Portugal Diaries January 2018

So, what do you do on New Year’s Day in Portugal when the sun is shining, albeit a little bit cooler. You head to the beach of course, and that’s just what we did. After breakfast, we loaded up the car with BattleKid’s bike and headed to Manta Rota. We had a stroll along the beach, dodging the waves and searching for nice shells. Once we were done, we got BattleKid’s bike out of the car and let him ride around the huge square that sits at the start of the boardwalk to the beach.

Portugal Diaries January 2018
A New Year’s Day walk on the beach.

On January 2nd we started off with a motorbike ride, before popping to our local shopping centre where we had a mini birthday celebration for BattleKid with ice cream, as you do. After the weekend, normal service was resuming. We dropped BattleDad to the airport as he headed to Zurich for his first week in his new job. Then BattleKid was back to school after two weeks off and surprisingly went in without so much as a hint of reluctance.

Portugal Diaries January 2018
A birthday treat of ice-cream

I am hoping that he starts speaking more Portuguese from this term, which runs until Easter. By the summer holidays at the end of the July, he should be switching back and forth if what we’ve been told holds true. Time will tell.

During the second week of January there was a meeting in school about the progress of kids in BattleKid’s kindergarten class. As my Portuguese isn’t advanced enough, I asked if I could bring my Dad, as his is better than mine, just to catch the jist of what the teacher was saying. Armed with him, we attended to learn that BattleKid understands a lot more than he lets on, and that his teacher thinks he is quite intelligent, and that he has settled in very well and made friends.

This was all good news and put any worries I had about him to rest. He is never alone when we arrive to pick him up, and he has been nodding away to the lady who cuts his hair in understanding. So, this just backed up our own perspective of how he is getting on.

We had BattleDad home for a week before he was off again, this time to London. The Friday before he left we picked up BattleKid from school and headed to the square at Manta Rota for BattleKid to practice some more on his motorbike. We had a lovely hour together and even had time to visit the playground as the sun started dipping behind buildings.

Portugal Diaries January 2018
Enjoying some playtime after practising on his motorbike

On that Saturday following this, we had a quiet day before going into Tavira for a guitar concert. There is an Arts and Music Festival going on during the months of January to March and my Dad wanted to catch this particular guitar player. So, we attended it in a church in the centre of town. While the concert was good, the church was freezing and BattleKid started getting bored. The cure for this: let him play with my hair to keep him entertained, followed by an app on silent on my phone.

Portugal Diaries January 2018
Overlooking the Gilão River on our way to a guitar concert

We all decided we need to do more things like this as we quite like discovering more about the Portuguese culture. So, my folks are on look-out duty for something else for us to attend soon.

The next day BattleDad was off on a plane again, and while BattleKid and I were driving home from the airport, I had my Spotify playlist on in the car. The Scatman song came on (anyone remember that?) and ever since BattleKid has loved it. So much so I’ve had to add it to his own playlist! You should hear the giggles and laughs from him in the car when it’s on!

As the end of the month got closer, we finally received a parcel from the UK I had been waiting on. At the start of the month I had tried to order items from GoOutdoors during their sale. Because their system didn’t recognise our Portuguese address, they cancelled my order. I had had a similar issue with another UK company, but they got in touch to clarify and I received my order from them with no problems. To say I wasn’t happy was an understatement. I ended up having to reorder the items, missing out on two items as they were now out of stock, and had to send it to BattleDad’s Forward2Me address. But they arrived and our gear for Lapland has started accumulating. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that we finally booked our flights and AirBnB accommodation both in Lapland and Helsinki for our trip this December. I’m so excited.

No sooner had BattleDad arrived back from London, he was off again on another trip to Zurich. After BattleKid and I dropped him off, we got home and relaxed with a bit of ‘workings’ as BattleKid likes to call it. I work on my laptop, he works on his magnetic easel. We had a pretty uneventful few days before my sister and niece arrived for a long weekend (but that’s a tale for next month).

Portugal Diaries January 2018
Copying the picture on his magnetic eisle

And following on from our meeting with BattleKid’s teacher at the start of the month, he has been coming out with more and more Portuguese words, correcting hubby and I, and also saying things that we can’t decipher whether it’s Portuguese or not. But he keeps surprising us and it’s brilliant. I think we’ll have a bilingual child on our hands very soon.

