Well, the rest of my stay in Portugal was fantastic. Wednesday I had my hair done [yay – thank you Clarinha!!], so look rather more civilised again. Thursday we had the very last dinner we shall have as a group at the Barco Boador. Our beloved Bella is moving on to a new restaurant, and although I am sure we will go there and have entertaining evenings in the future, that was the last 'Barco' gathering. Good luck Bella! We will miss the sea view, but we all have to move on eventually.
Here she is with Clarita and I, the first time I had to go over to Portugal for work in September 08. No hair at all – but we still partied like crazy people! Amazing woman.
All week I stayed with Clara and Alvaro [and Luna] in Espinho. I walked into the town every day [dodging rain storms] to spend time at the beach and with Bella. We all landed back at theirs after our dinner and Alvarito and I ended up shopping for novels in English and Portuguese on the internet until 3.00 in the morning! The sage and sensible behaviour of people who have had rather a lot of wine heh heh. Good fun. It was like being at home I felt so welcome.Then I went to Vila Nova de Gaia. To stay with Marina – we had a pyjama party in front of her fire [no – no photos!!] – delicious! Wine and cheese and bread and us. On the weekend we went to the beach cafe for brunch – chilled rosé wine and more cheese and meat and bread [aaargh – hello 1 more kilo!] and SUNSHINE! I got a sunburn on my forehead.
Saturday night we went with Paulito to a fabulous traditional Portuguese restaurant – amazing food, perfect service – it was great. Sunday, well…Sunday was something else. I was welcomed into Marina's sister's home for Easter lunch. Clara invited me to hers too, but as Mari was taking me back to the airport it seemed more sensible. If only I could have been at both!
In the UK we don't really make much fuss over Easter, other than to eat quite a lot of chocolate. In Portugal it's totally different [not much chocolate - phew], and I felt quite honoured to be there. The sisters cooked a HUGE [and I mean seriously huge] lunch, of leitão assado, pork on the bone, salad and bread and wine…you must know the score by now. There were about 20 of us! And in the sitting room, the furniture was covered in cakes and desserts – and more cheese…oh my word! It was amazing. All the kids were there, delightful, and we ended up sprawled on the front lawn, having a few beers and enjoying the sunshine.
But that was after we were visited by the Priests. It's hard for me to explain this, as it was quite moving, and although I am not a particularly religious person, it made Easter seem like 'Easter'. If you know what I mean. I don't quite! Anyway – the Priests in Portugal all walk from house to house [all day!], giving blessing to the people and their homes. We were lucky, as Mari's Mum lives down the road from her sister, so we had the first blessing at Toninha's home, then we all zoomed down the street to her Mum's and did it all again. Double blessings – good! They carry an ornate Cross, which each person kisses, a prayer is intoned, and everyone shakes hands with the Priests. Then off they go. It was an experience I shan't forget.
We spent the rest of the day just pretending we lived in a commune – so many people came by to visit, it was so relaxed – there was enough food for an army…so sad to leave. Apparently the doors [and there are a lot of them!] to Toninha's home are always open to me. That's so nice. Leaving Marina at the airport was horrible – I felt like jumping back into her car – if the FH had been there, I might have!
What a delightful week. And this was just a part of my and the FH's Christmas present from Mum and Dad. We still haven't spent all the money they gave us for holiday yet - and we are going to Spain at the end of the moth! What a great life eh?? Thanks everyone – it was GREAT!!