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Showing posts from 2009

Christmas!

This has been an unusual Christmas with rain and winds. Normally our family goes on a jingle bell ride on Christmas Eve on the horse-drawn carriages in the morning. This is the first year in at least 10 years that we had to cancel due to weather conditions. The rain is so unpredictable, and the weather reports keep changing a few times a day, making it nearly impossible to plan anything ahead. I print a weather report and post it on the bulletin board of the little internet hut every so many days - now I do it daily and it still is not so certain.

There are a couple of sites I use to check the weather, one that I have previously mentioned is Accuweather http://www.accuweather.com/world-forecast-15day.asp?partner=accuweather&trave -and the other that is more detailed the WindGuru, a weather site for the surfershttp://www.windguru.com/pt/index.php?sc=14481. This site is great to check the amount of rain fall and the hour of day the rain falls.

In any case, for the next two we…

Winter Weather

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Traditionally winter in our area is the rainy season. Say what they may about climate change, the traditional rain is here. It comes and goes. When it is not raining, it is absolutely wonderful - the colors are clear and sharp and the winter flowers come on strongly. After the rain, there is a light mist rising from the forest for awhile though , resembling smoke. The trees are loosing their last leaves and and there is a lot of gray in our view. It is one of those times that can get one really excited about the scenery and photography. The other day when I was taking these pictures, some clients were surprised that after livng in Sintra for over 20 years I still find it fascinating enough to take pictures!

But when it is a day without rain, it is a nice season - still lots to do. We just had an English family visiting that spent some wonderful days here: visiting museums and monuments on the rainy days, taking surfing lessons on the clear days, followed by a massage in the late…

Concertos de Natal

Since Nov 14th, there are free Christmas Concerts all over the municipality. Mostly they are in churches, On Saturday and Sunday afternoons; different amateur choirs singing traditional Portuguese and international Christmas musics. This weekend I attended the one closest to home: a children's choir singing at the church of S. Martinho in the Historical Center.

They started a few minutes late. I was impressed by the diversity of the children's ages - the youngest must have been 4 years old, and the oldest about 14! They were accompanied by a man playing the guitar, one of the older children the piano - and the rest of the children different percussion instruments. There was not a lot of harmonizing going on, and some of the voices of the children were not well heard in the beautiful, old church. But there were other things. There was enthusiasm by the choir director and the parents in the audience; there were tourists peeking in at the door in the middle of the program, …

Leaves and efficiency

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This week in Sintra they started giving the vaccines for the B-group people for the A-virus - later than many other cities in Portugal. I was called in as well and was also given the tetanus - they saw on the computer that mine was out of date. Sometimes things are efficient like that here, two vaccines at the time.

There are many things that I wished were more efficient here - faster response to many bureaucratic issues, for example. But some things I wish at times were not so efficient. Like the street sweepers. There are many in Sintra, and to be honest they do a great job - the streets are very clean here, even after the market of São Pedro. If you see the grounds at 6pm on the day of the market, it's a disaster - but the morning after you could never guess it had been a market day the day before. That is great.

But this week after the rain the big oak trees dropped their leaves - HUGE yellow, read and green ALL over the roads of Sintra. I collected many on my way to the…

More Waves

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Some of the waves today were 7-8 meters high!

Above the beaches of Sintra

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The most wonderful afternoon on the local beaches! We had a clear, sunny afternoon and I went for a walk on the beach: from Praia Grande, above Praia Pequena to Praia das Maçãs. Yes, above the beaches, as the beaches of Sintra have high cliffs and therefore drops of 40-50 meters to the sea. Of course they have nice road accesses to the beaches, but in between the roads there is a high difference of levels. I was positively surprised by the neat walkways, properly protected by a wooden fence - and the clear info boards of flora to look for. Every so many meters, a covered bench was awaiting for visitors to sit down and look at the waves.

The beaches are wild in the winter. Last weekend there was nearly no beach; today, yes. There …

Rain, Rain, Go Away???

We have had a week of humid, warm weather. Mainly it's been raining when it's dark - which it seems to be a lot these days - and we have had very nice afternoons. Our guests have still been able to visit the monuments without the umbrella. Last night it rained a lot, though, and it has continued all through the day today. The swimming pool is nearly overflowing, the garden is full of leaves. And there are lots of accidents on the roads as the new roads are slippery and people forget to slow down.

