The Puppies All Grown Up

Random 2 (3).png3From the cute puppies Zed found abandoned under a bush in the Portuguese countryside we now have two boisterous teenage dogs!  Meet Random and Bramble.

P1040418.JPG1

Our English dog, Millie seems to be getting along fine with them.  I think she keeps out the way most of the time.

DSCN0636 (3).jpg2

At least they have plenty of space to run around in…

DSCN0637 (2)

…and Jay adores them too.

DSCN0627 (2)

Zed’s looking after them at the moment while I’m in Cambridge doing a spot of candle making…more about that here!

 

 

Abandoned puppies – not just for Christmas

puppy, abandoned dogs, abandoned puppies, strays

Random

Zed poked his head underneath the hedge. He could hear a whimpering. A tiny brown and white puppy smaller than a guinea pig was tucked among the leaves.

Serra de Montejunto, pear orchard, apple orchard, orchad, pear tree, travel, tourism, rural portugal

Montejunto hills in the background

He’d been walking Milly, our black Labrador cross, along the  track lined with pear orchards and apple trees with the Montejunto hills lurking serenely in the distance.

Black labrador cross-bred with German Shepherd, black dog, dog in Portugal

Milly

Cradling the tiny short haired, brown and white dog he took it home, kept it warm and later took it to the pet for advice and a check over. The advice was in Portuguese but the important sentence for me was “It’s going to be a big dog.”

The children named him Random and enjoyed cuddling him that evening before he was snuggled into a blanket and kept warm by the light of an angle poise lamp.

Puppies, puppies in Portugal, stray dogs in Portugal

Neighbour’s puppies

We’ve come close a couple of times before to adopting puppies, when neighbours’ dogs have had them, but oh my goodness, never this close.

Black labrador cross bred with German Shepherd, dog in Portugal

Milly

 

The following day Zed took Milly for another walk. Again, there was a whimpering in the hedge. Again, Zed struggled under bramble bushes, ripping his jacket and scratching his face in a bid to find out where the sound was coming from. Another puppy. Random’s sister. Black and white like a Jack Russell.

Puppy in Portugal, brown and white puppy, abandoned puppies

Bramble

She too was snuggled in a blanket and put under a lamp. They are cute as puppies tend to be and I adore them. But….we already have a dog. While the rest of the family will argue the case because they are so adorable, I do think on this occasion that three is probably a crowd.

Residency Myth Buster

Windmill for sale Portugal

Try living in a windmill!

“You must get a NISS number,” said the teacher, standing in the sunlight and showing me a piece of paper with a list scribbled on it. “We need a NISS, and a vaccination certificate for your son. Also a health card.” All that? Where do we start? Well for a start you can’t get a NISS number without residency, which of course I found out the hard way.  So we set out to get our residency certificates.

School days - just need a NISS

School days – just need a NISS

Thus began our journey to get a NISS number (Portuguese National Insurance Number) to send our child to school. We’re in the EU and so as an official told us, the schools can’t technically turn our child away. Still, we wanted to do things correctly so we went off to the local town hall to apply for Portuguese residency first, armed with passports, utility bills, blue sky and sunshine.

Heading out under blue skies and sunshine

Heading out under blue skies and sunshine

The town hall is a vast, airy building, large floor to ceiling window at one end with a tree planted in front of the window – on the inside. Quite pleasant to hang around in, unlike the tatty social security office where you get your NISS, or the Finance Office where you get your Fiscal Number. We took a ticket for ‘Tesouria’ and sat down at one of the light wood chairs until our number came up on the screen.

Paula who served us spoke English which was a relief. She’s getting to know us quite well and is always called upon when we turn up at the Town Hall to explain stuff such as we haven’t got the right piece of paper for my child to have school dinners or that we are in the wrong office to pay our IMI (council tax). This time she explained patiently what we would need to get our Residency Certificate. I asked for non habitual residency. Actually I insisted upon it. It would keep our tax rate down. Paula shook her head. “Nao.”

This was a starting point for confusion. All Paula knew was that non habitual residency wasn’t something she dealt with and after some enquiries discovered that this was purely tax related and that it was something we had to apply for at the finance office after we had got the initial residency. So doing things in the right order, the first thing we needed to get for our residency certicate was a criminal records check.

Need a criminal records check.  Pic credit here.

Need a criminal records check.  Pic credit here.

We were sent to the Justice Department up the road to get the criminal records check, another smart, beige stone building. This cost 10 euros and took about ten days. During this time we were off to England so it was some time later when we actually collected it and some time later still when we returned with it to the Town Hall. As we waited we noticed an expiry date at the bottom of the document in tiny writing. Which was the end of that week. Well, that should present no problem.

