Last June we had a lovely surprise message from a good friend from Wales to say he would be visiting Lisbon with his fiancée and he wondered if it would be possible to meet up with us. We hadn’t seen M in years and were yet to meet his new fiancée, so BattleDad had a look to see where a halfway point for us would be to meet up. And as it turned out, we got to take BattleKid on a dragon hunting adventure at Beja Castle at the same time. Here is our post about visiting Beja Castle With Kids.
So, what do you do on New Year’s Day in Portugal when the sun is shining, albeit a little bit cooler. You head to the beach of course, and that’s just what we did. After breakfast, we loaded up the car with BattleKid’s bike and headed to Manta Rota. We had a stroll along the beach, dodging the waves and searching for nice shells. Once we were done, we got BattleKid’s bike out of the car and let him ride around the huge square that sits at the start of the boardwalk to the beach.
On January 2nd we started off with a motorbike ride, before popping to our local shopping centre where we had a mini birthday celebration for BattleKid with ice cream, as you do. After the weekend, normal service was resuming. We dropped BattleDad to the airport as he headed to Zurich for his first week in his new job. Then BattleKid was back to school after two weeks off and surprisingly went in without so much as a hint of reluctance.
I am hoping that he starts speaking more Portuguese from this term, which runs until Easter. By the summer holidays at the end of the July, he should be switching back and forth if what we’ve been told holds true. Time will tell.
During the second week of January there was a meeting in school about the progress of kids in BattleKid’s kindergarten class. As my Portuguese isn’t advanced enough, I asked if I could bring my Dad, as his is better than mine, just to catch the jist of what the teacher was saying. Armed with him, we attended to learn that BattleKid understands a lot more than he lets on, and that his teacher thinks he is quite intelligent, and that he has settled in very well and made friends.
This was all good news and put any worries I had about him to rest. He is never alone when we arrive to pick him up, and he has been nodding away to the lady who cuts his hair in understanding. So, this just backed up our own perspective of how he is getting on.
We had BattleDad home for a week before he was off again, this time to London. The Friday before he left we picked up BattleKid from school and headed to the square at Manta Rota for BattleKid to practice some more on his motorbike. We had a lovely hour together and even had time to visit the playground as the sun started dipping behind buildings.
On that Saturday following this, we had a quiet day before going into Tavira for a guitar concert. There is an Arts and Music Festival going on during the months of January to March and my Dad wanted to catch this particular guitar player. So, we attended it in a church in the centre of town. While the concert was good, the church was freezing and BattleKid started getting bored. The cure for this: let him play with my hair to keep him entertained, followed by an app on silent on my phone.
We all decided we need to do more things like this as we quite like discovering more about the Portuguese culture. So, my folks are on look-out duty for something else for us to attend soon.
The next day BattleDad was off on a plane again, and while BattleKid and I were driving home from the airport, I had my Spotify playlist on in the car. The Scatman song came on (anyone remember that?) and ever since BattleKid has loved it. So much so I’ve had to add it to his own playlist! You should hear the giggles and laughs from him in the car when it’s on!
As the end of the month got closer, we finally received a parcel from the UK I had been waiting on. At the start of the month I had tried to order items from GoOutdoors during their sale. Because their system didn’t recognise our Portuguese address, they cancelled my order. I had had a similar issue with another UK company, but they got in touch to clarify and I received my order from them with no problems. To say I wasn’t happy was an understatement. I ended up having to reorder the items, missing out on two items as they were now out of stock, and had to send it to BattleDad’s Forward2Me address. But they arrived and our gear for Lapland has started accumulating. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that we finally booked our flights and AirBnB accommodation both in Lapland and Helsinki for our trip this December. I’m so excited.
No sooner had BattleDad arrived back from London, he was off again on another trip to Zurich. After BattleKid and I dropped him off, we got home and relaxed with a bit of ‘workings’ as BattleKid likes to call it. I work on my laptop, he works on his magnetic easel. We had a pretty uneventful few days before my sister and niece arrived for a long weekend (but that’s a tale for next month).
And following on from our meeting with BattleKid’s teacher at the start of the month, he has been coming out with more and more Portuguese words, correcting hubby and I, and also saying things that we can’t decipher whether it’s Portuguese or not. But he keeps surprising us and it’s brilliant. I think we’ll have a bilingual child on our hands very soon.
We’ve also been getting our garden cleaned up a bit. I did a huge amount of weeding around our decking as it was looking disgraceful. I also potted some plants which I was hoping would root. One of our neighbours was pruning in November and gave us some geranium slips. I also potted some succulents which had fallen off two plants I have hanging on the deck. This was a complete punt and to my surprise they rooted, along with three slips of geraniums. So, I planted these around the deck and also in part of our rockery. And in there I got a huge surprise. Last year I had cleared it as it was a mess with dead lavender and a cactus that was swamped. The cactus has flowered and there are brand new shoots of lavender coming through. I’m chuffed. Hopefully the geranium and succulents will grow there too.
Our neighbour had said things grow really easily here and she wasn’t wrong. I’ve now potted more slips of geraniums she said I could take, along with a bougainvillea, another slip from a cactus and some more succulent slips. If they root, I’ll be laughing. But note, I am not a gardener, nor will I ever be, and I am only interested in plants that will essentially look after themselves with our irrigation system watering them for me. Watch this space to see if I’m successful again.
I’ve also started something I’ve been meaning to do since November; start photographing the street art (graffiti to you and I) that dons the walls of many of the uninhabited buildings here in Portugal. One of my favourites is less than 2 minutes from our place. Isn’t it fab.
