Category: Blog Post

Near Silves, Portugal

10th December – 17th December 2017

Well they battled through snow, sliding in a taxi across the snow covered roads, abandoning the pet dog with neighbours, enduring a nail biting, will the plane fly, won’t the plane fly scenario to get to us. Just over three hours late their flight arrived. All I can say is well done Jet2 as their plane was the only one to land in Faro that day, all of Ryanair flights were cancelled. Our Mums could not have picked a worse day to fly.

They arrived laden with goodies, packing no clothes but Mince Pies, homemade Sausage Rolls, Christmas Lights, Branson Pickle, M&S Sausages and my Waitrose Shop ! We love our Mums.

We decided to de-camp to a Farmhouse near to the town of Silves. The farmhouse sits in the middle of an avocado plantation and is of a traditional Portuguese style. Owned by friends and having stayed before a couple of times, we thought it would be the perfect base to spend some quality time with our Mums. When we have stayed here before it is during the warm summer months, enjoying the cool interior and swimming pool. In the middle of December it was slightly different. We drew the sofa nearer the huge wood burning stove for heat and Mum’s hot water bottle came in useful. The wood burner was so good though that we all began to melt after an hour of so each evening.

We had an emergency trip to the Drs after David’s wood collecting antics. When we arrived at the farmhouse, there was very little wood for the fire and so we went wood collecting and David whilst attempting to jump on a piece of wood to break it, fell into a cactus bush. The result was a huge collection of cactus thorns in the side of his face and hands. Now after our St John’s ambulance First Aid Course we attended before we left, I took over (not really knowing what to do). I did attempt to get out all the thorns with my expensive tweezers ! But was unable to get them all out. The following day after reading on the internet that medical attention should be sort immediately I thought we better visit a Doctor. Off we went to the nice Dr Ronald Bakker in Carvoeiro (who I highly recommend). Now Ronald did not know if the cactus bush was poisonous and good thinking moi did take a picture of the bush to show Ronald. Ronald then makes a telephone call to another clinic to find out if the cactus bush was poisonous but with Portuguese, Dutch and the English language all being used, the lady on the other end of the telephone at one point thought David had eaten some poisonous Mushrooms ! To cut a long story short €80 later David is out of the clinic with antibiotics and baby rash cream (don’t ask) we headed home.

We ventured out a couple of times during the week, one to Albufeira 30 minutes drive East along the famous N125. Now the last time I visited this resort was approx 30 years ago and then it was the most built up tourist resort in the Algarve. Today it stretches as far as the eye can see with apartment blocks, it even has an escalator to the beach. Most of the restaurants and shops were closed for the season but it must be horrendous during the summer months. Obviously this is just my opinion but a place to avoid unless you want English food with sun. We did find a restaurant that was open for lunch and catered for people wishing to eat Portuguese food and it was lovely. Our Mums had to endure several 100 steps to get up to it, but the view was stunning and my Mum recovered with wine ! Casa Del Mar in the Old Town should you ever be in the area.

Now, most of the time a trip to our local supermarkets are not to be relished, especially at this time of year. But not in Apolonia in Portugal. This is a new breed of Supermarkets that have sprung up since we have last visited. They are a cross between Waitrose and Fortnum & Mason I guess. I spied a small bottle of Balsamic Vinegar for €49, it was in a pretty box though. ! British food products galore, all at a nice exorbitant price. There was no mad queue at the checkout and they happily packed your bags though.

It was a special week with Mum scrumping lemons from the sides of the road and packing her empty suitcase at the end of the week with oranges from the garden. David’s Mum was trying to bottle the last rays of sunshine before we had to drive them back to the airport. A week just wasn’t enough. Life is all about making memories and we made some special ones this week.

