Words of wisdom

Words of wisdom

Saturday, December 12, 2015


....everywhere I go in Portugal, with colorful lights sparkling and holiday decorations filling the windows of shops and restaurants.  The above is a photo of my Christmas 'bough.'  It's not a whole tree, just a limb from a pine tree growing in the backyard of the parents of my landlord Jorge's beautiful wife, Maria Joáo.   But it proves it really is the thought that matters.  The whole family came over to deliver and prop up 'my tree' in a pot of sand.  They also provided the lights and tinsel and ornaments -  just so I would not feel left out at Christmastime.  

I will be spending Christmas Day with Jorge, Maria Joáo, Maria, Rosalina, Joáo and many more members of this wonderful family.  It will be a great pleasure, and an honor, to their guest for a real Portugues Christmas dinner.  I'm bringing 2 very American dishes - deviled eggs and sweet potatoes baked with brown sugar, butter, walnuts, and topped with marshmallows!  

But before we get to Christmas, I must apologize for not being a very good blogger.  I realize that I haven't posted in almost a month.  Have I been so busy that I couldn't find the time?  No, but almost!  So you ask, what have you been doing that has kept you away from the computer?  Well...

I've done a little traveling.  I was invited by the Americans in Portugal organization for their annual Thanksgiving Day celebration.  The dinner is held in the town of Cascais, a 40-minute train ride along the coast from Lisbon.  To get from here to there, I took the local train from Ferragudo to Tunes (40 minutes), caught another (much nicer) train to Lisbon ( 3 1/2 hours), got off at Sete Rios and walked downstairs to the underground metro station.  I purchased my Lisbon metro pass and took the subway 4 stops to Cais do Soldré (10 minutes).  Here I climbed a whole lot of stairs back up to the train station where I caught the local train to Cascais (40 minutes)!  Total cost one-way was €15 = $16.28.  Public transportation in Portugal is very reasonable!

What can I say about Cascais?  I fell madly in love!!!  Photos don't begin to do it justice.  It's beautiful, clean, cosmopolitan, filled with great museums, glorious ocean views, a great bike path with free! bike rentals, super nice people, lots of green space, funky street art, loads of history (even a castle) plenty of shopping and close to Lisbon.  What more could you ask for?  

I met some wonderful people during my two-day stay.  I was the guest of the President of AIP in her apartment in the historic district. The dinner was delicious - turkey, dressing, even spiral-cut ham and pumpkin pie! Annette and Jose Rio invited me to attend the monthly cocktail party of the Royal British Club.  I arranged a coffee meet-up of fellow American ex-pats who were willing and so very helpful while being bombarded with all my questions about relocating and visas. And I got to enjoy a long lunch with Susan K. who I know will become a good friend.   
Cascais tiled street - can be a bit disorienting when you stare at it for a long time
Cascais Community Center
Waiting for turkey& all the trimmings

Cascais street art

Too soon it was time to return home to the Algarve and everyday life in this area. So what does everyday life consist of you might ask?  On Tuesday and Friday mornings, I take a 'gymnastics class' for women over the age of 55 at the local rec center.  It's me, one Brit and 25 Portuguese ladies, none of whom speak English, who giggle and joke and have a grand time flirting with our 20-something male instructor and exercising very little! 

They host a holiday luncheon each year for the instructor.  Since he speaks a few words of English, they had him tell me that I had to join them!  What a hoot!  The food was delicious, the wine flowed (the ladies add 7-Up to theirs), the desserts were decadent and homemade and then they brought out the Medronho! (moonshine) which had been flavored with honey or almonds.  As you can see, a  good time was had by all.  My contribution was to lead the singing of Jingle Bells -  in English.

    The ladies of my gymnastics class!                      Our instructor and one of his fans!

The past month I've spent many wonderful days exploring the Algarve with my Portuguese friend, Raquel.  She is a friend of my landlord's family, loves to read books in English (Diana Gabaldon and Nora Roberts are her favorites) and practice speaking English.  We hit it off the first time we met so on her days off from work as a veterinary assistant (where she works 50-60 hours a week and earns €500 a month!!) we head out to some where new-to-me.  

