Friday, December 16, 2016

The Water Meter Reader Cometh

So last week the doorbell rang and the man came to read the water meter -- which is downstairs in the cellar garage. So with a little groan I told him I had to go down there and open the door for him to gain access to the meter. The Man wasn't there, you see, to take care of this.

I hate going down there. The first step is deeper than the rest and there is only the wall to balance against. The handrail doesn't appear until the third or fourth step. Anyway, I made it down to the bottom unscathed and went into the garage and unbolted the glass doors for him. He went to follow me to show him where the meter was and as I turned ...

I promptly and completely tripped over the handle of the trailer which was parked in front of the doors. Shock and Pain! And suddenly out of nowhere The Man appeared, shouting at me. "What are you doing down here. You shouldn't come down here," etc. etc. Well, fuck, me!

My right hand was killing me -- really hurting -- as was my right 'boob'. I didn't feel the other aches and pains until later. At anyrate, I also skinned my left knee, which meant I was rather loathe to put it down on the rough floor to push myself up. The two men, who were both looking rather helpless, I deigned to allow to help lift me up off said floor and I was then unceremoniously ordered outside to re-enter the house from the front door.

Now it is never convenient to have this happen. But 10 days or so before  Christmas is really inconvenient -- especially to have a gammy right hand. No, I did not seek medical attention -- I was pretty sure nothing was broken and the following morning the main had marginally decreased. The first night was difficult because my hand really ached. Two days later my right breast was totally purple. Now it's almost totally clear. There are still a few aches and pains -- knee mostly -- but the Christmas show is back on the road.

I am now under orders not to descend into the cellar. And The Man just delivered the Christmas tree stand into the utility room -- with orders that I am not to trip over it!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Like It or Lump It, the Bitter Pill

I have been wondering ever since I wrote it, why I chose the story of my last post. I am appalled by the election results, but not surprised -- exactly. I want to give the not quite the people's choice the chance to be not as bad as I think he will be. But it has  not been easy to reserve judgement. Especially with the choice of Steve Bannon as his Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor. When I hear that instead of 12 million illegal immigrants there will only be deportations of three million, the grim history of the 1940's comes to mind.

So, why did I write my last post? It was an attempt to explain the phenomenon of Donald Trump. I have a vague recollection of when I first heard of him. He was at the time married to Ivana and they were both quite young and glamourous -- she was amusing. And of course everyone was fascinated by all the money they had. Gosh that was a very long time ago -- long before the sleaze and the divorces and the mysterious goings on with bankruptcies and money -- or lack of it! Most of all, we really didn't know anything about him. We were really only interested in the glamour and all that dosh.

What I find beyond difficult to understand, is how this urban New Yorker has been able to convince middle America that he has the answers to the country's problems and in particular their problems. There is a long road ahead and it looks woe be gone to me.

I am a life long Democrat from a family of life long Democrats. I am on the mailing lists of many Party organizations and try to keep abreast of what is happening in the ranks. For a long time now I have castigated the Republican Party for allowing itself to be taken over by right wing extremists and I have also been pretty unhappy with the tone of the recent election. But now I find that the tone of my own party is making me question its ways.

For example I have received emails asking me to support the impeachment of Donald Trump. Surely, this is not the time for that! Like it or not, approve of the man or not, he has been elected and must be given the opportunity to serve as President. In addition, it is utterly stupid and a waste of time and money, to expend energy on such an exercise which is bound to fail before a Congress the  majority of whom are Republicans.

Above all, I believe this is a time for extreme caution. Our President-elect is not happy about recounts in three states and is now making accusations that Mrs. Clinton won the popular vote because the election was rigged! So many reactions and counter-reactions do not bode well for the future well-being of the country and its citizens.

It is fortunate that the U.S. election is followed several weeks which provide time for reflection and meditation. No matter who wins, there must also be a loser and so people are both happy and miserable. For those of us who follow the traditions of the season of Advent, it helps to meditate on the Antiphons of the church, which begin

 O Wisdom, you came forth from the mouth of the Most High and, reaching from beginning to end, you ordered all things mightily and sweetly.  Come, and teach us the way of prudence.

Friday, November 11, 2016

A Modern Fairy Tale

Once upon a time quite a few years ago in the town of my parents, a prince was travelling through on his way home to his neighbouring kingdom. It was very beautiful in this New England realm and many aristocrats  and famous people had been known to travel the roads just for the scenery.

