Winter Blog 2014/15

Week 28 - 31. Going home.

Week 28, 26th April - 2nd May 2015.

It’s been a sad old week after the excellent time spent with Sue’s relatives, we have done very little except go back on the tee total wagon (our livers deserve a rest after the bashing they’ve been getting the last two weeks) and try to get everything back into its rightful place.

We have just realised that our travel insurance has expired. We get a policy that allows continuous absence from UK for an extended period of time. We usually get a three month policy and then extend it in increments of three months until we are ready to come back. We remembered after the first three months but forgot it at the end of that time. A phone call to the broker confirmed our worst fears - it ran out over two weeks ago and although they could swing a day or two a fortnight was asking too much - bugger!!! Insurance generally has to be started while you are in UK and while it is not impossible to get it while already away it can be prohibitively expensive.

We had planned a super route home via Spain, Andorra, France, Italy, Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Netherlands then, around September, UK on the Rotterdam/Harwich ferry. That would have then given us about a month to get the caravan and car serviced and the car MOT’d before time to clear out before winter arrived in England.

After much deliberation we decided to return to UK get a few things sorted (Sue had a tooth filling fall out last month) then we hope to head out into Europe with Italy as the goal before returning for the servicing etc in September.

We booked a ferry from Bilbao to Portsmouth on the 19th/20th of the month.

The only positive point in the week was an email from Rosemary and Frank saying they were calling in at Camping Alentejo to see us on the way to Santander where they have a Santander/Portsmouth ferry booked and plan to spend the summer in UK visiting family and friends.

To cheer ourselves up we have persuaded Siebo to book a visit to a local restaurant for a “camp” dinner. We have been to one before it was, tasty, plentiful and cheap.

Week 29, 3rd - 9th May 2015.

R & F arrived in time to join us and a number of other campers for the restaurant evening that Siebo had arranged. It was a great night out, the menu was :-

1st course - Homemade vegetable soup
2nd course - Bacalho (Cod Fish)
3rd course - Oven roast lamb
4th course - Secret of the black pig (famous local pork dish)
5th, 6th & 7th course - lots of yummy puddings

With drinks, coffee etc this came to €14.00 (£10.00) per head.


We had taken our car and given a lift to a German couple staying on the site and after a splendid meal the four of us got back in the car and started off for the site. In our car the iPod is never turned off it plays the 3500 odd songs etc quite randomly. Imagine our horror when the BBC archive of the declaration of WW2 started to play panicking we both dived for the “off” button.. Our passengers said nothing, but with the amount they had drunk they probably would not have noticed if Chamberlain had been sitting between them reading his famous war declaration speech. Another point to mention was that it was the anniversary of VE Day!

R&F booked their ferry back to UK some months ago so we were amazed to find we had tried to book the same ferry, unfortunately Sue doesn’t travel very well and as there were no outside cabins, that is cabins with windows overlooking the sea we booked passage on the MV Cap Finistère the following day. As our ferries departures were so close together Rosemary and Sue decided that we would travel together to Northern Spain. A pleasant prospect. The weather has been HOT, HOT, HOT this last week with the temperature in the van reaching over 40ºC, thats over 100ºC in old money and it’s not even summer yet so thoughts have been turning to getting air conditioning installed in the van. Although it’s almost certainly a dream as we simply cannot add another 32kg to the load we are already carrying though when we get back we will weigh the van to see if there is any way it can be achieved.

Week 30,10th - 16th May 2015

IMG 3258

We left Camping Alentejo after four super weeks and headed back into Spain, our destination being Campsite “Camping Parque Nacional de Monfragüe" just outside Plasencia.

The campsite’s main claim to fame is the huge variety of birds that can be seen in the Parque Nacional de Monfragüe. In fact the campsite organises two bird watching safaris each day, unfortunately the weather was still so hot we were advised by the camp staff not to go until the weather had cooled somewhat.

The camp also boasted a large bar/restaurant that whenever we passed was very busy (and the reviews on the ACSI web site were very favourable) so the four of us went for dinner, the menu looked good and the prices were very reasonable. What a pity the food was almost inedible. We can say, without fear of contradiction, it was, by a long way, the worst restaurant meal we had ever had in Spain and in Sue and my case (can’t speak for Rosemary and Frank) the worst restaurant meal we have ever been served - anywhere.

This area of Spain is famous for cherries and at Plasencia market we bought 3 kilos of the most superb tasting cherries for just €7.00 - about 68 pence per pound, how cheap is that? They went very well with the 3.5kg of strawberries we bought for €3.00 (around 39 pence per pound) in the same market.

IMG 3270

After visiting one of the fabulous waterfalls - Cascada de Marta - that abound in the Valle Del Jerte we drove for miles along single track mountain roads with cherry trees as far as the eye could see. The only people seen were small groups of cherry pickers, each team seemed to consist of three people who worked in isolation filling trays with the delicious fruits which they then transported to the local co-op in small white vans.

After a couple of nights in Monfragüe (we will certainly return but not to eat in the restaurant) we moved to Camping Fuentes Blancas for an overnight stop on our way to Camping El Helguero, on the northern coast of Spain.

This area of Spain is one that most Brits rush through on their way to the southern costa’s but it is an area that deserves greater attention. It is (in summer at least) warm and dry(ish) with a somewhat alpine feel.

Our only trip out in the two days we stayed here was to Santillana del Mar, a medieval gem - very touristy but no less worthy of a visit for that. The Sunday we visited the the locals were having a “quilting and appliqué” day with dozens of women sitting in various locations in the village busily working on favourite projects many of which were stunning.

Week 31, 17th May - UK

Rosemary and Frank’s ferry left Santander mid afternoon Monday so they left direct from Camping El Helguero. We would have stayed another night and gone to Bilbao from there on Tuesday morning but the gate was locked until 8.00am - “. . .sorry no exceptions sir . . .” - so we left and went a bit closer to Bilbao and stayed on a site, Camping Laredo, that also would not open the gate until 8.00am but it was just 50km, around 45 minutes from the ferry so no problem.


We arrived at the boat in plenty of time booked in and got on the right queue (or the wrong queue perhaps) and after a short delay drove on the ship. Rather than as the first time we went on this particular ship, the MV Cap Finistère, we did not go on to the large open vehicle deck, turn round at the bottom and face the door - no this time after entering the ship we went up a steep and very narrow metal ramp, onto the upper car deck to the back of a quite small deck and turned around and went to the front of the ship onto an almost external deck. The deck was actually an oval with lifts, stairwells etc going up the centre.

The passage for the first 14 hours was the roughest I have been experienced (on a ferry) since 1986. I fortunately do not suffer from seasickness but Sue, though not actually Moby Dick had a thoroughly miserable passage and spent the first 20 hours of it in bed. As we had taken a picnic with us for dinner I thought it would be better not to eat in front of the sufferer so went to the bar and had a liquid dinner, but as I had had cereals, rolls, full english, croissants etc for breakfast and another four croissants for lunch I figured I would not starve, particularly as I had a repeat of yesterdays breakfast this morning.

Arrived back in the jolly old UK late (adverse weather conditions given as the reason) and on going to the car deck found that after we had parked they had packed lorries around us and even on the slope that had been raised with hydraulics to a level position. There were four other caravans behind us, but in front was a hydraulic roadway so we assumed we would go out that way but I and the guy behind us was concerned that the lorry alongside us was only 6” away and to access the roadway would need a route that would certainly cause the backend of the van to swing to the left and clout the lorry along side.

