2013 - 2014 Blog

The End In Sight.

Sunday 6th April 2014.

After all the rain forced us to stay in the van all day yesterday, we were starting to go a little stir crazy so we went to the local supermarket for a little retail therapy but it must be admitted that our best buy was a tank of diesel at just €1.274/litre thats just £1.06, around what we have been paying for the last three or four months, I wonder what we will be paying when we get back to UK?

Monday 7th April 2014.

Our last move before heading for the boat back to UK today!

The t’internet at Caminha was so poor (another result of the storm?) we were unable to find or research sites between Caminha and Gijon where we were to catch the ferry. We had stayed on a great site just 100km (60 miles) beyond Gijon a couple of years ago, so we headed there. It has been a long day towing some 550 km (342 mls) and the site pitches appear smaller than we remember them, we are too long to fit into one pitch so we must park across two and turn turn around so that we can go out as we came in through a third pitch. We hope no-one goes on it before we leave or we we‘ll be in Effluent Creek.

Tuesday 8th April 2014.

Rain and low cloud all day today, we did try to drive up into the mountains but the cloud was so thick we couldn’t see the front of the car let alone the views.

Wednesday 9th April 2014.

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What a difference a day makes. It’s such a glorious day today that we made a return visit to Ribadesella, it is one of the nicest seaside towns we have ever visited - like Frinton but posh!! While we were there we had a look at Camping Ribadesella where we had intended to go. It has a very, very tight entrance and the pitches (from what we could see) were even smaller than where we are. Looking for meat to take home at Mercadona supermarket today. It seems daft to take meat home but not only is it cheaper there are cuts that we like that are hard to get inUK. Unfortunately we can’t buy anything today as we have accidentally defrosted the fridge/freezer and must wait for it to get fully cold again before putting stuff in.

Thursday 10th April 2014.

Got the meat - a large rabbit, two pork tenderloins and, the piece de resistance, ten pork cheeks - YUMMIE.

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Returning from the supermarket we retraced our foggy footsteps of Tuesday, this time in crystal clear weather. The views were stunning, we drove up to a height of 1200 m (3937 ft) thats higher than Mount Snowdon at 1085m (3560 ft)

Friday 11th April 2014.

Up at crack of sparrow f**t to day. Getting off the pitch (no-one in the way) and 100 km down the road to Gijon where we were to catch the ferry. There were signs to the ferry port, called Puerto de el Musel, not Puerto de Gijon as expected and just before you enter the port there is a LD Lines sign but you have to get into the port (flashing a printed paper at the security barriers worked for us) and just drive forward looking around. With more luck than judgement we eventually found the queue (look for UK number plates!!) and listening to advise from other travellers we took our documentation to a sentry type box and was issued with boarding pass and other documents. The wait then started. At 12.30 loading started, half an hour to load when the Guardia were taking some panel vans apart and searching with sniffer dogs as well as men. Luckily cars, caravans nor motorhomes were were included in the excitement and we joined the queue in lane two. Just as we were about to start loading it was noticed that all the vans and small trucks had been directed to lane one not lane two so ensued a great kerfuffle while they were moved to lane three. Eventually loading was complete (they even remembered the motorbikes that should have been loaded first but had remained forgotten on the quay for over two hours) and 45 minutes late the ferry departed.

We wrote the following description of the trip in an email to friends: -


“. . . The trip back on the ferry was good but it must be said that the boat and it’s facilities are basic but perfectly adequate, as is the food. We had lamb and rice for dinner that was plentiful, tasty and tender although there have been many complaints about the food standard, likewise I had a full English for breakfast which was of acceptable standard and reasonably priced. Our cabin was of a good size (for two) but four people would find it a squash. The only real problem was the boat likes to “jitterbug” moving even on a smooth sea, a crew member I was chatting to said the movement in bad weather was “horrendous” going on to say it (the boat) was designed for the Med not Biscay! and twenty five hours is a long time to be Moby Dick . . .”

Arriving back at Poole we were first off the boat and waved through customs without stopping.

Trip number two is complete.

Statistics (for the sad among you 😋).


Well, thats the end of this blog, we hope you enjoyed virtual travelling we us. Our next trip is, we hope a summer in Scandinavia, please, visit this site again soon to see how we get on.

Week 36 - Good site, good town, great company.

Sunday 30th March 2014.

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Frank volunteered to drive today, first to Constanza. Rosemary programmed their sat-nav to take us via the pretty route and off we went. Things started off OK but unfortunately R & F’s sat-nav is American and we all know that Americans are far more optimistic than is good for the rest of us and we began being sent down rougher and smaller roads until without the option to back up or turn around we faced what appeared from the car a cliff edge. We all got out to scout the way down. It was hard enough walking/climbing down let alone driving down, but as said there was no real option but to continue. Frank got back in the car, Sue got back in (well she was a social worker who’s job it was to support those in difficulty). Rosemary and I elected to do the hard job of waving our arms about giving loud contradictory advice and keeping well away from any danger. With great skill Frank piloted the car to the bottom of “the cliff” and five difficult but no longer heart stopping minutes later we were back on a black top road. Which without very much more ado we arrived in Constanza, a pretty town, like many here built on a hill that requires a great deal of effort to explore. We stopped in a tiny cafe for coffee and the cafe owner required Rosemary to provide name and address before providing four coffees and four little cakes, we thought he was making a pass but we were told that legally every sale in Portugal must, for tax purposes be traceable from supplier to customer but that very few actually follow the rules - certainly we have never been asked for ID except when going onto a campsite, never in a cafe. Constanza nurtures the memory of poet Luis Vaz de Camões who was sent away from court for misbehaving with a court lady. He actually lived here very briefly after 1546 (the year not the time ☺️)

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From Constanza we moved on to Castelo de Almourol, dramatically set on a tiny island in the Rio Tagus. The only way to reach the castle was by boat and we were looking forward to exploring the castle which from the shore looked quite dramatic. Closed, and it’s not Monday. We could do nothing but look from the shore. It looked good.

Monday 31st March 2014.

My turn to drive again today, we went to Fatima where on 13th May 1917 three children: Lúcia and her cousins, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, while guarding their sheep in the Cova da Iria, witnessed an apparition of a lady dressed in white. The lady, later referred to as Our Lady of the Rosary, indicated that she was sent by God with a message of prayer, repentance and consecrations. She visited the children each month on the 13th day from May 13 - October 13. The last apparition occurred on October 13, and was witnessed by 70,000 pilgrims. Lucia became a nun and as Sister Lúcia, she recounted three visits from an angel to her and her cousins. Between April and October in 1916 this angel invited them to pray and do penitence. The angel visited them twice in Loca do Cabeço and once by the well in Lúcia's garden. Jacinta died in 1919 and Francisco in 1920 from the Spanish flu Epidemic of 1918-1920, and were later beatified on 13 May 2000 by Pope John Paul II. Lucia lived until 2005.

Fatima is a strange place, the fabulously wealthy church seems to live quite happily alongside the shops selling the most tawdry religious junk (the only word for it) and those selling expensive designer religious artefacts. From Fatima we drove to Ourem for a little quite contemplation. Ourem is another fortified town built on a hillside that was converted in the 12th century to a royal palace. Unfortunately the rain was “persisting” down in a relentless manner so after a short walk and determining to return in sunshine we returned to Tomar.

On New Years Day we had a special four course Menu Del Dia (menu of the Day) at the camp restaurant where we were introduced to delicious pigs cheek casserole. When we went to the market last Friday we saw and bought some pigs cheeks, these are large pieces of meat normally sold complete with a chunk of jawbone attached. Tonight we had agreed to share our pigs cheek casserole with Rosemary and Frank and they would share their rabbit casserole with us. The two casseroles complimented each other well and R & F who had not tried the cheeks before agreed they were a very tasty cut of meat.

Wednesday 2nd April 2014.

R & F had been told that if they visited Tomar they must go to Tabulerio Restaurant. We all went for lunch there today. Having tasted our pigs cheeks earlier in the week R & F were keen to try them again, “very sorry” said the waiter “we have none left”. R & F chose lamb dishes Sue and I went for Seafood Rice a Portuguese speciality - lots of chunks of fish, prawns and other delicacies cooked up with creamy rice. When we were all tucking in the waiter brought a sample of the pork cheeks for us to try, they were good - but not as good as Sue’s recipe.

Needing to work off a little of our lunch we went for a walk around the local park and shortly after finished up at a local match box collection museum. Started by a local girl with a matchbox depicting the coronation of our Queen Elizabeth II the collection now contains some 47000(ish) boxes from many countries. It was strange that Ship matches, the boxes we both remembered as being the most common when we were kids were not as we thought made in UK by Bryant and Mays but by a Swedish company.

Thursday 3rd April 2014.

Spoke to the agents managing the house today. The tenants still have not paid rent for February or March, neither have they moved out as required before 1st April. Court papers have been prepared and will be served in the next few days. We should regain possession, so we are told, in around 10 days. We will believe it when it happens.

BBQ tonight. A goodbye dinner and what a dinner it was F & R certainly know how to make that BBQ sing. Tomorrow we go north, Rosemary and Frank go south. 

Friday 4th April 2014.

Having said our goodbyes to Rosemary and Frank we head north aiming for Camping Orbitur Caminha a site we had been to before about as far north as you can go in Portugal without going into Spain. It was a good run but the rain fell relentlessly all day.

Saturday 5th April 2014.

It rained all night long and for a while the storm caused a power outage. We were very pleased. There is a group of 60 university students on site and last night they created mayhem that went on virtually all night. It doesn’t bear thinking about what they would have been like had it been a clear moonlit night. The site manager lives on site and together with the night guard tried in vain to quieten then through the night. This morning he gave them 24 hours to be off the site so another noisy night tonight. Thank the lord for ear-plugs.

Week 35 - In Pleasant Company.

Sunday 23rd March 2014.

We are moving on tomorrow, we came here for just a week but have enjoyed the site and surrounding area so much we stayed for 17 days. The problem when you overstay is that the longer the overstay the more there is to put away when you finally get moving again, so we stayed on site today, did laundry and packed things away.

Monday 24th March 2014

Having spent yesterday getting ready to move on you would think we would be early away. Not a bit of it. Sue had heard of a “cork shop” just 12 km up the road and wanted to have a look before we left, unfortunately the shop - in a cork factory - was closed when we arrived and one of the workers rang the boss who said he would be there in ten minutes to open it. Oh dear! A Portuguese ten minutes could be a couple of hours but the chap had been so helpful we felt we had to wait. Fortunately not much more than ten minutes later the lady who ran the shop arrived and we were taken in to look around at all the cork items ranging from shoes to hats, post cards to chairs, fruit bowls to pepper pots. Having bought some cork bedroom slippers and some cork post cards we got on our way, we never did get to see the boss who still had not arrived when we left.

The journey to the next site was no more than 250km but Desmond Dezil (the sat-nav) got in a right state as he did not have road data to tell him if our 12 plus metres was too big for the roads we were travelling but still did well (even taking off the motorway just before the electronic toll barriers and bringing us back just after them) until we got to less than a mile from the site. Here he took us down narrower and narrower roads with sharper and sharper turns that it got to the point where we did not see how we could continue further, we should according to him go straight on though several barriers etc., while the actual narrow road turned sharp to the right where I had to put the caravan on the pavement to get round. Fortunately looking carefully around we spied the site (which in another age would have been straight on) and after another two minutes of heart stopping turns we arrived. It turned out that the access roads to the campsite had recently been changed and some of the old ones pedestrianised.

Tuesday 25th March 2014

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Did no more than walk into town today. Being on a municipal site we are close to the town centre, just a short walk from all the shops, restaurants etc., it is a pleasant town but seems to have just one street (from a tourist point of view) and, sadly, even that street has empty shops etc. We will look forward to exploring in greater detail later.

Rosemary and Frank have arrived on site. We had arranged to meet them here but thought they were coming later in the week.

Wednesday 26th March 2014

Up early enough, for the second day running, to get fresh rolls for breakfast from the bread van that visits the site around 9 am every morning. After a leisurely breakfast set off with R & F to visit the Castelo Templário (Templar Castle) and Convento de Cristo (Convent of Christ) at the top of a very steep hill. This UNESCO world heritage site is an absolute must for anyone visiting this part of Portugal - it is simply magnificent, and far beyond my poor pen to describe - you must visit.

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Went out to dinner tonight to what was billed as a medieval restaurant. All candles and pottery plates. We were having difficulty choosing so the waiter suggested he bring two starters to the table and he would get extra cutlery so we could share then then if we wanted he would bring two more. We tried “Bacalhau and chick pea salad” then “Gizzard Skewer” both were delicious. We then went on to main courses. First we shared “Game Pie with Apple Mash, Nuts and Rasins” then “Fish Pie with Apple Mash” finally we shared a ham hock dish. We know that’s only two starters and three mains between us but we were full, not even having room for pud. The bill (including five half litres of beer and two bottles of wine was a very reasonable €66 (£54.61) just €16.50 (£13.65) per head.

Thursday 27th March 2014.

After the festivities last night we got up a bit later today and missed the bread lady. Still muesli was fine. We planned to go to Torres Novas to visit the Museu Municipal de Carlos Reis and then on to Environs roman ruins, however by the time we got to Torres Novas it was lunchtime - again: so with just a half hour before the museum re-opened we went for coffee before what was planned as a quick visit. The quick visit turned into a long visit and that was it for the day.

Friday 28th March 2014.

Friday is market day in Tomar and a top rate market it is with everything on sale from fruit and veg to seeds and hardware, from bootleg DVD’s (we bought four) to tractors, one of the best markets we have encountered.

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From both the campsite and the Castelo Templário (Templar Castle) and Convento de Cristo (Convent of Christ) we could see a long flight of steps from Tomar town up the other side of the valley to a 17th century chapel -  Nossa Senhora da Piedade. The flight of steps, numbering 300 (we read we didn’t count), is impressive, the chapel at the top, built in a plain and simple style, less so. Having climbed the 300 steps and then descended 300 steps we visitd the Tomar Synagog and although interesting the lady guide (Rabi?) was fascinating and despite not speaking English gave us a lot of interesting information.

Saturday 29th March 2014.

