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Posts Tagged ‘Holidays’


It’s inexcusable really, and I can’t use “I was busy” as an excuse for every hour of every day, can I?
I guess it’s been a combination of not having chance and not wanting to actually blog at all.

It is so very much harder to continue this blog here in England.
It feels almost fraudulent and so I may let it slide in its current form.
But while I make that decision (which may happen during the course of creating this post), I’ll catch you all up.
I’m aiming for brief catch up, but I make no promises!

As you know, we – Nik, Eliot and I – went to Portugal for a 9-day holiday at the beginning of October.

Eliot and Nik were super-excited about it and they loved the whole trip. The accommodation was booked in the area we’d lived in so it was like being home… except when it wasn’t.

We did plenty to keep occupied as much as we could afford (holidays are EXPENSIVE, aren’t they?!)

We played minigolf. Twice actually. It’s great fun and reasonable value if you do the full 18-hole course (honestly, DON’T bother with the 9-hole unless you have toddlers)

We – well, Eliot – played in the pool. Not bad for October, eh?

He even took his skateboard (we’d had to check a suitcase in especially to take it!)

He met with school friends (I don’t think WordPress.org allows me to embed the video but Eliot has it posted  here )

We met with most of our friends we had made while out there: a shout out to Dave and Aly; Phil, Julie, Luke and Jasmine; Peter and Lesley; Matt; Antonio and Rita; everyone at The Lighthouse and apologies if I missed anyone.

“Did you eat at The Lighthouse?” I hear you ask.

Well, dur!

We ate at all the places we knew we liked to eat and went to all the places we knew we liked to go and Eliot and Nik had a fabulous time.
I know you’ve noticed by now so I’ll go ahead and answer that question in your heads: not really, no.

I think if it had been anywhere else, it would have been a holiday and it would have been fine and great, but being on holiday in somewhere that was home.
Not so much.
It felt awkward and every time they were loving “being home” I was feeling worse and worse about the decision to move back to the UK. The more they had fun, the worse I felt.

I’ve told them that next time they can go without me, and I mean it. I actually don’t want to go back to visit again.

Maybe when the campervan is done.

The van is progressing slowly. Naff weather has hampered progress a bit and, even thought we have, for the time being, moved on to internal works (we’re currently installing electrics and final fixing ceiling panels with their vinyl coverings and lights) it’s still so cold in the garage that it’s not much fun out there. We’ve resigned ourselves to being a bit out of action until after the snowy weather for now. No point making it a chore! It’s supposed to be fun!

So we’ve done some van bits and been working and schooling and oh yes, let’s have a school update then!

Eliot is coming on well. We had been concentrating quite heavily on his maths but we’ve scaled it back to 2-3 times a week now and it’s keeping the interest up.

He’s been home edding since the start of May now so that’s 8 months although 2-3 months of that has been summer/Christmas vacations, I guess, but in the 6 months we’ve been learning, his maths age has gone up from about 9yrs 10m to about 11yrs and 8m. That’s nearly a 2 year leap in 6 months which is phenomenal. I wish he could see just how far he’s come!

I’m taking a gently, gently approach with English. We’ve learned some interesting stuff, the usual yawns about nouns, verbs, adverbs etc, but more fun was trying to remember the WORD onomatopoeia (I’m going to thank my computer for its spellcheck at this point!) from one lesson to the other, and I’m currently tackling something specific that he has trouble with: comprehension.

He’s frequently said that adult conversations (and movie dialogue etc) is completely alien to him and I think he just needs to read/hear more, so I’ve started reading to him.

Yep, at 12-years-old, I’ve started reading to him! I’ve chosen a book he likes to begin with – A Minecraft storybook – but I’ve encouraged him to ask about words he doesn’t know and phrases he doesn’t understand and I think it’ll definitely help.

So that’s Eliot!

Jake – who turned 16 this December gone! –  is studying hard (!) for his Maths and English GCSEs which he is taking this summer. He’s had decent grades in his English assessments so far and we’re hopeful he’ll pass both easily enough (he’s brainy; he should!).

