We arrived in Castro Verde last weekend – we needed a campsite for a while for D to do some work and we had been told that the municipal campsite here was cheap and had good wifi. These things are both true, but we were disappointed when we first arrived – the area for motorhomes to camp is like a big carpark. We don’t mind that on a free aire, but when you are paying, you want something a bit nicer. Especially when you’ve been a bit spoiled by a few free nights at Lagoa do Santo Andre.
The nice people at campsite reception said that we could use the area normally reserved for tents, given it is winter and there aren’t many tents around. We are now on the edge of the campsite, with grass and trees – much better. Our closest neighbours are seven pairs of storks which are nesting in the trees nearby. They come home at about 6pm each day and it is great to watch them flying in.
We’ve been mainly at home since we’ve arrived, D working and me getting other bits done, but have had a couple of wanders around the town. It is a lovely town – all whitewashed walls and terracotta roofs. It is also very quiet and sleepy, especially on Sunday afternoon. There is no dog poo, no rubbish, no graffiti. It is surrounded by the plains of Alentejo and there are great views from many spots, particularly the basilica. Despite it being quite a small town, it seems to have everything you might need – sports facilities, health centre, supermarkets, hardware, bookshop, post office, pharmacy, hairdresser, optician etc. and one of the biggest fire stations we’ve seen so far…and the Portuguese love a big fire station.
We went to the supermarket today and it got me thinking about the differences between Portuguese and British supermarkets. For instance;
Things you probably wouldn’t find in a British supermarket but that I saw today
- A boat winch
- Sewing machine oil
- Bicycle tyres
- Crochet cotton
- Dried, salted cod in piles on tables. Makes the whole supermarket smell of wet dog, although I’m not finding the smell as overpowering as I did when we first got here
- A whole piglet, wrapped in clingfilm in the freezer (actually, I didn’t see that today but at a supermarket a couple of weeks ago)
- A range of ingredients for herbal infusions which would put most healthfood stores to shame
Things you would easily find in a British supermarket but which are tricky/impossible to find here
- Wholemeal pasta and rice – we eat a lot of pasta and rice and find the white stuff a bit dull. We were so excited when we did find some that we now have several bags of each in our ‘cellar’
- Muesli, although if you want chocolate cereal, Portugal is the place for you
- Large tubs of yoghurt. We get through about a kilo a week of natural yoghurt so buying the little tubs wastes a lot of packaging. However, even in the largest hypermarket, with a range of yoghurts that would knock your socks off, we can’t find anything other than piddly pots
- Fresh milk. Very rare, so UHT it is.
- Anything that says ‘suitable for vegetarians’, so when I saw that on some feta today, I got excited and bought three packs.
It is also interesting to see the different focus in the supermarket – hardly any ready meals; a smaller range of fruit and veg than you would expect but what there is hasn’t come from halfway around the world; a bewildering range of tinned frankfurters – I saw some today at 32c for 8, the ingredients of which don’t bear thinking about, although I suspect there is probably so little meat in them that they could be labelled suitable for vegetarians.
In other exciting news…..actually, this might be very exciting for you, but it is for us. We have a 60l LPG tank for our gas hob, heating & hot water systems. This means that we don’t have to worry about swapping gas bottles and can fill up at petrol stations – brill! However, it seems that there are several schools of thought across Europe about the best shape for an LPG nozzle so the pumps in the UK are different from the pumps in France are different from the pumps in Portugal. We had been led to believe that it was easy enough to borrow an adaptor from the petrol station but this has not proven to be the case – in Portugal, when they do have an adaptor, it rarely fits our tank. So we’ve given in and ordered a couple of different adaptors from the UK which arrived this afternoon (that was the exciting bit, just so you know).
This might cheer you up a bit – but Aussie Dad might not want to read this bit as he is already a bit concerned about what the conditions will be like in Europe when he joins us next month! It has got a bit chilly here! Today the high was only about 9º and last night dropped to -2.5º. Our heating kept the van warm in the evening and we kept the front heater on overnight to stop the indoor temperature getting too low (yes, we have a carbon monoxide alarm) so it was something of a surprise to find ice on the inside of the windscreen this morning! Fortunately, this is all accompanied by blue skies and bright sunshine. Having said that there weren’t many tents around, a couple turned up last night and pitched theirs. I notice that they beat a hasty retreat this morning though, probably to the health centre to be treated for hypothermia.
And lastly, to answer a couple of questions we have been asked recently;
The ‘vegetarian thing’ is going very well. I think it has been about 7 months now and we don’t miss the taste of meat at all. I do still find I like the smell of meat – we smell BBQ and roast chicken often – but am never tempted to eat it. I have just started a three month whole foods workshop online to expand our horizons a bit. Of course, limited cooking facilities means I can’t try half the recipes at the moment, but hey ho.
Segways were being used by the police in Lisbon too, although I’m not sure they would cope with some of the steep inclines any better than a car would. Having said that, I think cars are banned in some of the streets in Alfama which are only 2.4m wide.
The final photo in the last blog is D’s attempt at making a solar oven. (Stop it, he can hear you laughing from here, it’s mean!) We had some par-bake bread that we wanted to use for lunch and he refused, for an hour or so, to let me turn the gas on to cook it. Instead, he crammed the 4 rolls into our small camping casserole and put it on the dashboard, surrounded by our reflective windscreen blind. An hour later, the casserole was hot (although not too hot to pick up) and the rolls were warm. Ish. So I turned the gas on and did it properly. D thinks I have no faith in the concept of a solar oven but he is wrong. I love the idea of solar ovens and have read a little bit about them, which is how I knew that his attempt wasn’t going to work. Never mind, best to humour him and let him get on with it – at least it keeps him quiet for a while.