The rain is of course needed. I just feel sorry for the men who are setting up the Christmas lights around the town. This year they started later than usual and cannot therefore slow down to get everything set up by deadline - rain or no rain. When it does not rain, though, sintra is SO beautiful! The mist rising up, half the mountain covered up in a cloud of mist - and the colors so vivid and the air smelling fresh and clean! I will put some pictures up soon so you can see w…

Hot Stone Massage

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Now that the holidays are over, autumn is really here with rain and wind - and Christmas is around the corner with all the busyness that comes along with it. To help prepare you for the season, we suggest a way to relax at Casa do Valle - a massage with Hot Stones.

The heat of the stones has two objectives: deep - relaxing the muscles and reestablishing the body's energies. This massage uses techniques of both classical relaxation massage AND Reiki to absorb and drain the body from tired energy. 45 euros for an hour + session in the privacy of your room.
Or if you prefer, you can book a classical 50 minute full-body relaxation massage for a special price of 35 euros or a session of Chinese Tui Na or Japanese Seitai also for 45 euros.

Advanced booking is necessary for any of these massages. You can contact us for more information through our email info@casadovalle.com

Getting prepared for the cold - and the spring!

The last 10 days we have had more of a traditional autumn weather: showers at night and in the morning, afternoon temperatures are about 15 degrees, but they feel colder because of the wind. The umbrellas in the rooms are being used or at least taken for walks as the guests leave for dinner. In some rooms the heaters are on. But the evidence of the earlier warm weeks are clear: I bought beautiful, national strawberries at the supermarket for breakfast today (our strawberry season is March-June)!

This is the time when I get excited about next spring! My husband brought new hammocks from Brasil to place in the garden. I found a wonderful rug to place on the floor next to the sofa outside - I also found some wonderful textiles to make new pillows for the garden.

But I am also excited about the autumn. Candles and lanterns are placed and lit in the evenings. As it is the nut season, we have placed complimentary mixed nuts (and a nut-cracker) with port wine in the rooms to welcome our g…

Recycling...

This weekend, like any other weekend, my husband loaded his car with different bags: plastic water bottles and soda cans in one, juice and wine bottles in another, and newspapers and packaging materials in a third one. Every weekend he takes out the recycling. During the week we collect these items from the rooms' trash bags and separate them accordingly. And it amounts to a surprisingly large amount. We also collect the tops of water bottles; the plastic bottle tops, and take them to a collection in order to help someone get a wheelchair (A LOT of kilograms are needed for that, so we join our efforts with other people).

We try to be environmentally friendly in many ways. As our clients check in they have a new toilet paper roll in their bathroom - the unfinished ones after the clients check-out are not thrown away but used elsewhere to save paper. The linen is changed every third night during long stays, not daily; yet of course more often if requested by clients. The light b…

Autumn IS coming - with special deals you cannot miss!

It has been exceptionally warm in Portugal this autumn and every day we hear stories about how dry it is and how we need rain. In the Guest House we still have been quite busy and with the people around the pool in the afternoons, at first glance, it does look like summer. So how do you know, when it's 28º in the afternoon that autumn is coming anyway?

The people in the pool actually SWIM, not just lull around, as the water is cooler The hydrangeas are beautifully spotted The fruit trees are all losing their leavesOlives are falling off the trees The only fruit waiting to ripen are the citrus fruitThe bougainvillea on the front lawn is losing its red petals and the lawn (and the pool) are full of red petals in the mornings - the natural spa-lookThere is actually place to park your car everywhere The monuments, especially during the week days, are much less crowdedIt is dark in the mornings when I start to ride the bike in the garden

And it still is delicious in the garden - excell…

Yuka is blooming!

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Gorgeous October !

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It is not unusual this time of the year that we start turning on the heaters at night, even if the days are warm. Not this year. Today it's 28º and the pool water is still 21º. The poor apple trees are confused and are blooming. Otherwise, we have the last of the fruits, rock pears (on the right) and diospiros (kaki persimmons) below in the pictures.

And the citrus trees are full of green lemons and oranges, ripening for Christmas. Also the Yuka palm is blooming and is gorgeous!

