14th March – Monbazillac

22 03 2012

We left the campsite at Evoramonte and headed out of Portugal into Spain for our stop at Caceres, a lovely town that we wanted to visit again. The aire at Caceres was rammed full unsurprisingly and we had to park out of the aire on the coach park as did many others. We sat and watched as many more motorhomes arrived and had to turn away and go elsewhere. If you are going to Caceres, arrive early! As we were in no particular rush we had two nights at Caceres and then, after moving on, two nights at Palencia, our next stop in Spain. The drive to Palencia is a nice one, plenty of eagles soaring overhead and some beautiful scenery along the route. Normally from Palencia we head straight to Biarritz which is a fairly long drive but this time we decided to make another stop in Spain at Vitoria Gasteiz, somewhere we had not stopped before. The aire here is on a large out of town car park with specific bays for motorhomes but when we arrived there were more motorhomes parked all over the car park as well as numerous caravans, something that we hadn’t seen much evidence of before. Vitoria Gasteiz is a big place and the basque capital of Spain, unfortunately the parking area is well out of the main town making visiting the centre a bit of a problem for us as we have Jack to consider but, just up the road there is a massive park to walk around which is very pleasant.

The extra stop made our journey back into France much easier that it would normally have been and we arrived at Biarritz to find a big motorhome show being advertised. Again the place was rammed, made worse by the fact that the aire at Anglet (which we initially tried to stop at) was closed, looking like reserved parking for the show. We managed to get a spot at the main aire at Biarritz and had to share electricity with an Irish couple parked next to us. Motorhomes continued to arrive at the full aire and we saw at least ten have to go elsewhere. We had some lovely walks on the beach at Biarritz in wonderful weather, it really is a nice place to be but we needed to move on the next day to continue our journey, to Lourdes.

I had wanted to visit Lourdes for a while as I find the religious aspect and peoples reactions to it quite fascinating. When we arrived we parked up and walked to have a look at the huge church there. With the backdrop of the snow capped mountains of the Pyrenees it’s quite a spectacular place, when you get there.

Lourdes

Lourdes

To get there though we had to walk through a street of shops all selling tacky religious fare and (plastic) bottled ‘holy’ water. It wasn’t clean either, rubbish piled up on the street and many places looking fairly grotty or closed, not very impressive for such a famous place. Jack wasn’t allowed in the grounds of the church so we walked him back and returned to have a look around the inside of the church which I have to say was not as impressive as the outside. They have a 20,000 seat underground bascillica there which was amazing and whilst people queued up at ‘The Grotto’ to touch and kiss the stone walls where the Virgin Mary was apparently seen I found the architecture of the bascillica much more moving. You probably have realised that I’m not the most religious person in the world!

Lourdes

Lourdes

Luckily, we walked into a different part of town the next morning before heading off and we were glad that we did, this side of town was much nicer, clean, tidy and fairly busy with folk going about their business. We left Lourdes with a better impression than when we arrived.

Next stop was an aire at a small town called Barbotan-les-Thermes which was just stunning. To stay on the aire we had to go to the tourist office in town and pay the €6 for the overnight stop but, also a €60 deposit on the barrier key. The aire is right on the edge of the Lac de l’Uby and is one of the nicest aires in France that we have stayed, peaceful, quiet and a stunning location.

Barbotan Les Thermes

Barbotan Les Thermes

We only planned to stay one night but after we heard that the market was on Wednesday morning we decided to stay another, the weather was beautiful and we had chores to do so it made perfect sense. The lady in the shop that told us about the market was also the one that sold us three bottles of wine, two being very local from just across the lake where we were staying. They didn’t last long.

I managed to get up early and take some photographs in the morning mists, should have tried harder to get up an hour earlier though I think.

Barbotan Les Thermes

Barbotan Les Thermes

At the market this morning we managed to do the usual and overspend quite easily. Olives, garlic in oil, proper green tea, vegetables galore, confit de canard, a duck breast and three types of saucisson, Pig, Deer and Duck. I was close to buying the Donkey variety but Lorna said no. Shopping done we used the free wi-fi at the Tourist Information and then headed on our way to our next stop, Monbazillac which is where this is now being written. We stayed here on our first trip out in January 2010, a ‘private’ aire where the owner lets you taste his wines made from his grapes grown in his fields which surround the house. Perfect, and though I can see us going seriously over budget today, we will eat and drink very well. I took this as the sun set over the landscape in the evening.

