The Portugal Diaries #12

One thing I was apprehensive about before we left the UK was how it might affect my blog and the opportunities that came my way. While some PR’s have said they won’t send stuff to Portugal for review, others have been more than happy. Two such brands are Cosy Holder and My Piccolo.

We received a Cosy Holder and some My Piccolo pouches for review in the second week of July and had fun trying them out. I’ve also been lucky enough to have one sponsored post opportunity come my way and a few others offered, although I had to say no. One sounded good but for some reason didn’t come about and I’m not sure why.

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Enjoying a Piccolo pouch after the Fado
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Relaxing and enjoying his tablet with his Cosy Holder

So, in between reviewing some products, we took it easy in the second week of July and did some crafts, painting and playing with play doh while I got on with drafting blog posts and editing some videos for our YouTube channel which has been pretty much abandoned of late.

That said, on the third Saturday of July we had another Animal Vision charity event lined up in the form of a Fado. This is a concert of traditional music and song which featured two guitar players and four singers. The origins of Fado music can be traced back to Lisbon in the 1820’s, perhaps earlier.

We were treated to two ladies and two men singing songs that were both mournful and joyful and I have to say, one particular man and one lady blew us away. They had the most amazing voices, and although we had no idea what they were saying, we adults thoroughly enjoyed it. BattleKid loved the live music but wasn’t too fussed over the singing, putting his hands over ears during some of the singing. This amused the people sitting behind us.

This guy had a great singing voice
This lady had one of the most incredible voices I’ve ever heard

Again, the proceeds of this event went towards the fundraising for the x-ray machine for Novavet, and at the end of the concert we learned more about the reason behind the fundraising.

One couple had a cat who they brought to Novavet. They learned she had breast cancer but were unable to see if it had spread or to what degree as Novavet don’t have an x-ray machine/scanner. Unfortunately, this meant the vets were unable to properly treat her and perhaps save her life. When asked by the couple whose cat it was why they didn’t have one, they were told of the cost of such a machine. Novavet said in order to fund one they would have to raise their prices significantly and they didn’t want to do that.

Novavet will care for any animal that is brought to them, whether their owners can afford the treatment or not. Most people can, but if they increased their prices, they would be unable to treat many of the animals that are brought to them. So, the couple started Animal Vision and fundraising for an x-ray machine for Novavet. And this is a cause we are more than happy to support.

At the end of the Fado, I saw the couple who had helped arrange the Flamenco evening and they came over for a chat to see how we are settling in. They have told me there will be another night in Xicken Piri Piri and I said we look forward to it, which we will. Any event help by Animal Vision will be supported by the Battle Family and my parents. We’ve enjoyed both events we’ve attended so far for this worthy cause.

The next week my sister (the third girl) arrived on the Tuesday with a surprise for us!

To be continued…

Cath x     

Read more about our adventures in Portugal in my Portugal Diaries section.  

The Portugal Diaries #11

As mentioned last time, we had a trip inland pencilled in for the Wednesday of the first week of July. A good friend of ours from Wales and his fiancée were holidaying in Lisbon and he had asked if we could meet up as we haven’t seen him for a few years. We also would be meeting his fiancée for the first time, so BattleDad found a place that was roughly half way for us and we planned our meet up.

Little did I know that the reason BattleDad chose it was because there is an amazing castle in the town. We left our place and headed past Castro Marim towards Beja, taking the mountain roads inland. We passed through a town called Mertola, which also hosts a castle on a hill. We plan to visit that as it’s only an hour from us.

After almost 2 hours on the road we arrived in Beja and found the castle. I honestly did not associate castles with Portugal but you can imagine my delight that we managed not one, but two dragon hunts within days of each other.

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Beja Castle
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Beja Castle

M and P were running a little late so we walked along the outer walls and admired how beautiful the castle looked. Once our friends had arrived we went into the castle to explore and hunt out the dragon lurking within.

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Selfie with my boy at Beja Castle

After an hour, we found a café for a sit down and catch up with toasties and a coffee. I have to say I’m a big fan of toasties since moving to Portugal. They aren’t afraid of using butter and the bread they use is really good. Unfortunately, we couldn’t spend the afternoon with M and P as BattleDad had to get back for a conference call at 3pm but we thoroughly enjoyed our catch up and were so grateful they took time out from their holiday to come see us.

We decided to head back to Tavira via the main motorway and we got a nasty surprise on our way home. We came across a set of tolls not far from Beja and I mistakenly thought we could use the fast lane. I’ve set up an online account for our tolls along the A22, the main motorway that runs along the South of Portugal. But alas, these electronic tolls are different to those on the other motorways.

