BIG NEWS! Are You Ready for Your Portuguese Retreat?

We are so excited to tell you that we have finally completed our accommodation.

We were clearly very optimistic when at first, we thought we would be ready by spring…last year. So we´re only a year out.

We bought a caravan and completely renovated it to make it modern and spacious.

We want our guests to feel at home and relaxed while they are on their Portuguese holiday.

The accommodation sleeps 2 people but also has a pull down bed suitable for a child.

It has a full kitchen with an under counter integrated fridge, a 4 burner gas hob with oven and grill.

We haven´t scrimped on the tableware either with Portuguese made glasses, stoneware mugs and beautiful recycled glass bowls and containers.

We dismantled the pull out bed system and made space for a proper full size bed frame and mattress, with overhead storage for clothes and a wardrobe in the bathroom for hanging garments.

The bathroom has a brand new shower system. We also ripped out the old water system and installed a new instant boiler, complete with brand new pipes through-out.

As an avid reader we figured we needed to have some reading material available! So we went hunting for a variety of book genres, we found these at a local market on our local animal association charity stand, so we were able to help donate some money to these guys too who do amazing work.

We also have Overland magazine editions which feature Portugal. And as you can see…our very funky Portuguese chicken.

For those late summer nights with friends, as you sip some local wine and watch the sun go down we have added some games, a classic pack of playing cards, Mikado, Dominoes, the not so classic card game What Do You Meme, and the game for `horrible people´ Cards Against Humanity!

We wanted to create an outdoor area so that guests can eat outside, sit and read, and just relax in the quiet Portuguese countryside. So we created a clean shaded area with a dining table, benches and planted some fruit trees, that will eventually grow and you will be able to be pick the produce during the right fruit season.

We still want to add more the outdoor area including a social cirle with hammock and seating which we are working on. We are waiting for our seeds to germinate and grow into a native wild flower garden that surrounds the outside of the terrace.

Our friend also gave us a giant sunflower so we hope to see that greeting you in the mornings soon!

We have tried to think of everything for our guests and include it within the stay. So there are clean towels, fresh coffee grounds and loose leaf tea, we also have a variety of flavoured tea bags, wine, beers in the fridge, a jar of our very own olives that we handpicked and other seasonal items.

We even had our very own scent made by a local soaper. We discussed with her what we wanted and we chose the shapes and colour of the soap and shampoo bars which are fully organic, eco friendly and contain no chemicals.

Something we have also done is set up additional accommodation that can be used if required and is in a glamping style bell tent. Complete with 2 double beds, and a comfy sofa and arm chair for chilling out on.

It also has full electricity for phone charging and lighting.

So in total we can sleep 6 people or 7 with the pull down bed.

Both accommodations are set at the top of our farm with it´s own gateway in, and plenty of space for parking.

The area of our farm is reserved for you only and is almost an acre in size.

We recently had our first guests stay and asked them to give us feedback on what they thought. There were a few small things that we will spend the next few days doing.

Our next guests come early May and so we will see if they feel there is anything else that needs to be added.

We want our guests to feel like part of our family during their stay and help them plan their holiday with all the local places to visit, workshops and activities to do, including all the best roads and trails for motorbiking.

If you are interested in available dates from June 1st 2022 please drop us an email on and we can let you know the current dates available.

We are so excited to have you!

Horses and Trails

Horse riding in the Mountains

Hi everyone, its raining here today in Penamacor, so remind us of the sunny days, dont forget when you come to visit us you can always take in a horse riding tour of the amazing local trails. Our friend Erika at Quinta Encantada, is extremely skilled & welcoming and offers lessons by the hour, from complete novice or young rider to the seasoned among you – Portugal has the most amazing trails and views, this really is the only way to see them in peace and at one with a beautiful horse. Let us know ahead of time, and we can check availability to make sure you go home having had the best experience possible whilst here in the mountains. We may even come with you, its such an awesome experience.

If you havent already

Check out some of our YouTube content of the local areas you must see when you visit us. Below is a video of Sortelha and Aguas Radium, the abandoned radioactive hotel. Check out our channel on YouTube to see more – we are always adding more content.

Stay safe everyone, and hope you are all enjoying the first days of Spring.

Mike, Carla and Elvis.

Cauliflowers and Dreams

Our first Cauliflower

We finally grew our first Cauliflower!! It may not sound much to the seasoned gardener, but we made some raised beds using reclaimed wood and planted some vegetables. So far we have had a few beans, lettuce, some giant squash and now a small Cauli. (Couve-flor in Portuguese). We celebrated with vinho tinto, and made an awesome Cauliflower cheese which tasted amazing. This is great inspiration to grow more. Our land is a bit nitrate sparce, we have found out – so we are trying to suppliment with used coffee granuals etc. We have also been planting some lemon, clementina and orange trees – with the help of my mother when she visited. Of course, our neighbour Ze put me to shame when he came over with some of his produce, as a show of skill. Next time Ze, next time…….

