Archive for January, 2010



January 16, 2010
Thankfully buying tickets to get from Spain to Portugal was nice and easy.  They didn’t even want to check my passport!  The only downside was that the train left Salamanca at 0430 to arrive in Nelas at 0830 (so the woman in the train station told me).  The journey from Salamanca to Nelas was fairly uneventful.  I couldn’t relax on the train as I knew that Nelas was not the final stop and I was worried that if I went to sleep that I would miss it.  The train was a sleeper, but I was sat in the sitting compartment with what looked like a sleeping GAP student and an older man who got up at every stop to have a quick smoke on the platform.  He did give me a can of coke at about 6 am though and thus saved me from severe dehydration!
It was only as I arrived in Nelas that I remembered about the 1 hour time difference between Portugal and Spain.  The woman in the train station had forgotten about it too.  This meant my brother was not waiting for me.  I spent an hour in the cafe on the station being looked at suspiciously by Portuguese men who obviously thought that a woman should not a) be out by herself or b) be in their cafe.  Also couldn’t remember any Portuguese other than ‘I don’t speak Portuguese, do you speak English or Spanish?’ which was met with blank looks.  I ended up with black coffee as ‘cafe con leche’ is too far from ‘cafe met laite’ and obviously unintelligible.  It was 55 cents.  I had forgotten how cheap Portugal is!
Jason was half an hour late.  I spent this half an hour stood on the sunny side of the road opposite the train station trying to photosynthesise and watching the interactions between the stray dogs and passing traffic.
We went to see a friend of Jason’s who, despite being a football hooligan in a former life, was too much of a wuss to use a chain saw on his own and needed  help cutting down 3 pine trees that had become infected with some kind of nematode worm.  Jason got his chain saw out and the two of them played happily all morning while I had a couple of cups of tea, sat in the sun and played with the puppies.  I was exhausted having not slept the previous evening and had a nice early night.  I’m staying in a flat in the village, Jason and Maxine are sleeping in their tent on their land because it is warmer.  They have the flat as a storm decimated their kitchen tent recently and the solar showers are not to efficient when it is frozen and cloudy so they use the flat as a storage unit, kitchen and bathroom.  With 3 bed covers it was nice and cosy.  I woke up at about half past 1 the following afternoon.  Nice.
The next few days were spent chopping wood, looking for a quinta to buy, going shopping, trying, unsuccessfully, to put the roof beams into the house without a crane and eating nice cakes and coffee in places that said they had free internet but turned out not to and having roast dinners.  Eventually I found a quinta to buy and then had to spend a rather stress free afternoon getting a Portuguese fiscal number and opening a bank account.  Considering I speak no Portuguese and Jason’s is not as good as my Spanish I thought we managed remarkably well.  The following morning I went to the lawyer to give my brother the power to buy a property in the Seia region on my behalf and power to take out and transfer money from my new Portuguese account.  If he buys 30 000 pastel natas (a type of local egg custard cake thing – delicious) with my money I will be cross.  I also tried to buy a bus ticket back to Madrid for Wednesday, but was told they didn’t run everyday now and I’d have to go back on Thursday instead.  I hope Madrid isn’t too snowy.  We have had one day of snow here – it was beautiful, but followed by a very hard frost for 2 days, Jason and Maxine’s quinta is the coldest on in the town apparently – it didn’t defrost for 3 days and the ice on the dogs’ water in the morning was about an inch thick!  Daisy was the only dog pleased with this as she loves eating ice, the other two were less than impressed.
The overnight bus to Madrid leaves at 2245 tomorrow and should get me into Madrid at about 6 am.  This gives me ample time to get to the train station, catch a train to Alicante and then the tram to Altea, again.  A journey I will have to do in reverse the following day to get back to Madrid with Mum in tow for our flight to Lima.

Happy New Year

January 4, 2010

New year was stranger than I could have imagined.  I didn’t feel like drinking, but thought I’d better make an effort to fit in so behaved as if I had for most of the evening (up until the point that Anna, who couldn’t remember phoning the taxi 2 minutes earlier, said to mum ‘give me your car keys, I’ll drive us home’  when I decided that one of us needed to start acting sober and I was the only one who could pull it off… ).