It should be enough to get him into Lincoln college in September to study…well, here’s news actually… not plumbing!

He’s now decided he’d prefer to be an electrician and we’re behind him 100%. Plumbing would be excellent and he’d do well for work, I’m sure, but being an electrician could be so much more flexible. He could end up employed doing something off on a tangent from electrical work or he could ultimately become the self-employed electrician that he hopes to be, but I do think it’ll offer him many more opportunities.

Either choice is good, but electrician is the one we’ve applied to college for.

I love that he has goals!
Jake has life goals!

Sheesh, after they year we’ve had, I never thought I’d say that!

What else happened?

Jake drove his first car: a Lamborghini Gallardo at a local track day. That was fun!

And we went to the motorcycle show where Eliot could sit on any bike he wanted which was ALL of them…TWICE. He LOVED that!

We (well, in fairness, mostly Nik) removed our open log fire and replaced it with a wood burner.

We went to a gaming convention which was something of an anticlimax but Eliot enjoyed meeting Jacksepticeye (he’s a YouTuber!)

What does 2016 hold in store for the Hands then?

Well, the van is on course to be finished by the summer (of 2016, I hope!) so we’ll be using that a bit to make sure we iron out any snags before we head out into the wider Europe.

There’s school, of course. Jake has exams in May and June and we’re hoping he’ll get some work experience in over the summer before he has to go to college (we’re also hoping college accepts him!)

There’s work. There’s always work. This isn’t a bad thing when you run your own business!

Oh, and I’ve signed up for a beginners Sign Language course at a local training centre. There’s an advanced course later in the year too so I’m hoping I’ll enjoy it enough to follow-up with that one and then, who knows?!

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It’s certainly safe to say that this year’s “end of school year” update differs significantly from previous ones.

You’d think that measuring “success” would be harder without tests and grading but actually, I think that it’s much easier. Instead of relying on a school book, a test, or a teacher to tell me, I can SEE the progress first-hand and that’s FAR better. I can watch Eliot get the answer to a sum quicker than I can (it’s happened once or twice this week, but I blame my brain having more to do than his!) and I can SEE Jake smile when he sees something he likes or watch him laugh when he plays with the dog or see the resolve in his face when he assures me things are going to get better.

That, to me, is better than a report card full of A’s any day of the week.

Eliot is stunning me with his progress. Clearly he’s ready to learn this stuff. Some of it is definitely below his age group but it’s stuff he didn’t have a clue how to do 2 months ago. According to the site stats on the website we use, his maths age has progressed 9 months in the 2 months we’ve been educating him at home and I can see the progress every single day. The mental stuff gets quicker; the times table sheet gets referred to less often; he’s learning stuff.

Praise be!

The English is coming on slowly. I’m trying not to sit and do it as one long session each day but we grab a worksheet and do “underline the nouns/verbs” or “their/there/they’re” or “It’s/its” practice. It’s the little and often approach but it is sinking in. It’s all alien to him and definitely a full lesson would just switch him right off.
It’s baby steps.

And while we have extra time to spare, we can investigate how a 3D printer works…

The newly-acquired 3D printer

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Or practise shapes and space, in the tent, with Blokus.

Or make a Lego holiday home!

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Or sneak off on the motorbike while the sun shines!

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Or to Blyton Raceway to watch Supercars (there were Lambos, Porches, Audis and even a Maclaren on track but the boys have photos of those!)

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Or study the friction of the different tyre types on Playmobile vehicles!
(Yes, I lost!)

So yeah. What with kids and school and work (and an impending VAT return due), it’s been pretty busy.

On the non-work side, we did get the garden pretty much finished. Gravel is all done, shed is built and in position, greenhouse is moved etc. We need to sort the decking out really but that’ll probably wait until next Spring now, I think. It’s “possible” the oil tank may be leaving us so that’ll free up another area of the garden which we can use somehow. We’re just waiting to see how that all pans out before doing anything much else.

Meantime though, I think it’s looking pretty good 🙂

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What else have we done?

