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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Trialmotor: The BEST way to introduce your kids to motorbikes

Last October we drove to the northern half of Portugal to visit a place called Trialmotor run by Filipe Paiva. It was a chance to see if BattleKid could handle a mini motorbike and, to see if he would listen to instructions. The idea being that if he did, on both accounts, Father Christmas might bring him his first motorbike. Today I want to share with you why I believe Trialmotor is the best way to introduce your kids to motorbikes, especially if you are living in Portugal.trialmotor - the best way to introduce your kids to motorbikes - blog graphic

Now, if you haven’t guessed by now, we are a biking family. Motorbikes that is. BattleDad got his motorbike licence over ten years ago and bought his first proper motorbike while we were living in Wales, a Yamaha FZ6. Since then he’s had many different bikes, and I’ve enjoyed riding pillion. When BattleKid was less than 18 months old, he was introduced to MotoGP one Sunday and his love for motorbikes was born. We never pushed it onto him, it happened quite naturally. We would watch MotoGP most Sunday afternoons when it was on, and he would be in the living room with us.

He soon got into motorbikes, and at aged 2, he got a balance bike, which he renamed his ‘motorbike’. Aged 3 saw Father Christmas bring a peddle bike and within six months, BattleKid was cycling independently on his ‘motorbike’. BattleDad wanted to progress him to a kid’s motorbike and he started doing a lot of research. He realised that trials bikes might be the way forward and he eventually happened upon Trialmotor, run by Filipe.

Trialmotor, based out of Lousã, in northern Portugal is the passion and commitment of Filipe. After doing a Master’s Degree in Pre-Historic Archaeology and Rock Art, during which time he would ride his trials bikes into the mountains to do some of his research, Filipe started an online business (www.trialmotor.com) for trials bikes and equipment, and it became successful, very quickly.

As well as having a successful online business, Filipe also became a very success trials rider, competing in competitions throughout Europe and becoming the Portuguese Trials National team rider and captain. He opened his training school and academy at his home in Lousã, where riders of all ages and experience can be introduced to trials bikes and receive coaching from him. And it was for this reason we headed north.

We left the Algarve on the Friday at lunchtime and drove four and a half hours with BattleKid to stay at Filipe’s family business, the Quintal de Além do Ribeiro, a rural hotel from the XVIII century.  After meeting Filipe and checking in, we enjoyed a short visit to the nearby castle (we didn’t manage any dragon hunting), and a fabulous dinner in a local restaurant as recommended to us by Filipe. BattleKid’s introductory lesson was booked for Saturday morning, so we got an early night once we got back.

Filipe and his wife Shabrina run a B&B at their home, and it’s an amazing home. As well as the B&B (and their own quarters), they also have the trials school and academy there. They have a pool for guests to use on hot summer days, a lovely bar area to socialise in, and they really do welcome their guests with open arms. You’re even welcome to pick your own fruit from their trees.

Trialmotor photo collage of Quintal de Além do Ribeiro
Our room at the Quintal de Além do Ribeiro

On the Saturday morning, after a continental breakfast in the breakfast room, we packed up our room, which was extremely comfortable and spacious I might add, and met Filipe in the courtyard. Filipe started by giving us a tour of his training grounds and office. Then, it was time for BattleKid’s lesson.

Now, I’ll be completely honest and say I had reservations about a motorbike. We live in a gated ex-pat community where there are a lot of retired residents, and I wasn’t too sure they would welcome a noisy bike into the community. However, I was pleasantly surprised when Filipe started the OSET 12.5 trials bike, and how quiet it was as he wheeled it over to the beginners’ grassy area. It was really quiet.

BattleKid trying on a helmet for size.
BattleKid trying on a helmet for size.
BattleKid following Filipe over to the Beginner's Area
Following Filipe to the Beginner’s area

BattleDad and I decided to stand back and let Filipe give the instructions to BattleKid as it was better to have one adult talking to him rather than three. With his helmet on his head, BattleKid was ready for his first lesson. Filipe explained how the bike worked, how to turn the key and how to use the throttle, something BattleKid had no experience of before.

Battlekid getting his instructions from Filipe
Battlekid getting his instructions from Filipe

And in no time, he was off. He started off slowly but with each passing minute we could see his confidence growing. He was listening to Filipe’s instructions and doing as he was told. From doing big circles around the cones to figures of eights, he looked like a natural. Although we had only booked an hour’s lesson, Filipe carried on with BattleKid, encouraging him to try standing up, a technique needed when riding a trials bike. Our lesson was an hour and a half long, and BattleKid didn’t want to get off.BattleKid setting off on the motorbike

BattleKid was keen to get over to the track area that had jumps and ramps, but he needs to get standing on the bike first before he tackles that. However, we are planning a return visit to Trialmotor and Filipe, so perhaps with some practise on the bike Father Christmas brought him, he’ll be able to try the track out next time! Needless-to-say, we had a very happy boy in the car on the drive back down to the Algarve.BattleKid proud as punch beside an Oset 12.5 motorbike

Watching some trials videos after his lesson
BattleKid watching some trials videos after his lesson

Trialmotor, what a way to introduce your kids to motorbikes. Be they experienced riders, or complete novices, Filipe has an area tailor-made for each level of riding. Beginners start off on a flat, grassy area, getting to grips with the bike and controls, and learning to handle the bike at a basic level.

