Our flight out of Stansted was at 6.30pm and it was a very hot day in Suffolk, just hoped that we were not flying away from the sun. We parked at Purple Parking, to save over £20, finding it easily and the service was good. Unfortunately, once through gate 44 at Stansted, we are made to wait in the corridor leading to the runway. It was hot and stuffy; we wait here for nearly an hour! Inhumane RyanAir - no apology, no information. We were late boarding and, subsequently, late arriving. This is unusual for RyanAir but it made our onward journey very much later than we were expecting.
At Europcar I upgraded to a Clio with a device to log the road toll charges. The road toll gantries are a new way to raise taxes in Portugal. They record the car's number plate and book a charge against the car. This has to be paid withing 5 days or the owner is fined. The system does not work properly for visitors as yet but we each have a fiscal number so are classed as residents and we would be fined if we didn't pay the charges. With the device fitted it allows Europcar to deduct the toll charges from our debit card. We drove away with only 3/4 of a tank of petrol! Strange car, in the dark, with the wiindscreen constantly misting over directly in the driver's view - a very odd thing. We could only get rid of it by opening the windows and having the windscreen wipers on constantly.
We stopped for milk, beer and sandwiches in one of the 24 hour petrol stations along the IC1 and arrived at Casa da Ribeira at 1.30am.
The first thing we did was to open the postbox to retrieve the front door key and the post. I had mailed myself some drill bits in a sealed pack - only one of the 5 was there. Other mail was from the bank and water company. We were excited to see the new kitchen. Very good apart from a missing shelf and a drawer that catches the one above it as it shuts.
There were a few very large beetles on the floor, very interesting and luckily very dead.
We ate our sandwiches and drank the beer, a large bottle of Superbok.
Two large plants had grown inside the gas cellar in what looked like brick rubble. These had to be cleared t allow access to the two gas containers. Once on we had hot water and a workable hob.
The shower tray hadn't been sealed, so water still had to be mopped up after each shower.
I checked the garage floor. A good job in concreting over the new pipe to the septic tank but the lid hadn't been sealed.
Next I checked the garden as our friend Sammi had arranged for it to be strimmed in our absence (90 euros and nine hours of work). It had been done very well, right to the top terrace. There were lots of grapes, apples, almonds, figs and quinces there. No olives or cherries at this time, stripped in absence maybe? .
Back in Mega, lots of people at the river beach and the cafe wass open. Before you can say, "Want a beer?", Susan was in her swimsuit and into the water.
Just before though, Susan opened the windows in the lounge and commented on how bizarre it was that we had come back to a cool house only to let in hot air. The windows were then closed shut.
Paulo arrived at 10am as agreed. We worked through the long list of jobs for the next stage of improvement to the property, including making the ruins into habitable units.
It was then off to Pedrogao Grande again in search off a fridge and washing machine. The 'fridge' shop was still closed. We called in at Esfera Real Estate to see Carlos and he asked about the kitchen. We invited him and his partner Susannah plus Fernando and his wife Claudia to a meal, possible Friday evening. He would let us know. We mentioned that the 'fridge' shop appeared to be closed and Carlos said he would find out for us. We headed off down the IC8 to see Michelle and Trevor only to get a call from Carlos that he had found another 'fridge' shop and that it was open. He would meet us there in 5 minutes.
What a shop! From the entrance it was not impressive but behind this was a three floor warehouse stacked with household goods. As they didn't speak any english and our Portuguese is shocking Carlos took over and we bought a fridge/freezer, a washing machine and an external light fixing; he keyed our details into their computer and arranged delivery for after 6pm. A reminder that he is an estate agent (please read this english estate agents).
We got back onto the IC8 and visited Michelle and Trevor. Bella Rosa, the puppy, had grown quite a bit and was very friendly as were the other two dogs. It was good to see them again and catch up with all of the work they are doing on their property. A lot of progress had been made since we last saw them and Trevor had brought some furniture over from England. They will be having a lots of guests there soon for Trevor's 50th.
We had already phoned Sammy to say we couldn't make the pizza evening on Wednesday due to the Mega Summer Party but as we wanted to see him and Anna we drove on to his place being only a few miles away from Trevor and Michelle's.
We were glad to pay Sammy for arranging the strimming of our land and apologised for missing the pizza evening. This week he had three pizza evenings with 17 people this evening for a meal. The Sunday market has also taken off with stalls outside. He mentioned that he had seen a car that might be okay for us, a Renault Twingo. We hadn't heard of or seen one of these so said that we would look it up. I gave Anna the painting I had done of her. Susan had promised to do a pencil drawing but hadn't had time. My painting was too red.
Also at Sammy's was his ex-wife Kathryn and their three lovely children.
Back at Mega we both had a dip in the river, it was still busy there, then Paulo arrived with a specialist roofer to look at our loft area. I bought them both a drink in the river bar; they were very hot.
At about 6:15 the fridge/freezer and washing machine were delivered and installed. The delivery guys took the wrapping away but didn't want a drink. There were lots of hooting as their van had blocked the single lane outside our house and visitors were wanting to either get to or away from the river beach. The other 9 months of the year the lane is clear of traffic use all day. Anyhow, we now looked forward to cold beer and wine.
