A Travellerspoint blog

Heading west

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Having noticed for ourselves the number of motorhomes about, we phoned Pedro who confirmed he was packed as well and having to put vans in an overflow area. We consequently booked a week with him over Mardi Gras so we were certain of somewhere to stay and he and his wife certainly make everyone feel welcome.
We were moving from the isolated cowboy aire to a town called Quarteira on the coast and stopped at a gypsy market at Loule, we had been there a couple of times before and if you read last year's Algarve blog, we had an awful time remembering where we had been. This has spurred me on to take our list of stops and put a photo to each one, should keep me out of mischief for a while with 400 or so stops. I also had the thought of putting together a list of things that have gone wrong or we have had to fix with the van, Jacqui already keeps an account so we know what we spend so it seemed a natural extension of that.
Quarteira we haven't been to and turns out has a great looking beach and an Irish bar or two to watch the first 6 nations game. We had parked at an aire on the local market place run by the sensible local council who with 100 spaces, 70 of them full now, only charge €3 per night so a handy income. I watched the England France game and got that same old sinking feeling that our bubbled had burst after only a year, but we won, ugly it might have been and we aren't the only team that do that. Wales next and more people to meet, see later.
We moved onto to Alvor, for 2 reasons, to meet up with Clive and Wendy who we met near Cadiz and Alvor is a really great seaside town with loads of bars and restaurants. We tried the beach first but the parking was all slushy and although others had parked up and tried to avoid the puddles, we drove up to the campsite and parked on the same pitch as last year. We can't understand why people won't fork a whole €13 to stay on a nice site including electric, showers, the works or go down the soggy beach?
Clive and Wendy live in France and do loads and they have had a house built so we intend to visit and pick their brains. We chatted for ages that afternoon, fueled by red wine and Wendy cooked some fish that none of us knew the name of, even Jacqui was getting into the really good Spanish reds we are buying for next to nothing. Next day we met for lunch and tried the chicken piri piri, it was very nice I might have to try a few out to compare. Luckily Jacqui had my other favourite, Sardines and only managed half so i got to have a pack up for the next day. The restaurant was by the harbour, a bit like Mudford but Alvor must have 20 places to eat around that area, a good place to visit if anyone is near abouts.
We also met a Welsh couple who had a bad experience with some rude England fans whilst watching the previous weekend's games in a bar. They were really friendly so we told them we would head back the next weekend to watch the Wales England game with them, a brave move I think for the Cardiff game.
We left on our separate ways the next day, they going east and us west; we just wanted another look at the western Algarve as it's entirely different to the east and central parts. I don't know why the west is not such a tourist spot but it has some brilliant small beaches and a rugged rural landscape with small villages that still have communal laundry places still in use. It one of the coastlines that people compare to Cornwall but it's sandstone again, but the same winding footpaths down to secluded coves.
We found a small aire run by a French couple that was really friendly and we could ride our bikes to another village. We had sold the old bikes on the last campsite and it was now time to try mine out against Jacqui's e-bike, the hill out of the site looked steep enough. I sorted the height of seat and handle bars and checked the brakes and we set off trying to get used to a different type of gear selector as we went along. Everything seemed like hard work and it wasn't just one hill! The chain even jumped off on the way back so I was a put out.
I doubt the bike had much of a PDI so I set about adjusting the gear stops and was still getting crunching noises from the gears, then I found the back wheel wasn't even straight, no wonder it was hard work!
The village we rode to was tiny but sweet and the Lidl car park was full of the weirdest campervans; we had seen more vans in the Algarve than in Spain but here in the west they were prolific! We had been told that people came out here to live all year round in what ever they could put together, we even saw a caravan shell mounted a flat bed truck, not pretty.
We planned to mouch about a bit for a few days before heading back east.
And, dear reader, it started RAINING that night.

Posted by cjpolley 11:58 Archived in Portugal Comments (1)

Jet Lag!

