Thank you, Portugal!

2018 1

(Normally closed these shutters keep the house cool. Can you see the thickness of the wall?)

We are staying in a house on the edge of town, did I tell you that? It’s a very cute traditional Portuguese house. It has shutters on the windows at the front and very small windows at the back and really thick walls. Which all helps to keep the interior of the house very cool. So cool in fact we wear an extra layer when we are inside. It’s the original air conditioning. We have been here three days and I’ve only just realised that something I have been imagining with you, has become real… There are oranges growing in our garden!

2018 3

(Oranges growing in our garden)

Ok I know it’s not technically our garden but it is kinda our garden for today and probably tomorrow and the next day. Einstein seemingly said imagination was more important than intelligence… he was probably thinking of oranges. As well as the oranges, there’s a vine, possibly an almond tree (do almonds grow on trees?) a couple of different palm trees, something that looks like woodbine and a fruit I don’t recognise (picture below.) There are birds tweeting and cars passing on the road outside. Over the road is a field with rows and rows of small trees in blossom but I don’t recognise them either.

2018 1 1

(Unidentified fruit)

This unexpected visit to a real Portuguese house and garden is lovely and the powerful shower is truly lovely. This unexpected week in a small Portuguese town is very different to the way we have been travelling and being temporarily not in control of our destiny has brought up interesting messages…

2018 4

(Also don’t know what theses are…)

Like how much support we have received from the communities in the towns we have travelled through. We have been here in Portugal for two months today. Without the parking spots they provide for motorhomes, without the water and the emptying places, without the electricity and the refuse and recycling bins, without the great mobile data rates, we couldn’t do what we do.

2018 2

(…or this shrub. The flowers smell beautiful)

Sometimes we need a bit of a jolt to realise how incredibly lucky we are and how maybe we’ve been taking it all for granted. Today is a holiday in Portugal. I googled it but at the risk of getting it completely, insultingly wrong, I will find a real Portuguese person to tell me the story. I think it’s going to be about peace and freedom…

Obrigada, Portugal, you are generous and kind and beautiful. Mairead.

Posted in Blogroll, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Just in time…

2018 1

(Ruby being winched backwards into van hospital)

I’m exhausted. It’s 6am and I’ve been awake for an hour… Denis is snoring loudly this night/morning! I feel a huge fraud saying I’m exhausted when here I am here in a beautiful place with everything working out for my good and I am complaining. Two of my friends have just completed big projects, one had a third of her team missing and the other has a Mum who is very ill. I’m sure they are exhausted. My own mother is in pain and miserable with an ongoing physical complaint. I’m sure she’s exhausted. And you, you have challenges that no one knows about and you bear them yourself. Are you are exhausted? One person’s challenge is someone else’s dream day. This is just my story but maybe any story can be a symbol of every story. It’s a long story so I’ll go back to the beginning or even before the beginning…

2018 2

(Very organised garage)

Less than a week ago I wrote “Something I really love about the motorhome is the flexibility. If your plan doesn’t work out it’s not the end of the world. Another plan is always possible. I’m not naturally optimistic, I have to work at it. Sometimes I am more comfortable thinking about what bad thing could happen so that I can work out in advance what I will do about it. Ruby and this was of living is helping me practice and I actually love optimism. Google it, I think you’ll love it too!

2018 4

(The boss mechanic won all these trophies playing five-a-aside in the 80’s)

Well you know what they say : be careful what you wish for… I had googled optimism at the time and loved that it said, “…hopefulness and confidence about the future…” I have always loved the word hope. It gets a bad press because it’s related to being attached too rigidly to a specific desired outcome. Maybe I am too attached to a happy ending but I think I love hope because when the ending comes I understand I will (eventually) find the happy in it. In the meantime hope keeps me going.  So my definition of optimism is: finding the happy in difficult situations.