Monbazillac





1st March – Barragem de Pego do Altar

4 03 2012

So, we are on our way back home now and currently sat at the Barragem Pego do Altar as it pours down with rain outside, the first rain we have seen for a good couple of months and, having seen the level of water at three Barragems in the last three days it’s much needed. We have been so very lucky with the weather whilst we have been in Portugal this time, seeing temperatures as high as 30° on quite a few days and with an average of about 26° most days over the period, just lovely.

There is a bit of catching up to do blog wise but I’ll try and be fairly brief (though with the current weather I might be prone to rambling on a bit). If memory serves me correctly, at the last update we were at the site in the hills of Monchique with Bill and Sue where we spent a few days relaxing and enjoying the good weather and company. Sue makes fantastic cakes! When we left the site, Lorna and I decided to head down to the beach at Bordeira as we fancied another meal out at the nice restaurant that we visited last time we were there a short time ago, however, when we arrived at the parking area there was just one motorhome parked there, maybe an indication that the local GNR had been round and moved folk on which happens from time to time in some places. We decided that if this was indeed the case that we wouldn’t park there as we prefer to be fairly inconspicuous and not to tempt fate. We have never been moved on in our three years of motorhoming and didn’t want this to be the first time so we headed further south to Sagres where we knew parking up and staying was not a problem. Sagres is a beautiful spot to stay anyway so in reality the only loser was the restaurant at Borderia who missed out on our custom.

During our few nights at Sagres we both found ourselves hankering after pizza and found ourselves going out twice in the town to satisfy our craving. On Valentines Day we went for lunch at D’Italia, a small Italian restaurant overlooking the cliffs and beach which, despite a sign saying it was closed, was open especially for Valentines. Unfortunately the special they had on only applied to evening meals but both of the pizzas that we had were excellent. I think maybe that they didn’t have many bookings for the evening as the waitress was trying her hardest to get us to book a table for later on in the day, we may have had a pizza craving but two in one day would have been overkill! A couple of days later we headed back into town during the evening and, after a rather costly pint of Super Bock at one of the trendier looking bars we headed to a small pizza bar called Columbus which had a good selection and was also much cheaper than D’Italia, I would go as far to say that the pizza was better too. After a few days we decided to head back to Silves as we wanted to have Sunday afternoon at the Grand Cafe O’Cais, but, not before we met Tom and his wife who were parked next to us. Tom appeared at our motorhome one morning and asked if our dog was called Jack, after we said he was Tom said hello Steve and Lorna. A bit surreal but it turns out that Tom has been a follower of my blog for some time and had a fair bit of it printed out for reference. Hello Tom, nice to have met you!

We filled up our water at the wash house at Ingrena and then headed back to Silves where it was rammed full of motorhomes. It has been a busy place since we first arrived mid-December but more so when we arrived back this time due to there being a section cordoned off for a Portuguese motor caravan club of which there were about 20 vans. A credit to the opinions of the council at Silves who seem to understand that allowing motorhomes to park there does wonders for the local economy at a time where the country as a whole is suffering. There may well come a time when Silves will, like some other places such as Manta Rota, Lagos and Quarteira, introduce a charge to stay. If this happens then fair play to the Council, they have the room and the services and I’m sure they will be watching carefully what’s happening in other areas. My personal opinion is that if charges are aimed toward stays of around a week then this would encourage people to stay for that period and use the local facilities to the maximum, eating out, shopping and visiting attractions etc. Motorhoming on the Algarve, for those that free camp, is changing.

We met back up with Bill and Sue and had a good few days at Silves, an afternoon at the O’Cais bar, a very good meal out at a small cafe we had been recommended and, when Bill and Sue left to go to the local campsite, Lorna and I went to a restaurant that constantly puts flyers out on the parking area. We had been to this restaurant before with a good experience but on this occasion it wasn’t as good as we perhaps expected, Lorna’s was generally good but my meal arrived cold and despite a doubling of the portion after it was sent back I just didn’t fancy it, fish and almonds, bad choice, I’ll be having the chicken next time.

