Skuleskogens National Park – Sweden

18th May 2019 – 22nd May 2019

We are so, so lucky that this ‘Once in a Lifetime’ adventure takes us to some amazing places and places that create memories that will stay with us forever. The Swedish National Park of Skuleskogens is one of those. As we turned off the E4 and started heading up into the National Park I was, I admit holding onto my seat. It was Greece all over again with the scary roads. The road we were travelling on into the forest, ceased being a road and became a track. I gripped the seat even harder and David kept saying that it would be OK. Eventually after several kilometres we came to our parking, in the middle of the forest, just us and complete and utter silence. Most people would crave this solitude and many others I think would hate it. There was no mobile signal, no WiFi and not a sound to be heard. We parked and then decided to explore a little and walked through a track for around 20 minutes, I couldn’t believe it when I saw these beautiful little purple flowers bursting with life, the trees were just beginning to open, the season being so much later than in the U.K. and the lush green ground flora all around us. As we approached an opening, the Baltic Sea greeted us in the most beautiful of views. Chloe got all excited as there was a beach and she was desperate to get into the water, however, we didn’t think it was a good idea with it being so cold. I think she was thinking of her Greek swimming last year. There was also a wooden shelter and a large fire pit with a metal grate to BBQ and a massive pile of wood all cut ready to use. We sat looking out on this amazing vista, just in awe of it’s beauty. I have always loved nature and this is a very special place. The next day we decided to go on a walking trail, we have been lucky with the weather on this trip so far and the sun came out, ready for our hike. We were concerned that the distance would be too far for Chloe. She is 12 now and we are conscious not to go too far and exhaust her, although we think she is doing well for a dog of her age. We didn’t need to worry, she absolutely loved it. We walked 8km in total, so not too far. We found a scattering of little holiday cottages, a beach and more beautiful views. The mature fir trees reaching for the sky that became the perfect blue in the afternoon, the weather was amazing. Being here, has been like stepping out of the world, it is a very, very special place indeed. After 2 days we made the slow drive out of the park, with me more relaxed this time and continued North on our favourite road, the E4. Next stop Umea, we parked on the edge of the town and decided to cycle into the centre. David said it’s not far, well from now on, I am not trusting him on his ‘not fars’ When we finally returned after over 20kms, he said that it takes so long as I cycle too slow ! Not sure how that one works ! The town, like most towns we have visited other that Stockholm are quite uninspiring, obviously, our opinion only. I am not sure what I was expecting but they are quite ordinary. Umea is a student town and as it was a Saturday was bustling with life, a brass band was playing in the centre square and the one and only ice cream van had a massive queue. It was a beautiful day and when the sun shines, all the Swedish people seem to strip off. As we were cycling through the villages to and from the town, I noticed woman in bikinis and men in budgie smugglers all sun bathing. I imaging that with so little warm sunny days, any opportunity to get some vitamin D is snapped up. What we have also deduced from driving through Sweden is that Swedish people, love a hamburger. I think there are more Burger Kings, McDonalds and their own Max Burger outlets than in the U.K. As we have gone further North there are obviously a lot less but in the South of Sweden you will always be able to get a hamburger. As we head North and get more rural, everyone also seems to have a old broken Volvo in their garden, rusting away and weeds growing all around. They also love American vintage cars with some amazing Mustangs, Chevrolets & Cadillacs, all restored and gleaming. Their houses have a colonial feel to them and would not look out of place in the Wild West of America. We have travelled many miles and are continually on the look out for the elusive Moose which all the long E4 has warning signs ‘Beware of the Moose’ but have we seen one, of course we haven’t ! David is looking one side of the road and me another but to date we haven’t seen any. Apparently in the months of May they are seen on the green pastures, we continually live in hope.

