"Good things come to those who wait"
Four countries, 35 houses and four offers later, I finally found the perfect place for Relaxscape. In December 2017 I put my house in Tunbridge Wells on the Kent and Sussex borders in the UK on the market. It was sold by May 2018 and in July I signed the papers to buy a property in Cardal, near Tomar and Ferreira do Zêzere in central Portugal.
In August 2018 I set off from the UK with my two cats in the back of a second-hand Suzuki Wagon to start my new adventure. When I arrived, I found the friendliest, kindest bunch of people I could ever hope to have as neighbours and friends, who have helped me to settle in, find my way around, and learn a bit about the history of the place.
A casa de Tio Armindo em Cardal
I bought Tio Armindo’s house. Nestled in the crook of a sloping landscape of silvery olive groves, laden vines and whispering pine trees, it welcomed me even on a grey, rainy morning. I could feel the history resting in its old walls and the loving toil that had gone into tending the land. It felt like an honest, hardworking house. It had a calmness to it, and, as I’ve later discovered, a good karma. 30 houses and six months later, I knew that the search for my new home in Portugal was finally over.
I never met Tio Armindo (he died a few years ago), but I wish I had. He lived in the house, and in the village of Cardal (near Tomar and Ferreira do Zêzere), for over 40 years. Everyone knew, still knows, of him. He was a much loved and well respected member of the community, and the house was a hub for the local villagers. He is remembered for his deep striking voice, singing in the village church and reading the scriptures.
Tio Armindo was a tailor, a poet, a songwriter. Through his song lyrics, he captured the local folklore that was only ever spoken about, so that the stories lived on. He also brought life to the land, planting olive trees, fruit trees, vegetables and vines. He used to do his farming barefoot. I can understand why - walking barefoot grounds you and connects you to the nature that surrounds you. I’m not sure I’d be brave enough though - too many creepy-crawlies for me!
A house that connected the village
He was an educated man, and helped people to read and pay their bills. The house was the first in the village to have a telephone connected, and in a little building next to the main house, there is still the old phone box and timer on the wall, where the villagers used to come to make their phone calls. From the outbuilding next to it, you could buy gas bottles and other necessaries. The village bus used to stop outside the front (the rusty old bus stop sign is still there), and there is still the thick old metal ring in the wall where, in even older times, passing visitors tied their horses. Even now, it seems to be one of the only houses to have a good wifi connection (luckily for me!) - more evidence of its good karma.
The house stands unassumingly on the side of the main road through of the village, quietly welcoming all who pass by on their way to enjoy the secret delights of the sparkling river at its end. I feel lucky to have found it, but also have a sense that it found me. I was looking for a house that I could turn into a relaxing retreat, a hub where people can come to enjoy and appreciate nature and a simpler way of being. Where people can reconnect with themselves and connect with each other, where they can tell their life stories and write new ones for themselves. I have a feeling that Tio Armindo’s house is just the right place, that it’s been doing that for years. I’ll be honoured to carry on in his footsteps.
I have a lot to learn, about the local area, traditions, how to farm my land organically, how to restore the old buildings to retain their soul, in the most sustainable and environmentally-friendly way possible. But I am lucky that I am surrounded by people who have Cardal in their blood and are as passionate as I am about sharing their knowledge so that everyone gets the best out of this magical place that weaves its spell over all who come here. I can’t wait to be able to share Relaxscape with you when the time comes.