It also seems that the weather will be continuing pleasant for at least another week or so, which is great for our Scandinavian fall-break guests. if you ever want to check the weather report for here, you can check out the following site of AccuWeather: http://www.accuweather.com/world-forecast-15day.asp?partner=accuweather&traveler=0&locCode=EUR|PT|PO012|SINTRA&metric=1
It has proven to be quite reliable.

Rain

I was away for a week in the North of Europe where the autumn foliage was advanced; there was night frost and afternoon sun. It was the beginning of Autumn there, and just like our coldest weather ever in Sintra. The last two days we have had some rain (needed, needless to say) and it should continue two more days, just to give way to more gorgeous sunshine.

These days are beautiful on the mountain: it is covered half way up in a mist and gives an air of secrecy to the mountain, or a 'now you see it, now you don't' effect. The air smells fresh, the colors are vivid and everything seems more sharp in the view.

Also this is the time when the roads are slippery. The new motorway between Sintra Ranholas and Cascais opened cutting the traffic queues greatly, but also making rainy weather dangerous with humidity on new asphalt and the sense of wanting to speed on a new, broad road... A dangerous combination. Anyway, it opened just in time for the GP of Motorcycles of Estoril …

HOT start for autumn

Autumn has officially kicked in - and with better weather than July! Gone is the unpleasant wind, and the temperatures have risen to over 30 degrees every afternoon this week! It is true that leaves have started to fall, and the pool has to be vacuumed more often due to that - but wow what a goodbye we have for the summer.

We still have an abundance of pears, still lots of flowers around the garden, but the sun IS lower and gives a nice, soft air about. The pool temperature is still 22 degrees, warm enough to swim.

Inspired by the official start of autumn and plenty of guests asking what the weather is like in the winter or spring here, I placed an album on our facebook page called '4 seasons' with pictures of the surroundings from the last year. I also started a discussion on the facebook page regarding ideas for the getaway weekends we are planning to offer. If you have the time, please contribute and let us know YOUR opinions about what could and should be offered/include…

Girlfriend Getaways

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The month of September has been for the last years the month with the most twin beds per room. We have chosen to have many rooms with the possibility of either twin beds or double beds - and this is really the time that it pays off. We have had several 'Girlfriend groups' recently 2-4 women taking an extended weekend holiday together - or even longer. This is the perfect time as the family holidays are over, and the weather is still lovely - and monuments don't have the summer crowds.

This last weekend we had 4 ladies from Finland spend a couple days taking a break together. On Saturday they spent a 'cultural day'. Up the mountain with a horse and carriage to the Pena Park. They walked through the park to the Palace of Pena, then down to the Moorish castle and again back down to the historical Center for a lunch. And then they went to Regaleira and did some shopping. Topping it off in the pool and then a slow dinner at Tulha's in town. There was even an…

I love this activity!

I have felt overwhelmed today with the notion of how much I love this activity of running the Bed and Breakfast.

I love meeting new people - and I do meet so many! People from different walks of life: from farmers to doctors, air-hostesses to teachers, politicians to administrators - even a teacher in a circus school! There are so many wonderful conversations waiting to take place or to continue - so many different points of view and questions about the Portuguese life and culture - and reverting to conversations of comparisons of cultures and ways. Life never gets boring when you meet so many different people.

And from so many different countries, too! 2008 summer the major part of our guests came from Spain, this year there has been a shift to more people from the Great Britain, Netherlands and Belgium. There are times when lots of people come from very far: Australia, New Zealand, United States and Canada. And we have a growing number of Asian people too, from Korea, China, Japa…

TWINS!

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For the first time our palm tree has two flowers at the same time! Usually in the fall we have the beautiful cascading purple flowers in one tree or the other but never two in one! They are truly beautiful and we feel lucky to have them.

This has also been an extraordinary year for fruit. I will add a picture to show the abundance of pears: the heavy branches are nearly sweeping the ground. This weekend will certainly be jam-making time. Even our small apple trees are so full of apples for their size that the branches are bent to the ground. The fig trees are also promising a lot, lots of fruit to come - for those though we just have to wait another week or two.

