24 April 2011

Space to breathe

I've been to Portugal once before. Spent a fantastic week in Lisbon, three years ago. This time the visit was through the kindness of a very dear friend who is currently renovating his house in Central Portugal. Nearest town Mortagua; 9 miles. Nearest city Coimbra; half an hours drive.

This is deeply rural, heavily forested, sparsely populated, mountainous countryside. Barely able to get a mobile phone signal let alone internet, so there was no twitter, facebook or email for 12 days. Delightful. So much so that I avoided watching the news on TV too. Total tranquillity. The village where we stayed, pictured above had no shop but there was a tiny church and five minutes walk up the road a little cafe bar where a huge decent brandy cost a whole euro.

As we travelled north on the virtually empty toll road from Lisbon I became aware about 100 kilometres out just how few villages there were on the mountains. All you could see was forest and mountains. Lovely scenery. Not spectacular but lovely. So green and so much space and that feeling and knowledge of the space available became a beautiful warm comfort blanket for me. Sure there are lots of places on our lovely island that are remote and people free but this was mile upon mile upon mile of people free space. Not surprising when you think that the total population of Portugal is little larger than that of the Greater London Region. I could get addicted to that space, it gave birth to a sense of freedom within that I have rarely felt before.

The neighbours in the village, all local Portuguese bar one, live relatively simple lives, farming their small patches of land, being as self sufficient as possible growing grapes upon vines, vegetables, keeping a small number of livestock and picking up wood for burning free of charge from the forests where the professional lumberjacks leave plenty behind for all. There is a scarcity of young people for they leave to find work in the cities and on the Algarve, not wishing to work in the way that generations before them have done so.

So it was that I felt peace again. There was the space to breathe and to breathe such pure air and the tranquillity of a place where there is just a tiny population, The sounds of nature are all encompassing and the stars can be seen as there is little light pollution; it's been a long time since I saw so many stars in the sky.

As I lay there on the roof terrace at night and watched the stars I found I could see my Mother's face in the sky above me and smile again.


  1. I love reading your thoughts Linda. It makes mine seem so boring & trivial xxx

  2. Your thoughts are your own and no doubt neither boring nor trivial xx

  3. We used to have a caravan in Northumberland and one of the great things about it was seeing so many stars in the sky.