Europe 2013 next instalment

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After listening to the sounds of the waves crashing onto the beach we awoke to bright sunshine thank goodness. I went & bought some fresh bread and we set off.
As we were going out of town we saw a sign for a motorhome service area so we turned around and headed along the coast to find it. What we found was a little oasis! There was a small car park with motorhome facilities, including electricity, if required, all for the sum of 7.50E a night. It was a small surfing school with a few chalets and more interestingly a bar on the sand dunes overlooking the beach.
The surf school was called “The Secret Surf School” – it certainly was.

We sat at the café and had coffee and then decided to stay the night here as it was so nice.

It was quite windy but we were able to park the van giving us shelter and catching the sun.
Tony went off on his bike for a run out and I read & pottered around.
Around 5pm we went back up to the beach bar and had a few beers, it was packed with people and very busy, the most busy we had seen any bar so far.
We retired to the van for tea & after watching a video (Peter Kay live – hilarious!) we went to bed around 10.30pm once again the sound of the waves crashing in our ears.


There was a van parked next to us and Tony started chatting to the woman who he thought was German but turned out to be Dutch. They had a German registered van as in Holland there is a tax of 37% on new vehicles so they just nipped over the border to Germany to buy one.
We set of heading for the inland area of Bucaca. The guide book said it was a national park with a beautiful ornate hotel set in the middle of it.
We negotiated some very narrow winding roads until we came across the entrance. There was a tunnel at the entrance which we could have probably got through but we decided to park outside as there was a suitable space and it would be free as opposed to the 30E the sign said it cost to park inside. The guy in the booth at the barrier was very helpful and told us where to go and said he would keep an eye on the van for us. Tony gave him a couple of bottles of beer for which he was very grateful.
We came across the hotel right in the middle of the park and it was truly very ornate with manicured grounds. Unfortunately they did not allow visitors into the hotel so we had to make do with looking round the outside. in the car park outside the entrance to the hotel we talked to an English chap who was just loading up his Landrover with luggage, he and his family had stayed the night before at the hotel on their way home from Morocco and he said it was very special and only cost 125E a night for the room.

After looking round the hotel we wandered into the park. There were lots of trees that had been blown over or just rotted & fell, some of them had fallen onto buildings which had been abandoned. There were several areas that were sectioned off with “Danger” signs which of course Tony wanted to explore……

We moved on from here to the town of Coimbra. On the way we passed about 5 roadside prostitutes all within a mile of each other, the first we had seen this trip!
Arriving at Coimbra we found the Aires car park next to the river and only a short distance from the town. It was a very narrow area and Tony had to reverse the van in. There was a chap telling him what to do sounding as if he was the car parking attendant but we later found out he was nothing to do with it!!
We got talking to an American lady who had just parked a van next to where we were and she said it was a lovely town; she gave us directions on how to get to the centre and to the tourist information office.
After a quick cup of tea we walked along the riverside, over a bridge and into town. We got a map from the tourist office and the woman told us that the best place to go was the University right at the top. Coimbra we found out had very narrow winding streets with steep inclines to the top. It was a University town and everywhere there were students walking around in their uniforms.
The boys wore black suits with waistcoats and the girls worn black suits with black tights and low heeled shoes – very sensibly on these cobbled streets! They also carried or wore these enormous floor length cloaks, some of them were adorned with badges from the courses they had done or the clubs they belonged to. They also carried different coloured ribbons depending on what they were studying – Red was for Law, yellow was for science etc…

We tried to get to the top of the city but got a bit lost and then Tony’s ankles started giving him jip so we gave up and walked back down. On the way we had to make way for the local bus that was going round the very narrow streets – no room even for a bus stop!

We turned round one corner and came across a large group of students sitting on the steps of the cathedral. We found out that we had arrived on the eve of the end of term celebrations. The students would all gather on the cathedral steps on the Thursday where at midnight on the top step a ‘Fado’ would take place and they would ceremoniously cut up their ribbons. A ‘Fado’ is a piece of music played by classical guitarists and this would be the start of a weekend of celebrations for the students with pop concerts & sporting activities culminating in a parade through the town on Sunday. Although the Fado did not take place until midnight the students started congregating from mid-day to get a good space. They had coolboxes & boxes of beers with them and the bars in the vicinity were selling beers at a very reasonable 2E a pint, which of course Tony could not resist.