The front exit roadway was never opened, the hydraulic ramp was lowered and the lorry on it driven off. All the motorhomes, caravans and cars on the same deck as us that had loaded first had in fact done two 180º turns and were in a position to drive forward do another 180º turn to bring them back to the ramp. Once they were all off and on their way the lorries alongside us were reversed out, you have to admire those guys it was such a tight space to work in with a huge arctic, and they went down the ramp and away. The arctic in front of us then had to manoeuvre across the deck as he could not reverse with us there and neither did he have space to go round the oval, I and the four vans behind us then had to wiggle around that last remaining truck while executing a very tight 180º turn drive up the back of the oval another 180 and we were at the top of the ramp just a few minutes later we left the ship, the last five vehicles and over an hour after the ship started unloading.

Adventure number four was over, now how about adventure number five!

For the sad among you a few statistics,

Time away = 221 days

Total distance driven = 10,333 miles between a third and a half towing the caravan.

Total diesel used = 1841.49 litres (405 gallons)

Economy = 25.51 mpg, this figure is in “old money” as who understands litres per kilometre? The figure appears on the low side but includes consumption when towing two tons of caravan.

Ferry fares (Plymouth/Santander, Bilbao (£510.10)/Portsmouth (£557.10) = £1067.20.

The dearest litre of diesel = €1.294 (94 pence)

The cheapest litre of diesel = €1.069 (78 pence)

New car tyres, set of four = €680 (£491.79). Buying in Spain saved us around €58.00 (£42.00) on UK e-tyre prices (the cheapest UK supplier we could find).

Car 50,000 mile service = €365.00 (£261.00) I don’t know what a standard 50,000 service is in UK but the 20, 30 & 40 thousand mile services carried out in UK were all a lot more expensive.

European camp sites visited = 24

Weeks 25 - 27. Visitors From Space - well 35,000ish feet

Week 25

Monday 6th April 2015

The miserable Brits (perhaps I should have replaced the Br with a g) were moaning about the Spanish again this morning, OK so they (the Spanish) all had another party last night - get over it 😊, by lunch time the Spanish had gone home the site was back to a few Johnny Foreigners who had no grandchildren (or who had had enough of them over Christmas). On our particular little block there was only one Spanish family who arrived yesterday afternoon and left this morning, the most interesting thing about them was the small size of the van despite being a family of four and the fact that in the front locker, where most of us keep a couple of gas bottles, they had a huge air conditioning unit permanently plumbed in.

Tuesday 7th April 2015

Moving day, as it seems to be with many campers on this site. The remaining Brits are still moaning, now its about how quiet the site is going to be.

We had quite a way to go today, well for us anyway, around 560 kms (350 miles(ish)) which took us around half way to Camping Alentajo where we will be spending a couple of weeks.

It was a very easy journey having started no more than 15 kms from the motorway and finishing just 3km from the main road and nothing but motorway standard roads in between except the bit bordering the Sierra Nevada. Here the road is quite a way above sea level and the wind was blowing across the road and bouncing us all over it and although it was somewhat uncomfortable at times and a tad frightening, never got to “Oh s**t, what an earth are we doing here?” stage.

We reached the site, Campsite La Sierrecilla, booked in for one night and set up on the same pitch as when we were previously here and within a few minutes of getting the kettle on the wind had risen to levels high enough to seriously rock two tons of caravan in a most alarming manner.

Wednesday 8th April 2015

Well it blew a hoolie all night and the forecast this morning was for the wind to increase not decrease so knowing the roads between here and Camping Alentejo are at times very exposed we elected to stay put today and move on tomorrow.

Thursday 9th April 2015

We left at “crack of sparrow” this morning, the wind was still there but without the weight of the previous couple of days. The journey today was around 450 kms, over 100 kms less than Tuesday but it took over an hour longer as there was less motorway and included the Seville north about ring road, one of Spain’s few versions of the M25. Fortunately Portugal is on the same time zone as UK i.e. an hour behind Spain so, we gained an hour, so still arrived at a reasonable time.

Friday 10th April 2015

The weather forecast was certainly right last night. The rain persisted down all night, there were three small tents on the site when we went to bed, one had already gone when we woke, while the occupants of the other two spent the day trying to dry everything, not an easy task as there was intermittent rain all day. ‘orible.

Saturday 11th April 2015

Oh deep joy - shopping. Still the weather has greatly improved and the sun has shone all day.

It was “happy hour” tonight when all the campers get together over a drink and get to know each other. It was a very pleasant couple of hours but strange to be so outnumbered by the Dutch, the two of us and an ex-pat, Malcolm, who long terms here being the only non-Dutch visitors.

Sunday 12th April 2015 

More deep joy today. Our visitors are only here for twelve days but we have spent the past two days shopping, still we have made a start on the alcohol purchasing and have so far bought : -

12 - bottles local wine 
2 - packs beer
1 - bottle brandy
1 - bottle Peach liqueur
1 - bottle Banana liqueur

Not enough but it’s a start!

This afternoon we emptied the car including taking the top box off. I could not believe the amount of tosh we carry around, and it has taken ages to find places to put it all while we are here. The trouble is what there is is (in the main) stuff we can’t get rid off, you would be staggered at the huge mountain of tosh we started out with and after finding unnecessary got rid off - well those of you who have finished up storing it for us will not be staggered cos they know. Thank you Pam, Carol & Paul, Brenda & Dave etc., what would we do without you?

Week 26/27

Tuesday 14th April 2015

Not really the start of Weeks 26/27, that was yesterday but our visitors arrived today. We left Camping Alentejo at around the same time Brenda and Dave left Stansted and we all arrived at Lisbon Airport at almost the exact same time, their 2000 odd kilometres taking the same time to fly as our 156 kilometres to drive.

2015-04-16 19.56.58

Say what you want about Ryanair, and even boss Michael O’Leary admits they “unnecessarily piss people off”, but they do know how to stick to a timetable so less than a half hour after the scheduled touchdown time we were driving our way back to Camping Alentejo where B&D were to spend a week in the site “bungalow” , a small but well equipped mobile home type structure in its own grounds - very nice

Wednesday 15th April 2015

Not venturing far today, just Estramoz a very pleasant town in which the main interest is that many of the pavements etc in the old town are made of local marble.

I previously wrote of Estramoz:-

“ . . . Local again today, well localish anyway. We went to Estramoz the nearest town of any significance to the camp site around 12 km away and is reached through extensive vineyards as this is an important wine region. Another other important local industry . . . . is marble. . . “

 Alentejo’s white gold, 500,000 tonnes quarried each year, representing over 90% of Portugal’s marble production, comes from this region and is exported throughout the world including to Italy, the worlds greater supplier (Portugal is second). The Estramoz marble is white or pink while the quarries at Viana do Alentejo, just 60 km to the south west, yield a green stone.

“ . . . It has made the area prosperous as well as beautiful but the scars of the quarries does little for the approaches to the town. The town itself however is quite spacious and open once through the  small gateways. Parking in the huge town centre car park we walked steadily upwards through the steep streets till we reached the old fortifications, now the Pousada da Rainha Santa Isabel (up market hotel). The medieval upper town is dominated by a 13th century keep rising 27m (89ft) and clad, if not made of, marble. Access to the keep is via the pousada, free and allows superb views in all directions . . . “

We went to the campsite “happy hour” this evening, we took iced tea and were the only ones sober when it finished.

Thursday 16th April 2015

A trip out today, first to Garrison Border Town of Elvas a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is described on the UNESCO web site thus

“ . . . The site, extensively fortified from the 17th to 19th centuries, represents the largest bulwarked dry-ditch system in the world. Within its walls, the town contains barracks and other military buildings as well as churches and monasteries. While Elvas contains remains dating back to the 10th century ad, its fortification began when Portugal regained independence in 1640. The fortifications designed by Dutch Jesuit padre Cosmander represent the best surviving example of the Dutch school of fortifications anywhere. The site also contains the Amoreira aqueduct, built to enable the stronghold to withstand lengthy sieges. . . “ 

IMG 3233

There is also an English cemetery commemorating battles fought by the British army in the area.

