Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas in the sun once more.


We left Figuera da Foz heading for Coimbra in the east and visiting the Castle at Montemor enroute. If you have had a look at the Travel page on our website
Ham in potato cover.
( this will be old hat but if not a visit will clear that up. After the Castle we had lunch in one of the Cafes in the village where we came across this delicacy, Presunto ham in a potato covering, just looking at them made you want to buy one.

Our arrival at Coimbra was somewhat delayed by a serious accident and then a diversion through the City which proved quite interesting especially the exchange of comments twixt driver and navigator but between us and our GPS the campsite eventually hoved into sight and found we had it all to ourselves the first night. The campsite is owned by the Municipality but run by a private company so the facilities are somewhat better than the norm, including Gym, Restaurant, Swimming pool and much to Kit's delight a Supermarket barely five minutes away by foot. Coimbra has one of the oldest University's in Europe and is situated on a hill above the centre of the City a steep climb up hill but we found it worth the effort, either hills are getting steeper or I'm getting older? On our way back downhill we found a very good Restaurant for lunch, three courses, a drink and a coffee for about €7.00 each and the food was excellent.
Back at the campsite we found a young man with a 30yr old Chevrolet campervan which he was 'doing' up as he was travelling, every so often he takes up employment to make some money then sets off again, if my memory serves me correctly he taught Skiing in the winter or was it Diving in the summer, oh the frailties of memory once you are over 25.

Leaving Coimbra we headed south to Evora,
a European Cultural Heritage centre, it has a wonderful old wall which surrounds the town, the remains of a Roman Temple on a hill in the Town with columns and their capitals still in place, and Ossiary where a chapel is built out of human bones done when the Cemetry got too full, that's kind of creepy but interesting, brought to mind the old saying 'As you are now so once was I, as I am now so will you be' mayhap not word perfect but in the ballpark. The campsite in Evora like many others we have seen in Portugal has put in more Cabins so it makes less space for Tourers like us but it does seem to be a trend.

Local Liquer on sale.
We next headed for Beja and a campsite we had been told was
 closed about four years ago but rumour had it that in fact it still existed and much to our delight it is in fact still on the go. Beja is famous for it's small sweet cakes that apparently started with the Nuns in a convent making them to raise money, the trouble is you can really pig out on them.

Beja Campsite

We found a a new Cafe for us, the one we used to visit has gone, the chap who has it is a Musician, plays Guitar plus a number of other instruments and spoke good english enough to help me with my fractured Portuguese and the Coffe and cakes were excellent just as a bonus. Once again we noticed a lack of Tourers as the campsite was very quiet but we cannot make our mind up if it austerity or some other reason that things are so quiet, this is another towwhere we feel completely comfortable. After a week on site we decided to travel a whole 28kms to Serpa to spend a few days there it has part of it's town wall left plus the remains of an overhead water viaduct. At one time all the homes inside the wall had a well for water so I guess the place must sit on some sort of underground aquifier. Kit took the chance to use the very modern washing machine and drier on the site something you soon learn to do as some sites do not have such facilities so we need to find a self service laundry when there is not one on a campsite.
We left Serpa to return to Beja as there was to be an International market held in the town centre, unfortunately it turned out there were only a couple of dozen stalls many of them selling the same produce, still it was interesting.

Manor house in Castro Verdre

Another short 48kms saw us at Castro Verdre to the southwest of Beja, this campsite is only 3yrs old and has all the modern facilities and it looks like the village itself has had a lot of TLC plus new house building. It was great to see such a small place put a lot of effort into Christmas decorations and we spent a couple of evenings strolling the streets after dark just to see them. We stumbled on a small Museum which displays hundreds of Roman oil lamps which it is believed were offerings to the various Gods of the time, almost 2,000yr old and some were in absolute pristine condition, in fact it was hard to tell the difference between some of the originals on display and the replicas. Apparently thousands of these oil lamps were discovered in a nearby location and it is thought that there must have been some sort of religious site near where they were discovered.
Castro Verdre was our last meandering campsite before we headed for Lagos to meet up with friends for the Festive season which would soon be upon us. Once again we found Lagos had a decided lack of Christmas decoration unlike some of the smaller towns and villages we passed through, guess the Municipal Council still has not enough money to cover such events.
Hopefully we will get a chance to see some of the friends we made over the 4yrs we rented a house at Espiche and we will soon be joined by some others who will leave the UK after Christmas to travel down to spend a few months in the area.

We wish everybody a very Happy Christmas and a Guid New Year, may you all prosper and keep good health.

Jack n Kit

Sunday, November 10, 2013

France through Spain into Portugal.

Newspaper Reader
 Our drive down from the Franco/Spanish border was done in sunshine and the roads were very quiet giving us plenty of time to reach our target the campsite at Vitoria Gastiez one we had never stopped at before but decided to have a look at it as a backup. The said Campsite is to be looked on as an overnight stop if necessary, relatively easy to find but not the best of sites to say the least and at a cost of €28,26 (roughly £25.00) a night not exactly a cheap stop. A quick retreat and back on the road heading for the campsite at Burgos where two nights cost us €32.00 a lot better with the added plus of ten minutes from the centre of the City by Bus. Next morning saw us heading into the City and the chance to explore a bit more of it, defintely rates high on places to return to.


Old building in use.

