13/5/2013 DAY 22 A DAY AT THE SEASIDE
Woke up to lovely sunshine, only a touch of wind and a lovely view from the door of the motorhome.
After breakfast Tony went for a walk along the shore to have a look at the estuary with a view to taking his kayak out on it.
Several vans with surfers drew up and a lot of equipment was carted down the dunes to the beach and sun canopies were erected .This was obviously a very popular surfing beach and I suspect that these were pupils of surf schools. They all got to the beach, did lots of setting up and exercises and then headed off into the surf for their tuition.
Tony came back and got his kayak down from the roof and then headed off over the dunes to the estuary. – not easy going in the soft sand.
I sat outside reading in the sun.
The beach gradually filled up with people which being a Monday was a bit surprising for this time of year.
We spent the day rather lazily – walks along the beach, beers at the van.
A VW campervan parked next to us and out got two people and a huge Newfoundland dog.
They stayed the night in the car park and apparently, so they said, the dog took up most of the room inside the van sleeping under the table!
It was really quite warm tonight so we had tea outside – a first for this trip I think.
Tony had another go at getting a TV signal to no avail. Don’t know why as everything seems to be connected & working OK just not receiving a signal. Thought the first few times were because we were out of range but it has now been a couple of weeks, in fact all the time we have been in Portugal, since we have got any sort of TV. It’s either a coincidence or something is wrong with our system. Anyway it has made Tony resolve to definitely get some sort of satellite system fitted in the van – best he sends a nice pleading letter to Father Xmas
We watched 2 episodes of Boardwalk Empire (getting through them quite quickly and am now half way through the second series, only got 1 more series after this) and then bed. I had trouble getting to sleep due to the sound of the waves crashing onto the shore. Tony said it was supposed to be a romantic sound – I think it just sounds like the M25.
I eventually dropped off only to be awoken about 3am to what sounded like thunder, there were no lightning flashes or any rain so I thought I was imagining it and it was just the sea but around 5am the rain came along with just a few drops. I remember the couple in Praia de Monte Clerigo saying that they had spectacular storms at night but they were mostly far out at sea so perhaps this was one of them. Anyway made for a disturbed night’s sleep for me but Tony hadn’t heard a thing and said I must have imagined it.
14/5/2013 DAY 23 WE FIND THE BRITISH ALGARVE
It was very dull and windy when we woke up so we packed up & headed off. We decided to call in at Carrapateira, supposedly a nice beach area.
We noticed a large increase in the amount of motorhome traffic on the roads, mostly heading north. I expect a lot of it is the long stayers from winter making their way back home to the UK. They should have checked the weather forecast, if they had I doubt very much they would be heading in that direction.
Carrapateira was indeed a nice beach but very much identical to the one we had just come from and also windy so we did not stay. We were however able to be a good Samaritan to a young lad who was stranded at the desolate cliff tops with his car not starting – one set of jump leads later and he was off, must have been his lucky day when we turned up.
Amongst this lovely scenery at the headland there were numerous windmills – I wonder who thought it would be a good idea to fill this lovely area with a wind farm.
Back on the road we headed to Salema a beach town on the coast. We had intended to go to the furthest southern point in Portugal, Ponta de Sagres, but having seen so many desolate cliff tops thought it possible wasn’t worth the visit. Several local people had said there was nothing there only scenery and we’d had enough of that in the high winds!
Salema was indeed a nice town with a lovely beach but it was very small with very narrow roads. We just made it into the first car park which, despite saying ‘No Campers’ we decided to park and walk down to the beach front. This is obviously a seaside resort town as most of the buildings are holiday apartments, the roads are pedestrian only and the beach area has lots of sunbeds & umbrellas on it. There were also quite a few beach shops and restaurants around the front area. We had a walk around and then walked back to the van. On the way we passed a restaurant and saw our first “British Breakfast” sign, E6.50, we knew that we had reached the British part of the Algarve that everyone had told us about. Tony couldn’t resist so we sat down to eat. The waiter was so slow that at one point Tony got up and went inside in case it was counter service, he came back with the menu and said the waiter would be out shortly. After another long wait he appeared and by this time Tony had changed his mind, said it was too late now for breakfast and had a burger & chips, I had an omelette. Both of these, you would think, were fast food – not in this establishment, It took an age for our food to come!