From Elvas we continued on to the Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones) at Campo Major. In 1766, the Chapel was built following the destruction of the citadel after an explosion at a gunpowder magazine in 1732. More than two thirds of the population died.

The interior of the chapel, adjoining the beautiful Church Field Matrix Major, is completely covered with the remains of the victims of this tragedy, this is the second largest in the country, the largest being Evora's Bones Chapel in the Church of San Francisco.

When we first visited this town in March last year we were stopped by the police and warned to be wary of gipsies who were apt to rob tourists. This year the police stopped us again with the same warning and emphasised they were using children who while playing chase would bump into you and grab bags, pick pockets etc. We saw no gipsies and no gypsy children.

Friday 17th April 2015

Monseraz today, one of our most favourite places in Portugal, perched high above the River Guadiana on the frontier with Spain. The castle keep commands glorious views in all directions and at its foot the garrison courtyard which today serves as a bullring. The town is first and last a tourist attraction with it’s only shops selling souvenirs or coffee or both despite which the prices while not low are also not particularly high either. At the end of the main street is the castle keep the “arena” of which is now used for various local events including bull running. In the photo’s are a couple of examples of the difference between Portuguese and UK health and safety requirements.

From Monseraz we visited one of the Megalithic monuments of the Cromlech of Xerez which was moved from its original location and made square rather than the original round

Saturday 18th April 2015

Estramoz market is held every Saturday morning around the main town square and is one of the strangest we have come across. The main square itself is used as a large carpark, which without the propensity of the locals to park in a very haphazard manner could take many, many more cars than it does. A large part of the market is of the flea variety with a very wide range of “stuff” from huge oak bedsteads to whiskey stills, “present from Brighton” jugs (true - ed) to religious statues. The other part is a collection of stalls selling whatever foodstuffs the locals have grown, this can range from a large stall selling a wide range of vegetables to a small stall selling a few eggs or a couple of live chickens.

Having bought our fruit and veggies we toddled off first to Borba, to visit the local wine co-op to top up our wine supplies. Borba wine is a favourite of ours and sold just about everywhere in the Alentejo region (the best price being Lidl where it is €2.89 a bottle), in the wine co-op it was €2.79 a bottle, not a great difference but they also had wine in boxes for less than the equivalent of €0.99 a bottle - result.

Before returning to the site we made a last stop for a look around Villa Vicosa, a town dominated by a marble royal palace and church.

Sunday 19th April 2015

We went “abroad” today travelling from the site in Portugal to Merida in Spain where, as I have reported before has more roman remains than you can shake a stick at. Sue and I have already spent three days there this year and have still not visited all of the various sites. We took B & D to visit the amphitheatre, the theatre, the roman bridge, Diana’s temple and the roman museum. A long but interesting day.

Monday 20th April 2015

After the long day yesterday we stayed local today having a look at the drawbridge on the “back” entrance to Estramoz where there is a small drawbridge that looks almost in working order and gives access through a small gateway. Staying local enabled us to have a BBQ, we cooked a Fiduea which is best described as a fish paella made with fine macaroni pasta rather than rice. Washed down with lots of beer and wine - delicious.

Tuesday 21st April 2015

After seven very pleasant days here at Camping Alentejo with B & D we are all moving west today to a small town a short distance north of Lisbon. On the way we detoured a little to visit Cabo da Roca, Europe’s most westerly point.

The house we have rented for a few days is right in the centre of the small town of Fontanelas overlooking the main square. It is a large house, spotlessly clean and very well equipped with three double bedrooms, two bath/shower rooms. We should be very comfortable here.

Wednesday 22 April 2015

Sintra is a world heritage site and a holiday destination where you could spend a very long time without seeing all there is to see. Our plan today was the Cork Monastery followed by a visit to the Moorish Castle and both were as interesting as we remembered.

The monastery was doubly interesting in that there was a young family looking around at the same time as us, mum, dad and two small girls. The little ones were not only encouraged to interact with us but gave us all a goodbye hug at the end - how different from UK.

Thursday 23rd April 2015

Today we visited Lisbon. Strange that in this countries capitol city in the heart of the tourist district the parking is free and when we went into a cafe for a coffee, while it was dearer than the 60 cents of the non-tourist areas it was still far less than would be paid in Costa’s or Starbuck”s. Lisbon is a great city but our short visit allowed us to see such a small part that we vowed one day to come back and stay in an hotel right in the centre.

On the way back from Lisbon David spotted a beach from where he thought he would get great “surfy” pictures. We went back and he was right, this coast is after all one of the worlds best surfing areas, after taking the picture we all climbed back in the car to finish the 11km trip back to the house. It was then we found out that the Lisbon suburbs are an absolute rabbit warren. Despite following the sat-nav that 11km took well over an hour and put over 50km on the odometer.

Friday 24th April 2015

IMG 2911

Horror of horrors, when we woke this morning we found it was raining with a very low cloud base, it is just as well that we were going to Pena Palace as much of the visit was inside. First we had to get there! Following the sat-nav we went higher and higher up the hill - remember the low cloud? Yes you guessed, we were in it. Eventually we arrived at a locked gate, Pena Palace was somewhere the other side, it might as well have been on the moon. We back tracked down the hill drove to the other side of the hill and tried again this time success and we reached the Pena Palace car park just as someone was coming out. The car parks for the various attractions around Sintra are free but rather small (difficult to build a big car park on the side of a very steep hill) so luck plays a large part in getting somewhere to park at peak periods although there are taxi’s, tuk-tuk’s and “hop on hop off” buses aplenty).

Feeling particularly lazy we took the shuttle bus from the palace grounds entrance to the palace itself and worth every cent, it’s a long and steep road.

The Pena Palace was vacated when the Portuguese royal family fled the Republican Revolution of 1910 and it was opened to the public the same year.

After our tour round Pena Palace we went to the coast nearest Fontanelas. At sea level the sun was shinning and we had a very pleasant couple of hours surfing in the huge breakers and running the barrels - yea OK!! we looked at others doing that stuff.

Saturday 25th April 2015

Why is it holidays take months to arrive and seconds to disappear. All right you cynics we do NOT spend the whole year on holiday, we are living a travelling lifestyle and deserve a holiday the same as everyone else. We have been looking forward to B & D’s visit but it seems to have lasted no time at all. We dropped them at Lisbon Airport this afternoon for their flight back to UK and sadly drove back to Camping Alentejo and Princess Fiona. 

Week 23 & 24 - A Continental Breakfast

Monday 23rd March 2015

What a grotty day, it rained much of the night and was still raining this morning, we could almost be in UK except, of course that here rain is warmer

Wednesday 25th March 2015

Dirkje came to visit today. After collecting her we went to Carrefour supermarket in Benidorm to get some shopping and then came back the “pretty” route through Polop the village of two hundred water spouts, but sadly we could find no-where to park and managed to take a wrong turn, how we managed that with a navigator I don’t know, but we finished up in roads that got progressively narrower until we were faced with one that was simply too narrow to continue, so had to reverse back up hill and round corners until we could turn and retrace our route - sort of!

Dirkje came to ours for dinner, a very tasty chicken salad, and stayed over.