Well, we’ve booked a trip back to visit Portugal in October. It’s just Nik, Eliot and I (Jake is being juggled amongst family members back here) but it’ll be great to get back for a trip. Eliot is super-excited about re-connecting with his school friends and Nik is just glad to be making a(nother) trip back.
Me? Yeh, it’ll be nice. But I’m OK anyway. Hopefully the weather will hold out. It’s before half term (when it usually rains) so fingers crossed.

Something else Eliot is super-excited about: it’s his birthday tomorrow!

My baby will be 12.

My baby who gives me this…

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and this…

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and this…

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He’s smart and opinionated, passionate and enthusiastic, utterly, utterly bonkers and drives me totally crazy, but we love him anyway!

So I’ll just finished with a Happy 12th Birthday to my boy.

 

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Continuing the A to Z of Gibraltar, here’s F to I.

F is for Food.

If we’d actually stayed in a hotel in Gibraltar, rather than on the Spanish side of the border, this post might have been a bit different but, as it was, we ate in Spain as often as Gib itself.

Even in Spain, we weren’t in an area that had anything typically Spanish (that might come when we visit Jerez this weekend for the MotoGP) The hotel we stayed at had a pretty good menu though at a fairly reasonable price. We ate there once, I think, and in surrounding restaurants/diners for the other 2 evenings.

One particularly good American Diners (whose name I have forgotten) served the most amazing food! Huge portions, great for the glutton!) It’s probably a good job we only found it on our last evening or we might have come back rather heavier than we went.

In Gibraltar itself, food was pretty much your standard cafe/fast food or restaurant fare. Nothing special. We didn’t find a proper fish and chip shop, which was very disappointing, and we ate, for the most part, fairly average, run of the mill stuff.

The meal we remember, is the diner!

Starter for two!!

Eliot’s meal – we called it “Boy VS Food”. He does look ever so slightly daunted by it (but he DID win!)

 


G is for Gibraltar (obviously!)

There’s lots and nothing much to say about Gib specifically. I mean, you could just look it up on Wikipedia and getting better information, quite honestly.

So, I’ll just share a few photos with you instead.

Queueing at the border on day two (Monday)

Looking back towards Spain from The Rock

The built-up side is really not all that pretty from up top!

The other side, however, is breathtaking.

Did we like Gibraltar? Yes and no.

Would we visit again? Hmmmm, probably. Maybe. Not sure!


 H is for Hercules – The Pillars Of

The Pillars of Hercules (Latin: Columnae Herculis, Greek: Ἡράκλειοι Στῆλαι, Arabic: أعمدة هرقل‎, Spanish: Columnas de Hércules) was the phrase that was applied in Antiquity to the promontories that flank the entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar. The northern Pillar is the Rock of Gibraltar (now part of the British overseas territory of Gibraltar). A corresponding North African peak not being predominant, the identity of the southern Pillar has been disputed through history,[1] with the two most likely candidates being Monte Hacho in Ceuta and Jebel Musa in Morocco.” Courtesy of Wikipedia

This is of interest for two reasons.
One, obviously, because the northern Pillar is The Rock.


Secondly, because next to our hotel in Spain, there is a new commercial building called “Torres de Hercules” which is quite something!
Click on the link – The architect’s photos are far more impressive than ours!
Or, if you want to see more, check out this page.

(and one with the hotel alongside – apologies for photo quality.  Phone cameras don’t like fading light much.)

 


 

I is for In The Sun

I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but there is a Channel 5 series called Gibraltar – Britain in the Sun.

It was this program that convinced us that we wanted to visit Gibraltar. If you haven’t seen it, check it out. Depending on how you feel about British patriotism, you’ll probably either love or hate it.

Whatever your feelings about it, Gibraltar IS Britain in the Sun. That can’t be all bad, can it?

 

 

 

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As some of you may know, we recently had a short family break to Gibraltar.
Having watched the Channel 5 series “Gibraltar: Britain in the Sun”, we googled to find out just where Gib actually IS. Turns out it’s positively next door!

gibmap

OK, so four hours drive is possibly not quite “next door”, but in the grand scheme of things, it isn’t far and it would certainly be a change of scenery. Basically, we were curious and decided to go for it.