Near Montes da Luz Lagos Portugal

24th November – 9th December 2017

After our night of wild camping we set off for our final leg of this journey to a site that had been recommended to us through forums. We feel we need to settle for a while for Christmas & New Year. We arrive at Turiscampo and see a whole new world. We learn from others that this is the best place to stay long term in all of Portugal & Spain. On arrival we meet our friends Keith & Jane who we met in Ericicacia and their energetic Collie, sadly we crossed over and they were off winding their way back to their home in Northern France. We met for drinks in the evening which were swift as the bar closed at 8.30pm, does everyone go to bed after this we thought !

Now there are all nationalities here and it’s interesting all the different types of people you meet. There are retirees who come down in October and stay for 6 months and then go back to the UK for 6 months and then return, having been staying at this site for years. There are young couples with small children, mainly German living off grid we assume. We have met Phil & his wife who have been travelling for 3 years and are here until March. Our neighbours Steve & Margaret have been coming to this site for several years. Arriving in October and then flying home for Christmas, returning and then heading to Spain until they return to the UK around March. Now Margaret works for one of the big banks in the U.K and is known as the lady in the van in the Company as she continues to work remotely in Portugal. Just brilliant.

The facilities here are excellent, a gym which we have both joined, god help us ! We go to Pilates class twice a week and to my astonishment David enjoys it. A Spa, which I am going to work my way through the treatments, bar and restaurant.

David celebrated his birthday at the beginning of December and the day started with breakfast in the restaurant, as English a breakfast I think we will ever get ! We then headed for Pilates which David found quite painful, check out the Facebook pictures (One in a Lifetime) followed by a trip to the driving range. Unfortunately I am no golfer and so although he has brought a small bag of clubs he will have to play on his own unless anyone fancies a weekend in Portugal playing golf !

The hi-light of the birthday celebrations was dinner at at amazing restaurant in Praia da Rocha. It is a boutique hotel surrounded by sky rise hotels (not so nice) right on the beach front. Excited was I as the gates opened and we drove in to be greeted at the car and shown into the bar. I thought this is the life, ordered a cocktail which arrived in a small Chinese tea pot, delicious and expensive ! David opted for a nice G&T. We decided to try the Tasting menu and worked our way through 12 courses, sounds a lot but portions are small and it was amazing. It was a wonderful evening to finish off a special day.

We have settled into the slow pace and are enjoying the sun and the chilled out life. Catching the sun and then beach walks in the afternoon with Chloe, a coffee watching the sun go down. How lucky are we.

Porto Covo, Setubal Portugal

19th November – 23rd November 2017

As we made our way along the coast on the most horrendous road, with me gripping the seat and praying for no punctures we found the most wonderful spot to stop for lunch. We parked up looking out over the most beautiful beach, Chloe couldn’t wait to get out of the Motorhome, I think she has got use to the smell of the beach now and is like a dog possessed if she is anywhere near one. The weather was perfect and so we decided to stay a while and enjoy the beach and the weather. This is the life. We packed up as the sun started to set and headed to Porto Covo.

As with most places we only ever say, oh we will stay a couple of nights but we ended up staying 4 nights. The site is one of the best that we have stayed in and there is only 3 other Motorhomes with us and the most fantastic swimming pool that David was brave enough to try, but even he said it nearly gave him a heart attack it was so cold, there was no way I was going in after that ! The small town of Porto Covo is a pretty little town with a scattering of restaurants and shops, that are only ever open on a Sunday. Now Sundays are an interesting day in Portugal as everybody dresses up in their finest and heads out, or it seems to me they do. It is a nice sight to see, all the family gathering for lunch or sitting drinking coffee and eating the famous pasteis de nata, similar to a small custard tart and rather delicious.

We eat lunch in a great traditional restaurant with David ordering a beef steak, well when it turns up it is so huge it was lapping over the side of the plate, this was good news for Chloe as a doggy bag was called for and Chloe ate a rather delicious meal the next day.