Our neighbours proffesionally grown produce

In other news, I have been making an outside toilet and shower set up for our future guests. We have some friends coming at Easter to be the first to try it out. It’s not finished yet, but I have utilised free pallets to get this done, which are from our other neighbour who works for a local business that make sacks for dog food, animal feed etc. It’s amazing what becomes important to you in Portugal, and how much “stuff” you start to hoard, but the other side of that is it is a really awesome feeling to build something from items that otherwise would be broken down, scrapped or burned.

The outdoor toilet and shower.

Also, Carla has now started to teach Nutritian and English at the local Camera (Council) run School, based at the Library in Penamacor. For a couple of hours a week, Penemacor’s finest are subjected to Carla saying “Obrigado is thank you” and “Bom dia is Good day”. She is finding it very rewarding and its great to be involved with the locals in the community.

View of Carla’s classroom

More coming soon – Mike

Fitness, and Lifestyle

Carla’s Bootcamp

So, Carla has started running her Strong “man” bootcamps twice a week. And we have built the start of an outdoor gym to get it going. Twice a week people are coming to get stronger, and fitter with the aid of her bootcamp, for which we have had excellent feedback on all fronts. Quinta life is sometimes tough on your body with lifting, and bending down to pick things up – so the courses are helping to give others the power to feel confident in doing tasks. For more information on upcoming events, to do with strength and fitness – drop Carla an email.

Skiing 40 minutes away in Serra da Estrela
Easy Ski run at Tores, Serra da Estrela

You tend to forget, but 40 minutes away, in the mountains above the beatutiful city of Covilha is the amazing Serra da Estrela, with (at its peak) a Ski/Snowboard paradise for about 2 months of the year. Elvis and Carla have visited a few times, and for around 45 Euros you can hire boots, ski’s and get a lift pass to play all day on the snow. There are 3 or 4 runs, mainly easy and intermediate, so its great even if you are going for the first time. The ideal time is December (Mid) to February (Mid), and there is no excuse – take the toboggan and get sliding. This is the highest mountain range in Portugal, and the views alone are breathtaking

He was a skater boy

Finally, Elvis has been learning to skate with his friend at Castelo Branco’s awesome Skate and BMX park. This was the third time we have been to the park, which is really good and big enough the learners arent threatened by the “pro” guys doing their thing on the big ramps. After this picture was taken (above), we went and got Elvis some inline skates which he hasnt taken off for a week. It’s a great place to take a little picnic and watch, or join in and get involved. There is also an olympic swimming pool and running track next to it which you can take advantage of. All parking is free, and loads of space to sit and chill.

Until next time – Mike

Motorbiking, Adventures, and life update!

It’s been a while since our last blog post, so I’m just going to give you a little rundown of some of the best bits from the last few months as we get organised with our blog writing plans!

As you know we are motorcyle lovers, and Elvis always has been too, this year he got a lot more confident riding on two wheels so we found a great little second hand Husqvarna 50cc 2 Stroke, which he has taken to really well.

He is still going to Escuderia Castelo Branco School, but we are also building and enduro track at our quinta, using second hand tyres from a local garage.

He is also using his electric bike, and quad with friends. It’s great to have the land to do this, without issues from neighbours etc.

In fact our neighbour has a 410 Svartpillen, and a 2 stroke Casal – so its win win.

I also picked up this Suzuki RM125 Classic, for a steal and completely restored it to sell. I have however, forgotten how fast 125cc 2 stroke MX bikes are, and scared myself silly.

Halloween came and went, some time ago. We decided to throw a party, and we had a really good turn-out. Some friends of ours who live locally organised the make-up and we had a marquee, food and drink with a “Purge” twist. We also had a great bonfire, perfect for the cold night.

Ive been getting out and exploring, making some videos for our Youtube channel.

After doing quite a bit of work on my 97 ZX7R, the bike is absolutely flying – so I decided to make some videos of the things you can visit within a 40km radius of our Quinta.

If you would like a look, our Youtube channel is HERE.

Please subscribe to our channel and check out our videos!

Christmas and New Year already feels like so long ago!

Happy festivities to everyone. Hope you all had a good time.

We had some friends over to our quinta, for a few drinks, Christmas lunch and a generally nice family day.

My (Mike) mum came over just before Xmas too, and it was good to show her around the local places.

One thing is for sure, this Covid “Lockdown” thing, has really affected people, with their ability to travel and just get out of the front door.

