26 July 2016

O Pomarinha da Vázea, Colares - the best local shop

I have raved before about my local shop both on here and on Facebook but decided it was time I introduced it to you so you can see why I love it so much.

When we first moved to the Colares area I found this shop on my first weekend and fell in love with the traditional chaotic interior and got to know the owners, Senor Manuel and Dona Fernanda along with Pedro Vale who, at that time spent all his spare time working in the shop in-between his studies at the local college, but now he has moved on to full-time position in hospitality.  Still miss his cheery smile - he interviewed both of us as one of his projects for college on why we loved shopping locally.  Think it might be on Youtube somewhere!!!

Sadly, since those early days, the village has lost a butcher, two small grocery shops, and a lovely drogaria - all missed - the recession bit hard on small businesses.  However O Pomarinho or 'Poms' as we lovingly call it, has gone from strength to strength.

From the exterior, the shop looks deceptively small.  Once inside it opens up to reveal an extremely well-stocked grocery and deli along with wines, spirits, bakery and coffee bar.  I have been known to take my coffee with me as I roam the shelves discovering new delights that appear every week.

It's much bigger than it looks!

A good selection of vegetables - in season - greets you.  Always nice to eat seasonable. 

There is also a good selection of organic vegetables and herbs sourced locally

The lovely Dona Fernanda in the bakery, cake and coffee bar area.. Always very patient with me as I learn the names of all the different breads, cakes and biscuits. Fresh bread daily from two local bakeries and some baked in-house. There is also an option to order a roast chicken. A small selection of traditional cakes and biscuits is on this counter - fresh daily.  At the sides, just out of shot, are shelving units with the usual assortment of branded crisps and the much better simple, tasty non-additive ones - highly recommended.

Senor Manuel - always has a smile and a joke for everyone.  Especially cheeky with me and some of the 'older' ladies.

There is always a good selection of fruit in season ranging from oranges to avocados, grapes to limes, kiwis to figs - you name it - you can probably find it. If you like your fruit or vegetables all matching in size and beautifully formed, this will not suit you.  This is fruit and vegetables as they are and not to a supermarket pattern.

Looking down from bakery section to the cleaning products, toiletries section. The fridge on the right has an interesting selection of products for Romanian and Russian residents.  Fascinating sausages, cheeses etc.  Also, if you do not fancy washing a lettuce, you can find the usual bagged salad leaves and rocket as well as a small selection of prepared fresh chicken.

The cleaning products and toiletry section.  Good range to choose from and some nice natural shampoos, conditioners, body creams, as well as face cream and hand cream with the usual brand names from Nivea to Atrixo. Further down on the right hand shelf, are the olive oils, vinegars, flour, coffee, pet food, tinned beans etc section.  The left hand range of shelving has a varied selection of health food goods including organic items.

Wines, beers, water, fruit juices, milk - from cow's to almond to soya - section. The range of wines is excellent.

There are two fridges at this end.  This one with a good range of yoghurts, pates, butters, fresh pasta, as well as tofu etc for vegetarians.  In fact the shop has a huge range of health foods and organic items.  It literally caters for everyone.  The other fridge has a good range of cheese, ready-to-use pastry, smoked salmon etc.

Round the corner from the fridge is the spirits section - everything you need or perhaps wish to experiment with.

A better view of the spirit section. On the right is the deli counter with a great selection of olives, meats, traditional cheeses, fresh cheese, herbs, spices etc.

You can sometimes find Marmite lurking on the counter here. Wonderful local honey is also on the back shelf.  They say you should always eat honey that is made locally for the best effect.

This freezer has frozen fish, pizza, desserts, traditional savoury items that you can bake or fry at home - something for everyone.

Andreea is going to kill me for this photo.  She was laughing when I took it. Perhaps next time I am in there, I can take a better one and replace it.

Cristina with her usual beaming smile.

Micaela with my yoghurt that she sourced and found for me.  A real researcher!

These three lovely girls, are always helpful, whether it is about finding a product that they may not have, but can get for you, to helping people pack their shopping or even carrying it out to a car for people.  Nothing is too much trouble.

So there you are.  My local grocers, bakery, coffee shop, delicatessen, off licence that I could not live without.

Treasure your local shop, if you have one, we need them.

25 November 2015


Been a while since I blogged, for which I blame life getting in the way. However, I realised that it was time I got back into the swing of it after reading some nice comments about what I had written previously.