We stayed for a while and then wandered back to the van intending to find somewhere to eat on the way. There were really only snack bars and we wanted something a bit more than that and were standing in the square deliberating what to do when we were approached by one of the students asking if he could help us in any way. We told him we were looking for something to eat and Tony started talking to him about the other students we had seen on the steps. He told us all about it and the activities that would ensue. He told us that there were floats in the parade and the students had to buy their way onto a float, to this aim – and at this point he pulled something out from under his cloak – he was selling some cartoon postcards to raise the money so he could get onto a float! He didn’t demand any amount of money but said if we could find our way to donate to him he would be grateful. He was very polite about this (and very handsome I have to say!) and when Tony said “OK I’ll give you 2E” he said “really” from which we couldn’t decide it if was a grateful or sarcastic comment, so Tony said “OK I’ll give you 1E then” to which he politely said “Whatever you give me I’ll be grateful for sir” so we gave him 2E and got a cartoon postcard in return. He also directed us to a really nice Italian restaurant on the riverside where we ate. As we parted from him Tony asked him “How did you know we were tourists?” to which he stood back and looked at Tony in his shorts, sandals & T-shirt, wearing sun glasses and carrying a backpack and just smiled – very diplomatic.
Whether he really did have to buy a place on a float or just needed the money for beer we’ll never know but he was very polite (and did I say handsome!) and was one of the better times we’d been scammed and we did end up in a really nice restaurant!
Back at the van we noticed in the next field there were several Marquees set up and during the evening they started doing sound check for music. It was Really loud and we had visions of being kept awake all night. This was obviously what some of the other motorhomes thought and one by one they started to move off but we decided to stay. The sound checks went on until 10.30pm and then stopped. We thought about walking back into town to watch the Fado at midnight but decided against it and retired to bed around 11pm. At midnight we heard the tremendous roar from the students in town and then their singing went on for a while after but it was just far enough away not to bother us.

3/5/2013 Day 12 WE MEET UP WITH A FRIEND

We awoke to another sunny day – getting used to this!
Before moving off we talked to the American lady next door. She is married to a Spaniard, they have 2 children and they all live in Madrid. They had been visiting various places along the coast and she told us of some good places to go.
She had walked back up into the town last night to watch the Fado but said we didn’t miss much. By the time it got to midnight the square was absolutely packed and the students that had been drinking all day were being sick in every corner. She also said the big cloaks came in handy as the girls held two of them together to form a curtain round a friend whilst she had a wee on the floor!!!!! Bet they had to hose the square down the next morning.
We set off to visit JJ – someone we had met through MotorhomeFun. He lived 6 months of the year in Portugal and had a large bit of land with olive trees, fruit trees and vines on it. He was gradually clearing it and invited us to park our van with him on his land over the weekend. We met him at his workplace and he took us to his land – it really was in the middle of nowhere and very beautiful.
After negotiating the track to his place we parked up and then sat outside the vans in the sun talking until 8.30 that night. We had tea and then sat inside the van talking until 11pm!
JJ is a very very interesting man and has led a very very interesting life and we really enjoyed his stories and also enjoyed telling him some of our own.
After JJ had gone to his van to bed we sat watching the TV. I was sitting in the passenger seat when there was an almighty bang on the outside of the door followed swiftly by another bang. It felt like something had run across the field not knowing we were there and had run smack bang into the door. Tony had a quick look outside but there was nothing around.
It was a bit scary and I was pleased to get safely tucked up in bed with the doors locked!

Tony was up quite early and went out on his bike for a ride.
I got up, had breakfast and then thought I’d have a look at the outside of the door to see if there was any sign of what had happened the night before. Lo and behold there were 3 prints in the dirt of the door, they looked like paw prints but not from a cat with pads more like long fingered claws although they hadn’t scratched the door.
I called JJ over and showed him and he said he had had a visitor once who said she had seen a large black cat like animal running through the next field --- perhaps we had found “The Beast of Quinta Majay” I took some pictures of the claw marks but they didn’t show up very well on photo.

