Whether the weather be good, or crap. ….

Well, the idea of coming away for a couple of  months early in the year is to escape the coldness of the winter at home as despite popular belief, Spain does get cold. The size of the country means that oooop north they get loads of rain, whilst the high parts of Spain like Granada and Teruel get amazing snow enabling great ski tourism businesses to flourish. Normally in Orba, in January and February we get a bit of rain, and quite a lot of wind, gusting down our valley.
Here in Portimao we have roughly the same temperature during the day,but we have definitely been warmer more recently at night. My bread making has helped on the  colder mornings. Mutley, who has now had his first trim of the spring due to the fact we had a few lovely sunshine, but despite  checking the forecast and seeing good sunshine, we’ve had rain and storms, even hail!

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So, Mr Muppet has spent the last few nights wrapped up on my seat in a blanket!

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However, here we do get the most spectacular sunsets and views on the beach, as this photo demonstrates.

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We have taken advantage of our bikes,  and  been cycling around the town, and also the area a little, and found some amazing blossom which is everywhere at the moment.

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We also used our bikes to go out for dinner one evening, up to Praia da Rocha for a kebab! The kebab shop got quite good reviews on TripAdvisor, and their service was very good, although their kebab wasn’t the best we have tasted, but they did give us a sample of curry, as they were not Greek or Turkish but Punjabi. So we had a sample of onion naan and some chicken tikka, only for Bruce to taste it and realise that it was Chilli Chicken Tikka!! And it was very spicy indeed!

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What else? Our lovely Slovenian friends Breda and Borut Justin met up with us here in Portimao, and we spent a couple of lovely evenings with them catching up and planning our visit to Slovenia in the Autumn to see them.

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I managed to wow them with my flaked pastry pesto wings, and caramelised onion and bacon dip!

One thing that I find hilarious every morning is the sight of the bottles that people leave next to the bins for recycling. …anyone would think that motorhomers are alcoholics!!

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101 uses of……. multi tasking utensils!

In our motorhome we have to make sure that things are necessary in it due to lack of space, therefore most items in here have more than one use.  Today’s item of dual usage is my mussel pot that I bought from a vide grenier somewhere in France last year. Although this has lived in the house until this trip, I haven’t actually used it yet, as when we do have mussels at home we normally have to many to fit in the pot!
So I thought I would pop it in the van, in the hope that we might get some mussels whilst away, and I’d try to force myself not to buy so many! As yet I’ve not bought any…. which helps, although i now have to justify to myself the space that i have used up in bringing it with me, so I am using the base of the pot this morning trying out a recipe that my good friend Deb Hurst shared on Facebook for a simple Artisan Bread.
Here’s the original link, which includes a video to show how simple it is.
It’s Always Autumn Blog.

With only a few ingredients and a very simple method it seemed the perfect cooking experiment for the van….. so here I am, waiting for it to come out of the oven….  you actually cook the loaf in a covered pot, hence the dual purpose mussel pot…. it may come out like a brick, in which case I shall give it to Bruce to fashion some new ramps out of for the van!  Dual purpose bread you see!

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I did spend about 10 minutes hunting down the yeast in the Continente supermarket on our trip out to Silves the other day, and eventually found  it next to the honey and syrup….of course, silly me! But every thing else was straight forward. … with the base work being done yesterday afternoon , and the the dough was proved in the cupboard which is above our oven – perfect place for the yeast to develop.
Then a little bit more work this morning, as the 2nd prove was done while the oven was heating up, and also allowing the van to warm up too, and now I have the loaf in the oven, filling the van with yummy fresh bread smells! Fabulous! !
This first loaf was a little under done, so I have since redone it, just putting it on a tray, and it turned out perfect, slightly moist in texture, like a ciabatta. 
This is a photo of the second one…. lovely, and half gone within half an hour of it being cool enough to slice!

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The making of Portia.

So,  Portia, Portia is our fairy, which I have made from a wire kit I bought from a company called Fantasy Wire. They make life size fairy sculptures out of wire, and I have added a few photos of their work,which I find just so amazingly beautiful. You can find their website by clicking this link –  Fantasy Wire website

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I have no idea what it costs to have one made,but the nearest I can get was to buy one of their small fairy kits,  where you can make your own. So…. off we go! I got the kit sent to my friend Kathy Brennan in the UK,  and we picked her up when we went back for Dad’s birthday celebration. The base fairy is just that, – a wire skeleton for you to build upon, using the wire provided and very good instructions.