Silves

The next day we went up to the campsite in Silves to join Bill and Sue. The site has a special offer on at the moment (til May) where you can stay, with electric and wi-fi for just €5 a night, it’s a bit tight to get to and isn’t really designed for anything over 8m but it’s a beautiful place with views across the River Arade to Silves. We did a fair bit of walking and had some pleasant afternoons cooking, drinking, chatting and eating before we all headed back to Silves for our final Sunday afternoon at O’Cais where we had another top night.

Silves

On Tuesday we said our goodbyes to the people who we know at Silves, it’s been great to catch up with them all, too many to mention but, as with every other time we have been out abroad, it’s been the people we meet who really make our trips memorable. We had planned to drive further North than we actually ended up doing but after a bit of a lie in, the goodbyes and the shopping we decided to just make the short drive to the Barragem de Arade for one night and then head further North to the Barragem Pego do Altar just outside Alcacer the next day.

Barragem de Arade

It’s taken a while to write this post so forgive the rambling. I’m currently completing it on a site just outside Estremoz where we arrived yesterday having spent two nights at ‘Pego’. Tomorrow we intend to drive back into Spain to the aire at Caceres where will will have a couple of nights before heading further North to Palencia, then it’s back into France, a quick visit to Lourdes and then a different route through and up to Calais.

At Camping Alentejo





12th February – Monchique

12 02 2012

When we decided to finally leave Sagres we first visited the market that was held just up the road but this offered nothing much in the way of anything different to any of the other markets we have visited in Portugal before, in fact the market was very small and didn’t really appear to be attracting many people unfortunately. We said goodbye to the people that were on the site by the sea and headed on our way, first stop being the beach at Ingrena which we had visited before but never stayed, no change this time either as we decided to head off and have a look at the aire at Lagos. There was no real reason why we decided not to stay at Ingrena and I’m fairly sure we will be back when we are around that area in the future. We headed toward Lagos and found the aire which was well signposted and located right beside the football stadium, not too far from the town but we decided to head on back to Silves (that place is like a big motorhome magnet for us it seems) vowing to return to Lagos and have a look around at some point.

The weekend of the Country and Werstern event at the Ponte Romana arrived and Marion and Dave had done a good job of getting the numbers up so nine of us ended up trooping over to the hotel for the afternoon of music and drinks.As always we had a wonderful time, the music isn’t my normal cup of tea but it’s always a great atmosphere there and it has been reported that I was up and dancing quite a bit, wonder why. There was a quick visit to the O’Cais bar by Lorna and I after the afternoon finished and that is about as much as I can remember, the people we went with were clearly a terrible influence on us.

Dave and I having a dance, country stylee. Photo by Bill

Settling back down at Silves it suddenly became very important to get our heating fixed as night time temperatures were beginning to drop to under freezing point. We suddenly were experiencing a very cold snap in the area, some parts of the world were really struggling according to the news and we were having to wrap up very cosily to ensure that we were warm enough in the night. We had our water heater on just to keep some warmth in the van and to make sure that the water wasn’t dumped overnight. Even the days were colder that we had been used to, even with the sun out the cold wind made it not particularly pleasant outside. I managed to get in touch with a company called CamperServ and after explaining the problem we were having we were booked in for the day after (Tuesday 7th) to get our problem sorted. The owner was excellent, friendly and welcoming and obviously very knowledgable as our problem was soon isolated to a fauly thermostat which was registering a temperature of 60° when it was only just over 20°, no wonder the heating wasn’t coming on. The problem was fixed very quickly by installing a new thermostat and with a parts charge of €10 and €10 for labour we were both well chuffed. CamperServ highly recommended!

At the Country and Western afternoon we had met Bill and Sue who had told us about a chicken restaurant in Monchique so on Friday 10th we headed up to the campsite just south of Caldas de Monchique and, after dropping off one motorhome, headed up to the restaurant in the other. It was a good recommendation too, great chips! After our lunch we headed up to Foia with Bill and Sue and had a wander around the highest point in the Algarve, not for too long though as again, the wind was very cold.

