Flying Visits

Portimao Travel Blog

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Christmas, aaaaaah a very special one for me this year.

What a thrill to have a cold wintery Christmas. I had decided to head to Portugal to spend Christmas with my gorgeous friend Gilly. We studied at university together in Melbourne and she is my girlie-friend who is literally only a few hours away should I need a shoulder to cry or laugh on. She is also the best shopping companion a girl could have. We ‘did’ Bilbao together last year and cleaned out the shoe stores I think.

My original plan was to take the afternoon bus to Portimao (close to her home) on Christmas Eve – arriving just in time to share a Portuguese traditional Eve with Gilly, her partner and their friends, many of whom I had met last year.
Plans went a little sideways when my gallant George (read previous blog) offered to drive me instead. This meant we could leave straight after my early student and have a leisurely drive. It was a wet wet day, lashing winds and cool although not cold.

We arrived in Portimao and my first instinct was to hunt out a local café to sample my favourite Portuguese delicacy – pastel de nata. I can only describe them as creamy custard tarts with delicate pastry that melts on touch. The imitations I have tried in Melbourne should not even be called Portuguese tarts – I never found any that came close!

We located a pretty open-air cafe and I was not disappointed, either with the hot strong café or the pastel de nata. I had to eat in silence with my eyes closed – now George is slowly getting to understand a little more of this crazy Kiwi.

Gilly soon joined us and we had a crazy conversation in Spanglish. I packed my bags into the 4-wheel drive and we went one direction while George headed back to Sevilla.
Gill’s home is on the boundary a stunning golf course and in summer the beautiful pool is my favourite place to read and relax. At this time of year we were holed up inside with a storm and crazy rain. It was warm and toasty but before long we had to head off for our Portuguese Christmas Eve dinner.

I had met most of the guests last year so it was a reunion of sorts. In typical European fashion there was food galore and loads of fun conversation around the table.

The soups were wonderful: a spinach and lentil and also a spicy prawn one. I was delighted to discover that main course was baccalao – salt cod. Portugal is famous for this fish and there are many traditional cooking styles. Tonight we were to experience simple oven baked fillets completely topped with a crunchy layer of garlic and onion drenched in olive oil. On its own, it was stunning but the plates full of vegetables and Portuguese rice that accompanied were just too tempting.

Little did I know that desserts would also require mandatory sampling and a special version of Pastel de nata (without the pastry) was just too tempting. Groaning with food and cheer, we made our way to the lounge to await midnight and the traditional gift giving. I was surprised to be handed gifts as well and felt so lucky to be sharing this special time with these generous people. My bag came home a little heavier with delicious local chocolates and hand made soaps – perfect.

A late night did not mean that I would forgo my morning yoga routine. I am totally hooked now that my neck pain is subsiding and know that continued practice will have me back in my tip top shape in no time. I might have to add a bit more walking to my exercise routine though.

Christmas Day meant our own tradition of opening gifts. Straight after, we had to start making lunch. The same guests from the previous evening would be joining us for lunch so it was all hands on deck. I made myself useful setting the table and did myself proud using all Gilly’s silver and gold decorations. It was a traditional English meal with goose, pork with crackling and gammon. Plenty of roast veggies, brussels sprouts with chestnuts and bacon, and of course gravy.
More desserts to follow, including flaming Christmas puddings. By now I had realised that my ‘off’ switch had malfunctioned. I was supposed to stop eating at some stage but my brain never registered the message.
I have not been eating big meals in Sevilla due to the Tapa culture and full plates of food are way more that I would normally eat– especially two days in a row. Payback is coming!

Boxing day was very relaxing and late in the afternoon we were invited to a local bar to meet friends. It was one of those mock ‘Irish’ style bars. If I had a choice, I would choose a local Portuguese bar any day.

In spite of the setting, the afternoon turned out to be great fun. There was an ‘illegal bookie’ operating at one of the tables and all his loot was housed in a Nike shoe box. It all seemed a bit unreal. We had a couple of 1euro flutters based purely on the horse’s name (picking long outsiders every time) - winners we were not. Tired but cheerful we spent the remainder of the day relaxing at home, knowing I had an early trip to the airport in the morning.

