Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Many Many Roundabouts, Rondpoints, Glorietas, Carrosels but only 6 tea bags left!

After 8,967 kilometres and 879 roundabouts, we finally arrived home the last weekend of January. The priority was to meet our new grandson Percy who is as expected, delightful. He's now almost two months old and it was wonderful to finally get to hold him and to see Hattie and everyone else again, well not quite everyone as our elder son has been in the Scottish mountains and then Poland since we got home, we'll get to see him in a couple more weeks.
And yes, I really did count the roundabouts this trip, we actually thought it would be even more! I didn't take enough tea bags but thankfully our friends rescued us with half a box that they had spare. It was worrying to see even those dwindling but 6 left over is better than 6 too few!!!!

Percy Thomas  Crompton

Percy and daddy

Percy and Grandma

My last blog took us up to Boxing day. It was around the week before Christmas that the weather changed, becoming cooler and wetter but still on the whole much sunnier than the UK gloom that we like to escape from. Up until then we had been able to walk on beaches in tee shirts and shorts with bare feet. Christmas brought the need to layer up a bit more. New Year's eve was a quiet affair, thankfully no fireworks to send Belle into a quivering wreck. We moved on then to spend New Year's day with friends Glen and Pete and we had a lovely lunch with them at a restaurant overlooking Alvor Beach.

Weather continued to be mixed for the next few weeks, we dispensed with campsites and spent our time at our favourite lagoon and beach spots collecting bird ticks and meeting up with our friends again for birdwatching walks and occasional breakfasts.

Chiff chaff

Sunrise, Praia de Furnas

Very smart Kestrel
Look at those eyes!!

These black winged stilts  stood in this
position for over an hour!

Beach fun

Alvor old town from the boardwalk

One of the stars of the show
this Bluethroat kindly posed and
kept still long enough
for a photograph

Just beautiful


The middle of January arrived and it was time to begin our journey homewards but one or two treats were still in store before we reached the Channel tunnel on 27th January.

One or two glossy Ibis seen in the Sado Estuary
when we were en route to Lisbon

We stopped off in Lisbon for a few nights where we did some touristy things like open top bus rides, a walk up to the castle and we visited the Oceanario which was excellent. We met up here with some UK friends, Phil and Lynne who are wintering in Lisbon Marina in their sailing boat, Dark Tarn. We had an enjoyable afternoon with them, we went across the Tejo River on a ferry and up on a bus to Christ the King monument from where we had astounding views of the city and beyond. 

Thankfully there's a lift, almost to the top
The 25th April suspension bridge,
so noisy as we crossed it in the
motorhome and even from here
it sounded like a million bumble
bees on the loose.

Very smart Inca Tern in the Oceanarium

Not a native European species

This one of a pair of sea otters really
did have the "ahhhhhhh" factor

Water features around Lisbon

Out and about in Lisbon
architecture old and new

Maritime Police Headquarters

Not quite time to leave Portugal our last stopover was in the beautiful border town of Marvão which is an absolute gem. It has a castle perched high on the rocks, steep rocky steps with no handrails but on the beautiful sunny day we were there it was worth every moment of trepidation as we looked around the hilly countryside and met a local man who talked about his work with local choirs and who had recently been to Manchester Cathedral where a piece of Tapestry made in the Marvão area has been installed. In a scheduled return visit  this coming Spring, a Manchester Cathedral Choir will visit this Alentejo region to sing locally. Small world! As we walked around the battlements we heard and saw many blue rock thrushes, obviously thriving in this terrain. We walked all around the old town walls before returning to the camper. Dash had a day off that day to rest his weary bones, he wouldn't have liked all the steps, sadly he's now really showing his age at 13 and a half.

