We've been staying in Valpacos for a couple of weeks now, having mostly got used to the idea that people were so willing to help two wet, smelly foreign strangers and welcome us into their lives. Strange isn't the right word for it, it's sad that such things might be considered strange - but it is very much at odds with what we are used to.
We are living with Manuela, her father, and a Ukrainian girl who speaks good Portuguese. We still don't understand much of what is said, but are learning to pick out words, and are coming to the conclusion that most conversations are about food. Everybody cooks for everybody in the house - huge pots of soup (including a fantastic Ukrainian red soup), stews, roasted castanhas (chestnuts)... We have been working our way through a selection of delicious sausages which hang over the fireplace, some made with bread and some with honey. Unfortunately, we have provided suitable representation for English cuisine by cooking such delights as a bland, tasteless stew that I don't think anybody really liked, and a bolognese that nobody complained about but ultimately ended up in the dog's bowl.
We did make an apple crumble, and as many of you will know, Dgym is an expert in the field of crumbly goodness. We couldn't find cooking apples, only sweet eating ones, so it wasn't really fruity enough. A couple of plums helped, but it could have been a lot better. It is quite possible that they are trying to keep us from cooking by getting up early to make lunch. In the UK I think we rely a lot more upon exotic and/or pre-prepared ingredients, rather than knowing how to work with the basics. We would welcome any suggestions as to how we can make a favourable culinary impression upon people who seem to be able to whip up the most delicious meal from a few basic ingredients. (We're good at washing up though)
At the moment, we're not quite sure where we want to end up living, but we think it's probably not here. Here is lovely in many ways, but too far from our friends and families, and too far from any decent cycling - and one thing we have learned this year is that cycle touring is great fun and we want to do lots more of it. Portugal would be great cycling if the drivers weren't psycho, and Spain would be even better cycling if they actually served food there. At the moment we're thinking France (lovely mountains, great cycling, quite convenient for exploring the continent by bike) or Scotland (low population density, very beautiful, the exact opposite of convenient for exploring the continent by bike but still lots of good cycling, and a good deal more convenient for getting back to Southern England). Both have nice houses we can afford, and both are close enough.
We will probably leave here in January, and then start focusing on finding somewhere we do want to live.