About 50% of those who contacted us recently seem to believe we're some kind of free hotel with no need to sell themselves and show what we could have in common based on what we wrote, probably never having fully read our story if at all. If you're one of those, please do not bother writing.
We love those who react that consider our role (and their own) to be different, the true volunteers who care about who we and our kitties are, who show what specifically interests them in our profile, including in what we do and who try sell us why they think they specifically would be a great temporary fit with us. You're applying for the privilege of being our guest and enjoying our values. Those who try earn a place here by means of a good letter will definetely be considered.
The "cut and paste" letters we ignore.
Yes, we have no 100% rating yet, since we just started here, so we're rookies in a way.
We are a married couple in our 50s/60s but young in spirit. Our names are Peter and Anna. Peter is a Dutchman (Netherlands) and American. He speaks five languages fluently (English, Dutch, Spanish, German and French). Anna is Russian. She speaks Russian and English fluently and learns Spanish. Anna is a dog groomer from Saint-Petersburg Russia, with 20 years of experience sailing at sea in sailing yachts of all kinds of sizes (yes, there are marinas in Vigo, Baiona and Viana do Castelo). We both love sailing and Peter once owned a sail boat and navigated inner waterways in the Netherlands. Every year Anya makes a sailing trip or two of several weeks in the North Sea, Ostsee, Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean (most southern point has been Madeira). She also makes custom jewelry with beads, loves working with all kinds of tools, has studied engineering (sewer installations), sings, plays guitar, can play piano, has performed many years in plays and opera, has performed dances and including ballet. Peter is a semi-retired professional translator, who has traveled the world and lived in such countries as Ecuador, Paraguay, Belgium, the Netherlands, the USA, Spain and Israel. There he was partially raised and educated and he worked in the travel industry, IT, facility management, horticulture, e-commerce, kibbutz, financial auditing, car rentals, real estate sales. He also owned several small businesses including for 9 years a periodicals back issues company.
Currently we are busy setting up a real estate business for rustic homes with a view.
One special quirk we have that you should know, is to always stand on the side where our one working eye is still functioning. We are each blind in one eye. Otherwise we will run over you. ;-) Seriously, it has some challenges though that some people may underestimate.
HOUSE AND SURROUNDINGS
Our house is located on the banks of the Miño River, which divide Spain and Portugal. The Atlantic Ocean is less than a 1 km walk away. There is a coffee house we can recommend where, as usual in Galicia, drinks, snacks and meals are dirt cheap (coffee plus excellent croissant is 2 euro). This is the South-Western corner of Galicia in Spain, a province where they speak both Spanish and Gallego.
It has a view on the Miño river located 100 meters away with many nearly deserted sand beaches. Our little town is called Camposancos and is located at the mountain called Sta. Tecla where Celtic tribes built a village on top of it and the ruins can still be visited. Access will cost you nothing (our town has a special access road that tourists know nothing about, as is common in secretive Galicia) but hard climbing work (there are a few trails) and the views are breathtaking as the photo shows. On the other side of the mountain/hill is A Guarda, an old fishing town with a daily fresh market and a fish auction.
Our house is also on the pilgrim trail (Camino) going from Portugal to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia.
There are several nature reserves nearby. They include lots of different birds and bugs, including various types of birds of prey and there is an ornithological station just 500 meters away, where the mostly hourly ferry to Caminha (Portugal) is located (if it runs, which depends on weather and tide).
A Guarda is at about a 2,5 km walk from our house.
The ferry takes 15 minutes to get to Portugal. The small old town of Caminha, where one arrives, is well worth a visit, plus it has many good restaurants, pastry cafes and better prices than in Spain. You benefit from two very different cultures as siesta in Spain is from 1 pm to 5 or 6 pm plus supermarkets close Sundays, and in Portugal there is no siesta, just a short lunch break and they have plenty of stores open on Sundays. Viana do Castelo with its old town, by train about 30-40 minutes from Caminha is far larger and far more interesting.
In August the whole village of Camposancos climbs the mountain together to have a picnic with view up there. All business is closed then. All summer there are also other fiestas here and in surrounding towns. Same in Portugal. Usual;ly with lots of fireworks noise and music. Our area is very quiet as there are not too many neighbors. Many houses are used by city slickers who only come briefly in mid July to mid September and some weekends. You may be lucky if you come while we try to catch/hunt javalis. They are a pest so need to be controlled. Some dogs here even get trained to seek them out.
There are many old medieval, often fishing, towns with harbors here, often with astounding views, cobble stone streets, many fish restaurants, inexpensive wines. The area is full of vineyards as almost every house seems to have one. Inexpensive fruit will come out of your ears (and into the javalis their mouths).
There are lots of hiking opportunities and there are also many streams and some waterfalls. In the city of Ourense that is about 1 1/2 hours away, there are thermal baths all over the city as it sits on a volcanic underground. It is an old Roman town. Another old Roman town worth visiting is Ponte de Lima in Portugal, probably also about 1 1/2 hour away. Viana do Castelo in Portugal is another old town worth spending time in. It is about 30 km away from Caminha across the river. The train from Caminha takes about 30 minutes to get there.
