Maybe I should start this one by saying that “vacation” doesn’t really apply when you’re doing it with a one year old, no matter how adorable tinyMovieStar is. Or, better, it’s a different thing altogether, one we’re experiencing for the first time, a far cry from what used to be our “vacation” time.
Having said that, we had a blast.
We travelled the country, south to north, down to the middle, and back south after a couple of days in town. It’s not a big country but it feels HUGE when you’re doing it with a baby strapped in the back seat.
movieStar has an amazing talent for in-car entertainment, and that came in very handy all through the month and a half we spent on the road.
The little one LOVES water, and she had the chance to spend a fair amount of the month soaking in it. Beaches (both sea and river), swimming pools (indoor and outdoor), an assortment of buckets and bowls, a portable Ikea bathtub, regular bathtubs, a wooden bathtub, showers of all sorts, a garden hose, and the odd water bottle over the head. She had the chance to try, and enjoy, them all.
That was the main purpose of the time we spent going around: showing her a good time. I think we nailed it.
She met a few family members she hadn’t seen before, and spent time with the ones she had already met. Also managed to meet some of our dear friends who don’t live in Lisbon, and met the ones who do in other parts of the country. All but two of them (a couple with a kid) were missing from this month on the road.
That was also great for a us, and a welcome surprise. We saw everyone! After spending so many months going nowhere, it was awesome to be able to spend some time with them away from the city.
This was the first time we were so long out of our home in a while, so we had the experience of going through all the regular things with the new set of rules. Things are also changing very quickly. Outdoor mask wearing is still mandatory in the country whenever social distance can’t be achieved, and we did that. All of the people we met were already fully vaccinated too. The music festival we attended had an incredibly thorough Covid protocol enforced, and the hotels we stayed at needed proof of vaccination, or a test done on the premises. Restaurants were also following the rules, and we also ended up eating outside all the time anyway. People wore masks when going to the beach, and only removed them when they got to their place in the sand. At the river beaches things were a bit less strict (and kinda scary), at least for me. A LOT of people were not wearing masks at all, but they mostly came from countries where you don’t have to wear them anymore, so they might not be aware of the local rules. Everyone wears a mask in Spain, as far as we could tell.
We went to Chaves, the incredible city where the N2 Festival takes place, home of the nicest group of people in the land.
I was lucky to be invited to shoot this event a couple of years ago, and soon, really soon, they were like family to us. This is the place where tinyMovieStar was conceived, and we take that very seriously! Hahahaha…
We always feel very welcome here, and dream about these days a lot. Great friends, amazing food, and the best music around. Hard to beat. We look forward to our time in town, were sorry we couldn’t make it last year, and extra happy when we knew we’d be able to visit this time around.
Also, next to the Spanish border. We went there.
I had some work to do, of course, so movieStar stayed with the tiny one and tried to make the best out of it. We had a cousin joining us on the trop, with his wife and kid to keep her company. I would join whenever I wasn’t busy with work. Not perfect, but that was as good as we could get it this year. It was very good.
Both my parents come from the Beira Alta region, close to Serra da Estrela, the highest mountain in mainland Portugal.
When I was much younger we’d go there every year, multiple times. Summer vacation, Christmas, probably Easter too. My godfather lives in the city over there, still does, and all my other uncles (and cousins) would make the trip from their cities and join us there. It was a constant party. Grandpa and Grandma loved having a full house, and there was room for everyone.
The trip up would be a full day, over seven hours long, with a packed car, no air con, the summer heat driving us all nuts. I don’t remember it that way, but it must have been. The heat is crazy during the summer months, it had to be a crazy day.
But the summer was always the best time to be there, as the little villages would be filled with people. The ones who lived in the cities, and the ones who were forced to emigrate to other parts of Europe. The streets packed full, cars with French, German and Swiss license plates. Every village has a party day, with music and loads of food, and you could feel the happiness all around. We’d have multiple trips to Spain, Ciudad Rodrigo and Salamanca the destination of many day trips, and we would also beg my parents to let us stay at my godfather’s place in the city, sleep overs with our four cousins.
In the village we would spend the day outside, running around in the fields, playing with our friends, old and new, knowing we’d see them again in a year, growing up apart but, somehow, together. We’d go back home, but knew they’d be there when the year was done. We had horses, donkeys, cows, pigs, chicken, it was an incredible zoo over there.
And then we grew up. We had jobs and couldn’t make it there every year, others just stopped coming altogether. A few more years went by and my grandparents and some uncles sadly weren’t with us anymore, so my parents weren’t having as much fun, and would only go once a year.
I always cherished the time we spent there, a lifestyle very different from the one we had in the city. I missed it more than I would have thought I would.
My mom still owns a house there, one that belonged to my grandparents, and we do go up there. But the trips are very far apart. It’s too hot for them, it takes forever to get the house cleaned up, and not a lot of people are there anymore. As I said earlier, it’s not that much fun anymore.
I wanted tinyMovieStar to have that experience, the same one I did, but all her grandparents live in the city now. Luckily, we have found a solution!
Mansinho, one of our closest friends (actually more like family) has a village house, in the place where his parents were born, and he still spends time there. Working from home is also possible over there, as the internet connection is amazingly fast, so he goes up there often.
He has welcomed us there in the past, and we went again this month, with tinyMovieStar. She made a lot of new friends, tried some very different food items, visited her first river beaches (a lot of those in the area), went to Spain again (you can actually walk to Spain, as it’s so close). We will do this again in the future, I’m sure. She loves it, needs it, and we also do.
We took this opportunity to go through Serra da Estrela, and visit a couple of places there. Spending the night at a very nice hotel, and another one that was not as nice, but still good.
Nuno made the trip up from Lisbon, four hours on his motorcycle, and joined us there for a couple of days. He spent most of it going around with the kids, riding his bike.
We’ve been here twice this year. A couple of weeks ago we had such a good time that we came back for seconds!
Already in Lisbon, and thinking the time away this year was done, movieStar thought it would be a good idea to go back to the Algarve, and work from home. So we did.
The place where we ended up is as far from what normally is associated with the Algarve, and that’s just perfect for us. It’s the perfect spot for a few days, the hosts are the greatest, and it sure feels great to drive around in the evening, with the sweet smell of the Algarve in the air. The pool is awesome, and we all had an amazing time, this time with company, a friend was staying in the other house.
We would visit the Algarve when we were kids, and had an incredible time there. We would stay for a week, maybe two, before going up to the village, or abroad. I never got that lovely feeling of enjoyment here again. It has gotten too crowded. But I had a great time this time around.
The Algarve as a whole can be a nice place, with careful research and the right company. I think we got that one right.
We even managed to squeeze in another two visits from friends with babies, and a visit to a family house on the way up to Lisbon. Beach, pool, food and beer. Not bad at all.
And, you guessed it, a ten minute drive to Spain. We went there as well.
Back home, loads of laundry to do, groceries to shop for, and things to get ready for tinyMovieStar’s first day in school. She’s starting next week.
I, for one, know what I’ll do then: rest!