Now, this is a girl thing but I am desperate to get my legs waxed and I found a beauty salon in this small town believe it or not and excitement entailed. David translated the writing on the window of the treatments that are offered and waxing is one of them. I run in and am greeted by a Portuguese lady who speaks no English but luckily the lady having her nails done does. Appt made in half an hour, I return and exit with the smoothest legs and a smile so wide on my face, being over half the price what I usually pay in the UK.

After 4 nights we headed off with my smooth legs toward Lagos our destination for Christmas and New Year, making one more stop along the way. This time we ventured into the world of wild camping. Now anything off road and I get nervous, David looked on Google Earth and found what would be an ideal place to stop near Aljezur on the coast. The roads in Portugal are not great unless you take a Motorway but the small roads to these costal towns send my heart racing, we approach a small village which looks like a mecha for surfers and descend down the road at a vertical drop and then up again and onto a track with me shouting, should we be going down

here? We park up on the edge of this cliff and look out over the Atlantic coast, the view was just stunning. It is one of the best sunsets I have ever seen and when darkness fell and we went outside the stars lit up the sky. It was all worth it, just stunning.

Sintra & Alcacer Do Sal

13th November 2017 – 18th November 2017

Well would you believe it this small town hosts a World Heritage Site by UNESCO not less, built at the turn of the century the Quinta da Regaleira comprises of a Palace, a Chapel and gardens and grottos. Could I say it was beautiful, I wouldn’t know as we never saw it. The palace sits high on a Mountain and once again we find Portugal not very dog friendly. We couldn’t get on a bus unless the dog is small enough to carry and we tried to hire a Tuk-Tuk but they would take us but not Chloe, so we gave up. Sintra is a tourist destination only 30 minutes drive from Lisbon, with an accessible train line into Sintra as well. We parked the Motorhome at the railway station and walked through the town heading up to the palace. It is lovely don’t get me wrong and definitely well worth a visit but don’t take a dog. We wandered up through the streets with some beautiful architectural buildings, had a lovely tapas lunch and jug of Sangria so it wasn’t all bad. It has a great feel about it and the public buses run frequently to the top, if only we could have got on one. Never mind, I am sure we will return another time. We then made our way back to the Motorhome and headed to Alcacer Do Sal, a small town an hour away.

How do we chose where we are staying, well we just look at the map make sure it’s not too long a drive, it has somewhere to stay and off we go. Most of the time the little towns are not a disappointment and Alcacer Do Sal is a small town with a scattering of bars and restaurants, that sits on a river. We were only going to stay for one night but ended up staying 5 nights. Everything on hand, Lidl, an Intermarche Supermarket and Norman ! Norman I hear you ask, well yes, we met Norman who was staying on the same site as us until the end of the month. We think Norman must be in his early seventies, on his own travelling in his Motorhome and he has been making the journey South every year from the UK since 1999. He spends around 5 months each year enjoying the sunshine. I worry that he must get lonely but when I look over and see him lapping up the sunshine in late November I think to myself he’s got it right. Divorced, been in the army, his bungalow has storage heaters, he loves Toulouse sausages and he put corks under his windscreen wipers of his Motorhome to stop them sticking in the sun. It’s amazing the conversations you have when you have all the time in the world. Another great thing other than Norman, was that there were tennis courts nearby. Now all of you that know me, know that racket sports are not one of my strongest attributes. Luckily David has the patience of a saint and I attempted to place tennis. As usual David hits the ball and I go running, not such a workout for David but a great workout for me. David also met a lovely Portuguese lady that recommended some other places to visit along the coast on the way down to the Algarve, we decided to make our next stop Porto Covo. I hugged Norman when I left with a tear in my eye and said I hoped to see him along our travels and he said to us he hoped that we would never work again as there was many roads to travel.

The first week ….