Plenty of beaches where you can swim almost undisturbed, just bear in mind there is rarely any rescue staff. A couple of islands across the bay from Vigo are worth visiting on boat day trips (like Cies). They have nature reserves there.
Do not forget also looking up some of the many lighthouses. The oldest up north in La Coruna is from Roman times.
Talking about weather, be aware that the Galician weather is strange, nothing you may ever have seen. One minute it can be no wind, strong sun, then another minute beautiful cloudless sunny but a furious wind, then clouds but no rain, the serious rain and lightning, even sometimes big chunks of hail! Clouds will hang extremely low at times. On the hills one can drive into a cloud for a while and out of it the next moment. Most of the time it is sunny though. The beaches are almost deserted even in high season.
If you come around November or later in the winter, it will be even more quiet and the type of work you can help us with may vary. It is colder then and the heat goes on. It never snows though as temperatures remain just above zero.
TRANSPORTATION & COMMUNICATION
Fly into Porto in Portugal. It is the easiest to get here. Vigo airport has no good connections and barely any flights, certainly nothing worth being called international.
There is a bus from the airport of Porto (Sa Carneiro) in Portugal (1.10 hour ride for EUR 7) which will bring you to Vila Nova de Cerveira (about 15 km from our house) where we can pick you up. If you come by car, you can either cross the bridge at about 15 km from our house or take the ferry from Caminha (Portugal) which also takes cars at EUR 4. Pedestrians pay EUR 1 (provide it runs, which is irregular).
Transportation is available by the mentioned ferry 500 meters away (normally hourly but it rarely runs normal) , There is a 'circular' bus that goes around A Guarda and Camposancos. Twice a day there is a long distance bus that goes from either Camposancos to Vigo or from Camposancos to Tui. In A Guarda there are more frequent buses in those directions. The bus company is called Atsa (not Alsa!). There is no train. If you want to take a train take the ferry to Caminha (Portugal) and catch a train there. They go to Porto (Oporto) in 1.43 hours to 2.25 hours. You can also take trains there in the direction of Vila Nova de Cerveira. Sorry, trains inside Spain can only be caught in Tui or Vigo, so it requires a bus trip. In general bus and rail in Galicia is poor in availability, slow and expensive and in Portugal superb and affordable. There are various bus companies in Caminha. You can also rent a car there.
By the way, the online hiking site BlaBlaCar is very popular here and we recommend using it to get around and learn to know people and talk Spanish with them.
Phone cards you can buy both in Spain by showing your passport and in Portugal (without need to show anything but money). Recommended as your foreign sim card is always more expensive. In Portugal there is even a special inexpensive data sim card available valid for up to 30 days.
Are you combining the visit to our area in Spain or Portugal with a long walk of the Camino towards Santiago de Compostela (a popular hike)? Maybe it will interest you that you can avoid hauling luggage, back packs, even bikes for little cost.. The Spanish post office will haul it for you, picking it even up at your stops. See their special elcaminoconcorreos page on that subject.
We have several projects running year round ,but the main one is keeping up and improving the 600 m2 terrain around our house that is full of many varieties of fruit trees, has a small vineyard in the back with 3 different grapes, is due to be expanded with a greenhouse and a vegetable garden, has a chicken coop house that needs fixing up to restore it to its original function plus there is a irrigation system project that we are also expanding to replace the old half torn down one, and there is a water well project due to restore the now unusable well. Or we may create a water basin to catch and store rain. Some of the grapes are also to be made into wine, but we still need tp figure our how to do that.
We live in a beautiful centrally located place and have great interesting local neighbors who are accessible and like to talk, lots and lots. You can visit many small towns in the area, with historical monuments, both in Spain and in Portugal. In Portugal, its rich 16th/17th century merchant country history is still visible all over. In both countries the Romans also left their marks like in Ponte de Lima and A Coruna. The Celts added to that in Galicia, even right on the hill behind our home.
We will be happy to take you with us on some of our tours of the countryside as we keep exploring and there is so much still to discover in nature, in towns, in people's minds. Or you can take our central location at our house as an opportunity to explore the area by yourself.
You can practice in 6 languages. English, French, German, Spanish, Dutch and Russian. And Gallego with the locals if you know it. We can even get our neighbor's daughter to show her skills with the Gallego bagpipe. She is a professional musician with that. It is likely we will have barbecues where you can meet locals. That is common in the summer. Or you can enjoy the many almost weekly fiestas in the area (unless . A must when you are in Spain and Portugal. There are not only religious festivals, but also food festivals, music fiestas, even book fiestas as authors are celebrated every year in Galicia.
If you want to cook something from your own culture, we will welcome that for sure and Anna can show off quite some Russian and Georgian dishes. She is also an expert in making jams, jellies, dried fruits, compotes, even pies from all the fruits we have.
