We shall be leaving Vila Nova de Milfontes tomorrow. We have had a good stay at the Orbitur campsite here. It is perhaps not the optimal place to stay for a lengthy period but the weather has been fantastic until now and we have enjoyed cycling out to the shops when necessary (around 16 Km round trip). The walking is of course very good and we walked all the way into town and back one day.
The beach at Malhaõ is exceptional and is one of the finest in the whole country.
It has been fun to explore the town a little and we have been much taken with the area along the rivermouth. It is very beautiful.
Shopping has been hit and miss between the holiday period and our lack of local knowledge. We still haven’t managed to visit the market hall but we did cycle out to the monthly market at Brunheiras, which was tremendous fun – if a little disappointing on the food side of things, though we did manage to come home with bread, cheese and meat for a simple supper.
Overall, we have enjoyed ourselves a great deal and the peace and tranquility of the site here is so much better than the encampment down at the beach car park. We counted at least 40 vans at New Year. Quite ridiculous and hardly what you can call “wilding”. Observing individuals going to the toilet in the bushes is not a lot of fun either. Some disgraceful behaviour going on down there. Much better up here, with 70 acres almost entirely to ourselves since the permanent pitch people went home after their holidays (not that there were all that many of them anyway).
One disappointment has been the restaurant on the campsite. It was not as good as we recalled from our previous visit – except on a weekend, when the food is much better than mid-week. We suspect a different cook on duty. We gave the matter some thought and realised that when we were here previously it had been Saturday and Sunday when we ate at the restaurant so that might support our theory.
The great thing about the restaurant here is that the dish of the day is traditional Portuguese food. It tends to be simple (it’s cheap! Bread, Main Course, Dessert and drinks for 9 Euros) but is always interesting (for us, at least.) The days after New Year were pretty poor and we think that we may have been eating leftovers from the New Year’s Eve party. We had decided not to bother again but risked it on the Sunday, when we were served a very good Bacalhau Com Natas – better even than our introduction to that dish here last winter. This Sunday we were served Spare Ribs with Migas, which we thoroughly enjoyed. Migas is a staple made from breadcrumbs and is far nicer than it sounds.
So, a bit hit and miss but worth taking a punt, especially at the weekend. The staff are extremely friendly. They have some English and try hard to explain the dishes but sometimes need a bit of help 🙂 We do this by guessing and seeing if we reach common ground. Meals can still be a little surprising but that’s the fun of it, I think.
The weather having turned cooler, duller and breezier, with showers predicted for today and tomorrow, we packed the bikes away yesterday. This morning we put our tables and chairs away before they get wet and tomorrow we are setting off inland for a remote site by a reservoir. We don’t know how long we shall stay, which will make shopping en route tomorrow something of a conundrum. As I write this I am also constructing meal plans and a shopping list based on a “worst case” scenario.
Our following stop is to be at the World Heritage Site of Évora. I am much looking forward to that.
Now that Image Uploads are working again I hope to do some more writing up of our recent travels. It looks very much like the expected weather might support that aim!
Tomorrow we are leaving Sagres. It is difficult to believe that we have been here for a month. I would happily stay for another. However, we turn towards home now and it seems like an appropriate point in time to summarise the trip so far.
Vilargordo del Cabriel
Santa Elena Despenaperros
Valverde del Camino
La Rabida, Huelva
Home to Sagres = 2,190 Kilometres and 26 days.
56 Days elapsed
We are in no hurry and we don’t particularly want to be home before the Spring arrives. Having passed the Solstice and knowing that the sun is returning Northward we are happy enough to keep pace, more or less.
Our initial destination is Zambujeira do Mar. We are visiting purely in the spirit of adventure and discovery. Can’t keep returning to the same old places all the time.
There are photos. Yes, of course there are photos. Unfortunately a recent upgrade to WordPress seems to have broken the photo upload process so we shall have to wait for the images. My apologies for this interruption to normal service.
Vagueira is old ground, we stayed there last year. So we were surprised when the SatNav insisted on a different approach route. We cursed her a little but when we approached the campsite from the “wrong” end we found that the road in from the other end was closed. We had to forgive her.
We found little change, it remained a seaside town very much out of season.
The surf was up, as usual. One wonders how brave the fishermen must be to put out in their little boats if waves like this are normal business. They have our admiration.