Thursday 26th March 2015

IMG 3198

In honour of our guest we had a continental, well Dutch, breakfast this morning with hagelslag and afterwards took Dirkje to the windmills (Dirkje - Dutch - windmills - get it) high above Jávea. There are 11 windmills, built between the 14th and 18th centuries which lay within the borders of the Parque Natural de Montgó. Cylindrical in shape and about seven metres in height, they have been standing dormant since the 19th century when the sails and machinery were removed. However, they had been a valuable asset to the local economy, taking advantage of the wind to grind corn and provide flour which for centuries was the staple food for the people of the region.

Friday 27th March 2015

Off to Moraira market this morning, it’s not as big and bustely as I remember it being when the “Old Chap” lived in the town but it has been for many years easy to park and the stalls have so much space that it is a joy to go there. We think it is by far the best market in the area.

Saturday 28th March 2015

We went to dinner in the site restaurant tonight. After the not bad dinner there was a live band, an acoustic guitar duo. Well that was what was advertised. When the entertainment started as well as the two guitarists pictured on all the posters there was a girl whose voice was, shall we say, interesting, after she had murdered sung a few songs she left the stage along with one of the guitarists and another chap went on stage to sing for the remainder of the evening. A bit too much rock and roll for me but a good evening nevertheless.

Sunday 29th March 2015

IMG 3202

Another Dutch breakfast this morning then off to a Medieval Market being held in a town called Lliber. It should have taken place Saturday and Sunday last week but the weather forecast was poor so at the last minute it was postponed for seven days - it could only happen in Spain!! The town of Lliber was small, very small with narrow roads all of which were closed to traffic and lined with stalls selling all manner of goods. Nothing seemed to have any medieval connection other than the costumes all the stall holders were wearing, it was however a pleasant cheerful event worth the visit.

Monday 30th Wednesday March - Thursday 2nd April 2015

Been very lazy this week so far, been shopping with Dirkje a couple of times once in Calpe, which was preceded by a visit to Calpe Medieval Market (not exciting enough to report in detail) and a second time in Moraira followed by a long walk around the beach and town.

Dirkje has taken a liking to the bread sold in the Pepe la Sal supermarket on the Moraira/ Calpe road while we like going there for the fresh cream and fruit cakes and tarts they make - to die for!!

Oh yes, on Wednesday after weeks of researching prices in UK, Spain and Portugal, I had four new tyres put on the car. I finished up going for Continental’s and saved €26 per tyre over the cheapest UK price I found on t’interweb. €104 on the set is around £80, a very worthwhile saving, lets hope they last 49,000 miles as the old ones did.

For the last week the site has been emptying of “snowbirds” rushing back to their country of origin to spend the Easter weekend with grandchildren, the site is now poised to receive the rush of Spaniards for the holiday weekend.

We proved ourselves to be standard sad old Brits today. As B & D will be visiting us the week after next and David does like a “Full English” every morning we went to the local English butcher to get some UK type sausages. As I have said before many of the continental sausages are great - but not for breakfast. While there getting our 72 sausages (well they are here for twelve days) we got seduced by a whole leg of lamb boned out and marinaded with garlic, herbs, spices and other wonderful things and while the butcher was sorting that got further seduced by a lovely two bone piece of fore rib of beef. It’s no wonder he was smiling widely as we left.

Good Friday 3rd April 2015

The site that yesterday was almost empty is full again with Spanish families all ready to party.

We cooked the lamb on the BBQ, ten minutes on the skin side, turn over and fifteen minutes the other side and ten minutes resting and it was fabulous.

Saturday 4th April 2015

Another medieval market today, this one in Jávea and the only one so far worthy of the name. It took over virtually the whole centro historico (historic town centre) dozens if not hundreds of stalls selling a very wide range of goods, music, fireworks, the lot. A worthwhile visit.

The Spanish can certainly party, I’m told they went on well into the early hours (told because I heard nothing) a number of people apparently complained to the security (virtually every site in Spain and Portugal have an all night security guard patrolling the grounds). The moaning is still going on but as I said to one angry camper they are Spanish on a Spanish site in Spain and therefore, surely, entitled to act in what is a standard Spanish way and if we don’t like it perhaps we should go home. That was received well - not!!

We cooked the beef for dinner tonight, because it was a two bone piece we cooked it on the BBQ for just one hour, a little more rare than when we last cooked rib of beef but delicious. I think we will be eating cold lamb and beef for around a week.

Week 20, 21 & 22 - Hello Dirkje

Monday 2nd March 2015

Today should have been moving day but we are still sorting DVD’s, no worry, no hurry we will go tomorrow or the next day.

Tuesday 3rd March 2015

Well it really was moving day today, the plan was to move from Camping La Sierrecilla to a new to us site Campsite Pinar del Rey. It was around 275 km (170 miles) and took some three and a half hours. When we arrived at five to two we found the reception, which was over a half kilometre from the site entrance, was already closed and seemed to have been so for some little while despite a sign that said Closed for lunch from 2 till 4. We had a little wander around but didn’t find the actual camping site so rather than wait twiddling our thumbs till reception re-opened (at least two hours) we got back in the car and headed off to our next site, Camping Jávea.

We have been to Camping Jávea a couple of times before and from where here we will visit Dirkje. This section of the journey was around 278 km (173 miles) and would take around three hours - yes I know that is quicker than the first section despite being slightly further but it is virtually all motorway.

We arrived at 6.00pm to find only two pitches available - two out of one hundred and ninety three touring pitches, in March, unbelievable.

When we were researching to start this lifestyle we read that in Spain a mover was essential because of the tight access to some pitches. This is our 134th European site and it is the first time we have had to unhitch on a site road corner and motor move round the corner then re-hitch to tow to the pitch,and we have been to this site (with this caravan) before.

Wednesday 4th March 2015

img 1173 med hr

This site is popular with the Snowbirds, there are lots of Brits, Dutch, German and even Scandinavians but virtually no Spanish. There is a charge for the internet and while I don’t have a problem paying I do expect to get value for money but the quality of the internet is very poor and here the use of boosters is strictly forbidden on pain of having your connection cut off so every device, and we have four, has to be paid for separately so that would be €20.00 (£14.24) per week or the “special" rate of €72 (£51.26) per month. Yea I’m gonna pay that - not!!

Thursday 5th March 2015

We popped in to say hello to Dirkje today we got no answer from her door intercom or her mobile phone or indeed her Spanish phone so we gave up and went back to the caravan. We got a phone call later that night, she had been out for the day, we arranged to visit around noon the next day.

Friday 6th March 2015 to Sunday 15th March 2015

We have been deliberately lazy over these last days, we have visited Dirkje, done some shopping and bought a Spanish tablet. I needed a new Kindle but they seem very delicate (I keep busting them) so when I saw an 8” Spanish tablet at just €150 I thought I had better have a look. The screen is not as bright as our Samsung Note 10.2 and the memory is smaller but it can be expanded (unlike an iPad) and it was a third of the price of the Samsung and can still do virtually everything the Samsung can so I bought it and so far am very pleased but will I still be happy next week and the week after? Time will tell

el camion

There was another highlight to this week, on my first visit to Spain in May 1995 with my bro’ we went to a fish restaurant in Calpe called “El Camion”. I have lost count how many meals we have eaten there over the years, the lady owner used to sit outside dispensing sangria to encourage customers but she was rather fierce and I often wondered if she frightened away more than she encouraged. On Tuesday night Dirkje took Sue and I there for dinner, we had a seafood fiduea - not bad! After the meal I asked the waiter if “Mumma” was still alive (she seemed pretty ancient to us in 1995) - “Oh yes” said the waiter, “ she would be outside as usual but she is on holiday in the Caribbean”

Sadly El Camion now seems only to worship the great god profit and although the meal was reasonably priced and the portions reasonably sized the quality although again reasonable was far below the standard we would have expected on previous visits - I doubt we will return. While writing this I was sidetracked by looking up El Camion on Trip Advisor” and was disappointed but not surprised at the poor reviews it has been receiving.

