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





3rd to 5th March 2011 – Barragem de Pego Do Altar

5 03 2011

We had stocked up at the supermarket before we got to the Barragem so we knew that we would be good for a few days but we didn’t really intend on stopping for as long as we did. We had a most relaxing few days and this was helped by being with some great people there, mainly British.

It’s a strange thing about this particular spot that most of the people that seem to go there in motorhomes are the British, of course, other nationalities also frequent the place but you can always guarantee that there will be someone from our own country there. On our second day there we met Paul and Lynne who pulled up next to us and immediately got chatting, it wasn’t long before we were sat outside sipping beer and swapping stories as well as spots to go, they were on their way down to the Algarve but were planning to head off into Spain and then north into Germany before returning home later in the year, sounded like a nice route to take and Germany is somewhere that both Lorna and I want to visit in the motorhome as, like France, they have a large network of specific places for motorhomes to park.

On Saturday we decided that we would all go to the restaurant at the Barragem for a meal, Lorna was hankering after the fried rabbit that is a house specialty and the dish that she had when we ate there on our last trip out. I ended up having something that they called Black Pork Secret which actually turned out to be very similar to the pork chops that Paul had, main difference being that I got a salad which was obviously the ‘secret’ part. When we returned to the motorhome, having consumed a fair amount of wine, we sat out in the sun and carried on drinking and chatting, in fact we sat out for a good while and were obviously making a bit of a din as people from other motorhomes there came to join us, it seemed as though there was almost a ‘two in, two out’ thing going on as one minute it was one couple then a while later it was another. We had a great day and evening though.

Barragem de Pego do Altar

Sunday it rained. It rained for the majority of the day and that kept us in the motorhome apart from the odd hour when I walked up to the cafe to have a beer and use their internet connection for a while. I had to time my run back to the motorhome to avoid a right soaking. All in all a very quiet Sunday.





8th – 13th February 2011 – Life on a Car Park in Silves

14 02 2011

I have not written any blog posts since the 7th, I have not really had a great deal to report travel wise as we have been mainly staying on the car park in Silves. The weather has been gorgeous and the thought of moving on when we have made so many friends here really hasn’t entered our minds.

So, what’s been happening on this car park that we are currently calling home?

The early part of last week was spent in and around the motorhome, socializing with the people here (at times we have been sat outside in the sun and had a crowd of up to 8 people with us), walking Jack, popping into the town for various things and generally trying to live a slightly more frugal lifestyle to get ourselves back on budget following the week we had with my mom being here with us in Portugal. The latter part has been fairly easy as we seem to have forgotten just how much food and drink we had ‘in stock’. Shopping has been limited to the odd baguette, the occasional lump of pate and a couple of bottles of cola (I started drinking red wine and cola again and then Dave and Marion were introduced to it, subsequently the cola sales in the local supermarket have risen dramatically).

Wednesday 9th was a great day when we had risen late and as soon as we eventually stepped outside we were again part of the social scene. Deck chairs pulled up, cups of coffee, bacon sandwiches and lots of laughs. At around mid-day we (the male contingent) decided that a game of Boules was in order and so we collected various sets of Boules and began a marathon game, four of us took nearly three hours to complete a game with the final score being 13, 12, 11, 11. After the game had finished we all had our lunches and then everyone congregated together again and the beers and red wines came out, as did one banjo, one electric guitar, one acoustic guitar and one mandolin. So you can picture the scene that went on until about 10pm when finally it became too cold to be sitting outside making merry.

Aidie

We had been chatting to Dave and Marion about the option of traveling the short journey up to the Barragem for the Friday and Saturday nights so that we could have a camp fire and barbecue there and as the weather forecast was saying that the expected showers would hold off until Sunday then those two nights seemed like an ideal time to go. On Friday afternoon five of us set off after filling up with water and getting some supplies in from the Modelo (the local supermarket) and were soon at the Barragem, parked up, chairs out and barbecue lit. Later in the evening we were joined by another and as the light fell Dave and Marion were proud to show us their solar table lamps which had been charging all day. These lights are a great idea. You stick them outside in the sun all day and the solar panel charges the battery which then switches on the light when there is no more sun about. Unfortunately there is one major design fault with these particular models in that there is no off switch which has meant that they have used the lamps in the motorhome at night and then had to put them in the bathroom when they went to bed, leaving the bathroom lit up like a Christmas tree until they finally ran out of power. The evening barbecue and camp fire was rudely interrupted by a short rain shower which was preceded by bolts of lightning illuminating the skies above us and booming thunder.

Dave

Saturday was a gorgeous day and we had a lazy day sat in the sun chatting and just taking things easy. Another barbecue ensued and another relatively early night was had as the cold set in and we ran out of fire wood to keep the campfire going. The two night stint that we planned was over and we timed things about right as on Sunday the heavens opened and we were treated to a long spell of heavy rain which made the area where we were parked a bit of a mud bath. There were a few options floating around on what to do. Dave and Marion were in a situation where they needed to be heading back soon but we convinced them that an afternoon in the O Cais bar in Silves was a much better idea than starting the journey in the rain so, early afternoon we all (except one) set off back to Silves for the regular Sunday afternoon free and easy session. Again that turned into the Sunday evening and then the Sunday night free and easy session but it beat being sat in the motorhome listening to the rain hitting the roof despite the huge beer bill that we seemed to have amassed during our time there. Looks like we will be back to frugal living for the next few days to catch up, again!