JJ allowed me to use his internet to catch up on emails etc… and he set about clearing some of his land with the strimmer. When Tony came back he said that he had been attacked by dogs at every turn on his bike ride, they chased him down the street. He sat outside drinking & chatting with JJ whilst I did some writing.
JJ then went to watch the football on his TV and Tony said he would help clear some of the area so JJ gave him some shears and told him where to clear.
Now JJ has no experience of Tony’s “pruning” so I only hope he does no damage and doesn’t destroy one of JJ’s favourite bushes – he already nearly run the van through his patch of wild garden whilst parking it up, only stopping when JJ run over shouting he was destroying his special patch!!
The day was alternating between full sun and some welcome clouds (didn’t think I’d be saying that so soon) and was turning into a very lazy day………

Tony worked hard all afternoon and managed to clear almost all the brambles from the top of the pond. With the help of a ladder and JJ they got the last stubborn bits and now what we called “the swimming pool” was exposed and the area around it cleared – a good afternoons work for Tony even though he was covered in scratches & cuts!


5/5/2013 Day 14 “SEA FESTIVAL”

After spending the morning chatting & getting ready to move we leave. Big thanks to JJ for letting us stay in his corner of Paradise in Portugal.
We managed to get off the land with no problems and set off for Nazare on the coast.
We arrive around 3.30pm and it was very busy with traffic. It turns out it was their annual Sea festival day. The main road was closed and we were diverted through the narrow streets of the town by the police, only just managing to negotiate some tight corners & parked traffic. We decided to go back to a campsite just outside of town to dump the waste and refill with water before attempting to go back into town, this cost us 3.50E which was well worth it. Going back into town we found that the parking place that we had intended to park on (an open area of waste grounds) was now full of cars and we could not find anywhere else without going right into town which of course, as the roads were closed, we couldn’t do. We just had to double park with another campervan & car and sit it out. I stayed in the van & Tony had a wander coming back with some ice creams. He said it was pretty much the same as the Harwich sea festival with trawlers all decorated & racing each other. There was also some sort of procession going on at the other end of town which was why the roads were shut off. There was a stage on the beach so we thought there might be a concert or show that evening.
Around 6pm the place had started to clear, many cars had left and the roads were re-opened. On his walk Tony had found a large car park in the centre of town on which a lot of motorhomes were parked so we made our way there, parked up and had a walk round.
The boats had all returned to the harbour and the ‘concert’ that we thought was going on was in fact a religious church service where they were blessing the fishermen etc…

This was a busy touristy town and there were lots of restaurants around, most of them selling only fish. We had decided that we’d had enough of fish and wanted some meat so chose one that looked quite good. We had a couple of beers, Tony asked for large ones and that is exactly what we got…….
We ordered hamburger, sausage, egg & chips, although we did have calamari as a starter but unfortunately it was frozen and not very nice! Although the meal was OK it wasn’t worth the 37E the bill came to.

On the way back to the van I found an English newspaper on a stand outside a shop – ok so it was “the Daily Mail” but being Saturdays edition I knew it would be full of quite interesting articles so bought it. Back at the van we had coffee, read the newspaper, and watched a film then retired for the night. There was a lot of traffic going by on a busy road so we expected it to be a really noisy night but it wasn’t and we weren’t woken up until about 6am the following morning by the bin lorries.

6/5/2013 Day 15 UP THE HILL

Woke up expecting the sun to be shinning and it wasn’t so that was quite a disappointment. Although it was quite warm it was very cloudy. We decided to walk around the town and take the Funicular railway to the top of the cliffs to the adjoining town of Stillo.
We walked through the backstreets and there were lots of small local shops, not tourist ones but ones that were being used by the locals. This was the first town that we had seen the older women dressing all in black with covered heads, there were also younger ladies wearing brightly coloured clothes but wearing these enormous aprons. The first couple I saw I thought must be taking part in some tourist thing but then we realised that all the women were wearing almost identical costumes and going about their daily rituals and we also saw several shops selling these clothes. We bought some nuts from a stall and the women were only too pleased to show off their costumes for a photo with Tony!
We went up on the funicular railway. You could walk up but I’d rather pay the 2.20E return than clamber up the steep path! At the top there was a big church, a few houses, hotel, school and a big hospital.
We wandered around for an hour or so looking at the spectacular views before returning to the town at the bottom.