It is obvious that fall is getting closer. It is darker in the mornings and more humid at nights. The mornings now often have a gray mist hanging over the mountain until about 9 am, and in town there are some vines with a few red leaves already. Yet the temperature has been about 26-28º in the afternoons and our swimming…

Sintra roads are made for exercise!

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When the sun rises over the mountain, it hits the higher tree tops first. As the slight breeze moves the leaves, it makes the sun dance on them, giving it a magic glow. The roads are curvy, so the view changes continuously, the sun comes from different angles and paints the scenery in different shades of green.

In a situation like this, it is wonderful to take a morning walk - very few people on the move, clean, fresh mountain air. Whether alone or accompanied, it is a great start for the day. We are happy to lend you one of our several pairs of the walking sticks so you don't have to pack your own. And those who don't want to go for the exercise, just to enjoy the morning, will be happy to know that the bakery in the historical center opens before 7 am...

I went for a walk recently with a friend, her with the Nordic walking sticks, me with a dog. And there was plenty of space for all of us! These pictures are from the end of July, at 7am.

Iphiclides Podalirius

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A little over a week ago a Finnish client of ours rescued this beautiful butterfly from our swimming pool. It was absolutely stunning but shivering and struggling to move a bit. We had another couple visiting from Belgium at the time and by luck they were biologists! So they knew exactly what to do, what type of flower the butterfly could reach to eat from, to regain forces. In fact they were very patient finding a flower where they could leave it to nurse itself back to strength! They also searched the net to show me what type it was and so I found out its latin name. (In Finnish, it belongs to the sail-butterfly family). If you click to enlarge the picture with the flower, you can see how it was hanging on to the flower with its dear life, exhausted.

This was the first time I had seen one of these butterflies around here - and today I saw yet another, close to the pool in the plum tree - then flying towards the dog pen - exactly where we had finally left the rescued butterfly…

The arrival of the 2nd SPRING in Sintra

Yesterday a client asked me when the famous second spring of Sintra that she so much has heard of is. It was the day when I noticed the beautiful roses opening again by the pool.
This morning as I took the dogs out early I started cleaning the agapantos, pulling out the already whitish tall flowers; and noticed the dozens of new flowers shooting up. And just a few days ago the palm tree set its flower free, dropping the protective cover from the trunk.

We are getting our second set of fruits, too - after a few weeks of nearly no fresh fruits from our garden: pears and apples are getting ready, and some passion fruits, too. The weather has been over 30 degrees, with very little wind. The pool is warm and very popular, especially after 4 or 5 pm after a day of castle-visiting. The streets are full of cars and parking is nearly impossible. Every day people ring the doorbell to ask if there are free rooms. So that would say summer is at its best - but there is definitely spring in …

A wonderful massage in the breeze with the birds chirping away!

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'Great - A wonderful massage in the breeze with the birds chirping away!' This is a comment of one of our clients after a massage at Casa do Valle. We have started to work together with different masseuse - one who does the classical muscle massage, a 50-minute full body massage or a hot-stone massage. Also, a place in Sintra (Art of Living) that does Tui Na, Seitai, Acupuncture, Yoga, Reiki, ... Many things for the well-being and relaxation of the clients. The massages can be done at the center in Sintra, in the guest-rooms or, when weather allows, in the garden.

Prices are very accessible, 40-50 euros for 1 hour, and should be reserved in advance.

Sintra Romantica

I went to the launching of the official concept of Sintra as the Capital of Romance yesterday. BEAUTIFUL! The setting was at Quinta da Regaleira in the evening - and what made it so beautiful, in addition to the obviously magnificent gardens, were the videos and photos passed on the screen behind the presentation. Please check some of it out at www.sintraromantica.net - even if you do not speak any Portuguese, the video they have in the very beginning is worth the 8 minutes. After watching it you really want to come to Sintra with that significant other!

Especially after you see our special deals on massages - we are partnering with a new wellness-center in Sintra wehre they have wonderful therapists doing all kinds of massages from the more known aromatherapy to Tui Na and Seitai massages, Acupuncture, Reiki, and even Yoga (also special sessions for two people...). All of this either at the center OR in the peace of your room here! And affordable prices from 30 euros upward. Ke…

Summer? LOTS of activities!

This is a question many clients have asked me, since after the heat wave of end of May we've had cooler than average temperatures - with an unpleasant wind. The nights are always cool here but now the coolness has extended to noon - though the afternoons are nice and warm (23-28º).

