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Showing posts from April, 2010

'Uma meia de leite da máquina, sff!'

Recently coffee has been in the news in Portugal: it seems that each Portuguese consumes a little over 4 kgs of coffee a year. This is an equivalent of 1-2 coffees per person per day, well below the 6kg per person European average (and much below the Finnish 10kgs/person/year average). This surprised me, as it seems that there is a coffee shop in every street corner and they do have a lot of custom! The Portuguese may not drink as much coffee as you would imagine, but boy have they made it a wonderful habit!

Most Portuguese drink the strong expresso type coffee and mostly not at home. A morning coffee on the way to work, another after lunch, and a third one after dinner, especially if the dinner has been in a restaurant. This is the typical scene and can continue to be so as long as coffee continues as reasonable as it is. When you visit a Portuguese house, however, contrary to the Northern European habit that I am used to, you will not be offered a coffee, but a glass of wine, a beer,…

The ash cloud over Europe

This week the airports have been in full chaos all over Europe. As flights are canceled, tourists are stuck all over the world unable to arrive home, forced to extend their holidays. As this situation is considered 'force major' most of the airlines are not returning the money of the tickets, let alone providing the clients with a hotel to stay during their wait of sometimes days. The extension of the holidays is not necessarily a welcomed thing: it exhausts the finances of those who are suddenly paying extra hotel-nights and causes worry about things left undone at home. There are talks about forced holidays for airline employees if the situation does not improve.

The situation is as frustrating for the would-be tourists who have booked their holidays a long time in advance ready to go for the much-needed holidays and now not knowing if they will go later or at all. The situation is also bad at this end when tourists cancel their reservations at the last moment. It com…

Glicinia time!

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Every spring there is a purple tint to Sintra. The glicínias bloom, their flowers cascading down from the vine, for two to three weeks. They frame gates and pathways, covering arches, giving shade from the first warm sun. They grow wild on abandoned properties and in the middle of forest climbing to the highest point of the trees or electric poles. And then, the flowers fall and leaves are formed. But the weeks of flowers are magical! They give a special fairy-tale look to the places they surround, and transform the abandoned properties, giving an attractive look to the gray of the walls and rust of the gates. At the same time as this is a beautiful time, it is also a time with lots of allergies: there is pollen all around. Normally, the plants on the Casa do Valle property are not high-allergenic but up in the mountain and parks there are a few plants that some people do feel in their eyes and noses. (All of the following pictures were taken within a walking distance of Casa…

Easter Friday

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Good Friday was the hardest day of my life as far as customer service. I know that no matter what, you are to be cheerful and efficient. You are to put your personal affairs and emotions to the background and be all you should be to provide the best service to your clients, to make them feel at home and cared for. But it was really difficult, and I am afraid I failed: I burst into tears when a young Brazilian couple wanted to settle their bill and cut a Swedish couple short when they asked me how the Portuguese celebrate Easter. For this I apologize now publically.

Good Friday was one of the hardest days of my life in general - it was the day I held Zoe's head on my lap while she slept away to her eternal sleep as her kidneys stopped working due to the leishmanhose disease that had bothered her for 2 years.

Many of our guests remember Zoe - the gentle porcelain Great Dane of 4. She loved attention and company. She loved walks on the beach and playing with Ruben and Viiri. She…