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Portugal

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.
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