I had to make a quick trip to London and was not looking forward to all the travelling and the busy-ness. I took the opportunity to pick up a few bits and pieces from the shops. Boots was my saviour and I stocked up on some medical basics. This way I could be sure of buying cough tablets rather than constipation tablets. I have not yet mastered the vocabulary necessary to purchase some necessary items in Spain.

I returned to Sevilla Monday night to rain and a hole in my roof dripping like Chinese water torture all night long. Dolores the cleaner had placed a bucket under it and as long as it keeps raining, I need to empty it every few hours. The leak had started before I left for my trip so I had removed everything from my cupboards and put all valuables up high in case of a deluge. Luckily it didn’t eventuate but I will be pleased when the hole is fixed and I can return my clothes to their homes.

Yesterday, one of my students invited me to lunch but I could not make it until 5.00pm. He is an architect and lives in an amazing house that he renovated himself. It is only the width of one room but several storeys high. The basement wall is a metre thick (12th Century) and the outside wall used to adjoin a church before it was torn down. The front facade is gently curved and almost totally glass.
I love to visit Angel as his home has a wonderful energy and the view up the street is gorgeous.

Angel is vibrant and energetic and speaks very fast in either Spanish, broken English or a unique combination of both. As soon as I arrived, he introduced me to all the lovely guests with a flourish and then proceeded to put plates full of wonderful food in front of me – spicy baked vegetables and lamb, fennel and orange salad and a glass of stunning fino sherry.

Dessert was lemon sorbet topped with champagne and stirred (not shaken) – so Angel!
The music was eclectic and rousing. It was such a perfect afternoon. I was sitting amongst these happy easy-going people who had adopted me instantly. I felt part of something and for a moment it was so surreal, I forgot I had to return home for a student. I tore myself away but as I reached my door, I received a cancellation text. Was I tempted to return for more sorbet and song? Yes! Did I?
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Christmas, aaaaaah a very special one for me this year.

What a thrill to have a cold wintery Christmas. I had decided to head to Portugal to spend Christmas with my gorgeous friend Gilly. We studied at university together in Melbourne and she is my girlie-friend who is literally only a few hours away should I need a shoulder to cry or laugh on. She is also the best shopping companion a girl could have. We ‘did’ Bilbao together last year and cleaned out the shoe stores I think.

My original plan was to take the afternoon bus to Portimao (close to her home) on Christmas Eve – arriving just in time to share a Portuguese traditional Eve with Gilly, her partner and their friends, many of whom I had met last year.
Plans went a little sideways when my gallant George (read previous blog) offered to drive me instead. This meant we could leave straight after my early student and have a leisurely drive. It was a wet wet day, lashing winds and cool although not cold.

We arrived in Portimao and my first instinct was to hunt out a local café to sample my favourite Portuguese delicacy – pastel de nata. I can only describe them as creamy custard tarts with delicate pastry that melts on touch. The imitations I have tried in Melbourne should not even be called Portuguese tarts – I never found any that came close!

We located a pretty open-air cafe and I was not disappointed, either with the hot strong café or the pastel de nata. I had to eat in silence with my eyes closed – now George is slowly getting to understand a little more of this crazy Kiwi.

Gilly soon joined us and we had a crazy conversation in Spanglish. I packed my bags into the 4-wheel drive and we went one direction while George headed back to Sevilla.
Gill’s home is on the boundary a stunning golf course and in summer the beautiful pool is my favourite place to read and relax. At this time of year we were holed up inside with a storm and crazy rain. It was warm and toasty but before long we had to head off for our Portuguese Christmas Eve dinner.

I had met most of the guests last year so it was a reunion of sorts. In typical European fashion there was food galore and loads of fun conversation around the table.

The soups were wonderful: a spinach and lentil and also a spicy prawn one. I was delighted to discover that main course was baccalao – salt cod. Portugal is famous for this fish and there are many traditional cooking styles. Tonight we were to experience simple oven baked fillets completely topped with a crunchy layer of garlic and onion drenched in olive oil. On its own, it was stunning but the plates full of vegetables and Portuguese rice that accompanied were just too tempting.

