Portuguese grocery shopping…Trying to read labels…Making mistakes…Learning as we go…

This little bird stops by each day for a walk on the railing on the veranda and to show off her catch of the day.

Although some Europeans speak English it doesn’t appear to be the case in Portugal and certainly not in Madeira, a small island that appears to be inhabited by traditional old world citizens and tourists, usually staying in hotels that often accommodate many languages.

For us, living in a neighborhood of local citizens and a few tourists, the language barrier presents a number of issues. How arrogant of us English speaking people from various parts of the world to assume a country’s people would know our language. Why don’t we know their language?

One of the several tunnels we took to get to the grocery store.

Luckily, our delightful landlady Gina speaks a bit of English peppered with a few Portuguese words that make her all the more charming and adorable. On Saturday, Gina stopped in to introduce us to our cleaning lady Judita who doesn’t speak a word of English.

Judita will work for us on Thursdays each week washing floors, windows, changing bedding, cleaning the kitchen and bathrooms which we’ll keep tidy in between her visits. 

The temperature is rarely higher than 77F, 25C in Madeira and yet the parking lot at the supermarket has covered parking which we’ve never seen at a market.

Meeting Judita reminded us of the upcoming challenges in communicating with the local people from whom we seek services or assistance. As always, we’ll figure it out as we did when grocery shopping on Friday afternoon, the day we arrived.

Gina had left a map, making the 15 minute trip to the supermarket relatively easy. As we approached the main door, we noticed that the carts were similar to those in Italy, requiring a coin a Euro $.50, US $.70 to unlock the handle as shown in this photo below.

Tom putting the EU $.50, US $.70 into the slot to release the grocery cart.

At this point, we’d yet to acquire any Euros luckily finding an ATM inside the store. Tom pushed the cart, as usual, while I attempted to read labels. With the handy grocery app on my phone, I easily referenced my shopping list. 

There were several items we couldn’t find; baking soda, baking powder, coconut oil (although we did find unsweetened coconut flour), real cream (for me), Cremora (for Tom), Hydrogen Peroxide (for teeth), avocados, and sour cream.

Since we usually purchase a few packaged items, the label reading is kept to a minimum. Mostly, I check to ensure there are none of the items I can’t eat; sugar, gluten, starch. 

A goat lives next door on a hill with a few other goats which we can hear baaing during the day.  The sounds are music to our years, reminiscent of the goats in our backyard in Kenya.

Needing to fully stock the cupboards with basics such as spices, olive oil, and paper products, we shopped in two batches, per Tom’s suggestion. We loaded the cart to the brim with the non-perishables and checked out. Tom loaded them all into the car, returning with an empty cart ready to tackle the perishables. This is only necessary the first time we shop in a new location when we purchase the most items.

I screwed up on only one purchase, the shampoo, and conditioner, assuring Tom that the one bottle that said “Hydrante” was shampoo and the other saying “Crème” was conditioner. I thought this was a logical translation when, as it turned out, I discovered when washing my hair, that they were both shampoos. Today, we’ll buy a conditioner at the pharmacy. 

A good-sized Gecko stopped by for a visit, an obviously different variety from those we’d seen in Africa. There are few insects here, none of which are a concern, other than the occasional bee or hornet.

The total bill for our two full carts of groceries was US $309.76, EU $225.94, slightly less than we’ve paid for our first load in other countries. I don’t believe the prices were less but we’ve fine-tuned our shopping. Prices seem comparable to Italy although much higher than South Africa.

Overall, the supermarket was satisfactory with a fabulous fresh seafood counter which had a long line preventing us to attempt it in our exhausted state with only three hours of sleep. Also, the deli was filled with gluten-free and nitrate-free meats along with a vast array of cheeses comparable to Italy. 

We love this huge roll of quality paper towels that we purchased for only US $2.74, EU $2 when we grocery shopped.

The produce appeared organic although they don’t label it as such. It’s always easy to detect chemical-free produce when leaves have numerous holes from insects chowing down, an inconsistency in the shape and size of the various items, and a degree of wilting with an occasional spot of mold or slime. 

We’ve learned that this is the reality of chemical-free produce in other countries. In the US, prices are exceedingly high for organic produce when they often dispose of the less attractive items. In other countries, they put most of the harvest out for sale, letting customers pick and choose what they’d like, keeping the cost down. 

This morning’s view from the kitchen window.  Washing dishes is not so bad with a view such as this.

All in all, this is appealing to us. We certainly don’t mind finding worms or bugs in our produce, knowing that pesticides weren’t used. Of course, we wash all of our produce in purified water, placing a few cups of the water in a large bowl and rinsing each piece, changing the water as needed. 

Yesterday, Gina popped in making a reservation for us at a restaurant she recommended located in Ribeira Brava, a 10 to 15-minute drive. She suggested we ask the owner where the health club is located nearby.  Hopefully, we’ll find it.

We’ll never tire of this view which seems to call to us several times a day. I took this photo a few minutes ago as the sky began to clear from the morning’s haze.

She used a phone located in the house that we hadn’t realized was working. As a result, it won’t be necessary for us to purchase a SIM card for our smartphone. She explained that the phone was included in our rent as long as the calls were local. 

We use Skype for long-distance calls which we discovered works well from here after both of my sisters called yesterday for very clear conversations. The WiFi in the house has the strongest signal we’ve had in 19 months, showing five bars. We can both listen to podcasts simultaneously, a rare treat. 

We’ll be back tomorrow with photos from out and about today as we explore the area, find another grocery store, tackle a few of our errands, and dine out for the first time. Ah, life is good.

Photo from one year ago today, May 19, 2013:
No photo was available on this date.  Lack of photos on certain dates will soon cease as we move further into the year when we soon started using the new camera.

As it turned out, we both became ill aboard the ship from other passengers coughing and sneezing around us all day and night. 

Many cruises result in either a respiratory or intestinal illness. As often as we washed our hands, we’ve since learned a few lessons: Don’t handle spoons or forks in the buffet without a napkin covering our hand which we immediately toss when done filling our plates or by asking the food be placed on our plates by the servers. 

Also, we will not, in the future, use the public restrooms instead, going back to our cabin as needed. We never eat dinner at the buffet, only breakfast. For our upcoming two cruises, we’re contemplating having breakfast in the main dining room instead of the buffet, where the food is served. For details of the story from that date, please click here.

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