IMG 3244

(Ruby is still in surgery…)

And then we are stuck on a small street in a small town and I don’t know what’s going to happen next. I get through the day finding plenty of happy but don’t sleep that night. My mind is racing… How will me manage until Monday? How will we get water? What if we can’t get internet? What if they can’t work on the problem on Monday? What if the police come to move us on or arrest us? How will we contact the mechanic? If they don’t come how will we push the van around the corner and down a narrow street with cars parked on either side? Will it fit into the doorway? If it does fit where will we stay? How will we get around without transport? How much will this cost? How do I empty the black water cassette so that the mechanic isn’t overpowered by ammonia fumes if this takes longer than a few days? How do we communicate with the mechanic? On and on and on… Answering my mind’s questions is exhausting.

2018 1 1

(There’s a river just up the road from the garage)

There was something else pushing it’s way quietly into my mind as I tried to find answers. Big Picture. Think about the BIG picture. The big picture has none of the little details that my mind was concentrating on. The big picture requires me to stand way, way back to look at the situation. The big picture is like a landscape photograph with green trees and flowing water. there’s me sitting quietly by the water writing, there are birds in the trees and they definitely look like they are singing. I am safe. I am warm. I am still. My mind is quiet. The answers come in the perfect time.

2018 5

(Lemon blossom and…)

Even though I like the big picture and how it makes me feel I still resist it. I want to answer all the questions. I have to answer all the questions or bad stuff will happen. The thing is, there is no way to answer the questions… until the precise moment an answer is required. For example, the question, how will I empty the black water cassette? got answered when I woke on Monday morning at 7am. The answer was clear, walk to the public toilets rolling the cassette behind you, there will be less people on the streets to see or smell you. I have no idea how many people saw me (or smelt me) doing that walk of shame because I was concentrating on the ground and even if there were people judging me, it was not a shameful thing… actually you could call it heroic – I saved the mechanic from ammonia poisoning. My point, it was the perfect answer and it arrived just in time, no sooner.

2018 7

(…lemon blossom bud)

And just in time is a recurring theme… Just at the precise time we needed to communicate with the mechanic a dutch couple who live in the town and speak Portuguese arrived to collect their car. They translated and offered further translation by phone. Other questions didn’t need answers because they didn’t arise… we had just enough water. There was just enough clearance to get into and manoeuvre in the garage (remember the skill of the Portuguese drivers? well this Portuguese mechanic could manoeuvre with centimetres to spare while outside the van pushing it!) Just in time we found a place to stay with wifi and within walking distance of the garage, so we didn’t need our own internet or transport.

We still don’t know when Ruby will be fixed but it’s probably going to be just in time… Mairead.

Posted in Blogroll, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Everything is fine, just fine…

We had a bit of an adventure today…. Ruby broke!

2018 3

(Ruby on her way to the garage…)

We moved this morning from the orange and lemon campsite during a thunder and lightening storm. We arrived in a small town with very cute small streets and the rain stopped and it got a bit warmer. Then Ruby’s clutch broke… and we were stuck on one of those cute small streets for four hours. Yep we were.

2018 1

(Can you see the planks of wood? They will become important later)

It is an example of the truly amazing agility of the Portuguese drivers that they were able to manoeuvre around us. And there was not one beep of a horn or a cross word. In fact people were coming out of the woodwork to help us. First, there was a man sitting patiently as he waited for his wife and saw our predicament. He directed Denis to a mechanic (as luck would have it the word for mechanic sounds the same in Portuguese) while I stayed in Ruby and searched high up and low down for the emergency triangle. (An emergency triangle is one of the things you must have in your vehicle in Europe… let this be a warning to you…)

2018 1 1

(It was a bit fiddly but I managed to assemble our triangle)

I found the triangle after only a little hyperventilation, managed to wrestle it out of the plastic wrapping and stand it behind the van and then I just sat inside communicating my apologies as expressively as I could to the passing motorists. Within an hour Denis was back with the mechanic who didn’t speak any English, although he didn’t need to, it was clear we were stuck. Then an English and Portuguese speaking Ireland-loving Swiss doctor knocked on our door (yep!) and he translated between Denis and the mechanic and his boss who has just arrived. Turned out the doctor spent a very enjoyable holiday in Ireland and loved all Irish people and couldn’t do enough for us. He was offering to go home and get his jeep to tow us to the garage but the mechanic reminded him that it’s illegal to tow vehicles in Portugal (another useful piece of information, you’re welcome.) We have to ring him on Monday to tell him how we got on.