Harmanger – Sweden

14th May 2019 – 17th May 2019

We left Stockholm and headed North on the E4. The road hugs the east coast of the country which allows us to stop at some nice places en route. The first being Harmanger, now this is in the middle of nowhere but there were very good reviews to stop at this Motorhome parking and the offer of a free washing machine and tumble dryer did it for me ! We are greeted by Marianne who spoke perfect English and had lived in village for over 45 years, she said she couldn’t get her husband to leave ! She asked us if we would like fresh bread in the morning and I eagerly said yes, the nearest shop must of been 50 miles away. The next morning at 8.30am there was a little tap on the door and there was Marianne with a basket full of fresh and warm bread rolls. OMG they they were delicious. Marianne also mentioned to us, the fish shop up the road where it is open 24 hours a day, has no staff and you just help yourself to what is on offer and leave the cash ! So after breakfast we took a leisurely stroll to the fish shop. We followed the signs and basically it was a garden shed in someone’s garden, but in I went while David stayed outside with Chloe. There were 4 fridges filled with fresh and smoked fish and it looked absolutely delicious. In the 4th fridge, in the door, was all the cash. We chose a large chunk of smoked salmon, pickled herrings, some other smoked fish and some herrings in a lovely creamy sauce. There were pen, paper and calculator to work out what you owed as it was all priced and a bag to put it all in and then you left the cash in the fridge. We were completely and utterly amazed at the honestly of this experience and it warmed my heart that this could still exist in the world. The fish was absolutely delicious, I wish we had bought more, but David doesn’t like paying for fish. Where we were staying had a restaurant and gift shop with all local crafts but alas none were open. The season is Sweden is summer months only, from the end of June to the end of August. I saw David raise his eyes to the sky and say ‘thank you’ ! It was here that for the first time we got the fishing rod out. There was a small getty and we thought it would be a good idea to practise casting out for the first time. Now, you would think it is easy just to set up a rod and then cast it out, well let me tell you, it is not ! The first time David cast the line out it, the hook got stuck, I am jumping up and down saying ‘ have we got a fish, have we got a fish and David says, ‘ of course we bloody haven’t, it’s stuck on the bottom’. He was pulling and pulling and then said, go and get the scissors, I am going to have to cut the line ! I walked back to the van with Chloe saying, ‘oh dear, it’s not going well is it’. By the time we had come back the line was free and we had a little more success with the casting. I even had an attempt and was quite pleased with my distance of casting, my Dad would have been proud. He was a keen fly fisherman. We stayed for 3 days, exhausted the washing and drying machine, I bet they gave a sigh of relief when we drove out and started heading North again !

Stockholm – Sweden

03 May 2019 – 13 May 2019

We left Copenhagen and crossed the famous and expensive Oresund Bridge into Sweden. The bridge runs nearly 8km and combined with a tunnel of 4km it is the longest bridge in Europe. We touched down into Sweden near Malmo in the South before heading North along the coast and then cutting inland to make our way into Stockholm. We stopped a couple of times along the way in Marinas and on the edge of lakes. We stayed in a lovely little town called Raa, when I say town, it is more like a village in the U.K. and all was very quiet. As we meandered around the marina on a Saturday afternoon we didn’t see another sole. Nothing was open, ghost town came to mind. However, on Sunday morning as we looked out from the van window into the bay, it was filled with around a 100 small sailing boats, all out enjoying the beautiful weather. The Swedish people love boating and we assume that it fills a huge part of their lives, there is certainly enough water for them to sail in, with over 97,500 lakes as well as the thousands of miles of coast line. It is early May but the daffodils and tulips are just in flower. It shows how much colder it is as we travel North and the trees and plants are just starting to emerge from winter, it is certainly early spring in Sweden. We arrived in Stockholm and David did a superb piece of driving through the centre, again trying to find somewhere to stay close enough for us to get into the centre and that had space. We were in luck and spent 2 days in this wonderful city. We cycled into the centre of the old town, taking our lives in our hands, it’s chaotic cycling. People, cyclists, as well as vehicles coming at you in all directions. I get the impression that there are quite afew fatalities with cyclists as a lot of people wear a sort of very stiff travel pillow around their necks with a front zip fastening. First port of call was the old town which was the actual city for several hundred years, built on Stadholmen. Dating back from the 13th century, it is a labyrinth of cobbled streets, alleyways, faded mustard and rust coloured houses and meeting squares. It is also full of tourists from the huge cruise ships that we saw in the harbour, on their Baltic Cruise. We saw the changing of the guards take place outside the Royal Palace Stockholm and enjoyed a couple of beers in the sunshine. Stockholm is one of the most crowded museum cities in the world and you can see why. With limited time, we decided to visit The Vasa Museum which displays the only almost fully intact 17th century ship that has ever been salvaged. The 64 gun warship sank on her maiden voyage in 1628 within minutes of sailing and lay on the sea bed for 333 years before it was salvaged in 1961. This amazing ship is 98% original, adorned with hundreds of carved sculptures. When we walked through the doors into the huge space and saw the ship for the first time, it took our breath way. You cannot believe how huge it is, how beautiful and that this is real. We kept thinking Jack Sparrow was going to suddenly appear. We spent several hours in the museum completely in awe of this ship, learning all about life on board, the stunning art and sculptures which made up this ship and the salvage operation. This is not to be missed if you are ever in Stockholm. There is also the ‘ABBA’ Museum but I could not persuade David to venture inside ! We loved Stockholm, the people are friendly, it has a relaxed and happy feel about the city and it is high on the list of our best loved cities to date. That means we will be back.