So it was really nice for us to get a visitor from the UK- This year we’re hoping you can too…more on that later!

The local community is great here in Penamacor.

I’ve met some truely lovely people, from Expats from all over the world, to locals who have been super friendly and very welcoming.

I’m also now starting to get involved with the car scene here in Portugal, which is actually a tough nut to crack.

With 99% of all modifications being illegal to cars, you may think it’s not a country of car lovers, but scratch the surface and you find some really amazing cars and owners doing their thing.

Generally they are not obsessed with modern cars, but the 70s, 80s and 90s cars that I also find more appealing.

Lancia’s, R5 Turbo’s, Datsun 510’s – they are all here, just used for the occasional meeting, and otherwise kept undercover.

Carla has also been making progress with her Bootcamp and business whihc is going to be her main focus for 2022.

She has 2 sessions a week at our Quinta and is also taking on online and in person one to clients. She is loving doing it as it’s been quite some time she’s been able to focus on a career since having Elvis.

She has also started with the local council delivering Nutrition and Healthy Lifestyle classes to the senior university and also teaching English that she somehow managed to get roped in to!

She has also resurrected her Barbering brand again (her original career) to help bring in some extra monies to keep us sailing, whilst we continue to build up our business at the Quinta.

Things we have found hard:

  1. The sun (43 degrees on some days)
  2. The very, verrry slow Portuguese ways of doing business out here in the country.
  3. Cost of heating in the winter is super expensive (using butane). Its something we were not prepared for.
  4. Red tape, paperwork – cant blame it all on Brexit, but…..

Things we have found really awesome:

  1. Our neighbours and the local community – some of which we now call “best friends”.
  2. Growing our own food. Ok so we are rubbish at it at the moment, but its a learning curve. Still, you cant beat your own homegrown lettuce and peas.
  3. China shops – they are everywhere, and sell everything (random or not). Ok so most of it is really poor quality, but you are never stuck more than 2 miles from getting a mis-spelt t-shirt or some emergancy screws.

Elvis and his homeboys, having fun on the Quinta

Signing off,

Thanks for reading, and sorry there is so much (next blog post won’t be so long into the future) in fact I’ve givenmyself the task of writing them!

Please follow us on Facebook and Insta.

Drop us an email if you have any questions on – it’s always good to hear from people, especially in this time of uncertainty around the globe.

Love to all,


I Learnt a New Craft! I Made Silver Rings!

Yesterday I did something I’d always wanted to try but thought it probably isn’t something I’d ever get to do.

I learnt how to make silver rings!

I have found some amazing crafty and talented friends over here. They’re always making things and I love seeing what they produce.

I have kind of thrown myself into a few workshops that have been advertised locally and my friends asked me if I wanted to join them on a jewellery making workshop.

Obviously I said yes.

The three of us set off on just over an hours drive and arrived at julies house. The lady who would be teaching us.

As we went in to her house we we’re shown into the workshop which was just full of lots of equipment. As I’ve never done any kind of jewellery work I had no idea what most of it was.

There were pots of things, lots of mallets, a big industrial roller thing (which I soon learnt that it was for making the wire thinner if needed) lots of different hammers and mallets, sand bags, saws, pliers, blow torches, spindles…. Just so much stuff!

She had a display of the jewellery she makes to sell and all I could think was wow, she’s got her work cut out getting me to produce something even remotely wearable.

We had all chosen what we wanted to make before arriving and weree able to choose from a selection of items, a band ring, 3 stacker rings, a fidget ring and matching earring and pendant.

I chose to make the 3 stacker rings and so did my friend Dawn and Sandra chose to make a fidget ring-I definitely would love to have a go at this one myself, it was awesome.

We had a look at the designs Julie had made and based our own designs on what we liked out of these.

Initially I just thought 3 stacker ring they’d all be the same but as my creative brain isn’t quite functioning, when Dawn said she was going to make 3 different ones I figured that was probably the best idea as we could try different techniques and create different styles.

Julie explained about the shape of wire and which ring designs suited which wire better and we all chose our pieces.

We chose which fingers we wanted our rings to fit and Julie gave us the ring sizers so we could measure them.

Next we had to look on a chart and find out how long the wire needed to be for our sizes, the length also depended on the thickness of the wire too.
Once we’d measured up we then had to cut them!

2 of the ring styles I wanted to create were twisted so I needed those to be longer than the initial measurement as the twist meant it would shorten slightly.

We got to work cutting our wires to length… Obviously my saw snapped in the middle of cutting the first wire due to bad technique. Julie put on a new blade and I cut the rest.