The activities continue in Sintra! Again, just a few high-lights:

Free Musical activities on Saturdays of July:
Jazz concerts at 10 pm in the libray gardensFolkloric dances and traditional orchestral music in Colares in the eveningsPhilharmonic orchestras and choir groups in the afternoons in the Historical Center

The Medieval fairs continue with enacting of the gladiator fights in front of Sintra's National Palace on the weekend of the 11-12/7 and with a market as was the custom in the 700's: with artists, performers, handicrafts from those times by the Queluz palace on the weekend of the 17-19/7.

Also in Queluz Palace 14/7-16/8, a guided visit with an historical re-enactment of daily life at the…
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These are samples of some of the different plums that are getting ready: purple and red plums!

Fruit, glorious fruit...

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This year the plums, of all colors, are truly wonderful! The cherry-sized ones are nearly gone (both purples and yellows), and the bigger ones are at their peak: reds, purples, yellows... How wonderful is it to walk around the grounds and have breakfast out, straight from the trees???

Also - a wonderful morning activity is the exercise bike by the pool outside and swimming. At 8 or 830 in the morning I start brewing the coffee for our coffee-drinking clients, but before that I have already ridden the bike and swam, 15 to 30 mins of each activity! The morning mist on the mountain, rising from the sea, the rising sun's rays hitting the mountain... and the pool water is about 25 degrees! A lot of our clients have also learned to enjoy it all - both the exercising and the mornings. Though to be fair, just hiking up to the castles is quite a work-out in itself!

This is the 1st year we have been able to eat the cherries - we are now quicker than the birds!

The weather this week has bee…

Fire Fly Season!

This is the time of the year when the days are longer and the nights are shorter - and full of Fire Flies! If you have never seen them, they are quite an interesting sight: flashing and moving yellow-green lights dancing in the height of your eyes or lower. We have a part of the garden full of them. It is the type of sight that makes you believe that fairies actually DO live here. My husband used to collect the flies in a jar for the enjoyment of the girls, but no-one is doing that anymore here. Our clients have been happily surprised to see them, trying to catch them or to photograph them. But it is really tough to know where to point your camera in the dark, and when exactly to release the shutter.

This is also the time of color in the garden: the yellow prunes are getting yellow already, the reds red, etc (and they are so sweet!) The apricots are nearly ready and a third of the agapantos are in full bloom of blue. We had some cool weather and rainy days last week, and we a…

June is full of activity!

This week I received the Cultural Agendas of June the Tourism Office sends us every month. It was so full of activities that you must stay a long time to do everything in it! There is something for everyone this month (and throughout the summer) - here are some of the highlights, but you should really check out the pages of the City Hall for more information (www.cm-sintra.pt).

THE 44th EDITION OF FESTIVAL DE SINTRA runs 5/6 - 5/7. Lots of classical music, dance and opera performances. Some of the highlights are the Spanish National Ballet at the Olga Cadaval and the Opera Tosca of Puccini at the Queluz Palace. All the venues are at different palaces which alone adds to the magic - jazz, piano, violin, orchestras....

NIGHTS IN THE MUSEUM - The archeological museum of Odrinhas welcomes the visitors recreating the Roman times in candle light, escorted by people dressed as Romans. June 20th.

AFTERNOONS IN THE SQUARE - A series of performances in the Square of the Sintra National Palace…

Nearly there!

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The apricots (left) and the plums (above) are nearly there! It looks like this year is a good fruit year, the branches are FULL of green little fruit. Soon they will turn into yellow, red, purple and green plums, orange apricots, red cherries, green and yellow pears... And soon our guests will have a treat as I never know quite what to do with all of them, as there are SO many ready at the same time. The dogs eat them straight off the trees, blessed by the slopey ground so they can reach them, but there is plenty always left for the rest of us. I can hardly wait!
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I have been travelling alot in the last few weeks and every time I come back, there are beautiful surprises! The hydrangeas have started to open in certain parts of the garden, always the whites and the reds first. The blues are the last ones, and in the fall, the green ones. I like them the most, as if there were not enough color to go on after so many flowers all summer long.