We’ve also been getting our garden cleaned up a bit. I did a huge amount of weeding around our decking as it was looking disgraceful. I also potted some plants which I was hoping would root. One of our neighbours was pruning in November and gave us some geranium slips. I also potted some succulents which had fallen off two plants I have hanging on the deck. This was a complete punt and to my surprise they rooted, along with three slips of geraniums. So, I planted these around the deck and also in part of our rockery. And in there I got a huge surprise. Last year I had cleared it as it was a mess with dead lavender and a cactus that was swamped. The cactus has flowered and there are brand new shoots of lavender coming through. I’m chuffed. Hopefully the geranium and succulents will grow there too.

Our neighbour had said things grow really easily here and she wasn’t wrong. I’ve now potted more slips of geraniums she said I could take, along with a bougainvillea, another slip from a cactus and some more succulent slips. If they root, I’ll be laughing. But note, I am not a gardener, nor will I ever be, and I am only interested in plants that will essentially look after themselves with our irrigation system watering them for me. Watch this space to see if I’m successful again.

I’ve also started something I’ve been meaning to do since November; start photographing the street art (graffiti to you and I) that dons the walls of many of the uninhabited buildings here in Portugal. One of my favourites is less than 2 minutes from our place. Isn’t it fab.

Portugal Diaries January 2018
Street Art of Portugal

Cath x

The Portugal Diaries #18

Christmas arrived to Portugal at the beginning of December with our local shopping centre installing a big Christmas tree in the centre. There was also an area for Pai Natal (Father Christmas in Portuguese), although he wasn’t arriving until later in the month.

On the first Sunday of December, we visited our local park again to stretch our legs and let BattleKid play in the playground. We visited the lake first and as we made our way back to the playground at the park entrance, we came upon some reindeer. There was a gentleman there with some feed and he allowed us to feed the reindeers. At one point we had five deer around us. It was a brilliant surprise and is a memory we will treasure as a family.

Portugal Diaries 18
Feeding the reindeer at our local park

The next day was D-Day, Disneyland Day. We had packed BattleDog off to his grandparents the day before, so after picking up our car from the garage in Faro, we headed straight for the airport, ready to get our plane to Paris. We had an amazing few days in Disneyland Paris and I’ve written all about it in my Holiday Diaries. That said, it was very cold in Paris and we were quite happy to get back to the sunshine by the end of the week.

Portugal Diaries 18
Enjoying the Illuminations show during our visit to Disneyland Paris

The weekend we got back we caught up with my parents and also enjoyed the sunshine by visiting our playground and having a cuppa in the sun together. It was so good to feel the warm sunshine again.

Portugal Diaries 18
Enjoying a drink in the sun

Much of the rest of December was about preparing for Christmas. We were kindly given a tree by BattleDad’s aunt as our huge 7.5-foot tree is in storage and simply wouldn’t fit in the mobile. We also had to buy decorations as all of ours were in storage and we couldn’t plan a visit to fish some out. But we made the living room as cosy as possible, before helping my parents do the same the day after.

Portugal Diaries 18
Writing his letter to Santa

On December 22nd my nephew arrived for Christmas and I picked him up at the airport with my Dad. Christmas Eve was spent painting again and getting things ready for the next day.

Portugal Diaries 18
Ready for Father Christmas

We didn’t wake too early on Christmas Day and first up was presents from Santa, who only went and brought BattleKid his first ever real motorbike. He was thrilled and couldn’t wait to get out on it. After breakfast we got ready and headed down to my parents’ house as we were having Christmas dinner in their local restaurant. I opted for traditional Portuguese bacalhau (fish dish) which was very nice. My Dad had kindly cooked a turkey crown, so we didn’t miss out on turkey sandwiches later that evening. We had a lovely first Christmas Day in Portugal.

On St Stephen’s Day (Boxing Day) we visited BattleDad’s aunt before going to see my parents and nephew again for a Beef Wellington dinner. The next few days were a mixture of relaxing and motorbike practise with the boy before I turned the big 40 on the 28th. It is also my parents’ anniversary that day, so we went for a lovely meal in Cabanas de Tavira where we enjoyed tapas-style starters, huge main meals, and of course some desserts.

Portugal Diaries 18
Getting to grips with his motorbike

On the 30th we all went to Mar for a shopping trip before having a 4th birthday party at my parents’ house for BattleKid. Although this was a few days before his actual birthday, I wanted to do it early, so he’d have his cousin there to join in the celebrations (he was returning to Ireland the following day).

Portugal Diaries 18
A birthday party in the sun

New Years Eve was spent building BattleKid’s new storage shelves while the boys went out on the bike. Other than that, we had a very quiet day and were in bed before the New Year even rolled in.

