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.

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

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

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…and Jay adores them too.

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

 

 

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!

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The wasp is actually driving through Offord Darcy in Cambridgeshire.

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

wasp

 

Why Computers Are Bad For You

Dog outdoors, dog lying down, dog in countryside, dog with lead, black dog, labrador cross, German shepherd cross

This morning we were out of dog food.  I had the bright idea of boiling up some pasta.  I popped on the pasta, went out and checked some blogs on the computer.  Then another, then another until…came across blog about dogs,  dog = cooking pasta = burning smell = burnt pasta, burnt pan.  Aaargh!  Fortunately the dog will eat anything, hungry or not.

Cooked a late brunch, scrambled eggs and rosti.  While cooking late brunch prepared soup for actual vitamins later.  Went up and did some work on the computer.  “Something smells good”, said Jae, as he lay down on the sofa looking bored.  Feeling of guilt as I should be playing with Jae in the holidays, doing cool stuff like sailing or surfing which is one reason we moved to the Silver Coast.

I suggested a board game. Jae retreated before I could come up with the sentence “how about some maths homework?”  Went back to work on the computer.

Soup, eating al fresco

Jae returned a while later.  “What’s that weird smell?” he asked.  I leaped up from the computer to retrieve yet another blackened pan off the stove.  Picked out the bits of veg. that weren’t black to try and retrieve lunch.  Unfortunately the children won’t eat anything, even if hungry.

Meanwhile, Jae went in the pool.

child swimming, swimming in portugal, above ground pool

Looking forward to dinner tonight.  Maybe I’ll just go straight for a flambé.

 

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.

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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!

Let’s Visit Caldas Da Rainha

Caldas da Rainha, places to visit, property for sale Silver Coast, boutiques, travel portugal

 

If you’re visiting the Silver Coast this summer don’t miss out on the town of Caldas da Rainha.  If you’re thinking of locating it’s also a great place to live, with plenty of art galleries, museums, great sports facilities including a world class tennis centre and hey, even a boating lake in the park.

This is an old spa town with a tradition of ceramics.  There are museums dedicated to ceramics, cycling, a hospital museum and of course art and sculpture plus a large cultural centre hosting regular events.  If museums aren’t your thing, there are a couple of large, indoor shopping centres too.

Wander around the old part, stroll through the centre with a range of individual shops or visit the daily fruit and vegetable market.  Then when you’re done have a galao (coffee in a glass) at the cafe in the park or in one of the many side streets off the main square.

Caldas da Rainha, Silver Coast, Sight seeing, Places to visit, church, Portugal, tourism Portugal

 

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

 

Thai Restaurant, Silver Coast and the Lucky Eggshell

Red heart petal

Yesterday I unexpectedly spent the evening at my favourite Thai Restaurant on the Silver Coast. Jae and I had been doing science experiments in the kitchen. Testing which ingredients dissolve in water. Soluble and insoluble. Zed appeared just as we were testing sand and put his arms around me in a romantic gesture. It was quarter to five in the afternoon. “Happy Wedding Anniversary!” Eh?
“Its 23rd July, had you forgotten?”
“Well…er….yes.”
“Oh good. I had too.”
We decided to celebrate by going to Supatra Thai restaurant near Bombarral.

Supatra Thai Restaurant, Silver Coast
We’d been there once before with the children. Lovely food with a smart yet stylishly rustic interior. Great food. What more could you want? Well…..there is something.
At one point the conversation had gone like this.
Me: “Can I have the coconut drink?”
Waiter/possibly owner: “There isn’t any left. We have some other cans, I’ll bring them out.” The waiter/possibly owner returned with cans of other interesting juices. One of them being mangosteen. Mangosteen? I examined the can. Never have I heard of mangosteen. Maybe it’s Portuguese or Thai for something else or we just don’t get it in England. I inquired about it with the waiter/possibly owner who I think that in his role as waiter/possibly owner he will enlighten me.
Me: “What is mangosteen?”
Waiter/possibly owner: “Mangosteen. It’s mangosteen.”
Me: “Yes, but what is it in English?”
Waiter/possibly owner, in tart voice: “Mangosteen. Look it up.”
Me: Oh, um thanks.

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Tonight the same waiter/possibly owner greeted us in his semi-warm style. Fortunately they had one coconut drink left so we didn’t have to go the mangosteen route, though I’ve since looked it up as advised.
We had a delicious meal. Prawns in satay sauce. Pad thai. Yum.

Chilli, Thai sauce dips
Onto pudding. Ginger ice cream for Zed. Chestnut pudding for me in a coconut sauce. Again delicious but…what’s this…this…little crunchy bit? Eggshell? I look closer into the pudding and spot flakes of eggshell. At this point I should send it back but its so delicious I can’t stop and eat on. Then I spot a bigger piece of shell, then a couple more. I pull them out and continue because it really does taste gorgeous.

Interior of Supatra Thai Restaurant, Carvalhal,  Silver Coast
The waiter/possibly owner came to collect our empty plates. I waited for him to ask if everything was okay when I could then politely mention the eggshell but the question never arose. All the same, I felt that I needed to point out that there were large lumps of eggshell in the tiny pudding. It was after all 5 euros.
Me: “Er… (pointing to side of plate)…there were these big pieces of egg shell in my pudding…”
Waiter/possibly owner, smiling: “That just proves it was made with fresh egg!”
Zed, not smiling: “I don’t think they should be in there though.”
Waiter/possibly owner whips away the dishes. Eh? Not even a ‘sorry you’ve just crunched your way through egg shell that’s been pooped through a hen’s bottom?’

Egg shell
Waiter/possibly owner appears again and explains jovially: “I used to work in a restaurant in London. A screw came out of one of the machines. It appeared later in a customer’s lasagne, so you are lucky. It’s only egg shell.”
I’m lucky? Aah. So – no need for an apology.
Perhaps the chef had been doing a scientific experiment to see if egg shell dissolves in pudding.
It doesn’t.

Interior, Supatra Thai Restaurant, Bombarral, Silver Coast

 

Cost of meal: E38.00 inc. IVA
2 mains, 2 puddings with egg shell on the house
1 can of coconut juice
2 jasmine tea’s.

Wine is approximately E12.00 a bottle. Zed was driving so we didn’t partake.

Couple celebrating at restaurant

Celebrating nine years of wedded bliss.

Supatra Thai: Rua Poeta Jose Ferreira Ventura, 73, Rossio do Carvalhal, 2540-422 Bombarral, Leiria, Portugal; Tel:262 842 920; Email: supatracarvalhal@gmail.com