It is amazing how many changes there are in just a couple of years. Computers get faster and more complicated with the introduction of new versions of programs that cause untold stress whilst you get to grips with what some man who needs to get out more, considers we all need in our lives when the previous version was perfectly adequate. Phones have become an extension of arms and from what I have witnessed, appear to be what a lot of people view the world through.

We recently had a visit from some friends from the UK and thought it would be nice to have a wander into Lisbon, take the tram to Belém for a pastel de nata at Pastéis de Belém, have lunch at my friend's restaurant, and a general wander.

Granted it was September but we had not calculated for how popular Lisbon has become.  Tourists to the left, tourists to the right, tourists everywhere.  Now I cannot deny this has to be good for the economy, but what struck me was that they all seemed to be viewing Lisbon through a lens and not through their eyes.

I think we had chosen a day when the tour boats had all arrived at once, which probably made it look worse but I was struck by the numbers of tourists, following a guide - raised umbrella or clipboard - in crocodiles with phones or cameras glued to their eyes and wonder how much of their visit they will actually remember visually.

Taking a photo of something you see on holiday that you think might be interesting to have as a record or to show friends on your return or even by Instagram or Twitter, I get but to take them constantly as if in a panic, means that you will not be able to bring to mind what you actually look at with your eyes in my opinion.  A bit like watching television.  You are 'there' but not in reality.

Lisbon is a beautiful city and it deserves to be captured in your memory and not just in your camera or phone. 

17 November 2013

A Return to the UK in October

It has been six years since I was last in the UK for my eldest niece's wedding and since then she has had two children so I thought it was about time I met them in person. When I made the decision I had to research the best, and cheapest way of returning.  What a minefield.  I thought I would try the cheap (sorry, low cost) route first.  Nothing worked out to get me either to Bristol or Heathrow without travelling at hideous hours and then there was the hand luggage problem. Also by the time you added everything together, it was not cheap (oops sorry again low cost). Quickly took that off the list.  Next, being a fan and having always travelled with them, I looked at TAP but sadly although I could get to Heathrow the options for return flights were either from Gatwick, Luton or Stanstead for some reason - all completely unworkable.  So, biting the bullet as my previous experiences with them (when working for a living) were not good, I looked at BA.  After a bit of backwards and forwards I eventually procured a flight for a return fare of approximately 200 pounds. One problem solved.  The next was to find a way of getting from Heathrow down to Wiltshire.

Train?  Book in advance and save pounds the adverts scream - yes and how? I looked at all the sites and could not find one decent fare considering you have to bus it to Reading to get the train in the first place or take the Heathrow Express to Paddington and then go from there.  The prices were absolutely mind-blowing.  How do tourists cope?  I know I am spoilt rotten here with fares for a 40 minute return journey being 3.40 euros but First Great Western seems to need millionaires to travel on it.  Scrap that one.  Bus?  National Express site was not particularly user friendly and they wanted 30 pounds each way to go from Heathrow to Corsham - even trying to book in advance to - yes, you guessed it - save pounds!  At this point I was muttering to my best friend about prices and bless her, she said she would pick me up as she would be working close to Heathrow that day.  Problem solved getting to Corsham.  I would tackle the return nearer the time.

The day arrived and I set off with my suitcase and large handbag. I have been travelling through one version or another of Lisbon Airport for the last 20 years and the changes have been immense.  It was pretty glamorous when I travelled six years ago but even more changes have taken place since then. Now instead of choosing to go into the Duty Free area, you have to walk through it.  Well that took me all of a minute as I have no wish to spend any money in there.  Then I was somewhat bemused as the other changes with upmarket shops, bars etc.  All I was interested in was a cup of portuguese coffee and a sit down until my flight was called. Eventually, tucked away in the back of the Food Hall, I found a place that sold portuguese and not some other import.  Suitably fuelled up I hiked to the gate - I say hiked as the distance you walk in airports these days is amazing.  How the elderly or toddlers manage without a sit down is a miracle.

The flight was fine and comfortable and my Kindle kept me occupied although why they feel they need to serve 'food' (an icy cold wrap filled with over spiced chicken) is beyond me.  Why not lower the fare and just serve a hot drink?  Flying over the south coast of England I was cheered to see brilliant sunshine - however that disappeared very quickly as the clouds descended and we landed in greyness at Heathrow.  Another long and tiring hike to retrieve luggage and then out into the Arrivals Hall to meet my friend who handed me over to my brother-in-law at Swindon.