Ribe, Brondby & Copenhagen – Denmark

27th April 2019 – 02 May 2019

We continue to slowly make our way North, leaving Germany behind and we welcome in Denmark, a country that we have never visited before. As we are driving we notice that it is very, very similar to the U.K. in landscape. Green fields, acres of yellow rape seed glowing in the sunshine and bluebells bursting into life. Now, it is just our opinion, but we think that the architects in Denmark need to take a leaf out of the Dutch architects book. The architecture in Denmark is not at all spectacular, quite plain, box type brick buildings. Our first stop is the town of Ribe in the South West Jutland and the oldest town in Denmark, established in the early eighth century in the Germanic Iron Age. The town has many preserved old buildings, Ribe Cathedral and around 110 houses under the Heritage Protection, together with Denmark’s oldest town hall. The houses reminded us of Thaxted, a village near where we lived in Essex. We meandered around the town, ate chocolate waffles as you do ( fitness regime yet to begin !) and then retreated back to the van to sleep them off. The next day we headed north west to Brondby, a tiny strip of land with the North sea on one side and a lake on the other. David has a great APP on his phone for parking places and places to stay in Motorhomes and he found an amazing place tucked away, just us and the beautiful landscape. The sand dunes here are huge and as you climb them you see the most amazing view of the beach and sea that stretches for miles and miles. We were so lucky with the weather, lovely sunshine and the excitement of Chloe to feel sand between her paws always makes us smile. We stayed here a couple of days because it was so beautiful. There are many holiday homes on this coast and we later learnt that in the summer it is absolutely packed with holiday makers. You can understand why with the stunning coastline. We didn’t think we could top the parking spot but as we left and headed east a couple of hours we found parking right next to the water’s edge and it was so idyllic. When you looked out, there were fishermen in their waders enjoying the beautiful sunshine, canoes, small boats and yachts all moving along the estuary and we had blue, blue skies. It was a moving picture, one that I wish my Dad could have seen as he loved fishing and would have loved to have seen this view. Just further up the estuary there is a little one vehicle ferry that takes you across the estuary. As we walked along the beach, the water was filled with the biggest mussels that David has ever seen, as well as clams. I firmly said no, when he suggested eating them for dinner.

We left the tranquility of the stunning scenery and headed east towards Copenhagen, crossing over the most expensive bridge from Nyborg on the E20 over to Halsskov which David said would cost €70 but when we came to pay at the kiosk and with David talking X Factor of all things with the lady we were charged €35 ! Result.

First stop was the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde for David, containing five unique Viking Ships excavated in 1962 from Roskilde Fjord near the village of Skuldelev. At the end of the Viking Age the late 11th century – a system of barriers was constructed to protect the royal seat and cathedral. These five ships were sunk across the sailing channel and were part of the effective protective barrier. After a couple of hours we continued our way to the city of Copenhagen.

Copenhagen we knew would be difficult to find parking near, what we didn’t envisage was that it would be so difficult. The first place we tried on the marina was not open until later in May and then the second place, which David would have loved to stay at was a site in an old fort. The only trouble was our Motorhome was too big ! Finally we found parking but it was a 35 minute cycle ride into the centre. The weather had been fairly fine but with the most bitterly cold wind. When we finally started cycling in, the wind was so strong I thought I was going to be blown off my bike a couple of times. I did wish I was still in the van with Chloe at one point. Unbeknown to us we cycled right through Christiania, a hash scented commune straddling the eastern side of Christianshavn. It was established by squatters in 1971 and the area has drawn non conformists from across the globe. Filled with shady hash and marijuana dealers and a wonderland of whimsical DIY homes it is a unique commune to say the least. We finally made it into the famous Nyhavn canal with it’s beautiful coloured buildings. A haunt for sailors and writers in days gone by, including Hans Christian Andersen, but now filled with cafes and restaurants. As it was late in the day we made a whistle stop tour around on our bikes, saw the changing of The Royal Danish Life Guards at Amalienborg, the beautiful Frederiks Kirke (Marmorkirken) a large Baroque Church and then we fought the wind to return to the van. I slept well that night. People say you cannot come to Copenhagen and not see the Tivoli amusement park and pleasure gardens. So, we decided to move the van somewhere where we could catch the train in, as it was easier than fighting the wind with the bikes. I loved the gardens, David wasn’t so keen. The spring flowers were still in bloom and if you stay into the evening there is an amazing light show. There is also a fantastic food hall just outside the gardens, with mouthwatering food freshly prepared, it reminded us of the one in Porto. We saw the main hi-lights of Copenhagen but like most cities we visit, we struggle to really immerse ourselves into them, due to time factor of leaving Chloe. However, a small price to pay and Copenhagen is on the growing list of cities to re-visit another time.

Bremen & Kaltenkirchen – Germany

23rd April 2019 – 26th April 2019

To avoid trees and on route, we decided to make our next stop Bremen in North West Germany. We found a designated parking area for Motorhomes on a small island within walking distance of the town which was perfect. Bremen is a commercial and industrial city with a major port on the River Weser. The old town an oval area surrounded by the Weser River is beautiful, as is the Marktplatz or Market Square which is dominated by the opulent facade of the Town Hall of Bremen. In July 2004 the building was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Our first evening we meandered around the old town,stuffed ourselves on a gorgeous meal and luckily had a 30 minute walk back to the van to wear it off ! The little island we were staying on had lots of kleingarten (meaning ‘small garden’) which to us means allotments. They are lovingly taken care of all with little huts which cover anything from a tool shed to a mini house, complete with cooking and washing facilities, a TV and sleeping area. The allotments are split into different clubs and there are 44 clubs in Bremen. There are a list of rules one being the height of hedges, 1 metre and 10 centimetres and apparently this is checked ! It does give the gardens a form of uniformity and they are lovingly cared for. This time of year all the blossom is in full bloom, the lilac trees are just starting to burst and everything is coming alive. I took Chloe for a walk around them, accessed by small paths. The only trouble is you can easily get lost, which I did and with a dead phone, David wasn’t took happy when we returned as he had began to think we had been abducted ! The following evening there was a big football game on in the stadium which happened to be very close to where we were staying. Bremen versus Bayern Munich, you could hear all the cheering and although I am the furtherest you could get from a football fan, I said to David I would have loved to have gone as the atmosphere sounded amazing.

The next day we headed further North stopping for the night near Kaltenkirchen. Chloe was in her element here as we were within walking distance from a lake. Now up until last year Chloe had never really been swimming a great deal, but in Greece by the end of our 3 months we were all swimming together. So, when she saw the water all she wanted to do was get in, but she still needs a little encouragement with either ball or stick throwing, but she loved it !

The great thing about travelling is the people you meet along the way and where we stayed for the night we met the fittest 84 year old German man who we learnt was a Hilter Youth when he was 8 years of age. His Dad was in Stalingrad and through his limited English which was far, far better than our German, he relaid stories of when the Americans passed through giving him a ride on their tanks and feeding him chocolate. I so wish we could have communicated better as he was an absolutely fascinating man. He told us that his wife had passed away 2 years ago and he travels in his Motorhome and to stay fit he exercises 2 hours each morning. As David and I stood there looking at him with not an ounce of fat on him, we looked down at our bellies and though we need to take on this fitness regime.

Urk & Leeuwarden – The Netherlands

18th April 2019 – 22nd April 2019

Now we would never have gone to the town of Urk if it wasn’t for meeting a friend of David’s. Gert-jan supplies seafood to businesses all over Europe and this is how David and Gert-jan paths crossed over 20 years ago. David had promised to visit when we were anywhere near Urk and we were and so we did. Wow, what a beautiful little town, we stayed right on the marina which we always love as it is a continually moving picture all the time. There is always something going on. Urk was a former island with more that 20,000 people and a huge fishing fleet. The picturesque town, mazes, small alleys (ginkies) with houses all unique to each other, pretty squares, decorations and the best fish and chips we have tasted on this trip. We met Gert-jan in the late afternoon and he took us on a personal tour around the town. What was so lovely, that everybody seems to know each other, stopping to say hello and having a chat. We learnt that Urk is a thriving town with no unemployment due to huge fish processing businesses together with the marina, which is the centre for the large fishing boat repairs. We were also so lucky to step onto an original oak fishing boat, that had been in the same family for three generations. It is such a beautiful piece of workmanship and the current owner was happy to tell us all about it. We went inside the cabin area and the gorgeous smell of the wood and oil, took you back in time. On the quay there was a group of men sitting watching the world go by, eating freshly cooked smoked salmon, which they had cooked themselves in their burner. Of course we had to try it and it was delicious. We spent the evening with Gert-jan eating wonderful tapas and enjoying the lovely company. We parted promising to visit hopefully on our way back in July. We were up early (for us) the next day as David had been having trouble with a crown tooth and Gert-jan had kindly made David an appointment at the dentist. What I was more worried about though, was when the appointment was made, they said bring cash ! Gert-jan had shown us the dentist the day before and my God, did it look plush and so when the bring cash was relaid I began to worry. We cycled to the dentist, which resembled a mansion, set in the most luxurious of gardens, into the reception and duly planted our bums on the most expensive leather chairs I have ever sat on ! David was promptly called in and I got my purse out and started counting our cash. I thought was €220 enough ? 20 minutes later tooth fixed and to our utter relief a cost of €60, cheaper than at home. We might get all our dental work done in Urk from now on. We cycled back to the town via the bike shop to purchase a nice sheepskin seatcover for my bum as it is suffering from all the miles it has been covering. To celebrate the dentist’s reasonable cost and on Gert-jan’s recommendation we enjoyed delicious fish and chips in the most fantastic fish delicatessen. My Dad would have absolutely loved to see all the smoked eels, mackerel and herrings. The fresh fish display made our mouths water, together with the homemade fish dishes that were available to buy. I know I sound like an old record, but I wish we had this back in the U.K. Anyway, we left with pickled herrings and a pot of delicious and very fattening cocktail of prawns and crab.

We left Urk the next day, passing all the amazing tulip fields and oh my they are stunning. I was in complete and utter awe, just beautiful. If you love flowers, try to get to this part of the world one day because it is breathe taking.

Next stop was Leeuwarden, basing ourselves just outside with views of the canel in a little boat yard. It was fascinating, the boats are stored in little wooden garages on the water. It was Easter weekend and we cycled into the town on Saturday, enjoyed a healthy fruit smoothie each, meandered around the shops and took a leisurely cycle back again. The sheepskin seat cover has been worth every penny, my bum has been saved. Easter Sunday saw a flurry of motor cruisers on the canal in a day of perfect sunshine. We departed the next day, stopping for one night near Veendam, right in the middle of a forest with a beautiful lake which Chloe absolutely loved running round. Poor David didn’t love it so much though, as he has been suffering badly with hay fever and staying right in the middle of a forest with trees bursting into life wasn’t the greatest of ideas. Next stop a city we think, with no trees !

Haarlem & Amsterdam – The Netherlands

11th April 2019 – 17th April 2019

First stop after waking up in France was to buy a pillow as I had left mine behind. Not a good start but could have been worse. We then made our way to our first destination Antwerp. I have probably mentioned before that being in a Motorhome it is not easy to park near any big cities, therefore we headed to Brasschaat a beautiful upmarket town where we could catch a bus into Antwerp. However, when we arrived at a stop over, entry was barred by red tape and barriers. Motorhomes were parked and when I asked, there was a weekend Belgian Motorhome Rally and basically no room at the inn. Luckily we were allowed in to stay overnight as it was quite late, but had to leave the next morning when all the motorhomes were arriving. That completely ruined plans to visit Antwerp as there was no other safe parking nearby. New plans were swiftly made, the famous Bloemencorso 2019 or Flower Parade was taking place at the weekend and it was on route. We found a perfect place to stay near Haarlem. The lovely owners told us roughly when and what time the parade would be passing that afternoon near where we were staying. We had visited the famous Keukenhof Gardens last year and when the parade weekend is on, the whole area attracts thousands of visitors. The procession consists of about twenty floats and over forty luxurious and special vehicles richly decorated with flowers. Several bands play within the procession to give it a real carnival atmosphere. As the parade was not until the afternoon we cycled into Haarlem in the morning. A beautiful city which has several museums including The Teylers Museum which is the oldest in The Netherlands. We love The Netherlands, the people, the architecture, stylish gardens, their love of everything cycling and the houseboats which David and I swooned over. In the afternoon we headed off to Bennebroek with the procession passing according to the owner of the site at approx 4pm. We cycled like mad thinking we would be late; we arrive with my heart pounding to find all very, very quiet. Had we missed it ? David then finds out that the procession will not be passing until 6pm. So, what do we do, curse the owner of the site and then start cycling towards the procession as we did know the route. We met two nice Russians on the way, also looking for the procession and then we start seeing more and more people. We catch up to the procession at Hilleom. To say I was knackered is an understatement. The procession started to arrive 15 minutes later and it was so amazing. The designs, the flowers, oh the flowers and the beautiful smell. How did they grow them all and the time it must take to put the designs together, it was just fantastic. Poor David on the other hand was standing back and continually sneezing from all the pollen. He must love me. The brass bands gave it such a carnival feel. Although the weather was bitterly cold, people were out on the streets with table and chairs, food and drink and enjoying the festivities. By the time we had cycled back to the van we had cycled 30 miles and my legs knew it ! So, what do we do the next day, we cycle some more. On the Sunday all the floats are displayed in Haarlem and as if I didn’t have enough we cycle into the city once again. It was so, so worth it and I said to David ‘A day for the memory book’ It was lovely to see the floats close up, all the detail and even more beautiful smells. There was street entertainment, food stalls and musicians and although it was really busy, the whole area just had such a lovely carnival feel to it. We ate our first herrings and they were delicious, drunk the most expensive coffee and cake on our whole adventure to date, getting us prepared for Norway !

After resting my legs for a day, we caught the bus and train into Amsterdam. This was David’s third visit and my first. Like any large city it was busy and as we had left Chloe behind we knew we had to do a whistle stop tour. We boarded a tour boat that took us around the city’s canals which gave us a great flavour of the city. An hour later we headed on foot to the old town. A beautiful lunch outside overlooking the canal, how do they make a simple sandwich taste so good?. We watched and laughed at a group of young people with glazed eyes and legs that didn’t seem to take them in the direction they wanted to go and belly laughing. It was so funny to watch and obviously they had made use of the all that Amsterdam has on offer. Cities like Amsterdam need a full weekend to immerse yourselves and it’s on the growing list of cities we hope to return to. After 5 nights we headed off to the town Urk.

New Adventures

10th April 2019

We are still alive and back for another adventure or Part 4 ! Where has the time gone since we last updated our Blog. Well, we arrived back in the UK at the end of December just in time for Christmas. My Mum greeted us with a complete look of shock on her face when she opened the door, as she was expecting us the following day ! Luckily, the spare room was free and we all disembarked with mountains of washing. I think Mum must feel like it is my student days again. It was lovely to be home, to spend Christmas with loved ones. The previous Christmas we spent in Portugal and it’s not the same. Don’t get me wrong, walking on the beach on Christmas Day and the sunshine is gorgeous, but most people who we have met along the way do seem to fly back to the U.K. for Christmas. For us this is not an option as we have Chloe. Hence the drive back, but we also had a special birthday to celebrate and boarded a plane for the first time in two years at the end of January to celebrate David’s Sister 50th in Fueurteventura. We saw quite afew Motorhomes when we were there, mainly surfers enjoying the freedom and the waves.

Our destination for this trip is Norway. Therefore we decided against leaving too early as it’s no fun when it is cold and wet in a Motorhome. We are travelling through The Netherlands stopping at Antwerp, Amsterdam, Urk. Heading through the top of Germany into Denmark and Sweden. Finally we will then get into Norway. We are so excited to see this amazing Country, the scenery, the wild camping and the herrings ! I read that we should take a fishing rod to catch our dinner, something that David wasn’t too keen on. However, after some congealing we visited a fishing tackle shop and kitted ourselves out. Rod, Reel, Line and weights purchased, we are ready to go. We have never fished before, but we are going to give it a go. So, with the van MOT and service complete, haircuts, dentists, food shop, visit to the vets for Chloe we are off again to make ‘Once in a Lifetime’ memories.

Vilamoura, Santa Luzia & Tavira – Portugal

29th November 2018 – 9th December 2018

We left Lagos after 7 amazing weeks. Meeting up with old friends, making new ones and it was hard to say goodbye. Being on the road, it is lovely to stay in one place for a period of time. The Campsite is the best we have ever stayed in, in all our time of travelling to date. I got to go to yoga, we joined the gym, started our fitness regime, which was hindered by the Saturday Supper Club, but so worth it. Chloe was chauffeured to the beach every day and I could have stayed longer. We had our final supper at the amazing Pizza restaurant in Espiche, with Keith, Jane, Paul & Stephen. A group photo taken by the Christmas tree in the village, by a poor Portuguese boy that we bombarded and made memories to treasure. We are heading home this year for Christmas to spend time with our precious family and it coincides with a family holiday in January to celebrate David’s sister 50th Birthday. Before we set off for the long drive North, we felt that we should venture further across the Algarve to visit some places that we had been recommended. However, the weather was amazing and we only went 20 minutes up the road and parked right on the beach in Alvor and didn’t move for the next 4 days. What was brilliant, we had a visit from Keith, Jane & their dog Beurre (that dog can run !) and then Paul, Stephen and their dog Archie came the next day to see us. It was brilliant for Paul, as Alvor has a wooden boardwalk that runs the length of the beach, so Paul can drive his little mobility scooter all the way along. Archie was in his element, running into the sea, a wave took him out but he just shrugged it off and he carried on running. Alvor is a beautiful place to visit, a scattering of restaurants looking over the estuary and a beach running as far as the eye can see the other side. We also found a lovely little cafe which we first stopped off for coffee. The Portuguese lady that ran it reminded me of my Nan in mannerisms. The place was spotless and she spoke very good English, asking where we came from and when we told her, she got so excited saying she loved M&S, shopping in London, the best shops she said. You could tell this cafe was her life. She knew all the people that passed, chatting to all nationalities. We think she must of been in her mid 70’s and I so admired her, her happiness just radiated. We were leaving the next day but she was advertising a mouth watering breakfast. Eggs, bacon, sausages, baked beans etc and I said to David, lets pop down in the morning and have a breakfast before we leave. We walked in, she said 2 white coffees, now that’s what I call customer service. Her breakfast hit the spot aswell, delicious. With full bellies we left for Vilamoura. We have visited Vilamoura before and found a spot again near the beach, as the weather has been glorious (sorry!). We celebrated David’s birthday on the 2nd December with lunch looking over the marina in Vilamoura and a bit of sunbathing in the afternoon. What could be better. We meandered further along the coast to Santa Luzia, a small fishing town famous for Octopus. We decided to catch the bus into Tavira, read the timetable and arrived in plenty of time. Did the bus turn up, of course not. The reason had nothing to do with the poor service, it was a Friday and we were reading the Saturday timetable ! We had arranged to meet Keith and Jane for lunch. Luckily they came to us and sampled the famous Octopus for the first time. The next day we thought we would try again to reach Tavira. We read the timetable correctly, got the right day and sat and waited for the bus again. Guess what, it didn’t turn up. Out came the bikes and we cycled in. We found the Municipal Market, filled with the freshest fruit, vegetables, fish and meat. It was packed with people, families out with their children, sitting having coffee and cakes, buying their groceries. As David and I walk around, we are filled with sadness that we no longer have this in the UK. Demand for cheaper, more convenient food has killed the markets at home, it is such a shame. We loaded up our panions on the bikes with fruit and vegetables and headed into the centre of Tavira. It is such a beautiful traditional town, we have never visited before and found it to be one of the best preserved towns in the Algarve. Cobbled streets, little bridges over the river, a traditional bandstand and a square edged with cafes. We meandered around the shops, had coffee, had lunch before a slow cycle back to the van. Just a short walk from Santa Luzia, there is a little old train that will take you across the marshes to a little island and the most heavenly beach we have ever seen. We had staked it our before and it said no dogs were allowed on lots of signs and so Chloe was left behind. We decided to walk over to the island and low and behold there were people with their dogs. I am not sure if people just ignore the signs out of season, but I was really gutted as the beach was as near to perfect as you could get. In the dunes there is a cemetery of anchors which were bizarre scene, we sat for a while taking in the beauty of it all and caught the train back (we could have walked quicker). The next day we decided to head off to spend our last day on the beach before heading North into Spain.