We have been on the site at Caldas for a couple of nights now and it seems that heating the motorhome is something that is going to be a bit of a recurring issue. Our gas heating still works ok but for some reason our small convector heater has now decided to stop working completely, Great! plugged into the electric and having to use gas driven blown air heating to keep us warm at night. Plans for the next while are to get stocked up with lovely Monchique water and then to see where we land before heading back inland where I might manage to get our convector heater fixed, if not I’ll be throwing in the first skip I see.





30th January – Sagres

1 02 2012

Although we had planned to visit the beaches at Manta Rota, Altura and a few other spots when we left the campsite at Tavira we found ourselves bypassing these places and heading straight back to Silves. I think that maybe we had had our ‘quiet’ time and subconsciously decided that we wanted to get back with the crowd at our favourite place. It was much busier when we arrived compared to when we left so we were lucky to get a parking spot fairly close to our friends, luckily someone moved the next day so we managed to move into the vacant space and be right back on ‘Park Avenue’ the affectionate name given a particular section of the car park. After virtually a full week of late morning rises, pleasant walks, afternoons spent playing boules and general relaxation we arranged to go up to the local barragem for a weekend with Marion and Dave, just a change of scene more than anything.

We have a small problem with the motorhome at the moment in that the heating isn’t working. Hot water is fine so the boiler itself isn’t at fault, more likely the fan that circulates the hot air isn’t functioning correctly, either that or the thermostat has given up. In an attempt to get it looked at I contacted a mobile motorhome servicing company that had been recommended but they failed to get back in touch after two phone calls to them so I have, for the moment, decided to leave it be. The daytime temperatures are currently anything from 22° to 28° so there is no worry there but the nighttime temperatures are dropping close to freezing so, for the moment, extra blankets required until the problem is sorted.

My apologies for the constant change of tense.

We had our weekend up at the barragem with Marion and Dave which was most pleasant, hot sun, long daytime walks and lots of barbecued food followed by evening campfires to keep us warm. That was until our second night there when another person in a motorhome came over just as we turned the barbecue into a campfire and told us that open air fires were now banned in Portugal because of the dry conditions and increased fire risk. That put a bit of a dampener on our evening but we still managed to stay up relatively late and have a good night up there, and a very nice weekend. Back at Silves the following afternoon after more walking in the beautiful countryside we soon settled back into the swing of things with no particular plans to move on anytime soon.

Lorna had been talking about doing some Yoga and meditation for a while and we had both searched the internet for retreats in the Algarve without any success. By chance, Lorna got chatting to a German lady we had seen a few times and she gave her the number of a girl that ran retreats just south of Aljezur in a small place close to Alfambras. After a few phone calls and emails a course and price were agreed and Lorna was all booked in and ready for a three day retreat where she would be shown both Yoga and meditation and although the landlord of the property where it was held didn’t like to accommodate motorhomes, a special request was made and all was well. On Wednesday 25th January we made our way up to the retreat and, after a bit of a bumpy ride up a dirt track we arrived in a heavenly little place right in the middle of nowhere, the only noise being the ‘whooshing’ of the blades of the wind turbines that were about 2km walk from the house. The lack of light pollution at night here really allowed the sky to light up with stars, so many, quite a sight.

Kaya, the girl that runs the courses made us both very welcome and, in the hours that she spent with Lorna over the next three days, helped her enormously. I’m not a big one for ‘all that sort of thing’ but it’s certainly true that Lorna got a great deal out of it, clearly much more relaxed in general. In my own way I got a lot out of it too, in more ways than one. Firstly the location was stunning, we walked one afternoon for nigh on two hours and didn’t see a single soul, just so very peaceful and tranquil and a wonderful place to be, on one of my walks I saw a wild boar, Jack saw it too and was most confused. Secondly, Lorna had mentioned to Kaya that I liked photography so I was soon enlisted to take some photographs for her website. Kaya said that she wanted something that showed the tranquil location but were also dynamic images so I set about taking a few photos for her.

