A month of two halves

A month of two halves

The start of October was a real scorcher, as predicted in the previous post. This meant two things: we went out and about a bit more to take advantage of the weather, and more work was done on the external walls of the house.

Street markets are extremely popular up here, and on any Sunday the beautiful Avenida dos Plátanos along the river Lima has something on. Every second Sunday it’s the Feirade antiguidades e velharias, basically antiques and old stuff. On the first Sunday it can be found up in Valença, the first town this side of the river Minho across from Galicia. It’s only a 30 minute drive so we decided to have a look and also see the old fort there, something we had yet to explore. Two things surprised us about the trip. Firstly the market: huge and sprawling along roads, in warehouses, in underground garages and filling squares, was choc-a-bloc with Spanish, both the stall owners and the visitors. And then the fort, which we thought we would just amble through, was also full inside: yet more Spanish keen to visit shops (all open) that specialised in towels and bedding, the restaurants were packed, there were buskers on street corners and the whole place was just alive with hustle and bustle. It threw us completely, especially as (or perhaps because of) everything is closed in Spain on a Sunday. So of course we had to join in and ate a delicious arroz de marisco under the trees.

We also took a trip to Spain, this time through the north-east border, to the Caldas Romanas de Bande. The thermal waters there, discovered as the name suggests by the Romans, have a temperature between 36° and 48°. Many of the original baths have been recovered and rebuilt after As Conchas reservoir, on the river Lima, flooded the area in 1948. They are a popular destination, particularly in the rainier, cooler months when the reservoir rises (you can just make it out in the far distance) and it’s possible to have a lovely warm bath as the waters merge. If you’re interested there is more info here.

At the house we were a little frustrated that the nice weather meant the workers were outside chipping away at the old grouting and plastering the walls rather than doing anything inside, although we had to admit the difference is impressive.

And then mid month came the rain, along with more blokes, and work was shifted inside. The internal walls were up in no time and the downstairs floor concreted. For the first time it began to feel like a home, the divisions meant we could walk between the rooms (although most of it is open-plan) and actually imagine living there.

And then more rain. Sometimes it seemed like a celestial scalpel had sliced open the sky. The area around the house turned into a mud bath but still the work continued inside: the internal stairs were made, the walls had their first layer of plaster (it’s just thrown on and forms a hard crusty layer which the next layer sticks to more easily, it seems to be a European approach to building…), the original walls we are keeping were jet washed, and the window areas defined. Suddenly every day there seemed to be good progress which was cheering.

Last week was particularly eventful. It was something I had been looking forward to the most but it was also rather stressful. For a number of years now (since 2019!) I had been collecting images and ideas for the house, my Pinterest account was brimming with inspiration. The problem is recreating any ‘look’ here in Portugal. So while we had been visiting a number of shops over the year(s) and making notes of what was available making a final choice was quite hard. Last Monday found us in one of those interior design shops that Richard is not very keen on. We were there with the builder to make our final choice for the wall tiles, bathrooms and kitchen, and floor tiles, inside and out. We also had to choose the toilets, showers, sinks, taps… much of the stuff we really didn’t like but in the end our research had paid off, although we changed our minds at the last minute about the floor tiles, and with help from both the builder and the shop owner an order worth thousands of euros was made. It’s nearly all made in Portugal but the kitchen tiles are from Spain.

Then on Tuesday the electrician met us in the house, he needed to know where the sockets, light switches and light fittings would go. Again we had already walked around a number of times deciding what could go where so that went quite well. Although both he and the builder were surprised we wanted so few ceiling lights…

Finally, on Friday we went to the windows and door manufacturers. We already knew we wanted them black, aluminium framed and double glazed, of course, but some were to be fixed, others tilt and turns or sliding. There was an interesting discussion about what to do with the window over the kitchen sink which was difficult to reach let alone open. We had to decide what handles we wanted, the type of sliding doors, and there was an option re blinds. Interestingly the factory orders all the glass and frames in and makes everything all to a bespoke size, there are no set dimensions.

Our latest input was the design of the kitchen, counters and cabinets, and the wardrobes. These have all been handed into the builder for his carpenter to tackle. It has been great designing the house but really we have no idea what we are doing. I suppose Casa Azul, which we also designed, worked out all right so this should do too…

Meanwhile, Betty has decided we haven’t paid any extortionate vet fees since we said goodbye to Jussi. Cue her suddenly wetting herself so, along with covering everything in loads of towels, we have bought her a new soft bed, also covered in towels (the rain has made keeping on top of the washing a challenge) and a new blanket to encourage her not to sleep elsewhere. She has had blood tests and a scan, but we’ve been told she has no infection or inflammation so no treatment. She has been a bit better recently although she is slightly off her food.

So a busy month. Despite all the rain we have escaped any real storms or strong winds, other areas of the country have certainly suffered considerably more. Unsurprisingly, the ecovia is flooded once again curtailing any walks along the river (not that Betty has complained about that) and some roads under roundabouts have been closed. Here’s to a drier November and the possibility of some autumnal walks.

3 thoughts on “A month of two halves

  1. Whoa things are really developing fast now. All sounds very exciting….not long and you will be moving in. Thanks for sharing the adventure with us.
    Xx Debbie and Hendrik

    1. Yes, we’ve been strolling along for so long and now having to run to keep up! Certainly exciting. Happy Birthday btw 🙂

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