The Virus Diary – Containment in a Motorhome

19th March to 26th March 2020

Just over a week ago we were sitting in a cafe with friends in Foz de Arelho sharing our views on the coronavirus and they varied from ‘jokey’ through to ‘it’s the end of the world’.  We have to admit, back then we never imagined the impact and the global reaction to the virus would be anything on this scale.  This ignorance to the wider things that were happening in the world may have been because we were engrossed in the ongoing beach house purchase process.  Speed through a little more than one week and now we see Europe going into shutdown.  For us specifically, Portugal announced a National State of Emergency placing many restrictions on normal life in an aid to contain the spread of the Virus beyond those they had already imposed, for example social distancing, school and public office closures.  Today Friday 19th April is the first of 15 days where the restrictions apply, hence this brief diary.

At a glance of the containment restrictions, Sharon and I had envisioned that our current lives would not be too different from normal as we currently do not have jobs to travel to, we do not have children to teach and look after and when in the motorhome we have few regular commitments or hobbies that could be disrupted by having to stay at home.  Upon our review of the situation the area where we would be impacted is that we will have to stay in one place and not drive around stopping for a change of scenery as we normally do.  In addition to this the closed restaurants and cafes will be something our daily lives miss, but if this is our biggest worry then things overall must be pretty good!!!

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The motorhome parking place at Costa de Lavos.  There are fifteen vans in total waiting out the containment.  The mix is nine vans from France, three from Germany, two UK and one Irish.

Day 1,  Friday 19th March:

First thing, I accompanied elderly Irish motorhome neighbours to the nearest health centre so they could stock up on prescription drugs.  The streets are completely empty of cars which even in not congested Portugal seems abnormal.  Once I had waited in the queue at the one in one out pharmacy it was back to the motorhome stop at Costa de Lavos which will be our home for all of the containment period, hopefully.  I made a quick trip to the local minimarket to buy some essentials which is something I have planned to do each day, in an effort to keep in contact (no touching though) with the local community/commerce.  Inside the shop the mood seemed sombre and I wondered, not for the first time, whether we, the motorhomers are really welcome here in this very small village, are we seen as virus carriers?  Would it be better to go less frequently to the shop and buy more items to reduce contact?  On the other hand I don’t want to give the impression that I am stock piling and maybe denying someone else something they need.  Confusion?  To help reflection and as 5.00pm had arrived Sharon and I had a glass of wine and settled in for the evening to watch a stock of pre-recorded films that luckily we have.

I struggle to concentrate on the films however as I find my mind is still over run with thoughts about the now stalled house purchase.  I am also following the exchange rate like a hawk unable to accept with any grace that the £ to € exchange rate has plummeted by 10% since the Coronvirus has hit Europe.  This is primarily due to the different approaches taken by the separate European nations, Boris’s ‘delay’ tactic was particularly not liked by the markets, as investors start moving money away from the volatile pound to more stable currencies.

Day 2:

The day started slow as the drizzle from yesterday continued through the morning.  By early afternoon it had cleared and we went on a beach walk with Rita which turned out into a beach clean.  Maybe this could be our use within the local community, there is certainly enough plastic to be gathered to last us the next 13 days.  I tried the supermarket again today and things seemed more upbeat which was comforting.  The afternoon will be spent watching the classic 80 / 90s American films that are always shown on Portuguese TV on Saturday afternoons.  We are not expecting too much as both Karate Kid and Indiana Jones are scheduled.  Like we predicted, this to us seemed like a quite normal day especially as bad weather normally keeps you indoors.

Day 3:

As it is a Sunday and we have all of the time in the world we thought we would cook a make shift Sunday roast from our supplies. Using chicken legs, small roasting potatoes, a couple of Portuguese sausages and Yorkshire pudding and gravy made from scratch.  The end result was tasty, if not an exact replica of the English version.  With our stomachs full we settled in for another set of American films, the highlight being Ocean’s 8.

With the weather improving we have now set up two outside chairs next to the van.  We are really grateful that we have this option to sit outside in the sun.  I can’t imagine what it must be like trapped inside an inner city flat without a even a balcony as many people must be around the world.

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Our space.  Thankfully we can sit outside and everybody is conscious to keep their distance.