Kaya

Meditation

Pleased with the initial results from photos at the retreat, we arranged to meet up at the local beach at Vale Figueira and take some more shots the following day so, there I was, jeans rolled up over my knees, in the sea taking more photos of Kaya as she bent her way into various positions on a rock looking out to sea, a stunning location.

Yoga

Yoga

We parted ways with Kaya and, as we had stocked up on food and water before we arrived, we went down to the beach at Bordeira for the next two nights. The only thing dictating our time on the beach was the limitations of two toilet cassettes, one already full, so we thought we may as well spend as much time as we could there before heading to Sagres to empty out when we had to. This part of the west coast of Portugal is simply stunning, huge cliffs on which fishermen find the most precarious places to stand, beautiful wide beaches and a sea that is so blue it defies logic. On one of our long walks we happened upon a small restaurant that was absolutely jam packed so we decided that we should have a Sunday afternoon treat and eat out there. Jack walked and back in the motorhome, we had a lovely few hours sat outside the restaurant, in the sun. Lorna had a craving for fish but as soon as she saw lamb on the menu she opted for that and was served up a huge plate of roast lamb with really nice roast spuds. I had fish which was also very nice, although not up to the standard of the Ponte Romana in Silves I have to say.

So, that’s pretty much up to date. We are currently sat on a parking area in Sagres, looking right out to sea as the sun is slowly setting casting a lovely light on the cliffs. We have some more shopping in so I shall be alright for crisps for the next day or two at least and then we plan to head back to Silves for the weekend where the annual visit to the country and western afternoon is on the cards. On our way back for that we shall hopefully be going to Lagos for a couple of nights at the new aire there which will give us the opportunity to have a look around the town which we have not seen before. This country and western afternoon has come around much quicker than we thought and it bought home just how soon it will be that we will have to start planning our journey back to the UK to start work again on March 26th.

For the moment though, this is the view that we are waking up to each morning.

Sagres

Time flies when you are having fun!





13th January – Tavira

13 01 2012

Its been a while since my last blog post and, in reality, there is not much to tell, just thought I’d better get up to date whilst I have the chance to.

Our time since the last post pre-Christmas has mainly been spent on campsites due to the fact that we have had visitors over the Christmas and New Year period, firstly my mother arrived on the 22nd of December and was whisked straight to Silves from the airport and taken to the Ponte Romana for lunch. I am beginning to believe that this is probably the best, most authentic, Portuguese restaurant in Silves, the food is excellent, prices very reasonable and the atmosphere is very local with many Portuguese eating their lunch there. The fish we had was excellent. We relaxed around Silves for the next few days undecided whether to go to the beach at Alvor for Christmas or not, in the end on Christmas Eve we went shopping and after some discussion we decided to just stop at Silves and have Christmas there, it made sense as we know a few people there and we were fairly settled there. Christmas Day was one of much drinking, socialising and outside cooking, me being responsible for the stuffed turkey escalopes wrapped in parma ham, Lorna and mother being responsible for the veg and starters. Of course I got distracted throughout the cooking process so Lorna ended up looking after my part of the cooking as well, still it turned out very nice from what I can remember……..a Christmas present of a bottle of Gran Marnier has dulled the memories somewhat.

Alvor Beach

On Boxing Day we headed off to the beach at Alvor for a couple of nights where we walked on the beach and around the town and on mothers penultimate day with us we had a very good lunch at a small harbour side restaurant that we had spied on our last visit there a few weeks back. As mother had a relatively early flight on the day of her return to the UK we decided that we should be stopping close to the airport the night before so we headed to the campsite at Olhao which we have not used before. It’s a huge affair, and after a fairly lengthy check in process where they even asked for the dogs passport we were given a map of the site and told to simply find a place to site ourselves. I wasn’t keen on the place at all, far too cramped for my liking with just eight paces between the centre of each marked pitch (some say the site where we work in Stratford is fairly tight but we generally work on 12-14 paces between the centre of each pitch, bit of a difference). It wasn’t overly expensive though with our stay there costing just under €12  for the night. Next day we were up and about and at the airport for 9am saying our goodbyes to mother and then moving back to the site at Tavira where we planned to have a good clean out and relax in the good weather before a couple of workmates joined us on New Years Day.

