A Fun French Finale (part 1)

10th March to 20th March 2019

France always seems to get a rough deal on our winter trips as we spend the least time here on our France-Spain-Portugal-Spain-France white box boomerang.  It always seems like we are distracted when pass through as on the first leg as we are hungry for warmer climes and on the return it is clouded by the fact we are going back to the UK and the trip is nearing it’s end.

Our winter/spring 2019 French episode proved very different and was in fact immense fun.  Maybe a ‘game changer’ (editors note:  Matt, you are not at the office any longer!) was that we had been invited to spend a few days with our motorhome friends Rick and Mary who were house sitting in the Lot Valley and this gave the trip a certain initial purpose other than just passing through the country.

To get to the Lot, or Fumel to be exact, meant that we would climb again over the Pyrenees on the Camino de Frances passing through Ronscavales and St Jean Pied de Port on the same route that we trudged when we walked the Camino.  I have written about this before as we have touched the Camino in several different places in the camper post walking to Santiago and it always conjures up powerful memories.  On this time the weather was wet, nevertheless we did spot a few brave Caminoers battling the elements on their way west.

Our first French night was spent at Sauveterre de Bearn in the Pyrennes-Atlantiques region.  This was the perfect introduction back into France as the town was stunning with it’s fortifications, churches and old bridge from which you could glimpse the walled town from it’s most impressive angle.

20190311_124254

The town of Sauveterre de Bearn

Our next stopover was a town in the Gers department called Condom.  The motorhome aire was positioned a little outside of the centre alongside a campsite and during the winter months the campsite is closed and therefore the aire is free of charge.  It is superbly equipped with each camper being assigned an individual hard stand and the communal areas were littered with the odd picnic bench.  Even though the campsite was closed, the annexed aire was still patrolled daily by a local council vehicle meaning the aire at Condom was very safe (excuse the pun 🙂

As often the case whilst on Aires we had become chatty with an English couple called Linda and Ian and on our second day there we had arranged to have nibbles and wine on one of the picnic benches.  Whilst the sun was beating down and the travel stories were being swapped another English motorhome pulled into the aire and instantly I recognised the drivers.  During our summer time at Normans Bay in 2017 we had exchanged pleasantries on several occasions with a couple who were planning a pan-european motorhome trip and it was in fact them, Pierre and Chris, that had just pulled up.  More wine ensued as the six of us whiled away the evening which ended with take away pizza that Pierre and I had collected on foot from the town centre, a round trip of 3km!!!

20190312_125045

We do not have many photos to show for our two nights in Condom.  The aire is located next to a campsite and park area that surrounds the river, it really is an excellent aire.  Our Suntor can be seen in the distance.

With sore heads we left Condom to find the E’Leclerc in Fumel, our meeting point with Rick and Mary.  Our rendezvous at the supermarket’s car park happened without event and we headed off in convoy to their friends house which they were looking after.  It was quite funny really, as once we had pulled off the main road we drove past some amazing barn conversion type properties, and one in particular caught our eyes and at the same moment we both said to each “wow, look at that one, that is nice” Rick pulled of the road and into it’s drive way!

The house really was spectacular combining all the ingredients of fine country living with land, animals, stables and woodland.  Instantly we made our arrival known as Rita jumped out of our motorhome and proceeded to chase the resident chickens.  Much to our horror she managed to catch one of them and ran around with a live hen in her mouth.  Luckily the chicken was not hurt and once we prised it from Rita’s mouth it ran off, in slight shock maybe, to join it’s feathery friends.

20190315_075805

It was a bit drizzly during our time with Rick and Mary so it was really great to be able to enjoy the indoors of a truly amazing property.

Obviously we won’t forget Rick and Mary’s company and hospitality during our stay but I will also remember the derelict neighbouring Chateaux that lay dormant in the nearby woods.  It had a very eerie aura and it was hard not to wonder about what mysteries it held of times gone by.

20190315_073609 The old Chateaux was good fuel for my imagination whilst on Rita’s walks.

Feeling refreshed and comforted after our couple days on the farm (!) we packed our selves back into to camper, had one final count of the chickens to ensure that they were all still alive and well, waved our goodbyes to Rick and Mary and drove off north to continue of our journey through France.

to be continued…..

 

 

Advertisements

Spain Again….

6th March to 10th March 2019

20190309_121421.jpg

The black toro on the hill means we are in Spain again.  “Estupendo yipi!!”