2018 2

(Ruby getting a lift from our new friend)

The street was bustling with people by now and Denis was on the phone to the emergency breakdown people who said they’d be there in 45 minutes. The man with the tow truck arrived in 40 minutes. Everyone was gone home for lunch when he arrived. It took an hour for him to manoeuvre Ruby into place. She’s a little low on the back so he had to use numerous planks of wood under the back wheels to keep her from scratching along the ground as she was winched onto his truck. It’s not as simple a procedure as you’d imagine. He had to run through the whole wooden planks in reverse when he dropped us off at the garage and here we sit… on the road outside the garage.

2018 4

(That car on the left is a BMW and we were too close to put Ruby down here… eventually the tow truck man had to put her down in the street and both he and Denis pushed Ruby to the curb. Me? I was steering)

The garage is closed until Monday. Then they will investigate our problem and order a part and hopefully we’ll be motoring by Tuesday. In the meantime our grey water is empty so no problem there. We will be making great use of the public toilets in the town so that’s fine. We have a half tank of clean water so that should be okay. But our battery power will probably only last until Monday morning, we will need to do something about that then. Our wifi will probably last until Monday too but I haven’t seen a MEO (mobile internet provider) shop in the town so we may have a challenge with that. And lastly we are parked in a place that’s not designated for motorhomes so we may be getting a visit from the GNR (police)… but you remember our friend the policeman in Soure? Hello Rui! He’s still following us on Facebook and he did say if we every needed his help…

To be continued… Mairead.

Posted in Blogroll, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Oranges and Lemon

2018 6

(A gift from our French hosts)

We are moving slowly along the Algarve again today… about 15 kilometres from last night’s spot. In the middle of the countryside again at a French campsite… well the owners are French with very good English language skills. We were here a couple of hours when the lady arrived at our door with two oranges and a lemon! Imagine that!

2018 4

(I forgot to include this yesterday, saw it on the beach. I think it’s some kind of sea urchin, close-up it looks like a toy)

Such a simple thing but hugely satisfying to receive. Of course we can buy oranges and lemons at the supermarket, we have been buying them but these ones grew here in this campsite. Imagine, your very own orange tree! I just never get tired of imagining that! And what about a lemon tree?

2018 1

(Wildlife from the day before at the castle)

I have a bit of a cough this week and I’ve been making lemon, honey and ginger drinks. I couldn’t wait to try out our lemon. It might be better, fresher, more medicinal than the ones that have to travel by boat to the supermarket. I bet I’ll be fit as a fiddle tomorrow.

2018 3

(This might be an orange tree. It was at the castle)

I think it tastes the same… as the ones we bought last week in Lidl. I really thought there’d be a difference, a big difference. I was starting to feel better just anticipating the medicinal properties. Maybe the ones in Lidl grew here too. Ha that’s gas! Or…

You don’t think she got them from Lidl, do you? Mairead.

Posted in Blogroll, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Life’s a beach…

2018 1

(There was a boardwalk to the beach so we took a quick look…)

The Algarve area of Portugal is very popular. We’ve been officially in the Algarve for three days now but most people (or maybe just me?) think of the Algarve as the coast and the beautiful beaches. So today we arrived in that part of the Algarve and we went to the beach. We couldn’t stay though because it was full up…

2018 6

(My feets in the sand! It was warm!)

Well, the first two beach side parking places we tried were full. So we went a little (5 minutes) into the countryside and we can just make out the beach (well, if only I had those binoculars, I could.) and we can definitely see the sea. The wild birds are singing and there’s a few hens doing what hens do…crowing? cock-a-doodling?