This evenings meal was Paella cooked on R & F’s Cobb BBQ. There were two problems 1) as soon as the BBQ was lit Frank produced two bottles of beer, then shortly after two more, we then had several more while waiting for the heat to build. This all led to problem 2) we had put the paella pan on the fire before it was properly going (see problem 1) and choked the fire, so we had to relight it and, of course, had to drink lots more beer while waiting for it to heat. Directly it was hot enough for the paella to be put together and on the pan we felt we had had enough beer so started on wine. It takes quite a while to cook paella but not very long to drink wine.

I shrinkk it wassh a good paewa.💀

Week 34 - With Scary Bits

Sunday 16th March 2014.

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Sue had seen mention of a reservoir worth a visit in one of her guide books and we went looking for it today. We didn’t find the one we were after but we found a very acceptable substitute don’t quite know where it was or what it was called but it was obviously popular with locals who were fishing, swimming and generally having a good, and noisy, time until 12.30 when all the activity and noise stopped and the serious business of lunch began. On the way back to the camp site we came across a field covered in yellow lupins. It looked quite stunning. We took a photo but it is poor compared to the original sight.

Monday 17th March 2014.

As I’ve said before Portugal, from a tourist point of view is closed. We hung about the van and relaxed for the day.

We phoned the management agents about our tenants today, Were they still there despite the lease being terminated and no rent having been paid? We were informed that they have been given notice to quit (it has to be two months notice) but this came into force not as we thought on the 1st January but the 1st February so they are not due out until 31st March. There was no rent paid in February so you can bet your life there will be no rent paid in March. Oh! well such are the joys of being a landlord. 

Tuesday 18th March 2014.

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Off out again to a place called Marváo, another town built on a hilltop with we were told commanding views over the surrounding countryside. The views were indeed spectacular but for us that old chestnut Portuguese Health and Safety was at its most interesting. The town wall was walkable for almost its entire length but in some places it took nerves of steel to continue but the sense of achievement at the end was great. Not far from Marveo was the Cidade Romans de Ammaia -  Roman Remains. We had a chat to one of the archaeologists there who informed us that they know there had been a city with over six thousand inhabitants that covered a very large area but so far less than 2% had been excavated and at present with the countries austerity measures there is no money to do further study of the site.

Wednesday 19th March 2014.

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We went posh today and visited Vila Vicosa and its palace, the last residence of the Portuguese monarchy. We had certain misgivings as Trip Advisor reports were not all favourable, one saying that you must be accompanied by a guide during your trip and the guide would only give the tour talk in Portuguese unless he/she was telling you off in perfect English. Well; the guide is Portuguese, the palace is Portuguese and you are in Portugal why should the guide not speak Portuguese? We were clearly told at the reception desk that the guide would lecture in Portuguese only and that the priceless treasures could not be touched. As it happened we listened carefully to the guide and when we caught a word we understood relayed that to each other, the guide picked up on this and asked Sue if she spoke Portuguese she replied no, hardly a word. From then on after giving his lecture in Portuguese he would turn to Sue and I (although mainly Sue) and give a quick talk in English. The other Brits quickly learned to stand near us and by the end of the tour there were two lectures one in Portuguese and one in English. A great afternoon.

Thursday 20th March 2014.

By gum Brits abroad can be sad. We spent today washing the car - how sad is that?

Virtually every supermarket and butcher in Portugal sells Quail. We determined to try these tiny birds before we left so the last time we went shopping we bought some, one for a starter two for a main, we were told. Even two seemed rather small for dinner so we bought some Quail eggs to go with them. After spatchcocking and seasoning them we popped them on a hot BBQ griddle plate expecting them to take no more than 15 minutes to perfection. After the due time they were cooking but not ready. After another ten minutes we realised we had run out of gas to the BBQ, a quick bottle change and fifteen minutes later we were sitting at the table wondering how to eat them. There is only one way. Fingers. With the eggs, a fresh salad and a bottle of local wine they went down a treat. We will most definitely repeat (without the gas fiasco) this easy and tasty meal.

Friday 21st March 2014.

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When we went to Marváo and the roman remains on Tuesday we had intended to stop at Portalegre to visit the Tapeçaria de Portalegre which displays tapestries from the 17th century to the present day and shows the methods, materials and tools used to create them. It was a very worthwhile visit after which we went on to Castelo de Vide a super looking little town, unfortunately it was market day and the whole town was chocker block full and although we drove round found nowhere to stop - a pity as it looked a great place to explore so it’s on our list of places to return to.

Saturday 22nd March 2014.

Like last friday today was washing and housework day. Oh yes - thank you to all those who emailed Sue with tips to get me doing more of the housework but please remember, listening to music and operating the computer is VERY hard work.

Week 33 - A Different Portugal.

Sunday 9th March 2014.

A housework day today, we (by that I mean Sue) has done all the washing and the very small amount of ironing while I worked hard mucking about with the computer.

From the campsite we had a walk through a cork oak wood. It was very peaceful and during our hour or so walk saw just one other couple walking a dog and heard nothing other than bird song - quite delightful. The countryside here is far different from other parts of Portugal we have visited. Despite the high hills on which are built forts and castles it is a much softer landscape that puts us in mind of the south downs.

As we are re-enthused by moving we got the barbie out and did a paella tonight. It was one of my better efforts and went down very well with a chilled bottle of white port.

The t’internt is good here so we were able to watch the news on BBC and then (via XBMC and Icefilms) watched a new release film

Monday 10th March 2014.

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Paid a visit to the tiny walled town of Monsaraz today, perched high above the River Guadiana on the frontier with Spain. The castle keep commands glorious views in all directions and at it’s 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 this the three shopkeepers we spoke to (one English, one French and one Portuguese) all loved the town and enjoyed chatting to the tourists and not just about the town. The Portuguese lady told us all about family life in Portugal,  and of the family meals that involve three or four hours sitting around the dining room table. The prices they each charged were very reasonable indeed, Sue bought a beautiful handwoven (in the shop) marino wool scarf for just €15.00 (£12.51) and a tea, a coffee and large cheese/ham pastry rolls next door came to the very reasonable sum of €5.20 (£4.35). The town itself was a gem with extensive views over the largest man made reservoir in Europe. Very unusually for us (we generally don’t buy souvenirs) as well as the scarf we purchased a plate made in the local pottery and painted by the local policeman, to supplement his low wages. The wages, particularly of civil servants, have been cut quite dramatically as part of the austerity measures and although, for example, the cost of meals out is great for us for the restaurant owners it is a nightmare trying to keep prices down with many costs including IVA (now at 23%) rising.

From Monsaraz we went on to see Cromeleque do Xerez a stone circle of 49 granite stones with a 4m high central menhir, which is said by Rough Guide to Portugal to be the site of Neolithic fertility rites. In fact the circle is actually a square and have been on this site only since being moved to prevent them disappearing under water when the reservoir was flooded.

We have had news that sister Pam is still improving and (subject to house alterations) may be allowed home on Friday. We don’t know if this is just for the weekend or for a longer period but it is heartening news anyway.

Tuesday 11th March 2014

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Sue has been through the guide books and came up with quite an itinerary for the next few days. Today was first Elvas, whose main claim to fame is a 6km long aqueduct that supplied the city with pure water; it was begun early in the 15th century and completed in 1622. For some distance it includes four tiers of superimposed arches, with a total height of 40 m.