Chillin'

On a New Years Eve walk into town we realised that there was something going on in the town on the night so after a quiet day we headed into the town at about 10.45pm to find a few people about but nothing much else happening apart from some musicians tuning up going on on the temporary stage that had been erected in the main square. At about 11.30pm things started happening and the band started playing music (old British and American classics) and suddenly the place started to come to life a bit. We ended up sitting outside a small French Cafe just off the river and, having ordered a nice bottle of 2005 Bergerac we toasted in the New Year accompanied by possibly the best firework display I have ever seen. Of course, the festivities went on until the very early hours but as we had left Jack by himself we opted to head back to the motorhome. Nice way to spend the New Year though.

Our friends form work were arriving on New Years Day and they were stopping at a hotel in Cabanas, just down the road from Tavira so we had already had a look at where we might be able to stay to be close to them. There were a few options including staying on a parking area right next to the hotel but we decided in the end to stop on the campsite at Cabanas which was just a 15 minute walk to the town and the hotel. Ideal. We picked up a drunk pair of travellers at around 3pm on New Years Day and dropped them off at the hotel to settle in and recover slightly whilst we went and booked in at the site for a few days. It was quite an expensive site for us coming in at just under €15 a night excluding electric hook up which they charged an extra €3 a night for, we decided that we would be fine running with our solar panel and battery. An afternoon BBQ was the order of the day for our next day, John and Byron came up to the site and we had a good afternoon and early evening having a few drinks, eating chicken and sausages and planning out the following week. Both John and Byron wanted to make the most of their week and had plans of their own so we arranged a day out to El Rocio in Spain as it is a place that I recommend anyone sees if they are in the area, we were just under an hour and a half away so, with a hire car it seemed like a good idea. We had a good afternoon there, wandering around the town which hasn’t changed at all since last time I was there, eating lunch in a small cafe where we had no idea what we were ordering (much like my experience in Caceres earlier on in the trip but this time there was no English translation). I ended up with some kind of fish ‘won ton’ whilst John had fried eggs with a cold bean salad and Byron won the day with a great lump of meat, chips and gravy (though the description on the menu did seem to be mentioning ‘toro’ so it may well have been bulls testicles for all we know. Nice anyway).

El Rocio

El Rocio done we headed back into Portugal where we took in some more sights before heading back and sharing an evening drink in the Hotel. After a few days we needed to move off the Cabanas campsite as it was a bit expensive for us and the old Police site in Tavira is generally a much nicer site, and cheaper, so we headed off whilst John and Byron entertained themselves for a couple of days. They did come to us on their last night for a farewell barbecue and some games of ‘extreme boules’ (which involved very unlevel ground, trees, rainwater ditches and other such sillyness) that went on until we could no longer see in the dark.

Camped

After all of our visitors had been dealt with we decided that we would stop on the site at Tavira for a week which is where I am writing this blog update. Plan is to stop here until the weekend then to go and investigate the parking spot at Manta Rota as we have heard that the local council is putting in a proper water and waste point for motorhomes, as well as a barrier so they can levy a charge for people staying there, much like one recently installed at Lagos which is also somewhere we would like to visit. No doubt we will be back at Silves for a while too.





21st December – Tavira

21 12 2011

We spent a total of seven days at Silves and, after the merriment of the weekend in which we celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary and Lornas birthday we had a few quieter days just walking Jack and relaxing each day. The weather wasn’t amazing, though we did have a few days of decent sun allowing a long game of boules in the afternoon. Sitting out at night wasn’t really a good option as the temperature dropped quite steeply once the sun had set. It was good to be in company for our time at Silves but after a week we decided that we needed to move on to be closer to the beach and have some ‘quiet time’, the weather forecast was looking better so we set off and headed to the coastal town of Alvor. We had been to Alvor before, on our first visit we spotted the parking area but decided not to stay as the ground was rough and the weather not brilliant. The second visit there was a bit of a disaster as we couldn’t remember the right way to go and got slightly lost in the narrow streets, eventually deciding to give up and head elsewhere. This time though we had asked around and got better directions so we drove straight to the parking area set amongst palm trees and immediately decided that this would be our spot for a few days, the weather had improved, the sun was out, we were right next to a gorgeous beach and only five minutes walk from the town, excellent.