Ferry, Brittany ferries

Off on holiday to England

Our lady at the Town Hall smiled at us and explained we had to get proof of where we resided at the Junta de Freguesia in the village. To get over our disappointment of not getting immediate residency we went to the cafe and had some local Montejunto cakes, a crispy filo pastry filled with a Bakewell tart like treacly mixture. Heaven. We were over our disappointment therefore fairly quickly and headed to the village Junta de Freguesia. We met the white-haired mayor who was very friendly and handed us some old brochures about the area to browse through while we waited. Should we have bought him a bottle of wine, I wondered, or was that just in France?

Delicious Montejunto cakes

Delicious Montejunto cakes

Armed with the correct paperwork for my husband and I, and pleased as punch at feeling initiated into the village, we went back to the Town Hall. Handed the new bits of paperwork over. Went back again to the Junta de Freguesia as we hadn’t asked for any documents for the children, thinking it included everyone at the address. Another hour or so, then another day, went by.

DSC_0129 (2)

Another day went by.

 

Back to the Town Hall. Oh, we hadn’t bought bank statements. The lady apologised at having to take bank statements but it was necessary. Being a citizen of the EU, I wondered why. Ho hum. It was close to lunch time and we had the school run to do. Aware that our criminal records check was shortly due to expire we nipped back for lunch and returned straight after school drop off with the bank statements.

Paula took our documents and we waited. I sat and examined the polished marble floor and flicked through a brochure showing photos of local festivals we hadn’t been to and events we hadn’t known about. Twenty minutes later she returned and handed us our residency certificates. We handed over 10.50 euros per certificate. Then wahey! We were residents.

IMG_20140228_112826

Local festivals around Montejunto

Local festivals around Montejunto

Oh, but wait. I had always been confused about the length of time a residency certificate was valid for. We now found out that it is until your passport expires. So while my children and I are done for around the next five years, my husband whose passport expires next year, will have to go through the whole process again in a few months time.

Now for the NISS number. Back to the cafe first though for some more Montejunto cakes.

DSCF1177

Summing up, you will need for each person:

Criminal records check + 10 euros

Bank statements

Passports

Utility bills

Certificate from the Junta de Freguesia

10.50 euros per certificate

N.B. Residency will only last until the passport expires.

The above apparently varies from town to town and is a rough guide based only on our own experience. I take no responsibility for any mess, legal or otherwise, you find yourselves in based on this information.

Dancing Wasp – The Wonder of Nature

wasp

Okay, a little diversion from Portugal but I had to share it with you.  I could watch this over and over again it’s so funny!  Who says insects don’t have personalities?

Click on the video link below to see nature up close.

A real wasp on a car window with no special effects.  Starts off dancing then sticks with the car for the journey and does a spot of car surfing!

hornet_insect_wasp_bee_

The wasp is actually driving through Offord Darcy in Cambridgeshire.

We should give him a name – any ideas??!

wasp

 

Lizard Love

 

lizard

I strolled into the bathroom after lunch to put the freshly washed towels away. It was light and sunny and now we have a shower screen it’s looking very like a normal bathroom and less like a semi-renovation job.

“Kids, come and see this!,” I shouted.

I put away the laundry and peeked closer into the bath tub. A baby lizard was scurrying about. Here’s the thing. I’ve always liked lizards, they remind me of Mediterranean holidays, and because we don’t have them in England they’re quite special and something to call the family about in a highly excited, squeaky voice. The kids raced in and we all peered into the bath at the very worried creature who had probably figured out by now that he couldn’t climb out and escape.

lizard

Er…the actual lizard

My daughter, after several attempts, managed to gather it into her hands and carefully carry him, or her, out into the sunshine and put him out by the wall.

I’m surprised there wasn’t a request to keep him as a pet. I think we’ve all realised that a dog and two guinea pigs is enough for now….oh, and mustn’t forget the stray.

dog, stray dog, stray dog in portugal

…mustn’t forget the stray!

Lovin’ It In Lisbon

Finally we made it to Lisbon. I know, ridiculous. We live less than an hour away yet we hardly ever have time to go.

Tram. Lisbon, street scene Lisbon,

 

We went with our guests from Denmark. Now then, when I went to Alcobaca I was lucky enough to be shown around by a historian. No such luck this time you say. Well, we just happened to have a historian from Copenhagen in our little group who had done some research on Portuguese history.

DSC_0429

We started at Belem Tower. Built in the early 16th century it played an important part in Portuguese maritime discoveries of the time and was part of a defence system at the mouth of the Tagus River.

belem Tower, Lisbon

 

Plenty of time to sit and gaze at the view of the Tagus river.

Belem Tower, Lisbon, Tagus River

Followed by a trip to Jerónimos Monastery, built in 1502 to commemorate Vasco de Gama’s voyage to India.

Jeronimos monastery, Lisbon

 

 

 

The interior is fabulous.

Jeronimos Monastery, Lisbon

After that – well the day was just too hot so we headed off for ice creams, pastel de natas, cocktails then dinner.  Just to do a little research on contemporary Lisbon, of course.