Cath x

The Portugal Diaries #17

November started with BattleKid off school due to teacher’s strikes here in Portugal. I was aghast to find out that, not only are average monthly wages in Portugal miniscule for teachers compared to their UK counterparts, but that since the global economic crisis, they have not had pay rises for over eight years. Not only this, but they are one of only a handful of public servants that have had their pays frozen all that time, while other sectors have started getting their pay rises and backdated at that.

So, while I understand working parents find this a big inconvenience, I stand by the teachers in fighting for their pay increases and for them to be backdated like other sectors. What do you do when the boy is off? You stop blogging and start painting. You also visit the playground in the lovely Portuguese sunshine. And we did that a lot during November.

Portugal Diaries 17
Playground fun in the sun in November

Later in November, we took my parents to visit Castro Marim Castle one Saturday. We’d visited last July but they hadn’t been, so we picked them up for a spot of dragon hunting at the castle one weekend. BattleKid loved having his grandparents with him. Afterwards, we discovered there was a big market in the car park below the castle, so we took a wander around. We found a few stalls selling churros and I had my first ever one. It tasted delicious.Portugal Diaries 17

Portugal Diaries 17

BattleKid was once again off school a few weeks later for another teacher’s strike, so this time we parked our car at my parents’ house and took the train to Olhao, a town I hadn’t visited before. The old part of town is typically Portuguese, and we even found a playground for BattleKid. After lunch, we strolled back to the train station and happened upon the best Instagram-worthy background.

Portugal Diaries 17
The awesome tiled wall in Olhao

November was also a month for preparation for our trip to Disneyland Paris. I tried on BattleKid’s costumes to make sure they fit.

Portugal Diaries 17
A mini Kylo Ren

We also had our car booked in for a service. While BattleDad and I were in Faro, we stopped by Faro Beach for brunch and enjoyed the views of a lovely sandy beach. It’s one we’ll have to bring BattleKid and his grandparents to as the weather warms up. But we’ll have to get there early as parking is limited.

Portugal Diaries 17
Sand sculpture at Faro Beach

At the end of November, we had two of my three sisters visiting, and we took a trip to our new shopping centre, Mar, and bagged ourselves some great bargains in the Black Friday Sales. I was surprised to find Black Friday had made it to Portugal. My sister who joined us on this trip said she wants to come back next year to grab herself some more bargains!

We enjoyed some quality family time over good food, before their weekend was over and I was dropping them back to the airport.

Stop by again for our December update.

Cath x

The Portugal Diaries #16

A big thing happened at the start of October. At 3 years and 9 months of age, BattleKid finally became a forward-facing car passenger. We had kept him rear-facing as long as possible, but his legs were starting to get cramped, and so we made the decision to change him around.portugal diaries 16

He was thrilled with himself to have a ‘big boy seat’, even though his seat was no different. He has been enjoying his new view of the world I can tell you.

At the beginning of the month we also visited our local park where we found a lake for throwing stones into. We also enjoyed afternoons in the garden playing with BattleKid’s new water table after kindergarten.portugal diaries 16 portugal diaries 16

The start of October was another time for preparation, this time for our visit to Bluestone in West Wales. We’ve visited Bluestone before, but never for a mid-week break, and I for one was looking forward to it. BattleDad not so much due to the weather forecast. We’re very spoiled weather-wise here in Portugal.

We were also getting a chance to try out a new cabin bag I was sent for review from Cabin Zero. I am in love with this bag and only recently managed to get hold of the packing cubes that go with it. I may have also purchased a second Cabin Zero bag.

We left BattleDog with his grandparents on the Sunday, the night before our flight back to the UK. He has become known as the dog-share dog, aptly named by his Nana. My parents had two dogs in Ireland which they left with my sister and I do think they miss them. So, I think they enjoy having BattleDog while we are away. And we are very grateful to them for looking after him.

