Saturday, 30 March 2013

Shuttered Dreams

During our last week in Figuiera dos Vinhos, the weather began to improve warming a little day by day.  The camellias began to bloom in the formal garden, and by the little stone house the lavender was budding and early primroses were peeking out under the trees here and there.
Camellias in bloom, roses leafing out

We saw a lovely old restaurant, abandoned a number of years ago, and peeked through the grubby windows at the lovely azul tiles on the walls.  The restaurant, Cafe Terra Bella, is on the ground floor of a building that stands empty.

 We have seen this sort of thing before in Portugal, a building may need repairs, a new roof, plumbing updates, and if the owner can't afford them he just shutters the building.  If you are able to track down the owner you may find that he is willing to sell, often at a good price.  But to reopen the building means you will have to undertake all the repairs required.  The repairs may be within your budget but the bureacracy involved can be daunting for North Americans.

We simply took pictures, admired the lovely stone-topped tables and wooden chairs and let our imaginations fill the Terra Bella with locals enjoying a good meal and a glass of port.

A few days later, while talking a walk through town we spied another little restaurant no more than a block away from the Cafe Terra Bella.  This one had once been a local pub, with a lovely little terrace.  Situated next to the formal gardens and in summer near the ice cream vendors, it probably has the best location in the village for a small restaurant or pizzeria.

We made enquiries and found out that the building was owned by two different people: one owned the front portion, with the lovely terrace, while another person owned the back of the building, where the kitchen and working areas would be.  Complicated.  Further enquiries led us to a small house on the edge of the village, where an old fellow using an oxygen tank informed us, taking many pauses for oxygen, that he was the agent for the person who owned the front portion of the restaurant.  The person who owned the back portion was away on holidays for another two weeks.

 The location and the pretty terrace were tempting and we discussed the idea several times, but the complexity of dealing with two owners was daunting, and the fact that the restaurant had been closed for years meant that any new operation could take a few years to build a regular clientele. We can only hope that as the European economy slowly improves that people will be able to refurbish and reopened these lovely places. 

The final decision, though was made for us by the weather, which turned cold again, with rain every day.  The damp was seeping into our bones.  One of the reasons we love Portugal is its sunny warmth.  Having endured too many long, cold Canadian winters, we crave the sunshine.  The south was calling to us and after two weeks up north looking at houses and businesses in Figuiera dos Vinhos, Coimbra, Tomar and Miranda do Corvo we decided it was time to visit the Algarve.

Next time...we find a business and a house.

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