The prince drove a splendid and expensive sports car even though the day was very cold and the roads were icy and the landscape snowy from a recent storm. A few miles down the road he came to the crossroads where he would turn right to cross the old gray covered bridge across the beautiful and picturesque Housatonic River en route to the border of his realm.

The lure of a powerful sports car tempted him to go faster over the icy and snow-packed road than he should have gone and suddenly  his car was skidding and spinning and flew up over the bank of snow on the side of the road and into a very deep snow drift. As this was a long time ago and well before mobile phone signals might even exist -- if they even do to this very day! The prince was well and truly stuck. Of course, it was also true that the prince was not wearing appropriate footwear either and it was going to be dark soon.

The prince tended to be a very lucky man -- and luck turned out to be with him that day. Farmer Bradley was on his way back home after a day pulling felled trees from where they had fallen across the road during the snow storm.  He was on his tractor and his tractor had chains and sand and other useful and necessary equipment for winter country life. Seeing the princely predicament and being a neighbourly and helpful sort, even at the worst of times, Farmer Bradley set about freeing the car from the snowdrift in no time at all.

The prince was very grateful, as one might imagine. And he tried to give the farmer a generous sum of money for his gracious help. But the farmer would take none of it because he believed that if you can help someone, that's what you do and money shouldn't come into it. The prince was surprised and slightly disappointed that he could not reward the man for his kindness and generosity of spirit.

Not long after the events described, Farmer Bradley had to go to the bank to pay his mortgage. When he got there the Manager called him into his office to tell him that his mortgage had been paid in full by the prince.

The prince's name was Donald Trump!

A true story -- with embellishments!

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Delays and Mishaps Don't Prevent the Vote

Last week I despaired that I would not be able to vote in the upcoming Presidential election. I had sent my forms into the town clerk of the last town in the U.S. where I had lived about three weeks in before and had been waiting for an email in response.

The procedure for absentee voting is different for every state and in my home state of Connecticut it is more straightforward than many others. In order to ensure delivery of my application to the Town Clerk I had sent the mail requiring a signature. This also allowed me to track it -- and imagine my surprise when I discovered it had been sitting in the New York State postal service for a good 10 days! I surmise this was because I had paid extra money to have a signature!

I then spent several hours trying to discover how to submit a Federal ballot, which is used in emergency situations -- for example when a ballot does not show up. Finally I found the right link to click and sure enough I was able to download and print it and get it ready for mailing -- once again to the same peopled in Connecticut I had already applied to in the first place!

Then I read a little line in the instructions about how it would be a good idea to call the Town Clerk's office as any confusion might be cleared up quite quickly. And so I did. Well worth the trouble of that call! It also helped that I was dealing with small town America...

I had sent my application to the town of Canaan, Connecticut. But I had forgotten, that the town where I had only lived for a short time with my mother, was, in fact North Canaan. When I called Canaan, the town clerk remembered my application and informed me that it had been delivered to the town clerk in North Canaan and I should call her. Which I duly did.

Oh yes, she remembered me very well! After all they don't get many requests for absentee ballots in North Canaan. She informed me that she had sent me an email with all the necessary forms attached! But, I explained, I had not received an email. She replied that not only had she sent it to my main email address, but also to the alternative email address I had supplied...

When I asked her when she sent it she said the day she received the request or the day after.  She said she would resend. When I got off the phone, I trawled back through my emails. I hadn't deleted any for about three days. I don't know about all of you, but I get hundreds of emails -- many from political organizations, so I have to regularly dump them. I felt sure that if I had received an email from her it had probably been dumped. But trawl through what was there I did. And believe it or not the very last emails from three days previously were from the town clerk of North Canaan with all the necessary forms for me to vote in the 2016 Presidential Election.

It didn't help that the 'from' address was just the persons name, and not official looking. But it just goes to show how easy it is to overlook important emails. It makes me wonder how many I have missed over the years... But on the same day I found them, d I filled out the forms and sent in my ballot with my choices. What a relief!

Monday, October 24, 2016


Anyone who has ever experienced sleeplessness can verify it to be one life's most frustrating maladies. At least it's not painful...