Monday 16th March 2015 to Sunday 22 March 2015

We had such hopes for this week, we had several outings planned, including a visit (or two) to Las Fallas, The Festival of Fire. What we actually had was a week of foul weather, equipment breakdowns, rubbish internet and poor Sue had a cold, not the usual namby pamby ladies cold but a full blown jobby that could almost (but of course not quite) qualify as a “man cold”. She stayed in bed for three days, which for Sue is absolutely unprecedented.


Sunday night Dirkje took us out to dinner. We went to a Belgian restaurant that has a good reputation and we were not disappointed, we all had Sole meunière, a French dish in a Belgian restaurant in a Spanish town - how cosmopolitan is that? The meal was delicious, the only bright spot in a grotty week that the sooner we can forget the happier we will be.

Week 19 - Crossing Spain, Again!!

Monday 23rd February 2015

We took the unwanted kit to Algarve Freight this morning and by the time we had finished poking extra bits and bobs into the awning bag I was quite staggered at it’s weight, and with the box and bicycle that went with it we have trimmed our weight by quite a bit.

Tuesday 24th February 2015  

It’s back into Spain day. We are going to a site we have been to before  - Camping La Sierrecilla - and despite there being a lot to see and do in the area we stayed just one night as the local dogs had an all evening concert.

We are hoping against hope that the dogs have tonsillitis or it may well be another one night stay.

No tonsillitis, they were all in fine voice!!

To get away from the barking dogs we went to the site restaurant for dinner tonight, after starting with an ensalada mixta (mixed salad), the waiter insisting that we did not need one each but should share one, he was right. Sue’s choice of spiced dogfish was unfortunately not available so she opted for battered gambons (prawns). So big was the plateful that she struggled to get through it all but managed somehow. I chose a local speciality Pulpo a la Gallega, a strange dish of potatoes and octopus but quite delicious.

The dog concert had ended by the time we got back from the restaurant and did not start up again until late morning so we are staying a few days, or until I can’t stand the noise any longer.

We have been asked a number of times why we don’t give more detail on the journeys we make from site to site so we have added a page that gives a few more details, the road numbers and condition etc, you can see it by clicking HERE

We did have some good news today an email from Brenda and Dave saying they had booked flights to come visit us. We now have to get some accommodation booked - It will be great to see them.

Wednesday 25th February 2015

IMG 3165

We visited El Torcal today, it is a massive lump of limestone upland which over the millennia has weathered into bizarre rock formations over 1200m (4000ft) above sea level. We went on a short walk of just 1.5km but the path was so rocky and in places steep with both climbs up and climbs down that although less than a mile the walk took well over an hour to complete but it was worth every minute.

Two pitches down from us is a Bailey Pegasus 554, apart from us we have never met anyone with the same Peggy that we had so I went down to say “Hello”. Like us they bought their 554 just before Christmas 2009. Like us they think it is a great caravan with the best layout in the range and like us they have retired early and have elected to travel. Julia and Simon seem a very pleasant couple and came to our van for a drink this evening.

Thursday 26th February 2015

Had I been the sort of person to suffer hangovers this morning’s one would have been mega. There are lots of wine bottles and beer cans to put in the recycling bins.

IMG 3176

Just 7km from the campsite is the Laguna de Fuente de Piedra, a famous beautiful lagoon. The largest natural lake in the Iberian Peninsula at 2.5km wide and 6.5km long, it is a haven for birds with over 170 different species recorded here. Apart from its abundant aquatic birds, it is well known for its flamingo population, the second largest colony of these birds in Europe after the French Camargue region and the only inland site on the continent where they breed. In spring flamingos flock here in their thousands to reproduce, attracted by the water's high salt content and the fact that it is shallow. There is a visitor centre with lots of information and a road/track that runs right around the lake but there is no actual access to the lake just “miradors” or viewpoints.

At one of the viewpoints a small flock, numbering around fifty, of cranes flew overhead and landed in an adjacent field. The flamingos for which the lake is particularly famous were only present in small numbers in the centre of the lake which according to the receptionist in the visitor centre is still too cold for the birds that should start arriving in great numbers in a few weeks time.

Friday 27th February 2015

It was our turn to visit Julia and Simon last night, feeling we had rather overdone it the night before we all slowed down on the drinking but Simon still reported lots of “dead soldiers” this morning.

We spent most of today pigging about driving from Repsol fuel station to Repsol fuel station to Repsol fuel station trying to change our empty Repsol gas bottle for a full one. Unfortunately it is a lightweight caravan bottle that it seems is only sold in holiday areas - we finished up in Malaga before we found one.

When we had gone to J&S last night we had taken our Mede8er for them to look at the films we have to see if they wanted to copy any, and they gave us their DVD collection to see if we wanted to make copies.

Simon came to the van this morning and made an offer for the Mede8er so impressed was he. A deal was struck and he handed over the dosh and became the proud owner of a good bit of kit. Sadly being a PC owner nothing on the Mede8er was recognised by his computer so we will have to reformat the hard drive and reload it’s content.

“Golly Gosh!!” I hear you cry “Selling your beloved Mede8er??” Well yes actually, in the year I have owned it Frank has been busy investigating and learning about Minix boxes running XBMC and had persuaded me that I should upgrade to one of them. It is a very steep learning curve that two months later still shows no signs of flattening off but we do, when there is a decent internet connection, also have through the XBMC, UK TV and radio and access to all the latest films.

Saturday 28th February 2015

IMG 3187 edited-1

A driving day today. We had seen in the guide books lots of references to Garganta del Chorro that describe it as one of the geographical wonders of Andelusia. It is an immense limestone chasm, 180m (590ft) deep and in places only 10m (30ft) wide cut by the river through a limestone mountain. The Camino del Rey is a catwalk clinging to the rock race and leads to a bridge across the gorge. Sadly (or not - Ed.) it is closed to the public. Although Judith and Simon had given us details of the route to take we drove for miles on sometimes almost impossible roads, for which we were very grateful we were in a “Chelsea Tractor”. We had actually given up on seeing both the Gargantuan del Chorro and the Camino del Rey and were heading back to the van when we turned a corner and there they both were in front of us.

Sunday 1st March 2015

Spent the whole day today chatting with Judith and Simon, reloading Mede8er with PC friendly material and copying J & S’s DVD’s to our Minix hard drive.

This evening we had our first BBQ since Christmas, it’s been rather chilly in the evenings. We cooked quail with potatoes and squash - very nice. Lets hope the weather is now going to be warm enough for regular BBQ’s.

Week 18 - Back on track?

Monday 16th February 2015

We moved today from Tarifa to El Rocio fetching up at a site we have visited a couple of times before La Aldea. It’s a good site with well kept facilities and large pitches but, although totally unique, we have visited this area twice before and seen and done everything there is to offer. I have rehashed the photos we took on our first visit as, for those that don’t know it El Rocio is not only in the centre of the Donana National Park (the only place in Europe that still boasts a population of wild Lynx) but is a town dedicated to religious “Lodges” whose Romeria del Rocio is outed as the largest festival in all of Spain.

