France was an amazing first port of call on our sabbatical adventure. I would not have changed it for all the world, but as the weather started to change, and the days got shorter, we both felt the time to fly south for the winter was upon us.
While we had loved our time in Biarritz and the surrounds, there was nonetheless a healthy dose of French attitude that peppered our stay. We both speak excellent French, so the attitude we faced was not due to any sort of language barrier. It is simply that French people can sometimes be rude. They do not have the same compulsion to be polite and happy to strangers that you might get in other countries. French people do not mind complaining. I worked with French people for 7 years, I am completely used to it and actually I mostly find it charming. It does not phase me anymore.
That being said, arriving in Portugal felt like pure relief.
The journey from Biarritz to Ericeira had been longer and for some reason tougher than expected, not improved by watching the crack in the windscreen spread across the glass, or the discovery of an odd bulge on one of our tyres that looked like it was ready to burst any moment. The drive was beautiful however, through a Spanish flatland and into the snow tipped mountains that form the border with Portugal, over the Sierra and through lands of exotic cultivation. As the olive trees turned into orange trees we felt like we were truly arriving in a land far far away.
Absolutely exhausted from our 12 hour journey, we arrived at the new apartment. We met a man in the parking, friendly and helpful, proactively asking us if he could help. An old lady in the lift – our neighbour as she informed us in cheerful Portuguese – explained about being careful to close the front door firmly and wished us a happy goodbye as she steped out. Despite not being able to say more than hello and thank you, my heart lifted at this welcome to a country I fall more and more in love with every time I come.
Arriving in Portugal is like coming home, except instead of rain you get tons of sunshine and cheerful Irish people are replaced with cheerful Portuguese people.
For our first night in our new home, we lit the fire and poured ourselves generous gin and tonics. Warm, a little bit buzzed and absolutely comfortable we happily ensconced ourselves in what was only supposed to be our hometown until the end of November.
Now it is March and we are still here…