On the Monday, we left sunny Portugal and arrived in wet and grey Bristol later than we expected. After collecting our hire car, we got onto the M4 bound for Bluestone. Despite a mixed bag of wet and dry weather, we had an enjoyable week, again with W and S, and even fitted in a spot of dragon hunting at Pembroke Castle, as well as a visit to Tenby. The lodge we had was very comfortable and one I’d definitely consider booking if going again with friends or family.portugal diaries 16

When we arrived back, my sister, brother-in-law and niece were here, and we enjoyed some quality time with them over the weekend. We had a lovely dinner at O Castelo in Tavira on the Saturday night before having fun at the beach on Sunday and a BBQ at ours. We then got BattleKid back to kindergarten on the Monday. He was a bit reluctant to go in for the first two days, as can be expected, but was soon skipping in to see his teachers.

portugal diaries 16
Cousins in Tavira

The rest of October has been relatively quiet. BattleDad has been to London for a work-related meeting and I was trying to get my Holiday Diaries from America completed, among other things. However, during the last weekend of the month we drove to the north of Portugal to visit Filipe Paiva at Trialmotor. The sole aim was to see if BattleKid would like, and could handle, a motorbike, albeit an electric one. And while there we discovered that autumn does indeed come to Portugal.

portugal diaries 16
The lovely castle of Lousa in autumn

And before our very eyes we witnessed our son take his first ride on a motorbike. We knew there and then Santa would be bringing him one for Christmas. 

portugal diaries 16
Learning to ride with Filipe Paiva

If you’ve missed the previous posts in this series, you can catch them again in the Portugal Diaries within the travel section of the blog.

Cath x

The Portugal Diaries #15

Our two-week America road trip was a resounding success and turned out to be the trip-of-a-lifetime. It couldn’t have gone any better and has given us a bug for road trips. We got back to Portugal late on Sunday 10th September after a delayed flight from London. 

be in the picture 8 - mum and son watching a herd of bison in Yellowstone
Checking out a small herd of bison in Yellowstone

The plane had come from Athens and there was a man with a broken leg stuck in his seat. It took them an hour and a half, with medical assistance, to get him off the plane and get us off the ground. Not the best way to end an epic holiday. But we got home safe and sound.

When we arrived home, we discovered the workmen of our park had finally started sorting out our garden for us. We wanted paths put in and grass to cover the gravel and dust which had started to annoy us. It was great to know the end was in sight where our little patch of Portugal was concerned. And it was completed before the end of the month. It has made the garden look much cleaner and complete now. No more dust coming into our home.

As soon as we were back from our holidays, we went to the school to see the secretary. They had BattleKid on their register and so, on the Tuesday we started him off with four hours, going to up seven hours (until 4pm) by the end of the week. He had no problem at all going in and the language difference didn’t seem to bother him at all. With BattleKid starting school, it made me spend more time on the language app, Memrise, to continue my learning of the language too. And I was soon surprising BattleDad with some of the things I understand and can say. I’ve a long way to go but I’m making the effort.

All the teachers in kindergarten understand English to some extent, but only one speaks it with some confidence. They’re all lovely and very accommodating of both us and BattleKid. There is also another child in his class from an English-speaking family which is great to know. And he seemed to be settling in well.

The weekend after we arrived back from America we attended our first proper motorbike racing meet with BattleKid at Portimao. World Superbikes have a date on their racing calendar at the Algarve Circuit and BattleDad had gotten us paddock access for €35 each. That’s a lot less than the same type of tickets for the Isle of Man TT, I can tell you!

We set off by 10am on the Saturday and just less than an hour and twenty minutes later we arrived to the noise of Superbikes doing practice laps. BattleKid wasn’t too sure of the noise at first, but once the race started he was extremely excited. We also spotted a few racers we know like Stefan Bradl and Eugene Laverty, both ex-MotoGP riders. And BattleKid got to meet the Yamaha pit girls too.

living arrows - An excited BattleKid at WSB at Portimao
One excited boy at the racing!
living arrows - BattleKid with the Yamaha pit girls at Portimao
I don’t think he was too sure about the pit girls!

It had been five years since BattleDad and I had been to a race meet and we agreed it had been too long. I think between WSB at Portimao and MotoGP at Jerez, we are going to be spoiled rotten. We missed Jerez this year but will be eagerly awaiting next year’s date to see if we can get tickets!

Shortly after our racing weekend, we had our friends, W and S, arriving for a week with their two children. It was lovely to see them in Portugal and spend time with them, and I know BattleKid was thrilled to see L!

And the Landy also completed her change from UK to Portuguese number plates. It’s strange looking at them and I was not used to them even a month after they were changed.

We also had some lovely days at the beach during September with the cooler weather, both with W and S, and also with BattleKid’s grandparents. We hadn’t visited the beach too much during July and August due to the heat but with the slightly cooler weather, it was much more inviting.

living arrows - BattleKid enjoying himself on the beach
Enjoying the beach at the end of September!

The month of September ended on a relaxed note as we continue to find our feet in a country we have fallen in love with.

To be continued….

Cath x

Catch the full tale of our big move in our Portugal Diaries here on the blog.