Central Portugal – Off the Tourist Trail


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Valencia – A change is as good as a rest .

My 5 days in Valencia could not be called restful. I spent all but one day walking the length and breadth of the walled city, visiting several art galleries, historical buildings, a museum, the main shopping area and the big central market. Okay, I stopped for tapas and a few beers, and to buy some new shoes ( I had to repay my poor tired feet somehow ) but apart from an hour or so on Sunday, where I collapsed on the beach, my time was spent being busy, discovering what Valencia had to offer.

As well as sight-seeing, discovering new art, and impressive buildings, I love just walking around and getting the feel of a place, and seeing how differently it operates.
Part of the fun for me is having to adapt to a different routine. It brings new experiences, and ideas and shakes up my thinking. It also makes me appreciate things I take for granted.

a few thoughts from my 5 day visit.

Bacalhau( Portuguese dried salt cod) was nowhere to be seen. Valencia is home to Paella, and there was lots of that around, as well as loads of other fresh sea food. In fact the menus in Valencian restaurants were mostly fish , (well it is on the coast) here it is mostly pork, chicken, goat and Bacalhau of course.

Tapas bars were all over the city. I love being able to get a “real food” snack, or make a meal out of lots of different bits and pieces. For me tapas are a wonderful way to eat socially.
In Central Portugal, instead of lots of different small dishes, one plate of food here is often big enough for two, and many Portuguese share one dish.

Drinks in Valencian cafes were much more expensive. A café, known as a café solo in Spain, or an espresso in England, cost from 1,00 to 1,40 € . Here it is 0,50, (or with a custard tart 1,20) This was the same with beer and spirits too.

Gin was a popular drink in Valencia. Being a G and T girl, I made the most of it.
I have given up asking for a gin and tonic in the bars here, as I know most don’t have it. I tend to have a beer, port or Ginja here these days. The gin and tonics were a lovely holiday treat !

The street names and other signs reminded me that Valencias first language was not Spanish, but Catalan. It is supposedly closer to the Portuguese language, and so I didn’t know whether to try my Portuguese or use my basic Spanish. I listened to people talking, and as more people seemed to be using Spanish, I dragged my basic Spanish out of hibernation. I was surprised at how easily I was understood. Phonetically sounding Spanish, with only 5 vowel sounds seemed so simple.( Portugal has 14 I think )

On Sundays the bakeries, and supermarkets were closed. Here supermarkets and bakeries are open on Sunday, and I was a bit caught out at not being able to buy fresh bread for breakfast,however all the nearby bars sell breakfast pastries.

The cakes in the bakeries were not as varied as in Portugal. I have a sweet tooth and love a pastel de nata with coffee. I bought an ensaymarda ( a sort of sweet bread covered in icing sugar eaten at breakfast) but it was a poor replacement.

I had forgotten how late the Spanish like to eat out in the evening. Most people have eaten by 8 pm here, and yet the restaurants in Valencia did not start getting busy until after 10.30 and lots of Spanish were eating at mid night. I don’t like eating so late, and so I had my main meal at lunch ( around 3pm ) and then had a few tapas in the evening.

Valencia is home to a drink called Horchata. It is made from ground up tiger nut, sugar and milk and is traditionally eaten with a sweet long bread called a farton. I gave one a go. It had a weird taste, that I can’t describe, and one was enough !
Horchata must have been huge at one time, as around the old town I spotted a couple of very ornate,beautiful buildings, which had been Horchaterias, and old black and white photos showed them full of people drinking the stuff.

So those are just a few observation I thought i would share

I am now back into my village routine again, and appreciating the birds waking me in the morning, my lovely neighbours, the quiet peacefulness, and the lovely nature outside my door.

A change is definitely as good as a rest, but it is also good to be home !

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5 days back on the tourist trail

valencia 2013

I’ve just got back from a quick sight-seeing trip overseas. Well, I say overseas, but it was just a hop and a skip across the border into Spain, so I did not fly over the sea at all.