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It didn't take us long to get into Portugal using the free A-49 which becomes a toll road once across the border; this time we decided to register so that if we strayed on to a toll road we would be OK as last year we drove twice round so many roundabouts trying to decide if we could pay with cash or ought to have signed up. The other thing we did was purchase a full tank of diesel as the price in Portugal is €1.30 and Spain is 20 cents a litre cheaper.
We remembered to change our watches as we were now on UK time and headed for Tavira, passing several free stopovers on the way, our fridge was playing up on gas so we needed electric hook up until we fixed it. The first place we stopped asked us to look round for a spot before booking in, everybody looked to have been allowed to park anywhere and the resulting jumble left very few decent spaces, many of them a bit soggy. So we drove back to a larger campsite and managed to squeeze on a pitch by overhanging both ends, we had been warned the Algarve was packed probably due to no one going to Morocco again.
This site had a great looking pool that was still open and lots of snow birds spending months here, walking into town that evening we expected some activity to hold these people here. Apart from the board walk around the lagoon which is part of the national park there was nothing, I can understand wanting to escape the northern cold and rain but 6 months here, no thanks.
We took the train into Tavira which we found to be a pleasant town with a Roman bridge, heavily concreted, a Moorish castle which had a small botanic garden sheltered in the middle and a nice square or two with local bars. Chicken piri piri was on every menu and I will have to try this national dish.
Tavira didn't hold us too long so we returned to the site, fixed the fridge by realigning the thermocouple because everything gets shaken loose eventually and looked to move towards the western Algarve.
Something that we noticed even 2 days into Portugal was the time difference, the days seemed very long and we kept sleeping a lot, I know Jacqui could sleep for England but I was doing it to.
I forgot to mention that I had also bought a new bike in Spain, well I had to try and keep up with Jacqui's electric version somehow! It did mean that our van looked a bit like the stock room at Halfords, the old bikes on the rack at the back and both new ones inside, bit cosy!
We found an aire away from the coast which had really good reviews, much more us than the big site and a bit of a cowboy theme as well! We seemed to have annoyed a French man who wanted me to park as far away from him as I could, our doors aren't even on the same side, bit of a Brexit moment I think.
We always eat well, whether in the van or out and we had shopped at our favourite Portuguese supermarket Pingo Doce, Waitrose quality but good prices, their butchers is wonderful. I love sausages so we had bangers and mash Portuguese style and Jacqui came up with a tapas I had in Valencia, potato on bread, sounds simple but I think I mentioned back then, it tastes great.

Posted by cjpolley 03:11 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

On the road again, dos!

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So our first back on the road again took us all of 35 miles to Peurta Santa Maria to check out the campsite we visited at Christmas 2015. We managed a walk around the town checking out the lively bars and the car park aire for motorhomes on one side of the river. Didn't manage an ice cream though cos there was a long queue, we'll correct that tomorrow.
Jacqui had bought an electric bike in the commercial centre outside town so we had to test it out on Sunday on a really nice cycle path along the beach, she felt so comfortable we had to stop for a lunchtime beer overlooking Cadiz and their super bridge. We chatted to two British couples, motorhomers, one couple had been full timing for 14 years, newbies us then! They spoke affectionately of Morocco and I think that will have to go into the plan.
Back at camp, the next door neighbours shared a glass of bordeaux with us and we got another invite to mid France; Clive and Wendy, yes another one, had a house built in France so we will have to go see them!
We moved on next morning, despite wishing to hear more from both groups we had met, only two days after staying at a site for so long, we really wanted to travel for a while.
Well we excelled ourselves, 25 miles!! To a pleasant aire by the enormous Parque Nature Donãna, the owner was telling some Dutch travellers about the flamingoes that could be seen in the park, I didn't tell them we had stayed in an area for 10 weeks where they can be seen every day, storks to!
We rode into town, me chasing jacqui up hills on her e-bike, this will keep me fit, still in search of the last bocaronnes before the border, I can't believe they don't have them in Portugal. The weather was hot, lovely sunny afternoon, so we had to have a beer and sat watching the ferry pick up passengers from the beach to transport them across the Rio Guadalquivir, the same river that takes container ships up to the massive port at Sevilla, 45 miles inland.
Next day we took the advise of so many people we had met and headed toward El Roccio, a supposed cowboy town with hitching rails, horses and wild nights; Jacqui also imagined country and western music but that's just Jacqui. We travelled on the smaller roads again to see the villages and came across a weekly market, the area was rural and lots of areas growing outdoor winter veg, no poly tunnels but still a very poor looking area. Consequently the veg in the market was cheap and lovely, bet you wouldn't see Rick Stein here though.
No café there so we stopped at a commercial centre that Jacqui stumbled on whilst navigating, yeah right I hear you say! We had a good coffee, we prefer Spanish coffee and then found that Jacqui had something in common with her new bike, get her in a shopping centre and she finds another gear, I had to run.
Any how we arrived at El Roccio which only exists because a drunk found a statue that kept moving, that's happened to me! The campsite was OK and so we walked into the town with different expectations, I just wanted a beer and a meal, Jacqui wanted Dolly Parton! Well there was a lot of sand and the smell of horse pooh, more churches than you could shake a very big stick at and holiday duplexes!
It was a week night and we didn't expect much but we only saw a couple of horses out for an evening walk. We met some British who told us that at the weekend the place was packed with horses and flamenco dances in the streets, just a mad party time. It also meant that the areas we walked past from the site were filled with cars and vans, the dispersed rubbish around the place bore testament to the activity. Shame that no one takes their religious fervour to the extend of clearing up after themselves.
Oh well Portugal tomorrow!