There are actually 3 different types of tolls and unless you have a tag, which you can only get for Portuguese plated cars, you have to get a ticket and present it at the other end. We didn’t have a ticket and as a result ended up paying a fine of over €100 for a trip that should have cost less than €10. A costly lesson to learn! I’m just glad we had enough on us to pay.

On our way home we did pass the exit for Silves which my Dad reliably informs us has another castle. I really am surprised at how many castles there are in Portugal and how amazing they look. I had been wondering whether we would be able to continue our dragon hunting adventures but thankfully we can.

Later that week we spent yet another Friday evening at the beach. Someone fell asleep on the way there and woke up to discover himself at the beach. He and BattleDad had a whale of a time jumping waves and running away from them.

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Jumping the waves on Manta Rota beach

It’s an absolute joy to be able to nip to the beach of an evening and see the joy in our son’s face as he plays in the sand and sea, which is warm by the way. It makes us happy to know our decision to leave the UK for a life in the sun is paying off. We’re starting to settle in and find out feet but we’ve a while to go before I think it’ll truly feel like home. But so far so good.

Next time I tell you of more blogger mail that has winged its way to us here in Portugal!

To be continued…

Cath x

Read more about our Portugal Adventures at Portugal Diaries.

The Portugal Diaries #10

So, after finishing his calls by 5pm, we decided to jump into the car and go exploring. And we hit the beach but not Fabrica. We hit a beach called Manta Rota which is a sandy beach that stretches for miles. And even better, you don’t need to get a boat to it. You simply walk out the boardwalk and you’re right on the beach.living arrows my sunday photo

It was still quite busy with lots of people still arriving. It seems it is a popular thing to head to the beach after work! And we had a great time. BattleKid got thoroughly soaked and I was glad I had a spare change of clothes as we headed to Xicken Piri Piri for dinner afterwards.

So nice was Manta Rota that on my sister’s last day I picked them up early and we headed there for a few hours to let BattleKid and his cousin play in the sand. They had a ball and it was lovely seeing them enjoying themselves. After showers and lunch, I dropped my parents home before carrying on to Faro airport to drop my sister and niece off. My sister really didn’t want to go home but they’ll be back later in the year.

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Playing in the sand with his cousin
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Burying me in the sand!

We had a quiet few days after our visitors but on the first Sunday of July, we decided to get out early and carry on exploring. We had been told of a castle fort at a place called Castro Marim that might be a good place for some dragon hunting, so off we went. I was very surprised that it was only 20 minutes for our home.

Castro Marim has two forts on top of hills. One is open to the public and in we went, on the hunt of our first dragon in Portugal. It was a great place to spend an hour or two and I’ll be writing all about our visit soon. Afterwards we stopped at a café at the bottom of the castle hill and had toasties and a cuppa before setting off for home. I can see us returning to Castro Marim time and time again.

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The second fort of Castro Marim
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Just taking a break from dragon hunting

After the weekend, and once BattleDad was finished work on Monday evening, we headed back to Manta Rota but not to the beach this time. We wanted to take BattleKid somewhere flat to practise his cycling and there was no better place we could think of than the big square in front of Manta Rota beach. He had a great time for over half an hour before we stopped for dinner.

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Cycling on Manta Rota

Later that week we had a trip inland lined up but it turned out even better than I thought it would. Stay tuned to find out why!

To be continued…

Cath x      

Read more of my Portugal Diaries here.          

The Portugal Diaries #9

The Saturday evening after BattleDad had been in London for a Guns and Roses we had a fun event lined up. My parents had spotted it in the Portugal newspaper, an English newspaper that reports various things around Portugal. They spotted a small article detailing a charity event in support of Animal Vision’s charity cause to raise funds for an animal x-ray machine for Novavet, who we take BattleDog to.

The event was held in Xicken Piri Piri, a restaurant half way between my parent’s place and ours on one of the main roads. It does the most amazing, tasty chicken, far better than any I’ve tasted before. It is this restaurant one of our movers had recommended to us. The ticket included a 3 course meal, soft drinks and wine, and we were to be entertained by Flamenco dancers. portugal diaries 9 portugal diaries 9

Both my mum and I were looking forward to seeing them up close and personal for the first time. I used to do Ballroom and Latin American dancing (think Strictly Come Dancing) when I was younger so have always enjoyed dancing of that sort. My sister, who danced with me, was raging she couldn’t be there for it as she had planned to come a few days after the event!

The evening was a roaring success and raised over €1000 for the charity. The x-ray machine will cost €18k but this was a great start to the fundraising. People were encouraged to come dressed in their best flamenco outfits and there was a prize for the best couple. There was also a raffle and we won a prize too! BattleKid sat in awe during the dancing and was really well behaved, despite being up until well after 11pm. We can’t wait for the next event and we were fortunate my parents spotted the article in the newspaper.