The first evening I went to the local pub and practically fainted at the cost of drinking - no wonder the pubs are closing.  A pint of Guinness and a glass of reasonable red wine was the price of a three course meal with wine and coffee here in a local tasca.  I find it sad that this traditional way of life has been continuously under attack by governments, greedy breweries, irresponsible supermarkets and other interferring entities. 

The following morning was a wander round the shops in Corsham.  Very nice to still see some individual shops surviving in the harsh commercial world of today.  One shop was The Deli at Corsham (www.thedeliatcorsham.co.uk) run by Cristophe and Rachael Bonneau.

Cristophe Bonneau and Charlie

I loved this shop.  A huge selection of what you would expect and more.  The best bit was finding Ribblesdale Cheese on sale!  I was able to tell them more about Iona Hill who runs it and they, in turn, told me where they sourced it so I could tell her.  Small world.  Obviously I had to buy some and my sister also bought a couple of rather super French cheeses too.  Another shop well worth seeking out.

Charlie weighing out my choices

My favourite day out of the trip was when we went to Bath Farmer's Market  which was fabulous.  So lovely to see lots of stalls all selling wonderful produce. A great mix of antique, second hand, dairy, vegetable meat, bakery etc.  http://www.bathfarmersmarket.co.uk  The website gives a good overview of the traders and what they produce. After cruising the second hand stalls that were tempting, I went off to investigate the myriad choices of cheese.  As I was going to be cooking a portuguese meal for my sister and brother-in-law's friend that evening, I wanted to get a cheese and this stall took my eye immediately.

Talking to Tim Homewood I managed to choose a beautiful sheep's ricotta which proved to be a real hit at dinner.  His stall was very inviting and he is happy to let you taste before you buy.  Well worth stopping by.  I was also thrilled to know that he knew about Ribblesdale Cheese.

Tim Homewood and Angela Morris run Homewood Cheese (http://www.homewoodcheeses.co.ukand recipes for using their cheese are on the Bath Farmers Market site too

Happily moving around, tasting here and there, I then spotted this incredibly mouth-watering display.

An eye-catching array of flavoured olives

Obviously I had to buy some to have as appetizers before dinner and was assisted in my choices by Fey, who shyly agreed to having her photograph taken and to tell me about her family company Jacob's Finest (www.jacobsfinest.com) that specialises in Falafel but her 'baby' is the olives. Unfortunately although I have requested numerous times to their email for more information on Fey and her products, none has been forthcoming.

Fey of Jacob's Finest

A close up of some of the olives

Eventually after exhausting myself wandering around and buying some rather nice organic vegetables, it was time for a coffee and breakfast courtesy of my brother-in-law. 

A full English breakfast - old style

The Sunday was a trip to Bristol for a family reunion and the only black spot was the torrential rain and gloom.  Amazing how you forget how dark the UK is at this time of year considering Portugal and the UK are the same time zone, it is definitely better being that further south so it stays lighter longer. It was a rare treat to be driven everywhere and able to look at the countryside which is still very beautiful and rather nice to see cows and sheep - none around me here sadly. Parking around my niece's house was reminiscent of Lisbon before parking meters!  Every bit of pavement appeared to be covered in cars with just a narrow gap for traffic.  I did notice that the tailback for people heading for Ikea in Bristol was just as I remembered it too!  Some things never change.  Catching up with nieces and other halves and my great nephew and niece was the icing on the cake for me.

The time went very quickly and soon it was time to sit on the suitcase and start the long trip back to Portugal.  Just before I left, I had attempted to get a cheap bus fare back to Heathrow from Corsham - one of the designated stops for the 403 National Express Service.  Again, after a frustrating time on their website and rather a lot of bad language about the cost, I somehow got a fare for nine pounds from Bath to London Heathrow.  That would do nicely.

