A castle on a beach, a harbour full of slow-paced fishermen, a view that goes on forever, two very bouncy white poodles and a cat who bites noses.
My name is Roberta. I am an occasional house and petsitter. (I have a home beyond this. I take on short-term petsit assignments every so often. These take me to new places.) In the past, these assignments have taken me to a Tibetan terrier in Falmouth, to a chocolate coloured Shar Pei in West Hampstead and, most recently, to a pair of poodles and a perpetually naughty black cat in an interior designer's home in the Algarve.
Ferragudo - the town in which I was based - is picture perfect. Imagine cobbled streets, saints' images adorning brightly coloured houses and a sun-drenched square full of restaurants and gentle buzz. Stop at the padaria (bakery) for fresh bread or a pastry. Stroll on to the square. Perhaps there'll be live music today. Walk on a little and you'll find beach and harbour, a huddle of fishing boats. The fish served in the local restaurants is the catch of the day and very good indeed.
The house for which I was caring was a villa decorated with a nod to the town's Moorish heritage. Off the main rooms, no less than three sun terraces. The roof terrace bloomed with endless potted plants, roses uncoiled beside enormous cacti. The view from it took in the town itself, the ocean and the blue horizon of the mountains in the distance. Here's a snatch of it:
The dogs loved that roof terrace. The homeowner promised me I'd find the view inspiring for writing. I did. However, my ability to write was mildly impaired by the two poodles (Coco and Twomey) who wanted to be near me at all times: preferably skin to skin and attempting to kiss my lips. Their snogging attempts aside, these were very sweet dogs indeed. These are a pair of rescue poodles who like to receive affection to convince them they won't be abandoned again. They slept curled around me each night.
Best friends of the dogs included a local blind man who'd croon for them each time they were near and Mozart the black cat. Ah, Mozart. Mozart the cunning; Mozart the devilishly intelligent. Mozart - also a rescue animal and beloved of Coco, the youngest of the two poodles. Mozart liked to sniff hair, preferably in the middle of the night. The more he sniffed, the louder he would purr. Mozart stole hair ties and harboured a penchant for earring-theft. When Mozart wanted food, he'd gently bite my wrists or nose. The day I tried to photograph Mozart on my smart phone, he lifted his paw and tried to smack the phone from my hand. Perhaps he wanted to steal that too, to stow away with his horde of accessories. The next day, Mozart bit my phone. I suppose this was justified. Here is Mozart attempting to smack my phone:
The housesit was glorious, if exhausting, the sunshine much needed. If I'm ever in Ferragudo again, I hope I'll get to say hello to the furry trio. Sadly, my planned dolphin-watching trip there was cancelled due to rough seas, so that's a good reason to return. Additionally, a marine biologist informed me there's a local gallery full of tiny lakes and art composed of materials salvaged from the ocean. The local Italian restaurant even catered for my lactose intolerance and brought me a cheese-free pizza brimming with vegetables and olives. Ferragudo, I'll be back. In the meantime, I hope I get to see my Shar Pei friend in London soon.