One change we did find in Vagueira was this new item of public art. Reading the accompanying notes I concluded that the council and the artist together completely over thought this one. I remain in favour of the giant fork and sardine.
I remained a little under the weather from my stomach bug so we did not make the best of our visit here.
Days 14/15 Gala (Figueira da Foz) 75 Km (total 1547 Km)
If there had been little change at Vagueira, Gala had more than enough change to offer. A Transatlantic Storm touched land here a few weeks before we arrived. The campsite, the forest and the village had all been pounded by extreme winds and high seas.
Many of the trees, possibly more than half, on the campsite were down and the story continued in the forest outside the perimeter fence. The path through the dunes to the beach had disappeared, with only a warning flag left to show where it had been.
In fact, most of the dunescape had been washed away. We walked along the beach towards the village finding heavy machinery hard at work shifting sand form where it ought not to be and back to where it should. The breakwater access was heaped with rubble, many of the boardwalk steps to the beach had gone.
On the little “prom” the story continued, with the beach bar now just a skeleton – roof and glass sides all gone. Other buildings were under repair. Street furniture such as parking and direction signs were all blown over and lying on the grounds.
Wandering around back at the campsite we realised how many of the caravans and chalets had suffered damage. What was a beautiful site will take years to be restored.
The highlight of our stay at Gala this year was our trip across the main road to the Industrial Estate and the cafeteria there, where we had a very cheap lunch with many of the local workers. We treated ourselves to the Portuguese favourite; the Francesinha.
With much maintenance work going on, added to the ambient noise from the main road, the Industrial Estate, and the nearby firing Range, plus the difficulty of working in the now-destroyed forest; we decided that two nights was sufficient and we moved on.
Days 15/16 Alcácer do Sal, 252 Km (total 1799 Km)
Flowering shrub in Alcácer
When planning this section of our trip we had not realised that last year we had taken note of this little town. We had stayed overnight at the Barragem nearby and had not enjoyed that experience. As we approached the town on the next leg of our journey we had remarked that it looked very attractive, arranged as it was on the hill with tiled roofs glowing red under the morning sun… and what a shame it was that there was no aire or other place to stop. We did stop to fuel up at Intermarché (not a happy experience) and did some shopping at Lidl.
Well, it turns out that we got things very wrong. There is a Municipal Campsite and that is where we stopped this time.
It is a small site, with equally small pitches on grass. The toilet facilities left something to be desired and we used our own arrangements. The showers were tolerable.
The best feature of this site is the fact that it is only yards from the Intermarché, with Lidl just a few strides further away.
The walk into town is not particularly short however but the town is old and quaint and fun to explore, if somewhat run down and neglected. Oddly it did not attract me to use my camera as I had expected that it would. I came away with very few photographs.
I was surprised to find an old lady washing her clothes in the ancient lavarie (don’t know the Portuguese term) but see it as indicative of just how economically depressed this town is.
The notable feature of this visit was our lunch at Taberna 2 à Esquina, a delightful establishment with a rustic feel and very friendly front of house staff. We had the day’s Special, which we now know to be one of Portugal’s “national dishes”.
Cozeido à Portuguesa
Portuguese Stew is, to us at least, their equivalent of the French dish of Choucroute Garni – a load of different meats combined with cabbage. In this dish’s favour the cabbage was in a vegetable stew and not fermented but some of the meat items were a little dodgy. We did really enjoy the Portuguese variant on Chorizo and there was also a very tasty blood pudding in there. The lump of “lard” we were far less keen on.
We’ll add this to the “Done that, don’t want to do it again” list.
Day 18/19, Vila Nova de Milfontes, 120 Km (total 1919 Km)
Research had shown this campsite to be ideally placed with a good fish restaurant around the corner and a supermarket a short walk away. The site’s publicity states that it is 600 metres from the sea. Fabulous!
The dirt road to the sea – note the lack of any habitation, commercial activity or any other form of urbanisation
As we approached the day’s destination, Mr Snail said that he was worried. “Where is the town?” he enquired, seeing no visible sign nor indications on the SatNav map.
We, as many others have been, were led astray by a Google Maps marker for a closely similar-named alternative campsite. This one is in the middle of absolutely nowhere.
Happily the site has a restaurant and it was open. The on-site supermarket was closed but an array of essential items was available from the bar.
