Day 933 – Central Portugal – 20 Sep 12
For piccies see www.eastmidlandsdea.co.ukPrimarily this blog is aimed at keeping our daughter in the UK, Chloe, abreast of our adventures in Europe. Additionally, we hope that other readers will find snippets of info regarding campsites, prices and foreign travel interesting or perhaps just informative.
Had a great last day/night in San Sebastian. What a superb city and well worth a visit. We walked out to see the ‘Wind Combs’ and rock formations on the end of the promenade. Then strolled along the prom past very busy beaches - and partook of the evening atmosphere and a shed-full of tapas. What a variety - and the Old Town was heaving. Caught the last bus home and collapsed.
Set off next morning towards Oviedo, along the coast and ended up in a village called Ribadesella. Lovely seaside town with harbour and Old Town – more tapas! The campsite is excellent and ACSI with 2 swimming pools, shop, restaurant, excellent shower block and various sports facilities. Not too full and we got a good pitch. Quiet night in, followed by a walk into the town the next morning – 3 kms downhill. Wandered aimlessly about the backstreets, did a bit of shopping, avoided the Noddy Train, had some calamari and strolled home 3kms UPHILL! We also discovered what the cut-out wine barrels outside bars were for. Pouring ‘cidre’ from a great height and to catch spillage.
Followed by a swim and another busy day comes to an end. Might just be a pizza tonight and off further west tomorrow to Foz, where Shirl has found another ACSI site en-route to Compostella.
Kept awake most of the night by Spanish neighbours who were making phone calls from within their awning at 4am, thinking that the world couldn’t possibly hear them through the thickness of canvas! We must remember not to choose pitches next to Spanish families if we want a bit of peace and quiet.
Anyhoo, left Ribadesella around 1000 and set of for Foz. New motorway sections play havoc with the satnav and you definitely need an up to date map book. We got suckered onto the wrong bit of motorway and did an extra 20kms. Finding the site was tricky since signposts were scarce. Had to stop and ask at a bar, a man walking his dog and a man wild camping to find the place. However, it was barely worth it. Reception closed and a random old lady just said ‘pitch anywhere’ to the 4 arrivals waiting in a neat queue – all of whom had also got lost. It's near the beach (dipped toes in Bay of Biscay) and Shirl’s doing her washing and the restaurant might be open…er… no it's not…We’ll probably stay one night and head for Compostella tomorrow (12th). Can't win ‘em all!:Sad:
Rained during the night and we were up rescuing the chairs I left outside. Set off early from this reservoir of nothingness. Basically it's closed and just hanging on to life. And how ACSI could call it ‘beautiful’, I do not know.
Standard journey through the mountains on the AP8/N634 and it was really cloudy up there. However, we soon broke out into bright sunshine. Found the site in Santiago OK and got a slanty pitch. Good facilities with excellent restaurant/cafe. However, again, non-ACSI and €32 per night. It got quite crowded later on and we set off into Santiago mid-afternoon. Got the L4 bus from 100 metres up the road. €1 and 5 mins into town.
Firstly, the cathedral is EXCELLENT.:thumb: But, it's a pity that they’ve roped off the main column in the foyer of the cathedral, so the pilgrims can't now touch it to end their 5 week journey. Bureaucrats! Since the town IS for pilgrims, I just don’t get it!
Also, the old town leading to the cathedral is littered with tacky souvenir shops and over-expensive restaurants. Pity really, but that's modern life for you. Carcassonne castle was much the same.
Never mind it was worth it after seeing the original sign in Xanten, Germany several months ago.
Bussed into La Coruna today (13th) - €9 rtn and only one hour. Again did the Old Town and the Plaza Major which has a majestic Town Hall. Your mother HAD to try the Polpa – Octopus - and it was mildly slimy. Hung heavily on the tum for several hours! However, we found an excellent Menu del Dia - 3 courses of good wholesome Galician food, water, bread and a bottle of wine - €8.50! What a bargain and it's no surprise that the small bar restaurant was packed with locals.
Also, stumbled across the tomb of Sir John Moore, Commander of the British Army in the Peninsula War, and was killed by the French in 1809. Important aspect of this is that a young Arthur Wellesley took over as Commander and the rest is history. If not for the Iron Duke, I might well be writing this in French.
Onwards to Portugal tomorrow and we gain an hour. The weather has really picked up and it's set fair till further notice. Hurrah!!
Nice Autovia to about 12 miles from Caminha, then an N road down the coast. I’ve never seen so many road signs and changes of speed limit. I just sat at 30mph and pissed everyone off behind me. Got here safely though – an ACSI site in woods and very nice indeed. Big pitch and we met up with Pete and Jules who we usually see in Roquetas on the way down the east coast. Small world.
The site is adjacent to several beaches only yards away and one can sit and watch the Atlantic rollers gently crash ashore after their 4000 mile journey. There's nobody about and it's 35C. The village of Caminha is 2kms away and has a daily market. We will be cycling in later for a quick recce.