The bird life here was very forward, they were sitting on the fence waiting for tit bits.
As soon as we had finished they were there at the table after left overs…..
We asked for the bill and again had to wait ages, in the end I went into the restaurant to the counter to pay – needless to say we left no tip!
We walked back to the van buying todays newspaper on the way, no shortage of them here. We saw a bus turning round at the top of the hill, obviously the roads into town were too small for big vehicles and perhaps we shouldn’t have come down so far but there were no signs to say that. Anyway got some funny looks as we drove out of town.
The next place on our route (we have a route?) was Alvos. People said that this was worth a stop, quite a reasonably sized town with a large free Aires.
We had to go through Lagos which was a large town and on one of the roundabouts saw a Camper Service sign so took a bit of a detour to empty the waste & refill with water. We found the Aires but it was a Flot Bleu system where you need a token to operate the waste cover and water tap and we didn’t have one. Someone had kindly wedged the waste trap open so we were able to empty the loo but we couldn’t fill up with water but weren’t too desperate for that at the moment. We continued towards Alvas and came across a BP petrol station that sold LPG. We had been out of LPG gas for about a week and had been using the normal cylinders until we were able to refill as LPG stations seemed to be very far & few between in Portugal. The petrol station was on the wrong side of the dual carriageway so we had to go quite a way to the next roundabout to come back on the right side of the road and then, after filling up, go quite a way to a roundabout to come back on ourselves and travel in our original direction. It felt like we were going round and round Lagos as we kept seeing the same places as we passed. The roads were very busy with lots of heavy traffic but on one main road we came across a very old cart being pulled by a donkey, driving the cart was an old man who must have been all of 90 and sitting in the back of the cart, wearing her traditional Portuguese costume, was his wife, they were trotting along without a care in the world being overtaken by heavy lorries…….
We found our way to Alvor ok and as I had the co-ordinates for the Aires we went directly to it. It was a huge field with lots of vans on it ranging from battered old transits to huge American RV’s. Before parking we went to the water tap and Tony started filling up the van. A Portuguese woman came over to us with her receipt book and demanded 4E which was the cost of staying one night & using the facilities. There had been no signs to this effect but we could see, on looking back, that she did have an office by the entrance which we had missed. As Tony had already filled the van with water we had no option other than to pay and then we drove round the field trying to find a suitable place to park. The Aires was like a dust bowl with the wind blowing. We tried parking in several different directions but just couldn’t get out of the wind. Every time someone moved there was a huge cloud of sand, it felt like the van was filling up with it. The whole site felt like a Gypsy site, although there were several Brit vans here no-one came to talk to us and it didn’t feel very nice.
Tony went off on his bike to see if there was any other area that we could park and came back to say he had found somewhere better so we moved there.
At the other side of the town there was a couple of lovely coves with some restaurants on the beach. There was a very large long & narrow car park and although there were the usual ‘no camping’ signs we managed to tuck ourselves up one end and although not out of sight, we were out of the way. Luckily this time of year I think we can get away with it but it would be a different situation in the summer.
We walked along the beach and found several lovely coves which could only be accessed by walking through the sea; it would be lovely to come here if the weather was good tomorrow.
We walked back along the beach, stopping at one of the bars for a beer and ended up staying for a few hours and eating there. We talked to Jason via the Wi-Fi on face time and saw Elsie, our 5 mth old granddaughter; we were missing her lots and are really looking forwards to seeing her in July when Jason & Jenny are bringing her out to our house in Spain for a holiday. Back to the van and slept once again with the sound of crashing waves sending us to sleep.
