Living the Dream

(Beautiful trees in the campsite)

As I write I’m in the laundry room of the campsite in La Flèche standing guard. This is a lovely campsite with hot water in the showers and toilet paper in the toilets – it’s the little things. They also have washing machines – two and a tumble drier – one.

(Instructions for the washing machine)

I was very excited when we checked in yesterday and spotted the laundry room. So this morning after coffee I gathered all the dirty washing including sheets, pillowcases, towels and tea towels into two pillowcases and hobbled over to buy the tokens and some powder. But when I got to the washing machines they were full of someone else’s clothes. Never mind, I can wait.

(Twenty six minutes left)

There’s one very handy thing about paid washing machines (and driers) they always tell you how long until the load is finished. There was just ten minutes left. So I waited 10 minutes and the machines stopped. And then I waited for another 10 minutes. I waited and waited for the owners to turn up. They didn’t turn up.

(Instructions for the compost bin)

I took out the clothes from one of the machines and put them on top and put one pillowcase full of mine in. Then I went to remake the bed. I retuned 10 minutes later but they still hadn’t arrived. I kept coming back, no sign of them. My first laundry had finished, I put it in the drier and then put the second laundry in the washing machine. I sorted the recycling, learned how to use the compost bin, studied the terrorist leaflet (!) and went back again.

(What to do if there’s a territory attack)

Now, my first set of clothes were dry but… there was still 36 minutes left on the drier and 37 minutes left on the second washing. Having some time to spare I began figuring out how this might work… Does the drier wait with my 36 minutes until I put more clothes in? Or does it just tick down to 0 and I lose my 36 minutes? Or what if the person who’s laundry I’ve been waiting on puts his/her laundry into the dryer with my 36 minutes? Before I had convinced myself to go door to door around the campsite I took a moment to notice it was probably 50 cent worth of dryer time. I went off to think about some project ideas.

(Not my laundry)

Then I came back to find my laundry almost finished but you’ll never guess… you have guessed, haven’t you? Are you still there? The other person’s laundry was tumbling around in the dryer… in my 36 minutes of dryer time!! So now I’m standing here with my wet clothes waiting for the dryer and if past experience is anything to go by the owners of the clothes in the dryer won’t be getting back anytime soon!

(My view for the past hour)

Oh, you’ll never guess this – the dryer just opened by itself! Should I just pop the clothes out? And pop mine in? But what if they’re not dry? Moral decisions and dilemmas… this is my life now.

Before you go to bed tonight hug your washing machine, Mairead.

Return to Vila Franca de Xira

2018 5

(Ponte Marechal Carmona bridge over the Rio Tejo at Vila Franca de Xira)

Next week I will be attending the creativity workshop I mentioned in a previous post so we need to find a place to park Denis and Ruby while I attend. We think we found the place. It reminds me of home, for a couple of reasons. One, the campsite is a 20 minute walk to the train station where you can catch a train to the capital of Portugal, Lisbon. We live a 20 minute walk from the train station in Greystones where you can catch a train to bring you to the capital of Ireland, Dublin!

2018 4

(See the footbridge? Above the Chinese symbols? Hello, the walkers!)

Two, back in 2016 I got an opportunity to travel a section of the Portuguese route of the Camino de Santiago from Lisbon with a lovely group of very experienced Camino walkers from Greystones. As we drove into town this morning, I remembered being here before. Now from the campsite I can see the foot bridge over the train tracks that took us from a busy dual carriageway to a dusty track on the route to the town of Azambuja. Nice memories.

2018 1

(Can you see the river through the trees? Remember the one that was flooding a few days ago? That flows through Lisbon? I was calling it the Tagus but in Portuguese it’s called the Rio Tejo. We’re probably safe enough up here…)

Tomorrow we are having a practice run to Lisbon and this morning I went down to the station to buy the tickets. The campsite manager had given me instructions for getting a travel card that can be topped up so I went straight up to the desk at the station with my instructions. When they realised I was speaking English a second man arrived and asked, Is this for travel today?

2018 2

(It’s very quiet in the campsite)

Me: No we are going tomorrow.

Man: Ah, ok. The reason I ask you about travel today is that there is a strike.

Me: Oh. Will there be a strike tomorrow?

Man: No, not tomorrow.

Me:  That’s great. (Big smile, turning into quizzical frown…) What about next week?

Man: No, not next week, the week after.

ME: (Very big smile) That’s really great! Obrigada!

2018 3

(Precious water)

Isn’t that perfect, the strike is today, before the workshop and again after the workshop but not during the workshop. I think we picked a good place and a good transport option. But, as I am of a certain age and have experienced Ireland of the 80’s, I seems to remember the very essence of a strike can necessitate surprise action…

Baring all surprises I will indeed be able to travel from here to Lisbon by train for my workshop! Mairead.

We are up in the hills…

(Sunrise this morning)

Do you remember the first time we took Ruby to Portugal? (I’ve put a link here if you want to remind yourself.) We ended up on teeny tiny roads searching for internet access. Well we’ve done it again, this time looking for electricity… We found the electricity but now we’re having difficulty accessing the internet!