So, we booked ourselves into a family room at the Holiday Inn Express in Algeciras/Campo de Gibraltar, about 15 minutes Spain-side of Gib, and took a 4 day break while the boys were off school for Carnival.

I figured that an A to Z might be a fun way to blog about it!

Personal A to Z of Gibraltar.

A is for Airport

Unless you’re lucky enough to be close enough to drive to Gibraltar, chances are you’ll arrive by plane. Gibraltar’s airport is a bit of a thing. Its runway actually serves as the border between Spain and Gibraltar and you have to either walk or drive across it to enter the country.


 

B is for Border Control

That was handy, huh?

In our (albeit short) experience, border control between Spain and Gibraltar is both sporadic and erratic! The first day we drove in (on a Sunday), we drove pretty much straight up to the border and, on production of our passports, went straight in. Likewise when we came back out again.

On the Monday, however, we did queue for nearly 30 minutes to get into Gib. Apparently this is normal. We were also warned about the likelihood of long queues to get out too, as customs check what you are taking away with you (with Gib being VAT-free, there are limits, but I’ll come to that later), but we didn’t really have to wait long to get out again either.

I know there have been times when border controls between Spain and Gibraltar have made international news, but fortunately we didn’t really experience any issues on either side.

Lots of people choose to park on the Spanish side of the border and walk in. Probably it wouldn’t have taken any longer on the days we got delayed, but the thought of a 30-40 minute walk back to the car at the end of the day certainly didn’t appeal so we chose to take our chances and drive in.


 

C is for Caves

Fascinating fact. Did you know that within Gibraltar’s 2.6sq miles of   “Rock”, there are around 34 miles of tunnels. 34 miles!! That’s twice as much tunnel on the inside as it has roads outside!

During the time when these tunnels were being dug out, many pre-existing caves were discovered. Huge caves. Apparently, about 200 of them above ground. That Rock must be like a piece of Swiss cheese!

The cave we visited had been kitted out with its own auditorium and colour-changing mood lighting which enabled you to see just how vast the cave was. It looked beautiful and had numerous steps and stairs along which you could visit other caves and marvel at the many stalactites and stalagmites that had formed over the years.


 

D is for Density.

Quick fact. Did you know that Gibraltar is one of the most densely populated countries in the world?

In its 2.6sq miles (and that includes The Rock, don’t forget!), there were, in 2011, nearly 30,000 inhabitants, making nearly 5,000 per square kilometre.

From up above, you can see just how they accommodate all those people: high-rise and land reclamation.

Yeh, I think I’ll give that a miss, thanks!


 

E is for English

This was going to come up sooner or later, wasn’t it? I’m sure you know that Gibraltar’s first language is actually English. To be honest, we weren’t too sure what to expect, but, knowing this, we did kinda presume it’d be all we saw and heard.

That actually turned out not to be the case, or less so than we thought anyway.

Sure, street signs and shops were in English. Tourist leaflets were English and even the shops themselves were English (think Morrisons, M&S, Mothercare, BHS, WH Smiths etc), but what we were surprised to note was that the majority of shop staff themselves seemed to be Spanish. That was unexpected. What all the English inhabitants are doing with themselves, I’ve no idea. Maybe they’re just sunning themselves on the beach or running the tourist bars and attractions, leaving the less desirable jobs for the Spanish. I don’t know, but it did surprise me.

I think that’s enough for now. More to come later!

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Yes, we’re back from Florence.

We did so much though that I’m going to split the trip into several different blog posts.

Day One – Travelling!

Have you ever tried getting to Florence from Faro? It’s not easy!

It took us three flights (seemingly around the world!) to get there. Faro to Lisbon, Lisbon to Frankfurt and Frankfurt to Florence. What a palaver! We could have done a 2-flight option but at a price. A much, much higher price (think triple!) so we didn’t.

To be honest, the airports were all part of the adventure really 🙂

Flying into Lisbon

More Lisbon

Flying into Frankfurt (not sure what those white/grey fluffy things are in the sky! Glad we didn’t actually have to go outside!)