Another flower starting to open are the agapantos - our garden only has blue ones, and lots of them. Agapantos are one of the unifying elements in our garden, along with the hydrangeas - I have them in various parts. And soon on the other side of the valley the blue agapantos will bloom, giving a line of blue color a few hundred meters long that lasts over a month. Our flowers usually bloom a long time due to the cool nights - and the watering system!

The olive trees are also in bloom - small light-yellow flowers are falling everywhere, covering the garden furniture and the top of the pool. The effect on t…

A question of attitude...

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The hammock is up and what a wonderful way it is to take in the view while unwinding in it!

It's a question of attitude, really!

Continuing on the swinging theme - it has now become warmer again. It has been a beautiful day, after a few days of half winter, half summer. I guess it's typical here, too: an older Portuguese saying goes 'in the morning it's winter, in the afternoon summer!' They of course meant March.

Anyway, we had Belgian guests this week and as they were leaving, I asked them a bit apologetically about how they had liked it here, with the strange weather and all. And they said it had been fabulous - less tourists, and they had gone in to the palaces / monuments when it rained, telling me a story about rain pouring down when they were in the warmth of a restaurant, how bizarre it was because they had had sunshine just a moment before. And I was thinking how nice it is when you come to holidays to relax, to be with whoever you are with, to visit new places, to enjoy new foods - independently of the weather. So if it rains, it does not bother you, and when it's sunny, it…

'Kevät keikkuen tulevi'

This title is Finnish and means in a very rough translation that 'spring swings in'. Our spring keeps swinging in for sure, back and worth, back and worth. On Thursday it was so nice and sunny that even my husband's 103 year-old grandma lifted the legs of her pants to feel the warmth of the sun on her legs - 26 degrees, sunny, and a barely noticeable breeze, just enough to bring the warmth closer. Yesterday the wind blew the pillows of the chill-out sofa all around the garden - today it feels like winter with a cold wind and rain, once again. We are hoping that the swinging will do its 'back and forth - thing' again and bring the warmth back soon - otherwise I don't know what's going to happen to all of the baby-fruits that are filling our trees!

Today I posted an announcement on the bulletin board of the internet house - normally it has things of upcoming concerts, weather reports from the net and so worth . This time, however, I posted an apology for …

Garden Planning

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I am originally from Finland, and in Finland, normally, all you need to do in the garden in the winter is shovel snow. In Portugal, winter is the busy season in garden work. There is lots to cut, prune, trim and even plant. Cleaning up seems to never end - and it continues on to the spring. Today I was planning with the gardeners: where to plant the cleavias that have overgrown their space, which part of the ramp will be covered by the lavendar, how to bring in the watering for the newly acquired plants in vases... And very importantly, how to hang the hammock between the palm trees.

This is one thing I like about the Portuguese seasons - most of them, at least partly, give you a chance to relax in the nature in your t-shirt. The chill-out sofa is wonderful all year around. Even in the winter when the sun is low and hits the sofa, many people take their afternoon coffee there. And in the summer, when it is in the shielded shade of the trees, it is the haven from heat. This year …

Spring in the valley

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It is obvious that we are officially in the spring. This weekend we had very strong winds that brought the temperatures down, but the green keeps on coming! The leaves are opening, the flowers are blooming - and the sheep on the other side of the valley are pacing up and down happily 'singing' away, to the delight of many of our guests. (If you look carefully you can see a few of them in the lower level in the picture - this is a view from the pool). At times like these it seems like we are really in the country, though we are only 400 meters from the center!

Being Prepared

This week we had guests from Hong Kong - for the first time. They were very nice and very enthusiastic about Sintra and its surroundings. So much so that the 4G of memory in their camera's memory card was quickly filled, and they still had a week to go. Luckily the situation was resolved by our internet house - they used the computer available for the clients and transferred the pictures on to a DVD I provided them with! At the same we had American guests who ran out of battery in their camera while up the Moorish castle. They were very resourceful and asked fellow countrymen they met on the mountain if they could use their memory card on the other people's camera to take the few pictures they wanted to but didn't have a battery for. They did; pictures were taken and a friendship formed.