The next three days were spent walking on the beach, taking photos and generally relaxing. Jack, as always, had a great time running on the wide beach and even got his belly wet after getting caught out by a wave. The beach has a long set of board walks which take you all along the harbour, over the dunes and onto the beach at various points, very pleasant walking especially when the sun was setting. We even saw Santa flying by. Ok, it was a bloke from the local flying school, dressed up as Santa on a paramoto (if that is the right word) which was dressed up to look like a sleigh complete with reindeer!

Santa

The town of Alvor is quite cute, narrow streets lined with bars and restaurants and the occasional ‘beach’ shop selling all of the normal touristy ware. We found the small local supermarket and stocked up for our stay, deciding not to eat at one of the restaurants no matter how inviting they were, we were on a bit of a budget catch up.

Alvor Sunset

Needing to refill our gas bottles and have some space to look at our alarm ( it is giving an audible warning that a certain area is not being covered properly when we arm it. Can’t seem to find the problem at the moment, all of the wires are connected and switches are in the right place so something is not quite right somewhere) we headed off to the camp site we used last time out in Tavira. The main A22 motorway which runs along the Algarve has now been turned into a toll road, but not your normal type, it’s an automatic toll road which had electronic readers that charge directly. I’m not entirely sure how it works for people without the right equipment but I understand that if you use the toll road you need to go to the Post Office straight away to pay the toll, if not there are hefty fines involved. To be honest, whenever we have been on the A22 it has been quiet so introducing a toll if maybe not the best idea as now even less will use it and this forces traffic onto the EN125 which is already in a pretty poor state of repair. Still, they must know what they are doing but the move to toll seems to be a pretty unpopular one, we have heard of gantries being set on fire and the automatic reading equipment being vandalised. Another issue is that the fact that the road is now a toll isn’t on many signposts, I’ve seen the word ‘Portagem’ on a few but not on the majority of signs so I’m not even sure if the system is fully operational as yet. Anyway, we stayed off the motorway and took our route through Loule, it took a while longer but the scenery was nice and it was a fairly relaxing drive. We arrived at the camp site late afternoon following a short stop at the local ALDI to stock up, and had a barbecued chicken for dinner.Next day we headed off into town to post a letter back to the UK and, typically for Portugal, waited nearly three quarters of an hour to get to the counter, there were irate Germans everywhere complaining about the wait but we have never really experienced anything any different in Portuguese post offices, great place to people watch! After being asked to look after a shellfish store outside the Ping Doce supermarket, whilst the ‘vendor’ went off for a spliff, we returned to the motorhome and had a really good tidy up and another chicken dinner on the BBQ.

Tavira

Tomorrow we are off to the airport first thing to pick up my Mom who is stopping with us for Christmas, we will probably head back to Silves once we have collected her. We need to look at our alarm for definite as we heard yesterdaday that two motorhomes had been broken into that night in Silves, and although nothing of value seems to have been taken, and nobody hurt, we will feel much better about going back if the motorhome is fully protected. Surprised and slightly shocked that it happened there, it has always appeared to be so safe. A gentle reminder to always be on our guard and not become complacent.





10th December – Silves

10 12 2011

We headed off from Vivonne after a good walk with Jack in the morning and headed along the main route toward Biarritz. The drive there would hve been too long for us so we stopped off at a small town called Marsas along the way. There was a designated place for motorhomes to park opposite the school and church so we checked that out before heading to another aire in a neighbouring village called Marcenais. This aire, parking only, was right in the middle of nowhere but it was a pleasant enough place for us to be stopped to have some lunch before heading back up the road to Marcas for the night. When we got back there there was one other motorhome parked up so all felt nice and secure for a restful nights sleep, even after watching Hostel II on DVD.