We started our most recent Spanish chapter in Sancti-Spiritus, which lies just outside Ciudad-Rodrigo.  This stop over point is one we look forward to as it is in fact a lorry drivers road side motel that is run by Kelly and Fred, a Belg/Anglo couple, even though the name stirs up visions of a spiritual retreat maybe.  What the place does lack in religious memorabilia it makes up for in food portion sizes, therefore this time we arrived hungry!

20190306_203251.jpg

Sharon and pile of large shrimps.  Imagine, this was just a starter!  The food portions at Kelly and Fred’s roadside hostel are designed for the weary and hungry Spanish trucker.

The timing was good for us, it was the day before my birthday so we had a mini celebration and were able to catch up on the last 12 months with Fred and Kelly.  Not great timing for them though as they had just been overrun with visitors staying for the Ciudad Rodrigo ‘Bull Carnival’.   They too are planning some big life changes, so much so that their thriving business is up for sale…….

The day after our rendezvous at Sancti-Spirtus was of course my birthday, my fourth successive on the road which is a quite a lot when you come to think of it and a real tell tale sign of our ‘life style’ changes (there it is again, I do not like these words but I really can not find an alternative.  In my defence I think it is only the third time in the entirety of this blog that I have used it though).

When we look back on these celebrations we remember that they have all been very varied.  The first was in Palencia, Spain where for some reason we struggled to find any life in the town’s bars and restaurants meaning we went back to van early to eat my birthday evening meal.  The second was in Lagos, Portugal which to be honest will be difficult to surpass as it really was a crazy night, picking up random ‘party people’ as we trawled the bars in the old town ending in the early hours with having en-massed quite a group of really weird and wonderful people.  Trying to repeat this event, we choose San Sebastian in the Spanish Basque for my third ‘on the road’ birthday but this one misfired and fell flat mainly because I had peaked too early and had a massive hangover from the night before.  So with all of this in mind, we decided to take the pressure off choosing a location and agreed that the celebration will happen wherever we end up, and for this year that was a small town called Aleajos in the Castile-y-Leon region.

Aleajos

Aleajos’s skyline is dominated by it’s church’s spires.  Photo courtesy of the tourist board

It proved to be a perfect choice for this year.  We had a pleasant stroll around the town’s windy streets, found the town’s main square and passed both it’s churches.  After this we enjoyed just a few beers in a very friendly bar which was refreshingly frequented by the local youngish men on their lunch break.  As we had Rita with us one of the local guys started talking to us and described that he had 12 dogs and he used them for hunting.  He even offered one of his dogs for us to keep which was pretty strange and from the photos we could see that she was a middle aged greyhound type dog (a Galgo mix?) so maybe he did not have too much use for her as a hunter in her older age.  I was really tempted, but it was head over heart and we politely declined.  What a great travel story that would have made though, one that I would enjoy re-telling if ever asked “oh what a lovely dog, where did you get her from?”…”Well, it is a long story really, but it was my birthday and I was in a bar in northern Spain and a guy………………….”

20190308_082314

The bar where I was offered the most unusual birthday present.  We would have called her Gisela (the Galgo)

20190307_143205.jpg

43rd birthday toast.  It was quite colourful inside the bar!

20190307_171548.jpg

After a brief visit to the bar Sharon cooked me an amazing birthday burger in the van.

20190308_110648

The motorhome parking at Aleajos was excellent with all the services and picnic table and of course there was zero charge.

With a clear head we set off early the next day and drove to a town called Briviesca in the province of Burgos.  During my afternoon stroll around I discovered the main square, where I sat down on one of the benches to watch the world go by, something that most people would agree is totally fascinating.  It is great to see the answer to ‘who lives in a town like this?’.

20190308_165454

The main square in Briviesca.  The weather was really sunny but the high buildings and thin streets seem to keep the sunshine out which is probably important in the long summer time.  With a population of around 7000 people it was actually quite busy, something the photo does not depict.

Our last stop in Spain for this trip was Uharte Arakil, Navarre.  This was another place that we did not know and the motorhome stop over was really fantastic.  Using the available picnic benches we lunched in the sun and then took off for a mountain side walk.  On the walk information boards they showed the points where care would need to be taken due to the resident wolves!  Luckily we survived and were not mauled to death by hungry wolves allowing us to continue onto France the next morning.