15/5/2013 Day 24 INLAND TO SILVES
I was woken at 5am this morning by a seagull padding about on the motorhome roof and making the weird culling sound they make. He started pecking along the roof and I was worried that he would peck at and damage the solar panels so I got up and thought if I pulled back the blackout blind on the roof vent a few times the noise would scare him off. I pulled it back and there he was standing on the vent looking down at me through the glass……he was huge and could have fed about 20 people at a Xmas dinner! My flapping the blind didn’t scare him off in fact it seemed to make him more inquisitive so I just shut it and went to back to bed. After padding about for a few more minutes he flew off.
It was still quite windy today but very dull as well and now and again a few rain showers started. We gave the inside of the van a good wipe down to get rid of as much sand as possible from the surfaces then we had a walk along the road and went into a café for coffee & to use the internet. In the bar we got talking to a couple at the next table who were staying at one of the hotels in Alvos. They said it was a popular seaside resort made up mostly of hotels and up until yesterday they had had 30° heat and had got quite burnt some days.
It didn’t look like the weather was going to get any better so we opted to move inland to Silves, a town with a bit of history & some monuments to look around.
It was only 15 miles away so didn’t take long to get there. If the weather improved over the next few days we might head back to Alvor & the lovely coves.
In Silves we found the parking place that I had read about, a car park next to the swimming pool just on the edge of town. We parked and Tony chatted to a chap behind us as he came over to our van – I don’t know his name but am going to call him Kevin. He told us a bit about the place, where to empty waste & get water etc. he also said the Wi-Fi at swimming pool was free and you could access it by sitting on the benches outside – a bonus! It seems that this is a popular spot for long timers and in the winter as many as 100 vans are parked here, happily today there are only 20-30 motorhomes & 1 caravan already parked up.
Tony got his bike out and had a look round the area, we were parked close to a river and he was keen to see if he could take out his kayak on it. He found the tourist information office and came back with a few maps and some road cycling routes.
We walked into town. It had turned quite cold when the sun went in so we got out the long jeans to wear – thought I had put these away until we returned to the UK but obviously not!
We walked along the riverside into town. There were a couple of derelict buildings on top of which some storks had nested. They were standing tall and clicking their beaks loudly – it sounded like someone banging two cricket bats together.
The town was empty but we found out that there was a big football match on TV so everyone was watching it. We went to a restaurant that Kevin had recommended..
We found the restaurant and had a lovely meal – Bread & olives, fish soup, Spare ribs for Tony (actually the menu said “spear ribs ”), piri chicken for me, desert, coffee, two beers and a bottle of water – all for 7.50E each, a bargain!
On the way back to the van we passed a bar on the corner of the street from which music was coming. We went in and found a music bar where tonight they were having a jamming session for musicians, or anyone else for that matter, who wanted to play along. There were a couple of girl singers who got up and sang songs and a guitarist & drummer who played. The main chap was a keyboard player who, according to the American bar owner, was an accomplished musician and was showing others what to do. We had a drink and listened to them play for a while and then got up to leave. Tony stopped to look at the electric guitar and the keyboard player asked him if he played. “A little” Tony replied so he got Tony to sit down and play around a bit with them. Hopefully this will appease Tony’s annoyance at having left his guitar at home for this trip (Fortunately it’s not one of the items on my motorhome check list!). After ½ hr of playing we left & wandered home.
Kevin was standing outside his van drinking coffee and stopped us to chat; it feels like he lurks around waiting for people to come by. It was very cold so I made an excuse and went inside but Tony had to stay out & talk to him for some time before managing to get away. We know he has a teenaged disabled daughter with him as we have seen him put her in her wheelchair and take her for a walk but haven’t seen anyone else with him. He seems to spend most of the day getting things out of his garage and putting them away again. He enjoys talking to people and approaches every new van that arrives.