We wandered back along the seafront to the van, stopping for coffee on the way. There were several really old run down building just ripe for development on the promenade, most of them being presently used as pigeon lofts!


I went into a book shop and bought a small English/Portuguese dictionary as we were having a problem with working out the language. I had just assumed it would be almost identical to Spanish but it wasn’t! We were working mostly on the hand signals and Tony’s version of any foreign language – putting an ‘O’ on the end of every word – which actually sometimes works as we found out when trying to buy a roll of sticky back plastic in a small Chinese shop in Nazare

Back at the van we decided, as the sun had not come out, we would move further down the coast and set off towards Peniche. We would stop on the way if we found anywhere nice or the sun came out.

We had only gone about 5 miles when we came across a car park at the side of the road facing a lovely beach & lagoon area so we decided to stop & look around.
There was a group of Nuns on an outing and they were having a picnic at the side of the road, lots of giggling going on and then they set off towards the beach area.

Tony went off on his bike for a ride around and when he came back we were getting ready to go for a walk along the beach when it started to rain lightly so got back into the van and headed on.

We ended up at Foz do Arelho, a very small town on the end of the peninsular. Driving into the beach area of town we came on a car park with three vans parked up so decided we would also park & stay the night.

There were lots of fishermen fishing off the beach during the afternoon and well into the evening but we never saw any of them catch anything. There was a bar open adjacent to the car park so we went there for a beer and decided to go back that evening for something to eat. The menu, as usual, was mostly fish and we had not yet mastered the Portuguese language so I got out my phrase book (it was one I bought from the hospice shop for 90p and about 15 years old!!) and saw that on the menu was a dish called “Bacalhau” which is basically the strips of hard, dried cod that you see hanging in the shops, rehydrated into a dish, Tony decided to have this and I had “Carne de porco a Alentejana” which was pork & clams in a tomato and onion sauce. Both were actually very nice as it turned out but the portions were huge. When we had been served the couple running the bar bought their own food out into the restaurant to eat. They had a huge plate of this weird looking food which they were going to tuck into. The woman put some onto a smaller plate and bought it over to us to try.
I had seen this in a fish shop in Nazare and assumed it was some sort of crab claws as that’s what it looked like but it turns out is like a sea anemone. She showed us how to pull the edible bit from inside the plant and eat it. It was OK but I won’t be ordering it in a restaurant in the near future!

We got talking to a Dutch couple that also came in for a meal. They were traveling in a campervan but as it was their 14th wedding anniversary they had treated themselves to a night in a B&B.
Other than us the restaurant & bar was empty, as was the rest of the town.
It was as if it was still winter, all the beach side cafes & small shops were shut up and in need of a good paint, there were no people around at all only the few in the vans.
We saw that there was a camper park next to us that was 4.50E for the night. A couple of vans had parked in there overnight. It was deserted, non one came to collect any money, it also had waste disposal & a water point. We thought we might move into there tomorrow if the weather was good as Tony wanted to go out on his kayak and we could also BBQ in that area as it was on the beach.

Day 16 7/5/2013 “NATTER, NATTER, NATTER”

We decided to stay in the same place today even though the weather wasn’t that brilliant.