Day 4:

The relaxed pattern of the last few days was off set early on due to some information passed on to us by our Irish motorhoming neighbours that they had picked up from the local cafe owner (note: still open but just for take away).  It seems word is getting around that Portugal will be closing all of it’s campsites and motorhome areas due to it’s virus shutdown regulations.  This is due to the shared communal areas being potential hotspots for contamination, in terms of motorhome areas this means the water point. This rumour has set a mild panic amongst us all as you start questioning “where do we go/what is plan b?”  The plot thickened later in the day as an English motorhoming couple confirmed the information from the gov.uk.foreign-travel website which now states that all the motorhome areas in Portugal will be closed by Friday 27th March and the UK government is urging all tourists that have a base in the UK to head home immediately.

In the evening we watched a webcast of Boris Johnson finally announcing that the UK is going into containment.  We could not help noticing that his speech writers were trying to affect a ‘world war/Churchillonian’ style to his address, especially with the quote ‘everyone is enlisted’.  Putting my own BJ prejudices aside our thoughts after this broadcast were about our families who obviously will be affected somehow by the restrictions.

Boris Corona

Boris is clearly modelling himself on Churchill but under crisis will he be able to back up the words with action like his war time hero was able to.

I have noticed that already I am thinking less about the paused house purchase, in fact some of these emotions on this subject are now second thoughts.  My attention has been more focused on reading the world news and I have become very interested in how other countries are tackling the virus issue and in ‘experts’ predictions of what is going to happen after the virus.

https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/16/coronavirus-pandemic-leadership-131540

https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2020/03/what-really-doomed-americas-coronavirus-response/608596/

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Updating myself on global events has become a daily past time.

Day 5:

Plan b talk on the motorhome park has ramped up significantly since the information about all motorhomes areas to be closed shortly.  It is slightly disturbing, even in our situation where our plan b is to stay on friend’s land here in Portugal.  Also, there is an undercurrent of feeling from the local residents that the motorhomers are not welcome, but this maybe is just perceived as we all feel a little sensitive about what the locals think.

To try and get some clarity I managed to speak to the local police who pass every day.  They were not aware of any instructions to move the motorhomes on.  Now I am wary that I may have planted a seed and they will now fall across the information……..the feeling of uncertainty is not helped either by several of the locals who appear to be filming the motorhome area with their mobile phones as they pass by.  Where is this information going?  Surely it is innocent and I am just being overly paranoid?

To settle back into a more relaxed routine we turned to a pair of frozen pizzas and shared a litre box of cheap Portuguese red wine in the sun 🙂

Day 6:

A sunny start to the day was pleasing as sitting outside close to the van reading is now one of our principle past times.  It seems that most motorhomers are resigned to see what action, if any, is taken by the local authorities on Friday, just two days away now.  However a group of three French motorhomes decided to take the plunge yesterday afternoon and they packed up and left the parking area, citing the Friday closure as their reason.  Unfortunately we were not able to ask them which direction they were heading, home or to a hiding place?

On the other hand, three new motorhomes have arrived and I admit I had mixed feelings, many similar to the locals maybe – where have they come from, could they be virus carriers, why are they moving around during lock down where non-essential travel is banned???  Is this what happens to humans when under crisis, do we naturally prey on others and think the worse to look after ourselves?

So after the now regular check on news websites from both Portugal and the UK we are into the afternoon.  We have walked on the beach with Rita and took a quick visit to the supermarket allowing us to settle down again in the van reading books.  We have plenty of them to go at but I am becoming quite bored with the batch of American crime thrillers that have been kindly handed to us.  How is it that one American alone is always able to succeed and defeat the often foreign enemy?  In the real world we see in the news that American Trump is ineffective in the time of crisis against the reality of the enemy virus, something he refers to horribly as the foreign ‘Chinese Virus’.  His arrogance and small mindedness never fails to amaze me.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/11/politics/national-review-donald-trump-coronavirus/index.html

https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/security/news/2020/03/05/481334/trump-failing-lead-coronavirus/

Trump Corona

Trump initially was blind to the virus calling it a hoax.  I am surprised he did not apply an import tax on the virus as he has done with everything else that goes to the USA from China!

