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Tribute to a future ex-expat

Too old. Suddenly you’re too old. Strange, because it doesn’t feel that way inside. And if you trained yourself (like me) to keep the looking-in-the-mirror to an absolute minimum, ditto for taking selfies- that’s a shock!

There are many advantages to being old

Many people do not like that I use that word, but I honestly think “middle-aged” sound much older and is also way too long. All other euphemisms are far too complicated. So: old. Compromise: a bit older. Agreed?a-blurry-selfie-in-the-mirror-the-best-thing-you-can-do-when-you-are-old


One of the advantages of being older is that you have much more self-insight, and therefore more insight into others. You see more, you hear more, you understand more, and in my case: you keep your mouth shut a bit more.

But – every advantage has its disadvantage. You just don’t see it in the mirror

Friend Anja noticed one of those disadvantages recently. She lives in Coimbra and has been unemployed for a year. Too old to have to apply for a job. Sounds nice, but if you’ve lost the job of your life, and you receive the 70% government money for a limited time, with with an outlook on portuguese benefits, you could get a little nervous.

The latter is projection, because I’ve never noticed that Anja got nervous.

She is far too professional for that. A professional hostess with a big heart

For years, guesthouse Casa Pombal has flourished under her hospitable, large-hearted, noble-minded rule. She had taken over the management of friend, colleague and owner Else, who was close to exhaustion after so many years of dutiful service. Years in the hospitality business count double, if you do it well, and they did – always ready, always smiling. Like, once, working with a fever of 39 °. Just keep going.

When she reached retirement age, she wanted to sell. It had been wonderful, but enough.

“We’ll see what happens once it is sold,” Anja told me during one of our lunches in Coimbra. “The staff is included in the sale, but Alexandra’s a nice lady. She can use our experience. We’ll work nicely together, you’ll see.”

Anja and I regularly meet to “do a kebabbie”

That means lunch, right in the center of Coimbra where all the tourists wander, without noticing that they walk five meters from the nicest terrace where you can enjoy the most delicious kebab (the garlic sauce!!), which is served by the sweetest waitress in the world.december-2019-drinks-on-a-sunny-terrace-of-Pepe-Kebab

There, it was extensively discussed how tyrant Alexandra managed things, once she was the boss in Casa Pombal. While Anja, Io and Else always put their guests’ interests first, Alexandra couldn’t even be bothered with buying butter for breakfast.

“It’s just 2 guests – they’ll have to do without, U can’t be bothered” she said casually over the phone. And then stayed away for hours more, when she actually had to work a shift.

Well … you can’t say that to someone like Anja

So she went to get the butter herself. Breakfast had always been the pride & joy of Casa Pombal. 25 years ago, when everything still went by barge, they were proud to serve sprinkles and old cheese. Tasty rolls, an egg, freshly brewed tea, great smelling coffee … a good start to a busy tourist day!

And always take the time to show their guests the nice places, new restaurants, old monastery gardens, take a walk along the Mondego here … I’ve been a guest with them myself, so I know what I’m talking about. In the evening we talked for hours about our dream to move to Portugal, and when I had cold feet (liturally), I was given a hot water bottle dressed as a pink piggy to take to bed.

That pink piggy made a huge impression

What impressed much more, and what was quite a shock, was the announcement that Anja is going back to the Netherlands. In August it will be benefits, and you cannot live on that in Portugal. But the main reason is that her dear old little mother increasingly needs care.

No more kebabbies? Well, you don’t know. In these times, everything is uncertain. Not for the time being, that’s for sure. I hope the world doesn’t change in such a way that you only have virtual contact with each other. I’ll miss those “same time, same place” appointments.

But yes, dear old little mothers are more important.

And … Anja is the feminine form of anjo in Portuguese. Angel … so …


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We moved here in 2000 from Rotterdam, Holland to the Termas-da-Azenha, Portugal. A big step, especially with two small children. We are busy to rebuild one of portugals cultural heirlooms: Termas-da-Azenha, an old spa which has been turned into several holiday homes, rooms and campsites, with a https://termas-da-azenha.com/en/recreation/: swimming pool, indoor and outdoor games like pingpong, petanque, a FancyDressingRoom and a small café. You’ll find mosaics and paintings everywhere.

The old bathhouse is going to be a museum, where you can see how things have changed. Since 2018 we call ourselves the first B&B&B in the world – Bed & Breakfast & Bathrobes. You can buy a home-made unique bathrobe/housecoat with us.

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