Its historical strategic position made Elvas the first frontier city to be permanently fortified after independence from Spain was restored. Between1645 and 1653 a new fort was built over the previous ones using the Dutch method. Composed of seven bastions and four half bastions, the final structure is considered to be one of the largest and best preserved bastion fortifications in the world with a perimeter, much of it walkable, of over ten kilometres.

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Campo Maior our second stop of the day was marked by our second encounter with policemen of this trip. We had stopped in a cafe for a coffee and to ask the way to the chapel we wanted to see. We turned out to be just 100m or so from where we wanted so after our coffee and empinadas (ham/cheese pastry roll and a chicken pie resembling a pork pie) we wandered down the road. Before we had gone 50m two policemen in a police car stopped along side asking where were we going (we think), we said the name of the chapel. Do you know exactly where it is (we think)? they asked. We mimed turning right at the road we could see a few metres further on. Be careful and avoid gypsies (we think) they said and giving us big smiles and a cheerful wave drove away. Our TOURIST HERE sign must have been shining good and bright. Two minutes later un-harassed by gypsies we arrived at the chapel and charged entry of 50 cents each by a grumpy cleric. In 1732 disaster struck the town when a gunpowder magazine, ignited by lightning, destroyed the citadel and killed some 1500 people. It seems that the victims provided the material for the Cappella dos Ossos, built in 1766 and entirely faced with human bones and bears an inscription on mortality spelt out in collar bones.

On the way back to the campsite we were lucky enough to see a couple of Alter Real - Horse of Kings being exercised. The Portuguese national breed of horse Lusitano are grey but those called Alter Real are purebred bay or brown. King Jose (1750 - 1777) who yearned for a quality Portuguese horse imported a stock of Andelusian mares from which the gracious nimble Alter Real was bred.

Still with energy after a long day we cooked fidua on the BBQ, its like a paella but made with pasta rather than rice. It was delicious with a bottle of chilled white port to accompany it.

Wednesday 12th March 2014.

Although we still had to use the car we stayed local today and visited the castle that can be seen from the campsite. It’s only just over 6km so we could have taken our bikes but a lot of it seems to be straight up - so car it was. We parked just outside the town gate and walked into what seemed like a “Hitchcock” film set. The village was deserted and silent, we walked up the steep street to the castle keep seeing no-one, entering the keep two ladies bared the way requiring €2 from each of us before allowing entry. The eye catching castle, its walls bound by bold stone “ropes”, replaced an earlier castle that fell in an earthquake in 1531. The 16th century walls have at some point been unsympathetically clad in concrete render.

During our trip today we were amazed to see a “flock” of storks, numbering some 50 plus specimens circling above us. Quite a sight!

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Thursday 13th March 2014

We had long looked forward to visiting Evora, the guide books had much to say about it the DK Eyewitness Travel Guide calling it “an enchanted city”. Enchanted my eye! We saw (from our point of view) just two things of interest, the first being the roman temple built in the 2/3rd century AD. It was put to a number of uses including armoury, execution site during the inquisition and slaughterhouse before being rescued in 1870. It was OK but there was no access and with lots of kids from the local school milling about with iPods and the like photos were not easy. Our next point of interest in Evora was not even mentioned in the DK Eyewitness Guide - the Cappella dos Ossos or Chapel of Bones. During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries there were 42 monastic cemeteries in town which took up much needed space. The Franciscans solution was to move all the remains to one compact consecrated site, the Cappella dos Ossos. “ . . . A timeless and gruesome memorial to the mortality of man the walls and pillars the chilling chamber are entirely constructed from the bones of more than 5,000 monks. There is a grim humour in the ordered, artfully planned arrangement of skulls, tibias and vertebra, around the vaults and in the rhyming inscription over the door which reads Nos ossios que aqui estamos pelos vossos esperamos (We bones here are waiting for your bones) . . . “ *(1)

Leaving Evora we next went to Arraiolos the centre of Portugal’s carpet making, where you can see carpets being made in the traditional way. Unfortunately Portugal’s tourist industry is closed on Mondays (and in some places Tuesday morning also) and every industry, except catering, closes daily for 2 to 2.1/2 hours. Mealtimes are almost a religion here and lunch is no exception. We arrived at noon. Arraiolos was closed. We went to a café for coffee and pasties (€4.60 for two coffees and two pasties - how cheap is that!!) and then went for a look around the castle, which had unrestricted access, to pass the time but with less than two hours gone we decided to come back another time. The castle’s vegetation proved to be a good habitat for different butterflies (see photos). 

Friday 14th March 2014

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

Saturday 15th March.

Boring, boring, boring. Why do we have to do laundry and housework every week???

*(1) Rough Guide to Portugal

Week 32 - Moving at last!

Week 32

Sunday 2nd March 2014

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It’s Moncarapachio market and carnival day today we visited both and then went to a BBQ at Rosemary and Franks. The market, which R&F declared “a bit disappointing as a lot of the usual stalls are missing”, was HUGE. Quite the biggest we have encountered in Portugal with dozens of stalls selling everything from bootleg DVD’s to clothes, olives to ice cream. Unfortunately the best moody DVD man wasn’t there so we bought nothing. The market cleared early as the carnival parade was due to start at 2.30 at which time we were in the centre of town 2.30 came and went with no evidence of carnival floats, 3 o’clock disappeared into history. In the parade assembly square my most pungent memory is that of a chap with a mobile BBQ and a quantity of dried octopus. He was heating the octopus on the BBQ and selling chunks. The smell was unbelievable.

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Around 3.15 using a fork lift truck people, children and adults both, were loaded on to the floats and off went the procession. This followed a (sort of) set route through the town and continued round and round until audience and/or float occupiers got tired and left. When we left at around 4.30 there were droves of people still arriving as well as the odd additional float joining the procession. The whole thing was apparently repeated the following Tuesday but we have as yet been unable to find out if the floats were the same or different.

After the carnival came the highlight of the day, a BBQ at Rosemary and Frank’s house. Rosemary does ribs to die for. We have copied down her method etc., etc., and will be trying it out ourselves soon. Frank proved himself to be, as well as a computer boffin, a BBQ boffin. The BBQ they use is like nothing we have seen before, it is a Cobb BBQ and they have two, one for the caravan and one for the house. Using, literally, just a handful (six briquettes) of charcoal for three hours cooking they are very quick and easy to light being ready to cook within 15 minutes and of course the fuel is available throughout the world. Guess what we are going to buy when we get back to Blighty? I don’t think I have ever seen quite as much beautifully cooked food for just four people before.

Monday 3rd March 2014

We have decided it is definitely time to move on so spent today preparing for that big event. Normally we can prepare for and get moving within an hour, having been in the one place for so long it took most of the day. Nothing was in it’s proper travelling place. For good measure we also turned the van through 180 degrees so that it could be hitched easily in the morning (no faffing about and giving the motor homers a good laugh when you cock it up while they are all having breakfast in the sun.

Tuesday 4th March 2014

Well we managed it we moved. Not far, 160km - just over two hours, to Beja Municipal Campsite. Just a short walk from the historical centre of Beja, the site is perfectly placed to explore the town and surrounding area.