IMG_20131101_173409

 

Awesome Alcobaca on the Silver Coast

Alcobaça monastery, Silver Coast, Places to Visit

Alcobaça Abbey

A tragic love story.  That’s about all I knew about the town and abbey of Alcobaça on the Silver Coast. They also have a groovy food festival but I’d never been to that either. I’ve driven past it a zillion times on the school run over the past year determined to find the time to go.

Street in Alcobaça

Alcobaça

Alcobaça is an inland town on the Silver Coast. When my Norwegian pal Hege agreed to accompany me on a trip I was looking forward to finding out more.  Hege is a historian. If you are going to visit a monastery then a historian is the person to go with.

Alcobaça

Alcobaça street style

Alcobaça abbey, the abbey of Santa Maria, is fabulous. As you enter, the gothic vaulted ceiling takes your breath away. Hege pointed out the bricks with identifying marks from each particular stone masons. The monastery is hundreds of years old yet you could imagine the guy chipping out his signature. It reminded me of the stone in our 100 year old house at Castelo Branco with a mark that belonged to our builder’s grandfather. I wonder if brickies do that these days.

Alcobaça abbey, stone signature, stone mason

Do stonemasons still leave their mark?

Alcobaça abbey, stone pillar, mark of stonemason

I stood in the vast abbey with that beautiful smell of old stone and a calmness that reminded me of my home church at St Peters, currently redundant. Religion aside, I love standing in empty churches with the light flowing through. This abbey was actually full of tourists but I still had a sense of peace.

Alcobaça abbey

Vaulted gothic ceiling inside the abbey

Onto tragic love story.  The tomb of Inês lies opposite that of Pedro. In a nutshell Pedro, heir to the throne, was ordered to marry Princess Constanza but he was actually in love with Inês, a noblewoman.  When Constanza died Pedro married Inês in secret but the king had her murdered as he thought she and her family were a threat to the throne. When Pedro’s father, King Alfonso, passed away Pedro dug up the body of Inês and had her crowned – forcing the court to kiss her decomposed hand in acknowledgement. Nice one. This was all quite a while ago around 1355. Kind of feel sometimes that the world hasn’t really moved on much.

Alcobaça abbey, cloisters, cleaned stonework

Abbey cloisters, notice the contrast with the stark, white, newly cleaned area of the lower building

Alcobaça abbey, cloisters

Interior of the cloisters with vaulted ceiling

The abbey was free but we paid to stroll through the cloisters which were around E6.00. Intricately carved Manueline stonework adorns the courtyard and I could imagine the Cistercian monks pottering along the stone floor on their way to the kitchen with its fantastic 18m high chimney.

Medieval kitchen, Alcobaça abbey, Silver Coast,

18m high chimney, that’s a lot of cooking – you should see the size of the fireplace!

If you want to know more about the abbey the Unesco World Heritage site explains the history of the abbey in more detail.
http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/505

Alcobaça, Silver Coast, Portugal tourism

Loved the little lanes and well kept architecture

Alcobaça is full of restaurants and restored old houses down little lanes. A river runs through it and the name Alco and Baca come from the two rivers. Indeed, the River Alcoa and the River Baça.

Alcobaça, River Alcoa, Silver Coast, Places to visit in Portugal

River Alcoa

There are some lovely individual shops here too but we hadn’t come for shopping.

Alcobaça, shops, street scene, Portugal Silver Coast, Places to Visit

Tempting – but we hadn’t come to shop

We ate in a restaurant off the main square then headed to the monastery at Batalha, built to celebrate the Portuguese victory with the Castilians at the Battle of Aljubarrota – a battle which only lasted about an hour.

Batalha, monastery, unfinished chapel, places to visit, Silver Coast

Batalha, Manueline stonework, medieval abbey, places to visit, Silver Coast

Ornate Manueline stonework

 

Batalha, tomb of Prince Henry the Navigator

Here lies Prince Henry the Navigator

Similar in style to Alcobaça, gloriously impressive, the highlight of the abbey I felt was actually the strange unfinished chapel, with ornate Manueline decoration around the archway, roofless, open to the sky with tombs around the side.

The striking unfinished chapel - sorry, didn't get round to the roof, mate

The striking unfinished chapel – sorry, didn’t get round to the roof, mate

More information can be found about Batalha at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/264

Batalha monastery, drinking fountain, places to visit, Silver Coast, Portugal

Drinking fountain

Batalha monastery, cloisters, Silver Coast, places to visit

Cloisters

 

I heartily recommend a trip to both these towns. We didn’t have time to fit in Tomar which has a rather grand convent. I’ll have to find another historian to go with, Hege has returned to Norway.

Batalha monastery, cloisters, Silver Coast, places to visit

 

Batalha gift shops

Plenty of quaint gift shops at Batalha