At the moment the main culprit is Christmas! Now I know by many standards having nine people around the table is no big deal at all. I have friends who regularly share the yuletide season with as many as 25 or 30. I wouldn't even want to be a guest with so many family members -- not that there are 30 in my extended family -- but then I haven't ever counted!

Anyway, I'll wake up in the middle of the night and start making lists or planning menus. People start arriving on the 23rd and leave the 29th. Seven will be staying here -- two in a hotel. I think I'm getting a headache ...

And when it's not Christmas, it's my boys and their lives and hopes and so on. Not to mention then thoughts about visiting South Korea and Italy. Andrew in Italy is starting his own school teaching English -- oh my goodness Italian bureaucracy and new locations. Keeps a mother awake at night, I can tell you.

And there is my son at home who has just bought a Victorian house -- which he is in the process of gutting and renovating with the help of The Man. That is is one interesting dynamic -- the ideas of one versus the advice of the other! (My mouth kept shut...) The two of them are working on the fireplace, getting it ready for a word burning stove. Then after that there is the bathroom that has been gutted and the kitchen that has been gutted. Not to mention the worm ridden two by fours in the ceiling/floor above! Thoughts that run through my head in the middle of the night!

Finally, I still await the completion of the kitchen. And in the middle of the night I find that the cabinets start reorganizing themselves and I start to imagine throwing this paraphernalia out and wondering if I have chosen the right colour for the walls and before you know it I'm wondering what the hell I'm going to cook for Christmas. And then after everyone leaves -- what about New Year?

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Light at the End of the Tunnel -- If not in the Cabinet!

The upper cupboards of the above cabinets were supposed to have been glazed. Apparently, the manufacturer does not do these particular cabinets glazed, because they are too large.  They claim that they sent an email when the order was placed, but not being suspicious at all, I suspect they just sent the non-glazed doors without explanation...There is a way to work around this by removing the centre panels from the present doors, routing the inside and fitting glass -- this would be done by our kitchen people.

We have decided that  we will only have the cabinet on the left glazed and will leave the one over the television as it is. I have had confirmation of this plan and await work to begin . Then all that is left is to choose the colour of the paint for the walls, which we hope will be a very pale shade of salmony apricot. Whew! What a palaver!

Friday, October 14, 2016


This side of the room was just right...

Several months ago I wrote a post about my plans for a new kitchen! The idea was that it had been planned with my son and the work would be done when The Man and I were in Portugal last February. My son agreed to be the project manager. For one good reason and another we had to delay the implementation of  the plan until we left for France in early August.

The kitchen is installed. There are a few glitches to be taken care of, but otherwise it looks great and will look even better in the not too distant future. But ...

I wish I had been here... on the one hand...

On the other hand, it was best The Man was not!

Instead of our usual 36 hour trek back to the North of England, The Man decided to take the overnight ferry from Caen to Plymouth. From Plymouth it is about 5 hours to get home. The drive from our house to Caen was 8 hours. We were not able to get a cabin and so had to sleep -- or in my case try to sleep -- in reclining chairs for the 6 hour sail across the channel. The Man slept like a log.

By the time we arrived home we were both exhausted.

We headed for the new kitchen -- it was more or less a tip.

The Man looked around, "It's rather stark."

I looked around noting first of all that cupboards that were supposed to have been glazed were not -- leading to a feeling of personal dismay. "You don't like it, do you?"

"No, I'm afraid I don't," came an equally stark reply. He made a cup of tea and went for a sleep.

Suddenly wide awake, I went to work cleaning and clearing up.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Time to Wind-up the Lot!

It's a lovely morning in the Lot today. On Friday we begin the long trek back to Southport and while I am ready for returning, still it's so pretty here and so pleasant that I don't exactly relish saying goodbye to summer.

There are few places, if any, in the world that could be described as prettier than the Lot. There may be places that are more majestic, with towering mountains and tremendous waterfalls -- but for just downright pretty I have yet to visit anywhere that can beat it here. Ranked 92nd in terms of population, this department has an impressive range of scenery -- from rugged, scrubby limestone plateaus to lush rolling countryside and dramatic limestone cliffs there is no place better to relax and unwind and to enjoy the best food. But it is definitely a place for outdoor living. winter is cold and wet and indoors.