16/5/2013 DAY 16 A DAY IN SILVES
Tony went out for a long cycle ride this morning, armed with his map and Garmin.
I had a leisurely shower & hair wash, washed out some smalls and then set off to find the fresh water with my containers in two bags. Our local guide, Kevin, said that there was a water fountain in the children’s park the other side of the swimming pool so I walked to that area & found it. It was one of those fountains that you push a button and the water squirts out in an upwards arc – he hadn’t told me this nor had he told me the arc was about 6ft high and landed 3ft in front of the fountain. I spent the next ½ hour feeling like I was on “The generation Game” by trying to catch the water in my containers. After gathering as much water as I could I staggered back to the van.
Kevin was emptying out his garage, again, dragging out a small generator which then attracted a small crowd of men who looked and pointed at it until he fired it up. They all stood around looking at it running for a while and then wandered back to their own vans.
I sat writing up my blog until Tony came back. He said he had had a good run out – 45 miles and had gone up some high mountains, the highest 3000ft. We noticed that Kevin was showing someone how to wash the windows on his van – turns out he had a ‘Thai girl’ hidden away in his van, the only time we saw her was when she came out to wash the windows!!
In the afternoon we had a walk into the town to see the castle & museum. After walking up the steep & narrow cobbled streets we came to the castle, 7E to get in but this does include the museum. The castle, ruins only really, was good to walk round and from the battlements we could see the countryside for miles from every side, the museum however was really just a collection of old pots!
We had lunch at a café on the street. Tony had fried squid which was really tasty, I had octopus salad which was also good but the salad consisted of lettuce, tomatoes and cold BROCCOLI…..
Bought today’s newspaper and wandered back to the van. We watched a film, Tony chose “Time travellers Wife” which I told him he wouldn’t like as it was a romantic film but he insisted on watching it (I think he thought it was more sci-fi) and sure enough half way through he’d had enough but did manage to watch it all the way to the end which I was glad of as I had tried to read the book but couldn’t keep up with all the toing & froing through time and had given up so it was nice to know the ending.
Whilst we were watching the film I was trying to think of what to have for tea that was quick and not too much trouble. For some reason ‘eggy bread’ came to mind (for the uninitiated this is bread dipped in beaten egg and fried) something I used to cook for the children but hadn’t done so for years. Anyway when the film had finished I tidied up a bit and then asked Tony what he wanted for tea, when he replied “Actually I really fancy eggy bread” I nearly fell over – spooky, physic or what!!!!!!!!!!!
Anyway, eggy bread cooked & eaten, another episode of ‘Boardwalk Empire’ watched and then bed, hoping tomorrow would bring better weather.
17/5/2013 DAY 26 PORTUGAL – THIS IS YOUR LAST CHANCE!
Dull, overcast & black clouds looming – no change there then.
We are heading for the coast and if it’s no better there then we are definitely giving up and heading for Spain.
We set off for Praia del Rei near Tavira thinking as it is the east side of the peninsular it might be sheltered.
There were people along the route picking snails from the plants to eat.
Traveling on the country roads every now & then we would come across a set of traffic lights that would always turn red as we were approaching them. There was no side road or pedestrian crossing to be seen so we could only assume they were there to keep making cars stop so as to limit their speed. Tony was sure that they were on sensors so if he was going too fast they would change to red to stop him but I don’t think they are that advanced out here.
At one road junction we were waved down by a group of about six men wearing official looking jackets, Tony was going slowly anyway as he was turning left so pulled up in the middle of the junction, wound down his window to see what they wanted as not sure if they were police or something official.
The chap he spoke to was waving a wad of papers with a few Euro notes clipped to the top and in broken English said that they were the local Fire brigade collecting for a new Fire Engine……….. having been caught by these scams before, even though he looked genuine Tony said ‘sorry, No’ and drove on. We thought afterwards that there was no official vehicles such as a fire engine or fire car at the scene and it was not exactly a safe spot to stop so the chances were that they had just acquired the jackets and were scamming drivers – anyway are fire engines provided by donations???