These two unrelated stories reminded me how important it is to try to be prepared in the Guest House. We do have empty DVDs and a computer with NERO to help you save your pictures if …

Spring fotos

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The Roses are starting to bloom! This is the time of the pink roses, large and small. On the ground where we have the fruit trees we also have old, old roses. Some are the wild bushy-kind, some are nice to cut for vases, but they have all appeared after we cleaned the grounds two years ago. The other picture is a view from the window where I am sitting writing this post.

Pool season is open!

The last couple of weeks we have had three families with children under 10 visiting. Our pittosporums have been popular not only for the great, sweet smell of the flowers, but also for climbing. Even more popular, however, has been the swimming pool. With water of 17 and 18 degrees, it is not a great pleasure for many adults yet, but all the children have spent an enormous amount of time jumping in and out. Followed by a warm shower, needless to say.

The weather has been over 20 degrees every afternoon this week. We have truly had a lovely taste of spring. In addition to the blooming pittosporums, the jasmine has opened up by the pool and the late-blooming fruit trees of peach and cherry are also releasing their scent. Magical! This week the hydrangeas have also opened their leaves quite big, though no flowers yet. It is really difficult to sit by the desk and work on days like this, especially after winter when all this seems so new!

The gardeners have finished pruning the fruit t…

Casa do Valle recommended by L'Express, France

While I was away in February, I read the weekly magazine Styles of L'Express (France). There was an article about Sintra in the spring. At the end of the article, there was the travelers' advice part, of how to get there, where to eat, where to stay. I am pleased to tell you that Casa do Valle was one of the 3 suggestions of Where to Stay, the other two were 5-star hotels. It is good to know that whoever stayed here from the part of the magazine had liked it! Thank you for recommending us.

From the article 'Premiers soleils à Sintra, Styles L'Express, nº3007 of February 2009:

'Où dormir á Sintra:
...Casa do Valle - Charmant bed and breakfast aux ravissantes chambres meublées, avec jardin et piscine...' (p. 59).

It didn't last long

Nearly two weeks of wonderful sunshine - Honeysuckle releasing its wonderful scent, trees and plants are opening their leaves, flowers blooming everywhere. I was gone for two weeks on holidays (that's why there was no blogging recently) and was surprised by the force with which spring was pushing through!

And then came the storm. Heavy, gusty winds, rain and lower temperatures again. Now we are just keeping our fingers crossed that the wind doesn't blow away all the fruit tree blooms, so we can look forward to lots of fruit this year again.
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White Plum




Red Plum

Here comes the sun...

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Finally.

The sun feels so good after so much rain. This weekend was the first time this year we had lunch out on the terrace - and guests had breakfast outside, too. During the day it is warm enough to take a stroll in a t-shirt; yet at night a coat is still more than necessary.

The garden changed over night: the fruit trees started to bloom and small flowers pushed through to give even more color to the scenery.

As it was Valentine's, our Bed and Breakfast was full of couples taking a weekend off in Sintra, the Romantic Capital of Portugal. The town was full of couples of all ages walking hand in hand, even cuing up for the horse and carriage rides. Love was in the air, in addition to the sun.

Filling...

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There are several things that are filling -

Of course the swimming pool is filling as the rain keeps pouring down, though now with considerable breaks with sunshine. Someone just said the rain this year is like the in-laws: coming for a visit at Christmas time and lingering on until carnival...

Our rooms are filling up especially on the weekends - our special deal for two weekend-nights has been popular.

The book case in the internet house is also quite full - sadly a friend is moving away and has made a nice donation of recent and classical books for our little library.

The trees on the patio and the garden are now full of birds. And the patio trees are about to open the sweet-scented flowers that are filling the branches!

What is new are the key-chains of our rooms: colorful, large but not heavy, hand made by Elisete. Here's a picture with them all.

A bit of Color

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I love these in-between-the-rain days! Luckily the rain stopped to give the grounds a chance to absorb some more of the water because there is still some more to come. The colors are slowly but surely coming back and you can clearly see the sweet force of nature in
the flowers that are promising spring. Here are some samples of the plants starting to bloom in the garden.




Winter W's

This week I received beautiful winter scenery pictures from a client in Finland (Kiitos Terttu!). Everything was beautiful, covered in snow, white. What a contrast to our winter in Sintra! Or is it? Do we have White in our winter?

