A house full of surprises



Last week you could read here about our stressful ride through France on our way to Portugal for our yearly family vacation. Against all odds we had made our way through France that was suffering from a traffic infarction at that moment and wehad arrived at 10 kms from the Spanish border.

The next morning we left as soon as possible and proceeded to the south in order to cross that magic border. That moment a heavy weight fell from our shoulders as if we had been chased and as if we now found ourselves on a new territory where the danger could not reach us anymore. The threats to block the start of the Tour at San S├ębastien didn't seem credible and we moved by smoothly indeed.

That day we crossed through the dry flat interior of Spain between Burgos and Valladolid. I remember searching for ages at noon for some sort of restaurant where we tried our luck on chosing a dish arbitrarely from the incomprehensible menu. It was the most disgusting dish we ever received and we walked out again without eating it. That night we slept in a little hotel across the Portugese border in Guarda where we could see in the news the continuing miserable traffic situation in France. But we were almost at our destination.
The villa we had rented belonged to a Portugese who had adult children living in the USA whom he was visiting. It was situated in a small settlement at the foot of Obidos (the most pittoresque medieval walled city I've ever visited!). The streetlevel had a big garage and the living part could be reached by an exterior staircase entering in a spacious kitchen. Some of the rooms had been locked for us, although our bedroom key did fit the living room. But we behaved and didn't enter it anymore after that discovery :p. It didn't look like an attractive living room anyway. We had 3 bedrooms to use and 2 bathrooms and we were also allowed to enter the big garden behind the house. There was a small orchard and behind it there were sheds with chickens that were being fed by the neighbours. At ground level of the house, at the backside of the garages there was storage room with garden tools I assumed but that had been locked up for us as well.



Obidos: source on Flickr by Portugese_eyes

Soon after our arrival, my aunt, uncle and cousin had arrived as well and we started exploring the magnificent area over the next days. Each evening after a tiring tourist day where we visited the nearby historic sites, we would come home to our quiet and spacious villa where we soon felt at home.

One evening we got home and my mom and my aunt started preparing dinner quickly as we were all starving. I had noticed upon our arrival that in one of the storage rooms at the back the light had been left on. That was fairly strange as the doors had been locked all week. Maybe the neighbour had access for the chickenfood and had left the light on. My uncle went to check it out.

10 minutes later, he had not returned yet and my cousin went to look for him as dinner was almost ready.

10 minutes later both of them were still gone. They had probably run into the neighbour and we were sure that my uncle had gotten himself into a conversation with the Portugese. So I went out to call them for dinner. While I descended and walked to the backside of the house I could hear my uncle talking. Aha, he had indeed met the neighbours and had kept talking while losing track of time. The door was open slightly and the light was still on.

When I opened the door wide open, I froze still. This was not the bare grey garden storage room I had expected at all. And the 3 pairs of eyes staring back were not my uncle, the neighbour or my cousin. I stared at the tv playing in this living room and at the people who had turned around. I had not moved in the door opening yet when some of the people in the room pointed to the right.

I moved hesitantly into the next room that was a fully equipped kitchen. A Portugese mama was preparing a deliciously smelling meal while my uncle was sitting at the kitchen table with a drink in his hands . With a mixture of French and Dutch and lots of gestures he managed to keep some sort of conversation going. My cousin turned around and grinned to me "These people live here". Yes indeed, I was realising this myself. I had not overcome my surprise shock yet and could only stumble "Dinner is ready, we are waiting for you guys".
After that I raced out of the rooms as if I was bitten by a snake and I hurried back up the stairs to 'our safe home'.
'There's a couple of families living at the backside of the garages', I announced when coming in again.

This was later confirmed by my uncle and cousin who could explain to us that these people traveled a couple of days a week from market to market only to return every so many days home. The next days we waved when we saw a mini-van stuffed up to the roof turning on the drive-way. Gosh, what a story to tell at home, I thought. I didn't know yet that this wouldn't be the major story of our trip in Portugal just yet.

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Comments

Luisa Perkins said…
Wow! What a fascinating trip! I look forward to more details.

I must visit Obidos....
This is a wonderful story! I so want to visit Portugal! BTW... sorry I didn't get back to you in time today. I'm not sure of what word it would be. We used to call places a one-horse town, but I think that might be an American regionalism.
Shellie said…
So glad you made it to the villa, and how interesting your trip has been so far.
Brillig said…
Oh, it sounds so great. I'm dying for an adventure now.
anno said…
Wow -- another place I have to visit! What a wonderful story!
Wow, E the area sounds beautiful - but the acomodation - well, a bit strange!