Julio was at the river beach and invited us back to his house for a G&T. It was good to see him again and meet Ana, his wife and their twins, Maria and Pedro. After a few drinks, and declining dinner with them, a few other visitors arrived, including relatives from Canada who still have a house in Louriceira (the next village) and Snr Lopez and his family some of whom live in Mega, some who now live in Germany. Ana took us then to meet Snr Fernando and his family, who have a house close by. We were welcomed and met all the famiily; his wife Fatima, daughter Julianne and others, including his 92 year old mother. With a cold beer each we were shown around their house which was an amazing refurbished schist house and decorated in a very traditional, rustic style. Fernando's house also has access to the river. We had already been invited to the Summer Party and I accepted to take part in the canoe event, of little I knew.
Susan didn't want to take part in the canoe event and she was unable to come and watch as we were expected to canoe for about 7kms and there wasn't a suitable road alongside the river from which to view the event.
Julio, Ana and children picked me up at about 1pm after I had paid and received by green wrist band. I wasn't sure what I should take with me so, although I had packed a towel, camera, etc into a rucksack, I left with nothing, not even money or a mobile phone. First we went to Pedrogao Grande to have a snack and for Julio to make use of the free internet cafe. As I had no money, Ana kindly bought me a chicken roll and some water. Already feeling naive, like I had just broken through my eggshell, we travelled on to Pedrogao Pequeno and followed a narrow lane down to the river's edge. A very beautiful place. Julio dropped us off then drove to leave his car at the finish. He, and the others drivers, were brought back some time later. In the meantime, the organisers of the canoes arranged a 3-arrow archery activity. Many of the Mega people went for a swim. I had on my decent trainers, a t-shirt and shorts, plus I had a cloth hat. Ana let me use their suntan lotion. The heat was intense.
We were given instructions about safety and how to use the paddles. I was assigned a partner - Il Nesta, a friend of Julio's of 69 years old. Like me, his first canoe trip. After strapping on our life-jackets, we located our canoe and pushed it with us into the water (bang goes my trainers). Once in the canoe, with Il Nesta at the front, we adjusted the back support harness for comfort and were off, paddling like Olympic rowers in syncronisation out into the wide river. But we had to wait while everyone got themselves ready and the four stewards from the canoe organisation were positioned around us.
We headed off under an IC8 bridge and on to the small bridge, picture of the left. We all grouped at this bridge for photos by the stewards. (This is a borrowed photo until I get a copy of our venture from the organisers). One canoe flipped over, throwing the two girls into the river. We were close enough to help, almost going over ourselves in the process. It is not easy to get back into a canoe from the water, quite exhausting.
Then we headed back to our start and I thought that was it. But the leading canoeists continued and we followed. On and on along this wonderful meandering river - right, left, right, left, Il Nesta was saying, and we kept a good pace.
It was 7:30pm when I got home and the Summer Party was going well. Naturally, I had thought of Susan being on her own for so long and not knowing when I would get back. Susan reported that she had been quite happy reading and sunbathing at the river beach.
Lots of tables had been set out and the green wrist band provided the wearer with free beer and food up to 10:00pm.
We sat with Ana and Julio for most of the evening. Snr Fernando's wife, Fatima, had prepared dishes of vegetables and eggs for Susan to add to home made gazpachio soup because the food was mainly meat.
A lot of people turned up for the party. It was a great success.
A live band started up at 10pm and went on 'till 4am. We were in bed before then - just.
The weather turned much cooler into the late evening.
A quiet and restfull day.
About lunchtime, we ambled up to say goodbye to Julio and Ana who were returning home to Lisbon today. Julio, who had studied art and sculpture, had also organised the party that took place last Saturday, 18th Aug on the other side of Mega Fundeira - we only just missed that one.
Rosa Maria gave us some fresh vegetables - tomotoes, onions, garlic, green peppers, courgettes and a cabbage. She was prmptly back with fresh eggs. A little later there was a bag of potatoes on the doorstep!
We had roasted vegetables with garlic - delicious!
Susan went on to cook:
Pasta with pasta sauce, chick peas, fried onions and garlic.
Omelette with cheese, fried rice and onions, garlic and chopped tomotoes.
All with local wine - red and white.
We also had very tasty bananas, nectarines, apples, fresh dates, oranges and cashew nuts.
I knew it would be a strange day as soon as I awoke to find Susan up and making some tea before 8am, she never gets up before me!
We drove to Pedrogao Grande and had coffee and some food at Pastelaria Pedrogao Doce, a small cafe in the centre where we always go (two sandwiches, a custard tart for Roy and two coffees all for 5.30 euros) Sammy called to say that he had bought the car for 900 euros as it was a good buy not to be missed. I said I would look into it when we got back to England. On meeting with Carlos in his office it was agreed that he would bring his partner, Susannah, to see our house before 8pm.
The rest of the day was spent at the river beach, a few beers, a few dips, sunbathing, reading and relaxing.
When not employed at the cafe, Kim runs the Restaurante Palmeira in Pedrogao Grande.
Carlos and Susannah arrived as agreed and had a look at our house. Carlos made a number of sensible suggestions that could save us money. Carlos, ever the estate agent convinced Susannah to buy the house several times!!!!
We met with Fernando, Claudia and José Pedro at the Alto Restaurant in Louriceira, a place we pass on the road but have thought it to be just for the locals. It is a few minutes from our house and the owners speak English!
We had a very good meal with a dessert and plenty of wine for under 60 euros (about £7.80 per person).
But it didn't end there because the owner kept bringing us more wine, about five more carafes - for free. The wine was from Alentejana in Portugal and it was 14%. Fernando gave us 5 litres of it as a present.
We stayed there until well after midnight and left when asked to leave by the very friendly owners.
Who had a hangover this morning? I suspect several of us did.
A day to relax and enjoy Mega Fundeira and the river beach. At 1:15am on Sunday we leave for Porto Airport and home - why?