We moved the van onto the camper park and sited it right next to the beach & promenade; we noticed another British van pulling in next to us.
Tony got his kayak down from the roof and as he was doing so an elderly gentleman with his two dogs walked by and Tony said “Hello” to him as he usually does to everyone and to his surprise the old gent said “Hello” back to him in a British accent. A bit startled Tony told the man he was the first Brit he had seen for a long while. The gentleman’s wife came along and stopped to chat. She told us that they had been living in Portugal for 15 years and went on to tell us all about their house & family etc… she talked for about 20 mins in which time her husband had walked all the way along the prom and back again. She explained that to the Portuguese this was still very early on in the season which was why nothing was open. Also last autumn the husband of one of the woman who owned one of the small shops set fire to her shop in a fit of jealousy which burnt down the whole row of 7 shops, they had not been rebuilt yet due to the economic climate and she doubted that they would.
Just as she was about to go a younger man & woman walked by and said “Hello” again in a British accent. They also stopped and chatted. They were about the same age as Tony & I and had bought a holiday home out here 4 years ago but had recently sold up in the UK and moved to live in Portugal permanently. For quite a while they talked to the elderly lady about the health service and where to shop for English foods – it was quite interesting.
Both couples enjoyed living in Portugal although the elderly couple agreed that the food in restaurants was not that good, you were very lucky if you got a good steak and fish in restaurants was usually very expensive!
After they had all gone Tony got his kayak ready and went off into the sea. Now he could have gone two ways, one would take him up river for a gentle kayak along the river side or the other way would take him to the mouth of the lagoon where the surf was really rough and high – I expect you can guess which one he chose.
He was gone for ages and I was just beginning to get a bit worried when he returned. He said he had a good time playing in the surf!!!!!
I made a cup of tea and we sat on the promenade drinking it. Tony & Helen, the couple from the British van came and sat with us and we chatted with them for ages. They were on their way back to the UK having travelled down in the Algarve. They were hanging around Nazare for a bit as 3 years ago they had put a deposit on a new build house there. The usual story ensued and the house never got built however the builder had promised to return their deposit and they were on the way to see him today. I hope they don’t hold their breath!
They said they were glad that they hadn’t gone through with the deal and paid the balance & got the house as they had now changed their minds what with the economic situation.
After lounging around for a bit we walked along the promenade and found that two of the very small kiosk shops had opened. We bought an ice cream at one and next door I bought a pair of plastic flip flops. I had resigned myself to throwing away my favourite Nike flip flops that I had had for years, the soles had become worn almost flat and twice in the last few days I have slipped badly on them so really I don’t have any other option. I needed a pair that I could get wet when servicing the van etc.. So I bought a cheap (£3) pair. I almost cried as I threw my Nikes in the bin. The weather was not really good enough for a BBQ so I cooked the kebabs on the hob in the van and we settled down for the evening. There was a small dog tied up to a kennel outside one of the fishing boat sheds nearby that barked constantly so Tony went over to see if he could quieten it. He couldn’t – there was a cat nearby teasing the poor thing which is why it was barking. Its leash was not very long and it was tied up there all night until the fisherman came to feed it in the morning, even then he did not untie it. The Portuguese really treat their dogs badly.
Tony had finished his book – quite a record for him as he usually takes months to read a single book. I had only bought him one book so goodness knows what will keep him occupied from now on I would have to find something else for him to read.

Day 17 8/5/2013 ON THE ROAD AGAIN

Woke up to the sound of the surf – it was really loud like a high wind. I expected it to be really windy outside but it wasn’t. It wasn’t sunny just cloudy with a few spots of rain now & again, not really a shower.
We watched the local fishermen going out and those that fished from the beach set up. A lot of men waded out into the river with nets which we assumed were for dredging up the clams from the sand as there were thousands of them everywhere.
There was a couple of people on windsurf boards paddling with oars, on the end of one of them was a black Labrador dog.