A few people asked me why wasn't I going to holiday somewhere in Portugal?
It was a fair question, I have yet to visit anywhere South of Lisbon or North of Porto, and there are loads of places I do want to see, and hope to, one day.

One of the reasons is when I do, I would like to spend a bit more than 5 days.
I'd like to take a few weeks at least, driving around the Portuguese countryside, and coastline, moving from place to place, when I felt like it.

Portugal is bigger than a lot of people realize, and with the winding roads, getting around can take quite some time.
For instance, to get to the holiday resorts of the Algarve such as Albufeira, which is 427 kms away, it would take 6 and a half hours, if I didn't use the toll roads, and to go to the Northern parts of Portugal such as Braga, would take over 4 hours, without any stops .

The other reason was, I wanted to visit a city. I love Porto, Lisbon, and Coimbra, but I fancied going to somewhere I hadn't been. My perfect short holiday is exploring a new city. There is always so much to see and do, new foods and drinks to try, and I enjoy puzzling over the language, and working out how to use the public transport( i know it might sound weird to some)

After checking out budget airlines, I had a list of options. From Porto with Ryanair I could go to Rome, Milan, Paris, Brussels, Bremen, Marseille, Barcelona, Dublin, and Valencia to name just a few. Easyjet from Lisbon gave me Copenhagen, Berlin, Amsterdam, Geneva, Venice and loads more options.
I could even catch a train to Madrid, or some other Spanish city if i fancied (one of the great things about living on the mainland.)

First I ruled out the ones I had been to, ones with difficult times of arrival, and then checked out accommodation, and prices.
After ruling out a few more, I then looked at information about things to see and do, and eventually arrived at Valencia ( Milan was a close second).

In my next post(s) I will tell you more about my trip to city of Valencia , and how i found life there compared to my rural hideaway .

Here a few photos to be going on with in the mean time.


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( OLD) GIRL POWER

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Today as I was walking back to my house, I met one of the amazing ladies of the village that I talked about in my last post. She was carrying yet another bundle of grass up the hill for her goats.
Although my spoken Portuguese is basic, we managed to have a bit of a chat.

It went along the lines of her saying she was like a donkey and me saying it looked a tiring job, and that she worked very hard. She replied “It’s the life”. These are words I hear a lot, as the villagers accept this daily struggle as how it is.

She then told me she was 81 years of age, and her sister was 83, and that they had to do this work as there was no one else.

Now that is what I call GIRL POWER !


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MY VILLAGE KEEP FIT CLASS .

Whilst I was being a bit lazy last week, the rest of the village was putting me to shame. The locals were busy working long days on the land. The sunny warm days meant that most of them were in the fields working before 8 am, and were still there at 7 pm ( with a break for lunch)
They have done an amazing job, and the land around Portela has been transformed. Fields and small plots have been ploughed or dug over by hand, muck has been dug in and lots of vegetables planted. Fields of grass have been cut, dried and stored, ready to be used as bedding for the goats.

The amazing thing is that almost all of this work has been done completely by hand.
Tools with lovely names like encharda, sickle, and scythe, (that look like they belong in an agricultural museum) have been used to complete most of it, with only one villager using a small mechanical rotovator to dig over an entire field.

A couple of the village men have small vehicles for transporting their tools, muck, potatoes for planting etc, and to bring back the cut grass, but the ” young man ” of the village ( who is 84) and the women carry every thing back and forth from the village to the fields and back again, either on their heads or backs.
One woman in particular manages to carry the most enormous bundles of hay grass or wood on her back.
As I stood on my terrace I watched a huge ball of grass with two strong legs sticking out of the bottom slowly making its way up the hill.
She made 3 trips up the lane one evening as her final job of the day, after spending the day digging, planting and cutting.

AMAZING !
I get tired just watching.

I jokingly call it keep fit for the over 70’s, but I couldn’t manage it now, let alone in another 20 years or so, and i think the villagers would find an aerobics class or a day in the gym a stroll in the park, compared to this daily work out !