Once the wire was cut we could then start to make our designs. When twisting the wire, first we had to anneal the silver, which means heating it up with a blow torch, to make it more plyable. To make the twist in wire we held a pair of pliers on each end and literally twisted the wire to the disired amount.

One thing I realised when the rings were finished was that at this stage if you like the effect just continue a little more so it’s slightly exaggerated as when you bend the ring to shape the twist is stretched and flattens a bit.
One of the designs I really liked was twisted but then had a flattened outer edge. This needed to be done with a flat headed metal hammer. We had a sand bag on the workbench and a steel block to sit the wire on, and we all sat there bashing away at our metal.

For the last ring, which was a thicker wire, I used I hammer which had a subtle stripe pattern on it which I quite liked the look of on the other rings. But after trying it on my wire I wasn’t too sure.

There  were lots of different hammers with different patterns on them, Dawn showed me the effect of one of them she used and I loved it. So I decided to use it on mine too.

Again I’d have been a bit harder with it knowing that the pattern flattened a bit when the ring was shaped.
Once I was happy with the designs I measured the wire again and cut it to the correct length that matched my ring size.

Now it was time to shape the ring. We used a ring sizer mandrel and a rubber mallet to bend the wire. It was quite difficult holding the wire and mandrel steady while hitting it hard enough to bend the wire.

The thicker wire was harder so I annealed it first to make it easier to bend. The end of the wires were the most difficult as the wire would slide out of my fingers, but I got there in the end.

Once the rings were shaped into ring shapes I then had to make sure the ends were in place ready for soldering. This bit was really tricky as the ends had to be touching with no gap in between otherwise the solder wouldn’t work. There was a lot of tiny backwards and forwards and up and down movements to get it in exactky the right place.

The thicker square wire was easiest to match up but the twisted wire had to have a bit more thought to it so that when it was soldered it flowed together.

Once this bit was done it was time to solder! We used tiny bits of silver solder and a blow torch, placing the little bits of solder under the join in the rings and heating them up with the blowtorch, when the solder was at the correct temperature it melted and sprang up into the join of the ring…

And there you had it. An actual ring!

Once the rings were soldered they had to be put in a pickling mixture to remove oxidisation and clean the metal, they were in this mixture of about 15 minutes. When I took them out they were a matt white colour and the only thing left to do was to file where the solder was so it was smooth and blended in with the rest of the ring and then a good polish!

I tried the rings on for size and they fitted perfectly. I still wasn’t convinced they would be beautiful as I just couldn’t picture them finished.

The polisher was a tumbler which had a very mild abrasive solution in it and some metal ball bearings and what looked like metal sprinkles.
We left them in here churning away for maybe 15 minutes.

We were all so eager to see the final results.

Julie poured the solution out into a seive along with the metal bearings and we were peering over her shoulder to see if we could spot our rings.

The final result was a lot better than I expected. I LOVED them!
They were shiny, the rings looked so nice together, they stacked nicely, the patterns showed nicely and for a moment I couldn’t believe I’d made them.

Not only did I come away with a really nice piece of jewellery it was actually really nice spending some time with my lovely creative friends doing something together.

Something I’ve not done in years.

I was surprised how easy the process was to make these rings, but can appreciate how time consuming it is to make them perfect. Julie has been making jewellery for 20 years and hers are flawless, shiny and simply beautiful craftsmanship.

Normally I will have a go at new craft by looking online and watching videos but this isn’t something I’d ever have had a go at myself, obviously these rings are far from perfect but I love them.

I really really want to have a go at the fidget rings which were definitely much harder to master and Sandra had a much more difficult job to get everything to fit just so.
I think I’ll definitely be booking another one in the future to learn this technique too.

It was great meeting Julie, she is a brilliant creative and her work is beautiful and unique.

This is a course I’d definitely recommend, the price is very good considering what you come away with and there is a price for every budget depending on what you want to make.

You can see more of her work and treat yourself to a beautifully handcrafted piece of jewellery here:

Enrolling In a Free Enduro School!

So just before the school holidays begin in Portugal (12 weeks off school!!), we started Elvis at an Enduro School, (Escola de Enduro) which is taught by two brothers and takes place at Escuderia Castelo Branco, which about 40 minutes away from us.

We have passed the race track many times on the way to the city to get building supplies and other lack lusture items, but one time on my way back, I (Mike) decided to pop into their office and have a chat about what they offer at Escuderia.

I found out they are the biggest motoring event organisation in Portugal. They handle most of the main rallies here (all accept WRC), and also have a brand new, full size, outdoor track for racing on 270cc karts, they organise auto cross, Baja events, enduro… basically all forms of motorsports are pretty much covered by the team at ECB.