We headed off for Alcacer, not knowing what was there or what it was like but several people had mentioned it as a good place to go. The drive was a couple of hours along the main roads which seemed to be inundated with big lorries. We could see the toll road running adjacent but there was hardly any traffic on it.
We arrived in Alcacer and they were doing major road works which diverted us all over the place up and down narrow streets. We stopped by the riverside to decide where we could go to park but couldn’t see anywhere obvious. I had previously made a note that there was a municipal campsite somewhere in Alcacer so when we saw signs for it we headed there; it was just on the outskirts of town. We had a quick look at the site and it was OK. Not at all commercialised but quite small & rural and importantly (for me anyway) it had washing machine facilities so I would be able to do 17 days’ worth of washing. It was only 8E a night and that included free WIFI and satellite TV if we wanted to watch it – Tony was hoping to catch the Italian Cycling. The chap at reception was keen to tell us that it had just been announced that Alex Ferguson was going to retire – the way he was going on about it you would have thought that the Queen had died or something!!
We parked up and had lunch outside. It had turned out quite pleasant, not sunny but still very hot and quite hazy. I sorted the washing whilst Tony had a “Power Nap” of which he has always said there was no such thing but he was willing to give it a go.
They had internet here so was able to catch up with everything and hopefully will be able to send off this part of the blog tomorrow morning before we leave – unfortunately the internet was not working the next day so I couldn’t!
Tony went out on his bike for a quick reccy around the town but came back with the view to it not even being worth a walk to. It had looked quite nice on the way in with a river side etc. but apparently all the roads were being dug up to replace the sewer system and it was hard to get around. There were a few churches etc.. but no different to those that we had already seen so after having tea we just went for a walk around the local area , had a beer in a bar & then back to the van. Talking to the young chap that runs the site we said about the lack of people around everywhere and the fact that so many things were shut still. He said the, apart from Sundays, Portuguese people only went out in July & August for holidays etc.. to them this weather we were having now, sunny & 22° was what they would think of as still being winter. He said in summer it can reach 40°+ on the site. There is a big outdoor swimming pool next to the camp site but it was closed – he said it only opened 15th June & closed end of August!
During the night I was woken up by a cockerel crowing at 3.30am which set off a number of dogs in the area barking like mad. After ½ an hour it all stopped so I drifted back to sleep only to be woken up at 5.30 with it crowing again once more accompanied by the sound of about 50 dogs in the area all barking….. Tony says he will always think of Portugal as the country of Dogs.


After a leisurely breakfast & pack up we headed for Sines traveling via Comporta which should take us along the coast road south. When we got to Comporta we decided, as it wasn’t far, to have a look at Troia, a town at the furthest tip of a peninsular going north. We headed up a very boring road, on the left side of us was the Atlantic Ocean and on the right a muddy lagoon area with no signs of habitation anywhere. Along the way we passed a gated hotel complex and a golf course. When we reached Troia it was like a ghost town. Apart from the odd tourist the only people around were gardeners & street cleaners. The roads were very small and cobbled, the whole area was newly built and very modern. We realised that it wasn’t a town but a holiday complex of apartments and hotels. All the car parks were underground so there wasn’t anywhere we could park. I suspect that it is an expensive area to stay or have an apartment and we were getting funny looks from those people that were there so we headed out back in a southerly direction.

We headed to a beach area, Praia de Santo Andre, one that JJ had told us about. It was truly beautiful made up mostly of sand dunes and an inland lagoon where the sea came in.
There was a small car park and a couple of café bars. Although it said no motor caravans in the actual car parks there were several vans parked amongst the sand dunes so we parked amongst them, the ground was more gravel than sand so it would be ok.
We had a lovely lunch sitting outside the van in the glorious sunshine and then went for a walk along the beach. The surf was really high and the sea was a beautiful shade of turquoise. As far as the eye could see was just natural beach and deserted, the sand was very soft. Tony went for a swim but only got up to his knees as he said it was freezing!!

Tony found an abandoned fish trap washed up on the shore and after inspecting it decided he may come back later to take it if it was still there.
We walked right along the beach into the lagoon where there were some people swimming – brave people, the water was a bit too cold for me…….

We stopped at the café and asked for an ice cream only to be told they didn’t have ice creams until July, only coffee & beers. They had an ice cream fridge there so how difficult would it have been to have a few ice creams to sell! Anyway we walked to the other bar and got one there and then, as it was so nice sitting there we stayed for a beer.
We had a look at the restaurant menu and it was the same old thing – mostly fish with about 3 meat dishes, nothing exciting.
Back to the van we just chilled out for the rest of the day. I sat outside on the lounger reading and fell asleep. When I woke up my shoulders had got a bit burnt as I didn’t put any sun cream on.
We were going to have our first BBQ of the holiday outside the van but being wary of the rule of no fires etc. due to the dry conditions we decided just to cook it on the outside cooker. Nice though, not having to cook inside the van for a change.
Tony thought he would put up the big TV aerial on the flag pole that we had to see if he could get any TV channels. Whilst doing this he discovered that the Aerial unit was not working – this would explain why we hadn’t been able to pick up any TV channels since France. We had just assumed that it was something to do with the Portuguese TV not our equipment. He spent some time testing bits & pieces and then, after lots of swearing, gave up, we had done without TV so far and it would have to wait till another time to be sorted. Doesn’t bother me, I actually like not having TV but I know he would have liked to watch the Italian cycling.
Tony went to the beach & got some lovely pictures of the sunset, luckily he did not come back with the old fish trap! After chilling out for a few hours we retired at 10.30pm.


