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








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