And now I have procrastinated long enough, it's time to get on with packing up ... but first there is the matter of catching a few more rays of warm sunshine ...

Will try to ad pictures when I once again have an Internet connection that is not quite so slow!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

La Cuoca

Indeed! Thatsa me!! I brought my certificate to France as |I think the most suitable place for it is the kitchen wall here. But I still need to find a suitable frame for it. You will all be impressed to know that this feat was accomplished in  about 3 hours in the midst of Chianti-land. It was, in fact a great fun day with lots of laughter and lunch -- the result of our culinary efforts.

Our chef and teacher, Alan, was amusing and accomplished. We started the day with a visit to one of the local markets in Florence -- checking out the hams and the cheeses and the fruits and the vegetables. Wine and goodies were served at about  10 a.m. -- too early for most of us. My son and Alan hit the coffee bar soon afterward and I suspect they may have each had a Grappa to wash out the dregs in their cups...

Florence was a very hot and sticky city that day and I was pleased to find myself in an air-conditioned bus and on our way to the countryside and the place of the cooking school.  It was a very grand place. The winery was also a kind of museum explaining the history of chianti and the soil that produces this produces this particular variety. We were to eat surrounded by wooden barrels and a sense of the 'ages' enveloping us.

In the first part of the lesson we learned how to make a true bolognaise sauce and also a fresh tomato sauce made with very fresh cherry tomatoes. Alan made these two sauces and we had to make the pasta to accompany them. In addition we made our own dessert: tiramisu!

There were 14 students in all: 7 of us were in the same family; the remaining 7 were Americans. In fact of the whole group, only my son was British -- and he is American, too, by right of birth. During the lesson we sat at a counter with the appropriate ingredients we would need in front of us. I am not a bad cook and the making of pasta is particularly easy. |However, came apart at the first hurdle!

"It's only pasta" was Alan's mantra and he repeated it to me when I stumbled. The instructions were quite clear. Take the flour, mix the salt (tiny bit) and make a well in the centre. I did as I was told. We were then to break the egg into the center and stir it up adding flour a little at a time until you had a soft ball. But when I broke my egg into the centre it ran up and over the wall of flour I had not ensured was quite high enough -- and started to run towards the edge of the counter and , God forbid, the floor! As any right-minded student would do, I endeavoured to stop the flow by deluging the runaway egg with flour and mashing it back where it belonged into a soggy and unwieldy mess!

I was mortified, but no one else witnessed my dilemma because they were too busy getting it right! And then Alan came and quoted his delightful mantra into my ear; "It's only pasta"!

Eventually, I managed to roll out an acceptable piece of pasta dough and made the required ravioli stuffed with ricotta; and the tagliatelle from the bits on the side. Then all of our efforts were collected onto a huge communal platter and we off to learning how to make tiramisu. Not hitches there. I made my individual dessert with no difficulties. I remember absolutely nothing -- or almost nothing about how to make it. However, my son makes the best tiramisu I have ever had, so I figure wait for him to come home and then get him to make it!

Lesson over, it was time to make our way to the dining room to enjoy the fruits of our so- called labour! And very enjoyable it was, too...
The Graduates: The Broad, The Son, and The Sister!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

You Just Never Know What Will Happen Next!

So basking in my newly discovered method of connecting successfully to the Internet,  not to mention the late summer heat wave, I was very happy to be able to Skype with my eldest son in South Korea. This week brings their  celebration of  Thanksgiving,, Chuseok so he and the children have several days off for the celebrations. Which also means it is very convenient to Skype!

So there we were discussing the food he was planning to prepare and the guests he had invited when all of a sudden he got a very peculiar look on his face and said "We are having an earthquake". His wife I could hear in the background, and he jumped up and ordered everyone under the doorway. And |I sat here in France, having witnessed the room shake, looking at a blank screen and hearing their voices in the background.

In less than a minute he was back in front of the screen 'shaken but not stirred' explaining what the sensation had been like -- he said it started very slowly and suddenly the intensity of the shaking began to increase -- he said that was he most frightening aspect because he had no idea when it would stop intensifying. Heejung, soon had information that the earthquake had registered as 5.1 on the Richter scale. Earthquakes are very rare in South Korea, despite the fact it is so close to Japan, which is on the Rim of Fire. Until yesterday 5.5 was the most severe that had ever been recorded. Heejung suggested that perhaps the North had tested another device, but  son said their town was too far south to have felt any aftershocks if they had. We talked for a few more minutes and then he went off to inspect the building and any  damage that might have been incurred.

