Our First Twelve Months

Welcome to my first blog about our move to Portugal and the creation of a new home, development of a holiday cottage and the taming of a wild 3 acres including two olive groves.

We arrived in the tiny hamlet of Pai Cabeca, a few kilometres from the main town Tomar,  in the early hours of a chilly December morning.  Cramped and tired from 36 hours of travelling and desperate for a Gin and Tonic, it might have been 2.30 in the morning but a drink was an essential requirement at that moment, we unloaded the 4 x 4 of two cats, ourselves and various bits of luggage that tended to fall out as we opened vehicle doors – we had rather stuffed everything in when leaving the UK.

My husband Paul put the key in the door opened up and to our relief the electricity was still connected.  Our cats, Tabitha and Crookshanks, who had traveled with us were rather bemused by everything going on, I made up the bed on a somewhat lumpy mattress, we crawled in and slept!

The following day was a bank holiday and the builder was arriving, we also discovered we had no water! Oh joy! So off to the supermarket for large containers of water, the geyser in the kitchen had been taken off the wall so Paul managed to reconnect it and rig up some hot water, fortunately there was a bathroom with shower downstairs which we could use until the main bathroom was replaced.  There was only enough hot water to allow a 4 minute shower!! Each.

Christmas arrived, we bought a fresh Christmas tree which cost 35Euros, Paul was not amused but I promised to look after it and plant it in the garden – it died!  Neighbours invited us for Christmas lunch and our Portuguese builder brought us Christmas presents our first experience of the wonderful generosity of the Portuguese people.

The weather was glorious, shorts and T shirts for us, a UK resident did say we would be all wrapped up the following winter like he was, yeah right we thought ………. but sure enough 12 months later we are all wrapped up – you get very used to high temperatures very quickly.

New Year the builders moved in, we were starting on the cottage first, walls came down, the roof came off, the digger arrived and dug a very large hole, destined to become the swimming pool, I started clearing the garden, the digger drove over it! Cleared an area for the vegetable bed and planted, it poured with rain and the weeds grew – overnight!  Ok I had to re assess what I could do and when.  Everything was so much earlier than the UK, our neighbours were planting potatoes at the beginning of February, we dashed off to but seed potatoes at our local Agriloja, who had virtually sold out as it was so late in the season!!  We planted and then they ended up being baked in the ground as we had such high temperatures in the early summer.

Watering was a massive problem, although we have two wells just the logistics of getting water to where it was needed was a problem and we were wilting in the subsequent heat as well as the plants, the digger arrived again, I gave up on this part of the garden.

We had more oranges than we could eat or juice, I made jams and chutneys as the figs, apricots and quince ripened, the cottage progressed and before long we were able to plan the interior, time was taken up with trips to Ikea, just outside Lisbon, we applied for and got our Alojamento Local which meant we could start promoting the holiday cottage, at the Same time the kitchen and bathroom were replaced in the main house, we lived with thick brick dust for weeks. Spent hours huddled in our office when it was cold but knew it would be all worth while, we dreamt of the summers evenings we would enjoy with friends, barbecue and the swimming pool and very soon this became reality and we had the excitement of out first booking – a family from Spain who arrived as the summer fires came very close to the house, they were unperturbed that the whole of the village was outside our house watching the planes put the flames out. Thankfully, as our wonderful Portuguese neighbours told us, our hamlet was never in danger as the surrounding areas are well tended to prevent such things happening.

The holiday cottage has now welcomed several families and a great bunch of guys over New Year, 2018 is looking very exciting as we embark on the next stage of our journey………………….