The first thing you have to do is decide what pose you would like her to end up in, as the basic skeleton must be bent into position before you start. We decided we would  like her to be hanging, so these collage photos demonstrate the various stages I went through.

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You make the basic body structure out of the thicker wire,  twisting and turning around the base. Then you form a head, and gradually build up the shape of the muscles.

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The you use the finer wire to for the flesh top layer, smoothing everything out a little. I have made some wings which I will attach, but I wanted to make them more filigree than just a plain open wing,so I have used some beads I have leftover from my baglets to decorate the infill wire, so they look like dragon fly wings.

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We have called her Portia, because she was made in Portugal, in Praia da Rocha,  which is part of Portimao, so Portia seems a great name for her.  I have to wait until we get home before finishing her off properly,  so I will update with a photo of her finally finished when she is ready to meet her public!

Update – here’s the photos of her, finished.
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Invasion of the Vikings.

As you’ll be aware we’ve been in Portimao now for over 2 weeks, and have worked our way along our row to the front, meaning we have an excellent view of what is happening,  unobliterated sunshine (when it does occur), and a good wifi signal.
So, you can imagine our horror when we discovered that the part of the car park in front of us, which historically has been kept empty to allow cars to park there, was being used for a group of 17 Danish vans, travelling in convoy.  Not only that,  but they parked side on, which totally wiped out any sun in front of us, as the first van parked so close. I had to keep Bruce calm, but there was a lot of huffing and puffing from his direction….. thank fully I think they are going this morning, so peace will resume.

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Yesterday we witnessed a very large motorhome being bump started, or attempting to…. by the pickup truck of the site owner. Obviously it had some sort of battery issues,  as the next thing we knew 2 small recovery trucks appeared and about 5 mechanics. This however didn’t work, and it stayed where it was parked, until 7.30am this morning when I heard another truck.

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This time they had sent a truck large enough for the weight of the motorhome, we watched in amusement  (as it wasn’t our misfortune! ) as they loaded it onto the truck. The issue they had was the massive overhang and st the back of the van would have been ripped to shreds on the floor until the driver started to place wood planks by the wheels to change the angle.

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Add to that, we’ve just walked Mutley round the site, and spotted an oil trail….. a huge leak from a van on site,leading back to a large Brit registered van, with an unhappy looking owner. He’d fished out something broken from under the bonnet, which Bruce identified as an oil seal. So now he is also going other have to call a breakdown truck for a tow to get it fixed.
On the way back from the walk, we then passed the water filling station, where another van had broken down,  totally blocking the water point, with  a breakdown car already there trying to help sort the issue. We took silent pleasure that it’s not always us that breaks down. ….. it seems from word around the site that this last one has somehow managed to fill his diesel tank with the water hose!!! I bet he’s kicking himself!

Portuguese punctures…..Argh!

Well, this trip we’ve been very happy with Mr Ben, who has been behaving on every front especially after the last trip we had where he cost us so much money.  This trip the theme of trauma seems to go to the punctures. The day after (roughly) Bruce  bought his bike, he suffered a puncture whilst cycling home, but luckily had a self repair kit on him so that got him back to the van.
Then the third trip out on my bike I noticed something strange with the front wheel, and it appears that the actual tyre was splitting, as they were only cheap  chinese ones. As we’d already found out that the shop didn’t have any tyres to fit the bikes when Bruce had his problem, we took it to another cycle shop called One Bike where they fitted a decent tyre and we managed to get the money back from Decathlon for the repair.
Then today we had to go back again as I was getting a bad clicking when cycling from the crank shaft. Decathlon has become our second home, but despite having a bike workshop they couldn’t do the job without sending my bike off for a week!  By now we’re getting just a tad despondent, but one bright spark says we can literally swap the bike over,  so we do that,  after taking off my tyres and saddle which we’d sorted out.

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So,I now have another new bike,  totally new…… so we’ll see how we get on.
So what else could go wrong you ask? Well, on Monday we decided to pay a visit to Lagos, to revisit the restaurant that we went to with Huw and Carolyn, as their dish of the day for Monday is lamb stew. So we treated ourselves to lunch out, with the leftovers as a takeaway,  as we knew we’d not be able to eat it all. Each meal is served with fried potatoes and really lovely rice (I think basmati,but with cloves and cardamon pods through it to add extra flavour).  So I picked the lamb, and Bruce had the turkey breast with mushroom sauce. Rather yummy to say the least, and the leftovers have served us for at least another 2 meals each.