20190309_141118

The mountainous back drop at Uharte Akakil was stunning.  If you like walking you could easily stay here several days

 

 

A Rest in the West Before Exiting in the East.

27th February to 6th March 2019

20190227_170024

The main church at Bombarral.  The town was off the tourist track and therefore seemed pretty normal.  This ‘normality’ gave the town an interest to me and using the excuse of walking Rita I absorbed and observed the town’s people going about their lives.

After a quiet night stop over at Bombarral, a town near to Buddha Eden, we headed over to much visited and lamented walled town of Obidos.  Deciding just to day trip instead of staying the night we left the van in the public coach park and set off to see the sights with of course Rita in tow.  Naturally, Obidos is fascinating with it’s walls, white washed houses and windy streets that run off the main spine road, a route that is lined with what seemed like good quality restaurants on both sides, but since we had not planned to have lunch there we found that a couple of hours wondering around was sufficient to take in the historic feel of Obidos.

20190228_133823

A glimpse of the Estremadura countryside through one of the wall’s doorways, Obidos  

Not wanting to spend too long in Obidos was driven by the decision to get to the west coast, with a hope to spend a few days there before heading east and out of Portugal.  It is not that often I take written notes from other people’s travels but when we were in La Jara, Spain with Rick and Mary I borrowed their ‘All the Aires Spain and Portugal’ book and proceeded to make a note of all the aires in Portugal that Rick had highlighted as being worth a visit.  The list probably totalled around twenty odd aires and it was from this list that we choose the destination of Foz do Arelho.  Having passed by Foz in 2017, choosing instead Peniche, Sao Martinho do Porto and Nazare as our Estremadura seaside stop overs, it was really great to finally complete the dots on this part of the coast.  Once settled at the lagoon side aire, we poured ourselves a much deserved drink and I took the time to ‘message’ Rick and Mary to say thanks for the travel tips and that Foz do Arelho was indeed very beautiful and well worth the visit.  Within about 3 minutes, there was knock on our habitation door and there stood Rick!!!!!  I love these random encounters that the motorhoming world throws at us, it really is fantastic.

20190228_183657

Our view of the sun setting over the lagoon at Foz do Arelho.  The actual coast is less than a ten minute walk and is shown on the top right corner of the photo.

20190302_194703

In the early evening several small stalls would set up and sell clams from the lagoon.  Upon purchase Sharon received helpful instructions on how they should be prepared from the gathering of local women who were chit chatting with the stall owner.  “Heat the clams in oil, with piri piri chillies and a very small amount of water.  Once cooked add a handful of coriander to wilt and then squeeze on the lemon.  Serve with toasted local bread”.   It’s simplicity made it absolutely delicious.

After four nights of chilling out, enjoying the coast and socialising we were rested up sufficiently to head east.  This homeward bound trip though still had it’s own purpose, more than just driving home.  In the central east part of Portugal there were a couple of areas that we needed to check out so we could gather our thoughts on it’s suitability for our potential land/property project, namely the areas around Castelo Branco, Fundao and Penamacor.

20190304_143707

From Foz we popped up coast a few kms for our last look at the Atlantic, stopping at Nazare’s famous surf beach, just north of the town centre.  The sea was rough, but again there was little evidence of the famous 30 metre high waves.

On our central west to east escapade we stayed the night about half way across the country at a town called Figueiro do Vinhos.  The weather had taken a little turn for the worse and we arrived at the stop over place in the much needed rain, nevertheless we still took a wander around the small town centre.  The town has a traditional Portugal feel and on the high street there is a now derelict hotel which we would have walked by if a local man had not stopped us and indicated we should look inside the dirty windows.  We were surprised to find a scene that was stuck in time, the hotel reception and the bar looked like it was closed for business very quickly and managed still to ooze the air of the atmosphere of when it was once open.  The main interest point though was the huge Portuguese blue and white tile murals which lined all the walls and any surfaces such as the cafe’s tables and reception desk.  It really was fantastic to see and it made us wonder why some rich investor had not wanted to start a labour of love project on the building to create a boutique hotel maybe.

20190304_182140

One of the small squares in Figueiro do Vinhos.  As we did not take any photos of the interior of the derelict hotel, we will have to remember it by this tiled fountain.