Wednesday 5th March 2014

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Spent the whole of the day in the historic centre of Beja, even walking back to the site at lunchtime for a proper cup of tea. Highlights of the day were the castle, the convent and the art exhibition of sculptures by Jorge Vieira, one of the great names in 20th century Portuguese modern art.

Thursday 6th March 2014

A day out in the car today, to Serpa to see the 11th Century aqueduct and the castle, unfortunately like most things Portuguese between 12.30 and 3.00, all was closed for lunch. Never mind on we went to Moura - meaning Moorish girl. Legend has it that Salúquia, daughter of a Moorish governor, on hearing her lover had been killed by Christains threw herself from the castle tower thus giving the town it’s name. There were large expensive houses on the approaches to the town which was pretty and well kept with a lot of people tending the public park area, the whole giving off an aura of gentle respectability, however it also had more empty shops than any other Portuguese town we have visited and many street corners were populated by quite depressed looking people just hanging around. The castle and it’s grounds are well worth a visit the views from which are quite magnificent.

From Moura we went on to São Cucufate a set of roman remains near the village of Villa de Fades. Not the biggest set of remains we have seen but well worth the visit and at just €3 for Sue and €1.50 for me (the only advantage of being an official OAP) very good value.

Friday 7th March 2014

We had intended to stay at least a week in Beja but last night decided we could cope with the site no longer (see my site report here) so today moved, not far, just 110km to the north - 3km from Evoramonte to Camping Alentejo. What a difference. Great views, clean facilities, the only down side is it’s isolated location.

Saturday 8th March 2014

We had been told that Estramoz market held every Saturday in the main town square is a “not to be missed event” so bright and early we drove up the hill and through the town gate into Estramoz old town. We found a parking spot fairly easily and went into the market. It was quite big with a fair number of stalls, but half the stalls were selling second hand “tat” and the other half fruit and vegetables. Neither half was showing prices, almost unheard of in Portuguese markets and the sign floating above us stating “TOURIST” was glowing brightly, our lack of knowledge of local language and local prices almost guaranteeing we would finish up paying over the odds. After a fairly quick look around we left without any purchases and went to the local supermarket where everything is clearly priced. Estramoz  is the largest  of the three so-called “marble towns” – nearby Borba and Vila Viçosa are the others. The area is so rich in marble that it is used extensively in the most commonplace surroundings, something that’s immediately obvious in the marble streets, squares and fountains and on our campsite the pitches are topped with marble chippings.

Week 30 & 31 - I think we’ve taken root.

Week 30

Saturday 15th February 2014.

The weeks on this bog have started each Saturday and finished Friday for a while now but I see this saturday was included with last weeks blog giving you two saturdays in one week. Oh well, from now on the blog week starts on a Sunday, and did anyone spot the deliberate mistake in the Week 28/29 weeks blog? Dementia must be creeping ever closer.

Sunday 16th February 2014.

Rain, rain,rain,rain and yet more rain. Still unlike in the UK this rain is tolerably warm and we are not flooded (although some areas in the north of Portugal are).

Monday 17th February 2014.

Steve K had to get some bits for his motor home so we offered to drive him to the “local” English caravan/motorhome engineer Tommy. Tommy is well qualified and has a long queue of English, Dutch, German and French travellers for his services. He carries a good range of bits and bobs all at seemingly reasonable prices - leastways his Thetford toilet products were cheaper than any we have seen elsewhere.

Tuesday 18th February 2014

Looks like we have to get new tenants in our house from the 1st March, the current one’s don’t want to pay the rent. Over the past few months they have been paying later and later till Decembers arrived not on the 1st but the 30th so they were issued with a two month notice to quit which we tempered by saying that if January and February’s rent was paid on time it would be rescinded. January’s arrived around the middle of the month and February’s never did materialise. A shame as, if they had come and said they were having difficulty we would have been prepared to offer a “catch up plan”. Lets hope they go without too much problem.

Wednesday 19th February 2014

Another meal out tonight. We have been out to eat more times on this trip than we have in years, not that we don’t like going out to eat we just don’t normally quite get round to it (particularly as I am now the permanent designated driver) but ex-pats R & F have been taking us to all their favourite local (and sometimes not quite so local) eateries - back to tonights restaurant, nicknamed “steps” because of the flight of steps leading to which we arrived at just as R & F were sitting down Frank to a beer and Rosemary to a giant pot of camomile tea. There are no menus at “Steps” the waiter (owner) tells you what is available in rapid Portuguese, as is usual the meal started with bread, olives, vinegar carrots etc., again, as normal, this was followed by a salad course. There was then a choice of a fish or meat dish. The meat was chicken - Rosemary and Frank both elected to have that Sue and I chose the fish dish.

When the meal arrived the chicken was in the form of a pile on each plate of wings and other small pieces, the fish was four or five steaks of the Xaputa what we would call Ray’s Bream. As tasty as the chicken looked I think Sue and I got the best deal. This was followed by a delicious creamy pudding. Including the beer and tea beforehand, the litre of wine with and the coffee and tea afterwards the whole shooting match was just €8.00 (£6.60) each

Thursday 20th February 2014

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Visited Salir today. The journey there was one of the most interesting that we have made since we arrived. The road although a main(ish) road between towns took us quite high into the hills but was in very poor condition resembling at times a farm track, the views however were fabulous. Salir itself was a surprise in being clean and cared for - well presented. Many towns and villages in Portugal appear to have given in to neglect and present a rather depressed air not so Salir (at least on the through routes) the buildings were well maintained and the gardens well tended. We had a super walk to the higher levels where there was a museum which led to a walk along the old town walls. Unfortunately I had forgotten to charge the camera batteries and both still and video cameras chose to run out of electrickery, but never mind that gives us an excuse to return another day visit the church and other interesting places.

Saturday 22nd February 2014

We reported in the last blog that Pam was to be transferred to a Brentwood rehab unit, this has now happened and she is working hard to regain use of the left side of her body. Reports we are receiving continue to be positive.

Week 31.

Sunday 23rd February 2014

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Went out for the day today with R & F to have a look at the tall ship Gorch Fock, a German sail training ship. It is currently moored in Portimao harbour and this afternoon was open day when visitors were welcomed on board for a look around the deck. The Gorch Fock is owned by the German Navy and used to train young officers in what could be termed pure or basic sailing so they will know the relationship of wind and tide etc., etc., something far more difficult to learn from the deck of a normal, modern naval vessel. The sailors are given a six months tour of duty aboard and tour the world.

After our visit to the ship we went into Portimao then had a slow ride into Alvor, two places that R & F had never visited despite their twelve years in Portugal.

After all our touristy travelling we were starving so another trip to “Steps” was agreed. This time Rosemary, Frank and I all had Xaputa while Sue had a duck and rice dish that she declared to be delicious. The only extra that was charged over the standard €8.00 was Franks special large brandy and that was just a small sum.

Monday 24th February 2014

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Having spent some time in this area in early 2012 and a two week holiday in Olhao in 2013 we have never been in the “Olhao Ria Formosa Park Natural”. Unusually it costs to get in, we were charged €2.60 each but as we spent several hours following the nature trail thought that represented good value for money. There is a museum/visitor centre which proved interesting and a tidal mill - something neither of us had ever come across before. As the tide rose a mill pond filled with sea water. when the tide had receded sufficiently the sluice to one or more of the six grind stones was opened enabling the grain to be milled. Also on the trail was a number of both saltwater and freshwater lakes with hides to enable bird watching. Although not open to the public there is a bird hospital/sanctuary and a kennels for Cão de Água Algarvio  the web-footed Algarvian Water Dog.