Wimeraux – Pas-De-Calais France
21st September 2017 – 23rd September 2017
We were recommended to visit here by dear friends and it must be good as they have been coming back now for over 45 years. Only 30 minutes from Calais and it is a beautiful little seaside town. A beach as long as the eye can see and a promenade filled with little beach huts. Now there are varying degrees of accommodation, from the Four Star Atlantic Hotel with the near Michelin star restaurant which would set you back 275 euros a night or a very nice campsite at 18 euros per night. Take your pick.
We were very lucky with the weather, the sun shone, clear blue skies and the shorts were out (well David at least !) Chloe the dog just loved the beach, but then she would be happy on any beach as long as someone was throwing a ball. The first evening we walked down to the beach we were followed by a horse and rider, who then proceeded to collect his small child when he got to the beach and give them the ride of their life along the sand.
We stayed in Wimeraux for 3 nights and then the problems started.
David had the heating system flushed out and new anti-freeze added before we left the UK but when we came to put the heating on when we were in Wimeraux, it just did not work. We thought it was a simple air block, David bled all the radiators and telephoned the person who carried out the work in the UK and still no joy. We decided to contact the Company that we purchased the Motorhome from in Belgium and they fitted us in to take a look. This meant a journey going North instead of going South, something that we had not envisaged for several months. We packed up and set off to Lokeran in Belgium.
All over Belgium
24th September 2017 – 30th September 2017
We arrived at Campingshow Verveat and spent all afternoon in the garage. We thought it would only take an hour or so to clear the air lock and then we would be off in search of the sun. Oh no, things never go to plan do they. David was so stressed, it has been a complete reversal. In the UK, I was the one that was completely stressed and David was the level headed one, always calming me down and being the one put it all in perspective. We have crossed the English Channel and I am now the one trying to stop David’s stress levels hitting the roof. It turned out that the pump was broke and we would need to have it replaced, fine, replace it. But no, the garage did not have one in stock and the wait time for the delivery from Germany to Belgium would be 5-6 weeks. David did say that he could cycle there and back in less time, even at current fitness levels. David then telephoned a supplier in the U.K. And guess what, next day delivery. Now how does that work, can someone enlighten me please. So we decided to leave the garage get to a campsite pour a gin and tonic and a vodka and orange and assess the situation.
Afew drinks later and a nights sleep, we decided to order the part in the UK have it delivered to the garage, have it fitted and off we go. It would mean hanging around in Belgium a little longer as we did not know when the garage would be able to fit us back in. However, when we rang the UK stockist back this morning there was a whole realm of forms to fill in to get the pump delivered to Belgium and it turned out that the pump we needed wasn’t actually in stock. They didn’t know when it would be in stock either. Guess how David’s stress levels are now !
Now David, always forwarded thinking and unknown to me had emailed three motorhome repair garages last night and one emailed back. Motorhome V.E.E in Varentstraat still in Belgium and they had the pump we needed and could fit it straight away, like today. It was like winning the lottery. We packed up with the speed of lightening and set off for the 2 hour drive to meet Andre our saviour (hopefully).
Now if you look at the website for V.E.E in Varentstraat you see a mass of motorhomes for sale and a huge operational site. We arrive via our trusted Motorhome Sat Nav to find a huge site that looked deserted with around 5 Motorhomes for sale and no life. It didn’t look promising. David ventured inside and afew minutes later I met Andre, a Belgium man in his mid-sixties. He works with his son who also makes parts for F-16 aeroplanes no less. We tell Andre what has happened so far and he gets to work after making coffee for us and piling us with loads of Belgium chocolate. No good for the diet ! Andre changes the pump quite easily but then he comes into the office shaking his head saying that it is a bigger job than he thought, as there is a blockage in the system. Could it get any worse, oh yes. It turns out that we didn’t need a new pump, there was just a huge air lock in the system.
So with a new pump fitted that we didn’t need, nearly £700 lighter in our pockets after two trips to garages, we are now sitting in our motorhome roasting. Andre was our complete saviour, it just goes to show never judge a book by it’s cover. If we had found Andre before going back to the garage we bought the Motorhome from we would have saved ourselves a new pump, money, time but more importantly less stress for David. We are now sitting in Andre’s yard drinking alcohol again.