Day 962 – Into Spain – 19 Oct 12

Published by billkce in the blog billkce's blog. Views: 111

Day 962 – Into Spain – 19 Oct 12

Primarily 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.
For piccies see

‘We’re on the way to Cabopino…….da-da-da-dada-dada –da!’
Hi Clo,
30 churches in Tavira……..I blame you, Paul Morris!:Doh:

Anyhoo, we left Quarteira yesterday, 8th Oct, and drove the short trip to Camping Rio Formosa, near Tavira, after saying our goodbyes to our neighbours, Mike, Sylvia, Ruud and Wendola. We stopped at the filling station at Olhau and paid our toll of €10 for the automatic Algarve section which is valid for 5 days. It's a bargain really as we were on and off it during our stay at Quarteira and didn’t pay a bean. I know there is a bridge at the border and a possible toll, so I'm just making sure we don’t get caught out. However, if I hadn’t taken the trouble to find out how to pay I would have probably/definitely got away with it. We are only 12 miles from Spain here.

The campsite at Cabanas was easy to find and after negotiating a very tight entrance, we entered a brand new, huge, regimented car park! The site has only been here 3 years and the trees are still young and line rows and rows of undersized pitches which have ridged edges and PAVEMENTS! Why on earth waste pitch space for pavement? It's a first for us in 115 sites! We have to take 2 pitches and the few vans dotted about mostly overhang their area onto – guess what? – the pavement! The pitches are very narrow as well and God forbid if there was another 'van adjacent. There would be no space or privacy. Although the site has good facilities – pool, supermarket and café, it hasn’t been thought out very well. It's all a bit like Stalag15! However, there appears to be a CC and C rally building up – so it is probably a popular winter location. Certainly, the train station just outside the camp allows you access to the whole Algarve. And it's only €18pn for the 2 pitches!

We offloaded the bikes and cycled the 2 kms downhill into Cabanas which is a pretty little fishing village with a selection of bars and cafes on the seafront. There were plenty of Brit and Portuguese tourists milling around and it all seemed very busy – relatively.

Today we will catch the train into Tavira which is only 2 stops down the line but just too far to cycle in this heat – around 35 degrees C yesterday. Only €1.40 for the ride and a short walk down the hill into Tavira. A very picturesque place with churches galore and no touristy stuff – well not much. Nice Roman bridge in the centre. Onwards to Spain tomorrow.

Portugal Overview
Well, Shirl asked me what I thought of Portugal which got me thinking. We’ve stayed at 6 campsites from the far north to the Spanish border in the south. Without exception the coastline is covered in beautiful, clean, wide, sandy beaches which sweep down to the Atlantic. However, there's the problem -the Atlantic rollers are powerful and unpredictable. Unless one is a very strong swimmer it would be unwise to venture out very far. I certainly wouldn't let a child swim – or even paddle – unsupervised. Our new friend Mike at Quarteira will confirm this view as last year he was swept off his feet by a rogue wave whilst standing in 6 inches of water. He fell to the sand and broke his arm as he struggled to regain the shoreline. We can testify to the strength of the surf. We’ve been here during a deep high pressure system with no wind, but there weren’t many actual bathers off the beach at Albufeira. 10 people have drowned in Portugal during June to September and there have been 1011 lifeguard rescues! 1703 first aid interventions were also administered. These are perilous waters.

However, this doesn’t prevent thousands of British, Dutch, French, Irish and German tourists flooding in every week to enjoy the holiday atmosphere. The Algarve in particular has given over completely to the tourist industry and it caters very well for its clientele who just want sun, sea, sand and sightseeing.

Lisbon and Porto are well worth visiting and still hold some of the ‘Olde-Worlde’ charm lacking in the south. The people are charming but no more than elsewhere on the peninsula.

The countryside we saw is mainly covered in pine trees and the traffic is light – but the tolls are the most expensive we've come across. However, they are worth it as the condition of the minor roads is not good. Some folk visit the interior for the peace and quiet and the landscape. What we've experienced is much the same as anywhere else – normal folk living in normal villages.

Personally, I cannot see any real advantage to be had between Portugal and Spain. The cost of living is similar as are the campsites and facilities. Would I visit again? Maybe, but I certainly wouldn't go out of my way and I believe Spain has far more to offer – across the board. There doesn’t appear to be very much middle ground between absolute tourism and utter boredom in Portugal. I'm sure Shirl will add her view below.

Like Bill, I have enjoyed the experience of Portugal. The Portuguese are very friendly and always willing to help. Wine and coffees are definitely cheaper here, and today will be my last for getting a cup for under €1.50! The Atlantic coast beaches were amazing and so under-populated. The Portuguese seem so unpretentious with regard to the heritage of Lisbon and Porto, and simply accept the old (sometimes interpret this as derelict) with the more regal and majestic. The buildings stand side by side. Overall they seem to say – accept us for what we are and have a very strong sense of tradition going back to Wellington’s time.

So now back into Espana after 26 days. I can re-confirm that there is NO TOLL over the bridge going into Spain, and we could have avoided any automatic toll along the A22 Algarve road since the authorities just don’t appear to care.

I feel like singing ‘Wild West Hero’ or ‘Horse With No Name’ as we set up on our pitch at Camping Playa La Bota near Huelva. We have only stopped to visit Palos where the Columbus exhibition stands. The campsite is large enough and has all the facilities, but has only one other wag and the rest is taken up with semi-permanents and bungalows.