Day 7, 26th March:

With week 1 of containment almost over all is well with us, things have not been too different.  We have come to realise that motorhome life is a form of containment and we are already accustomed to living in a confined space.  We do admit though that taking away the freedom to travel is a loss but this is counter balanced by the fact that Costa de Lavos is a special place being so close to the sea, a place you would want to spend alot of time at anyhow.  The upside to being confined is that we have spent very little money this week in total and that is mainly due to keeping the minimarket purchases to a minimum and having nowhere else left open to spend any euros!

We now wait until tomorrow to see if we will be asked by the GNR/local council to leave in line with the national ruling that all campsites and motorhome parking areas are to be closed.

To be continued…….

So Close, Yet So Far

14th February to 19th March 2020

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Beach boardwalk at Costa de Lavos, municipal of Figueira Da Foz.

Over the last month we have not visited many new places instead choosing to stay at Costa de Lavos to pursue the purchase of what we now call the beach house.  It is funny how things turn out as this project is almost exactly the opposite of what we were searching for: it does not have any land, it does not have any views, you can not even park a car nearby never mind several motorhomes, it needs a lot of renovation work and it is located probably more north than we would have wished for.  However, it is only 100m from the sea and this has re-ignited an ongoing dream of mine to live on the coast. So after multiple house viewings, a series of builder visits to gain quotes on the works required plus a ‘paid for’ visit from a building inspector we have got to know the beach house almost intimately so we think we know what we are buying/getting into.  In summary it is a bit of a pig with damp issues, rotten wooden roof frames and a whole lot of work on the 1st floor which is currently abandoned and held up by acrow props.  But even armed with this information we have proceeded to the negotiation phase and we have settled on a selling price.  This is a pure case of heart over head for sure.

So by now we have had all the legal documents checked by a Solicitor and have made pre-purchase enquiries regarding planning permission with the local Council and all seemed to be progressing rather well.   Then the Coronavirus hits the world and causes a global shutdown.  A shutdown that includes the local town hall that has our pre-purchase planning permission enquiry………………………

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Our Costa de Lavos beach house purchase unfortunately is now officially on hold as the town hall at Figueira da Foz is closed for business until at least 15th April 2020.

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We did take a short break from Costa de Lavos to visit Marcel and Anetta in Foz de Arelho.  Here we celebrated my fifth birthday on the road with a great meal at ‘Tibino’ restaurant and of course post dinner drinks.  On the night I wore my new ‘Alienated Youth’ shirt, a Birthday present from Sharon – cheers I love it!!!

Going Around In Circles

13 December to 13 February 2020

To fill in the travel gaps we have to go all the way back to before Christmas where after the modular house tour we headed back south west to Alcobaca.  On the way we stopped at Templar town Tomar after a two year break where to our amazement the town centre municipal campsite is still open to motorhome and is still free.  This proved quite useful as we stayed almost a week there as we got ‘stormed’ in.  We had heard that the weather by the coast was really bad with local police asking motorhomes to move away and park more inland, never-less the weather in central Tomar was very wet and windy causing the river to rise significantly.

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The river at Tomar was raging.  By the third day the council had work teams trying to remove all the uprooted trees.

After a few days at Alcobaca to restock on shopping and to get the laundry done we headed to Foz de Arelho for the Xmas and New Year period.  The motorhome park was quite empty when we arrived so we took the opportunity to stay lagoon side.  Within about half an hour another van appeared with Irish plates and parked next to us and cutting a long story short this turned out to be Marcel and Aneta, a Polish couple who had been living in Ireland but now were in the process of moving to Portugal, so we had many things in common which proved useful as we spent a lot of time together including both Christmas day and New Years Eve.

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Foz de Arelho on Christmas Day

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New Years Eve was spent with Marcel and Aneta at their new flat in Foz de Arelho.  Rolex, their Amstaff Bull Terrier was a complete softy and even let Rita have his space on the sofa.

After our short holiday from house hunting we moved back to Alcobaca to resume the search, bearing in mind that Obidos council would be nearing their decision about the land in Amoreira.  We were still really unsure about the viability of this project and the location so we decided that we needed a second opinion and luckily for us our motorhome friends Rick and Mary were literally around the corner at Figueira de Foz so we happily ‘roped’ them in to swing by Alcobaca on their way south to give us another set of eyes.

