A very happy new year...

  Firstly, and we know we kind of missed the boat on this, but a very happy new year to you all. We imagine that, like us, you were celebrating with family and friends, so we hope you'll understand that we took a little time off from writing.

  A very dear friend has a beautiful house in Cabrela, near Sintra around 40 minutes from Lisbon, and we spent our first moments of the new year there surrounded by friends. Our cup quite literally runneth over.

As friends trickled in in the run up to new year's eve we spent a day in Lisbon, wandering around the Alfama and making full use of their bars, going for walks in the countryside around Cabrela and walking on the beach.

Cabrela itself is a tiny sleepy village with views to the fairytale castles of Sintra and surrounding countryside. We were looked after by a wonderful local family who manage the house and we met other locals on our meanderings through the village who in true rural style gave us herbs from their gardens for that evening's dinner.

In Sintra on the last day of 2013, we rode the tourist train for fun, ate roast chestnuts and wandered up the Castelo do Mouros in the half-light.

We saw in the new year with an incredible barbecue dinner to which everyone contributed. There was plenty of wine, seafood, enough meat cooked over a wood fire to feed an army, roast vegetables and potatoes. We sent wish balloons up into the sky at midnight and danced until the early hours. Our group consisted of two Portuguese, one Australian, an Irishman, four Londoners and a Spaniard - and they were wonderful company in which to usher in 2014.

It was a pleasure to show good friends just a few of the beautiful places we've discovered along the coast, with beach walks and afternoons spent in towns like Ericeira.

  Finally the time came to say goodbye - it may be months before we see these friends and it almost felt like leaving London all over again. It was amazing, however, to be able to share part of our journey with some of the people we love the most and for them to see some of the places we've fallen in love with on this trip. They saw us off in style as we once again got Sam up and running and started on the long road south.

If you're interested in renting the house we stayed in in Cabrela you can find all the details here: