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My Portuguese House

We are really excited to share this short piece from Herbert Daybell who wrote a fantastic book about the ups and downs of falling in love with, and renovating an old house (and not just any old house!) in Portugal in his book My Portuguese House: A Palacial purchase available from Amazon here.

So, it’s the dream isn’t it?
Find a property in sunny Portugal and live there happily ever after. But how many people buy part of a royal palace?

Well, that’s what I did and in the cold light of day I’ve written of the joys, pitfalls and – mostly – the humour of the experience*.

First find your house. It took me some 11 years of trips to Portugal and I looked at umpteen properties until I found just the one I wanted: or rather, I found a virtual ruin that, with a fair amount of
money thrown at it, could be just what I wanted. If you’ve been looking at houses you’ll know that as soon as you walk in they either talk to you, or they don’t, but when you find what
you’ve been looking for you know, you just know, logical or not, that this is the one.

And what a prospect I found. If the stones could talk they’d be able to tell us of their part in Portugal’s greatest love story – that of Dom Pedro and Innes de Castro. Back in their day the Royal Court was centred in the north of Portugal and they built palaces from which to go out into the country and do their hunting. This was one of them. But, as fashions changed and the court became more sophisticated they moved south and settled on the banks of the Tagus – in Lisbon. This northerly outpost was forgotten about and fell into disrepair and the locals robbed its stones to build their own houses. And when I
found it, it was in much the same condition.

But, first things first, I had to complete the purchase. The first bit was easy: pay a deposit, usually ten per cent, but because the seller was ill and needed the money, I agreed to double this – twenty per
cent. Then it got complicated: the seller died: his sister contested his will, so things dragged on. If I didn’t complete, I’d lose the deposit, if they didn’t complete, they had to pay me the 20% plus
another 20%. But I knew it was the house I wanted, I knew I wanted to complete and, worst case scenario, if they didn’t complete I’d double my money! Well, after three, very painful, frustrating years the sister ran out of patience and I was able to complete. Next, I had to find local builders to make it habitable. And that’s when you learn your first two essential Portuguese words – amanha and
cunhado – tomorrow and brother in law. And it’s vital you understand these, they’re an essential part of any dialogue with Portuguese builders because they’ll always say they’ll be there tomorrow and if
any additional work is needed, they’ll always have a brother in law on hand to do it.

I once complained to a Portuguese neighbour that I’d waited in all day for a builder who never turned up. She was amazed at my irritation and asked, “yes, but which amanha did he mean?” A totally new concept of time to me. So, don’t get uptight about things, rather go the flow. Go native!



*If this tickles your fancy, and you want to know about my first naturist holiday in Portugal, buying pre-1755 earthquake paintings from a Mother Abbess and why a trawler owner never gets a saint in the
Blessing the Seas ceremony, you could do worse than look up “My Portuguese House” on Amazon!



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