Posted by cjpolley 12:04 Archived in Spain Comments (1)

End of one year, start of another

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So 2016 was our first full year, which is a strange concept for us as the only thing we have to do on time is submit our tax return, which we did.
Last year we only travelled to one country that neither of us had been to before, Monaco! But managed to spend 4 months in Italy and 3 months in Spain, such fantastic countries to get a glimpse of their culture and rich history. Both countries have a rich family and community life and we joined in wherever possible, visiting fiestas, wine tasting, eating great food but the best bits for us were when we were the only travellers in the bar or little shop. After a 2 mile hike to a village from a site in Italy, to have a great dark local beer served in a tiny bar by a lake or a huge tray of apertivo served with prosecco outside Cremona cathedral, those were the best bits and lots of them.
We stayed in Conil for a further month after getting back on Boxing Day, it so cost effective! We wanted to see the 3 kings festival and the Romeria de St Sebastian and Lee was coming with his fiancee, Nicola, so we had a lot planned. I also had a list of little jobs on the van, complicated things such as putting the flags we had collected on our travels on the back of the van.
We also joined in the usual activities, cards and quiz, at the campsite, the odd game of petanca. The weather was on our side in the day time but the temperatures dropped like a stone over night, so much so that we had to put the heating on for the first time since the Orkneys in June 2015!
We had to make a major decision before Christmas, should we stay loyal to the little bar we had adopted even after it was revamped, or find a new one? Easy answer, find a new one as the price of a beer went to €1.20; just down the street we found a really friendly place with great coffee and, it turned out lovely evening food, no bocaronnes for Jacqui though! We ended up in here on three kings night after a quick visit to the flower pot pub and the green door, no idea of the real names. We shared a couple of racciones with Joan and Harry, walking home quite late but the town was still buzzing with the fiestas.
Jacqui returned to her bike and we got round town a lot more like that, she's very brave and was soon racing away from me again. Jacqui joined in the zumba and a bit of line dancing and, unlike me, gets fit after a couple of sessions. I got back running again and with our quiz team mate, Martin, inaugurated the Conil 5k for over the hill runners. It would be nice to run somewhere flat, that might be the algarve coast.
Lee and Nic arrived for the St Sebastian weekend and we visited Cadiz with them, watched Rick Stein the evening before and ended up having a lovely market picnic with shrimp fitters, fresh bread and jamon, carved off the bone at a butchers along side the municipal market. Cadiz is a lovely city, well worth several visits. We had tried to get into the city by taking the ferry from Peurta Santa Maria where we had stayed briefly only to find the ferries on a Saturday were not very frequent, anyway we got to cross the huge bridge that we had only seen before.
Sunday saw the St Sebastian procession arrive at the campsite on time, strangely, taking most of us by surprise. Jacqui posted pictures of the ox carts carrying the figure St Sebastian shot with arrows, decorated with fresh flowers. The rest of the crowd following on looked to be well stocked with food and drink for the whole day of celebrations. We had a really long walk before Jacqui cooked a great Sunday lunch, roast spuds and all. The walk would have been a couple of km shorter but the short cut through the site bar was closed.
Lee and Nic set off Monday morning early, these visits go far too quickly but are really good fun.
So this led to our last few days in Spain and Jacqui and I had a bit of a planning meeting and only decided that one day towards the end of the week we would cross the border into Portugal, well we don't want to be over flexible do we! It's also exciting to get the van ready for travelling again.

