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.