Our next stop was the city Castelo Branco and this was to be our first time here.  We managed to park the motorhome on one of the main streets, since it was Carnival Monday the city’s road network was deserted.  We walked around the more modern lower section of the city and then headed up the hill to the castle.  The windy streets that cover the castle hillside were amazing as they we lined with terrace houses, however the different being that many of them were in really bad condition or empty.  It made us ponder why this would be as it certainly had the same interest as the other historic centres in other Portuguese cities, but seemed to lack the no doubt expensive refurbishment programme.  After a few hours taking the city in we both agreed that we liked Castelo Branco and that we would be coming back here to spend more time in the city and to explore more the outlying areas.

20190305_133651

At the top of the castle hill, looking down one of the many narrow streets of the historic centre.  Cars would find it very difficult to navigate almost all of these streets, maybe that is why it seems that nobody lives in parts of the old town any more??…….

Leaving Castelo Branco in the rain we drove north to Fundao, arriving in the same wet conditions.  The weather deterred us from having a look around, which was a little lame of us really since this was the first time here.  Not knowing where to park for the night meant we headed for a municipal campsite on the edge of town.  When we arrived at the entrance to the campsite we had the definite impression that it was closed as it was completely empty of tourers and the only units on site were several very old caravans with battered self made tarpaulin awnings.   As we stalled at the closed gate, deciding whether just to stay on the mini car park outside of the campsite, a person appeared from a small bungalow that lay just inside the fence.  We enquired whether they were open to be told they were and after 10 euros changed hands he opened the gates for us.  The whole transaction had a slightly unofficial feel to it, but hey, there are not many times when you have a whole campsite to yourself hey!

20190306_124935

It was really wet and water logged at the campsite in Fundao.  As it was completely empty it made for a slightly strange experience and at night it was a little spooky even.  Sharon says the shower block was the worse she has ever used and this was because it was full of spiders and their webs.  I enjoyed looking at the old caravans, seriously it could have been a museum.  Has anybody stayed here recently???

20190306_131050

The rain stopped the moment we left Fundao.  The rainbow over the town’s suburbs was incredible and of course the photo does not do it’s brilliance justice.

The sun decided to make an appearance by the time we reached Penamacor and what a difference it can make.  The town seemed a bustling local hub with people sitting in the cafes and wandering the town’s streets and we could see why some of motorhome friends have recommended this area and town in particular.  We have really enjoyed visiting this region and it is definitely food for thought.  ‘Com certeza nos vamos voltar…….as Beiras, ate a proxima vez!!!!!!!’

Buddha Eden

27th February 2019

Buddha Eden is a place where Sharon has wanted to visit for some years now so en-route to Obidos we planned a whole day at the sculpture park.   We both like the background story to why this park exists, that being when the Taliban blew up the Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan in 2001 it despaired a Portuguese millionaire art collector and vineyard owner so much that he wanted to re-balance the cultural loss and built his own sculpture park complete with 100’s of monumental Buddhist statues.

Set in the grounds of his ‘Bacalhoa’ vineyard sits every type of Buddha, small and large in vast quantities.  It is an interesting sight and absolutely lives up to it’s name of being the Garden of Peace intended as a place for reconciliation.

If you are near there (1 hour north of Lisbon) we do recommend a visit as the entrance price is low (5 euros), dogs are allowed and we filled a whole day just ambling around in a kind of peaceful awe.  For now we will let the photos do the talking…

20190227_124436

20190227_124653.jpg

20190227_133334

20190227_124605.jpg

20190227_133515.jpg

20190227_140929

20190227_141202

20190227_141238

20190227_143533

20190227_151048

20190227_153301

20190227_153332.jpg

20190227_154456.jpg

20190227_123217

One world.

 

 

Tchau Tchau Algarve

21st March 2019 to 27th March 2019

As I write this post retrospectively I still remember the moment that we decided to start heading home.  It is an important trip milestone, one that looms over the whole time you are away.  I don’t mean to sound negative, because it is not, but it is a shift in mindset and instead of bumbling around and along the coast with a carefree holiday type of attitude our minds shift to becoming slightly more time constrained where journey planning takes more of a forefront.  With a month still to go though, we did not need to panic too much, leaving us plenty of time to visit a variety of places on the way home.

Therefore on our first day north, we only got as far as Ameixial, a small village in the mountains just inside the Algarve region before you cross over to the Alentejo.  Ameixial is known for it’s walks in the surrounding hillsides and not to be put off by the heat which very recently has had a definite Portuguese spring feel to it (i.e. think the best of the UK summer!) we set off to complete a sign posted circular walk with Rita.