Once riders have completed basic lessons here, or are medium-level riders, then there is a track as mentioned with ramps, small jumps and obstacles to try your skills on. And for the more advanced riders, Filipe can take you out into the mountains nearby where you can test your riding skills in the natural environment idea for trials bikes.

For those of you who might have reservations about letting your kids loose on a trials bike, let me reassure you, this is the best way to introduce your kids to motorbikes. Trials bikes are designed for slow speed riding and manoeuvring. These bikes, although quite capable of speed, are not meant for normal riding as you and I might know it.

Trials is a great family-orientated sport, with people of all ages from 4 years to 74 years enjoying riding across the world. I’ve watched a few videos on YouTube which explain trials in greater detail than I can, and the big point I came away with is that it is a safe sport to be enjoyed by everyone in the family.

I had no idea what trials riding was before BattleDad started his research into the best way to introduce BattleKid to motorbikes, but I am very thankful to him for all his efforts. As mentioned I was worried about a noisy bike around our place, but the bikes Filipe has, in order to introduce your kids to motorbikes, are OSET electric bikes, so there is very little noise from them. You can hear how ‘loud’ they get in our video below.

Filipe’s academy and school offers lessons for riders of all levels. Children can start from the age of 2 on the electric bikes, and Filipe has a range of bikes to suit all ages. Beginners, as we’ve shown and discussed, start on a flat, grassy area and remain there until they learn control of the bike. Medium level riders can then start to tackle the ramps and obstacles area, while advanced and expert riders are taken into the Hardcore area to experience real terrain.

Some of the bikes available at Trialmotor for lessons
Some of the bikes available at Trialmotor for lessons

Filipe is extremely patient and a good teacher. His English is excellent and as well as being a native Portuguese speaker, he also speaks Spanish and French. Trialmotor is the best way to introduce your kids to motorbikes because all lessons are tailored to their riding levels and skills, and both beginner and medium skilled riders’ lessons are held within the grounds in enclosed, safe areas.

Filipe also works to the speed of learning of each individual, and doesn’t pressurise his pupils to progress any further than they are comfortable with. We couldn’t have asked for a better person to teach our son the basics, and get him started on the right path with motorbikes, than the Portuguese National Team Captain and 2002 National Trials Champion, now 2nd best Portuguese on the Elite Portuguese Championship.

You can also combine lessons with a weekend getaway and stay at Filipe’s place, Quintal de Além do Ribeiro. The Quintal de Além do Ribeiro is a beautiful rustic house, located in Lousã, approximately 22km east of Coimbra. There are nine rooms of varied capacity, two of which are wheelchair accessible, all with en-suite facilities. Accommodation is offered on a Bed and Breakfast basis, with a continental breakfast on offer. Guests may pre-order evening meals, but these must be in advance of arrival. There are many restaurants located in Lousã itself, which Filipe can recommend. We ate at the restaurant Casa Velha on his recommendation and the food was excellent.

Trialmotor photo collage of Quintal de Além do Ribeiro
The Beautiful Quintal de Além do Ribeiro

The Quintal also has a pool for guests to use as mentioned already, and is dog-friendly, depending on the size and breed of dog. If you aren’t doing a lesson or tour with Filipe, there are lots of things to do around Lousã like fishing, cycling and other outdoor activities. Within the Quintal you are welcome to partake in activities such as fruit picking, grape harvesting and even wine making (depending on the time of year).

Filipe and his family are extremely friendly and welcoming. Should you be looking for somewhere in northern Portugal for a getaway, I cannot recommend the Quintal enough, even if you aren’t going to partake in any lessons or tours on the bikes.

So, you can see why I truly think a lesson at Trialmotor for your budding little riders is the best route to starting them off with motorbikes. The trials bikes are slow starting off, and they learn the control and skills necessary to ride safely. The environment in which they learn is very safe, and they have the best person to teach them the skills necessary to get them started in Filipe. We are already looking forward to a return visit to Trialmotor!

Cath x

*We were not asked to write this post, nor to review the Quintal de Além do Ribeiro. We paid for our stay and for BattleKid’s lesson ourselves.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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