Later I received a message from him that there had been a second earthquake, this time measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale -- and the largest earthquake ever recorded in Korea. The epicenter of both events was not far from their city of Geongsan and was a place I had visited with my daughter-in-law almost two years ago.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Posting Post Brexit under the Shade of the Old Oak Tree

I could, of course, blame post Brexit blues. Which wouldn't be entirely false -- at least for a couple of days. At that point I was forced to leave for two weeks in Italy visiting my son, Andy, who lives about an hour north of Venice. A week later we were off to Florence for a week with my youngest sister and her two sons and their girlfriends. We all stayed in a beautiful old villa in the hills overlooking the city's Duomo. Idyllic, yes it was. It was also unbearably hot.

I will write more about my Italian adventures soon. Once back in the UK we had only a few weeks to organize our annual sojourn to France and also dismantle the kitchen for it's renovation. An anecdote to the kitchen is that I am so glad I am not there as is usual with these things it has not been straightforward -- nor was it ompleted in the promised two weeks!!! More about that later, too...

So here I sit in the French sunshine of September -- under the oak tree, with an mobile Internet connection enabling me to at long last do a bit more than download email and check the weather forecast. It is not perfect, but it is a vast improvement and better than having to beg Internet access from willing friends.

As for Brexit... No one quite believes it will actually ever happen and everyone is afraid that maybe it will. It has occurred to me and I have heard it compared to the 'phony war' of World War II. On the one hand -- please just get on with it -- and on the other maybe it won't happen after all. Personally, I feel pretty much 'doom and gloom'. Not particularly about Britain, as much as about the whole European Union and its future. Of course if I really want for 'Doom and Gloom' this coming November could Trump all of this into something far more alarming...

Best to lie back under the old oak tree listening to Classic FM , blissfully content and almost carefree...

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

It's Almost Over

I have found it very difficult to post lately because I find the 'goings on' in the world unpleasant to tolerate! At the moment life is dominated by the referendum and while I have definite opinions about whether Britain would be better in or out, I feel it may not be my place to say -- I am not a citizen and therefore, can not vote.

I have given up watching debates and politicians. I do have a question though that I didn't hear asked. Apparently, if Britain votes to leave the EU there is a two-year period in which to decide the terms 'of the divorce'! If, however, we need longer than two years, the 27 member states can vote to give an extension to the negotiations. It has been suggested by a European official that it could actually take seven years. All 27 countries would have to agree to this extension.

Which for me begs the question... If an extension is not granted what does that mean? End of negotiation, divorce final?

The campaign has been quite brutal. I think it brought out the worst in a lot of people -- most especially some of the politicians. Whatever the outcome, I hope some wisdom prevails. The BBC thought their debate was wonderful. I didn't watch, but the clips I saw later did not look wonderful to me.

The most sensible people were those interviewed who were not there ...

So far I haven't heard anything about Trump's impending arrival -- I rather watch coverage of the referendum, thank you very much!

Anyway, God bless you, UK and the force be with you!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

ABroad in Portugal: Exploring New Vistas

I loved this tiled courtyard in Ayamonte, Spain -- the down immediately across the border from Portugal. This was the first time we ventured outside of Portugal -- on a lovely sunny day. As there were no border controls it was just like going from one state to another in the U.S.  Except of course for the language difference and the fact that in Spain we were an hour ahead. Other than this courtyard and the harbour area, we did most of our exploring outside of Ayamonte in nearby seaside towns. There were lots and lots of very new, very impersonal apartment buildings aiming to tempt holidaymakers. All had similar faux Moorish facades, which left both The Man and me rather cold. An old seaside village, however, was very appealing as was the beach restaurant and the sound of the ocean in the distance