2018 5

(Denis looks so excited to be in the sea… oh, maybe he’s complaining because of the cold? It is the Atlantic)

I was a bit concerned that we might find it more difficult to find places to stay once we arrived in the far south especially as it’s getting later in the season and the weather has turned. (Fingers crossed.) But here we are in a lovely place that we might never have found if we’d been able to stay at the beach.

2018 3

(The tide was way out)

Something I really love about the motorhome is the flexibility. If your plan doesn’t work out it’s not the end of the world. Another plan is always possible. I’m not naturally optimistic, I have to work at it. Sometimes I am more comfortable thinking about what bad thing could happen so that I can work out in advance what I will do about it. Ruby and this was of living is helping me practice and I actually love optimism. Google it, I think you’ll love it too!

It’s all good, Mairead.

Posted in Blogroll, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I can see our house (van) from here…

2018 1 1

(Sunset last night in Portugal)

We went to Spain! For twenty minutes. Met a man from Spain. He sold us gas. We are back in Portugal. We have used the gas for showers… our new neighbours are grateful. We are in a town called Castro Marim, a very old town. The lady in the castle told me people have been living here since 3,000 years before Christ. That’s about 5,000 years of people with hopes and dreams.

2018 2 1

(We are between Vila Real and Faro)

I have to admit when we were driving into the town and I saw the castle there was a fleeting thought, another castle, as in, more of the same. But almost as soon as we got out of the van I remembered what I had learned at the old mining town, all these places feel different. And Castro Marim does feel different. I like the feeling of this place.

2018 3 1

(Entrance to the castle)

There’s a medieval festival in the castle every August and I bet its great fun. On the way up to the castle from our car park there are narrow streets with cobblestones. The houses are mainly single story with little grocery shops and cafes and restaurants. In almost every vacant space flowers are growing. Wild flowers. Like poppies and daisies. A simple decoration but really nice.

2018 5 1

(View from the toilets!)

As you already know we consider every toilet opportunity… and we considered the toilets in the castle. They were located in one of the old buildings and were a very nice addition to our experience of history.

2018 4 1

(The view north from the castle walls. Can you see Ruby?)

From the castle walls I could see Spain and the sea and man-made lakes for producing sea salt. We will be turning west in the next couple of days, with the Atlantic Ocean on our left as we travel through the Algarve region.

Goodbye for now, Spain. Mairead

Posted in Blogroll, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sunshine and Breeze in the Countryside

2018 4

(Sunset by the lake near the mining town)

We’ve moved on again, just 90 minutes south of the mining town to the middle of the countryside. There’s no town nearby just sheep, although they could be goats, they are very far away. Our neighbours have a binoculars but we don’t know them well enough yet and we don’t speak dutch… But I am incentivised.

2018 5

(Our view today)

Because in the distance I can see Spain again. It’s probably about twenty kilometres away but without the binoculars I won’t be able to patrol the border. I can just make out a line of small trees, possibly olive trees, very close to the Spanish side of the river bank so there may well be a Spanish man doing some gardening. How would I know for sure though without those binoculars?

2018 2

(That’s Spain way, way over on the left.You might be able to make out the river)

Our view from the door is just lovely again so I may just keep my attention on what’s right in front of me. I’ve been making more cards and painting the pages of a book to make it an art journal. It’s a tricky process because you can only paint two pages at a time and then you go off and do something else until they dry and then turn the next page over and start again. It takes days, weeks or months to cover even a small book. But here the pages dry really fast because of the combination of sun and heat.

2018 3

(The sheep (or goats) are out there somewhere)

That’s probably what put the washing into my head. I was on my fifth page of paint/dry/turn when a thought struck me – we are running out of clean clothes. Now I’m third in the queue behind two french ladies for the washing machine. I only hope I can get the unmentionables on the line before the sun sets… If we didn’t need to fill up our gas tank, I’d be happy to stay here for a long time. Unfortunately the nearest petrol station that sells gas (for cooking and heating water and the fridge when we’re not connected to electricity) is close to the coast. We will leave in the morning.

They’ve left the binoculars on the table outside their motorhome… Mairead.

Posted in Blogroll, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment