… on our very last “Mr & Mrs Smith’ assignment for this adventure. We have found ourselves in Retaxo, Castelo Branco [White Castle] which is north of Lisbon and inland, close [as the crow flies] to the Spanish border. We accepted this assignment back in February knowing that it would be our last one before returning home. It [our trip] has been a fantastic experience and we have challenged ourselves with all manner of things. I will do a summary of our trip at the end but as a teaser [some of the things] we have:- looked after 5 sheep, 2 lambs, 4 geese, 5 ducks, 3 rabbits, 2 pigs, 1 hamster and a mouse, and done 13 train trips, been on 6 ferries and were lucky enough to visit 11 States in the US of A!
We currently have three dogs – Millie and Tom (who are both retired [herding]) Border Collies and Sam who is a Terrier mix. There is meant to be four cats (Jack, Missy, Simon) but one went missing (Sooty) a few days before we arrived! And then a mouse (Charlie) and a hamster (Hammy).
We are 12km from the town of Castelo Branco in a place called Retaxo [Ree-tash-eeo]. We understand that the house is the original railway station, but now a privately owned ‘house’ that has many add-ons. The trains thunder by 8 times a day and I think you won’t live closer to a railway line than this! The trains are only very short (4 carriages) , so it is only for a few seconds as they pass. The new station is only a platform and is about 500m down the road.
We are surrounded by mountains, hills terraced with olive trees, cork trees, pine trees and eucalyptus trees. It reminds us of the Australian hinterlands. It sure isn’t as pretty as driving around in France. We are exploring as much as we can and fortunately the temps aren’t too high yet during the day, and still cooler at nights, so it is a lovely climate.
We ventured into Castelo Branco after a couple of days and of course we arrived just as everything was closing for the afternoon ‘seista‘!! We just can’t seemed to get ourselves into the ‘groove’ with this. We did however find a shop open and ventured in and I bought a couple of things, nothing special, just to replace a couple of my rags! After that we just sauntered about and enjoyed the quietness of the place. There are some streets and alleyways that are from the medieval times, some very modern buildings and a whole lot of buildings that need some ‘TLC’! Colin came across some relics from last century!
Everywhere we go I am on the lookout for the storks. They are so very cool and are only a story book bird for me, so I just love seeing them. When we were in Veliko Turnovo, Bulgaria the storks were nesting but we were on trains or buses so couldn’t stop to ‘stalk‘ them. I never noticed them in Spain or France but they are everywhere here. On the top of tall chimneys, short chimneys, power poles and bell towers.
Here in Portugal storks are protected, and as they return to the same nests [after migrating back from Africa each year] it is frowned upon to remove their nests, which are huge ‘engineered’ colossal bird nests, seemingly balancing precariously on top of their chosen place. I am fascinated that they are so exposed, but then they are a big bird so won’t be blown off easily.
Because we have been out and about exploring we have found them in every place you can imagine. I am like STOP [actually, I am driving as Colin’s licence has expired!!] … so I pull over to get the perfect picture. I keep seeing them in fields and couldn’t work out what they eat but I ‘Googled‘ it and discovered that they eat snakes, lizards, mouse, frogs etc. We have seen a few snakes on the road … maybe they were the ones that got away … cause they were tooooooooo big!
It is meant to be good luck to have them on your chimney! But I did notice that they do ‘big poos’ so I am not sure I would want that all over my roof!! The swallows at home above our front door only do ‘little poos’ and that is bad enough! Not being able to remove them from the chimney as you are not allowed to disturb them could be a bit frustrating as well.
When we visited Idanha-a-Nova there were a few nests reasonably close to each other and you could hear the ‘clacky, clack’ of the beaks as they called out to their parents, who share the feeding / caring of the birds equally. I just love them [the storks] and I love that they are monogamous … and I love that they bring baby’s hanging from their beaks in a nappy and that they will deliver one to ‘us‘ very soon 💖
We have visited a couple of river beaches here and they range from being very natural to very sophisticated places. The natural ones are basically just the same as you would find next to any river or lake, and the ones where they have contained the water [basically in a lock type set up] are really lovely and often in the middle of nowhere. We have visited a few of them now and although it is too cool to swim just yet, I bet there are lovely when the temps get to 40+.
The natural one was quite pretty, but not spectacular and the water was a bit murky for my liking! Also there was quite a lot of rubbish, broken bottles and crap in the water.
The ‘harnessed river’ beach was great, complete with cafe, toilets and lovely areas to have picnics. I think you could mistake this one as a pool but it definitely isn’t.
On one of our drives we found this lovely gorge … in the distance you can see the terraced hills with olive trees growing.
When I started this ‘musing’ I wasn’t sure what to write about, I didn’t feel we had done much, but then when I started dropping photos in … I realised I had forgotten to include our trip to Monsanto which we did a week ago.
It is incredible and we are definitely visiting here again. The village is perched halfway up a granite mountain with a castle ruin at the top, complete with tombs and incredible views. We walked up to the top in jandals … the few other people we passed were decked out in hiking gear 😂
The village is built in and around the rocks … when is a rock a roof, or a wall, or is a roof a rock. Anyway, it is amazing and I can’t wait to visit again. Luckily for us, our wonderful friends Louise and Tim are coming to stay and so we are happy to be playing tour guide for them. There is a wonderful cafe that serves beer and pizza, so life will be perfect.
So that is us … 12 days into this, our last sit, and only 9 to go!
“We haven’t been everywhere … but it’s on our list”