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.

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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 #7

The day after cleaning our new place, my parents and I ventured as far as Ayamonte, Spain. You can either drive across the border or go the route we did, by ferry. On the Portuguese side of the river is a town called Vila Real de Santo Antonio, which I mentioned in my previous Portugal Diaries post. This town is gorgeous. From the harbour you can take a ferry across the river to Ayamonte in Spain. It costs just €1.50 each way and you don’t need your passport.

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Tasting the air between Portugal and Spain
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Ayamonte, Spain

Ayamonte is a town, quite different to Vila Real with smaller coddles pedestrian streets filled with various shops, cafes and restaurants. We visited as my mum wanted extra wool from the Chinese shop there. Afterwards we had lunch in Vila Real, which really is fast becoming one of my favourite places to visit in Portugal.

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Vila Real de Santo Antonio

With BattleDad back from Paris later that Thursday, we met our movers at the place where we would be storing the bulk of our belongings for the next few years early the next morning. An articulated lorry and smaller van pulled in a few minutes after we did at 8am and we were met by the man who owns the place, Peter. He moved to Portugal in the 2000’s and was very friendly and welcoming. The two drivers were Aaron (lorry) and Darren (van) and both were really nice.

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Movers have arrived in Portugal!

They started off-loading our stuff and separating it into home stuff, coming to our new place, and storage stuff. We helped where they would allow, and also fished out one or two things that were marked for storage that we wanted with us. When the lorry first arrived I thought “I’m sure we didn’t pack a lorry full of stuff” but Aaron informed us we were his last load and our stuff only took up one third of his truck.

BattleKid spent most of the time in the car watching YouTube videos on BattleDad’s phone which was just as well as we saw our first bit of rain. By 11am the lads were finished, so they followed us from Sao Bras to our new place. The lorry didn’t come up to our park but that didn’t matter as everything we needed had been transferred into the van. The lads off-loaded our stuff and took a look around and were quite impressed with our new pad.

They were willing to put boxes into various rooms but we said to just stick everything in the living area as we’d sort it out ourselves later. We then went for lunch in the restaurant before thanking them and returning back to my parents. We didn’t unpack anything that day. We did also get a recommendation from Aaron for a good place for a meal and he was spot on. Thanks a million to him (if he ever reads this) for the recommendation of Xicken Piri-Piri!

We did start unpacking over the weekend and got through a good bit of stuff. In the process we discovered some boxes hadn’t quite made it to the home and three had to be returned to storage. But our new home was taking shape.

The next week BattleDad was back in Paris so I went up to our new place with my Dad a few times to unpack in between relaxing, blogging and walking the dog. On one particular evening, BattleKid and I made the mistake of crossing a sand path that had some water in it on our walk with BattleDog. The result was two pairs of very mucky feet. As we approached my parents decking I shouted for them to help and get water and towels. My mum panicked thinking something had happened to BattleKid but she and my Dad laughed their heads off when they saw our feet. Of course BattleDog was ok as he had avoided the path we took!

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Mucky feet…

Thursday of that week, the last of June, saw BattleDad return from Paris, so we decided to move into our new place on the Friday. We packed up in the afternoon and after dinner, set off to spend our first night in our new place. It felt a bit strange leaving my parents place after nearly a month with them but it also felt good to finally get into our new place as a family.

That weekend we visited Vila Real again for a bit of shopping and the same evening we installed BattleKid’s Fairy Door. We also decorated his room for him with various stickers we’d brought with us and his room started to feel more like his old one. We also worked out how to get the sprinklers in our garden working. The grass was looking dry and quite sad, if I’m honest. We fiddled with the hose and hey presto, on came the sprinklers. We still haven’t worked out how they can be set for specific times but BattleKid had a whale of a time running through them and getting soaked in the process.

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Finishing touches being put to our Fairy Door
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Sprinkler fun!

To be continued…

Cath x

The Portugal Diaries #6

Our second full week in Portugal saw BattleDad heading to Paris for work to be on his clients site. I hadn’t expected him to be in Paris until the week after but he had to go both weeks which was a bit of a pain. So, while getting used to driving on the wrong side of the road, BattleKid and I took it easy at my parent’s place.

We visited Gran Plaza for some shopping where we discovered a Tiger ride. BattleKid loved it and it is much better value than the other kids rides they have there.portugal diaries 6

I also finally got word that our decking was finished so we could access our home. On the Wednesday I collected the keys and my Mum and I got stuck into cleaning it and getting it ready for our belongings arriving from the UK on the Friday.