The above picture on the left is of SanLucar Guadiana, Spain, and to the right, Alcoutim, Portugal. Friends of ours from The Man's RAF days had retired to this picturesque Spanish town and we were curious to see it from the Portuguese side of the river. Two weeks later we visited our friends and a very pleasant time we had. Much of the life is dependent on using transportation to and from the two villages and along one river bank or the other. Our friends make a great deal of use of their motorized dinghy, either visiting their plot of gardening  land or crossing over for a night of carousing with like-minded ex-pats. I was particularly impressed by one woman named Jack who lived on her own on a boat in the middle of the river. Her mode of transportation was a canoe in which she had paddled solo, in the dark, to the venue -- with her instruments -- At the end of the night, in the wee hours she paddled back several kilometers to her boat. It was a fabulous evening with lots of laughing, good food and wine! Even if I did rather make a meal of getting in and out of the dinghy on the way across the river to Alcoutim. Fortunately, we saw the owner of the lone river taxi, which we booked for midnight and I didn't have to finagle my way back into the rubber dinghy to get back!

The morning after our night of carousing, we met again with some of the ex-pats from the night before. The Man is seated lower left and is chatting to a woman who has recently trekked to base camp at Mount Everest.  Personally, I can't imagine it! 

You can just about make out the bridge across the river which separates Spain from the Algarve in Portugal. From a distance the bridge looks impressive enough. But, in fact, it is really quite ordinary -- if not to me a little less than ordinary. I was quite disappointed to discover one night that the bridge is not in any way lit -- but very dark and ghost-like to me. And the roadway on the bridge itself is very bumpy and rough. It made me think that perhaps there were maintenance issues between the two countries...

One of my favourite days was our excursion to the southwestern most point of continental 
Europe, Cabo de Sao Vicente. Glorious sunshine and spectacular views. The spot is just outside of Sagres and we had a very pleasant lunch there in a very ordinary looking cafe by the harbour. There we met a couple from Germany, a Brit and a Canadian living in Britain. They were very interesting and talkative. The Germans had an interesting take on the influx of immigrants to Germany. At least it was a view I hadn't heard before. He said that Germany needed as many young immigrants as it could get since they have an aging population and no population growth. He said they need workers to help support the country and its future.

Well that is pretty much the Portuguese part of our February adventure. But still to come is our excursion to Spain and The Man revisiting The Rock after 35  years!

Friday, April 29, 2016

A Polite Letter of Request

Dear Winter,
Let’s get straight to the point. When are you leaving? You said you’d only stay from November until March and then you’d move on to the Southern Hemisphere. It’s now almost May and you’re still here. Don’t get me wrong it’s been fun! December or January would not be the same without you. However, everyone's a bit tired of your snow and cold temperatures, and if you don’t leave then Spring can’t move in and Spring is a bit concerned that they won’t have a place to stay before Summer arrives – if Summer arrives. So if you don’t terribly mind leaving… that would be good. You are of course welcome back in November but this time maybe don’t bring so much rain.
Yours sincerely,
The UK

By Catrin Hughes
Youngest son's partner

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Projects I Still Haven't Got Round to Doing

Lately I seem to be thinking more and more of the things I want to do before I die. In particular I want to make some sense of all the photographs I have -- especially of past generations. I have pretty well organized those of the present -- into albums and computer files. But I have hundreds, probably thousands of old photographs. And I would like to make a written record about some of them.

Yesterday would have been my mother's  97th birthday and so I began a photo album of her that I should have started a long time ago. Well, it's a beginning...

Paris 1945
However, there is a much bigger project that I must stop putting off and get on with -- my father's war letters to my mother. They are all in tact and all in their original envelopes. What is interesting to me about them is his account of what he was doing -- sometimes what he was up to! So much of what I know about World War II is newsreel accounts and historical documentation. Movies try to give you a flavour of what life was like for the soldiers. but his first-hand account is a very personal one describing a lot about what he  'got up to'!

So what I want to do is make the letters available to other members of the family. And I wonder how best to do this. Should I scan them and print them off into some kind of book. Should I type them up as well and make both part of the chronicle?

Best to get started, methinks. But not now -- dinner's on and blogging takes up time  and there goes another day! And I still haven't finished with Portugal... Not to mention French studies, brushing up on Italian and final alterations to the new kitchen...

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

ABroad in Portugal: Getting My Bearings

Welcome to the Algarve, Portugal. The distance from the most southwestern point in continental Europe to the Spanish border is just over 100 miles. And from the most south eastern point of the Algarve to the border town of Alcoutim is about 24 miles. Apart from one excursion to the west of Faro all of our February adventures were in the eastern part of the Algarve, in Spain and in Gibraltar.