When I went in I met a guy called Miguel who is one of the photographers and organisers of the events run by ECB. I told him that we’ve moved here recently and once he found out I had a son who was a keen rider he was delighted to tell me about the free Enduro school that is running once a month. They utilize the main Enduro track and a special, ”flatter” track which is great for gaining confidence on the bikes. 

I was told that there were even some quads Elvis could use for free, donated by the GNR (the Police).

The only thing he needed to bring was boots, gloves and helmet – check.

The enduro school is the second saturday of the month so we noted it on the calender and made sure we left the day free.

The Saturday arrived and we set off to get there early. As we didn’t have to bring anything aside from Elvis’ safety gear we left his quad and electric bike at home. We didn’t really know what to expect so the first time was all about seeing what it was like, whether elvis would like it and how it’s all set up.

We arrived at 9am but it was really quiet and for a moment I thought I may have the wrong day! But I was then told it wasn’t until 10am when most people start to rock up. Although if we had have bought our own bikes, we could have actually gone on the track straight away which was worth noting for the future.

We went and had a drink by the go kart track (which is huge) then waited for some of the staff to bring us a quad. The first one that turned up wasn’t great, and didn’t have a battery so they went away and bought us another one, the quad bikes clearly aren’t used that much as it was a nightmare to get it started but the staff were great, didn’t give up and eventually got it running.  

After about half an hour, the place was quite busy and despite my novice Portuguese language skills I met some lovely parents and kids, who were all just as excited as Elvis and myself. 

Elvis did many laps of the starter track, which was effectively just an oval loop, on the 50cc quad. He had some direction from myslef and the two brothers who run the school.

Once they could see he was confident, they said we could run on part of the main track so Elvis could get a feel for the banks, hills, weight transfer and everything else that is different to road riding.

This was superb. The teaching style was quite open, rather than hammering into the kids the rules – it was more, “get a feel for the track and the bike and if you feel confident you can go on to the next part”. 

Joao did admit to me that quads weren’t their speciality and it was more mx and enduro bikes that were taking part. Apart from Elvis on this day of course. Elvis is confident on a quad bike, he has his own so he’s used to riding them, his is a larger engine and a larger quad so I explained to Joao that I was confident Elvis was fine and experienced enough, so Joao let me take the lead with the direction for for Elvis riding the quad, which was perfect.

Every half hour or so they would come over and comment on Elvis’ riding, and throw in little pointers such as “he needs to get used to standing” or, ”leaning”. It wasn’t full on, it was relaxed and I felt the level of input they had was perfect.

After a couple of hours, a few chats with other members and some senior Enduro riders that had come along as well it was clear Elvis wanted to stop using the quad and start using bikes instead. (the smell of 2 stroke in the morning, and all that).

So in short we had a great few hours, no money spent (other than drinks – it did get hot) and we met some lovely people in the process.

Before we arrived I was a bit anxious because of not having a good grasp of the language yet and I though I might feel a bit of an outcast but everyone was really welcoming, super friendly and they all made elvis felt like he had always part of the team.

I highly recommend it for all kids, even older teens. One thing that was great to see was that there were a few girls involved too which was awesome in what is stereotypically a man’s macho sport.

In total it was about 4 hours long, Elvis worked hard, had loads of fun and by the end of the session he had already gained so much confidence. We packed his stuff away jumped in the car and headed back home… Elvis was fast alseep 5 minutes into the journey – he loved it.

My head was then excitedly filled with getting him his first 2 stroke petrol motorcycle! Even though he has an electric off road motorbike, it was obvious that the battery wouldn’t be sufficient enough for these events.

So I guess now we’re bike shopping….let’s see what we can find!

Until next time………

Snow, Sledging and Skiing in Portugal!

We took a few days in the mountains, to enjoy Xmas in the amazing Serra da Estrela mountain range. With our house not ready to move into… we don’t even have electricty to the property yet! Christmas was going to be a complete wash out. And with a 5 year old who lives for Christmas we wanted to do what we could to make it special for him.

Serra da Estrela is the highest point in Portugal. Just over 40 minutes drive on quiet roads, from Vista de Penamacor and 2000 meters above sea level at its peak, the views are unlike anything we had experienced before.

This year there wasn’t that much snow, but normally (and 3 days after we left) this is the number one ski resort in Portugal. With 6 runs, a ski lift, plenty of tabogans to buy and a local market it’s a pretty cool place to see.

What strikes you most is the sheer size of the mountains, and the lack of people. It’s quiet!

At its peak, (Torre) there are two government GNR buildings used to monitor communications, which have long since been abandonded but they are very iconic and you can’t miss them when looking across the landscape.