Pedro del Rei was a small town that I had ringed (in red!) on my map for some reason - we parked on the seafront at the end of the town. It was quite deserted and as we sat there it started raining. We got out and walked to a café for toasted sandwiches & coffee. From there we headed up the coast to Ayamonte – Portugal’s last chance to impress. Although it looked quite nice there was nowhere to park so we decided to give up and head for Spain
We headed over the border via the motorway (non toll) to Seville.
I had co-ordinates for an Aires on the outskirts of Seville but when we got there the co-ordinates were a housing estate. We drove round some very narrow streets before heading back to the motorway to try again. Going back we saw another motorhome doing the same route so thought they might be going the Aire so followed them but they took the same route as we had just done. Driving along I suddenly saw the Aires – it was on a jetty in a small marina but how to get to it was another question. Tony pulled up; I got out to look where the road was in but all I could see was a big set of black gates with the marina behind in the distance and no way to reach it. I got back in the van, we drove up a bit then parked and Tony got out his bike and rode back to try to work out how to drive to the Aires. When he got there the other campervan was just parking, apparently you had to undo the big gates and drive through them, not at all obvious and no signs. He said the Aires did not look that nice considering you had to pay 12E for them so we headed to the other side of Seville to a campsite for the night that was the same price. I had read that you could get the bus into Seville centre from a bus stop right outside the camp; it would also be a chance to catch up on the washing.
After a few wrong turns we eventually found the site and parked up. The bays were quite small and had overhanging trees so we had to park at an awkward angle to fit in but managed it. I put the washing in the machine then we had a cup of tea in the van and I managed to speak to Louise in India which was a bit of a relief as I had been worried about her because she had a touch of delli belly and I hadn’t spoken to her for a few days but she assured me she was feeling a bit better
Tony went to the toilet block and came back saying our washing was done and someone had taken it out of the machine, if I gave him a basket he’d bring it back to the van. I said that there was a bag next to the machine to use that but said I would go – good job I did as it wasn’t our washing but some other chaps, ours was in a different machine.
Tony thought he would have another try at tuning in the TV as we were now in Spain, amazingly, straight away, he got 11 channels without fiddling about so there was nothing wrong with the aerial after all we just couldn’t get TV ion Portugal. Anyway, all the channels were in Spanish so turned it off and had a walk into the local town to see if there was a restaurant or bar we could eat at. None to be found but we did find a cycle shop which Tony spent ages looking round – it was three storeys high.
Back at the van I cooked sausage & chips, using my double skillet for the chips. They took ages but were passable but not enough to convince me so will be selling it when I get home!
18/5/2013 DAY 18 SEVILLE
The first bus into Seville was at 9.30 so thinking it would be packed we decided to catch the 11am one, also reasoning that we wouldn’t have to get up so early and rush to the bus stop.
We had reckoned without the people on the pitch next to us who were up at the crack of dawn making loads of noise.
The bus stop was a bit of a walk from the camp site but we found it ok and sat down on the shelter seats with another couple who were also waiting. We had 20 mins to wait but during those 20 mins about 30 people arrived to catch the bus. If I say they were German you will all know what happened when the bus arrived – they all made a beeline for the door, no matter who was at the front of the queue! Anyway we all just about got on. I asked for two return tickets and the fare was E1.60 each, very reasonable I thought. The journey was about half an hour and we were dropped off right in the centre of Seville.
As soon as we got off the bus we were surrounded by touts selling tickets for the tourist buses and walks but we pushed through them and went to the first monument, the Plaza de Espana. This was a huge semi-circular building with a big tiled centre section with a small canal on which rowing boats could be hired. There were a lot of people milling around, it was very popular. We also noticed that there were quite a few wedding couples having their photographs taken in this area. There were also lots of children walking round Seville in different areas in confirmation dresses so I would assume that Saturdays are wedding & confirmation days.