Little did I know that desserts would also require mandatory sampling and a special version of Pastel de nata (without the pastry) was just too tempting. Groaning with food and cheer, we made our way to the lounge to await midnight and the traditional gift giving. I was surprised to be handed gifts as well and felt so lucky to be sharing this special time with these generous people. My bag came home a little heavier with delicious local chocolates and hand made soaps – perfect.

A late night did not mean that I would forgo my morning yoga routine. I am totally hooked now that my neck pain is subsiding and know that continued practice will have me back in my tip top shape in no time. I might have to add a bit more walking to my exercise routine though.

Christmas Day meant our own tradition of opening gifts. Straight after, we had to start making lunch. The same guests from the previous evening would be joining us for lunch so it was all hands on deck. I made myself useful setting the table and did myself proud using all Gilly’s silver and gold decorations. It was a traditional English meal with goose, pork with crackling and gammon. Plenty of roast veggies, brussels sprouts with chestnuts and bacon, and of course gravy.
More desserts to follow, including flaming Christmas puddings. By now I had realised that my ‘off’ switch had malfunctioned. I was supposed to stop eating at some stage but my brain never registered the message.
I have not been eating big meals in Sevilla due to the Tapa culture and full plates of food are way more that I would normally eat– especially two days in a row. Payback is coming!

Boxing day was very relaxing and late in the afternoon we were invited to a local bar to meet friends. It was one of those mock ‘Irish’ style bars that UK holiday-makers flock to (all around the world). I will leave my judgements behind today but should add that if I had a choice, I would choose a local Portuguese bar any day.

In spite of the setting, the afternoon turned out to be great fun. There was an ‘illegal bookie’ operating at one of the tables and all his loot was housed in a Nike shoe box. It all seemed a bit unreal. We had a couple of 1 euro flutters based purely on the horse’s name (picking long outsiders every time) - winners we were not. Tired but cheerful we spent the remainder of the day relaxing at home, knowing I had an early trip to the airport in the morning.

I had to make a quick trip to London and was not looking forward to all the travelling and the busy-ness. I took the opportunity to pick up a few bits and pieces from the shops. Boots was my saviour and I stocked up on some medical basics. This way I could be sure of buying cough tablets rather than constipation tablets. I have not yet mastered the vocabulary necessary to purchase some necessary items in Spain.

I returned to Sevilla Monday night to rain and a hole in my roof dripping like Chinese water torture all night long. Dolores the cleaner had placed a bucket under it and as long as it keeps raining, I need to empty it every few hours. The leak had started before I left for my trip so I had removed everything from my cupboards and put all valuables up high in case of a deluge. Luckily it didn’t eventuate but I will be pleased when the hole is fixed and I can return my clothes to their homes.

Yesterday, one of my students invited me to lunch but I could not make it until 5.00pm. He is an architect and lives in an amazing house that he renovated himself. It is only the width of one room but several storeys high. The basement wall is a metre thick (12th Century) and the outside wall used to adjoin a church before it was torn down. The front facade is gently curved and almost totally glass.
I love to visit Angel as his home has a wonderful energy and the view up the street is gorgeous.

Angel is vibrant and energetic and speaks very fast in either Spanish, broken English or a unique combination of both. As soon as I arrived, he introduced me to all the lovely guests with a flourish and then proceeded to put plates full of wonderful food in front of me – spicy baked vegetables and lamb, fennel and orange salad and a glass of stunning fino sherry.

Dessert was lemon sorbet topped with champagne and stirred (not shaken) – so Angel!
The music was eclectic and rousing. It was such a perfect afternoon. I was sitting amongst these happy easy-going people who had adopted me instantly. I felt part of something and for a moment it was so surreal, I forgot I had to return home for a student. I tore myself away but as I reached my door, I received a cancellation text. Was I tempted to return for more sorbet and song? Yes! Did I?
Portimao
photo by: gimpel