Monday, 2 March 2015

Another winter in Portugal

This season's winter trip was severely curtailed owing to various medical appointments but mid to late January we found ourselves with a 6 week or so window in which to head off to try and find some winter sunshine. 



Freshwater lagoon at Quarteria



Land's End.......of Portugal!
As I write we are within two weeks of our return to Bolton but are making the most of the warmer weather in an almost deserted car park at Praia do Cordoama on the south western coast of the Algarve, having just “turned the corner” as it were from the southern tip and we have begun heading north.

Thankfully the wind has dropped today and the outside temperature is 15.5 but with blue sky and sunshine it feels warmer than that. Mostly, since we've been in the Algarve we've had temperatures in the low teens but with strong winds almost every day, the wind chill factor has played a part in us having to wear several layers to keep warm outside. Occasionally we have found a sheltered spot and managed to remove the top layer! We've had very little rain since reaching Portugal in fact as the main aim of our trips is always to find remote places and sunshine, I think we can say mission accomplished! Nigel, although severely hampered by his painful ankle has managed to get on some of the beaches if we can park close by, with the help of his trusty crutches to play with the dogs, something he really misses since his mobility has been impaired. Also we've both cycled occasionally to exercise them which they (and we) love to do.

Just loving it!


So.........what have we been up to, what have we seen and who have we met?
Initially we sped through France and Northern Spain in order to get to the better weather as soon as possible. Later we heard that this was a smart move when we found out about the unusual amount of snow covering parts of France and Spain we had been in days earlier!

Favourite aire in Arguedas,
cave dwellings behind and vultures overhead
We revisited last year's aire in Arguedas on the edge of the Bardenas Reales nature reserve and had a day driving into the park and admiring the geology again but it was a gloomy day unfortunately. We did however get good views of about 15 griffon vultures circling just overhead.

After a few more overnighters en route we arrived at Torrevieja in the province of Valencia where we met up with friends David and Pamela who have a boat in St. Jean de Losne and who had rented an apartment in Spain for 3 months. We enjoyed their company and had a pleasant 3 days with them. We just missed Steve and Helen, also boaters who had been staying in the area but had gone back to Burgundy.

A few more overnight stops, including revisiting another favourite from last year by the Coto Donana nature reserve (which was hard to tear ourselves away from) we at last reached Portugal.


Tapas with Pamela.......

and David















We headed to a campsite at Moncarapacho that had been recommended to us last year and as we drew in, Pete came out to greet us, another couple of friends with a boat in St. Jean......Pete and Glen had arrived in Portugal a few days before us and we had hoped to catch them up.

We both had 3 nights at the campsite where we caught up with laundry and wifi and had a pleasant few days in each others company. I had a master class from Pete in filleting fish.....2 dorado which we bought that morning in the market and Pete cooked on his BBQ for our evening meal. The last time I had been brave enough to clean, gut and fillet a fish was during my home economics O level course during which my best friend, Janet sliced her finger instead of the fish resulting in so much blood that she fainted and I very nearly followed. I've never had the guts (pardon the pun) to prepare a whole fish since, despite many an opportunity, especially in Morocco where they were plentiful and cheap. Sorry Pete, still not done it!

Coffee with Pete and Glen

Intending to be off to the wilds again, we stocked up with goodies at a huge centre commercial which included a Decathlon where I bought some sandals, having left mine on the boat. I decided that enough was enough, I was going to enjoy this sunny weather in seasonal footwear instead of the fur lined Brascher boots I had lived in since the UK. This was not a good move as the next day the weather changed, it became much cooler and we had showers for a couple of days! Me and my sandals!

Dorado, with the last of the oven chips from the UK,
broccoli spears and parsley sauce
Next we called at Campismo Olhao to have a brief catch up with Annette and Gary who we first met on our Morocco trip, we sat outside of the bar in their campsite for a couple of hours, me in my new sandals and bare feet which rapidly turned to blocks of ice! It was great to see them again, couldn't drive past Olhao without saying hello!


Annette and me,
 our hair was the same length last year!

There followed a few days of beach hopping, met up again for a day with Pete and Glen at Quarteria. They have now been joined by some friends of theirs, Jude and Les who now live in France, near Avignon. They have the most gorgeous rescue dog, Ellie who is a German Pointer. She feels the cold too like Belle so I have passed on some details of “dog pyjama” makers.........Jude if you're reading this I hope you get Ellie fixed up for next winter!

A girl needs to keep warm at night!

As we meandered westwards along the coast we felt we'd had enough of the built up areas and decided to dash along the motorway to the less populated and wilder part of the coast. As we were doing so we noticed many pro cycling team cars and coaches heading along the carriageway in the opposite direction so we broke our journey at Lagos, went to McDonalds to use the wifi and find out what was going on. We discovered it was the penultimate day of the Volta do Algarve so we changed our plans and headed inland to the high point of the last day's race from Almodovar to the coast. 



Watching and listening for the peleton


Here they come.......

Blink and you miss it!
We found a fabulous overnight spot almost at the summit and fingers crossed we waited for them to arrive next morning. We were not 100% sure we were on the right road as there were no signs or warnings of roads closed or banners to indicate the summit, however at the scheduled time the race arrived and we had very good views (for about 30 seconds). We were the only spectators at the start but a couple of locals strolled along and stood by our motorhome. I was very pleased to receive a nod from one sky rider and a wave from someone in the sky team car. I was jumping up and down like a mad woman shouting “Team Sky” at the time! Geraint Thomas was the GC winner.


So we did eventually reach our favourite bit of coastline, wild and unspoilt, quiet and peaceful at this time of year and now we're just 10 days or so from home.


Oh and this quiet, almost deserted car park? Well it was up till about 10 am, just us and 3 other motorhomes here overnight, one of which is a murvi with two border terriers in!

But later this morning, cars started to arrive and there is now a beach party in full swing at one of the surf huts. Loads of children having fun and frolics on the beach in tee shirts on 1st March!

Praia do Cordoama beach party



Fun and games and much laughter
Happy Campers
Double headed digging dog


Belle allowing me a cuddle

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