You are probably all wondering what our new place is like. Well, we haven’t rented a house, mainly because long-term rentals are very, very hard to come by, especially in the Algarve. Most rentals are short-term, and during the summer months, so landlords can capitalise on the busy summer months. You can’t blame them. There are also larger taxes placed on landlords who do long-term rentals so it is more tax efficient for landlords to capitalise on the summer months only. Which is not great news if you are moving to Portugal and want to rent a house/apartment.

Having found this out, we knew our options were limited. We can’t get a mortgage yet until we build up our credit rating here in Portugal and we couldn’t afford to buy something outright either, not for a few years. So, we decided to buy a static holiday home and have sited it on a very nice holiday park only 10 minutes’ drive from my parents. We figured that a lot of people in the UK live in a caravan or static while they build their house, so why couldn’t we! The only difference is we will be living mostly outdoors, hence needing a deck built, and it will be for 2-3 years while we save enough money to buy outright.

This option also gives us a chance to decide if Portugal is really right for our family. If not, we can move on and have the option of keeping the home, and either letting family use it as a holiday base, or renting it out to cover the annual ground rent. It probably sounds mad to some of you, but it gives us the flexibility to settle in, decide if this is where we want our forever home, and it’ll always be ours. We will have no mortgage once our house in Wales has sold (we currently waiting on an exchange date from our solicitors), our monthly outgoings will be next to nothing, our ground rent is paid annually, so we are sorted until January, and we will be saving a huge amount of money each month. After 2-3 years, and adding our savings from our house sale to what we save in the meantime, we will hopefully be able to buy a nice villa (with a pool!) outright and remain mortgage free.

As well as providing a better, outdoor life for BattleKid, and having access to better education than the UK, our other main reason for moving to Portugal was to press reset on our financial lives. Portugal is a country that is cheaper to live in and to be able to be mortgage free in a few years’ time with a nice villa to show for our efforts will be amazing. The big red reset button has been well and truly pressed. Another advantage is if we don’t like Portugal for some strange reason, we will have substantial savings behind us to move on, either back to Ireland or the UK, and even there, be mortgage free with a holiday home in the sun.

So, this is what our new home and decking looks like.portugal diaries 6 portugal diaries 6

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It has two bedrooms which is enough for the three of us. The garden has fencing all round to keep it secure for BattleDog and has ample room for both him and the boy to run around in. We still have some gardening work to do to get rid of the sandy gravel and stones but that’s coming soon.

Our holiday park is located outside a small village and has an almost rural setting. We have a pool on site, a bar/restaurant and a children’s playground. It is only 10 minutes to my parents and only 15 to Tavira itself so we are not far from anywhere. The only thing is you NEED a car to be able to get anywhere. Hence my worry about the Land Rover, which remained in Faro for the whole two weeks BattleDad was away in Paris!

So there you have it. A bit unconventional, but it will do us for the moment and is only temporary. Do you think we’re mad yet?

To be continued…

Cath x

The Portugal Diaries #5

Well we’ve been in Portugal for eight weeks and it finally feels like we are starting to settle into our new life. But the last few weeks haven’t been without their dramas either! For the first couple of days, we relaxed in my parents’ house, pottering into Tavira once or twice for shopping. It was all about getting over the mammoth drive for mum and dad and wondering if our Land Rover was still sick or not.

We got into a routine with BattleDog of walking him regularly to toilet him as my folks don’t have an enclosed garden for him to be free in. Theirs is open so regular walks were necessary, not that he was complaining. BattleKid often joined me on his bike, and found a great run-off for himself near my parents’ house. I’d stop him at the top of this short hill, checking no cars were about. After a thumbs up from me, he would get a run off and free wheel down with feet up. The neighbours were all very impressed with his skills, I can tell you!portugal diaries

On cooler days, we also visited the playground in my parent’s park and let him burn off some steam. However, we soon found out that evenings were off limits. The playground is located beside a very small lake, and in the evenings the mosquitoes come out in their droves so unfortunately it was off limits after 5pm.

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Playground time

The Sunday after we arrived in Portugal we ventured a bit further and discovered a small town called Cachopo. My Dad had spotted an ad in The Portugal Newspaper, an English paper, which mentioned the start of a festival in Cachopo, which is located in the hills above Tavira. The road up is quite windy and remined me of the roads in Tenerife. We made our way through some stunning scenery and found ourselves in a lovely quaint little village. There were plenty of cars and coaches about so we knew we were in the right place.

The festival was on its first day and we strolled through the stalls where the locals were selling all manner of handmade things. From cheese and bread, to stools, candle holders and even knives, the craftwork was amazing. At the top of the town was a square where they were setting out for music and there was also an open-aired restaurant. We didn’t stop for something to eat and instead strolled back down the town past the stalls where I got a candle holder for me parents as a present and a little stool for BattleKid. And they weren’t expensive either.