Lagos Algarve Portugal Part 2

12th November 2018 – 28th November 2018

Now I am starting to hallucinate about chocolate. The other night all I kept thinking about was a toblerone that I saw at the checkout in the Intermarche. Normally, I would buy it, eat it and get rid of the wrapper before I had put the shopping in the car. David and I, well really me, have spent quite a long time talking about chocolate. Walnut Whips, Snickers, Quality Street and the largest Ferraro Rocher display we have ever seen (checkout our Facebook page for the video) But, I am really proud that I have not succumbed to the chocolate devil in me. We are on a fitness regime Couch to 5k. Which is a great phone app to encourage even the non runners which is certainly me, to get off my bum and run. We are lucky to have all the time in the world and a very posh gym at the Campsite to start the campaign. Now, I absolutely hate running, but this app is brilliant to build up the run times between a brisk walk and even I am managing to stick to it, albeit I did have a dodgy start, but I am now on a roll. I would like to ask any runners out there though, what do you think about when you are running, as all my mind thinks about is OMG when is this going to end and I certainly do not enjoy it. Will this change, will I want to run more and even contemplate a marathon (hang on, my keyboard got carried away !). Anyway, I do feel good when I finish my 30 minutes. We also have a weigh in at the local chemist on their machine and everytime I get on it, the little print out pops out, stating I have put on weight ! How does that work !. We have settled into campsite life and continued with our Saturday Supper Club with Stephen & Paul. We had the most amazing Indian and Jane & Keith joined us as well. Now I was a little dubious of eating an Indian in Portugal, as after our Chinese experience where we felt ill for a couple of days, I was not holding out much hope. However, it was delicious and as a lover of a Naan bread, it was the best I have ever tasted. So if you find yourself in the Algarve of Portugal near Espiche, check out the Indian, you will not be disappointed. We could write a book about all the restaurants, having found an excellent Sunday Roast in Praia Da Luz, with Paul eating the ‘Big Boy Roast’. We tried the Boavista Golf & Spa Resort for Sunday Lunch and the best part was the entertainment in the form of Wesley. Now we had heard Wesley busking in Lagos in the main square and he sent goose bumps down my arms them and he created the same feeling at Sunday Lunch. He has the most amazing voice, obviously not to everyone’s taste but he sang Hallelujah and I had tears in my eyes and then he sang Raise me up and Stephen had tears in his eyes, so a very happy lunch was had by all. It turns out Wesley is French and sung on ‘The Voice’ in France, got to the final, sung with Kylie Minogue but sadly has ended up busking in Portugal. Anyway, I bought a CD. However, we have nothing to play it on ! We have packed quite a lot into our stay this time, visiting the Monchique Mountains with Steve & Margaret who again we met last year and tasted some very nice ‘Boar Stew’ in an amazing restaurant with a fantastic view over the mountains, if only it hadn’t been raining. This is far off the tourist trail and full of Portuguese so you know it is going to be good place to eat. The weather has not been brilliant, don’t get me wrong, warmer than the UK but lots of rain. Margaret and Steve also invited us to the Theatre in Lagoa to watch The Algarveans Experimental Theatre Group. Now, David and I couldn’t remember what we were going to see and it turns out that it was quite a thought provoking story ‘Whose Life is it Anyway’. There was at total of 10 actors for the 2 hour production and it was brilliant. The standard of acting would not have been out of place on a London Stage. David has continued to preen his beard, after everyone asking is he applying for the role of Father Christmas, we find a barbers in Lagos to shape the beard. It amazes me how long men spend in the barbers now, things have certainly changed. First of all the paper collar is fixed, then the cape is wrapped around his body and a steaming hot towel applied to his face. Then the artistry begins, 45 minutes later. Yes, I said 45 minutes it looks like the barber is happy with his work. David then gets to have a shampoo to polish his head and finally he is released. The cost is €10 unbelievable. Finally our friends from France came to stay for the weekend. We did a whistle stop tour of a little of the Algarve as Gaz had never been and Debs had last been with me when we were in our late teens (not so long ago!) Luckily after forecasting rain, it held off for the weekend. I learnt the rules of Chess, will certainly need a lot of practise. We laughed, we ate, we ate again, made great memories and have set a date for next year.