IMG 3123 edited-1

There are no tarmac roads in El Rocio as the entire town is dedicated to the horse so all roads are sand, better for hoofs. Every house, shop, bar and restaurant has a hitching rail outside. The church on the main square is huge out of all proportion to the size of the town and it is no longer permitted to light candles within the main church. This is now done in a large purpose built building with extractor fans and fire watch operatives so many are the candles that are lit. It is from this church that the Romeria del Rocio sets out when around a million people crowd into this small town The romeros (travellers) come in various modes of transport with the preferred method being the carreta, or oxen-drawn carts and wagons…sort of covered wagons, but with lace bonnets.  No motorised transport is allowed for true pilgrims.

Wednesday 18th February 2015

The first really sunny day for a couple of weeks so today was washing day and that included three of my new shirts which it seems have survived the ordeal in fine form.

Thursday 19th February 2015

We spoke to Auntie Brenda and Uncle David this morning they are looking at diaries and flight schedules with a view to coming out for a visit in the next month or so and we have mapped a route across Spain via places we have not visited before to visit our Dutch friend Dirkje

Moving day. We plan to run into Portugal to Camping Olhão where we can retrieve our goods and chattels from R & F’s home where they are stored, sort out the stuff we definitely will not need and ship that back to UK and we will then be free to move where and when we choose again.

We arrived at Camping Olhão at lunchtime and were told by reception there were very few pitches available so we should look around choose one that suited and then return to reception to register. It didn’t take very long to decide we didn’t want any of the pitches on offer so reversed out and back onto the street where we made our way to Tavira and found a pitch on the “police” site the Parque de Campismo da PSP. It is a strange site apparently owned and used by Portugal’s police services during the summer months and open to the public the remainder of the year. There is a camping area but many people (including us) simply set up on one of the site roads and plug into the nearest electric point. We stayed here for a couple of weeks in 2012 and find the site has been extensively upgraded, the facilities block we are using has been totally upgraded and refurbished although other campers have said that the showers are a lottery as to whether they are warm (never hot) or cold, time will tell.

Friday 20th February 2015

Well we’ve been back to R & F’s and picked up our kit, sorted everything into two piles one to keep and one to have freighted back to UK but unfortunately were not quick enough to get it to the freight company today so we are here till Monday afternoon or more probably Tuesday morning before we can head off to pastures new.

Saturday 21st February 2015

Walked into Tavira market this morning, but was a little disappointed. It is a once a month affair and we were told huge, in fact most of the market square was empty with plenty of clothes, plant and tool stalls but only two or three fruit and veg stalls. Still we bought 2kg of super strawberries for just €2.50 (£1.85) or in UK terms around 20p a punnet, yummy.

Walking back from the market we encountered a cycle race. All the traffic was stopped and after a while a group of motorcycles with pillion passenger cameramen rushed past followed by a huge number of police cars and motorcycles that rushed through all with “blues and twos” blaring fit to burst, then more motorbikes with cameramen then finally a group of a dozen or so racing cyclists who arrived on the wrong side of the road and who all went the wrong way round the roundabout disappearing in a few seconds followed by a few sponsor cars with spare bikes strapped to the roofs. No-one moved and some minutes later more camera bikes, more police bikes and more police cars rushed through followed by the main pack of a hundred or so racing cyclists who rushed through all on the wrong side of the road and going the wrong way round the roundabout bar one lone racer who tried to pick up a few places by going, all on his lonesome, the right way round the roundabout. Wether he succeeded we will never know.

This afternoon we packed up the kit that is going to be shipped back to UK and was amazed at the volume and weight. The car has sighed a huge sigh of relief.

Bought our first bag of oranges this year today, 5kg for €2.00 thats 11lb for £1.48 in real money and they are sweet and very juicy.

Sunday 22 February 2015

A very windy night with the caravan rocking and rolling in a most disconcerting fashion for the later part of the night, not helped by our position at the top of a steep hill with the front of the caravan touching the road and the rear sticking up in the air on blocks. Even then the front is not as low as we would need to make the van level.

IMG 3145

We had a very pleasant wander over the Barril Bridge and along the Praia do Barril this afternoon. The Barril Bridge is a narrow footbridge giving access to the Ria Formosa island we call Barril, there are no vehicles on the island although there is a small diesel train that runs for around a mile from the bridge to as good a beach as I have ever seen. There are a couple of cafes by the little train stop but otherwise nothing but miles of unspoiled, un-commercialised beach with nothing other than shells littering it.

Some weeks ago we mentioned having Caldeirada (Fish Stew) and that although we did not have the recipe how hard could it be? We found out a week or two later when having bought a Portuguese cookery book we had a go at making it and finished up with a totally tasteless dinner. We had another go this evening using fish stock instead of water and making a few other tweaks so confident were we (not) that we had another dinner available in case. It turned out to be delicious, just like the one we had in the restaurant - we will certainly do that again and if it works a second time will add the recipe to the food page.

Week 17 - Friday 13th, unlucky or what?

Sunday 8th February 2015.

This morning we left campsite Casa Rosa, Moncarapacho and Portugal.

Some while ago friends Rosemary and Frank invited us to join them on a three month tour of Morocco and we have spent a frenetic 19 days trying to organise things (well Sue and Rosemary have) and it is surprising how many things from HepA and HepB boosters to car insurance green cards that needed organising.

It’s now all done, or being ignored, and we have started the run down to Tarifa and are now ensconced at a site grandly named Campsite Playa Las Dunas Cat.1 at Ei Puerto de Santa Maria, just across the bay from Cadiz.

Monday 9th February 2015

Thank goodness three things have now gone wrong so that should be the end of the bad luck run. Problem number one, when I went to fit the tow mirrors yesterday I discovered the drivers side towing mirror broken. It must be mounted on a film because the glass stayed together (sort of) and with the addition of some duct tape along the bottom can still be used, Luckily it is only really used when pulling back in after overtaking so I can cope with the “spiders web” across it.

Problem number two was Franks jockey wheel refusing to lower when the handle is twisted. Still a bit of brute force removed it from the caravan and the local dealer is getting a new one for the day after tomorrow.

Problem number three is also with Rosemary and Frank’s caravan, There is no hot water - the cylinder refuses to fill. Frank has spent most of today working on it and has found black carbon in the cold water pipes and discovered a carbon filter on the cold supply to the kitchen tap seems to have failed allowing the carbon to escape into the pipe system, and clog parts of the system particularly those parts that allow water into the hot water system. This problem may cause a serious set back as we cannot even contemplate going to Africa without fully functioning caravans and in particular services to a bathroom.

Tuesday 10th February 2015.

The people in the motorhome behind us have just returned from seven weeks in Morocco and have passed on lots of hints and tips as well as a new road map, a book of campsites and a “Rough Guide to Morocco” and some odd change. Thank you.

IMG 3131

After yesterdays unbelievably frustrating day with the hot water system it was decided that Frank needed to get away for a while and think of other things, so today we walked to the ferry terminal, around twenty or so minutes walk from the campsite and took a fast ferry to Cadiz. It is a very nice city indeed with lots to see and do however we were soon in a quality menswear shop that had a shirt offer running. Unbelievably they had some that fitted me so I bought a half dozen at only €25 each (around£18.50) blimey how cheap is that? Lets hope we feel the same after they have been washed. ( They are fine)

We would have visited the Cathedral but they wanted a total of €20 (£15) entry fee which we thought was excessive.

Back on the campsite we went to the site restaurant for dinner. The “menu del dia” - menu of the day - was €10.00 (£7.40) for a three course meal including an alcoholic drink with the meal and coffee afterwards. It was great value with good sized and tasty portions.

Wednesday 11th February 2015

Frank worked on his water system for most of the day only declaring it fixed around three in the afternoon. We then collected and installed his new jockey wheel, and we bought a new drivers towing mirror - we are now back on track for our visit to Africa and leave for Tarifa, our Africa departure port tomorrow. Hurrah.