All in all we spent a week with them touring past Amoreira enroute to Peniche and then for a great weekend at Praia Foz do Sizandro, south of Lourinha.  Listening to their advice and swapping ideas we decided that we would keep on looking for a more suitable piece of land/house and in fact the surrounding areas of Lourinha seemed like they could have some potential too.

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The start a sunset at Foz do Sizandro.  Another great free coast side motorhome stop with all the services on the west of central Portugal.

After a several stops at Torres Vedras to meet local estate agents and a brief interlude east at Rio Maior to view properties we settled on a small farm near Lourinha which again looked like it could serve our purpose.  After about two more weeks of bouncing around meeting builders to get quotes and tying up with the helpful estate agent Alberto who was dealing with the permissions side of things with the Council, in this case Lourinha not Obidos, we decided again that we needed another second opinion.  Enter on stage Rick and Mary once more, as due to a change in their travel plans they were now heading back north a little earlier than expected and were only too happy to swing by again – who would believe it!

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View from the castle at Torres Vedras

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The inland salt pans at Rio Maior, Santarem.

After a couple days at Foz de Arelho, one of Rick and Mary’s favourite places, we all visited the farm near Lourinha on a wet Saturday afternoon.  Maybe it was the weather but ultimately several factors that were highlighted by our second eyes meant that maybe this location would not work too, so it was back to the drawing board again.  I must admit, I took this a little hard and that night over a take away chicken and lots of box wine I felt little desperate.  We have now probably seen more than 50 locations and we are becoming unsure if what we are looking for is out there and even if what we want to do is viable in this part of the country, the central west coast.

The month of February 2020 is already upon us and it feels like we have been going around in circles: buy a coastal holiday home, look for land only and build a house, search for houses with land that are habitable, find land and buy a modular home and then back to looking for land with houses.  Over lay on top of this the regional matrix, not forgetting that initially this Portugal search started 12 months ago in the east Algarve and more recently we have been looking in the Castelo Branco region, north west Algarve/south west Alentejo and now the central west coast a certain looming ‘impossible’ feeling has started to make it’s presence known.

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Headless chickens:  where to now (?) as we are kind of lost endlessly chasing ‘for sale’ signs

Of course patience is a virtue and we are told by people with more Portugal property experience than us “not to rush”.  So in true confused eurosuntor fashion we have made the decision to add one more location to our list, the coast near Coimbra which is about as far north as we want to search.  Making the most of Rick and Mary’s time we followed them to Costa de Lavos which is slightly south of Figueira da Foz, which is known as the Queen of Beaches where we have stayed for the last ten days or so.  Here we have been distracted by the old fisherman’s cottages that lie in an old cobbled street quarter where the ‘arte xavega’ fishermen used to live.  We have been so distracted that we have viewed three properties in this neighbourhood that have been up for sale and even took a builder to one of them to cost out some plans for a loft conversion……….a full circle indeed thinking back to the failed purchase of the cottage in Goodwick, Wales at Christmas 2016.

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Rita and I walking on the deserted beach at Costa de Lavos

After a few days at Lavos Rick and Mary continued on their way but we have been struggling to leave.  We have made some friendly acquaintances who own the local cafe who have been very helpful in setting us up with a builder and supplying us with local knowledge.  There has also been some good fun, namely a very long lunch in the blazing sun outside of the vans with Rick and Mary on a Monday afternoon and a random boozey Saturday night with new friend Dutchman Joshua which ended up into the early hours playing music on vinyl of all things in his 90’s Mitsubishi motorhome.  It is a small world as we had both been to the same Francis Black (Pixies) gig at the Melkweg in Amsterdam back in 2008.

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Sunset at Costa de Lavos.  Each day we wake up and say that we must a least visit Figueira da Foz……………….”Where is my mind?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Van Update

14 January 2020

At the end 2019 the van had a visit to the garage to have it’s front tyres changed and that has prompted me to write something again about our 2006 Fiat Ducato 2.8jdt Swift Suntor 590RL.  It is two years ago already when I last touched on the subject, at that time it was the turbo exchange that made me lift up the pen.