What a picturesque little village. Lovely town square with C16th fountain surrounded by cafes and churches and shops. Great atmosphere and it reminded me of that pueblo in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in Bolivia, where they met their messy end. I suppose many South American towns must have been modelled on Spanish and Portuguese villages to remind the soldiers of home.
Staying an extra day here and moving on to Porto tomorrow (17th). Weather not great this morning but OK, having spent an afternoon yesterday basking in bright sunshine. Bought some sardines from the fish market and grilled them up for lunch. Scrumptious.
One minor fly in the ointment. The 3 strip lights around the cooking area have blown. Checked the fuse and it was severely frazzled! Changed strips but no joy, so we are cooking in the twilight until we find an electrician. Extra!! Now the 4 front 12v spots have gone!! Got to check the fuse when it's light! Oh YES! I fixed the spot-lights…dodgy fuse.:Cool:
After great discussions with reception and the Morrissesses, we are going to stop at Orbitur Madelena in Porto as it appears to have good transport into town. We’ll see. Checked out the Portuguese tolls – apparently one pays at the garage on the motorway en route to Porto. We’ll see.
Did a final cycle into Caminha for an antique market and had a lazy day. Pete and Jules took their 'van into be fixed after an argument with a tree up a forest track! Jules also fell off her bike 2 weeks ago and broke her arm and to cap it all, their little old dog had to be put to sleep. A bad run of luck indeed!
Set off towards Porto and encountered the toll gantries and signs, so we stopped at the first garage and enquired. No-one spoke English and looked blankly at me. However, as luck would have it a man from the Toll Authority was having his morning coffee. He helped by giving me the brochure which sat next to the till! He explained the 2 tier system and I paid €9.21 for the 80kms to Porto. I will publish a full explanation of the system at a later date, but basically it's not rocket science – as some have made it out to be!
Arrived at the Campismo (ACSI) which has the largest and widest entrance to any site we’ve encountered. The reception is the size of the Albert Hall – but that is where the sophistication stops. The very helpful receptionist explained that they should have shut for upgrades to facilities on 8 Sep but had decided to stay open. We drove to our pitch, which basically was an area of dusty woodland. Vans are scattered pell-mell and it's random. Electric cable only just reached the box. Anyhow, it's rustic and the weather is fine, so who’s complaining – (except Shirl who says the shower water is cold).
Had lunch and walked the 5 mins to bus stop to catch No 906 into central Porto (€1.80 single). It was 60 minutes of Death Race 2000! Jensen Button must have had a second job driving buses. Wizzing down cobbled streets and narrow, narrow village alleys at 50mph, stopping every 200 metres to pick up passengers. There were huge pan-technicons on streets where a Smart Car would struggle! We got delayed as vehicles backed up to let each other through, and this in the centre of Porto. It's chaotic with road works everywhere, and clearly happens every day. No-one seemed to care – except the bus driver who got out occasionally, to see if he could get round a corner. Beeping one’s horn as you hurtle round a blind bend at 50mph is clearly in their highway code! The final straw was screeching to a halt to avoid a flock of sheep being herded across a main thoroughfare! Interesting. Glad I didn’t drive into Porto!!!
Eventually got to Trindade Sq and set off touristing. Got tickets for the Hop On/Hop Off (€13 for 2 days riding – including a Port House tour) and rode to the Ribiera front, where the service is dreadful at the bars. It's always good policy to stay away from touristy spots. Apart from that, Porto is a wonderful old city. The centre has given nothing away to the 20th or 21st centuries. A huge steel girder bridge designed by Eiffel dominates the area and tiers of ancient houses and churches climb up the hills on both sides of the river. Nothing much has changed here in 200 years: I suppose not ever being bombed helps! It's extremely colourful and very busy with tourists. We caught a Funicular (€1.80) and walked across the top tier of the bridge, dodging Metro trains. A cable car (€5 including a free Port) down and across the Port Houses to the other river bank, where we caught the bus home. Another visit tomorrow to check out the Port!
Hung around for the bus and got into Porto by noon and waited for the blue line Hop On. It took us to the centre of town where Shirl finally found the bloody cathedral! Was it worth it, I ask myself?
Had lunch at a nice little snackbar by the big bridge – we tried a local delicacy? Francescinha and batatas. Two slices of bread slathered with cheese; a ham, pork and sausage filling all covered in a piquante sauce. No calories at all but good all the same!
Then back to the Port House area in Vila de Gaia for a couple of tours around Port cellars. Interesting to note that White and Pink Port are fairly new innovations. The Pink is very sweet so we bought a bottle of Crofts Special Reserve Ruby. Also, Crofts Port Co are not connected to Crofts Sherry Co.
Home via death bus and a visit to the beach to watch the rollers. Quite fierce for a calm day. Onwards to Figuiera Da Foz tomorrow for some R and R.
All for now, except to tell you about the weird Atlantic sea fog that suddenly rolls in off the coast, completely obscuring the sun. It's only about 200 feet thick, but the air goes cold and it's pretty spooky. It disappears as quickly as it arrives. Wouldn't like to get caught in it if I was in a small boat just offshore.
Will report again next week in Albufiera,
M and D
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