Central Portugal – Off the Tourist Trail

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Back in March the weather was very hot, and the area was parched after a Winter of very little rain . The rivers were unusually low for the time of year, and it was all everyone was talking about.

However mother nature has taking control, and in the last few weeks of April there has been nothing but rain, rain, rain. It is desperately needed to replenish the rivers and to restore the balance, but I am looking forward to a day or two of sunshine again. The reason being I need to wash some clothes!

Since living in the village of Portela, I have not had a washing machine, and until now it has not been a problem. I have been living as the local women do, and washing by hand at the village  “washroom”, then hanging it out to dry . However my pile of dirty laundry is growing daily, so I think I might give in soon and  go to the laundrette any day now…. once I find one!

With so many people in the area not having washing machines and very few with tumble dryers, I imagined there would be laundrettes everywhere, but it seems not. A lot of the houses have undercover verandas, and washing can be seen hanging out on most days, but when it is raining like this I can’t imagine it ever drying !

So tomorrow I am off on the hunt for a laundry, ( unless the sun comes out of course ) and if I can’t find one then I  will wash a few bits in the bathroom and dry them over my wood burner.

Then my washing will be clean, even if when I wear it I smell like Guy Fawkes at a bonfire !

(since writing this, the sun came out for long enough to  dry and a few bits , but I am going to track down a laundrette, just in case  . I have heard there might be one in Arganil,  and maybe one In Lousa. Will keep you posted .

The low tech “ laundrette “ in my village.



A visit to the bakery

Although there are supermarkets in most of the larger villages selling bread and cakes, the baker is still very noticable here  in Central Portugal. Towns such as Gois , Lousa, Arganil and Coja  all have several bakeries in the town . They supply the local shops and supemarkets and their vans visit all the small villages, where many villagers don’t have  the means of getting to the shops .In most of the bakeries it is possible to have a cup of tea or coffee, a glass of wine and a cake of course, so they are similar to a small café  !   Often outside you will see a sign saying PAO QUENTE , which means hot bread , and is an easy way to spot a bakery.

There is a good selection of different breads for sale .White,wholemeal, breads with different  cereals on top, corn bread, and some bakeries  also sell soya bread. I have started to really enjoy the corn bread, I had never had it before coming to Portugal. It is quite a heavy texture but has a lovely taste and stays fresh for several days.

Small white bread rolls are very popular.The locals seem to buy bags of them at a time .

I am still struggling to learn the names for these white rolls. I  bought some lovely small very soft white rolls  one day and asked what they were called . I was told PAO REDONDO . However the next time I asked for PAO REDONDO, I was given  completely different rolls , more crusty  with a texture of ciabatta.I am not fussy and both are nice , so I just  wait and see what I get on the day !

From what I have seen so far, the  Portuguese love cakes and pastries almost as much as the British . There are a fair selection to choose from, which I  am sampling slowly but surely.

They have many variations of  cakes with flaky pastry filled with  custard, a bit like a vanilla slice . Some have icing on top, others powdered sugar and cinammon .They also have lovely custard filled doughnuts and pastries filled with chocolate, similar to the french chocolate croissant .

Probably the most well known sweet pastry (and my favourite) is  a Pastel de Nata.It is sold in all bakeries, and is made fresh daily . It consists of a flaky pastry case, filled with a thick sweet custard that is  caramelized on the top giving it a rich slightly toffee taste . It looks very much like a mini egg custard , but is more gooey and sweet . I find it almost impossible to buy just one, infact it would be so easy to scoff at least 3  with a pot of tea at any time of day

However if you don’t have a sweet tooth , the bakery also has some very nice savoury snacks to try .  Mini pasties calles Rissoas are delicious .They are deep fried and are filled with  either meat(carne), cod ( bacalhau)), shrimp( camaroes) or sometimes suckling pig leitao).

So if you visit Portugal, do  visit  a small family run bakery and treat yourself to one ( or more )of the delicious cakes or pastries , and let me know what you think .