Yesterday we had some of the most dramatic weather that we have yet experienced in Góis, as we watched the most amazing lightning show progress from the west and up the Mondego and Ceira valleys towards us. We had seen the storm clouds gather, as the atmosphere became increasingly humid, and when the lightning bolts started to strike we took a seat on our balcony to enjoy the show. As the thunderclaps bounced off the hills, we watched the rain sheeting down, until it reached the point that we could hear the drumming of the advancing downpour, and finally, it was over us! The garden has been very grateful for the watering – today the sky is blue once more, and the ground refreshed. It is the rain, after all, that keeps this central region of Portugal so green and lush, and the river waters flowing.
Yesterday I spent the morning in Arganil, looking for properties for sale. I have to confess that I have never spent much time in Arganil, preferring to be on my home territory of Góis, and only popping into Arganil occasionally for the supermarket. But yesterday the sunshine and the blue skies beckoned, and it gave me a wonderful excuse to explore every corner of the town in my quest for the elusive ‘Vende-se’ signs. As I went around with my notepad and pen, it dawned on me yet again how much we miss when we are just driving through a place in a car. On foot, I gained quite a different perspective than I usually have – seeing little gardens and plots and beautiful old buildings that I never knew existed, even discovering the little river Folques for the first time, twinkling in the sun. Apart from enjoying the scent of the roses and elderflower as I made my way around the town, and picking the occasional cherry, I also felt I was experiencing the people of the town differently by walking, taking the time to greet people and watch them in the minutiae of their daily lives. Arganil is a town big enough to have a sense of bustle and purpose, but small enough to be friendly and accessible, and it has some marvelous open views of pine clad hills and distant villages. And I made a great discovery – if you walk just a few yards beyond the supermarket, the road turns into a track, and there are open fields with sweet chestnut and olive trees, poppies and butterflies. There an elderly man stooped to pick up a 10 cents coin and showed it to me, smiling as if he had found a piece of gold.
We are now entering my favourite time of the year – cherry season! All around Góis and the surrounding villages, the cherry trees are coming into fruit, and the fruit is coming into the shops and the markets. This is one fruit I find totally irresistible. I can pass by the ‘nêsperas’ (loquats) that are also in season at the moment – they are just too tart for me – but I can never have too many cherries. They say here that you should not eat cherries when they are warm for some reason, but I think that a sun-warmed cherry has all the more flavour. To my taste, there is nothing that surpasses a ripe red cherry plucked straight from the tree. Unless it’s a plum…
The wheel of the year has turned full circle, and we are now back to where we first started writing the Blog, on the 1st May – that wonderful celebratory day of spring and promise. Once again, we have been blessed with an extraordinarily beautiful day of sunshine and blue skies. Public holidays being taken on the date that they fall here in Portugal, rather than the nearest Monday, today we closed the office and went out and enjoyed the scenery and the weather. We headed up to Trevim, supposed to be the second highest point in Portugal, where the wind was whipping our clothes as we admired the fantastic views laid out before us, stretching all the way to the Atlantic Ocean in the west, and over to the Serra Estrela in the east. Up on the heights of Trevim itself, there is a curious mixture of old military installations and the new technology of microwave masts and satellite dishes, surrounded by the vibrant purple and gold vegetation that is covering the hillsides at the moment. From Trevim it is a short hop to Santo António de Neve, where there is a little isolated chapel and 3 remaining stone snow-houses, dating from the 18th century. Snow and ice from the mountain used to be stored in these circular and octagonal houses before being taken down to Lisbon, first by ox-cart and then on the river, for the use of the royal court. The 1st of May is also known as the Day of the Snakes in Portugal, and right on cue, we did see a snake slither off into the undergrowth as we were walking round the little houses.
Being out and about in the countryside of central Portugal is a little confusing at this time of year. I was delighted to hear a cuckoo calling as we stopped to admire the sight and scent of the may blossom on the roadside – it could have easily been an English lane in the spring. But in the next instant we have the heather in full bloom, and clouds of butterflies that spell high summer in England, so the seasons feel strangely mixed up according to my internal calendar! The lizards were all out today sunbathing, - I even found myself braking to avoid running them over on the road (could I write a best-selling travelog and call it ‘Driving Over Lizards’? Now there’s a thought...) The crowning touch to the day was being treated to a visit by a Hoopoe, the magnificent crested bird that graced the top of last month’s blog page- not something we see every day.