Marvão Castle
Interior of the castle

Steep winding streets of the old town

Onwards then through Spain and France, our penultimate day before the UK section we had arranged to call on some French friends, the Guihaumés who live near Le Mans. These are friends courtesy of Bolton's twinning with Le Mans, our elder son, Richard took part in a French exchange back in 1994 (ish). Monique and Claude have a holiday home in the Vercors region of France, near Valence and we used to visit them when we holidayed with the boys in the caravan what feels like a lifetime ago. We've kept in touch through the years though we haven't seen them for a long time. However, as our return journey takes us up the western side of France we e-mailed to see if it was convenient to call on them on the way home. It was and we did and received a very warm welcome. Their younger son Yves still lives in the area, though not at home but we were delighted that he popped round to visit while we were there. Their elder son, Yann with whom Richard exchanged now lives in the Auvergne with his partner and their two young children so Monique and I were able to exchange grandchildren chatter! Their 24 year old daughter Clémence also arrived home from her day care in time to see us and she remembered our names and also Dash! 

Monique, Claude, Nigel and Dash
not sure where Belle had got to!

Claude, Nigel, me and Dash
(and Monique's finger)

Monique preparing galettes for lunch

Monique and Yves

Monique, Clémence and me

And last but not least, here is a wonderful shot of our lovely old boy Dash, come rain or come shine, in the cold or the warm, this is where he prefers to be! 

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Happy New Year Everyone

Last episode of the blog found us enjoying the tail end of the autumn raptor migration on the south west corner of Portugal.

Now two months later, Christmas is all but over, many many bird sightings and kilometres later we are back at one of our favourite little caravan parks  for the rest of the Festive Period enjoying the benefit of electricity and wifi, here at Figueria Caravan Park 

Beach art at Boca do Rio

Watched this skilled guy
 balancing stones

Sadly all washed away by the next high tide

Windscreen sunset over the Atlantic

Pulo do Lobo waterfall

Alfred Hitchcock moment!

Carrapateira Beach

Digging is exhausting

But it must be done!

Sunset at Carrapateira

It might be December but it's still warm and sunny most days, some days we are on the beach in tee shirts and shorts, but it's cold at nights and in the early mornings until the sun gets overhead. We were up just before daylight a few days ago to take some friends to show them this beastie that we found on our last visit to this spot, thanks to some intelligence from a fellow UK birdwatcher we have come to know. Alas he was hiding that day (the owl not the birdwatcher) but we were all wearing down jackets, hats and gloves and were still shivering!

European eagle owl

Most of our time has been spent "wild camping" as we prefer to do, we've been up in the remote Steppe lands in the Alentejo region of Portugal which is allegedly the hottest and driest part of this wonderful country, looking for and this time succeeding in finding the elusive Great Bustards and cranes. Whilst in the area we also visited a number of villages and towns we haven't been to before and enjoyed exploring their tiny cobbled streets and castles.

Spanish Imperial eagle making the most of
some carrion


Great Bustards

A gorgeous overnight spot, remote and peaceful
between Castro Verde and Mertola


Looking across the Steppe from our
high spot by the chapel

Moura castle Keep

Flowery cobbled lane in Serpa

Common Cranes near Moura

Rooftop Garden in Moura

Beja Castle

Medieval inscription 

Yours truly ascending
Beja castle keep

Worth it for the view from the top

Interesting art feature outside a Beja house

Beja Street art

We've had another few days at Alvor lagoon looking out of the bedroom window on flamingoes and black winged stilts and here we got some wonderful views of a pair of Black Winged Kites who are not shy and obliged very favourably for the photographer.

In early November we had a week here, a quiet tranquil spot in the campo which had a real getting away from it all feel. Very friendly Dutch owner and clients, didn't improve my language skills though as they all spoke English very efficiently but we were made very welcome.

Our friends Glen and Pete arrived on 1st December, they have been here in their camper the last couple of years and we met up now and then but they have now sold "Bertie the Burstner" and have rented an apartment for three months instead. LAst week we all went owl hunting and  we're meeting up for a walk again soon and are planning a New Year's day get together. 

Flamingo at Alvor lagoon

Oystercatchers and a caspian tern

Pete and Glen being studious


It'll then be time for us to begin our trek homewards with a very special someone to meet when we get home. Our grandson, Percy Thomas Crompton was born on 12th December, he was due today, on Boxing Day but arrived two weeks early. A little brother for a very proud Hattie, now five and a half and in Year One at school.