Ready for take-off in Frankfurt

As you can see, when we left Frankfurt it was dusk so there are no ‘arriving in Florence’ photos because it was nearly 11pm. That and we weren’t really too awake by that time (having left home at 8.30am!)

It was a long day with lots of (too much) waiting around and probably far too much money spent on airport food. But hey, it’s all part of the fun, right? We took  a taxi from the airport to the studio apartment we had rented for the week, Despite the ridiculous hour (it was about 11.30pm local time at this point) we were met by the owner who didn’t hesitate to talk us through various places to visit and avoid. We actually loved the studio and its location, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anybody wanting to visit Florence (and you ALL should visit Florence – it is mega-AWESOME!) or stay there myself again. I actually even submitted a glowing review (although it might not have gone through moderation by the time I post this)

The view down the street, from outside our apartment building.

View looking towards river, from outside apartment building.

So, day one, we woke late-ish and had a lazy ‘nothing-really-planned’ day. We bought some groceries from the supermarket (yep, another recommendation from Lorenzo: a proper supermarket!) and headed out into the city after lunch.

Deli counter at the supermarket

The walk from the apartment was wonderful. It is just steps away from the river Arno and its bridges to the city.

View from top of previous photo’s street. Right on the river.

View from south side of the river, towards Ponte Vecchio (the old bridge, which is also known as the Jewellery Bridge)

View back from Ponte Vecchio area(-ish!) You can see the tower near our apartment building on the right.

Scooters, scooters, scooters – as far as they eye could see!

The weather was fantastic. Too hot, in fact. Apparently, Florence is the hottest place in Italy during the summer (and the coldest in the winter) and the heat certainly felt much muggier than what we are used to here in the Algarve. What that meant, of course, is many stops for cold drinks and ice creams!

Fairly typical Ice Cream shop with mountains of ice cream, Close Encounters style.

Jewellery Bridge, or Ponte Vecchio. Wall-to-wall jewellery shops selling gold, gold and more gold! (and also wall-to-wall people during the day!)

View from city-side of the river, looking up river.

We had no particular plans for day one, so we chose to just wander randomly (although we did make a point of locating the railway station as we would be needing that for our shuttle pick-ups for the convention) and stop when  we got bored (didn’t happen!) or too hot/hungry and needed to head home.

We found the big market by accident, although in fairness, if you’re wandering the streets of Florence, it is pretty difficult to miss!

Market stalls line many, many streets, selling a myriad of leather and tourist goods.

Typical street lined with shops

After a little more mindless wandering, we came across the Duomo (Cathedral). It is an AWESOME building! How they built it, I have no idea! It is truly stunning and no photos can really do it justice.

Side view of Duomo

Looking up at the tower of the Duomo

This is how busy it was. Really, you’ve no idea! It was jam-packed with people!

The Duomo baptistry (I think!)

Anyway, more of Florence city in the post-after-next, because we did another “random wandering” day on the Monday!

The architecture in Florence is mind-boggling. It’s stunning. Truly. Honestly! Nik and I really aren’t “historic” types but we were both completely blown away by it. To the point that we’d probably visit other places now just to see the architecture! We didn’t go inside any of the cathedrals, churches or galleries/museums but, just from the outside. Wow. Really. WOW!

Church near the railway station (and yes, I know I should know which church but I don’t)

One of the many church’s inset sculptures.

 

We did stumble across the main square too, with the replica of Michaelangelo’s David (the original is in the Academia gallery, having been both weather-damaged and vandalised in recent years) It was heaving with people but still easy to get decent photos of the various plinths.

Know this fella on the left?

A better view?

A guy on a horse! (Yes, I’m that ignorant!)

ermmm, yeah. Someone else.

We finished our random walking with an equally random choice of place to eat. It was still early, by Italian standards, and a lot of places were still closed, so we chose, at random, somewhere that wasn’t, that also had a decent menu.

€12.50 per person for first course (pasta), a second course, plus a half litre of wine or water (I’ll let you guess who chose what!)