20190222_104614

Walking within the north Algarve mountains is enjoyable at this time of year.  I cannot imagine what it would be like though in the summer heat.  The walking trail outside Ameixial village.

Crossing over to the Alentejo was something I had been looking forward to as this region is also on our list for potential land opportunities.  Wanting to spend some time in the towns nearest to the Algarve to help us obtain a feel of the place meant that we visited both Almodovar and Castro Verde.  We cannot deny that the Alentejo is completely different to the Algarve as it seems to have a back in time feel where traditions are held on to contrasting greatly with the faster pasted tourist places of the Algarve.

20190222_134700

Almodovar had quite a slow pace to it.  We liked the painted scenes on the buildings of times gone before

We had been recommended a municipal campsite in Castro Verde and for a change we chose to spend a couple of nights there, maybe the luxury of the rental house has spoiled us as the last campsite that we have stayed on whilst touring was probably in Porto back in spring 2017.

Casa do Alentejo

Casa do Alentejo restaurant was an excellent place to while away a few hours.  The food was traditional Alentejo, of course!

The weather was really fantastic during our time in Castro Verde and upon enquiring with the waitress at our lunch spot, Casa do Alentejo, we learnt that the south Alentejo on average is a couple degrees hotter in the summer and a couple of degrees colder in the winter than the neighbouring Algarve.   Before lunch we had enjoyed a stroll around the town and it’s main church, we had a little shock though when we peered over a wall to look at what the excavation site had uncovered, we were not expecting to see a part unearthed skeleton…….

20190223_133646

The excavationists must have downed tools to go out to lunch leaving this leg bone still in the ground……

We ended up staying three nights in all at Castro Verde and on our final day we stayed on the campsite enjoying the sunshine with our English motorhoming neighbours Steve and Suzanna, another couple similar to our age.  We have met so many more younger motorhomers on this trip than any other.  Is it because that we in fact are now getting older….????

Our final stop in the Alentejo region was at Viana do Alentejo, another countryside hub town with a castle and historic centre.  Again the town was really pleasant and the local people that I met were friendly but it did seem that there was not too much going on at the time of day that we walked around.  One thing I will remember though is that I popped into a small bar and ordered a 500ml Super Bock and was charged 1.80 euros which is refreshingly cheap even by Portugal’s standards.

20190225_152942

The castle at the heart of Viana do Alentejo.

With our time now finished in the Alentejo we moved across into the Lisbon region.   We were heading north west as we wanted to visit the coast line between Lisbon and Porto to see some of the places that we missed back in 2017.  For no other reason than that there was a free aire complete with services we stayed the night at a town called Abrigada which lies about 40km north of Lisbon.  It was here that I met local Norbert who, when he clapped his eyes on Rita, insisted that he showed me his dog which was a breed that had a blue tongue.  It was all a little strange really, as his dog was in his house around the corner, so following him with a certain amount of trepidation he duly fetched his dog out of the garage to show off her blue tongue.  He then proceeded to show me around his house which was coincidentally ‘for sale’.  After making all the pleasantries possible I eventually left, but still with him in tow!!!  He then showed me his local bar where I bought him a beer and then peculiarly enough he wanted to introduce me to the local fire men at the nearby fire station.  I was not aware that most fire stations have a public bar in them to help raise funds for the volunteer firemen so he then bought me a beer back.  At this point I think I could see where this was heading so I left on good terms and went back to the van with an odd story to tell Sharon…………….

20190226_164247

Norbert’s dog that has a blue tongue.  Upon research the dog must be some sort of Chow Chow.  

20190227_095647

Moving the subject from mild madness back to motorhoming, at Abrigada the aire had a donation box aimed at the motorhomers staying there.  This is the first time I have seen this and we think it is a great idea.   I imagine many people leave some change and why not, especially as the aire is provided free.

The Three Fs

9th Feb to 21st Feb 2019

Ask any Portuguese person young or old about the three Fs and they will answer you immediately with Football, Fatima and Fado.  Some even might add some context to this phrase and link it back to the period of almost half a century when Portugal was ruled by a fascist catholic dictatorship which lasted until 1974 who used the three Fs to bolster it’s power and control of the Portuguese people.

