjoying himself in the sun, free to play, not being cooped up indoors. Because, let’s face it, our UK kids spend more time indoors than they do outdoors, simply because our weather is so crap and unpredictable. We realised that if we moved to Portugal on a permanent basis, he would have a much better quality of life, spend more time outdoors, with the added bonus of seeing his grandparents on a much more regular basis. He doesn’t get to see them as often as his cousins and it would be nicer to be close to family without having to return to Ireland to do that.

Plus we and my parents would have a support network in each other, particularly me when BattleDad is travelling with work. It gets lonely on my own when he is away, even if it’s only for the week, and despite having BattleKid in the evenings and work during the day, it’s still quite isolating. Don’t get me wrong, I love our house and where we live but I’m too far from Cardiff for colleagues to pop by and I don’t have any friends close by to call on if I need or want company. Plus it’s difficult when you have a young child with a regular bedtime routine.

The more we talked about it on holiday, the more it made sense. BattleDad is lucky in that as long as he has access to an airport with links to London and Europe, he can be based anywhere. And we’re also fortunate enough that I don’t have to work. Whether we are based in the UK or in Portugal, BattleDad being away during the week for work doesn’t depend on us being located anywhere in particular. I could get to spend more time with BattleKid and my folks and still see BattleDad at the weekends as usual, albeit in the sunshine.

BattleDad has been hounding me for years that he wanted to live in a warmer country with guaranteed sunshine in the summer, even if the winter was colder and damp. And now he’s getting his wish. Had my parents not retired to Portugal we wouldn’t be going. Them being based there was what made the decision very easy for me.

I’ve been sort of keeping a diary about our decision and things that have been cropping up along the way, things we’ve had to sort etc. so I’ve decided to share our journey with you guys. I figure it might inspire others to be brave to make big decisions about their own family’s future that they are unsure of. Whether it’s moving house or not, I want to show you all the things we’ve had to consider and the things we’ve had to sort out. It has been stressful and we’re not there yet but soon it’ll be all over and we’ll be settling into a completely new way of life.

I do hope you’ll join us on this journey. I’ve been sharing snippets of our decision on Instagram, so if you follow me there you’ll know about this big change coming our way, but I’ll be going into much more detail here on the blog. Stick with us and see if we’ve made the right decision or if we’ll live to regret giving up our life in the UK. And I’ll have to shave my legs more! Only disadvantage I’ve found so far!

Cath x