10 October 2010

New Beginnings

I called the blog from the River Avon to the River Apple, but really it should have been from the River Thames to the River Bollin to the River Almond to the River Avon to the Tagus to the Apple, if I am honest.

For those of you who might be confused I was brought up by the River Thames, moved to the north of England where I was close to the River Bollin, then I moved to Edinburgh and lived at the side of the River Almond.  After that I moved to Wiltshire and lived close to the River Avon and then to Lisbon where my apartment overlooked the River Tagus (or Tejo as we know it) and now I live on the edge of the River Apple in Portugal.

On Friday, a wonderful portuguese friend of mine, Gabi, created this blog for me to whitter on about my life here on the hills of Sintra.  Strangely enough, I used to find it very easy to write long letters to my friends in the UK about life here, but when you contemplate writing a blog, it becomes a quite a different thing.  Having puzzled about this for a day or so, I decided that I will just write about what I get up to.

My partner has his best friends from England staying.  They arrived yesterday and are staying in a beautiful apartment belonging to a friend of mine literally 10 minutes away from our house but on a higher part of the hills.

Today, having the advantage of being able to drive their hire car I was able to show them far more that was 'real life'. I took them to my local greengrocer/butcher/coffee bar to meet the lovely people who run it, then along to the ace market down in Sao Pedro de Sintra, where I managed to grab a pair of winter slippers in blue with lovely sheepskin lining for 5 euros. 

A lot of people do not understand that although this country has a lovely climate, it is also incredibly cold in the winter as the majority of properties, especially the older ones, do not have any form of heating, and because the walls and floors are tiled, it gets more than a bit chilly. 

I also picked up some neat blue wellies (Dunlop) for the grand sum of 15 euros.  They bought a selection of local cheeses (5 to a bag) for 5 euros, a pair of men's boots for 29 euros and my partner managed to snaffle a shirt, jumper and pair of 501 Levis for 45 euros!  I love our markets.

After this and whilst we still had some money left, I drove to the most westerly point of Europe - locally known as Cabo da Roca - never tire of taking people to see this amazing view.  Basically you park up, walk to a wall and look out over the Atlantic and it's next stop USA.  Today the sun shone, the wind was kind and therefore we did not look like we had been battered by the Atlantic when we left.  From there it was a 5 minute drive to a converted windmill for lunch out on their terrace looking down over the coast to the beaches of Guincho (windsurfers heaven) and the outer parts of Cascais.

Declining a dessert we headed off in the direction of Lisbon so I could introduce them, as I do to all my friends, to the famous Pasteis de Belem coffee shop.  The English love their custard tarts - sadly I loathed and detested them as cold custard was never a favourite but here in an amazing building that is like a rabbit warren of rooms with antique blue and white tiles, you are served small, flaky tarts, warm from the oven, sprinkled with cinammon and icing sugar and swoon.  I once saw a documentary on the bakery and it reckoned that they made 45,000 a day - yes I am not fibbing.  However today my partner informed me that he heard it was now up to 100,000 per day.  Today it was heaving in there.  As you approach the building, the first thing you see is a queue snaking up the street and around the corner. This is the queue of tourists who are waiting just to buy a packet (6 to a long cardboard tube with icing sugar and cinnamon sachets) to take away - sadly one of my friends who has now returned to Germany, thought this queue was for the cafe and never actually went inside.  

These tarts have quite a reputation.  My hairdresser, a very slim woman, confessed that she could scoff 9 - never eats anything else for the rest of the day though.  The recipe is like the recipe for Bakewell Tarts ie secret.  There is a Cafe Lisboa in London that serves them but they are not like these ones.

Returning along the Marginal (the coast road from Lisbon to Cascais) we had an 'incident'.  I always drive the window down and although the weather was good, the clouds were gathering and the Atlantic was getting frisky, to such an extent that at one point and before I could shut my window or get the back seat passenger to close his, a wave from the Atlantic roared over the sea wall and an idiot in a 4x4 belted up the side of me, causing a tidal wave to enter the car soaking us and giving the two on the other side hysterics as they stayed dry.

It's October, it's Autumn but although the rains have started, it is still warm and sunny and everywhere looks beautiful.


  1. Lovely 1st post! You should write for a magazine!
    What an adventure yesterday and I'm guessing you had lunch at the "Moinho", lovely place up in the mountains! ! Best of luck with you blog!
    PS: I once had 12 pastéis de Belém (but they were of the small kind !!!) :)

  2. Congratulations!!! Nicely written and entertaining!!!You have made the most important step in simply beginning the blog from where you are!! Living abroad really does have its anecdotes and telling it as it is, in simple but amusing way, well, sounds vaguely familiar, not to mention inviting. Also you include interesting facts and information about where you live which makes me want to come again...my vist was far too short and anyway..... I think you need to visit a town or any place more than once to really know it! Can't wait to come again and see you for my personal tour!!! I will definietely taste the tarts!!