At the end of the year

Okay, there are catch-up posts outstanding plus a couple of reports written on the road to insert appropriately but tomorrow is New Year’s Eve and now seems like a good time to post a quick and dirty summary, especially as we shall be in no fit state tomorrow night to do any updating.

We have been on the road since 15th August, that’s 20 weeks. We have passed through 22 degrees of Latitude and travelled more than 4,000 miles from home. We have visited France, Portugal and Spain, making 59 stops.

We are currently at The End of The World – in Sagres, Portugal. Sagres is a seaside town in the Algarve and a magnet for surfers and beach bums. It sits right at the bottom of Portugal and is to the Portuguese what Land’s End is to we Brits.

Sagres, Portugal

So, that’s all wonderfully neat and circular. When we leave here we turn back towards home, dragging the sun back uphill with us if we are lucky.

Currently we expect to take about the same amount of time in returning to the UK, going back into Spain and then returning to France. We may then go up into Germany to have  a look for a new van…

External factors may affect our plans, not least the fact that we have made an offer on a property in Scotland and are currently waiting to hear if it has been accepted.

Tomorrow we celebrate our wedding anniversary so no further updates may be expected until 2018. I hope to do a post on where we have been since we last caught up before we move on again and there are two Portugal posts in the pipeline too. I would also like to do a post on Sagres because it deserves it. Watch this space.

The spreadsheet is now once more up to date.

Terminus

I was very reluctant to move today. The past week with my kitchen unpacked from its traveling crates had been relaxing and enjoyable. Long lie ins, with no need to get up, pack and move on were simply blissful. The toilet blocks were excellent and there was even a (very hot) shower with unmetered control. There were no children in evidence and the site was quiet. With the mostly empty beach so easy to access, it was a great site for Nell too.

However, the main road was busy with HGV traffic and road noise began early in the morning. That plus the unpleasant and pervading odour spurred Mr Snail on and he desired a change.

With bad weather incoming, the driver wanted to be away early. We took off before breakfast, planning to stop later at a service station on the motorway. The SatNav lady could not resist playing with us on the way to the motorway but we found it in the end.

Previously on our travels we have remarked on the complete absence of traffic police in Portugal. Today I may report with confidence that they do exist and are out in force. So far we have met with two speeding operations with several cars at the side of the road in advance of a service station. When we stopped for breakfast we were able to observe the traffic cars escorting unfortunate drivers to meet their police colleagues waiting in the car park. I had counted five cars by the roadside and there was another in the services plus the two in different livery waiting to book the infringers. At the next service point there were four police cars parked on the hard shoulder. It is entirely possible that we have seen every traffic cop in Portugal today!

After an excellent coffee and a rather less excellent apple turnover (Portugal lacks the delight that is The Bramley) we were on our way again quickly. Why? This was when it was divulged that we still had quite a long way to go. How long? Over a hundred miles.

Darn.

The motorway was busier than we have been used to but as we were going past Lisboa it was hardly surprising and really the traffic nowhere near as heavy as you might expect when navigating about a capital city and no sooner had we reached the city limits than we were off again onto empty roads again and heading towards the Algarve.

The cloud that had gathered on Monday persisted but the entire drive was dry. Our destination was a wilding spot at a reservoir dam. An on-site restaurant held the promise of dining out. We knew that the site is well known and that it can be busy but we thought that late December would not be a problem.
I don’t know what I was expecting… Ladybower, perhaps. Whatever I was expecting the place did not deliver. It was a bit grim in fact, the reservoir almost empty, a large number of motorhomes parked up and many looking as though there for the duration… The restaurant did look nice, with oranges growing on the terrace and a view over the water but sadly and very firmly closed until Thursday.

We left without stopping for breakfast on Wednesday morning, not in the least bit sorry to bid farewell to RVs flying national flags and motorhomes bedecked with fairy lights and all with camping gear bestrewn about the place.
Horrible, just horrible and not even any good walking to compensate as it was all marked with hunting warnings.

Lidl was our first port of call, we bought a few supplies and a very unhealthy breakfast of doughnuts, which we consumed before turning towards the motorway.

A fairly monotonous drive ensued, received only by occasional speculation regarding cork farming.

Just as the scenery was returned to slightly picturesque from dead boring, we landed in the Algarve. Immediately we were surrounded by hoardings… Designer Outlet, McDonald’s, IKEA, Burger King… and with a sinking heart, I said “I think I am going to hate Algarve.”

The above was written on the road in my note-taking app. My relationship with the Algarve has actually improved a little since then, but more of that later.

Leaving Regua

Early morning river fog this morning, with the Sandeman man obscured from view but the sun was burning through by the time that we were leaving.
Regua had little to recommend it and the tidy little Aire by the Doura was a mixed bag: water, grey drain and electric hookup on the pitch but perched beneath a road bridge, close to motorway and railway, sited at a club and with a large pack of feral dogs close by.

My instant reaction when I saw the dogs was “can I feed them?” Closely followed by “can we adopt one?” But on closer inspection, the size of the pack and the nature of the dogs invited circumspection.

Mr Snail had attempted to walk Nell up the river but the pack were not welcoming their presence and they beat a hasty retreat.

The town was pretty run down and shabby apart from a modern development housing wine and restaurant outlets. I did enjoy all the tiles though, both the ones covering external walls and the blue and white mural panels in public spaces.

We paused to read a restaurant menu and were translating slowly but quite successfully, when the proprietress popped out, excused herself and asked if she might explain a little. She was very proud of offering a traditional Portuguese Christmas menu. We were delighted and very tempted but neither one of us was hungry!

I believe that it will remain a sadness that we didn’t take up the opportunity of enjoying a little local colour.

When we left this morning it was a short distance to the motorway but a steep climb. We were soon above the mist and I wriggled about in my seat trying to get a camera shot with little success.

Already at 500 metres, the sun was shining brightly and the landscape revealing itself. We noted the height sign, not at a summit, and deduced that we were to climb higher yet. We topped out at 1,000 metres just before stopping at a service station 20 k out of town. Under a clear blue sky, the sun felt very warm.

The above was written on the road in my note-taking app. It appears to be incomplete. So does my memory. I do know that we ended our day’s journey at the coast on a small town named Vagueira, more of which later…

Not sure whether to backdate this entry to the correct day  or to leave the date as the date when I finally got around to uploading it. For the purposes of clearing up any doubt, this is an historical post and we are currently at Sagres.