We thought we would spend some time today planning for when we move which will be in the next couple of weeks. Our planning is usually done on Google Maps, I can check the route for unsuitable roads and use Street View to check site entrances. You can imagine my irritation to discover that Google have “upgraded” the programme which is now from my perspective totally useless, they have taken a first class utility and turned it into useless junk. After an hour or so of frustration I gave up, I’ll try again another day.

Wednesday 26th February 2014

Another day another meal out 😃. We were taken out this lunchtime to a restaurant in the hills to the north of the campsite. The restaurant was on the first floor and afforded magnificent views over the countryside through huge panoramic windows, usually this restaurant was an eat all you want buffet with starter buffet items, main course buffet items and pudding items. The buffet (excluding drinks) was a flat €6.50 but for just €1 extra you could elect to have BBQ. This meant that at frequent intervals a waiter came round with a large piece of BBQ’d meat on a skewer and cut you of a thick slice or two. I elected to have BBQ and in addition to the buffet enjoyed BBQ’d pork, lamb, beef, chicken, sausages and pineapple. After the meal we went for a short walk on a delightful local riverside and visited a photographic exhibition organised by the local ex-pat camera club. It was very interesting with some very good photo studies on a theme of music.

Thursday 27th February 2014

Back in “tourist“ mode today. We are planning to return to Salir (with camera batteries fully charged) to have a shifty at the church and then go on to visit Alte where it is alleged there is a waterfall with a drop of some 50m however although we found and followed the river and as pleasant as it was we certainly did not find a waterfall and Salir was closed.

Saturday 1st March 2014

Got up early today to visit Olhao fish market to get some fresh fish for dinner. We were mightily impressed by a chap filleting Xaputa and as we find them delicious bought a couple and watched the chap carefully produce four lovely fillets for our dinner. Steve K also watched and was also impressed and as we told him how tasty the fish was and he managed to get the last fish the man had. There had been quite a pile of them when we arrived such was the demand. Later that afternoon Steve came to our caravan with fish in hand - he had started to prepare them and had found they were infested with long white worms. Getting ours out of the fridge we examined them and found a similar infestation. Researching the internet informed us that this is a common problem with this particular fish and there are questions as to whether it should ever be in the human food chain as the worms have the potential to be dangerous. The local feral cats ate well that night, and so did we, we went out to a restaurant. That particular fish variety, despite being delicious, is now permanently off our shopping list. For those with a strong stomach click here

Weeks 28 & 29. Taking it easy.

Saturday 1st February 2014

Shopping today. We have guests for lunch tomorrow and hope to give as good as we got. We hope to give F & R as good a meal as they gave us last week. Not an easy task!

We have planned a menu.

1st Course: Courgette Tortilla.

2nd Course: Fish Pie with Green Beans.

3rd Course: Bread & Butter Pudding, Apple Crumble or Strawberry Cheese Cake (all

homemade) and Cream.

4th Course: Cheese Board with Port.

Simple enough fare when you have a normal kitchen with a normal cooker and equipment but quite a test in the very small space that is a caravan kitchen with it’s limited range of cooking pots and pans and small poorly controlled cooker. Add to that we carry only two dinner plates, two side plates, two cereal bowls etc and you will, I’m sure start to appreciate the difficulty.

Sunday 2nd February 2014

Everything went like a dream. The food was very good (I can say that as I didn’t cook it) The wine very good and the company not very good - but excellent. A very good day!!

Monday 3rd February 2014

We have heard that Pam is being transferred from Basildon hospital to a Brentwood Rehab Unit. That has to be good news. Feeling a bit lethargic from the food and wine of yesterday we forced ourselves out in the car today and finished with a very pleasant drive to Mèrtola. This pretty whitewashed town is of great historical interest, the whole town being a “vila musea", a museum site. The origins of the town date back to the Phoenicians. Overlooking the town is a hilltop castle with 13th century keep that give lovely views of the river valley below. Unfortunately the museum, castle, church and just about everything in Mèrtola remains very firmly closed every Monday.

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On the way to Mèrtola we passed over a bridge that would give the UK ‘elf and safety bods apoplexy. It was just wider than the car with no side rails, just the platform. It felt very scary and we were very pleased to reach the other side. So narrow was it we stopped a motor home going the other way and warned the occupants what was around the corner and to check the wheel base width before committing themselves.

Tuesday 4th february 2014

Another dinner party in the van. This time Steve K came to dinner. Another four course job, although we cheated by starter and pudding course “left overs” from Sunday. Another success, with good food, good wine and very good company.

Wednesday 5th February 2014

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Lunch out today - again. The mains had to be pre-ordered at least 24 hours in advance from a menu that included lots of game at a restaurant called Monte Velo.

The first problem was finding the place. It was miles from anywhere down “roads” that could best be described as tracks, the location was remote to say the very least, but the food was as good as we had been told it was, and all for €55 (£11.35/head)

We will not be going again. Not that we don’t want to it’s just we were taken there and don’t think we will be able to find it again.

Friday 7th February 2014

In the early hours of this morning BBC transferred all it’s channels to a new satellite which sends a stronger signal (good for the people in UK) but a smaller footprint (bad for those, like us, outside UK). We understand that by the end of next week all the channels will be switched and we will then have no UK TV at all. We do have nearly 200 DVD’s with us so I expect we can keep ourselves amused.

This week has been dominated by food and eating. Out again to lunch today. Back to O Americo for a fish meal. We went a little later this time so there were more people in the restaurant and the service a little slower, this enabled us time to eat each fish as it was delivered - hot. I wasn’t counting (much) but I ate more than seven fish of various types and sizes and three squids. Some of the locals seemed to be having a “one meal of the week” job as they were already eating when we arrived and still steadily chomping when we left three hours later.

Week 29.

Saturday 8th February 2014

Proved what sad old Brits we are today. Like mums, we went to Iceland. Our excuse was that it was pouring with rain so the market we had planned to visit was out and we both had a hankering for UK sausages - lots of fat and rusk with not much lean meat. Portuguese sausage is like much of mainland Europe nothing added to the meat except fat and spices - tasty but not like the good old British banger.

As we arrived back on site with our bangers, (plus crumpets and Paxo stuffing) we saw one of the motor-homers trying to extricate himself from a muddy pitch and succeeding only in digging holes in which his wheels were sinking. They had been advised not to go there when they arrived a week before - the advise was ignored, and were planning to continue traveling on the morrow when the weather forecast was horrendous, so planned to go on a dryer pitch today to enable an easy exit the next day. Having already pulled one motor home from the pudding earlier I offered to have a go with them. Although the pull was awkward the SsangYong plucked them from the muddy holes with ease and they were able to get to a dry pitch without further difficulty.

Sunday 9th February 2014

Rain, rain, rain, rain, and still more rain.