It another windy day. Tony decided he would go out on his road bike and duly got dressed up and set off at 10am. He came back after 3 hours and said he had one of the most boring rides of his life – along a straight road which was in the process of being duelled so lots of roadworks. He rode to Sines and found that was pretty much not worth visiting and then rode back again.
We had intended to stop at Sines but now decided to give it a miss. After lunch and a walk along the beach we headed off in the direction of Porto Covo about 20 miles along the coast.
We took the coast road which, for a change, went right along the cliff tops. On the way there were several car parks and being a Saturday there were quite a few people around for a change. There were lots of small coves with steep steps to them from the car parks.

We came across a car park just on the outskirts of Porto Covo which had quite a few motorhomes parked in it so decided to stop there for the night. We parked up and, as usual Tony got talking to a van next to us. They were a British couple, Judy & Peter who had been in Portugal for a few months; they were now heading north and back home to Hampshire.
I gave my double skillet (cooking pan) another go tonight and done a pizza in it. I had to cut the pizza to make it fit into the pan as it was too big but I wasn’t too happy with the results, it was a bit soggy. This is the third attempt to cook items in this double skillet with no success. Lots of people had recommended it to me as we don’t have an oven and supposedly you can cook things in the DS that you would normally cook in an oven – it was expensive so I feel obliged to give it another couple of goes before I get rid of it!
After tea Judy & Peter came and sat in our van and we had a few drinks and chatted for the rest of the evening. Before we knew it it was 12.30 and we’d almost polished of a bottle of gin as well as quite a few beers!!!!!!!

I surfaced gradually and woke up with quite a hangover which was only to be expected!
Had a cuppa and then sat outside talking to Judy & Peter when another couple joined us. The chap was French and his wife was British, Yorkshire in fact and they lived in France. They had been following more or less the same route that we had on the way south and like us were not that impressed with Portugal so far.
It was very weird to hear the Frenchman talk as his wife had obviously taught him English and he was speaking it with a Yorkshire accent.
Peter was a bit of an inventor and showed us his latest invention – a folding toilet seat…..
The campsite and public toilets out here do not have any seats so he made one that hinged & folded in 7 places and fitted into a very small bag so you could take it into the toilet discretely to use it. Not something I would bother with but it looked quite good. He said he would like to see if someone would manufacture it but didn’t know how to go about it so we said he should apply to go on Dragons Den so keep a look out for him on future programmes!!


Tony & I had a long walk along the cliffs and then into the town.

For a small town there was actually quite a lot of shops and restaurants – mostly fish ones – and we decided to come back tonight for dinner at one of them.
We had a coffee in a place just off the square and were trying to order a large white milky coffee but as usual ended up with this large cup of really strong coffee. An elderly chap sitting at a table told us we needed to ask for a Galao – pronounced Gerlang – which is a white milky coffee in a glass. He was English so we sat at the table with him and his wife and chatted. They had lived out her for 16 years; he had two apartments in a large town nearby but actually lived full time in his motorhome which was parked overlooking the beach.
We walked back to the van, had lunch outside then a read & snooze. We had both caught the sun on our faces despite using a high factor sun cream & looked quite red.
In the evening we walked back into the town to eat. There were now a lot of people walking around the main square and street, I think this is somewhat of a holiday town as most of the houses look like they are holiday homes. The houses were all the typical white and blue colours that you see in all the photos and nearly all looked newly painted.
We chose a restaurant and sat down at the table to study the menu. Unfortunately the waiter could speak not a word of English so once more we were really struggling when a young girl at the next table asked if she could be of assistance. She explained a few things and Tony chose Dressed Crab with toasted bread, which was cooked from fresh after he had ordered it, I chose a steak cooked on the grill, in all honesty not expecting it to be that good but I was desperate for some meat. Tony’s crab was duly served, dressed with the legs etc. on the side; he was also bought a small tile, pick & hammer to crack the legs to eat the meat inside.
My steak was actually quite good and there was lots of it, three large pieces.
Back at the van Judy asked us in to their van for drinks so off we trotted. I have to say that I was abstaining from alcohol today after last night but the others drank beers and yet more gin until we retired at 11.45pm. Two late nights in a row…..