Next day we set off to Biarritz where we met up with Marion and Dave again. We decided that we would have a couple of nights here as the weather was wonderful when we arrived, bright sunshine, lovely blue skies and an outside temperature of 22.5 degrees. Jack had a lovely run on the open beaches and we had a load of fresh air before a good dinner in the evening. The next day I decided that the motorhome needed a good clean so I gave it a good going over, getting the bikes off the rack and making sure that every inch outside was washed off, how it managed to get quite so dirty I have no idea but it was a good job done. Typically, it rained heavily overnight and, as it was still raining the next day we decided to move on to our next stop of Hendaye Plage. This stop is only about 45 minutes away but it does knock that time off the journey to Palencia which we had planned for the next day. This drive is normally one of the longest and most stressful as we invariably get lost once we enter Spain from France, toll roads not signed properly, roads all with similar numbers etc, you’d think we would know our way by now!

So, on Saturday 3rd December we made our way from France into Spain, taking the usual detour along a toll road that we shouldn’t have been on and having to pay both on our exit and entrance back on to it. Nothing changes. We stopped off after about an couple of hours and had a quick bite to eat before setting off again and eventually arriving at Palencia late afternoon. As always seems to be the case when we come to this city, it all appeared closed so our initial scout around the town was just looking at closed shops and empty streets. Looking at some of the opening times on the shops showed the siesta in full operation, 8.30am to 1pm and 5.30pm to 8.30pm, that’s some break! At the right time we wandered back into town and got some basic provisions and settled in for the night, discussing our route down south. Either we could drive from Palencia into Portugal and stay on a paid aire for one night or, head further south in Spain and use an aire in Caceres which we had been to before. The latter won so, the next day we headed off to the town of Caceres where we had stayed before. We remembered that it was a very nice town and recalled that last time we were there there was lots of work going on in the central area so we were interested to have another look around. Our journey took around three and three quarter hours but it was a nice steady drive along good Spanish roads. When we arrived at Caceres the aire was packed, it’s a popular place as it does have free electricity albeit with limited points available, generally there are leads everywhere and much evidence of splitters being used. We were not bothered about getting electricity so found a spot and parked up. Because we wanted to have a good look around the town we decided that we would have two nights here and spent the next day walking Jack around the town, taking some photographs and looking for somewhere that we thought we might like to eat lunch. The central square, where the work was being carried out on our last visit, was now very pretty with plenty of folk around and restaurants taking advantage of all the space to have their tables and chairs out in the beautiful sunshine. We dropped Jack back off at the motorhome and went for lunch.

Caceres

When we got back into the square we saw that it had become extremely busy so we had to wait for a table at the restaurant that we had decided to eat at, being typically British we started a queue and once a table became free we were seated. This was not before our waited had to throw someone off a table as they just marched up and sat down without queueing, he probably thought this was most strange but he did it and then proceeded to keep shouting ‘Loverly Jubberly’ to us every time he passed by, quite a character. The menu was in both Spanish and English but the English translations left a lot to the imagination, I started with an Iberian Mixed Platter which ended up being a good portion of salamis, hams and cheese, Lorna had the paella. My main was described as ‘Serloin of the cake of to Mary’ and obviously I had no idea what was going to come when I ordered it but I was very pleasantly surprised to get chunks of steak served in a quite strong cheese sauce with a peeled pepper salad and chips. Lorna had suckling pig. Our sweet was a creme brulee each and for just €12 for three courses, in that location, it was a complete bargain.

Caceres

From Caceres we moved in into Portugal and made our way to an Orbitur campsite in Evora. We had wild camped in Evora before but we needed to get some washing done as well as making sure that everything was charged up and we were full and empty with water. We booked in for two nights at a cost of just under €30. Our afternoon was spent clearing out and washing so the next day we headed into town to have another look around, maybe to see things that we missed on our last visit and then we treated ourselves to a late afternoon BBQ.

Evora

Next stop was Silves on the Algarve, a place where we will probably spend most of our time over the next few weeks and where I am writing this from now. The weather isn’t brilliant at the moment but we are here with friends and it’s not raining. We celebrated out 6th wedding anniversary yesterday and it’s Lorna’s birthday tomorrow and a big BBQ is being planned, hopefully the showers that have been forecast will hold off and we can have a good day of it.








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