The van has now covered almost 60,000 miles which is not bad considering we bought it at 32,000 four years ago.  Since the turbo and clutch change in 2017 the bills luckily have been just to cover routine maintenance and minor repairs.  Therefore apart from oil and filter changes each year the only other invoice for mechanical work was to replace the driver’s side rear wheel bearing which to be honest had been squealing for a little while before it was eventually changed at last the MOT in August 2019

In the last year we have also changed all four tyres and now the ran rolls on Michelin all round.  I was quite sad to see the two Pirelli front tyres being replaced as every time I looked at them I would remember the two punctures we had in Italy way back in summer 2016 and the corresponding visit to the garage in Rimini.

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In November 2019 two Michelin treads were put on the front plus we splashed out on getting the tracking done.  The work was done at Euromaster in Alcobaca, Leiria who were really helpful by getting the job done on the same day.

Cosmetically the van has started to show signs of it’s age of almost 14 years.  The main issue was that the white paint on the bonnet of the Fiat cab had started to peel away, something that I have noticed is quite common with Ducatos of this age.  I did try a DIY paint job which to be fair looked really good until I peeled off the masking tape which then removed more of the original factory paint.  The end solution to this was a vinyl transfer which I could not resist the temptation of personalising with a ‘eurosuntor’ script.  Otherwise the van makes do externally with impromtu cleans when on the road and several major cleans annually including polish and a heavy coating of Fenwicks when we are in one place for a while.

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The grey patch of exposed primer paint on the bonnet was getting bigger by the week so we ended up covering it with white vinyl.

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We do not see many Swift Suntors 590RLs, but this one turned up at Oxford last summer and it was absolutely immaculate.  The owner had had the cab resprayed, the grey exterior trim repainted, new headlights, new Suntor graphics on the coach built part and the whole interior retrimmed.  Judging by this pristine example, with some money there is hope for ours yet!

Regarding the inside/habitation area which in my opinion is the weak part of this van we have survived luckily without any real major bills.  The water pump sprung a leak so that was replaced with a more powerful Sureflo unit and apart from that we have been making do with small DIY repairs.  We have replaced the broken freezer door hinge and also we had to remove the sink to tighten the kitchen mixer tap which had worked its way loose.

So all in all the van is still doing it’s job and after all this time we are certainly fond of it.  I dislike tempting fate when I write the van updates and therefore we really really hope that it continues going as is and keeps us rolling into the future.  Long live our Suntor!

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December 2019 parked up at Valada, Santarem.  Our Swift Suntor is our home by day…

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……and by night.  Porto, December 2019.

 

 

 

 

 

The Modular House Tour

21st November to 18th December 2019

The last month has been a strange one as the journey of our house/land search has looped and rolled along and sort of unravelled.  For the most part of November we basically bounced around the service points at Alcobaca, Sao Martinho do Porto, Foz de Arelho, Peniche, Bombarral and Caldas da Rainha fitting in as many viewings as possible.  I can’t even guess now how many places we have seen but it must be in the region of 40+, all to no avail against our very specific requirements.  On the positive though, on every visit we learn something or can see an idea that we can carry over to our own place once we find it.

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We have stayed at Alcobaca the most over the last month, but typically we have very few good pictures of the place.  Sao Martinho bay on the other hand never fails on the photo front.

The curve ball has been that one of the estate agents took us to a mystery house, one we had not planned to view at all.  The mystery house title was a little misleading as in fact there was no house at all, but we could both see where the estate agent was coming from as the piece of land ticked all our criteria, which is a list of about ten must haves, apart from one major point and that was that it did not have a house on it…..yet.

Hence the title of this blog, if this piece of land was to be viable then we would probably have to look towards alternative housing to bring the costs of building a new house down.  After making a proposal to the local Council regarding a change of use for the land we were granted some waiting time whilst they made their decision.  This period we used to research and visit manufactures of modular houses in Portugal.  The ‘Modular House Tour’ took us first south to factories in Lisbon, through the Santarem region, then north to Porto, down to Aveiro and ending in Coimbra.  In all, we have spent the first two weeks or more of December completing quite an extensive trip of the central/north west region of Portugal, amassing approx. 800kms!

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We have seen a few different takes on modular housing now.  This wooden example was from the first manufacturer we visited just outside Lisbon.