Walking round the Plaza de Espana building we saw a Military Museum that had free entry so we went in. It was excellent, lots of interesting exhibits and explanations in English as well as Spanish. We spent some time people watching, there were lots of touts and gypsy’s selling lucky heather accosting all the tourists.
From there we walked around the big park and on to the Alcazar, the Royal Palace. Entry was 8E or 2E for pensioners. I tried to get Tony in as a pensioner but he didn’t have any identification on him so he had to pay full price. It was only later I realised that 60 is not a ‘pensioner’ it’s 65!
This building had been used by royalty throughout the ages but I have to say it had not been looked after very well. They had numerous fountains that were crumbling away and not working, various ponds around the site were very green and unkempt and the tiled walls didn’t look like they had been preserved very well either. There was not a lot to see, just lots of separated court yards and gardens. It didn’t take too long to look round and before we knew it we were back out on the streets and 16E poorer.
As it was lunchtime we looked for somewhere to eat. Tony fancied a McDonalds, compromising I said I would go to Burger King as there was one close by so we went in. Well, it was packed to the hilt with screaming kids so we made a quick exit and, as I was desperate for the loo we had a coke at a nearby bar. We walked along the river for a while and then decided to get a Burger and eat it outside on one of the park benches but when we went back into Burger King it was relatively empty so ‘ate in’. This was the first ‘fast food’ burger that we had had since leaving the UK and although not usually a fan I have to say it was really good! (please note we do not frequent or search out McDonalds or Burger Kings but there are times when nothing else will do!!)
We thought we would get the tourist bus to go round Seville, this way we would see all the places that we wouldn’t be able to get to in one day. It was 17E each and the ticket was valid for 2 days. We paid and waited for the bus. When it came we got on but the only available seats were downstairs at the back behind the stairwell. My headset didn’t work so I was unable to listen to the commentary until Tony kindle offered me one of his ear plugs – so there we sat, head to head with one ear plug each, people must have thought we were being very romantic!! We couldn’t see very well but half way round we were able to locate to the top deck which was open so was quite windy and you had to duck to avoid the overhanging branches of the trees. A group of Spanish girls on a Hen outing got onto the bus and started singing & making lots of noise but got off a few stops later. We noticed lots Stag & hen groups all around the city wearing various outfits.
The historic buildings around Seville are numerous and they all look quite Islamic. I had read in the museum that this area was the centre of Muslim activity in the past for hundreds of years and it really showed in the types of buildings.
We had intended to get off at the Plaza Espana and get the bus back to the campsite but by the time the bus arrived at the stop we had missed it so we stayed on the tourist bus for a few more stops then got off and walked back through the streets and along the riverside. We intended to get the 7.30 bus but as we stopped for an ice cream (at Haagen Dazs no less) we missed it so had to make sure that we got there in time for the 8.30pm bus as it was the last one back!!
They have a tram system running through the centre of town, and together with these, the pony & traps for hire, cycle carts and cyclists so we seemed to spend a lot of time dodging traffic.
We arrived at the bus stop in plenty of time and sat watching the parakeets flying around in the trees. When we got onto the bus I gave the driver our tickets to which he laughed and said that was for one way and I had to pay E1.60 each to get back – thought it was cheap.
There is always the worry that you won’t know which stop to get off on the way home as they may go a different way and this was indeed the case but there was another couple heading for the campsite and they came to the front to ask the driver to tell him when to get off so we were ok.
Back at the campsite we went to the bar with the computer to use the free WIFI to decide where to go tomorrow. The choices are Cordoba – more historic sites; Granada – yet more historic sites or head for the coast. The coast won, so we will head there tomorrow.
Back to the van to bed, we were both shattered and had the best night’s sleep for ages despite hearing the music from the nearby nightclub (aka brothel).
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