Oh yes! I forgot to mention, we had run out of gas on two of the four gas bottles we carry. That may sound a lot but one is a small “Gaz” bottle, made by Calor it contains just a small amount of gas but is unique in that it is the only bottle that can be exchanged full for empty just about anywhere in Europe. All other bottles are country specific, two are UK 6kg Calorlite propane bottles and the other a Spanish 6kg Repsol bottle. We took the Spanish bottle and one of the Calor bottles to a GPL centre - a place that sells auto gas which is a mix of propane and butane and where an ancient Portuguese lady filled each bottle with 6kg of auto gas. We were charged just over €2 per kilo, the last bottle we bought in UK cost us around £22 (€27) thats around €4.50 a kilo.

Wednesday 12th February 2014

The restaurant just 100 metres from the site has reopened this week after their winter break so thinking it would be silly not to check them out we went for a meal there with Steve K tonight. Very pleasant I had fried squid, the others monkfish kebabs - we will come again.

Thursday 13th February 2014

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We went back into tourist mode today and visited Sao Lourenco (St Laurence Church). In true Iberian style the guide books said Closed for lunch till 2.30, a sign outside said closed for lunch till 3.00. The lady opened up at 3.20. The guide book says entrance fee €2.50 per head, we were charged €2.00.

When we did get inside it was certainly worth it, On 22nd September 1722 the Almancil inhabitants were in despair for lack of water and while digging a well implored Sao Lourenco for assistance vowing to build a new temple, they were immediately rewarded an abundant GUSH of water. The church took some twenty years to complete. Have a look at the pictures, the church is small but the tiles are quite stunning.

Friday14th February 2014

It’s now a week since the TV signal disappeared, many ex-pats seem to have been taken completely by surprise with the local English language newspapers full of articles giving advice and guidance. All our DVD’s are now on the Mede8er so we have very easy access to them and are in fact finding not turning the box on at 6.00pm for the news and then watching rubbish till bedtime quite pleasant, we now play music till after dinner then select a film and watch it. The TV then goes off and if it’s not bedtime more music and book reading till it is.

Saturday 15th February 2014

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Market day. This week it’s Loulé 35km north east of the site. The market like many in Portugal consists a indoor market that is held daily in a purpose built municipal building and a Saturday market where stalls selling everything from clothes to fruit and veg radiate out from the municipal market. The outdoor stalls were crowded and busy with a range of goods we’ve not often seen here but it was the indoor market that was so different. The fresh fish end was the same as everywhere else but it was in what is normally the fruit and veg end that was so different. So many of the stalls were occupied by small artisan producers originating from many european countries including the UK. They were selling a huge range of home produced goods ranging from local wines to home made pickles and sauces to cakes and fig treats. One of the best markets we have ever visited.

Evening saw us back in the restaurant just 100 yards from the site for another dose of fabulous fish. Yummy! and not only that being so close there is no designated driver - me so everyone gets to sample the house red. We will be back again.

Weeks 25, 26 & 27 An Important trip back to UK.


Saturday 11th January 2014

Although it will be a long process, reports are that Pam is going from strength to strength. She is sitting up, her speech is much improved and she is working hard with the physiotherapist to get strength back in her left side.

We are getting up an hour earlier (the same time really, it’s the clock that has changed) so were early enough to visit Olhao market this morning. Nothing grabbed us on the street stalls where the clothes (looking like a giant jumble sale) and the fruit and vegetables were and inside the fish market was bedlam with hundreds of people all pushing and shoving trying to get a bargain. Just as we were about to leave we spotted some sardines so bought a kilo of them. The bill was just €1.50 - how cheap is that? We saw some in a supermarket later in the day at €4.99/kilo. We checked the ones we had bought so cheaply, they were all bright eyed, fresh as a daisy and, as we discovered at dinner time, delicious.

Sunday 12th January 2014

A lazy day today, a few emails and thats about it. We are going to try to contact Frank and Rosemary as I replied to an email from them but have had no reply. It must have been a senior moment as when I looked back over my emails the last communication I sent to F & R was in fact addressed to me. Our tag line is “Adventure before Dementia”, it looks like the dementia is catching up.

Wednesday 15th January 2014

We went to lunch today with Rosemary and Frank in a restaurant called “O Americo" that specialise in fish. There was no menu as the choice is fish or go hungry. A waitress brought salad, olives, bread etc., then a barbi cook/waiter came round with a tray of barbecued fish which he picked up by the tail and put one on each of our plates. We started eating. A few minutes later he came and put another fish on each plate with similar finesse, naming the fish type as he put it on the plate. This was repeated until we were forced to first ask the  waiter to slow down and then to stop. I don’t know exactly how many fish I ate but they included a dorado, a sea bass, a salmon steak, a sardine, and at least three others that I didn’t know. Lunch time drinking is not something we do, Frank was driving and Rosemary didn’t fancy wine so we drank water through the meal and had coffee afterwards. The bill arrived. A total of €45.00 (£38.00) for the lot, less than ten quid each each.

Friday 17th January 2014

Just the day you wish never to have when you are on holiday, so its a good job this is a lifestyle. The rain rained most of the night and other campers reported thunder and lightening although we did not hear or see any. The sky was black as black when we did stick our noses out of the covers and the rain continued for much of the day. 

Week 26.

Saturday 18th January 10.00 am

Got a new toy!! A Mede8er MED500X2 and if you are no wiser as to what a Mede8er MED500X2 is then join the club I didn’t know what is was either but I really, really needed one - honest!

In reality it is a media centre on which I can put all our movies (I’ve already “ripped” - thats technical talk for getting them from the DVD and onto my computer - the 150 odd DVD’s we carry) , all our music and pictures in the one place and play them direct through the TV. Magic!

Steve K (one half of Chris and Steve) arrived on site today, unfortunately without his better half Chris, who is staying in UK to help their daughter for a few more weeks before she flies out to join him.

4.30 pm

If this bloody Mede8er does not allow me to install something on it’s hard drive it will very soon be in the dustbin. Frank, who I bought it from, formatted the hard drive via his computer all I had to do was to re-format within Mede8er and (in theory) get on with it - in a pigs ear.

5.30 pm

I tried re formatting the Mede8er hard disc in my computer and then formatting it in Mede8er itself - nothing. I tried reformatting again in my computer then NOT formatting again in Mede8er but just trying to load files. It worked.

7.30 pm

I think I have cracked it. Loaded over 150 DVD’s, my entire music collection and a few images and although the menu system seems strange (the instruction book did say if you did not format the drive in the Mede8er you might not get full functionality) but as we get used to it we will probably understand it better. The main problem is the way iTunes files music, I will have to refile everything if it is to be as I want it. Being a naive sort of person I always assumed iTunes did a good job of filing all my music and home video. In a pigs ear. Although it files everything in a folder labeled “music” within that folder it seems to have filed bits of CD’s in all sorts of places particularly the compilation albums of which we have many. It’s going to take weeks perhaps months to sort it all - Oh well!!

Monday 20th January 2014

Had a very lazy couple of days, been know-where and done nothing (except play with the mede8er). We did however go out to dinner tonight, to a place in Moncarapachio where Sue had roast duck breast, and Steve K  and I had “steak on a stone”. This was served on a wooden tray, one end had a dinner plate with chips, salad, etc., the other end had a flat stone 6 inches or so square the stone was very hot and on this was the steak. You cut pieces of your 4”square by 2” thick steak which you cooked to your liking on the hot stone. Delicious and with wine and coffee just €13 (£10.80) a head.