Thursday 12th February 2015

Rain has “persisted” down all night, leaving the site a puddle obstacle course still we are moving further south today so we hope it will be dryer there.

Thursday 12th February 2015 1.30pm

The rain has also persisted down this  morning and more to the point the navigator took us the wrong (slow) way so although starting at the same time, Rosemary and Frank arrived at Camping  Valdevaqueros over half an hour before us - damn! Not that I’m competitive of course

Friday 13th February 2015.

It had to be Friday 13th.

Morocco is cancelled - no not cancelled - postponed.

The problem Frank has worked so hard to fix was back this morning with a vengeance and to go to Morocco you must have one hundred percent confidence in you equipment as there are very few if any caravan stores in that part of Africa. Frank and Rosemary must now return home to Moncarapacho in Portugal, positively identify the problem, order any necessary spares from UK and only when these arrive can repairs take place. A process that may take several weeks.

Sue and I could have continued on our own but, as the whole trip had been planned as a joint venture with each party supporting the other in what, with a caravan, can be a very challenging environment, we decided to postpone the whole thing for a year or so until we can get together again and repeat the exercise. Our pitches at Camping Valdevaqueros are very sad places today Rosemary and Sue have put so much work into the trip and are both devastated.

So where will we go now? Watch this space!

Weeks 14, 15 & 16 - Sausages

Monday 12th January 2015

After a very pleasant week at Quinta Manjericao we moved today. Not far, just 55 kilometres east to Camping Canelas just outside the seaside town of Armação de Pêra. We had a pleasant trip of less than an hour, the site was just in front of a roundabout and had it’s own rather narrow slip road which I followed - first mistake - and as we turned in I relaxed and started rubber necking - second mistake - I was so busy looking around I misjudged the turn and wiped the offside mudguard off the caravan.

I was livid. I have driven thousands of miles with a tow behind, everything from tiny open trailers through yachts to horse boxes to twin axle caravans and I make the most basic error imaginable. It will be a very long time before I forgive myself.

Tuesday 13th January 2015

Today was declared caravan repair day and we travelled west along the Algarve to the only caravan/motorhome repair specialist on the Algarve that we are aware of and arranged to take it in next Tuesday for both checking the problem with the fridge and to make repairs to the nearside wheel arch. That meant of course that it had to be roadworthy to get it to Camperserve, so on the way back to the site stopped at a huge B&Q type place and bought some materials to reattach that wheel arch.

Wednesday 14th January 2015

Spent this today working on repairs to the wheel arch - not bad if I do say so myself, and I don’t suppose anything else will ever be done. I’m a bit happier Princess Fiona is back in one piece.

Thursday 15th January 2015

Had a trip out today to a place we have been trying to get to for some years - Monchique, the town itself was a big disappointment it is said that it’s altitude of 458m (1500ft) gives it a great spectacular view of the surrounding countryside but we didn’t find where you got those views from so we continued to Fóia at 902m (2959ft) the highest point on the Serra de Monchique from where, on a clear day you can see over huge distances.

Friday 16th January 2015

Had a little wander into Armação de Pêra, the nearest town to the campsite this morning it is a nice town but quite commercialised with lots of touristy type restaurants and bars. We quite fancied a Japanese restaurant that seems to do a good lunch or dinner at a very reasonable price but will we actually get to go there, I doubt it.

Saturday 17th January 2015

Brits abroad are a sad bunch and we include ourselves in that because today we went to Iceland. There are several in Spain but only one in Portugal. We went to get some good old British bangers. European sausages tend to have more meat content, less fat content (dependant upon type) but NO cereal and as good as they are they are NOT the same.

Sausage salad for dinner tonight - Hurrah!

Sunday 18th January 2015

Portugal and Spain are famous for their fiestas and today we went to the “Fiesta das Chouricas" (Festival of Sausage) in Querença, which after our sausage salad last night we thought was a pretty fitting place to go. Querença is a tiny village at the top of a very steep hill with a parking capacity of, I would guess, considerably less than a hundred cars. There were cars everywhere, fortunately we were able to park at the bottom of the hill, an exhausting climb but at least being so steep it was relatively short.

On each side of the small - very small - village square, outside each cafe, was a large BBQ with lots of sausage rings cooking, which made for lots of fragrant smoke. The square was packed with groups of people, almost exclusively locals, very few tourists. The sausages were served as a complete ring plus a couple of inches from another, to fill the middle, in a thick peasant bread loaf on which after inserting the sausage the seller put his considerable weight in order, we think, to crush the sausage and cause the oil to flavour the bread. I’d like to say that the result was delicious but the bread had the consistency of 50mm thick cardboard and the sausage was indescribable. We bought one of the €7.50 (£5.63) monsters - at least 150mm (6”) diameter and around 75mm (3”) thick to share between us, although most of the Portuguese had one each, and could manage less than half of the bread.

There was to be a parade through the village late in the afternoon with a statue from the church but it was several hours away from the planned time (possibly a lot longer by Portuguese time keeping) so we didn’t stay for that.

Monday 19th January 2015

Nothing more than a short drive to the little seaside town of Praia Señora do Roca. What a little delight.

Tuesday 20th January 2015

It’s moving day, not far to go just 60 kilometres further west to Moncarapacho. It should have taken around an hour but we had arranged to take the van to a Brit owned caravan/motorhome repair centre to get the fridge looked at. The centre is just of the main A125 trunk road that runs the entire length of the Algarve from east to west (and vicky verky) but the centre itself is off a side road itself off a side road, both of which are very narrow with sharp bends on them. Not ideal for weaving down with a caravan.

We arrived at the centre only just getting in the yard it was so full of motorhomes two and a half hours before our appointment and bang on appointment time the engineer plugged the van into his mains electricity and started his tests.

It didn’t take long before we were told that there was nothing wrong with the van’s fridge, the problem was with the Portuguese power supply, and that in remote areas the 220 volt supply could be 210 or even 200 volts and the alarm will trip at around 202 volts.

Getting out of the yard and back on the main road was a nightmare, luckily another customer sprung into action getting some vehicles moved, bounced trailers out of the way and guided us through the blind spots - Thank You whoever you are.

Our nightmare scenario being kept so long at the repair shop and arriving at our next site (an awkward pitch at the top of a steep incline) thankfully did not happen and we arrived at Casa Rosa with the sun still shining and virtually no one on site to see our ham-fisted efforts at getting on to the pitch. Thank goodness for motor movers as without ours we would, no doubt still be mucking about with it.

Wednesday 21st January 2015

What a super way to be welcomed to a new site than with an invitation to dinner. Friends Rosemary and Frank who live close to the site we are now on gave us a splendid dinner and have changed the course of our lives for the next four months.

They have invited us to go with them to Morocco for the spring.

Saturday 24th January 2015

Married for 43 years and Sue got my birthday wrong. Sue invited R & F to dinner to celebrate my birthday but despite being married for 43 years she got the date wrong and they came tonight instead of tomorrow. But never mind we had a great dinner, too much wine too much port and to much beer and set an approximate date for Morocco.

Sunday 25th January 2015

I don’t have much to do with “Facebook” but its great when you get lots of Happy Birthday wishes from every one. Thank you.

Monday 26th January 2015 to Saturday 7th February 2015

The last two weeks have been spent mainly getting sorted for Morocco and so as few if any will want to know about the problems of getting HepA and HepB inoculations sorted in Portugal or interminable phone calls trying to organise a Green Card or getting punctures repaired or sorting the thousand other things for a three month trip to North Africa I am going to skip weeks 15 and 16. Although we have had a few nice lunches and a very pleasant day spent in the company of Anne and John who are on the next pitch to us here at Casa Rosa and restart this blog with week 17 when we will leave Casa Rosa and Portugal to head south and west to Tarifa and a boat out of Europe.