The site is interesting. By far the largest campsite we have experienced to date but at that time of the year it was all but deserted. A small handful of motorhomes were parked by the rear gate that leads onto the dirt track to the beach. The main gate was about a kilometre away from our parking spot and the restaurant and bar situated about halfway between. You definitely need your walking legs on for this site, most especially if returning from the beach too late to buzz in through the back gate.
We liked it a lot but suspect that we would hate it in season. Would happily return for a lengthy December break again, but only if we had adequate supplies on board!
Alternative access to the beach via the scrub makes for good dog walking
It was very handy to be able to nip out of the back gate to walk the dog and the walk to the sea is pleasant enough, though dusty with cars passing at the weekend. At the end of the road is a huge car park. The bay is beautiful and there is an extensive boardwalk network across the dune tops.
Simply beautiful bay with clear water and clean beaches… no litter or flotsam/jetsam anywhere to be seen
The sun was out, the sky was blue and tops were off. What more could you want at this time of the year. Well, apparently, some shopping opportunities and a good meal out. It was time to leave.
Day 20 – 47, Sagres, 115 Km (total 2034 Km)
We came to rest in Sagres, intending to stay for around a month and sit out the winter holidays. Readers with long memories will recall that we spent ten days here over the New Year period last year. I will not bore with rehashing an account of the site or the town.
Both the town and the site have been a little quieter than last year. The weather has been a little less startlingly good and although mainly sunny we have experienced both rain and wind. It has in fact been a little more comfortable this year.
We celebrated Mr Snail’s Birthday, a very merry non-christmas, and our Wedding Anniversary on New Year’s Eve whilst here. There has been much kitchen activity in the van.
A few pics from the past month:
We departed Sagres on the 6th of December and drove to Spain.
Plenty has been written here about Zarautz and Gran Camping, I do not intend to duplicate that content. Sufficient to say that we had a very good time and that those 450 steps are still a killer.
On Sunday I became a little annoyed by somebody on the campsite repeatedly sounding their vehicle horn. At one stage I asked “could that be Dusty? Is he now heavy enough to sound the horn by sitting on it?” and was assured that no, it was not.
Day 6, to Zamora, 458 Km (1027 Km total)
The day began badly when the demister fan failed. It was teeming with rain. The screen was so badly misted that we took a wrong turn at the toll and ended up heading back towards France. It was a very scary time but we eventually found our way back and on our way South. Even better, the ran did eventually stop and hugh sighs of relief breathed once the sun came ut and the window dried up. I would not want to do that journey ever again. Anyway, that is the explanation for the extra lengthy distance on this leg.
We have visited Zamora previously and again, I do not intend to repeat myself here. It is a good free Aire, now with water and waste services and a great parkland adjacent for doggy good times.
There was one horrifying moment when the horn sounded, frightening the living daylights out of a schoolgirl who was crossing the car park in front of our parked vehicle. Seemingly Dusty really is heavy enough now to sound the horn.
Day 8, onward to Portugal. Bragança, 102 Km (1129 Km total)
Once again, a revisit and no need to write more about this lovely free aire or the town.
Happily the weather was good and we had few visibility problems and a pleasant journey ensued.
On our first night in Bragança, or rather on our first morning there, the van horn sounded at 7 am. Dusty was at it again. We were mortified, due to the presence of close neighbours. What to do?
We came up with several ideas, including boxing him at night or devising some protective mechanism using a folding crate. Eventually Mr Snail came up with the right idea. He identified the fuse and its location and we subsequently pulled it. We now remove the fuse every time that we park for the night. Happily the fuse box is readily accessible in the passenger side glove box.
Day 10/11, in Mêda. 130 Km (1259 Km total)
On the way to Mêda
Mêda was new territory for us. A small town, with a neat little Municipal Campsite. We had a neighbour for the first night but were alone for the second. Hard standing pitches are each provided with power, picnic table and whirly washing line. Site open all year. Bar/Café open. Free swimming when Municipal pool is open. Walking distance to shops and restaurants, including the local Intermarché. Dog walking on local very quiet tarmac lane, quite hilly.
I caught myself a tummy bug so was unable to make the most of this stop but did manage a walk out with the camera when I was feeling a little perkier.
We left Mêda on Day 12 and headed for the coast.
We rather wished that we had arrived sooner when we saw this poster.
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.
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.
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.