Elvis (the 5 year old) loved it, even with only the small amount of snow, that was actually more like beds of ice when we were there, we purchaced a sledge from the little shop and off we went down the small slopes. It was a lot of fun and even Carla went twos up with Elvis down the slope… Carla trying her best to avoid the freshly thawed, freezing cold stream at the bottom of the hill while Elvis was laughing his head off desperately trying to stear them towards it.

I asked him what his advice to other children visiting would be, and he said “dont forget your sledge”. You can buy them up at the peak for 12 Euro if you havent got one. There is also food, drink and local produce there.

It is very exposed so very cold so definitely wrap up, you can buy all the gear you need in the local shops but to save yourself some money it’s best to bring what you can.

Obviously in the summer, and in 38 degree heat, the landscape and the flora and fauna totally changes. It is amazing, and we will bring you another video on that later this year.

Although we rented a log cabin (it was very expensive due to the time of the year) we are only actually a 50 minute drive from the mountains, which means if we have a random day or morning that we fancy dong something it’s not far to venture up to have a play in the snow.

On boxing day we went to visit a waterfal Poço do Inferno, the roads to get there were through forest and around the sides of the mountains. The roads were great with incredible views with water running off the hills frozen into icicles, when we got there we found a designated parking spot, again although there were people around it was still quiet and a pleasure to explore.

The waterfall was beautiful cascading down the rocks into the pool below, a man-made bridge set above the flow of water that gushed underneath and followed a stream under the road. There are handrails places all the way up the side of the rock and some semi-natural steps to navigate, over the man-made bridge which then allows you step onto rocks right at the waters edge.

Although it was cold the weather was sunny and bright which of course adds extra beauty factor.

After this we went to a place called Manteigas which is a town set down in a valley. This is a really beautiful town and has a great vibe, we found a cafe and sat with coffee in the sinshine in disbelief that this is where we actually live, in Portugal.

Manteigas actaully has an artificial ski slope which we since found out. Obvioulsy due to covid restrictions all leisure activies are closed so we couldn’t explore that side of things at the time.

But again being so close to us we will definitely head back there and see what else is around, we didn’t get the chance to get much footage of the town this time so it’s a great excuse to go back and get some time.

Serra da Estrela is also a must for rock climbers, orienteering, kayaking and much more. This place is a cycling and indeed a motorcycle paradise, with amazing views, twisty roads and the Marques da Silva Barragem (wild swimming) all within 20 minutes drive of its peak.

Make sure you take your camera – it is breathtaking

You can check our video of Christmas in mountains over on our youtuba channel here:

Thanks for checking in.

Mike and Carla

It’s happened! We’re really doing it.

Wow… Has it really been that long!?

We know it’s been quite some time since we last filled you in…the thing is you see, it’s been quite the rollercoaster!

So where were we all that time ago!? That’s right. Mike was heading to Portugal to do the first trip!

A LOT has happened since then.

When Mike came back it was my turn to do the drive with Elvis and the dog Mia. It was in total a 24 hour drive without stopping. I think I did in about 35ish with a little sleep stop here and there. The rest stops on the way down through France and Spain are great and very frequent, so if you’re feeling tired you really don’t have to drive for much longer to find somewhere.

Now Elvis is 5 years old and I expected the usual fidgeting…are we there yet? I want to get out of my seat, I’m bored. But my oh my….he was simply amazing and made the best co-pilot. We had plenty of stops for a quick dog walk, to stretch our legs and have food. We had prepared a picnic so we didn’t need to worry about finding any shops.

We arrived in Portugal at 7am on Friday 21st August at our new home, the quinta. The weather was bleak but driving through the mountains and seeing the top of them covered in fog was mesmerising and despite the lack of sun I was still very excited to be there.

An hour or so later my dad came to the quinta with our bell tent that we would be living in. Mike was on his way with furniture so for now, me and Elvis were on a blow up mattress with a duvet.

We spent the first couple of weeks just enjoying life in Portugal, the temperature reached over 40 degrees some days and we were desperate for shade and ice cold drinks.

We realised very quickly that trying to get everything done we wanted was going to take its toll on us. Stood there just looking at the land we got that ‘oh fuck what have we done’ moment and it was all very overwhelming, it still is to be honest.

Our building was surrounded by mimosa, which until you really get in and look around you realise that it’s going to cause big problems. We cut it back but it was so dense that there was no way in hell that we would be able to take the roots out ourselves, but they needed to come out as we could barely get to the house through them.

We hired a guy with a digger, the very famous Frank de Digger who came for a couple of days and ripped out all the roots. We also got him to make us a new entrance too with a huge driveway. Until the mimosa had gone we hadn’t thought much about where we were going with the building and optimistic me thought ‘how hard can it be, we can do it ourselves, save ourselves a bit of money’…I was very very wrong. While we had the initial plan in our head having the man power and construction knowledge to physically do it was beyond us and we didn’t want a building that would fall down in 5 years!