Week 13 - Alone Again!!

Monday 5th January 2015

Having stayed at Camping Milfontes for almost three weeks it’s time to move on this time to a pre-booked site, which for us is almost unheard of outside UK. It is small six pitch site on a smallholding owned by a young British couple who travelled by motorhome round Europe before settling at the western end of The Algarve.

Rosemary and Frank had decided to come with us for a few days so we set off in a little convoy less than 100 kilometres southwards to a village called Budens. As I turned left off the main Algarve highway the N125 I was surprised that Frank seemed to be hanging back, apparently reluctant to turn and follow me. Well it was a very rough track rather than a road, a series of deep pot holes connected by very thin strips of dirt so I could fully understand his hesitation. After around .75 of a kilometre the sat-nav announced we had reached our destination. We were outside a bungalow that we recognised from a picture on the internet and similarly the couple striding towards us with big smiles of welcome to Quinta Manjericao.

Frank told us later that while we were merrily turning left his sat-nat was telling him to turn right.

Tuesday 6th January 2015

IMG 2909 edited-1

We went looking for a cove we had come across on our first visit to this area, Figueria, and were saddened to learn that while it has not been commercialised to the extent of a restaurant or bar it does now have a large car park and barriers that keep motorhomes off the beach. They now congregate at the top of the hill and overlook the beach and the cove has lost, for us, much of it’s appeal. However further up the coast we came upon an absolute gem, just a long dirt track down to a large almost deserted and totally unspoiled beach, absolutely nothing on it but footprints, and along the cliffs large deep caves to explore - a child’s (and big kid’s) paradise.

Wednesday 6th January 2015

Got problems with the fridge in that if you consume more power than 5 amps it throws a wobbly and it’s alarm goes into overdrive. It may have been like that for some while as this is the first site on this trip that we have had more than 6 amps of electricity so having more than a 1 kilowatt heater or a kettle or the microwave at any one time has not been possible. While we are here if we want to draw more than 5 amps we put the fridge on gas first. There is an English caravan/motorhome specialist further east of the Algarve we will call there as we pass and see what he has to say.

IMG 3051

Went off to Praia da Luz today. It is a very pretty town but for us the highlight was the fossils in the rocks at the shoreline. Not just a few but hundreds.

Thursday 7th January 2015

Rosemary and Frank went home today. It seems quite strange to be on our own again after over three weeks in company, the more so that we are the only campers on the site - that feels weird.

Friday 8th January 2015

IMG 3070

We have not explored this section of coast before and find it both unspoilt and un-commercialised with wide sandy bays with nothing on them but a few hardy surfers. We followed the coast along a dirt track for many miles stopping in various places to explore and in one place bumped into Pam and Alan the couple who hosted the boxing day party. They were wild camping on the coast in a most idyllic spot although we were told by other motorhomes a couple of days later that the police had arrived there later the same day (around 11pm) and moved everyone on.

Saturday 9th January 2015

Lagos town today, being a Saturday we were able to park virtually in the town centre for free and explored. It is a very pleasant town, but of course we arrived close to lunch time so several of the places we particularly wanted to see were closed but there was enough to keep us amused until it all opened again and we saw everything we had come for. Sadly they all exhibited notices exclaiming “fotos proibidas” so there are no photos to show for much of our trip. We did manage to get to the fish market before it closed for the weekend where we bought a John Dory or St Peters fish for our dinner - wow was it expensive?? at €26 (£20.00) for two fillets.

Sunday 10th January 2015

IMG 3103

Having been in the town of Lagos yesterday today we went high on the cliffs to the south of the town to the Lagos lighthouse. It must be the most stunning bit of coastline in the whole of Portugal with crystal clear water studded with small islands and caves - Oh yes and 279 steps down to the water from the lighthouse and more importantly 279 steps up again.

Week 12 - And A Pleasant New Year

Monday 29th December 2014,

IMG 3020

Had a drive out today to the local seaside resort of Porto Covo. It is a very pleasant little town that with its large aire (free motorhome camping area) and carparks, where motorhome also seem welcome, pays homage to motorhome freeloaders. Oh dear! that sounds a bit erm? - yes, well it seems that every car park, every view in Portugal is blocked by motorhomers that prefer to save a few Euros by wild camping. Indeed some Lidl’s have specially marked parking areas where they can park overnight to try to garner the few Euros they do spend. Rant Over

Tuesday 30th December 2014.

Not much to report today, slopped around doing laundry and shopping getting ready for new years celebrations tomorrow.

It seems I forgot to mention the party on Boxing day. Pam & Alan, a couple we met four years ago on this very site, invited everyone to an afternoon party at their motorhome. It was great in that as well as all the Brits on site many of the Germans (some we had also met four years ago) and a few French attended as well - entente cordiale is alive and well. Sadly Ralf, one of the Germans we had met before had a collapse caused by low blood pressure, a recurrent problem for him, and one of the French chaps was that night “blue lighted” into the local hospital from where he was transported to Lisbon with a suspected heart attack. As he is travelling alone his dog was looked after by other campers and happily he returned after a week in Lisbon hospital saying he would definitely stick to the low fat, alcohol free diet he had been told to adopt.

Wednesday 31st December 2014.

For our dinner tonight we had bought half a suckling lamb, it was as you can imagine quite small but we thought plenty for four. It was quite frankly a disaster, the meat was tough (how on earth do you make suckling lamb tough?) and somehow when served, the entire dinner, meat and vegetables, were cold. Still the local wine, apple crumble, cheese and biscuits with port that followed almost made up for it.

We almost made midnight before going to bed - Oh alright, we almost made eleven o’clock before going to bed. You will be amused to learn that the fireworks started at the stroke of midnight and continued sporadically until 5.00am when the last noisy party finished.

Thursday 1st January 2015.

We had a Skype call from a couple we had met on our first trip to Portugal a couple of days ago asking how and where we were, when we said we were at Camping Milfontes they stated they were just a few kilometres away, well 100 kilometres is just a few when you are best part of 2500 kilometres (1553 miles) from home.

Lyn and Mark arrived today we cooked dinner for them in the van, Rosemary’s Sooper Dooper Ribs, followed by grilled prawns with salad, followed by cheese and biscuits - yummy

Friday 2nd January 2015

We went for a long walk along the cliffs this morning trying to walk off some of the food excesses of the past week or so. What it actually did was give us an appetite which was just as well as we went with Lyn and Mark to O’Pescador. When we arrived the owner told us he had lots of shellfish but with the fishermen not going out over the holiday no fish dishes except Caldeirada (fish stew) so all four of us opted for that. When we ordered the waiter said that the portions are so large he would get us fish stew for three. He was right even with four of us eating we did not manage to eat it all.

Saturday 3rd January 2015.

IMG 3030

Laundry and housekeeping - it has to be done and today was the day to do it 😳. Still afterwards there was time for a drive out to Odemira, a very pleasant town with a great river walk.

Sunday 4th January 2015

Not satisfied with spending all day yesterday doing washing Sue spent a large portion of today doing the same.

Dinner tonight was in the local Pizzeria. Those who know me know how much I enjoy pizza (about as much as a dose of flu) however they did lots of other delicious Italian dishes and the restaurant owner sang and played guitar beautifully. A great night we will one day to repeat. The evening was made even more special by being Lyn’s birthday

Last updated Sunday 21st June 2015                                                                                © S W Ghost 2015