The following morning we took BattleKid for a long overdue haircut. His hair was getting long and was starting to itch him in the heat. I had a browse around the shops while BattleDad supervised the haircut and I got a shock when I saw him. He’d been scalped! But if it meant him being more comfortable, so be it.portugal diaries 9

The next morning, Monday, we were up early to drop BattleDad off at the airport for yet another trip to Paris for work, his last for a while we hope. The project he is working on is at a critical stage but if it goes well it’ll be great for his career and CV.

Left to our own devices, BattleKid and I chilled out on Monday afternoon. We woke early on the Tuesday so I decided it was time to start exploring and we headed to the beach. We started at Cacela Vehla but there wasn’t really a beach. There were steps down to the shore but with a warning sign for snakes I thought “No thanks” and we went a bit further along the coast to a very small village called Fabrica.

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Cacela Vehla

Fabrica had been mentioned by our neighbours and it has a shoreline with beach where boats are moored. To get to the real sandy beach on the Ria Formosa you take one of the small jet boats across. However, BattleKid and I simply walked along the sandy part of the shore, enjoying the sand between our toes. We did make sure we didn’t go too close to the shore as there were hundreds of crabs walking around.

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At Fabrica beach

Visiting Fabrica before breakfast and before the sun got too hot gave us a chance to try out our new Saltrock t-shirts we had received the day before for review. It also meant I felt less guilty about staying indoors with the air con for the rest of the day as the temperatures climbed well into the 30’s.

Dropping BattleDad to the airport wasn’t my only trip to Far airport that week. I returned on the Thursday morning to pick up my sister and niece who had come to visit for a week. It was great to see them both and we had a lovely time catching up in my parents’ house. BattleDad arrived in after 5pm and got a taxi to my parents to save me doing a third trip.

We had a great time with them over the weekend, shopping, swimming and nice meals. It was lovely to have a playmate for BattleKid and surprisingly there weren’t any real fights over toys to report.

After the weekend, on the last Monday of June, BattleDad finished his client calls by 5pm so we decided to go explore again. Where did we go? Find out next time!

To be continued…

Cath x 

To read more of our Portugal Diaries, please visit here.

The Portugal Diaries #8

The second weekend of June saw me jet off to London to meet two of my three sisters for the weekend. We had booked tickets for the Take That concert last year, long before Portugal was ever a possible move for us. It felt really weird but thrilling to be landing in London from Portugal knowing they were coming from Ireland. It was to be a proper girlie weekend and the first time in quite a long time I’ve had 3 nights away from my boys.

I arrived Friday afternoon and after checking into our AirBnB near the O2, I ventured into London and Oxford Street for a bit of shopping. It had been so long since I’d gone shopping on my own that I almost didn’t know where to start.

Well, it was Pandora I popped into first. And I came away with my first Pandora bracelet with charms, and a beautiful necklace too. Despite there being a Pandora in Abergavenny, I’d never been in a store before and I could have gone madder than I did in terms of spending. But as I said to BattleDad and my sister later, they won’t be stuck for ideas for my birthday or Christmas presents in the future!

After a bit more shopping I headed back to our apartment, conscious of not being in London longer than I needed a week after the latest terrorist attacks.

My sisters arrived Saturday morning and we had a fun filled day in London before having a lovely meal in the Ice Bar.

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3 sisters on tour

portugal diaries 8 I’ll be writing about that separately but suffice to say we had a blast, a cold one! Sunday saw us doing some more sightseeing before an early dinner before the Take That concert. The concert was amazing and All Saints, the supporting act, brought me back to the 90’s and early 00’s!

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All Saints bring us back to the 90’s

We had VIP tickets and they were worth every penny! What does VIP get you? This……..

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Howard starting the show 5 feet from us
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Gary came up towards the end of the show to sing beside us. We all got to shake his hand!

On Monday we all headed to Gatwick to go our separate ways and we all agreed it had been a fantastic weekend and was something we should do on an annual basis but with our other sister along too. The 4 McKenna girls together!

It felt strange knowing I was leaving the cooler air of London for the hot air of Portugal. I chuckled to myself when the air hostess welcomed everyone to Portugal and wished them a good holiday. I thought “I’m not on holiday”!

And something exciting happened while I was away. A certain little boy had the stabilisers taken off his bike and lo and behold he was peddling independently when I arrived back. That week we also got word that the Landy was finally fixed (at a cost) and we collected it before it was BattleDad’s turn to head to London himself, for a Guns and Roses concert. It took him back to his year spent in Paris as part of the opening crew of Euro Disney, blasting G’n’R in his earphones of his Walkman. Showing his age now haha!

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Riding with no stablisers

And the evening he arrived we had a fun thing planned!

To be continued…

Cath x

To catch more of my Portugal Diaries, click here.