My tortellini first course (Nik had lasagna)

 

My “seafood salad” main course (Nik had beautifully-cooked veal steaks with peas.) Note, no carbs in the second course to make up for the pasta first course.

Even on this first day,  we fell head-over-heels in love with Florence. All I can add is, if you are thinking about going, DO IT! It’s amazing!

Tomorrow’s post (well, the next one. Not promising it’ll be tomorrow) will be our full-day bus tour to Pisa, San Gimignano and Siena.

 

 

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I’m already in the WordPress dashboard, having done my next “Personal A to Z of Portugal” post so figured I might as well do a family update while I’m here!

The boys finally (can I emphasise that word enough? Does bold, italics underline do it?) went back to school on Monday 17th September.

Considering they’re been off school since 15th June, it has been a long, long 3 months of summer. Eliot has spent 7 of the 13 weeks at Click Kids Club, which has helped both him and us and Jake has spent most of his entire 13 weeks in his bedroom, as teenagers (well, nearly!) do, I suppose. The sun has shone pretty much incessantly during the entire summer, of course.

Click Kids dolphin watching trip

Eliot and I did a trip to London, as a birthday treat for him, to visit Aunty Wendy. We had all sorts of visitors, my aunty and uncle and their friends who all stayed in a small town fairly locally, My Mum, Nik’s Mum and Nik’s sister and her son, who celebrated his 5th birthday surrounded by his Portuguese family and his English family.

We did a trip to Aqualand, towards the end of the holidays, which was a great way to round off a long, hot summer!

The not-so-rapid Rapids

My preferred pastime

It’s been quite a busy summer, in fact. Coupled with the fact that it is also our work busy season! As business slows down for the autumn (something which is both a relief and always a worry at the same time) and the boys go back to school, we can start to get back to some sort of normality again.

The boys seem to have settled in ok to their new school years.

Eliot is, of course, at a completely new school altogether, as I mentioned in an earlier post. However, when we went for our introduction day, on the Friday before term started, we discovered that his entire school HAD indeed been sent to the same school and, in fact, they had also kept all the students together. Not only does his new school class consist of everybody he would have been with in his old school but he also has the same teacher! He’s in a new environment but surrounded by familiarity. Best of both worlds, I’d say! He’s loving his new bigger school with all its places to play and new people to get to know. It’s definitely a good thing for him.

Jake had a bit of an upset when the new school class lists were released because he has been moved into a new class away from the people he has been with for the past 2 years. This is mostly due to his subject choices are requirements (choosing Music over Photography and requiring a different Portuguese class to most) and, while he was not pleased at ALL about the change of classmates, he seems to be coming to terms with it gradually.

He had another slight upset in that he has most of the same subject teachers as last year and his head of year (DT – diretor/a de turma) is his Maths teacher who he, well, let’s just say he doesn’t favour her much! He finds her intimidating and scary which isn’t good for the teacher who is supposed to be your “go-to-person” if you have any problems! I, however, find NO school teacher scary (I just have a problem with schools themselves!) and will have no qualms about giving her what for if she upsets my boy!  He’ll be ok, I think. Certainly, there are a few students from his previous year who it will benefit him to be away from!

So, we head into the new school year making new starts. New schools, new classes. Bring it on!

Gratuitous blue sky shot!

 

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I certainly didn’t intend to leave it for over a month before writing a new blog post. Things kinda just ran away from me.

I’m not even going to go into great detail about what’s happened in those missing 4-5 weeks really (although that doesn’t mean this won’t be a long ramble!)

Let’s try categories to break things down a bit.

School

Jake did really well in term 1. He passed all subjects apart from History and Science. He was close to getting better than average grades in some of the subjects too (obviously, he got top grade in English!) so he was pleased overall with his results. He placed in the top third of his class and we all know that, with more Portuguese language under his belt, he’ll get even better. His private lessons are still ongoing and these certainly help.