Posted by cjpolley 05:06 Archived in Spain Comments (1)

The Missing Blog 2016

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We had never meant to blog our stay in Conil, which was to last 11ish weeks, because this is just like living somewhere; but it's in our van and for most of the time it's warm. We had arrived earlier than planned due to weather in France and a lack of real Spanish places on the way down. Writing this in mid January, the next time we travel this way, we will go inland more to avoid the plastic covered coastal plain and the Marbellas on the coast. We found some lovely places in the last two years and will stay further north for longer, coming down here for a month or so over Christmas, we have been getting itchy feet.
The weather on the Mediterranean coast turned out to be awful in late November with bad floods in Malaga and we had torrential rain over a couple of weeks that van bound us, only taking short walks into town for groceries and coffee! Fields and roads were flooded and this was the cause of Jacqui's accident when her bike slipped on fine mud that had been washed onto the cycle path. Lots of people stopped to help, a motorist called an ambulance, a lady gave us a car rug and another lady held jacqui's head whilst the ambulance arrived; also the local police and Gardia Civil, must have been a slow day!
We spent most of the day in the local hospital A&E, which was as busy as a UK one, where Jacqui had X-rays and was examined quite quickly. It was quite worrying but the doctors were confident that rest would resolve the pain and intense head aches that Jacqui was experiencing. Later back in the UK and another 7 hours in hospital Jacqui got a CT scan to check for any other injuries and now tells everyone that at least she knows she has a brain.
Friends on site rallied round and picked us up from hospital and got us settled back into the van and Jacqui was very poorly, getting slowly better over a couple of weeks. Thanks to everyone that helped us out over that time.
Boudi, Donna and Gary, arrived on site the same day which was such a shame as we couldn't spend as much time as we wanted to with them. We still managed a great catch up with them.
We hadn't planned to spend Christmas in the UK but with the fantastic announcement of Callum and Jenny's wedding we booked to come back for two weeks to include Christmas day.
Lesley and Andy put us up before the wedding, which was great and the plan was to house sit for Ian and Jacky whilst they had a holiday with Laura.
Leaving Stansted we drove to Cambridge to catch up with Lou and Tom before driving on next day to see Jan and Carl in Kidlington, more lovely for ends who put us up, or up with us!
Well the wedding was lovely, with kilts and trews and skien doo, the bride looked lovely and Jacky was so, so happy that she floated on air the whole day, fantastic. Jordan was the best man and his speech was brilliant, then he was off to another mates wedding the next morning after dancing all night. I drove the Scottish grand parents and also offered to take them to the airport the next day.
To say that nothing was going to plan is an understatement, Jacqui had a CT scan which meant I couldn't drive to the airport and the grand parents plane was cancelled resulting in a two night stop at the Hilton, Gatwick. Fog was the culprit and when we arrived to house sit, Ian and Jacky's plane was also cancelled. We were homeless and adopted the Mary and Joseph nicknames. Andy and Lesley adopted us again and it was good spending more time with them.
We spent Christmas eve with Carys, Helen, Alison and Andy and also Jord, just like we used to but in a pub. Jacky had recovered from a nasty cold so we spent Christmas eve evening with them and then a lovely Christmas day with Jord, Callum and Jenny's playing board games for most of the day.
Up early Boxing Day for a flight back to the sun.

Posted by cjpolley 07:32 Archived in Spain Comments (1)

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