Although it might seem like our entire lives have been taken up with work and blogs recently, we have still got out and about a few times!
Spring has most definitely sprung. We’ve had blue skies and sunshine for about a month now and daytime temperatures are getting up to about 18ºC, which is glorious. The storks are nest-building – they wander around picking up a huge beakful of twigs and then get all excited when they see the best ever twig. In their excitement to pick that one up, they drop everything else they had. So they start again. Perhaps not the brightest birds, but entertaining to watch.
We visited the basilica in Castro Verde a few days ago. Like a lot of churches, it looks fairly plain from the outside, although surrounded by a lovely square with tiled benches. Inside is a different matter though – quite a feast for the eyes.
We knew we were going to be running out of gas soon, so planned a shopping trip for Friday – we can’t get LPG in Castro Verde so had to go further afield. Of course, we ran out of gas on Thursday night! No gas meant no heating so it was a bit nippy on Friday morning – the day time temperatures might be spring-like, but overnight is still only around 4-5ºC. We couldn’t face the idea of skipping coffee so broke out the camping stove.
The shopping trip turned into a bit of an epic. We had a list but couldn’t find everything in one supermarket, so ended up visiting three. One of them gave us a discount voucher for a local petrol station, so we went there to get diesel. In return, we got another discount voucher for the supermarket. We figure if you keep going between the supermarket and petrol station long enough, eventually something will end up free! The petrol station with the discount didn’t have LPG so we ended up going to a second one for that. By this time, we were a bit bored of shopping, so headed back out into the countryside to see what we could see.
We followed a road sign for Pisões – our map told us that it was a Roman ruin, although it also told us it was in a completely different place. After a couple of kilometres down a dirt track (go the new tyres!), we came across the site. A little old lady took our €2 and gabbled away to us in Portuguese. We nodded and smiled and took a French guide as she didn’t have any in English. The site was discovered in 1967 and is the remains of a large villa with over 40 rooms, plus the all important baths. Several mosaic floors remain and you can see evidence of painted murals on a couple of the walls. It is all open to the elements and, although there has been a half-hearted attempt to rope off a couple of areas, there are no designated paths through the site so you could wander about wherever you wanted. We tried to avoid walking on the mosaics themselves and I wondered as I watched a school group clambering over it all just how long it will survive like this.
We met a gentle giant of a dog at the ruins. My extensive research suggests that he was Portuguese Cattle Dog – apparently they are excellent guard dogs and can be dangerous if not properly socialised. Somebody must have done an excellent job of socialising this particular dog – he was having the time of his life following the school group around and loved being surrounded by 20 9 year olds all wanting a pat. When we stopped patting him, he jumped up, paws on my shoulder for more. We kept Uller out of the way – we thought his attempts to be friendly were likely to be misinterpreted
Next on our list is to check out the Great Bustards as recommended by StuckinWandsworth who is our expeditions Chief Twitcher. He also has first dibs on the rights when we publish our award-winning book about our travels. It’s going to cost him though!