Eliot is struggling. He doesn’t feel it but he is. His lack of reading and comprehension skills in Portuguese are certainly holding him back now. His reading skills themselves are certainly improving (he’s reading far better in English nowadays) but the overall comprehension is affecting all aspects of his learning. We’ve met with his teacher and he has agreed to get different work for him to enable him to catch up somewhat rather than falling further and further behind doing the standard year 3 work. He does already get classroom study support 3 times a week (4 hours in total) but the new work should mean he gets more support and assistance both with his main teacher and his support teacher. It can only be a good thing. I’m sure that, with more language under his belt, he is academically capable but we may be looking at him repeating year 3. That said, maybe it’ll be for the best. It’s a long way off though so let’s see how the new regime goes first.

Christmas & Family

Our Christmas and New Year plans didn’t quite go as planned. Nik’s Dad had been quite poorly for some time and Nik ended up back in the UK the weekend before Christmas. It was looking likely that he’d be there for some considerable time, missing both Christmas and New Year. My sister was visiting over that period anyway so we adjusted to the new plan and crossed our fingers that everyone would be ok in the UK. Sadly, this wasn’t to be and Nik’s father passed away just before Christmas. Nik returned to spend Christmas with us (which was an upside, I suppose) and we all, as a family, flew to the UK for a week, over New Year, for the funeral while Wendy’s trip was cut short and she returned home after just a week (she actually flew later the same day that we left)

This was a completely upside-down holiday period but it did mean we were able to spend New Year with family in the UK and were able to re-acquaint ourselves with a lot of old friends and family. It was a tough period, for sure but we’re coming through it and moving on. You do, right?

So we returned back to Portugal on 5th January (rather pleased to be back to some warm weather, if nothing else!) and the boys returned to school, a few days late, this Monday (9th)

We’ve returned back to school/work routine  though. Kids seem settled enough, under the circumstances, and are coping OK. I ended up with 3 weeks off work in total (I’d taken the week before Christmas, while Nik was in UK, and then extended until the boys finally went back to school) and returning was a daunting prospect after that period of time but it’s been quiet, so it’s eased me in. It’s also meant that we could catch up on post-UK trip stuff and resume our usual Wednesday morning routine of visiting our cafe for, at this time of year, “chocolate quente e pastel de nata” x 2!

Alvor

Alvor is becoming a Christmas walk tradition for us! Both years we’ve done a walk along Alvor’s top and this year we walked all the way to a derelict cottage and back, a round trip of about 90 minutes or so.

Derelict cottage on hill - Alvor

Derelict cottage on hill - Alvor

It’s a lovely walk along the riverside hill.

Alvor Riverside Walk

We did under-estimate how warm it was, mind you! We ended up stripping off both cardigans and jackets and definitely should have taken a bottle of water!

Eliot would have moved in, if we'd let him!

My big boy just gets bigger and more grown up by the day!

After such a tough, tiring walk (well, for some of us!) we were ready for a drink and some food. The restaurants along the riverfront were all grilling outdoors and had a variety of fish and chicken on the go. Some of them were starting to get really busy and the smell was amazing and we decided to head to one for lunch.

Restaurant along Alvor Riverfront

Wendy and I decided we fancied freshly caught and grilled sardines so we headed into one of the indoor restaurants. Typically, we chose one which had sardines removed from its menu (which was only evident when we got inside, the outdoor menu still had it listed – at this point, if we hadn’t been “English” we’d have up-rooted and move restaurant, of course, but we were too polite for that!)

So, begrudgingly, we chose other items from the menu. The boys had crispy chicken and chips, I chose the grilled salmon and Wendy chose grilled squid. We waited quite a while for the food to come but, I have to say, it did NOT disappoint. The boys’ crispy chicken was strips of fillet it crunchy crumb and my salmon was a huge steak, grilled beautifully, served with a simple salad and a few salad potatoes. It was heavenly!

Wendy’s squid was something to behold! So good, of course, that she felt the need to photograph it (she does have a thing about photographing her food!)

Grilled Squid!

The meal wasn’t cheap (approx £13 a head, including drinks) but I’d definitely recommend it, if you’re looking for something a bit ‘more’ than just a toasted sarnie

Now, if I can actually remember (or find out – I’m still googling!) what it was called, I’ll let you know!!

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