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So on the way home from Lagos, we went through the lovely harbour village of Alvor, as the wind was about 45km per hour so a bit hectic on the exposed roads. We’d just come round a corner when Bruce pulled over with a puncture on the scooter! !

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My hubby is a fab mechanic and prepared for things like this, as he had a wheel repair kit under the saddle.  Sadly, it had been under there so long, that it didn’t give enough foam to repair the wheel. So we had to start the 6km walk back to the van.  Luckily a car pulled over to help and a young couple gave Bruce a lift back to the van, while I stayed with the bike. He then came back with the van to pick  us up. So, all in all, a traumatic week for punctures!  Fingers crossed we’re not going to have any more.

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So, we gave in…..

Well, it didn’t last long, and we gave in and bought another folding bike from Decathlon, so we now have a brace, a matching pair, his and hers Valentine’s bikes! Again we bought the second one in between rain showers, together with a waterproof cover to go over the pair of them so we can lock them together outside. And we can now pootle off together on them. We’ve already been out a couple of times on them, now we just need to reorganise inside the van for when we travel around, and will have to empty out some bits we really don’t use that much when we get home.

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We did try Muppet in a box we have in the van, so size, so we may look into fixing it onto on of the bikes, but we’ll have to see, as you can judge from his hang dog expression,he was not amused!

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We’re suffering at the moment from a few light rain showers, but seem to have gotten off very lightly compared to the Storm Imogen that has hit the UK. I think we have another day of some rain, before the sun makes a very welcome comeback.  Having said that, the clouds do make for some interesting sunrises,  like this one today.

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We’ve also had some short bursts in between showers to get out, and to see how busy the site was we took this photo from above it. Every site this year on the Algarve, and indeed from the sound of it in Spain, is very busy, with people preferring to stay within Europe than head over to Morocco,  which has always been very popular in the winter due to the weather, especially with the french motorhomes. However, sadly, in this time of radical extremists,  people are staying safe, and avoiding putting themselves in harms way.

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I am looking forward very much to the more summery months, as I’m getting into my salad, especially a fresh cherry tomato one, which I mix with balsamic vinegar glaze, olive oil, finely chopped red onion and fresh basil. Perfect for lunch with the soft Portuguese bread rolls that I buy each morning from the van that comes around, and also so is this avocado – chopped avocado, mixed with salted sunflower seeds and chopped coriander, served on hot toast – very scrummy!

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Experiments and bicycles!

So, as you can imagine, when you spend time in one place, like Mr Ben, we have to find things to do to occupy ourselves. As we’ve spent quite a while here in Portimao over the years we end up having quests or missions to go on. One such thing is that at some point in the past Bruce bought a chip seasoning from France, which is normally sprinkled on chips, but he likes it on everything. He has become somewhat addicted to this stuff, and has been trying to contact the company to get some more, swith no joy at the moment.  So we decided he should try to make some up of his own. So we bought the ingredients  – salt, garlic powder, onion powder and parsley,  and he made a batch which I think tastes pretty much like the original one!  So that was a fun half hour we had the other night, experimenting with salt lined up on the table with various powders, looking like something out of Breaking Bad! The Dowding drug den!

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Yesterday we had another mission – as he has been cycling like crazy when at home to get fit and lose weight, he has been missing his bike here on tour. We don’t have enough space on the van to bring the bikes and the scooter,  so it’s always one or the other, and usually the scooter wins as it’s much more practical for going shopping with. But all around our aire here at the marina we keep seeing other people cycling off on various bikes, including fold up ones.
So we decided that we’d check out the nearest Decathlon store and see what their folding bikes were like, and how small would they fold to…… here is Bruce investigating them in the shop.

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And here is the bike in our van! Yes, we have become the proud owners of a bike!

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The funny thing was that we deliberately didn’t take enough money with us when we went looking,  so had to go back to the van and make a decision.  We did,and also I realised I was going to have to cycle it back from the store to the van, as it was too bulky to carry, and not worth collecting in the van. So in between the rain squalls that were happening yesterday I managed to dust off my cycling muscles and cycle it the 4 or 5 km back to the marina with Bruce escorting me on the scooter.   It works fine, and I think we’ll enjoy having it, we’ll see how we get on with one, and may get another but at the moment we can only fit one in, – I really must drink all that Jalon Valley wine quicker to me space!

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