It's sandy. It can be one of the few sites where every pitch has its own sandpit and where staff outnumber campers! I'm expecting a sidewinder or rattler to sidle up to the 'van….but never mind as there is loads of space and it's very warm. Shirl has gone down to the beach for a swim. Minus her bike lock as I lost the key this morning!! Luckily I had only used the lock to semi-secure the bikes to the rack and I could squeeze it over the saddles. Phew! That was a close one! :Eek!:

We’ll cycle into Punta Umbria this evening to explore. A nice straight cycle path into town of about 5kms. It's a purpose built town for Spanish tourists with apartment blocks and swish villas on a very long seafront dotted with beach restaurants. Not a Brit in sight and the old town has one street of shops and a harbour with hundreds of fishing boats moored up. A very nice feel to the place – almost a hidden gem.

Drove to the museum in Palos where there is a bay with the replicas of the 3 ships which Columbus used on his voyage of discovery in 1492 – the Santa Maria, Nina and Pinto. It's amazing how small they are. I wouldn't cross the Thames on one! They also have a museum at a nearby monastery which documents his life and death. Carole was surprised to learn that he didn’t actually make landfall on mainland America. Well worth the visit. Brilliant navigation.:thumb:

Short transit on good roads to ACSI La Aldea campsite near El Rocio. Several people have recommended a visit – so here we are. Smallish site but with all amenities, pool, restaurant and supermarket. It's quiet and part of the site is not in use. Lucky we came on a Friday (please note Sue and Bill), since El Rocio is closed during the week.

It's a 2 km cycle ride and the town is built on sand and resembles a western movie set. Horses and carriages parade up and down the sandy streets, with cafes and restaurants selling boots and hats from wooden haciendas There are 90 Hermandas which visit on various weekends to whoop it up as a group and tourists like us come to watch the fun. The groups are a bit like religious Round Circles from all over the region. The ‘Paloma Blanca’, of Jonathan King fame, is the religious icon who all come to worship. We’ll be going back in tonight to see if it hots up!!

Apparently, the virgin has been kidnapped and moved 10 miles up the road for 10 months, so all of the action is going on up there. El Rocio, therefore, is quiet. We went for a Menu del Dia on Saturday lunchtime and got covered in dust as the horsemen paraded by. On to Seville tomorrow. Shirl had something new for lunch -
‘Salmorejo is a cold, creamy soup made of tomato and bread, originating in Córdoba, Spain. It is a simple pink-orange, summer soup made from tomatoes, bread, oil, garlic and vinegar. Then, it is garnished with diced Spanish Serrano ham and hard-boiled eggs.’

It's a pity that Almonte has the Virgin, so we only saw one half-hearted pilgrimage along the dual carriageway, with a 4 course lunch laid out on tables in the woods en-route. El Rocio has been an experience – but it's a once only – unless you arrive for a major festival and then I suspect it would be bedlam.

Short drive up the Autovia to Seville (14th) and found Villsom campsite OK. It's in an orange grove with low branches…oops! Never mind, no real damage done except to branch! Straight into Seville on the bus (300 metre walk and €3.10 rtn/30 minutes), to catch the Real Alcazar (which like a lot of things in Spain, shuts on a Monday according to the guide books).

But, of course, it is open, so we have a long day planned after our initial recce. Walked round the Placa Espana, which presents a magnificent 1929 edifice which has excellent detail in ceramic tiling. The best building we’ve seen in Spain. Seville is an excellent city with many superb buildings, is clean and tidy and has a good transport system.

Then into a Food Festival which featured food and trinkets from about 20 differing nations – except England! Onto the Real Alcazar/Cathedral Square where we researched opening times and resisted the hard sell from the 2 rival Hop on/Hop off salesmen. €17 – very expensive! The main things to see are in the centre, so the tourist bus is not really necessary.

Back into the city nice and early for breakie and into the Real Alcozar for 11am after queuing for 20 minutes (€8.50 ph). Excellent Arabic architecture with superb stonework, tapestries, tiles, doors and paintings. A really good upside down tapestry map of Europe as well. The gardens are extensive but we gave the maze a miss as it looked tricky.

Then over the road to the Cathedral (biggest in Europe I'm told) and queued for 10 minutes (€8). Not overly impressive. Very similar to Cordoba but without the mosque inside. Christopher Columbus has his tomb here – allegedly!

Then lunch and home. Seville is a very pleasant city with lots to see and do. Worth the stop-over. But now onwards to Jerez for some Osborne’s!!!

Straight down the AP4 (€7) into El Puerto de Santa Maria, which is a small town 10 kms south of Jerez. It appears that Osborne is based here so we have arranged a visit for 1030 tomorrow (17th) and won't bother with travelling into Jerez.

We walked/cycled round the town which is a bit run down and scruffy with narrow streets and dilapidated buildings. The campsite is OK but has a 3.3m limit on the entrance. A top box would have been a problem. The pool is closed and like all of the sites we have visited since arriving back is 80% empty. Heard from the Silvonnies who are at a site south of Lisbon; so they are catching us up.

Back into town for a tour round the Osborne Sherry Cellars. (€7.50), a decent tour and all the sherry you can drink. I was surprised at how diverse Osborne’s portfolio is – sherry, ham, wine, spirits, vinegar – sold in 50 different countries.

Then off to the famous Romarijos fish bar for lunch. Shirl was fascinated by the various ways cold fish was served up. You choose it and it comes in a cone in a plastic bag to eat at your table. It was crowded and there are 3 restaurants next to each other seating well over 150.

Packing up tonight after a trip to Mercadona, as it might be raining by the morning. 5 days at La Rosaleda, resting up before Cabo.
No sight of rain yet as we drove the short hop to La Rosaleda, near Conil. Very quiet site, 90% empty waiting for the winter rallies to start. Gym and restaurant closed. We have decided to stay here only 2 nights and get to Cabopino on Saturday.

Rained here overnight as predicted and so we will fester here till tomorrow and head off to Cabo.

That's all for now,
See you in November,
M and D
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