3 fs

During Salazar’s Portugal the miracle at Fatima aided the country’s sanctity, Benfica football team reigned Europe and Fado music was censored to shift it from it’s original socialist roots.

Leaving the country’s recent history aside, we have coined our own set of three Fs, Friends and Family in Faro as it seems whenever we meet up with people Faro is involved!  Last year we met my parents in the Algarve capital and on this trip, back in December, we arranged to meet Jacqui and Richard there and much more recently we have met up with motorhoming friends Rick and Mary and all of my family again.

Faro has become an ideal meeting place for visitors who fly in as the airport is really close to the old town and more importantly for us the town is motorhome friendly and offers a section of one of the principle town centre car parks for overnighting motorhomes.  Another string to the town’s bow, is that you can also park campers at nearby Praia de Faro, which despite the airport side location offers a surprisingly peaceful and relaxed stay.

20190212_100056

The motorhome parking is literally alongside Faro airport

Praia de Faro was to be the location of our meet up with Rick and Mary and during our couple of days there we discovered some new places.  First of all we walked across the boardwalks through the nature reserve Quinta do Lobo where we spotted all sorts of wet land birds, the pinnacle being the very elegant flamingos.   We also discovered the east side of the beach which is home to many little simple wooden houses, an area which which seems to have attracted a young ‘surfey’ crowd from central Europe as it’s winter residents.

20190220_121722

The east side of Praia de Faro is very similar to Ilha Culatra which also lies in the Ria Formosa national reserve.  I love sand roads.

Continuing the friends theme, we had a second motorhoming meet up organised with Mike and Mandy, this time in nearby Quarteira.  In contrast to our last visit to here we dined out on the main beach promenade at a Portuguese restaurant and not one of the English owned venues that seem popular in this seaside town.  Luckily for me the daily special was Feijoada, and this was to be my first butter bean and pork stew of the trip so far.  This traditional Portuguese fare, combined with the blazing sun and the cheap red wine made for an very enjoyable afternoon which continued into the evening……..

20190217_124438

We had to nurse a hang over on Saturday morning so for lunch we had take away chicken from restaurant ‘Marufo 1’.  This place is so popular that the queue goes out the door and you have to get a number similar to the post office and wait to be served.  This waiting time/people watching is made even more enjoyable with a large Super Bock from the bar.

Returning back to Faro, we met up with my family: Mum, Dad and my sister.  Last year when my parents came the sun shone all the time keeping the temperatures in the high teens.  This year it could not have been more different as it rained and was cloudy for there first few days.  We could not believe it as the weather this winter in Portugal has been amazing with only a handful of showery days since the start of November.   Not letting the weather deter us we enjoyed ambling around Faro’s cobbled streets and even managed a quick trip over to Praia de Faro, visiting again the simple back in time east side.

IMG-20190221-WA0002

A rare family photograph.  It is so great that my family make the effort to visit us and we all enjoy our time in Faro.  Restaurante ‘Dois Irmaos’.

20190220_143833

Sally and I walking on Faro beach.  Quarteira town is in the distance at the end of the bay.

20190218_182340

We could add a 4th F to Family and Friends in Faro, and that would be Frango.  ‘Crazy Chicken’ at Largo da Praca Nova is our favourite in Faro.

Things repeating themselves continued even when we had left Faro.  Last year, coincidentally whilst my parents were visiting, we were impacted by the Volta de Algarve, Portugal’s largest cycle race, meaning we had to leave Faro and decamp to the airport for few days to allow for the race’s entourage to take over the municipal car park.  This year, as we headed north from Faro on the N2, having planned to be out of the way before the Volta turned up on Sunday, we were met by a parade of police motor bikes who made us pull off the road into a near by lay-by.  By complete chance we had managed to drive head first into the cycle race and whilst we were waiting we were treated to a ring side view of the racers speeding past.   Maybe next year we will actually plan to see the race for real as it seems like something we can’t avoid!

20180217_092749

In Feb 2018 we woke up to find ourselves cordoned in to the space reserved for the Volta.

20190221_140247

In Feb 2019 we got really close to the Volta action on the N2.  What can we expect next year?

 

 

 

 

 

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.

20190202_113611

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.

20190202_145954.jpg

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?

20190207_134916[1]

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

20190206_090006

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.

20190206_093312.jpg

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.

20190131_112833

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.  

20190204_125006

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!!!

20190204_151621

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.

20190202_113557.jpg

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.