The meal at Jan’s was delicious, and included another first – Ostrich steaks.  They are nice.  Just before midnight (spain time) we were given 12 grapes each and a party bag containing very silly hats, masks etc. which we all dutifully wore while posing for photos (see Facebook for evidence) and then we went round saying Happy New Year to everyone.  This involved a LOT of kissing, dutch and belgians kiss 3 times, the Germans twice.  Only at this point did we realize that the table behind us were Germans and the next table were Dutch.  We had been having a rather a loud discussion about the war during dinner.  Anna, being drunk, immediately started doing Basil Fawlty ‘Don’t mention the War’ impressions .  At no point did anyone vocalise ‘2 world wars and one world cup’  but I am sure I heard my mum sing do-dah, do-dah at least once.

We then had a glass of champagne with cassis in it ( I did drink that, it was yummy) and then Anna and I decided to do a bit of impromptu singing and dancing along to the CD…  I also introduced Anna and Jan to the game ‘would you still be my friend if I danced like this…’ with hilarious results

The bar crawl that mum had prophesied turned out to be more of  a bar ‘stumble round the corner to the bar and then stay there’.  It was interesting.  Yet again Anna and I were the youngest in there by miles, and for any song written after about 1970 we were the only ones dancing.  Our word-for-word interpretation of  ‘In the Jungle the Mighty jungle the lion sleeps’ was first class even if I do say so myself!  We then had to do the whole ‘Happy New Year’ thing AGAIN at 1 am as the British pensioners in the bar refused to believe it was really New Year until Big Ben had struck 12.  After that there was nothing to do but carry on dancing…  I probably should be more embarrassed than I am really, but I doubt I’ll meet most of those people again, and I doubt that they would remember much of the evening even if I do!

We left at about 3 am and got a taxi home.  Anna and Mum don’t remember that…

New Years day was late starting.  Anna made a delicious roast dinner for about 5 pm, I got dressed at 4.30 but everyone else ate in their pyjamas!  I then taught them to play the Peruvian dice game which they liked.  Then other games came out – Pass the Pigs, Pass the Bomb and Therapy.  I tried to go to bed, but gave up as I heard them starting to play Therapy at 2 am so I went to join in.  For those of you who haven’t played therapy it is a bit like Triv – you go round a board, answering questions to get pegs, but the questions are all psychology/sociology questions about different stages of life, and you can end up in another player’s ‘Therapy office’ where they try to ‘cure’ you by asking questions such as ‘on a rating scale of 1 to 10 how stubborn are you?’  then trying to guess what you have put.  If your answers don’t match you have to stay in therapy.  Jan was asked how romantic he thought he was, he put 8, Anna had put him down as 4.  There was a small,  but significant, argument at this point.  It is a game that invites them really!

Yesterday mum spent the day in the house in her pyjamas playing on her DS.  I got bored at 4 ish and walked in and out of Albir along the coast for some exercise.  I don’t think I would ever get tired of that walk, the scenery is just beautiful! I got back at 8 and went out for a pizza with Anna, packed and got ready to leave for Portugal.

I’m still not sure exactly how I am getting to Portugal.  I’m hoping that tomorrow I can sort this out!  I spent a LONG time on trains today, first the tram from Altea to Alicante, then a long distance train from Alicante to Madrid (with a film in Spanish… Apparently in English it is 4 Christmases – the Spanish title was NOTHING like that. I did follow most of it though.  Not sure it was worth the effort, maybe it’s funnier in English), then an hour in Madrid and another train from Madrid to Salamanca.  I arrived in Salamanca at 8pm having left the house at 8 am.  I have found a quite nice hotel though (and they have free WiFi which I can get in my room 🙂 ).  I really need a lot of sleep now and then a good day wandering aimlessly and eating a lot tomorrow…  I hope sorting out getting to Portugal is easy, I fear it won’t be…