Browsed by
Category: Early days

May 2009 – 2019

May 2009 – 2019

When we saw the house for sale in May, 10 years ago, we took a video of the garden:

And then Richard made the same video last month. Although the videos are to demonstrate the differences, there are two things in common: the wiggly camera (oh the first one is such poor quality) and the nightingales! We had no idea we had nightingales when we shot the first one. You can hear the frogs in the second one now that the pond is established.

Some differences to highlight. The only original part left of the house is the walls! We’ve had a new roof, new doors and windows, new plumbing and new electricity. The animal shed was knocked down of course, as was the olive tree and walnut tree:

The end of the garden overlooking Monte de Vez (the olive trees all look much healthier):

The cherry tree now has a pond below it (all well hidden by the every growing vegetation):

The threshing square with the old pear tree; lavender and roses have all been planted in front of it and are in full bloom right now. And it’s no longer possible to see Luis’ old house opposite:

Don’t worry, they’ll be plenty more then-and-now posts to come 😉

Hello Portugal

Hello Portugal

At last the moment has arrived! We touched down in Lisbon on a glorious sunny day. We stayed one night in Lisbon with friends and then headed up to our new home-to-be. As anticipated it looks rather different to when we were here in May. The ground is quite dry and brown but a few of the unrecognisable trees from May are now laden with fruit – apples, pears, peaches and walnuts. All over the area are entanglements of briars with redcurrents and the smallest blackberries I have ever seen. The only fruit trees that are yet to ripen appear to be the oranges and olives.

We also moved into our temporary accommodation. It’s quite an attractive house on the side of a small valley with views over to the small village of Via Vai with its local church which gives out a pleasant little tune on the half hour. That and the occasional bark of dogs and constant twitter of birds are the only noise. We rented the place from a Dutch lady who took us to the local store so we could get some groceries. As it happens the store was run by the parents of the guy who has drawn the plans for our house. We also met some locals – half of which seem to be English. Not exactly what we had come for but they knew what it was like to start here afresh and were very friendly and helpful.

We arrived on Saturday, so our honeymoon period has been a couple of days driving round and acclimatising ourselves. Reacquainting ourselves with one of the main reasons we came here – the wonderful countryside of forests, hills and rivers. But now, on Monday, the work begins! We have to track down our elusive architect to see how planning permission is coming along and check with the lawyer that everything is in order (and that we actually own the house!). Also the practicalities – first thing is we need to buy a pickup and get some sort of internet connection. Also work out our postal address and liaise with the shipping company to ensure that we have the papers in order to import our stuff. We also need to go to the bank and transfer over some more money to pay for these things. It’s going to be a busy day so no more blogging time…

..and now the agony

..and now the agony

Buying a house in Portugal is fairly straightforward. Well, as straightforward as anywhere, which is rarely straightforward. We had been recommended a lawyer, Dr. D. An amazingly ebullient character with his own brand of humour and a colourful handle on the English language. We couldn’t complain about that as I spoke no Portuguese and Jackie only a smattering from her time as a volunteer in Angola many years previously. He was extremely helpful though and with his sidekick he whisked us around the small market town of Ansiao getting registered at the fiscal services and opening a bank account. Although it took us hours to open the account it was actually easier in terms of documentation we had to produce than the UK. Perhaps our stamina in the face of form filling was enough to prove to the Portuguese authorities that we weren’t money launderers.

The following morning we signed our lives over to Dr. Delphim in the form of a power of attorney and headed back to Jordan.

The next month was quite painful. There were problems contacting the seller’s lawyer and we had to have a survey, not of the house but of the land. This was because the land was taxed by size and so owners often registered their land with the tax authorities as much smaller than the reality. In our case it turned out to be bigger! There was also a problem with the promissory contract which we eventually decided to not do. Through all this we learned that nothing happens very quickly in Portugal and you constantly have to hound people to get anything done.

Finally, the date was set for the final signing, that of the Escrituria Publica, on June 25th. Then this was changed to 2.30pm on Tuesday 30th June. Then our lawyer phoned to say that there was another problem due to the fact that me and Jackie weren’t married. Again, not a problem with a house but a problem with the land and not a problem in the neighbouring municipalities – only the one where our house happened to be. However, our lawyer said he knew the municipality lawyer and could appeal the decision and get everything back on track.

So, on Friday 3rd July everything was signed, sealed and delivered. There is one further problem but we are told it is minor and the house is ours! The champagne which had been on ice for a month was finally opened, our flights booked, my superiors at the British Council informed of my leaving. After 11 years at the British Council my last day in the office was set for 31st August 2009.

dream to reality

dream to reality

This is the story of a house called Casa Azul. It’s an old farmhouse situated in a village called Galega near the town of Penela near the city of Coimbra in central Portugal. Our part of the story starts in May 2009.

Me (Richard) and my partner (Jackie) had a dream in common with many others. A dream to live in the country, to grow our own food and live the relaxed but healthy life away from the stresses and strains of the modern world. Like most people we felt it would remain a dream.

However, we went on holiday to Portugal and started having a look around to see whether our dream may enter the realms of possibility. We didn’t hold that much hope as we had been to Andalucia, Spain, the year before with the same dream. The same dream that had become reality, or perhaps a nightmare for thousands of Brits beforehand. It didn’t suit us – too dry, too many expats. So anyway, undeterred, we rented a holiday cottage in the village of Alvorge and spent a few days driving around the countryside.

Immediately we could see this was different. The countryside was attractive, there were plenty of rustic but decrepit farmhouses which might suit us perfectly. We saw a couple of local estate agents, we did our own exploring but by 10th May we had decided that after all our dream home wasn’t there. We were happy in Jordan (where I worked for the British Council), we could spend another year there and renew our search maybe next year.

We had however, made arrangements to see one more estate agent the following day. Might as well see what he had. We had already decided to curtail our search but we had nothing to lose, we had no other plans.

It was a wet and dreary day. We drove up a narrow country lane. We could see the house coming into view. The roof sagged. That wasn’t good. It would need replacing and fast. The gate was firmly stuck. The house obviously didn’t want any visitors. It hadn’t been lived in (by humans) for 4 years. We eventually gained access. We had a look around, poked in all the nooks and crannies. We disturbed a bird which had made a nest in one of the rooms. There was a hole in the roof and green fungus growing down the wall. It had a barn though, there was lots of land, about an acre. It pretty much ticked all the boxes but I had already made my decision to not stay, I was feeling tired and wet. Jackie turned her back on me. She obviously didn’t want me to see her face.

We saw a couple more places which weren’t much cop, said goodbye to the estate agent and went off for lunch.

Jackie was quiet over lunch at first. I was fairly happy. We had seen a suitable place but I was comfortable with our decision to go home and carry on our lives as before. However, over lunch, Jackie became more animated and we both started saying things like, “the roof could be replaced quite easily”, “there’s so much land, we could have a great garden, pond and there are already a number of fruit trees – almonds, oranges, peaches.” “The kitchen is huge and already has an old bread oven.” “We could convert the barn into guest accommodation.” “Let’s just have another look this afternoon.”

The following morning, the 12th May, we saw it again, just to make sure. Bathed in sunshine looking out over the land, I telephoned the landlord. “We’ll take it”. Our dream was slowly becoming reality.