We had a meeting with the local council architect and discussed with him what we wanted to do. It’s his job to say yes or no and offer advice on what you can and can’t do and that was pretty much it. We left feeling great and relieved that we could go ahead with our plans.

Time was getting on winter was about to set in… Portugal rains hard and it gets cold.

With the help of friends we managed to source some local Portuguese builders who promised us they would start early December.

We were a bit dubious as we have heard many horror stories about builders not showing up, doing a terrible job or only working when they please. But these guys came well recommended.

They did not disappoint!

From 5th December to now, 27th Jan, they have turned our decrepit ruin into something we can visualise ourselves being very happy in. They’re skills are excellent, they’re lovely guys and boy do they work hard.

We will be doing the inside of the house ourselves and are yet to bring the electricity cables to the house and install a fuse board, it took from June to January to actually get the electricity installed and connected to the quinta itself along with water mains. Again I think we had luck with this as we’ve also heard extortionate quotes to have this done.

Life has been good so far, we struggle some days…ok a lot of days, to summon the motivation to work on the land. There is a lot of clearing and a lot of digging and a lot of old, dead plants and weeds laying around so we are taking one step at a time on concentrating on thing. Sometimes you just can’t see the woods for the trees!

We have so far managed to clear the whole of the forest after years of pine needle build up just laying there, the forest floor can finally see some light, we have had lots of mushrooms growing (which we hope to identify for next year so we can forage) and we also threw a lot of grass seed down to get some greenery in the bottom.  We probably raked out around 5 tonne of pine needles!

We have also prepared the ground to plant our vineyard. We hope in a couple of years we can start making our very first wine which is going to be pretty fun.  We wanted to get the vineyard done by Christmas but unfortunately as it was just so cold we didn’t manage to finish it. Originally we prepared the ground and worked out we could fit around 350 grape vines in but have decided to cut that down and instead used about a 3rd of the ground we sectioned off for a vegetable patch instead.

And that’s pretty much it for now. I mean there are so many other things I could go into but I didn’t want to drone on just wanted to give you an update on our building work and our land. There’s so many things I want to tell you in more detail but I’ll do that on another post.

We promise to write again much sooner that last time and tell you about the all the exciting things we are doing instead of just the building progress. We have already seen so much of the local area, and not for one minute do we ever get sick of the sight of the views.

Covid at the moment means there are a few restrictions and lockdowns but when you have your own beautiful land and outdoor space it’s not really all that bad and feel we are very lucky…although I’m dying for a decent coffee!

Look after yourselves.

Will this actually happen or is it just a dream?

I should be telling you that I am sat in the sunshine on our Portuguese quinta writing an update on how our journey was, the 18 hour drive in our camper and a van with all of our belongings in. Travelling with a dog and an over energetic 5 year old. I should be telling you all the beautiful places we stopped off on the way through France and Spain and how excited we were to finally get to Portugal.

But I’m not here to tell you all of that. Because we’re still in the U.K! Instead I’m sat in the garden of our West Sussex home whilst Elvis is splashing about in the 8ft £25 Tesco special pool, that we bought to help ease lockdown boredom, on a lilo that I managed to ram into my suitcase to bring back from a holiday to spain last year.

So things haven’t  exactly gone according to plan…rather annoyingly we feel like we are stuck in this weird between world that’s out of our control.

Our plan was to leave our house on the market in the U.K. and head out to Portugal for summer to get started on preparing the quinta to renovate our house and plan the retreat. We would enrol Elvis in his new Portuguese school so he could start the new school year in September and take him out of the U.K. school system. We would come back to sort out the house sale when we had an offer and exchange date, but potentially Mike would have to come back for work in October anyway. We estimated around 6-8 week’s worth of Portuguese living before having to change things up again.

So what happened?

We made preparations to leave the U.K. sometime during the week commencing 20th July. Very loosely planned I know! But we are very kindly being loaned a van to be able to take our belongings down and we were waiting for confirmation that the van passed it’s MOT. Unfortunately it needed more work than originally thought so we then hoped that we would be off by the 30th July instead in the van and using our camper to sleep in overnight on the way down. Our friend let us know before the 30th that it was unlikely we would have the van by then and we would be looking at 7th August at the earliest. It’s O.K. we thought, we can hang on, there’s no point doing such a huge journey if we can’t take at least most of, if not all, of our stuff at the same time. And it’s such a huge favour to be loaned this van it really was no problem to wait another week or so.

