Category: Blog Post

Goodbye Portugal, Hello Spain…..

2nd January 2018 – 10th January 2018

The time at our little haven in Lagos was nearing an end. I say we, well actually me. David was ready to set off and find new adventures and I was quite enjoying the life in our little commune. The gym, spa, sauna and socialising with our new friends. We also at last caught up with our special Portuguese friend Jorge and his wife Suzanne, I have been friends with Jorge for over 30 years (shows my age) and he owns a unique restaurant Boneca Bar in Carvoeiro. A restaurant nestled into the cliff over looking the sea. As it is now closed for the season, we spent a great evening at their home. When driving there my words to David were ‘you know what Jorge is like, don’t get pissed’ As we left at 2am my words resonated as David fell out of the door and into the car. I drove back to Lagos, to find we were locked out of the Campsite, but prayers were answered, we were let in and finally got a lift in a golf buggy to our Motorhome and for David, his well needed bed. The next day was a wipe out for David, I had a lovely Spa day ! We have met some lovely people whilst we have been here, that we hope to see again on our travels, Margaret & Steve as we have mentioned before. Missed them when they went home for Christmas and greeted them like long lost friends when they returned. They gave us a wealth of valuable information being seasoned Motorhomers, top of my list to buy when we can find one is a slow cooker !. Thank you Margaret. We also met Lesley & Roger, an inspiration with a great outlook on life, we so admire them. Roger driving a huge Motorhome in his 70’s and still full of life. Chloe also made a friend in Sidney, a white terrier with a black patch across one eye and deaf. He is the splitting image of the dog in ‘The Artist’ . A brilliant film if you have never seen it. Sidney’s owner Lorraine is taking time off work, travelling on her own with Sidney and was off to Lisbon with him on the train as we left.

We originally drove into the Campsite intending to stay 14 days, 46 days later we departed ! Our destination as we left was El Rocio in Spain, a recommendation from Margaret & Steve.

El Rocio is in the Province of Huelva, Andalusia, Spain. It is home to the Virgin of El Rocio and is the destination of an annual procession/pilgrimage on the second day of the Pentecost. It also sits on the edge of the Donna National Park, a nature reserve which is home to African Migratory Birds, Deer and the endangered Spanish Imperial Eagle and the Iberian lynx. Now if anyone fancies visiting El Rocio make sure it is on the weekend as we later found out. This town has houses with stables, very few cars, no roads as it’s all sand and at the weekend they all come out with their horses and it is heaving during the various festivals and religious celebrations. The large white church is the centre point of the town and it is said that there are over 200 smaller churches hidden amongst the houses. It is an amazing sight even during the week at it looks like something out of a Wild West Film. We meandered around the town, walked around part of the National Park and had a long lazy lunch in the sun watching all the various birds and pink flamingoes skimming and feeding over the lake. This is the real Spain and hopefully we will be back one day at the weekend !

Espiche Lagos Algarve

18th December 2017 – 1st January 2018

Life has taken a rather chilled out affair at the moment. We are still in the same site having moved to various different locations due to people booking certain pitches. Obviously we had never booked, just rolled up and are still here nearly 6 weeks later. It is amazing and the things you learn. There are people here that book 5-7 years in advance for the same pitch each year securing their little piece of Portugal with the sunshine. Now sunshine on the pitch is the major talking point and people trying to move pitches to get the sun for as many hours in the day as possible. The pitches that everyone are desperate for now are the ones that must be empty in the summer as everyone want the shade in the height of August, when over 2000 people descend on the site. Must be horrendous.

We have hired a car for most of the time we have been here, costing less than €8.00 per day and she’s a brand new Seat Ibiza. Chloe loves it, being able to hang her head outside the window and catch the breeze as we head for our daily ritual of the beach walk in the afternoons. We have explored a lot of the beaches around and on some days never see another sole on them. The beaches go for miles and it makes you realise how very lucky we are to be doing this.

We have visited most of towns in the area and most are worth a visit. Sagres to watch the sunset go down by the castle, once again no dogs allowed inside and so we sat on the cliffs outside.

Praia da Luz is our most local beach and it seems to be a hub for the British, it has a lovely beach with striking coloured cliffs. There is a great cafe which does the best french onion soup David & his Mum have ever tasted (English Chef). Cooked fresh everyday, I have yet to try the Lancashire Hotpot, but I will before I leave ! Can you see how we just love the local cuisine.

Lagos is our main shopping town and worth a visit along the front and again over the main bridge we have found a beach that goes for miles. On the way back we stop at the Marina for a Portuguese Galao Coffee before heading home.

Portimao is famous for it’s Sardine fishing and I first visited this town nearly 30 years ago. Now back in the day, the boats used to pull up along the quay, unload the fresh sardines and be cooked on the quay side by the numerous restaurants that filled the area. Today, all this has gone, the boats are banished over the other side of the water and the few restaurants that are left are hidden, if you didn’t know where they were, you would never find them. If you are ever in Portimao, head towards the blue bridge along the paved walkway by the water and you will see an arch, through the arch are the few restaurants that are left. But the sardines, potatoes and salad are a must if you go to Portimao.

Christmas Day we decided we should immerse ourselves and so we booked lunch is the restaurant, turkey was on the menu and the music played. It was OK but as we love cold turkey we decided to buy a small one and on Boxing Day I cooked it. We had a traditional Christmas Dinner minus the crackers. I was proud of our little oven, the Christmas lights that Mum had bought gave us the festive feel. The following day the cold turkey and the famous Branson Pickle was gorgeous. Poor David missed his red cabbage and pickled onions though !

New Years Eve was quiet, Chloe not being great with fireworks tried to hide when Midnight chimed and the power of modern technology allowed us to see the New Year in with our dearest friends Nicola & Phil in the U.K.

A New Year has dawned and as we watched the first sunset go down on 2018 and my friend Nicola later saying ‘I wonder where you will be watching the sunset go down next year’ I think wow, and pitch myself.

Wishing you all that are reading this, happiness, peace and health in 2018. If you can, I hope our little adventure will inspire you to realise a dream in 2018.

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.