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We walked around the town and my mum went into the church in the village which looked lovely from the outside. BattleKid initially wanted to follow my parents in but in the darkness of the entrance he changed his mind so I just admired it from outside. Cachopo is a lovely little village with cobbled streets, typically bright doors and all the quaintness you’d imagine of a small Portuguese town. All of us commented on how lovely it was as we made our way back down to Tavira.

On the drive back, we had our first road kill. A snake! And not a small one either as we all felt it in the Land Rover, so you can imagine it wasn’t small by any stretch of the imagination. Right there I said there is no way I can live that far up if there are large snakes about.

BattleDad had warned me of some wildlife I should be prepared for but I had hoped to avoid things like snakes for a while yet. BattleDad’s aunt, who has been living in Portugal full-time for over five years, has so far managed to not see one so I was kind of hoping I’d have her luck. Yeah right! But again, the scenery on the way back from the hills was stunning and BattleDad was already scouting some dirt trails to take his bike up!

While BattleDad was working during the week after we arrived, I went into Tavira with my parents a few times, enjoying the sunshine and familiarising myself with the place once again. Tavira is such a lovely town. It hasn’t been commercialised like the Western Algarve so it still very traditional and Portuguese.

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The Roman Bridge in Tavira

At the end of our first full week in Portugal, once the Saturday arrived, we decided to head East and visit Vila Real de Santo Antonio, which borders Spain across the river inlet. It is a beautiful town, with white-washed buildings interspersed with colourful ones. When we arrived, and finally sorted out paying for parking, we headed towards a square and there was a market in place. Market stalls seem to be quite popular, especially at the weekend, and again the stalls were full of homemade goods, a lot of cork produce (did you know over half the world’s cork is produced in Portugal), fresh fruit and vegetables, and homemade foods.

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Vila Real de Santo Antonio

We strolled through one of the main shopping streets before finding a café beside the marina for a drink and cake. We then admired the various boats and yachts moored in the marina before heading back to the car.

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Checking out the fish in Vila Real marina

We decided to head towards a town called Alcoutim, where BattleDad had read there might be a castle to explore. However, 20 minutes outside of Vila Real, the red engine warning light came back on the car and we headed back to my parents’ place where we called Land Rover Assistance.

Our car troubles were not over and she was recovered to Faro for inspection. BattleDad and I then had to make our way to Faro Airport to collect a hire car and I finally admitted to him I was worried about driving on the left-hand side. I naively thought that since you were on the left of the car, everything would be in reverse, including the accelerator, clutch and brakes. I told him this while we were waiting at Hertz and he couldn’t help but laugh at me. The peddles, it turns out, are in the same place as a right-hand drive car so your feet do exactly the same things, in the same place. I had been worrying for nothing! It still took me a while to remember that the gear stick was on my right instead of my left.

I’m gonna stick my neck out and admit something quite dumb. The Land Rover was recovered on Saturday with yet another red engine warning light and as a result we had to go to Faro Airport to pick up a hire car (thank god for Land Rover Extended Warranty and Assistance). We get there and I start panicking about having to drive a manual because I believed everything was opposite to the UK, gear stick, clutch, accelerator, the lot. I mention this to Battledad who peed himself laughing at me! Lo and behold I was panicking for nothing as the clutch and accelerator use the same feet as the UK, only the gear stick is on your opposite side. Cue more laughing from Battledad as I breath a sigh of relief. Turns out my mum had been wondering the same when we regaled the story to my folks…….

A post shared by BattleMum (Cath Jordan) (@battlemum) on

We raced back to Tavira once we had the hire car as we had dinner booked for 7pm at a lovely restaurant called O Castelo. It had been recommended to us by BattleDad’s aunt and I have to say it was such a nice meal after the day we had just had. The food was excellent, the portions were huge and sitting outside to have a meal in the evening was just what we had hoped for and part of the reason we had taken the decision to move to Portugal. Outdoor living was a huge factor for us, and here we were, finally starting to enjoy it. We will definitely be returning to O Castelo for a meal and I’ll be reviewing it at a later stage on the blog.

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O Castelo restaurant in Tavira. Great setting and amazing food
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Saying goodnight to the statue

On the way back to the car after dinner we came across a live statue and at first BattleKid wasn’t too sure about him but soon put the money in his tin for him and shook his hand. This was the first time he’s seen a statue.

All in all, it was a hectic first week and a bit in Portugal and we were left in limbo and with some amount of uncertainty with regards to the car. It left us wondering if we had made the right decision bringing it to Portugal and considering whether or not we should ship it back to the UK and sell it rather than matriculating it and being left with it for 5 years (the rule of bringing a car in tax free).

To be continued….

Cath x

If you missed any of my previous instalments, you can find them all in The Portugal Diaries.