Come the day, my sister dropped me at the bus stop in Corsham and awaited the bus.  It was late and when it did stop, I was told off in no uncertain terms by the driver because my ticket was from Bath and although the stop is on the route, they have to be told otherwise they may well not stop and go via a different route. He was also in a temper because the motorway was closed and he was stressed about getting to London.  I apologised to him and privately pondered the fact that a ticket from Bath to Heathrow is only nine pounds but if you get on at Corsham - about 15 minutes from Bath - the cost would have been 30 pounds!!!!  Something odd there I think.  Anyway we set off and it was rather nice to be able to travel along the roads I used to drive regularly and see the changes.  I was rather surprised (I suppose) to see that Swindon Bus Station is still as disgraceful as ever.  It really does need something doing to it. As the motorway was still shut, the driver took the old Oxford Road to head up to Heathrow.  A rather beautiful way to go rather than the M4 and considering everything, we were only 15 minutes late.

Again, armed with my boarding card and being well in advance of flight check in, I went over to the desk just to see what time I should check in.  Having ascertained I would need to wait about 45 minutes, I found a place close by and got stuck into my Kindle.  Alerted by a lot of noise, I looked up and saw an immense queue had formed at the desks.  I worked out that if I joined it, my desk should be ready for my luggage by the time I got to the end of the queue.

It quickly became clear that chaos was happening all around me.  Apparently a flight to Thailand had been cancelled the previous night and this queue was a mixture of people going for the new flight, people like myself heading for Europe and the Thailand flyers were less than patient.  Stories abounded about the lack of information the previous evening and how some had gone home for the night and others had been forced to stay in Brighton as the cheapest hotel rooms for the night close to the airport, had been in the region of 400 pounds.  The queue quickly started to get stroppy due to lack of information and the people for Europe added to the noise level by wanting to know what was going on as their flights were being called and they still have to check in.  Eventually, another balcony opened with a harassed woman trying to work out how to separate people into some form of order. Although the majority of us had our pre-printed boarding cards, some hadn't and did not know how to cope so had to be helped by other passengers.  Then the rumour came down the line about we now had to print our own boarding flight tags and the more computer literate in the queue helpfully aided some rather haughty and unimpressed European ladies.  All in all it took an hour to get to drop off my bag - glad I got there early.  Heathrow is still in need of a rethink on how it treats and communicates with passengers.  Passing out bits of paper for people to comment on, is hardly what is needed.

The next chaotic scene was customs.  Obviously Heathrow caters for thousands of passengers but attitudes are unhelpful, unfriendly and in some cases, downright obnoxious.  In the queue to have my handbag x-rayed I was astonished at the rude way that was used to tell people that if they had not put their electronic devices into the tray, they would be confiscated and it would at least 45 minutes before they got them back.  I know it is a difficult job that the customs people do, but surely a "please" and "thank you" is not too difficult ask for.  I felt very sorry for some of the foreign travellers with limited knowledge of English being treated so roughly.  A very unpleasant experience.

I just had enough time to grab something to eat - I wandered around aimlessly looking for something healthy that did not need an overdraft and found the cheapest option was an Italian restaurant.  Cheapest meant over 10 pounds but it was well cooked and the wine was nice for the exorbitant price. Same BA flight experience with cold wrap option and coffee so it was a relief to fly over Portugal and land in sunshine.

I will return but possibly not for quite some time and perhaps I may well choose another option for travel.

15 November 2013

A View of Colares, Portugal

Someone asked me recently to give them a 'feel' for where I go shopping and have coffee, so yesterday we went out and took some photos to show you why we love Colares so much.  It was a lovely day - this time of year (November) you can usually guarantee some beautifully sunny days although the temperature does drop in the evenings.  You can still sit outside cafes and watch the world go by if you wish.

It takes about five minutes to drive down to Colares and as you turn the corner, after the Cooperativa Agricola de Colares - where you can get everything from animal feed and equipment for agriculture to wine and pet food, past the Estalagem de Colares and the little butcher on the left hand corner, the road straightens up and we have our local Pharmacy and Post Office.

Estalagem de Colares - a lovely spot for lunch or dinner and, should you wish, as a base for exploring the area

The Pharmacy which also sells beauty products, does various medical tests and is much appreciated in the area.

Our Post Office which is now run slightly differently and offers help with things IT.

Spacious free cark parking for the Pharmacy and Post Office opposite.

A little further along you come to the Bombeiros - our fabulous fire station which has, at the rear, a heated swimming pool which is very impressive and very warm!

Although shown closed, at weekends the shutters go up and the barbeque is lit and you can buy wonderful barbequed chickens, pao com chourico and other goodies as shown on the sign below.

Next we come to the first of our two petrol stations.  Both play an important role as the next one is in Sintra.  No self service here - all done the old fashioned way.

