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.

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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. . . “ 

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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

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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. 

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