It never ceases to amaze us how many folks are prepared to share their very small Campervan with a couple of Dogs, from Yorkie Terriers to the French couple who shared a small Campervan with two very large St. Bernards, who slept with who or shared the bed ??? Campsites are a great place for people watching from folks trying to put up an awning to the chap we watched the other night try to demolish the electricity point by reversing into it with his car.

Salamanca next stop for a couple of nights but the heavy rain put us off of going exploring having managed to get thoroughly soaked just walking to the nearby shops for a few bits n pieces. The campsite is at the rear of a large Hotel, reasonably priced, good facilities and the hotel Restaurant puts on a good meal. Entertainment for the night was the Brit next to us get out his folding chair, umbrella, and sit down under it in the rain using his IPad or equivelant for the next hour. I like using the Internet but I'm not that keen.

We decided to try out a Campsite near Gouveia on the east side of Portugal as an overnight stop on our way to Fig da Foz, as we got near the GPS started babbling directions which we could see were not correct so we kept going straight on till we saw a sign for the village of Melo where the site actually is, quite a long way from Gouveia. Run by a Dutch couple, facilities were great as was the drinking water for a change, a bit awkward to get out the gate the next morning but over all a good site to go back to in a very scenic part of the Sierras.

A short walk took us into Melo itself with its nicely laid out Plaza and we found and original Farriers shelter including the frame which held the horse steady whilst having new shoes fitted. Another nice 'find' was at the Fire Station where a 1920/30's open top Fire engine was locked up behind glass doors but we could not find anyone to let us in so I took a couple of photos from the outside not good enough to show..

Farriers' shoeing workshop

Farrier's Anvils



Horse stand for shoeing.

Melo saw us have a double whammy when we realised that not only did we have to put the clock back an hour for Portugal it was also the end of Summertime so that was another hour off as well, still it meant it was sunny daylight when we got up in the morning.

The N17 is a mixture of very good and very poor as it changes from a narrow two lane road to a major 4 lane carriage way and back to a narrow two lane again with a three foot concrete divider and no passing places.

We arrived in Fig. da Foz just after 12pm so after setting up it was off to the shopping Mall for lunch, a large bowl of soup each with a bread roll for lunch, it seems to be a ritual with us now at Fig.

We have taken advantage of our stop here to do some alterations to the Campervan that we had been thinking about, we started by purchasing some strip LED lighting, bright white as we have found that the warm LED and Fluorsecent lighting was not bright enough for us.

A bit of cutting and soldering and Kit now has a brightly lit counter top for preparing food and cooking whilst I ripped out the innards of the Fluorescent lamps and replaced the tubes with LED strips, all in all it has made a great difference to the Campervan in the dark evenings.

New lighting in use.

Fluorescent tubes stripped out, LED's fitted.

The full length mirror in the toilet/shower had been an annoyance ever since we bought the vehicle as it had obviously unglued itself at an edge and whoever did the repair used the wrong glue and the plastic surface did not like it leaving a scarred surface. Kit spotted a carbon vinyl material in a shop so for the pricely sum of €6.00 we have been able to cover the fault up with a bit of style and flair. 

The eyes are the clue.

We have been partially adopted by the campsite Cat, I am not a great Cat lover but we have named it Sinatra, if your not old enough to know why, ask someone.


Cheers, Jack n Kit. 09.11.2013.




Monday, October 21, 2013

Back on the road once more

Harry the Dog, no not that one.
As most of you know we gave up tenancy of the house in Portugal having been told for the second year running it was on the market for sale so here we are once more spending most of the year in our Campervan with added luggage trailer in Europe. Arrival back in UK was a bit earlier than planned but there were all sorts of things to do, Medical, Dentist, Legal and a major time for the Campervan ie. service and timing belts etc to be changed. Strangely enough nothing ever goes as planned and we spent more time waiting around to get things done than expected and and sadly many of our plans went 'aft aglie' in the Scottish venacular.

We did manage to visit friends in Wales, Scotland and of course England but never seemed to have enough time to get around and meet everybody so apologies where they are due.

We like windmills

At the moment on a Campsite at the French/Spanish border getting ready to cut across Spain and head for our winter domicile of Portugal with the promise of rain for the next few days but at least it is warm rain unlike the journey down through France where the promise of sunshine on arrival at Calais soon turned to rain, heavy rain, hailstones and thick fog before we fought our way through to sunshine just south of Castets enroute for Bayonne and up to now 30C has been very welcome.

As per usual the best laid plans bottom out especially with the mobile Router to give us WiFi as we travel, simple just buy a French Sim card and off you go except nobody seems to have told the French as our purchase of said Sim started us on a trail of obtaining more megabytes. The French Orange shop sells you the Sim but you have to go to the Tabac to by the extra Mbs but we found the folks in the Tabacs we tried had not a clue about Mobile WiFi only phone updates and no it was not down to my lack of fluent French roll on Portugal at least there they know about Mobile WiFi.

Can you see the Dragon
In all my years I have never seen a real Airship ie. a gas bag with a Gondola slung underneath and driven by a propeller until a couple of days ago when we saw what we thought was an advertising balloon escaped from it's moorings, but shades of the Hindenburg or R10 disasters there was the real thing in the sky above us, needless to say we were on the motorway so no photographs. Simple mind, simple pleasure. Zssst?

We have taking our time coming down through France this year and that has allowed us to stop off and visit places we have passed by umpteen times over the years and found it very relaxing and enjoyable.

Hopefully once we arrive in Portugal the Blog will be more regular though I make no promises as time seems to pass so quickly and it seems we have 8 hour days instead of 24.

Cheers, Jack n Kit.