Solar da Cotovia

30th January to 9th February 2019

It was Sharon’s idea initially and something we have considered before so after a last minute ‘booking.com’ internet search we ended up reserving a total of 10 days at ‘Solar da Cotovia’, a short term holiday home rental.  Wow, it has been a long time since we have wallowed around in the luxuries of living in a real house and we both had to admit we were really, really looking forward to our time there especially after the ups and downs of our property/land search.

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We had the end terrace of three and the car park was perfect for our motorhome and our neighbours Volkswagen camper.

The property was ideally located out in the countryside on the outskirts of Albufeira old town.  The surrounding road network was hard sand stone tracks where only a handful of vehicles passed by per day and these roads proved ideal to exercise Rita off the lead.  The house itself was perfect for us with satellite TV, an outside communal brick barbecue, excellent shower, open plan lounge diner and an large patio overlooking the neighbouring farm lands and all these ingredients meant that we have really enjoyed the break from van life.

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We used the barbecue as often as we could.  I always enjoy lighting some coals and taking my time over the cooking enjoying a few cold beers in the sunshine.  Who would not, right?

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Churrasco Portuguese style.  This chicken from the butchers came with it’s feet too.

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Our view from the back of the house.  Solar da Cotovia had a special way to be near everything whilst giving you the impression you were in the middle of  nowhere.  You would never guess we were only 3km from old town Albufeira.

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View from the front window

For three of the nights over the weekend we had some neighbours from Austria and this young couple became the perfect people to witness the sunset from the patio sharing of course a few glasses of red wine.  Since Rafaela and Dominic were Generation Y, as we are Generation X, it was really encouraging to me personally that their views on the environment and our current world status were very similar to my own outlook, not that I really expected for them to be dramatically different.  It was really refreshing to spend some quality time with people younger than ourselves as we don’t often get that chance.

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We visited Albufeira old town several times.  I also managed a few cycle rides down to the coast, a section of the Algarve we have not spent too much time visiting before.  

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The beaches around Albufeira are typically Algarvense with sand stone cliffs and tropical plants.

We spent our days lazing around, watching films on TV and cooking elaborate meals, ones that we would not normally do in the van such as a slow cooked lamb curry, bacalhau a bras and grilled hake and home made coleslaw.  We even treated ourselves to a home cooked English breakfast accompanied with a tin of baked beans.

We visited Albufeira old town several times going by the quiet back roads making the most of the winter prices where large beers seemed to hover around 2 Euros with the cheapest being 1.50.  In the winter Albufeira is pleasant and the old town does hold a certain charm, however we have no idea at all what it would be like in the summer time, in fact our ‘landlord’ commented that it was chaos!!!

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The roads around the house were tracks just wide enough for cars.  The back way into town was by the ‘ViaAlgarviana’ which is the 300 km track that goes all the way across the Algarve.

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We really enjoyed our stay at Solar da Cotovia, we would definitely stay here again.

So tommorrow we will be back in the van after our break in luxury.  We feel refreshed, relaxed, clean(!) and ready to get back on the road.  Our days now in the sunny Algarve are nearing an end and we hope that spring is upon us and the weather further north is now starting to heat up to the temperatures that we have been accustomed too.

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Bouncing around the Central/East Algarve

3rd Jan to 30th Jan 2019

Once the New Year was out of the way we continued to stay by the beach in Manta Rota until the 8th January, notching up a new record of exactly three weeks at this one location.  We ended our days here feasting several times from the local piri-piri chicken take-away place and at a few, new to us, barbecue restaurants near the N125 main road.

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Chicken from ‘Ze da Tasca’ on the N125.  The normal portion was a whole small chicken…

We had set aside January as the month we would investigate the possibility of purchasing a piece of rural land and this task took us to many different places along the East and Central Algarve region.  We saw different plots of land at the following places: Corte do Gado, Azinhal, Sapal Chao, and Fonte in the Castro Marim district, Fonte Louzeiros near Silves, several in Loule and Albufeira districts and Luz and Estorninhos in the Tavira region.  Without going into a lot detail about this property/land search the adventure took us down all sorts of tracks and dirt roads, there was even one plot where we had to cross a river which cut through the land, needless to say we left the van at the entrance track and continued on foot.

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Our month spent hunting for land took us to some interesting and beautiful places.

The search has also taken us to several public offices too for meetings with urban/rural planners including at The Commission for the Coordination and Development of the Algarve Region (CCDR) in Faro city centre and several times to the council at Castro Marim to enable us to understand more the restrictions and limitations associated to rural land.  Having to attend these meetings posed a new challenge of being on the road and that was what to wear, as I could not just rock up in my normal attire of flip flops and shorts!   Thankfully I had a pair of casual smart trousers and a box fresh set of new Vans on board, these combined with a short sleeve beach shirt smartened me up sufficiently for these more formal occasions.

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The CCDR building in Faro, venue for one of our meetings

Alongside the land search we did stay at some new places too.  In at attempt for something different from the Manta Rota coastal scenery we took a few days driving around the Serra de Castro Marim enjoying the stunning views from on top of and within the mountain range passing through numerous small and simple rural villages.  We stayed overnight at a stop over at Bentos which was very peaceful and completely pitch black at night.

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In the mountains at Bentos

All of our other stop overs depended on convenience and which estate agents we were meeting as the land search took priority over our own tourism and therefore we bounced around Vila Real, Praia de Cabecao, Castro Marim, Monte Gordo, Faro, Praia de Faro, Quarteira, Vilamoura and Barregem Arade, all places we have stopped at before and no doubt in the future will do again!

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Rita’s supermarket in Castro Marim

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There are always great sunsets when you are parked up at Sao Fransico parking in Faro.  It was here we tied up with Jacqui and Richard again for a couple of chilled out days

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Early morning on Monte Gordo beach I found this ‘marisqueira’ working away.  Early fisherman gets the clam.

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Also on Monte Gordo was this washed up starfish that confused Rita’s nose.

In summary, it was a huge learning curve and it will take considerably more time researching and working with the local authorities to find and acquire a piece of land that suits our needs without contravening the local and national laws for land development.  However, we achieved and learned much more than we originally thought possible and we are really pleased with ourselves for having stepped off the starting blocks on what could be the next chapter in our lives……

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Even though we were busy in January, we still found time for some down time………… Faro old town.