Tuesday 21st January 2014

We went to Rosemary and Frank's home for lunch today. We ate like kings and had a most enjoyable afternoon. Rosemary is a great cook and they are both excellent hosts.

The TV’s gone on the blink. It’s been playing up for a while now, seems to be the on/off switch. Frank and Rosemary have lent us one while we see about trying to get ours sent back to UK for repair under guarantee.

Thursday 23rd January 2014

Up at the crack of sparrow f**t today. Needed to get up at 7.00am (well that is very early for us) to get to Faro for a flight back to UK. We are off to visit Pam in hospital. Although desperate to go we have put it off for nearly a month so that when we did visit she would know we were there and be strong enough to be able to communicate.

At the hospital although we had been fully briefed beforehand it was still a shock to see someone who had always been a bouncy live wire laying unmoving with no expression in either face or voice, however the voice was Pam’s own and the words she spoke as easily understood as before.

Week 27.

Monday 27th January 2014

The last five days have passed like a whirlwind of visits to the hospital interspersed with visits to other members of both our families. This included a visit to my Bro and his family where I was given a fabulous birthday cake (the first for very many years) and a bottle of Chateau Neuf du Pap.

Pam seemed to be improving each time we visited, her swallow reflex has improved sufficiently to be put on a normal diet, she has stood (with assistance) a couple of times and she has been told that she will soon be transferred to a Brentwood rehab unit. 

All good news. We hope the improvements continue.

Tuesday 28th January 2014

Up at the real crack of sparrow today had to leave Auntie Brenda and Uncle David’s at 5:30am to go to Southend airport to fly back to Portugal. Fortunately the plane arrived in Faro five minutes early and we arrived at the rendezvous point at the same time as our taxi.

Friday 31st January 2014

Not achieved very much this week since we got back from UK we have felt very tired and have flopped in the van and let the world pass us by, hopefully we will feel energised next week.

Week 24 - A new year and a new country.

Saturday 4th January 2014

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It was dry but windy today, not a day for walking about so of course we went walking about - to “Italica” a roman town around 9km north of Seville. Italica is a well preserved roman site with the most wonderful Roman amphitheater I have ever seen. The buildings, roads and pavements are extensive and the mosaics must be amongst the best in Spain. As at Almeria Castle entry is free to EU nationals.

Sunday 5th January 2014

Our last day in El Rocio, Donnana National Park and Spain today as we plan to move into Portugal tomorrow. We went for a last drive around the area, it turned out to be a little surreal. Following our Spanish road atlas we tried to put a couple of towns in the sat-nav that were rejected but we eventually had one accepted and it took us in a direction we did not want to go although we knew that sooner or later we would find the road we wanted which we duly did. It was a narrow road with forest either side, very soft, very pretty. “We will eventually have to come back this way” said Sue “as the road ends further on”. We followed for miles and the road continued with no road signs and only tiny dirt tracks joining or leaving. The Spanish road map suggests if we are on a road at all it is a dirt track and the sat-nav insists we are “navigating off road” despite being on a black top. We went through not one, but two, quite large towns (they were far to big to be called villages) that although were marked on the map did not exist as far as the sat-nav was concerned. We saw a small sign pointing left saying El Rocio we followed and all but the last 7km of the next 50 km road journey we could not identify on the map and simply did not exist for the sat-nav. As it turned out we were fortunate to go the way we did as if we had gone as planned we would have got hopelessly lost and given up. Instead we drove through hectares of paddy fields and saw more raptors than we had ever seen including we think (we will check the bird books) an eagle and a hen harrier.

Monday 6th January 2014

Moving day. We were going to get moving early although I suppose stumbling out of bed at 9:15 to make tea is quite early for us. Never mind we only have a hundred or so kilometres to go and when we cross the border we gain an hour as Portugal time is the same as UK time.

When we arrived at the new site - Quinta do Xoclatl or Chocolate Farm (the owner is a Belgian chocolateer) all the fabulous pitches we saw last week are filled. Just one pitch was available, in the lower field. Steve and Chris who have spent a great deal of time at this site said “DO NOT CAMP ON THE LOWER FIELD. If you get bad weather you will be stuck until the field dries, could be a week, could be a fortnight, could be longer”.

I’m writing this from our pitch on the lower field.

Dogs, dogs, dogs and more bloody dogs we had forgotten that Portugal’s Algarve is an area dedicated to barking dogs. They seem to have quietened down (a bit) at nightfall but then the Cicadas and noisy frogs started, but at least those noises, for me, eventually disappear into the background unlike barking dogs that get louder, louder, louder. It’s quite possible we will move on tomorrow.

Tuesday 7th January 2014

Not a peep from the dogs all night and so far this morning (10:15am) we have not heard a single one - fingers crossed it stays that way.

With Portugal being on the same time as UK we stayed in bed as long as normal but got up an hour earlier, early enough to visit Olhao fish market. Unfortunately nothing on offer tickled our fancy but we got a few bits in the fruit and veg market next door. Having scoured the fish market for something for dinner we finished up buying fish from the supermarket, don’t actually know what sort of fish it is it’s about the size of a herring and right or wrong it’s going on the barby.

Wednesday 8th January 2014

Today dawned warm and sunny, time for a walk. The site is just a few yards from the Ria Formosa Nature Park that boasts miles and miles of walking and cycling. There is a cycle track that runs for miles along the coast which here is reminiscent of the Walton Backwaters where the path runs alongside the salt marshes sometimes close to the sea sometimes a good distance from it. 

We walked for an awful long time, very pleasant walking, but we always seemed as far from arriving somewhere as when we started. After walking for well over an hour we about turned and walked back. During the walk we saw a good variety of bird life including a couple of “Hoopoes”, lots of Avocets and Azure Magpies.

Thursday 9th January 2014

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After yesterdays walk we thought we would have an easy day and go for a drive. We drove for miles in the hills through countryside the like of which we had never seen before. It seemed the countryside was constructed from hundreds of small hills which looked as if the ground was folded fabric, very green and criss-crossed with narrow dirt roads that if the one we followed was typical lead to isolated villages where the road was at times so narrow it was difficult to get between the houses of which there were no more than a half dozen but built very close together. Strangely just outside the village was a bus stop, I can’t see even a minibus getting through the village, it must turn around and go back although we didn’t notice a turn point.

Friday 10th January 2014

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Cycling today. We retraced our walk of the day before yesterday but this time we went into Fuzeta, we had reached about half way when we went for our walk the other day. It is a seaside town that has a campsite on the seafront and a newsagent that sells English, Dutch and German newspapers but for all that seems typically Portuguese. The fishermen, with small boats and hand operated nets were sorting their catch with locals buying direct from them. Just up from the harbour  was a municipal market building where fish, meat vegetables and fruit was on sale. Best of all was a cafe that was cooking fish on the barbi, it looked and smelled delicious and it’s customers were all locals. Seeing our interest one of the cooks showed us the fish they had ready for cooking - fab, we hope to go there one lunchtime soon.

Last Updated - Sunday 27th April 2014.             © Seve  Ghost 2014