Peter grew up in Spanish speaking countries so you can talk Spanish with him all you want. He also taught several languages. His predilection for learning language is by using the phonics method, so the limited number of sounds (on syllable level) each language has. Whole word methods are not for him.
You may further learn a thing or two how different Galicians are towards pets. It is more of a utilitarian attitude.
Not in the last place the Galicians their implicit philosophy may appeal to some. Reserved, almost secretive, individualistic. That is of course the older Galician The younger generation quickly disappears beyond the province.
It may also be an opportunity to seek out Galician high school kids needing to be taught English, There is a huge shortage of such teachers here. You just have to know the right person. Such jobs do not get announced. You have to be here to hear about them.
Given that we are right on the border you will also be able to compare two very different cultures.
Another typical local cultural experience to consider, is doing the pilgrim trail from here, but first meet the many pilgrims that pass by and learn why and how they do it. For most it is more of a cultural hike than a religious experience.
What the cultures here (and that includes both if us as well) can share is not only its language, history and cuisine, but its celebration of life, its philosophy, its music and dance.
WHAT IS OUR GOAL?
For Anya especially it will be important language practice. It is different talking with one's husband/wife or with a stranger with different interests.
1. Our main goal is to find energetic THINKING men or women who want to help us take care of our rather unique and large garden (600-700 m2) which has many fruit trees (oranges, apples, pears, plums, avocados, lemons, frijoa, kiwi etc.) but also lots of grass and weeds (very high), plus holes dug by javalis (European wild boars) which need repair and a fence needs to be put up, plus a small vineyard with one type of grapes for wine and two edible grapes. The many trees and bushes will need to be trimmed due to years of neglect. We would like to recreate the once typical self-sufficiency that was so common in the area. Who knows, maybe we'll even bring back the chickens? But not right away.
Anya leads that project,so you need to be able to speak English and/or Russian. With Peter you can try out several other
All necessary tools are available to work in the garden. A good physical condition, experience working with plants and trees, and garden machines and tools, is essential. But most important is that you like the work and have a can do attitude. We want you especially for your 'mind' and that includes your character and active thinking. A positive sense of life is also essential, which is where the can do comes from. If you have a lot of dark ideas about life and people, we're not going to be a match. We believe in life and the world being a opportunity,, a one time opportunity.
Work times are from 9 to 14 and 5 days a week. We're flexible which days you can work, as long as we schedule it together in advance.
2. Of course our other goal is also to meet new interesting worthwhile mature people in our lives coming from different cultures, with an open mind, who know what they want and act on that. Sorry, we are not into people who are glued to their smartphone. That is not a way to get to know one another. Life is out there, outside the screen, and that is from us IT experts.
3. In winter we mainly need both someone to do cat sitting (so an experience pet sitter or someone who has (had) cats and loves them. If you do pet sitting a driver's license is indispensable. This cat sitter work is only needed when we travel, usually for about 2-3 weeks, not more.
4. Last but not least, Peter needs to learn Russian. He is no novice but could use a true Russian teacher to help him. So Russian teachers are invited if they are also prepared to work in the garden, since teaching is not a full time activity. You would need to be fluent in both Russian and English or Dutch..
We live in a house with a large garden lot. There is an orchard and a vineyard. We do not have much experience in maintain after the garden. And there is not enough time to do this work. We will be glad to helpers who can help us clean up. Much of the work - is to mow the grass. Just need to collect fruits from the trees.
We have a guest room with two Queen sized beds on the second floor where two people can sleep and they have their own shower with a window in the bathroom that looks out on the river and Portugal. You can eat meals with us (at our expense), or elsewhere at your leisure (at your expense) if your prefer try out the local kitchen. An inexpensive restaurant near the ferry, so 500 meters away, has lunch menus with copious amounts of good food for EUR 7 or 9. Frankly, the EUR 7 one is already enormous. Pepe and his wife run the restaurant and it has a view of the river and Portugal through its large windows plus a terrace to sit with good weather, which is so often).
Beware if you are allergic for cats. We have 4 cats inside, 2 male Maine Coons, a male Oriental and a mixed rather Persian girl. And then there are a couple of outside wild cats. They are all our babies and actually have reason to think they own us and our home. ;-) Plenty of dogs running around in the neighborhood as well.
Sorry, we cannot allow more pets, so please leave yours back home. Same with children, we're past that station being now in our 50s/60s. The kids are grown ups now.
Yes, we have Wifi. Not a great connection and slow, but we have it. Sorry, no major downloads permitted like video. Our bandwidth is limited and we need it to work and make money online with translations. Regular use is fine.
We do not have (cable) television. We use the TV set with the computer to watch old shows occasionally and the antenna to watch some Spanish programs, but rarely.
We have wi-fi and do not have television. We use the TV set with the computer. In your spare time you can go to the beach just to sunbathe and swim. Or you can surf the ocean. Near our house there is a ferry to Portugal. From the city of Caminha, there are buses and a train to different cities in Portugal. From our town you can also go by bus on excursions to different cities of Galicia.
Limited internet access
We have pets
We are smokers
Can host families
Maximum 5 hours a day, 5 days a week