We had a snow day and it was so much fun!
As we were sat in our favourite local cafe, Cafe Central, in the village, having our post school drop off coffee with friends we were watching the Portuguese news channel of the treacherous weather up at the Serra de Estrela mountain, just over an hour away from us. Incredible snow fall, gusts of wind over 120mph, tearing through the mountain and the villages at the top. Several roads closed and buildings been torn apart… another brain wave from our friend Sasha (also responsible for the xmas bar idea)… ‘let’s go up on Saturday and have a snow ball fight’
And so there we were… 9.30am Saturday morning, meeting at the local supermarket ready to have our snow day. In a 5 car convoy we headed to Covilha and up to the highest recorded point of the Serra de Estrela mountain….just a few meters short of 2000meters altitude.
It was quite a sunny day when we left but as we got to around 1700 altitude the fog started to fall over the road and the visibility became really difficult. The roads are twisty but clear, the local authorities and mountain rangers do an amazing job keeping the roads safe and everything accessible.
One we got to Torre, the highest point, the traffic started to queue back, with other people obviously having the same idea. There must be over 100 spaces to park, if not 200 but they were mostly all taken, we managed to find an empty roundabout right in the centre of the main parking section and decided to all pile in there, once we did, everybody else followed suit, which was bittersweet because we ended up stuck when someone had parked over the only entrance and the GNR had to find the car owner to get them to move so we could all leave!
When we got out of the car it was freezing, made worse by the lack of sun, heavy cloud and brisk winds. In total we had 6 children in tow so we got them all suited up and prepared for the snow, clearly Elvis was so excited to get in the snow he ran off before we got all of his gear on and he lasted 5 minutes before getting upset about his hands feeling like they were going to fall off! We put his ski trousers on and got him wrapped up properly and we headed for a little stroll before finding slopes for sledging.
It wasn’t long before we found an awesome mound of snow that was soft and fluffy… so of course the boys started our snowball fight with the first few throws. It was hard to keep a look out as there were 16 of us so a snowball could have come from anywhere. It was every man for himself by this point. There were lots of laughs and lots of falling over. Unfortunately Elvis bumped his head so he decided to stop. We sat in the car for a little while to get warm, eat sandwiches and drink tea from our Thermos flasks. After a few minutes everyone decided to go and look for some snow hills for some sledging, so we all got back in the cars to head down the road a little further where it was quieter. (This is the point that we got blocked in!)
Around 1 km away we stopped and parked up where there was some nice fluffy untouched snow starting on the bank, it looked pretty good for sledging. We started walking over to a slightly bigger section of snow and the kids started sliding down the bank on their sledges. Lot’s if rolling around, falling off, snow angels and snow surfing.
The kids ran off to another bit once they’d had enough of the sledging and played in the snow further down, leaving us, the parents, trying to walk over to them. Sometimes the snow was firm and shallow and sometimes with one step you were up to your hips trying to shuffle your way out (poor Sasha).
Once the kids were done and pretty soaked we headed back to the cars and drove further again to a stopping point which had a cafe, shop, toilets and clear sky to take in the stunning views that go on for miles and miles. The First place we went Torre also has a market selling local cheeses and dried meats and souvenirs but it was so busy we didn’t go in. This place was actually a nicer place for a picnic. It was also warmer as it was a little further down, it was clear of fog and the sun was out.
After a toilet break and a hot drink we found a quieter area, unloaded our food and had a picnic. We’d already eaten ours! Oops. The kids played with a small patch of snow, we all ate, listed to some music and had awesome laughs. There was also a barragem that everyone else went to look at but we headed home as by this time it was 3pm and we were going out for dinner for our friends birthday… we were seeing all of these guys later, but the birthday girl Chloe didn’t know that.
On the way back down the mountain the queue of cars trying to get to the top was incredible. Estimated about 8km of traffic! We’re glad we all met early in the morning as I don’t think we’d have mad eit up there otherwise. So for reference if you are here when it snows and you fancy a trip up there, the earlier you go the better.
Later that night we were to be at the sushi bar, Shili in Castelo Branco, at 7pm and await Chloe to surprise her, she knew a few people would be there but not all of us. Tonii her partner arranged it all and we all kept it a secret even though we were with her all day, although the cover nearly got blown once!
We’d never been to this sushi place before, it’s an all you can eat sushi and Chinese restaurant. But not the buffet style you see in the UK everywhere. You order from the menu and they bring it to you as you order. Now, as there were over 20 of us this didn’t quite go as smoothly as it should have done, with dishes being brought out and not knowing who they were for, but we all shared everything and passed dishes around for everybody to try. We were all so full and towards the end they kept bringing out dishes that we didn’t even know were still to come, but most of it got eaten.
It was a really lovely evening and the food was really tasty, it was good to try lots of different things and I think we will definitely go there again and would recommend, but perhaps from smaller is better as it think it got too confusing due to their system of ordering.
Some of the people who were there we don’t get to see that often so it is always really nice catching up and hearing about their latest quinta progress.
Our friend Chris, who is the local known cake baker, made a birthday cake, it was chocolate cake, kind of fudgey with chocolate sauce over it and it was the perfect way to finish off our meal.
It had been a long day, the kids were tired and so were we. We drove back home, which is around 45 minutes away, we made a cup of tea and then all headed to bed.
It feels like it’s been such a long wet winter so far it was great to get out of the house, have some fun and eat some good food with great company.