18th March 2010 Evora to Barragem de Pego Altar

18 03 2010

Frankly, I am beginning to wonder if it is even worth going back to the old life of having a house, paying a mortgage, paying council tax, paying water rates, paying for gas and electricity and working for a living. It seems that life on the road, on the continent, can be enjoyed for a very small amount of money and it certainly beats the day to day humdrum of a ‘normal’ existence. Take our last few days for example:

Ovar Beach: cost nothing to stay
Praia de Mira: cost nothing to stay
Figueira de Foz: cost nothing to stay
Fatima: cost nothing to stay
Evora: cost nothing to stay

That’s five consecutive places where we have had to pay nothing to live in our motorhome apart from fuel and insurance (electricity courtesy of a solar panel and a spare leisure battery which charges when driving), and we have only stayed a maximum of three nights in each place, a hell of a lot less than others we have met, some who have stayed for months on end, the weather is nicer, the food and drink is cheaper and you have everything you need in your motorhome. Ok, there may come a time when people in motorhomes are not as welcome as they are now and there is some evidence of this happening already, particularly, if some if the stories we have heard are true, on the Algarve and Spanish Med. But, for the moment it seems that you can live for next to nothing for long periods of time if you have a motorhome and know the places to be. So it really makes me wonder if returning to the stesses of modern life is really worth it. Even when we return to the UK in late June our costs will rise considerably as we will more than likely have to pay to stay somewhere. I can’t see us staying long for some reason! (sorry Mom).

We got up today to a slightly cloudy outlook, the temperature was still very pleasant but the sun was not to be seen. Another walk around Evora was our first job and we managed to see a different side of the town (geographically speaking), walking past the Police station and some kind of military building, we saw the mounted Police out and about on some gorgeous looking horses, happily trotting along the road, holding up traffic and unsuprisingly no-one complained. A quick sort out back at the motorhome and we were on our way to our next destination, Barragem de Pego Altar, a large dam around about an hour and a half away.

We weren’t sure if we would be staying the night as it could have been deserted and in the middle of nowhere so the back up plan was a little town calked Alcacer where we had been told there was places to park. We set off and headed out of Evora toward Montemor before turning off the main road and taking the N370 toward Santiago do Escoural. The road was rough again and I did little over 30mph all the way along it which increased our travelling time considerably. After negotiating the tight cobbled roads of Santiago do Escoural nothing much improved and we must have done nigh on 35km on rough roads. Though the roads were not good the drive through the olive groves was very nice, lush green grasses, herds of cows and bulls and the occasional abandoned house made for nice views. There were a number of occasions that I wanted to pull over and photograph some of the buildings but the road was essentially a single carriageway though you could just about squeeze a lorry and a motorhome past each other, good job as we met a speeding lorry who was simply going too fast to slow down enough for a comfortable passing manouvre.

Once off the N370 we took the N253 to our destination and this was a much better road. We had hoped to find a supermarket en-route but on these small roads there was no chance. Before arriving at the Barragem we passed through the beautiful little town of Santa Susana which had lovely houses all along the road, all painted in blue and white, very pretty. Finally we saw the sign for the Barragem and we headed along another decent road toward the car park. Our concerns about being alone in a deserted place were soon put to rest as we turned the final corner and saw about 5 motorhomes parked up beside the large lake. That was the tip of the iceberg though, a little further on there was about 20 more from all over the place including The Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, France, Portugal and of course the UK. We found a spot looking over the lake and parked up next to another British motorhome (N38•25’14 W8•23’29). After a quick chat with the chap next door we had a wander up to the small cafe about 300 yards up the road and had some lunch, something that we can do now because this is still oficially an extended holiday, should we decide to do it full time we would be on a tighter budget so that would be a no no. I had steak and chips whilst Lorna went for the rabbit and chips and ended up with a full portioned rabbit on her plate, including the head which Jack enjoyed enormously. With drinks, of which we had a few, the bill was still just €25. Back at the motorhome we had a lazy afternoon with Lorna having a mid-afternoon sleep whilst I got my bike off the rack to go for a ride, first having to get the locks off which ended up with me ruining one of them and having to throw it away as the constant barrage of muck had stiffened it so much I needed pliers to loosen it off which wrecked the key. The remainder of the afternoon and early evening was spent with me chatting to neighbours whilst Lorna slept.

Such an amazing place to be it’s a shame we can’t spend longer here but to the Algarve we must go to meet one of Lornas friends who is flying over to spend a week in Armacao de Pera and to catch up with us. We are now seriously considering missing out the Costas of southern Spain to spend more time in Portugal, our favorite country so far.








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