(12th March to 23rd March)
Our first stop on the Alentejo coast was pretty Zambujeira do Mar which has a full time population of only 800 people and is a popular tourist haven in the summer months. Then we detoured inland to Odemira but we decided not to stay as there did not seem that much to see. From there we retraced our steps a little to stop briefly at coastal Vila Nova de Milfontes which in a sense is a larger Zambujeira (I am sure the locals from both these places will disagree with my rushed generalisation!)
An ideal peaceful location on the outskirts of Zambujeira
Finally we headed into Porto Covo, a sleepy sea side town near Sines. We had travelled considerably farther then we had planned but I must admit I have being missing the driving. On our evening walk around the small port we met a couple from Wales who were on a cycling holiday whose end point was at the free dance music festival ‘Freequency’ in the Alto Alentejo. They had also died their hair green and had it cut in a mohican style. After a few beers they both admitted that their hair was attracting undue attention on the roads with passing cars beeping their horns or in worse cases, shouting out of the windows at them!! We ended the night strangely by shaving both their heads with my cordless clippers into sensible crew cuts right outside of the bar (we had prior permission by the bar owner and it was also really windy leaving little trace of green hair)…. Even though we only spent 2 nights at Porto Covo, we could see it’s appeal and why many motorhomers stay there longer (hello to Paul and Yvonne, great to meet you, never guess a nationality by their number plates!!!)
Parked at the camperstop in Porto Covo was this Polish DIY rig. You just need a lorry, an old caravan and a couple of bolts.
Next up was Santiago do Cacem, chosen only by it’s name. It lies slightly inland with a large Knights Templar castle sitting above the old town. Also the locals seemed pretty friendly as being unsure whether we could get through the old town I stopped at the entrance to ask the motorist behind. As a result of my question, him with the help of other locals ended up stopping the on coming traffic and leading me up the wrong way through the one way system ensuring we missed the worse of the twisty old town. It was quite funny seeing the startled kerbed drivers shock as we rumbled past the wrong way.
You could see the sea from the castle in Santiago do Cacem.
Also whilst at Santiago we took the opportunity to go for a swim at the municipal swimming baths. It was a fantastic modern facility and the showers were ‘amazing’ (read: ‘normal’ to anyone who lives in a house!)
Comporta was our next stop for four nights. This is a small village that lies at the foot of a thin 20km strip of land that leads up to the river Sado. This slither of land is surrounded by the Atlantic on one side and the marshy Sado estuary on the other. Other than Comporta at it’s base and millionaire’s playground Troia at it’s tip the strip is not inhabited by humans. On the Friday we cycled the 40km round trip to Troia, checking out the lovely Praia da Comporta en-route. This was to be our destination on the Saturday as the weather was boiling and both Sharon and I managed a dip in the Atlantic. Once in the sea we met Spaniard Juan through mutual yelps “it’s cold, it’s cold” and him and his partner Anna were to be our companions at the beach side bar to watch the glorious west coast sun set.
This mural on a wall in Comporta village summarises the feel of the place.
On the way back, inspired by the take away ‘frango no carvao’ we had at Porto Covo we decided to sample another in Comporta village. At the restuarante/bar two things happened 1) they had let the coals go out as it was nearing their closing time so there were to be no barbequed chickens 2) we met the locals!!
Settling for baked cod in cream as our take out we were guided home by Comportista Antonio who was a local farmer, rice fielder and hunter. He wanted to give us a local bottle of white wine to go with our take out (which obviously we did not refuse). Once in his kitchen we shared ‘one for the road’ and then he proceeded to give us more gifts: a wild boar’s fang as Sharon had mentioned her wild boar eating world tour and set of base ball caps and T’shirts from the recent town festival. He was an interesting and generous person. Obrigado Antonio, ate o proximo fez!
This cat came to visit us everyday at Comporta and was not in least bit shy. She was from a neighbouring house, was pregnant and looked contented and well looked after.
After the relatively long stay at Comporta we continued north circling the Bahia de Setubal to Aguas de Moura to see the oldest and largest cork tree in Portugal, the castle at Sesimbra (Sharon’s favourite so far) and finally staying put at the foot of the Cabo Espichel lighthouse.
To be honest this was a bit random, we chose to stop and see the oldest cork tree in Portugal. It made a nice change from a church/castle…….
Oppps, spoke too soon. It was not long after the tree that we visited Sesimbre where there the castle has a church at the centre!!!! Nice tiling though.
Cabo Espichel was remote and windy and compares with Cabo Sao Vicente in terms of views, however on the plus side for motorhomers is that you can stay the night. We had an interrupted night’s sleep though as the van rocked and creaked as it was buffered by the strong winds off the coast.
Alone at Cabo Espichel, with the lighthouse one way……
…..and the Convent the other.
In the morning we completed the PR2 walking trial around the Cabo where we discovered dinosaur footprints in the cliff sides (they are well sign posted by the way!)
Seriously, they are dinosaur foot prints.
For our final stop in the Alentejo we randomly chose Fonte da Telha. Being only 20km from Lisbon we were really surprised to find out it was undeveloped, had a really low percentage of second homes with the majority of the houses being populated by local families. The village’s roads were compacted sand and this added to the simple feel of the place. Also we managed to park directly at the side of the beach and the view of the sea was completely uninterrupted and was truly fantastic.
Our view of the beach at our parking place in Fonte da Telha
Our next region will be the Extremadura and Lisbon is around the corner so we are prepping ourselves mentally after the calmness and simplicity of Fonte da Telha for our visit to the capital city.