7 February 2013

A Week for Firsts

Amazing to realise that it will soon be three years since we moved to Colares.  The time has flashed by and we love this area more and more.  The local people are so friendly and helpful and we find more and more that when we are out and about shopping or having coffee we get greeted with a smile and cheery “bom dia”.  Recently it has been a period of ‘firsts’.

We frequently shop in Mucifal and use the road from Nafarros. A pretty route with great views of Monserrate and the Serra da Sintra.  Every time we take this route, we always say we must stop at a little café on the outskirts of Nafarros as it looks interesting.  It has a tiny wooden deck outside with silver chairs and tables for the smokers, ladies for chatting, men for gossiping but until this week we have never got round to going inside.  So, after passing it yet again saying the same sentence, we determined to visit on our way back.

O Baeta café is decorated with beautiful blue and white traditional tiles; has about five tables, the standard TV up on the wall in the corner, a vast array of cakes and savouries and a good selection of spirits lined up on shelves along the walls. When I took the photograph it was a bit windy, hence the front door being closed and no-one on the deck.  The door to the right, l believe, leads to the upstairs apartment and to the right of that is a tiny gem of a local shop similar to one I used to use in Kettleshulme in the 1950’s, with a wonderful choice of fresh fruit and vegetables in their wooden boxes, various household needs etc, etc.  A real find and somewhere I can drop into within five minutes of home.  I really do enjoy a shopping expedition with a coffee combined.

Here’s another view showing the café at the side of the road leading down to Mucifal.

We had our usual coffee but decided to experiment with a different cake.  If we are in cake mode, we normally go for a pastel de nata or a broa but we decided on a Millefeuille for him and a slice of Bolo Marmore – marble cake for me.  Both were absolutely beautiful – light and obviously low in calories (tongue firmly in cheek).  We will definitely visit again.

The interior of the lovely shop

We keep finding these little jewels of cafes dotted around and I hope that tourists take the time to visit them and to get a feel of real Portugal.  I can count on one hand the times I have had a bad coffee in over 30 odd years of visiting and living here.  I seem to have an in-built sensor now and find, without looking, that I have chosen a Delta, Nicola, Segafredo or Sical coffee bars.

Another first in coffee bar visits was today in Almocageme.  Again we always say we will visit and never do as being loyal to another café further down the main street but today, and using the excuse of buying next week's Euromillions ticket we chose O Moinho Verde – The Green Windmill.  It has a nice, covered exterior seating area overlooking the market place and it is much larger than it looks from outside. Traditionally tiled walls and floors. it also has a large counter with cakes and savouries, soft drinks, draught beer etc.  A concession for the lottery and Euromillions tickets, a tiny newsagent area and a very large TV screen – ideal for watching football!

Photograph 'borrowed' from another wonderful blog riodasmacas@blogspot.com

Continuing the theme of firsts was a visit from some lovely friends of mine who were touring Spain and came to call on us on their way back up to Bilbao.  I had the pleasure of working for both of them during the eighties and we have stayed in touch.  Their touring was not just by car, but with attached caravan.  This was a new one.  We knew there was no problem accommodating them here but to enter our drive involves a steep hill and a rather nasty sharp bend.

As someone (who will remain nameless) read the mileage wrong, they arrived in the dark rather than daylight.  Glenn went down to meet them down by the main road and then he drove them up to the house to see how complicated it would be to negotiate the bend with the caravan.  They decided it was ok so off they went again to get the caravan. 

Well getting up the hill and round the bend went well – not so well getting through the gates.  After much pushing, shoving, unhitching the 4x4, hitching it up again, a successful entry was effected.  Parked up safely much to the delight of the estate guard dogs who thought all this excitement in the evening was brilliant plus they got something new to sniff and christen! That’s the caravan, not our friends!  We had a wonderful time catching up on news and realising how long ago we had worked together.  It always seems so recent in our minds but it appears that a silver anniversary of one part of their business will happen shortly – amazing.  It is also nice to hear of changes to where I used to live – good or bad.

The following evening we did yet another first of the week.  Very much like the story of the cafés, we pass the Estalagem de Colares every time we drive into Colares.  For the first few months we lived here, we used to think it might have been a fish shop as it has a swinging sign of a prawn outside.  We were corrected fairly quickly and learnt it was a small hotel with restaurant.

The entrance to Estalagem de Colares

Typically we had been saying we would go and check it out, have dinner, etc, but never got round to it until my friends arrived and I pondered on where to go for dinner.  So nearly three years later we made it and were very cross that we have never been before.

What a fabulous little hotel and restaurant.  As you can see from the photo, there are outside tables for coffee etc in the morning next to the river and inside it has a lounge with bar and offers an area for meetings upstairs.  The dining room is decorated in traditional tiles and unusually, they were not blue but wine coloured ones.  It has a massive fireplace burning logs so even though it was tiled, it was just the right temperature. 

We were looked after by Carlos, who kindly showed me around after the meal and told me that the hotel has 3 stars and is very popular with English and French tourists – hence his excellent English.  A double room is 80 euros a night and a single 60 euros.  They are also offering an afternoon tea with scones which I have a feeling we may just test drive very, very soon!

What I loved best was the meal.  Always a worry trying somewhere new with visitors, but this was impressive.  There is an extensive menu of starters, fish, salads, pasta, meat and desserts.  We sampled Canja de Galina (traditional chicken soup), Sopa de Tomate com Basilico (tomato soup with basil) and a grilled goat cheese with salad leaves.  We all then went traditional with Bacalhau a Bras – one of the best recipes for salt cod.  Simple but very filling. 

A photo of Bacalha a Bras

We felt we should try a dessert even though we were rather full.  We sampled a chocolate marquise, a semifrio of orange with chocolate sauce and a crème brulee.  All delicious.  We finished with mint tea.  We also went for a traditional Colares wine which was excellent.  Our friends left the following morning with very positive feelings about their visit and an easier exit out of the gates than their arrival.

I think the words 'tight squeeze' come in here

Now we have to have a good look around for more ‘firsts’ to celebrate our first three years in this beautiful part of Portugal.

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