Friday, 27 December 2013

A Dutch Christmas in Portugal

Several new motorhomes joined us since my last post so there's a bustling little community
A busy Serro da Bica 
of nine campers here now, 17 people including Herman and Albertje. Everyone is Dutch apart from us, one other English couple and Frithjof who is German, but all the Dutch people speak good 'Engels' and are more than happy to switch between languages.

I'm glad we didn't follow my whim of spending Christmas day on the beach though. I know the weather in Portugal isn't anywhere near as bad as it has been back home, but heavy rain set in at about 5pm on Christmas Eve and just kept coming - all night! We managed maybe a couple of hours sleep between us as, with the awning blowing around and the rain thundering on Bailey's roof, it sounded like a hurricane outside. The awning escaped most of its pegs before morning so water got in. However, Bailey coped just fine and we stayed cosy and dry, if wearied.

Christmas Day began with coffee and Buterkoek in the bar. One of the other campers, Peter, had his birthday and joining a group for coffee and cake is a traditional Dutch way to celebrate. We braved the much-lighter-by-then rain afterwards for a hour's walking which meant I got the chance to try out my new Marmot waterproof trousers. They're perfect - comfortable, warm and stayed completely dry throughout the walk which is more than my previous Peter Storm pair ever managed. Well worth the price!
The house at Serro da Bica 

Highlight of the day was our Christmas meal for which we (almost) all gathered in the bar at 5pm. The other English couple won't come to the bar because 'they all speak Dutch' but everyone else was there. Albertje and Herman had arranged the tables with cloths and candles, red and green Christmas napkins and it looked lovely. I wrote out the menu afterwards and all the courses took up two days of my pocket diary - coincidentally, we both felt as though we had eaten a good two days' worth of food! First course was Albertje's homemade Hummous with mini toasts. Then we had Herman's Soup which was similar to a minestrone but with chourico pieces and meatballs in it. Everyone had seconds. Then the main course was a delicious Hachee which is a thrice cooked thick beef stew, vaguely similar in taste to the Greek Stifado. Albertje had been cooking this over the previous two days so we all already knew how good it smelt! The meal is traditional Dutch cuisine, but not traditional for Christmas Day. However, with so many mouths to feed here, it has become the Serro Da Bica tradition and several of this year's guests have been previously and returned. The Hachee was served with roasted rosemary potatoes, rice, spiced red cabbage, pears poached in red wine, and stewed apple. Everyone had at least seconds of all this as well. Then, when you would have thought no one could eat any more, our hosts served a rich dessert of whipped cream with multi-coloured jelly cubes, topped with a conserve of Albertje's homegrown strawberries. Phew! The Dutch have a fantastic word (which I've probably spelt wrongly) - 'outbouken'. It means to sit back and let your stomach hang out after having eaten too much. We all practised 'outbouken' with a small liqueur to finish! Dave had a Portuguese cognac and I had a white port.

We rolled back to Bailey and slept for about ten hours!

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