Monday, 18 October 2010

Portugal and Spain

Ronnie has always yearned for a  holiday in a campervan and so, to get it out of his system, we have hired one from Faro airport and we are heading west.  It's Monday 20th September and our first port of call is a Lidl supermarket where we found the novelty of taking our purchases to the car park and putting them away in the fridge and cupboards quite odd yet practical.
We stopped at Armacao de Pera at Gale beach for a cup of coffee.

The weather is fantastic with a bright blue sky and we are getting along well in a confined space.
We spend Monday night at Alvor at sand dunes next to beach with group of mainly french campervanners.  We are self sufficient so we can stop and stay anywhere.

From here we make our way inland up the winding roads to the mountains.
We pass thermal spas on our way to the small town of Monchique where we walked up and down the steep, cobbled pavements and bought postcards although we found buying the stamps for them more difficult.

After picking up more supplies we followed the twisting road to Aljezur via Marmelete where the countryside is woodland; mainly pine, eucalyptus and oak.  We pulled in for elevenses along the way.  We parked right on the edge of a steep drop, although according to Ronnie we were miles away which gave us a great view down the mountains to the coast over fertile farmland. 
We had lunch at Carrapateira (praia de Armado) where loads of campervans had congregated from France, Portugal and Spain including a number of iconic VW vans.   Fit surfers sat on their boards like seals waiting for the next high wave.  We cannot believe how nice the weather is.  Collected some unusual shells and small stones which have a red ripple through them like the rocks in this area.
 an englishman abroad


 ...... and on to Sagres at the west of the Algarve.
Amazing views from this headland with its lighthouses and forts.  The guide books refer to the area as windswept but the weather remains perfectly calm with a cloudless sky.  We park overlooking the sea with other campervans and eat out for the first time at the Mar a Vista restaurant whose advertising states sobre uma vista deslumbrante, os paladares que nunca se esquecem which they translate to:  exhilarating view with unforgetable savors.

We awake after a good night's sleep on the comfortable, kingsized sleeping platform over the driver's cabin which is reached by a ladder. We find no problem climbing up but rather ungainly in descent. 

Wednesday morning sees us in Salema, one of the few remaining fishing villages, a resort recommended by Rebecca.  She is, as ever, spot on and we walk to the harbour and watch the fisherman gutting their catch and maintaining their equipment.  Their is a constant noise from the men discussions/arguments and the seagulls screeching.

Went shopping in Luz at a Baptisa supermarket and managed to buy stamps from a machine outside the post offfice.  Lunch in Lagos - Praia de Camilo - great views and lovely coves if you don't mind the 300 or so steps down to them.  Picked figs in  the car park.

.... and off to Praia de Rocha North Marina.  Watching the boats go by gave us the sensation of actually being on the river as we were parked so close to it.

Camped Campismo da Dourada at Alvor really just to empty chemical toilet and refill/empty water. Cost 17 Euros for night with electric point.  Just scrubland and mosquitoes; not a blade of grass to be seen. Ventured out to clubhouse for a game of darts. Give me offsite camping every time.

We considered the question would we do it again and the answer was a resounding yes.
Thursday: It had rained during the night but we had escaped without a mosquito bite.  At least the electricity supply allowed me to charge up my phone and camera as I didn't have leads to run off battery, and to use the kettle which we had (stupidly?) schlepped with us and the hair dryer.

After a grey but warm start to the day, we went back to the marina for lunch, after stopping off at a shopping centre where we saw some lovely homeware.  Set off to visit Ferragudo, the village on the opposite side of the river, which we had been contemplating for ages before we realised it was featured in a tourist booklet we had picked up.   It pictured a fort which is now a private residence.  
We shared a peach melba and found a postbox at long last.   Water taxis provided by the restaurants for their clients sped to and fro.

A cup of tea at Armacao de Pera and then drove to Quarteria so we would be near enough to Faro where the van had to be dropped off tomorrow.  Found a place with other vans at the very long promenade - non-stop 60s songs from club and noisyrevellers (mostly Brits) kept us awake.

Friday:  Dropped off van - horrific time trying to find the office without address. We felt the contrast from the quiet roads we had experienced to this busy city with its relatively large population, university and airport.

We picked up the hire car from the airport but to Ronnie's dismay there were no golf clubs left to hire as this is the busy season for golf.  We drove to Forum Algarve, a large shopping centre,  for Felafel and really thought we'd had our car stolen! 34 H turned out to be on the other side of the escalator.

Now we start the second stage of our holiday over the border in Spain. Can't wait to see baby Freya again - and of course Ben and Emma.

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