2018 3

(Strange old machine in the car park in Viana de Castelo)

We are in the middle of nowhere in a campsite up in the hills of northern Portugal, thirty minutes north of a town called Vila Verde. Apart from the man working reception we are the only ones here. This is our first stay at a campsite on this trip. The only reasons we ever need to park in a campsite is for electricity or if we want to stay for more that 48 hours in one spot. Most of the free aires have a 48 hour (or similar) limit. So far we have been happy to move after 24 hours but that will probably change once the weather gets better or we run out of land to go further south!

2018 1 1

(Our new pet seagull)

It’s raining heavily at the moment but we have electricity so we are warm and our laptops are powered up. We have hot showers so we are clean and sweet-smelling. There’s food in the fridge and water in the tank and we also have half a rustic baguette, still fresh – it really doesn’t get much better that this.

2018 4

(Home for tonight)

In fact I’ve been reading and enjoying a book about meditation and mindfulness and I’m feeling very zen. The book is called 10% Happier by Dan Harris and the message I’m getting is that a day when you have half a rustic baguette is a very good day. Ok, it doesn’t actually say anything about bread, fresh or not… but it did say nothing lasts, neither good things nor terrible things. So, i’m choosing to enjoy my half a rustic baguette moment… I may have misunderstood the message.

We’ll probably move back towards the coast tomorrow, Mairead.

Porto, Porto, Porto, sigh

IMG 1064

(Lots of coffee)

As I was saying yesterday, we went to Porto on Tuesday to get Denis’ computer fixed. When booking into this campsite in Vila Chã I had seen instructions (kindly translated into three different languages) explaining how to buy tickets for the metro to Porto. Up until that moment I didn’t know about a metro or that it was nearby. If you are a regular reader you might remember our attempt (failed attempt) to visit Porto in order to buy a wi-fi sim for Portugal last January. We were challenged by the roads, the sat nav and the lack of data sims (!) and so in spite of the valiant efforts and friendliness of the people we bumped into (not literally) we saw nothing of Porto except the hospital (the outside of the hospital where we got a taxi) and didn’t get wifi until we arrived in Lisbon. Anyways that was last year.

IMG 1040

(The instructions for taking the metro from Vila Chã)

So there I was on Sunday morning sitting in reception thinking if only we were staying more than one night…. and – huge gratitude to a broken computer – we were! So, Tuesday morning I took a photo of the instructions and asked reception to call a taxi and off we set. The instructions are long and detailed but eventually we worked them out and got valid tickets. The train arrived, very modern and clean… and very popular so we had to stand for the half hour journey. But nothing could dampen my spirits, my friend Linda had told me about her trip to Porto, the Port vine growing area and the Douro River boat trip so I couldn’t wait.

IMG 1119

(Higgledy Piggledy houses)

First stop, the computer repair shop. We had worked out it was near the metro stop, Casa da Música and there it was but we were five minutes early so we went back to the station and had a very nice coffee and (to celebrate finding the repair shop) a pastry (the pastries in Portugal are many, varied and very good and as far as I can ascertain not one of them is low carbohydrate but I will continue to check for you…)

IMG 1113

(Spring in Porto)

Then we went back to the shop and met a lovely lady called Monica (who spoke perfect English), by the time we left, Monica had taken the computer and promised to love it until it was returned to Denis and she also pointed out some interesting places on our tourist map. I wrote last year about how friendly and helpful the Portuguese people are but it bears repeating… Every single person we meet is happy to help, to speak English, to direct, to suggest, to chat. They seem to like Ireland and feel a certain affinity to the Irish. They too are interested in the stranger, the music and the gentle art of enjoying a pint. They just seem to like people and they are curious about the story.

IMG 1129

(Not all the trams say Jameson Irish Whiskey, but the one I was on did!)

Leaving the computer in capable hands we got back on the train, 90 minutes hadn’t passed so our tickets were still valid (by the way the cost of the 30 minute return metro trip and use of the ticket for 90 minutes? €2.75! You have to love Portugal) and we set off for the center of Porto. We got off at the Trindade station and easily found the tourist office where we met another really friendly Portuguese lady. We set off again with instructions on how to get to… the most beautiful bookshop in the world, a Meo (mobile phone – the wi-fi again) shop and the old tram tour.

IMG 1093

(Livraria Lello… possibly inspired JK Rowling?)

The most beautiful bookshop in the world is called Livraria Lello (Lello’s book shop) The photos I took don’t do it justice, so you’ll just have to trust me it is adorable. There’s a story that JK Rowling was inspired by this shop and the black capes of the students at the nearby University (she taught English here) when she wrote Harry Potter. I’d believe it. If you like Harry Potter you would love this shop. No one is buying books, they are taking pictures. Of the bookshelves, the staircase, the roof light window, the facade. So it’s probably just as well that they charge a €4 entry (that can be exchanged for part payment of any book.)

IMG 1130

(I liked the tram… it was Fear-less!)

We have to go back to Porto to collect the computer from Monica next Friday and that’s just as well because a day wasn’t long enough for this city. We had great food and coffee and I went on the old tram but we haven’t seen any port cellars or gone on the boat trip.

Step 5. Take more tram rides, Mairead.