Around the next corner we find The Salvation Army Home.  This place has lovely gardens and a little shop.

The main building

A shot of the garden and chapel

Need a woodburner installing?  Then you have this place on hand to advise and install for you.

Next is our second petrol station opposite Riberinha de Colares - a super little restaurant (on the first floor) and cosy cafe downstairs - and our local GNR headquarters with the Council Offices upstairs.

The restaurant/cafe Riberinha de Colares

GNR/Council Offices above

The second petrol station (BP) which we use as they are so nice and helpful. 

We have now reached the T junction where if you turn right you can go to Praia das Macas and Azenhas do Mar - and also where the Council have just revamped the little square where the bands play in the summer.

The newly refurbished square with the first of our banks (Banco Espirito Santo) is opposite

A recent addition to the square showing who is is named after

Opposite the junction is the wonderful Paper Shop where the two ladies have an impressive array of magazines and newspapers in various languages as well as taking care of the lottery, bus tickets and much, much more for the local community.

So, not taking the road to Praia das Macas quite yet, we continue along past the Paper Shop and on the same side of the road we have a taxi rank, public loos, another cafe, a gift shop - Pau de Canela - you can always find a good present in here - and then an excellent estate agency.

Nice view from the car parking area

Public loos are in most villages and are usually of a high standard of cleanliness

Cafetaria O Moinho Cafe - also sells bread along with a good selection of cakes

Pau de Canela Gift Shop - lots of lovely stuff and a lovely lady who is always helpful with Zurich Insurance above.

Riberinha Imobilaria - great estate agent - some wonderful properties available here

Looking back towards the T junction

The T junction 

A view of the river which is rather low at the moment but will soon fill up with the winter rains.  Here the ducks get their daily bread from children and adults alike.

A view to the hills of Sintra

At the side of the river here is a lovely cafe that does wonderful pastries, flans and cakes and in the summer is a lovely spot to sit and watch the world and the river go by.  

Cantinho da Varzea Cafe 

On the same side as the cafe we then have our second bank (Caixa de Geral de Depositos) and another estate agent (Remax) and then on the other side of the road, my greengrocer/grocer run by the wonderful Manuel and Fernanda. I spend a lot of time in here as they stock all that I need and I love to have a coffee at the tiny bar and listen to the local chat and watch the serious business of choosing bread - Janas or Assafora.  Everyone has their favourite.

The wonderful 'Poms' as we call it.

Back across the road and nearly opposite is a small children's playground - not unknown to see the odd adult playing on the swings!

The playground

Opposite the playground we have our electric charging posts for electric cars.

Just ahead now is where the tram comes out in Colares before it starts heading towards Praia das Macas.  We also have the Adega Regional de Colares.  A fabulous building and open to the public.  The size of the barrels is breathtaking.

Note the tram track cutting across the junction.

A fantastic view of the barrels of the wonderful Colares wine

Opposite the Adega is the local Health Centre - not ours unfortunately as we miss the limit by yards - I kid you not.  We also have another bank - Montepio and down the side of that is a Builder's Merchants who have been extremely helpful to us.

Colares Health Centre

Montepio Bank with entrance to Builder's Merchant's on the right

Very sadly the superb local Drogaria where we have bought so much in the way of DIY stuff, closed its doors a couple of months back due to the owner's ill health.  We really miss it.

Back across the road and just after the main entrance to Adega Regional de Colares, we have another bank, Millenium BCP.

Millenium BCP Bank

The bank is on the corner of the road which leads up to the village of Mucifal.

And also on the opposite corner is our final bank, BPI which we belong to. They are so helpful in here as have all the BPI branches we have dealt with. To the left of the bank is an insurance agent and the pink building on the far left just in the shot, is the second butcher of the village.  On the right of the bank is a nice little cafe, a Chinese shop (there is another one round the other corner) and bit further along is an area which has some small shops opening in a patio.  Also another restaurant - Central - on the same side.

Instead of turning right here, if you look up the road to Praia das Macas, on your left hand side you will see this wonderful building.

Caves de Visconte de Salreu

Close up of the front

This fabulous place is usually open for exhibitions and food tastings at various times of the year and the photographs of times past, are truly fascinating.

I hope you have enjoyed this quick look around Colares and if you are visiting Sintra, grab the tram and come and have a look round.