Butterflies, buds and bellies – Portugal in spring

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(Lou) Last week was definitely an interesting one. Both Ben and I have work stacked up in front of us, which is great as we save up for the (ever closer) impending arrival of our little bundle of joy later this year.

Portugal in spring - buds and flowers are everywhere
Portugal in spring – buds and flowers are everywhere

The alternately cloudy, sunny and blustery weather has suited our indoor lifestyle, which has consisted of working all hours and spending time in the kitchen making the most of fresh produce such as orange-fleshed sweet potatoes and flavourful young carrots.

For me, the routine was broken by my regular monthly check up at our local Centro de Saúde (health centre). The day didn’t start too well, when I got in the car and turned the key, only to hear a click and then silence. However, the resulting taxi that I had to get to the Centro de Saúde meant an opportunity to practice my Portuguese, which is something that always pleases me. (The new car battery that we had to purchase later that day wasn’t quite so pleasing.)

On the way to the health centre, I chatted to the taxi driver about the weather, about the traffic and about the health centre’s services for pregnant women. After a few minutes of conversation, he asked me,

“You’re not Portuguese, are you?”

Portugal in spring - pink sky at night
Portugal in spring – pink sky at night

A simple enough question, but nonetheless a landmark in terms of our settling here. He hadn’t asked if I was English, but instead was uncertain as to whether or not I was Portuguese. It might seem the tiniest of distinctions when under scrutiny, but if felt as though I had taken another step towards true integration into Portugal – something which has become increasingly important to me now that we are expecting our first child here.

I shall ignore the fact that two days later the proprietor of a local seafood shop at the market was utterly incapable of understanding my (I thought) perfectly enunciated request for a dressed crab, lest it detract from the above victory.

After the check up with the doctor (all is well) I took advantage of the combination of carless-ness and sunshine to walk home rather than paying for another taxi. As I waddled my way chubbily along, I was treated to the site of buds and catkins on the trees, while butterflies danced through the warm air. Clearly nature has noticed that spring is on the way.

Portugal in spring - pretty white flowers
Portugal in spring – pretty white flowers

Another incident occurred when I popped to our local shop a day or so later. After chatting with the shop owner and another customer for a couple of minutes – they were kindly sharing Portuguese tips for how to deal with labour and giving birth – I realised that I was holding up an English tourist and her daughter, who were queuing behind me while we nattered. I paid for my goods and took my leave.

It was only when I got home that I realised the significance of the occurrence – I used to stand behind the Portuguese ladies chatting in the shop, not understanding their conversation and tapping my foot impatiently, waiting to be served while they talked and laughed. Yet suddenly, I had become one of that group of women happily chatting away in Portuguese and caring nothing for things like speed of service – a far cry from the London-fuelled impatience and lack of linguistic understanding that I used to exhibit when we first lived here.

While these may seem like minor incidents, I am left with the feeling that I have, almost without realising it, become more of a local of late. It’s something that has crept up on me unawares. I’m under no illusions that I still have a long way to go in terms of truly becoming Portuguese. My grammar is poor, I find unnecessary bureaucracy maddening and I haven’t yet dared to buy clams from the man with the bucket who sells them in the car park outside the supermarket. Still, it seems that I’m getting a little bit closer with each day that passes.

Portugal in spring - river path
Portugal in spring – river path

If you would like to know more about our early days in Portugal and how we got to where we are now, please feel free to check out our book:

Moving to Portugal: How a young couple started a new life in the sun – and how you could do the same
US Readers will find it here.

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7 Comments - Write a Comment

  1. lovely blog Lou, I do enjoy reading them. Good to hear you are keeping well and I understand how excited you feel at being accepted as a local! worth all the hard work you’ve put in. I was wondering where the river walk is Lou, as could be a somewhere for us to explore in June. Marion

  2. Hi Marion,

    I’m so glad you enjoy the blog 🙂

    The river runs through the Ria Formosa nature reserve near Tavira. If you join the nature reserve near Gran Plaza in Tavira and follow the general path through the salt pans for about 10-15 minutes, you will reach the river, at which point you can either cross it and carry on or branch off and amble along by its side. It’s a lovely place to go walking.

    Best wishes, Lou

  3. PS. If you do this walk in June, take plenty of drinks with you – it being a nature reserve there’s nowhere to buy refreshments and it can get very hot. We learned that the hard way! 🙂

  4. Had another capcha code error – so this is a slightly shorter version of my original entry. Very impressed with your language skills Lou. My opinion has always been that I thought I would learn more over in Portugal, rather than begrudgingly attending the expensive time consuming lessons in London! Nigel has other ideas though and perseveres on and on and on with the subjunctive 🙂 Somedays he has quite long conversations with our lovely local shopkeeper, but on others, she cant understand a word her says! The photos are lovely. When you or Ben have a minute can you send me an email with the contact details of your accountant in Tavira – I seem to recall you have a good one. Many thanks and enjoy that sun. Saz

  5. Hi Saz,

    It is definitely easier to learn here than it was in England, but at the same time I’m glad I spent all those hours in the car listening to language CDs and reading grammar books of an evening, as it did help a bit and gave me a bit of confidence in terms of speaking when we first got here. It sounds like your husband is making good progress, but it’s definitely easier once you are exposed to the language on a daily basis 🙂

    Our accountant is fabulous – I will ask Ben to email you her details.

    Have a lovely day 🙂

    Best wishes,


  6. Such subtleness in how local life can allow you to have a mindful moment about the progress you made with the local ladies. Getting rid of the haste, enjoying the conversation.

    Thnx for writing the blog Lou,


  7. Hi Ha,

    You are most welcome 🙂 Sometimes it’s the writing of these posts that makes me realise just how far we have come since moving here!

    Best wishes,


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