So far we have gone to Sagres, the furthest southwestern point in Europe from which Henry the Navigator sailed; Alvor, a fishing village who's marshland is covered by water from the saltwater river during high tide and is perfect for clam digging when the tide is out; and Carvoeiro, the cliffside town where I originally was to have rented while here. Here are just a few photos of each.

A surfer's paradise, just one of the large beaches at Sagres
A view from the top of the Sagres lighthouse      Cape St. Vincent Lighthouse - 1894





 A man fishing off a cliff - OMG!
The boardwalk path on top of the cliffs

What else?  I've made friends with a great British couple, Maureen & Patty, who've lived in the Algarve for 32 years.  They love to shop the 'charity shops' for 'bits & pieces' to resell at the 'boot sales' they participate in on the weekends.  I tag along and pick up some great paperback books to read, then enjoy lunch someplace new. Maureen has also introduced me to the Chinese shops in Portimao. There are about a 1/2 dozen large, 2-story shops filled with everything from tools to kitchenware to clothes (high-end knock-offs) to shoes and bathroom supplies.  Name it - they've got - all 'Made in China.'  

Anita Oliver and Dick Nash, Americans, world travelers and pet-sitters have finally arrived!  We have been corresponding for months while they went through the residency visa process and made the relocation to Portugal.  They are now happily settled in an apartment overlooking the marina in Lagos while they take their time to wander and explore and see which town or village they want to call home.  

I continue to go 'grocery shopping' each week with Rosalina and Joáo.  Each week is a different store - Continenté, InterMarché, Jumbo, Aldi, Apolólina, Lidl. All are different and we always stop for a coffee - my treat. It's very special time I get to spend with this lovely couple.

I finally found my very own 'rolly cart' (like I used in Chicago only much more colorful!) and I can 'pull' my groceries home when I shop at Lidl's! (a 20 minute walk each way)

What was a fun surprise, while shopping for my sweet potato ingredients, was to find these walnuts at Aldi's. Memories of home!

I attended the Christmas Féte in Ferragudo; had fun at the CASA Social Club Christmas dinner; enjoyed the Christmas concert held in the local church and presented by a choir from Lagoa who sang songs in 7 different languages; toured a fantastic local ceramic studio; been wined-and-dined by my Portuguese 'family' which included an evening of home-made hot chocolate and a yellow sponge cake you eat pick apart and eat with your fingers.

I managed to find the movie theater in Portimao and have seen Spectre, the last of the Hunger Games movies and tomorrow I'm going to see the new Ron Howard movie, In the Heart of the Sea.  I've got several more holiday lunches to attend before the big day.  New Year's will be spent with a bottle of wine, sipping while sitting up on the cliff overlooking the river and watching the fireworks being shot off from the marina across the water in Portimao.  Then it will January and my last 30 days in Portugal before flying home to babysit my darling granddaughter in San Diego.

During the two months I'll be back in the States I will apply for a Portuguese Residency Visa which would allow me to live here as a local -  at least the majority of the time.  I find the life here much more calm and safe - not nearly as stressful as it is back in the States at the moment. Between the almost-weekly mass shooting and the political craziness, I can't find enough reasons to return full time. My son's are grown with families of their own that don't include an opinionated, aging mother.

I owe nothing and own nothing and I like a nomadic lifestyle.  I will base myself in beautiful Portugal where the cost-of-living is 1/2, if not less than that in Chicago.  I will enjoy the lovely weather, the friendships I am making and the availability of cheap flights to almost anywhere else in the world I care to explore.  And if at some future time I want to return to the States (only if Donald Trump isn't President) I will.  I do miss my friends so I will come visit -  but I'll be sure to let you know well in advance before I drop in for a cup of coffee!

To each of you who read this blog or journal or photo diary - thank you. Wishing you the merriest of Merry Christmases and a joyous and Happy New Year!

Until next time....

Sunday, November 15, 2015


Welcome to Casa dos Avos - the door is open and I would love for you to come visit!  Here is a link to a video of my home and village.

This is the start of my 3rd week in The Algarve region of southern Portugal and the sun is once again shining.  The high for today will be in the mid-70's.  The church bells have been ringing all morning to announce that today is Sunday and the one day of the week the church doors are open and a priest is in residence. 

Yes, Portugal has a shortage of priests and the church doors are closed during the week to dissuade those who might want to remove some of the most valuable artifacts.  The problems are the same wherever I travel.  