We had our camper wheels sprayed mid July and I went up to London the very next day to collect a front door for my dad to take to Portugal with us, I had to pull in for a car and stupidly scuffed one of the wheels (so I thought…it ended up being 2) I asked our friend if he could repair it for me and he said he could do it first thing the next day. I dropped the keys over and left it with him. The next morning I heard the van start up and leave and that was that. An hour or so later we had a call from our friend to say that the camper wouldn’t go into gear and it was stuck in his the garage. The same thing happened to our previous t4 so we knew what the problem was, the gear linkage bushes. As it was a week day we managed to get some the same day and popped them over to our friend and get them fitted, Mike and James spent a few hours trying to get these things on and after almost losing hope they finally managed to do it. Luckily this didn’t happened in London the day before and leave me stranded or dare I say it…half way through France!

Late Saturday evening on 1st August Mike was heading to the garage to get milk for the morning, he went in the camper van, and as luck would have it… he broke down, he had no phone on him as he’d left it home thinking he was only going to be a few minutes, I’d put Elvis to bed and was going to settle down myself when I started to worry as to where Mike was, over an hour goes by and I hear the keys in the door, Mike comes rushing in out of breath and runs to the kitchen to down a glass of water, he’d just walked 45 minutes home… at 11.45 at night.

Apparently the camper had just died whilst he was coming back, as he had no phone he couldn’t call the AA, so he grabbed his phone and my car and drove back out there. The AA told him they’d 1-3 hours, so he sat waiting, after about half an hour he had a call back to tell him to leave the camper and go home as they were unlikely to get to him that night and they would call him at 9am in the morning. We went to sleep for the night and dealt with it the next day. 8:30am arrived and he received an email to let him know the AA would be with him in 15 minutes! So he frantically got himself together and went over. Unfortunately the AA guy couldn’t get the van started and after researching what the possible problem was the night before, everything suggested it was either the fuel pump or the relay.  The AA guy confirmed he thought this and towed the van a garage to our local garage. The garage has had the camper since Monday 3rd August, it’s now Friday 7th August and they still can’t find the fault. There is a fuse that keeps shorting out which is responsible for allowing fuel to the fuel pump they can’t figure out why the fuse keeps shorting, they’re painstakingly going through the wiring… which is a mess due to previous owners handy working installing stereos, immobilisers, central locking and leisure batteries…so nothing is where it should be.

So that’s the van and the camper situation.

On Wednesday 5th August Mike had to pop to the solicitors to give them some paperwork…we had an offer on the house the week before and we accepted. For quickness and ease of parking he took my motorbike… which developed a misfire and decided it doesn’t want to idle anymore….but at 5krpm it’s fine. So we investigate, we take the thing apart, order all the servicing parts we need, because we might as well do it whilst we have it apart. We figure it could be a couple of things, the plugs or the jets, most likely the jets. We change everything we can but as always, as luck would have it we can’t get the carbs off because the only alen key we need is the back of the camper…which is in the garage.

I know it doesn’t sound like a lot but we’re pretty exhausted with all the problems that keep presenting themselves, although everything can be fixed it’s the problem solving and rescheduling, the hoping and the chasing up that is draining. Having to make back up plans for back up plans at the last minute wasn’t really something we had planned for.

Finally… we got the call to say the van was ready, the work that our friend Ben had to do to it to get it through its MOT was a lot and we cannot thank him enough for going to so much effort to help us with our move. It’s saved us a fortune and a lot of hassle. We definitely owe him a holiday once we are all set up. Ben if you’re reading this you can hold us to that. We picked it up on the 11th August.

So the now we had the dilemma of how we were going to do this… several options and some of them meant doing several trips with Elvis and the dog. So we decided the best option was to load up the van and Mike head down on his own and then come back, load up again and then we all go down, Elvis and our dog in the car with myself.

Our camper van is still with the garage so we have told them to keep going with it and we will hopefully have it fixed and ready to take down eventually!

So that was that! Our official plan sorted.

Mike booked his ticket for the shuttle and as I write this he is making his way across the channel. He has just over 1700km to cover, unload the van with the help from my dad and then he will make his way back. Another 1700km!

In total we estimate 3 trips as we will need to head back over to exchange contracts on the house but we are just glad to finally be on our way to our new adventure.

It’s not going to be an easy ride and there will be a lot of stress I’m sure but it’s a small price to pay for a lifetime of happiness and worry free living.

Hopefully next time we will be here telling you about all the things we’ve done with the land so far and give you a few clues about what we hope to have for you all when you come and stay for your motorcyclke getaway in Portugal.

Thank you for bearing with us and thank you to everyone who has given us the love and support helping us keep our dream alive and keeping the faith.

Until next time.

Mike and Carla.