It has not been all visits to factories and architects offices though as we have stayed at some really interesting and pleasant places, mostly by pure chance, dictated by where the manufacturers were located.  This unlikely factor tour actually turned out to be a fun packed motorhome trip – it felt like travelling again and going to the unknown 🙂

Whilst travelling from Lisbon the Porto, keen to see a little more of the Santarem region as location research we drove along the Tejo stopping at quiet river side village Valada, passing through the impressive Santarem city and staying a weekend at historical Constancia, which nestles on a meander between the rivers Zerere and the Tejo.

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We walked along the Tejo at both Valada and Constancia.  Part of the Tejo route is shared with the Camino do Santiago which always bring back great memories.  It is also on the Portuguese pilgrimage route to Fatima.  Rita’s personalty remains unchanged even after her recent TV appearance in Alcobaca, preferring sniffing to being a Diva!

Heading north we passed by the Conimbriga ruins and stayed the night at Condeixa-Nova, another pleasant central town.  Our next night in Castelo do Paiva initially looked like it could be a little grim as the large car park was slightly inclined and was used by the local bus company but after a quick walk around in the fog and rain we found a Christmas market in the square and a motorbike parade from the local bike club with the riders dressed as Santas.  Then we discovered Amarante, about 40km east of Porto which was the jewel of the trip.  We had never heard of the place, but wow, what a impressive town.  It has architecture, flowing rivers, shops and of course numerous cafes and restaurants.

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The tail head of the Santa biker parade at Castelo do Paiva

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Amarante at dusk

An early morning meeting with a company in the centre of Porto meant we needed to find a Porto city stop over.   We located an official free motorhome aire in the suburb Venda Nova/Rio Tinto which proved to be really convenient and safe.   After a very hectic morning driving the van around the Porto suburbs at rush hour trying to locate a parking space near to the modular house company’s office we needed some down time so we headed of course to the coast for a few days.  We stayed on empty beach side car parks at Furadoura and Praia da Vagueira, each town sitting either side of Averio.  We really liked these two small beach towns, as they were quiet but not desolate.  In fact many of the bars and shops were still open which made for a refreshing change as most of the small beach towns out of season are mostly closed.  Another thing we observed was that the beaches were really clean, they were simply spotless.

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Endless beaches on the north west coast

Nearing the end of the tour, by now in the Coimbra region we stayed at hillside town Penacova and then finally at Vila Nova da Poiares, where the last manufacturer was located.  By this point we had reached a modular house saturation point and we are pleased that this research chapter has now ended.  Sharon and I can tell you all about the differences of the insulation methods used for wooden construction or composite plastic and metal – remember to ask us about it next time we meet up as seriously the subject is really fascinating.  “In fact did you know that…………..”

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With only one more factory to visit we spent our penultimate night at Penacova.  The van is a small dot in the middle of the photo.  Note:  not one modular house in sight, traditional concrete rules the sky lines.

mad mod

I have always liked the futuristic designs of modular houses.  But aside from design freedom there are many advantages to these as they are more efficient and environmentally friendly than houses made in the traditional way, something that really appeals to us.  We also had the preconception that they were a less expensive option too but we have since learnt that to build one for permanent living that complies to the current building construction regulations they can end up being much more expensive than we first thought.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rita Live on TV

17 November 2019

It was a rainy wet Sunday afternoon but dogs still need their walks, which Rita was reminding me of the fact by jumping off from her bed and performing little back stretches by the camper’s door.  Digging out my waterproof we went out for a wander which took us to the centre of town.  We had seen the stage being constructed over the last few days, but only now could I see that it was the TVi national television channel crew that were here.  Intrigued we sauntered over to discover more and it seemed that TVi were filming their live show called “Somos Portugal” which is a programme where they cover regional festivals and in this case the XXI International Show of Convent Cakes and Liqueurs which had been running all week inside the Monastery in Alcobaca.  After a quick phone call to Sharon who was back at the van where she confirmed that yes the programme was rolling live on our mini TV.  I looked at Rita and we both thought “too easy na?” knowing that a quick walk between the monastery entrance and the back of the stage would get us on national television, especially when the presenters were on the stage as the cameras faced that way.  So here it is, a snap shot of Rita on TV…….