Earlier on the week the cold returned. In the morning everything was covered in frost, the green grass had a white coat of ice, heavy, bending the grass down.
Later on the day we had a hail storm. 5 minutes of large hail and everything was covered in white - the cars, the roads (yes, loads of accidents), the landscape. I rushed home (slow rush) but by the time I got a hold of my camera, it was gone. But for 5 minutes Sintra was white.

The next day everything was white again. The fog was so heavy that it felt like you were sitting on a theater stage instead of your kitchen - but a bad stage: looking out the window all you could see was white, as if someone had forgotten to paint the scenery behind the windows. It was what you call 'peasoup fog', o…

Warm Sun + WiFi + Special February Deals

In the middle of the winter rains we had a day of brilliant sunshine yesterday. Perfect weather for being outside, I was weeding the garden in a t-shirt. In a sheltered area, the temperatures can rise to over 20 degrees in the early afternoon, even tricking a young tree: we have a young almond tree ready to bloom. A bit too early, but there's nothing one can do to avoid it.

This week we installed a new router. Now there is a stronger WiFi signal all over and your own laptops should access the net from the rooms. We still do have the guest computer available, though, for those guests who do not want to carry their own computers to holidays.

This week I posted new special deals for February on our site:
a two-day weekend for 75 euros, or
a 'third night free'-deal for during the week.
Perfect getaway-gift for Valentine's or Carneval!

A day on the beach (Praia Grande)

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January Morning at Praia Grande





I like the beach in the winter. I go early morning, 7:00-8:00 when there is no-one else. Just me and the dogs. And the birds. And the sun rising. It is usually really beautiful, especially in the winter. There are often rivers formed by the tides, the waves are wild and the colors are soft pastel, reflecting the early morning sun, with the mist rising form the waves. The other day I went both in the morning and the afternoon - seeing both the sunrise and sunset. Incredible!

As I left the beach in the morning I saw the bus arriving. It is wonderful how even in the winter there is a service so people without a car can also take advantage of a morning stroll on the beach. Great way to start - and finish - the day!

January Sunset on Praia Grande

Casa do Valle is now #1 B&B in Sintra in the Tripadvisor!

As I often do, this weekend I checked on the sites we are listed on, how we appear, updating the information and checking out any comments we have received. In tripadvisor.com I noticed that with the latest 5 star comment, Casa do Valle climbed to 1st place in the Sintra B&B list! Thank you so much everyone for your positive comments, it is nice to know what we are doing right - and yes, also nice to know where we should improve. So please keep commenting, this blog is a great place for that, too! It is so important to us that our Guest House serves you well.

Winter Cleaning

Somehow one would think that with all that rain we have had recently, everything would be clean as rain waters wash any dirt out. Wrong. The rain waters have just brought dirt in. We have spent all of Saturday cleaning and scraping & brushing and scrubbing the outside stairways and patios. I must say it looks different now - no more black dirt stuck on the stairs or leaves glued on to the patio. It took the whole day, but it is a joy to watch the result. Today the internet house was cleaned inside and out, and tomorrow we 'attack' the curtains of the rooms.

As we are in the low season we take advantage of the possibility to deep clean the rooms. Two by two we wash everything from duvets to ceilings. The plumber will check the pipes, the painter will re-do some walls with luggage marks on them etc. Some new towels will be replacing older ones, some pillows will be substituted, new glasses will be put in.

It is a good time to reflect and recuperate. Any ideas will be m…

Happy New Year & GPS coordinates

Happy 2009 for all of you!

Though holidays are over, Sintra is still full of visitors. We had wonderful weather for Christmas, but unfortunately, right after the rains restarted. The lawns feel like a marsh, flower beds remind me of small ponds, the swimming pool is overflowing and the streets are crowded with colorful umbrellas. One of our clients showed me beautiful pictures taken in between the rain by the Capuchos Convent and the Moorish Castle as the mist rises from amongst the trees giving the mountain the mysterious look it is famous for.

A big 'thank you' for our Russian guests Elena and Igor who kindly provided us with the GPS coordinates that work for our location (N 38.80057º and W 9.39373º, Location Format hddd.dddddº). Many guests have indeed told us before that our location is not easy to find with the GPSs. I am not sure if it is because of all the 1 way streets or because our road has two sets of numbering. In either case, now there should be no problems!