I have managed to settle in, thanks in large part to the most wonderful landlords I could ever hope to find.  Jorge & Maria Joao Sinta Coelho have welcomed me with open arms.  They have introduced me to their extended family, included me in family outings and even had me over to dinner to celebrate the arrival of the 'new wines' and the time to roast the chestnuts.  

 Grandma Rosalina, Daughter Marie, Grandpa João, Maria João, and Jorge
Last weekend they called to see if I would join them as they traveled to the area of Monchique for a traditional Portuguese lunch.    'Known as the Top of the Algarve where peaks reach 3000 ft., the pace of life in Monchique is far removed from that of the busy coastal resorts.  Small hamlets nestle between the hills, home to artisans who uphold age-old traditions and farm labourers who tend their terraced vegetable plots or citrus groves.  The fruits of their labors are reflected in the region's mouth-watering gastronomy.  Black pork sausages and cured hams, the unique honey that comes from the region's scented wild flowers and the powerful medronho liqueur, known as firewater, which is brewed from the fruit of the strawberry trees.' - Portugal Live.net.


After a stop to land that has been in the family for generations and where Jorge, a contractor by trade, is slowly building their retirement home, we went to a local restaurant, Laranjeira (Orange), where we were the only customers.  The mother was in the kitchen cooking our lunch while her son had prepared fabulous teas made from local herbs and flowers to begin our dinner. He has an enormous organic garden where he grows all of the vegetables and herbs used in the restaurant and lots of the strawberry trees to make firewater - think moonshine - only legal. 

After lunch, we went to wander through the town of Monchique where since Roman times they have been known for the thermal baths,  a beautiful town with many spas and hotels.

Mid-week, I took a river cruise to the ancient, Moorish capital city of Silves.  

The trip from Ferragudo to Silves takes 1 1/2 hours and our 'captain' spent the time entertaining 2 Brits and 5 Dutch and myself with the history of the River Arade, the villages that border it's edges and how the direction of the river has changed over a 1000 years.  He is a professional fisherman by trade, and only offers these cruises a few times a year.  Our 'cruise' boat is a brightly-painted fishing boat and was filled with our group of 8 passengers.   

Arriving at Silves via the river is a lovely way to approach the city.  On this day, the sun was gleaming off the white homes and buildings that climb the hill where the Cathedral and the remains of the Moorish castle dominate the skyline.

We had 90 minutes to explore this hilly city and have lunch. Off I went, camera in hand, to see what I could in such a short amount of time.  

Up to the top of the hill, though the massive wall that once protected the citizens of Sives from the Crusaders came to battle the Moors, all under the protective eye of the priests that filled the Cathedral.  

Then back down the hill, because it was 14:00 and I was starving!  Sives is also known for the roasted chicken restaurants that dot the waterfront.  That's where I headed for a fabulous lunch before hoping back on our 'cruise ship' for our return to Ferragudo.  

I wish I had a better photo.  Here was my lunch - a delicious salad of fresh lettuce, onion and tomatoes.  A bowl of olives, grapes, pâté and fresh baked bread to nibble on while I sipped a carafe of red wine (not shown) until my dinner of a 1/4 of roasted chicken (absolutely delicious) and chips arrived.  The cost of this very normal lunch - €7.00 - just  $7.53!! 

My second week in Ferragudo was spent wandering the narrow streets, getting to know the locals. The most exciting discovery was learning that I can get Netflix on my computer (English-language stations are not plentiful on my cable - 3 news channels, a religious channel and Disney!) I have signed up and will start  over-55 gymnastics, water aerobics and pilates classes next week.  

I'm looking forward to spending Thanksgiving in Cascais and the Lisbon area with the group known as Americans in Portugal who have invited me to their annual Thanksgiving Day dinner and then joining International Women in Portugal for their monthly meeting - a walking tour of The Women of Lisbon.  

Beautiful cobblestoned streets of Ferragudo

 The canal that runs through the village

The view across the river to Portimao
Flowers are abundant, draping across the streets

I just got invited to Grandpa and Grandma's home for lunch - which normally is at 14:00!  Must go have a snack before I go as I would hate to arriving starving!  I'll leave you....until next time....with a photo of the harbor coming into Ferragudo.