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Resuming the Search

22nd October to 21st November 2019

After a full month at Manta Rota we finally were ready to make a move and start again in earnest our property/land search.  Before we left the Algarve we had organised to visit Marie at ‘2ndhand4footers’, the refuge where Rita came from.   The refuge is completely full as per usual with rescued dogs waiting for an adoption.  The stars of the show when we visited were a pair of furry Serra da Estrela puppies, who were like a set of small playful polar bear cubs!  Marie and Adrian need all the help they can get so if you genuinely want to re-home a loving Portuguese dog please get in contact with them (www.2ndhand4footers.com).

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Rita and Knuffel having a sniff at the ‘2ndhand4footers’ refuge

After a night in the Lidl car park at Sao Bras we were preparing to head north when we picked up an email from Mike and Mandy (motleysmagicalmysterytour) saying that they had done a spot of sun dashing and were now in the Algarve much earlier than expected.   So therefore we turned around and headed back to the coast to Cabanas da Tavira for a more socialising and fun in the southern sun.

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The sun setting on Mike & Mandy’s twin wheeler at Cabanas

Sparing the details some what, our aim was to migrate slowly north up the west side of the country stopping at several locations where we would plan/have planned properties to view that matched our criteria in that area.  The first stop was country town Ourique in South Alentejo.  This town is well located being only 50ish minutes from both the south and west coasts.  The second location was A dos Cunhados in the Lisbon region near to the coastal town Santa Cruz and then Foz De Arelho on the Obidos coastal lagoon to currently where we have been settled for almost a couple of weeks already, at Alcobaca near the Nazare coast in Leiria county.  So far it has been a bit of a roller coaster with all the properties having advantages and disadvantages but in the end none of the twenty or so places have worked for us.  I liken our quest to the feeling you get when you use a lottery scratch card as before we visit the property we are excited saying to each other “Could this be the one?” only to find that we have not won as something is wrong with the property and the search must go on.

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Coastal town Santa Cruz.  All that was missing was the sun!

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The monastery at Alcobaca, the biggest in Europe? 

In between these property search stop off locations we managed to stay at some new places and some old favourites en-route.  The new places being the mines at Lousal, the city of Grandola in the Setubal region where we parked amongst all the tanker lorries who we assumed were waiting to go to Setubal port and Salvaterra in the Santarem region, a small but friendly town that lies on the river Tejo.

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The closed and abandoned mines at Lousal had a slightly depressing feeling.  It did not stop the town putting up a Hollywood type sign though!

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Small boats on the Tejo at Salvaterra port.

One of the places that we returned to was Comporta, near Setubal where we visited three years ago.  It was here where we met local Antonio who gave us a multitude of gifts including Comporta T-Shirts, caps, a bottle of local wine and even a wild boar’s fang necklace for Sharon.  Keen to tie up with him again and being a very small place we were confident that a little bar crawl around the town would mean that we would bump into him.  Sure enough we hit the jackpot straight away at the ‘Clube da Comporta’ bar and as per last time we enjoyed a few drinks with our unlikely friend.  Detecting that we were slightly put out that the local chicken take-away place was closed for their annual holidays Antonio offered to take us to a local place nearby the following lunch time.  Obviously it was a slightly strange experience since Antonio does not speak any English plus it also seemed that he knew everyone in the place and people kept coming over to shake hands and greet us with ‘Boa tarde’ or ‘Bom dia’ depending on whether they had eaten lunch or not.  One thing we will conclude though that the chicken was amazing, probably the best yet and we were both pleased that Antonio seemed to have a small appetite leaving most of the chicken for us!!!!

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Parked up at A dos Cunhados, our base for a week.

Continuing on the people theme, whilst at ‘A dos Cunhados’ we contacted our Portuguese motorhome neighbours from Manta Rota, Guida and Manuel.  Expecting a return email at some point in the future we were totally surprised that they rang us up and invited us to their house that very night.  The co-incidences of this night first happened when a little car started flashing us on the highway and it turned out to be Guida and Manuel returning from Lisbon where they work, meaning we did not need to rendezvous at the agreed meeting place.  The second was even weirder…….they had decided to invite their daughter Ana-Rita to dinner too as she is fluent in English.  As she arrived we realised that she was the owner of a house that we had viewed earlier in the week.  Small world hey!!!?!!!

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Manuel, Guida and Ana at their house near Vilar.  Bom appetite!