Cabanas has more than a touch of the old Portugal

. In 1755 a Tsunami and Earthquake destroyed most of the ancient Moorish towns and villages in the Algarve. Cabanas is an old fishing village just outside of the old city of Tavira. Although Tavira is very modern and built up, the old city is quite charming and pretty along the river. Although we did no spend much time there, we did do most our grocery shopping in the outskirts -- a mere 3 kilometers from the caravan site. The evening after we went to Barril Beach, we headed into Cabanas for a meal. The speciality of the Algarve being fish and seafood and I chose sea bass. The men opted for a mixed grill of various cuts of meat. I don't remember much about their meals except that The Man had far  more than he expected!

My sea bass came 'butterflied' and was a beautiful thing to behold. It was delicious, but very bony. It seems to be a traditional way the Portuguese serve sea bass as it was prepared the same way on the one other occasion I ordered it.

What I loved about eating out in Portugal is that the food was always dependably delicious, simply prepared and fresh. And the wine we found to be very drinkable! I discovered 'vinho verde' which has a lower alcohol content and a lovely light taste. So going out to dinner one had good unpretentious food with as much wine as you would want to drink with the bill for two people seldom going over 30 euros and often just over 20! My stepson had told us that when they stayed in Portugal they ate in one night and out the next. I can understand why and next time we will not stock up on so much food to prepare ourselves!

The other thing that must be emphasized is how welcoming the Portuguese people were. We had discovered two local restaurants in a small village near to the caravan. Twice we showed up well after 9 o'clock -- barely hoping they would be open and willing to serve us. No problem -- they happily served us with friendliness and good cheer.

The Algarve east of Faro is less spoiled by modern villas and touristy apartment buildings than the western side of the province. However, that is not to say that modernity does not abound. However, the old ways and traditions seem to have remained more in the area than the wealthier more affluent areas to the west of Faro.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

ABroad in Portugal -- Warm Beginnings

February 1st we flew to Faro, Portugal from Liverpool. I had not been to Portugal before and was looking forward to some warmer weather and more sunshine that the UK in February usually brings. My stepson has a mobile home in Cabanas, about 8 miles from the Spanish border, on the Algarve coast. We were to stay there for the month of February.

Indeed it proved to be much warmer than the UK with daytime temperatures generally reaching the mid teens centigrade to the low 20's. (mid 60's to low 70's F) The first week was one of the best with lots of sunshine. My stepson stayed with us for the week and so we were able to get a good feel for the place and to find some of the best beaches. In fact The first day we went to a place called Barril Beach, which was absolutely magical. We parked the car by the salt marsh and took a walk across a footbridge to a train station in what seemed to be the middle of no where. Within a few minutes a train the like of which I'd never seen before trundled up. We bought three very cheap tickets and boarded an open carriage.

The Man, who is a bit of a railroad buff, was not sure what to make of the engine -- it was meant to look like a steam engine, but definitely was not. Perhaps when the trains were  originally being used to transport workers to the tuna fish factory, which is no longer, the engines looked like this. The train runs for only a few miles over quite beautiful salt marshes ending up at the sea. There is also a path along the tracks for those wishing to have a pleasant walk that isn't too challenging.

At the end of the track we came to a short board walk onto a beautiful sandy beach right on the ocean. What a treat it was to be able to sit in the warm sun and unpack our sandwiches on the 2nd of February with the surf in the distance and a blue blue sea!

There is much more to write about -- but I think I will eek it out for a while!

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Perhaps it's just existential...

I have had a long hiatus -- 4 months since I last posted. I have been trying to figure out why it happened and there doesn't seem to be a definitive answer. Writing is very cathartic for me, but lately I have felt that deep down I have nothing important to add to whatever conversation I am having. So much is going on in the world that distresses me, so much that is numbing to my brain. But what I find most distasteful and difficult is how much anger there is everywhere I turn. In my personal life all is calm -- only the minor issues of everyday life. So now after many weeks of giving blogging an undeserved rest, I am going to try again.

The intervening months have not been entirely unproductive or without incident. Christmas was full of contradictions, we spent the month of February in a caravan in the Algarve (Portugal) and March has been spent waiting for Spring to come so that I might start to warm up!

Tomorrow is the first of April. A good day to continue?