12/5/2013 DAY 21 PRAIA de CARREAGEM

We didn’t wake up until 9.30am, must be all these late nights.
Gave the van a good clean out, changed bedding and then after saying our goodbyes we headed off to the “Barragem de Santo Clara” for no other reason than several people had mentioned it was a good place to visit. ‘Barrage’ in Portuguese means ‘Dam’ so we assumed that there would be a river & places to park, swim & kayak.
We had to go across country to get there and through a small town called Odemira. When we reached this town they were digging up the roads and we were unable to go in the direction we wanted so had to take a very round about route to get to the dam and it took us hours.
Arriving at the dam we saw that that is exactly what it was – a dam and nothing else! No river, nowhere to park up, swimming & fishing forbidden and no boating allowed, although we did see a speed boat roaring around. Tony went out on his bike to see if perhaps we had come in the wrong way and were missing something but came back & reported that there was absolutely nothing there. What a waste of a few hours driving………

We headed for the coast, back across deserted country roads which corkscrewed around the mountains. We made for Praia de Monte Clergio, a beach that more than one person had told us was good. We ended up on some cliff tops, overlooking the beach. There was ample parking overnight but it was very bleak. The sea came inland turning into a river and looking across the estuary we could see some vans parked on the other side with access to the beach. Studying the map it was a 10mile trip inland, across the river and back to the coast to get to that area.
We could see another small town on our side of the estuary so drove there to see what that was like. This was a small town fronting directly onto the beach with a couple of restaurants. Tony was fed up with driving and it was 6pm by now so we went to have a beer & perhaps something to eat.
Tony managed to order us two glasses of white coffee by asking for a galao (pronounce gerlahng- now you can see why we can’t understand the lingo!), the first nice coffees we had had so far and he also bought back the menu. The waiter spoke quite good English and told him the special of the day was octopus so Tony decided to try a dish of that, I chose prawn curry. Well this meal was one of the best we had had so far…. My curry was absolutely gorgeous & Tony’s octopus (although it didn’t look it!) was really lovely too.
We talked to an English couple at the next table that lived in the town in a house ½ hr walk along the cliff tops. They had come out here a few years ago when their son married a local girl and just hadn’t gone back. The husband worked on the oil rigs in the North Sea and did 2 weeks on three weeks off and just flew out from Faro airport each time. They absolutely loved it. We have met lots of people who have just come for a visit and fallen in love with Portugal and moved here but I have to admit I hadn’t quite got why! Anyway they told us of a lovely place a bit further south, Carraeteira, which I have duly marked on my map and we might visit that in the next few days – If anyone tells me of a good place to go I make a note of it on our map which is now full of notes and pen marks! For tonight Tony wanted to go to the other side of the estuary as he fancied taking his kayak out up the river tomorrow. We found the place fairly easily and, despite the sign saying no camper van parking, we parked up for the night along with two other small vans, surfers I believe, and settled in for the night.
Studying the map I think that we are actually parked on Praia da Carreagem beach and the beach we ate at earlier was Praia de Monte Clergio beach.
My car charger for the ipad & iphone had broken during the day and by the time we had parked my ipad was down to 4% charge – quite critical as I used TomTom on it to navigate.
I could charge it up overnight through the invertor but that wouldn’t last long as it consumed quite a lot of battery when using TomTom all the time. I was a bit worried about trying to navigate by map alone as many of the small roads were not on the map but thankfully Tony managed to make another adapter out of two cobbled together thus saving the day.
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