Christmas arrived to Portugal at the beginning of December with our local shopping centre installing a big Christmas tree in the centre. There was also an area for Pai Natal (Father Christmas in Portuguese), although he wasn’t arriving until later in the month.
On the first Sunday of December, we visited our local park again to stretch our legs and let BattleKid play in the playground. We visited the lake first and as we made our way back to the playground at the park entrance, we came upon some reindeer. There was a gentleman there with some feed and he allowed us to feed the reindeers. At one point we had five deer around us. It was a brilliant surprise and is a memory we will treasure as a family.
The next day was D-Day, Disneyland Day. We had packed BattleDog off to his grandparents the day before, so after picking up our car from the garage in Faro, we headed straight for the airport, ready to get our plane to Paris. We had an amazing few days in Disneyland Paris and I’ve written all about it in my Holiday Diaries. That said, it was very cold in Paris and we were quite happy to get back to the sunshine by the end of the week.
The weekend we got back we caught up with my parents and also enjoyed the sunshine by visiting our playground and having a cuppa in the sun together. It was so good to feel the warm sunshine again.
Much of the rest of December was about preparing for Christmas. We were kindly given a tree by BattleDad’s aunt as our huge 7.5-foot tree is in storage and simply wouldn’t fit in the mobile. We also had to buy decorations as all of ours were in storage and we couldn’t plan a visit to fish some out. But we made the living room as cosy as possible, before helping my parents do the same the day after.
On December 22nd my nephew arrived for Christmas and I picked him up at the airport with my Dad. Christmas Eve was spent painting again and getting things ready for the next day.
We didn’t wake too early on Christmas Day and first up was presents from Santa, who only went and brought BattleKid his first ever real motorbike. He was thrilled and couldn’t wait to get out on it. After breakfast we got ready and headed down to my parents’ house as we were having Christmas dinner in their local restaurant. I opted for traditional Portuguese bacalhau (fish dish) which was very nice. My Dad had kindly cooked a turkey crown, so we didn’t miss out on turkey sandwiches later that evening. We had a lovely first Christmas Day in Portugal.
On St Stephen’s Day (Boxing Day) we visited BattleDad’s aunt before going to see my parents and nephew again for a Beef Wellington dinner. The next few days were a mixture of relaxing and motorbike practise with the boy before I turned the big 40 on the 28th. It is also my parents’ anniversary that day, so we went for a lovely meal in Cabanas de Tavira where we enjoyed tapas-style starters, huge main meals, and of course some desserts.
On the 30th we all went to Mar for a shopping trip before having a 4th birthday party at my parents’ house for BattleKid. Although this was a few days before his actual birthday, I wanted to do it early, so he’d have his cousin there to join in the celebrations (he was returning to Ireland the following day).
New Years Eve was spent building BattleKid’s new storage shelves while the boys went out on the bike. Other than that, we had a very quiet day and were in bed before the New Year even rolled in.
November started with BattleKid off school due to teacher’s strikes here in Portugal. I was aghast to find out that, not only are average monthly wages in Portugal miniscule for teachers compared to their UK counterparts, but that since the global economic crisis, they have not had pay rises for over eight years. Not only this, but they are one of only a handful of public servants that have had their pays frozen all that time, while other sectors have started getting their pay rises and backdated at that.
So, while I understand working parents find this a big inconvenience, I stand by the teachers in fighting for their pay increases and for them to be backdated like other sectors. What do you do when the boy is off? You stop blogging and start painting. You also visit the playground in the lovely Portuguese sunshine. And we did that a lot during November.
Later in November, we took my parents to visit Castro Marim Castle one Saturday. We’d visited last July but they hadn’t been, so we picked them up for a spot of dragon hunting at the castle one weekend. BattleKid loved having his grandparents with him. Afterwards, we discovered there was a big market in the car park below the castle, so we took a wander around. We found a few stalls selling churros and I had my first ever one. It tasted delicious.
BattleKid was once again off school a few weeks later for another teacher’s strike, so this time we parked our car at my parents’ house and took the train to Olhao, a town I hadn’t visited before. The old part of town is typically Portuguese, and we even found a playground for BattleKid. After lunch, we strolled back to the train station and happened upon the best Instagram-worthy background.
November was also a month for preparation for our trip to Disneyland Paris. I tried on BattleKid’s costumes to make sure they fit.
We also had our car booked in for a service. While BattleDad and I were in Faro, we stopped by Faro Beach for brunch and enjoyed the views of a lovely sandy beach. It’s one we’ll have to bring BattleKid and his grandparents to as the weather warms up. But we’ll have to get there early as parking is limited.
At the end of November, we had two of my three sisters visiting, and we took a trip to our new shopping centre, Mar, and bagged ourselves some great bargains in the Black Friday Sales. I was surprised to find Black Friday had made it to Portugal. My sister who joined us on this trip said she wants to come back next year to grab herself some more bargains!
We enjoyed some quality family time over good food, before their weekend was over and I was dropping them back to the airport.
Stop by again for our December update.
One of the very first castles we visited here in Portugal was at Castro Marim. Castro Marim lies in the East Algarve near a town called Vila Real de Santo Antonio and the castle sits on a hill overlooking the Guadiana River which forms the border between Portugal and Spain. It is only about 20 minutes’ drive from where we now live, and we visited early one Sunday morning in July, before the heat of the day set in with one things in mind – a dragon hunting adventure at Castro Marim. Continue reading “A Dragon Hunting Adventure at Castro Marim”