Tuesday, May 6, 2014

MAY already and heading north.

                                               (There are a couple of links for you to click on)

After leaving Armacoa de Pera we headed east for the PSP campsite at Tavira where we planned to join up with friends already on site, just for two weeks but as well as our old friends we made new ones and got so comfortable we stayed for 42 days (hey we got a discount) by which time friends old and new had moved on mainly heading back for the UK. Experience has taught us that towards the end of March the northern europeans leave the Algarve in droves heading homewards and hoping they do not hit snow and rain on their journey. Other than for three days of torrential rain Tavira was sunshine almost every day and the town itself though not huge has enough to keep us occupied.

As a group we had a number of meals out in various restaurants and one night in the local Cinema they had a live broadcast of the Swan Lake Ballet which was attended by most of the group and one lesson learned was to take a torch with you as at the end you had to find your way out in the dark, mobile phones came out of pockets to act as torches.

Well it is Portugal and the unexpected is quite often the norm.

Camera Obscura
Kit and I visited the local Camera Obscura which is in an old water tower and considering that the lens being used was 100yrs old the quality was really very good whilst the young Japanese lady who speaks excellent english was very knowlegable about the surrounding area.

Eventually we tore ourselves away from our comfort zone and headed north to Castro Verde about 100kms to the north where we wanted to have another trip to the local Museum display of Roman votive oil lamps as well as visit the 12th century church which is famous for its blue tiles in the interior celebrating the battle of Ourique when the Christian army beat that of five Moorish Kings.

Bald headed Eagle no it's a bald headed Blackbird

We set off for Beja seven days later a town famous for its small sweet cake originally made by the Nuns of the local Convent to earn some money and where each day a bald headed Blackbird entertained us. Four days later we were back on the road heading for Evora a European Heritage site, the old town being surrounded by a defensive wall, staying there for five days. It is just short of 2kms from the campsite to the Town but it seems to be a lot further nowadays we suspect it must be Skye kms or perhaps more to the point it now seems to be a long walk there and back especially when carrying groceries. The site was very busy mainly with folks heading south but we were also there on a Portugese holiday weekend and for the first time saw the swimming pool in use with bathers and others just lying around the pool soaking up the sun.

From Evora still heading north we headed for Evoramonte about 40kms, as we wanted to visit the Castle there which has had a chequered life being in the hands of the Moors, back into the hands of the Portuguese after a siege, demolished by and earthquake along with it's town in the 1560's,rebuilt and infamous for one of it's Lord's who murdered his wife, spent some time in penance, went off to North Africa in a war against the Moors and came back a hero. The murder was quietly ignored.

Ah the good old days.

Our visit to the Castle clashed with a Mountain bike race which made parking in the village a little awkward but successful, so after coffee and pastel de nata we left the Campervan and headed 1km up the side of a very steep hill and after a couple of stops for oxygen and shade found ourselves plodding up a track and through one of the Castle wall arches. Fortunately there is a very nice Restaurant at the top of track so once more it was in for coffee. We sat on the terrace awed by the vista before us absolutely amazing and well worth the effort and strain on the cardovascular system to get there.

About an hour after our arrival the first of the cyclists arrived as the Castle was a staging point in the race, water was being handed out to each competitor, how these guys could do cross country in the 80/90F heat is beyond me.

The campsite we are on is one of the better sites that we have used, run by a Dutchman who is making a great job of expanding it and the facilities make a joke of sites in the UK. We are paying less than £7.00 per night, including WiFi where in the UK it costs £12/14 for a pitch, someplace place to dump your toilet box, electric and water. Here you have showers, toilets, swimming pool, large pitches, electric, WiFi and even toilet paper is supplied. The facilities are the equal of the Caravan and Caravan and Camping Clubs except you are not on bowling green grass and you do not have to face in a certain direction or be exactly 6 inches from the pitch marker peg. Seeing as how I am now on a rant I'll just mention that not so long ago on one of the above Club sites we had to pay £36.00 for one night on a flooded pitch because we were not members, unfortunately there was nowhere else near to the Village we had to be at.

Rant over and so is this Blog for now, 85F outside, glorious sunshine and as far as we are concerned all is well with the world, so we hope it is for you.

Cheers, Kit n Jack.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Even 60 F. feels cold.

Christmas Day saw us out for a meal with friends at a
Restaurant near to the Military Campsite which was our temporary home. A short walk of about 5 minutes saw most of the group sitting at a long table with a family of 5 from Finland. Just 10 minutes later we were joined by the rest of our group who had been trapped by a torrential rain burst which in seconds had seen water up to the top edge of the Restaurant door step, just proved that being on time has got to be good. Another table had another 18 folks seated, some from boats in the Marina, 3 Americans and 2 Portuguese quite an eclectic mix for Christmas dinner
The Restaurant is run by a Ukrainian family who now live in Lagos and they were to prove that they could produce a memorable 9 course meal for about 30 people very efficiently and worth the €25. each that it cost, including wine, soft drinks and in the last hour bottles of spirit all at no extra charge. A very merry crowd left the Restaurant in a very ' Christmasy' mood.
Despite what the Politicians in Portugal say things are still very fragile and Lagos had almost no Christmas decorations on display and very few holidaymakers on the streets, we have also noticed a lot of smaller businesses have closed down.

.Christmas Tree made from green empty beer bottles

The 31st of December was on us before we knew it and once more found us at the same restaurant and looking forward to another multi course meal and we were not disappointed. Bringing in the New Year was a novel experience for us because our Ukranian hosts brought it in at 10pm Portuguese time, an hour later we celebrated Italian New Year at 11pm, then finally Portugueses/UK New Year at 12 midnight. We broke off from the meal to make our way down to the Promonade where we had a superb view of the Fireworks display payed for in the main by small busines's. Back to the restaurant to finish our wine and dining before making our way back to the Campsite.

                                   Now that's what I call an ice cream

Once the Festivities were over all was back to normal for us, you know what we mean, Sangia, Wine, skinny diping, sunbathing in the nude all those things that Caravanners and Motorhomers do when retired !! Dream on, this winter in Portugal we have seen the tail end of the storms that hit the UK and though everybody was complaining about the cold, (it got down under 60F !!), the rain, that's that warm stuff you dont get in the UK and I seemed to be the one of the few who were upbeat, have not needed wellies yet. Having said all that the storms had waves climbing the 100/150ft cliffs at nearby Sagres in fantastic displays of wave power .

Finally getting clear of the Portuguese Banking system we were ready to start moving on though to be fair we moved 3 km to another campsite to meet up with some more friendswho arrived at the start of the year and enjoyed their company whilst at the same time were able to visit some of our ex neighbours in Espiche.

February already and we have left the Lagos area and are now at Armacoa da Pera as we will gradually make our way towards Spain and planning where to head for over the next few months. She who must be obeyed decided we needed a broom to sweep out the awning, though I think she was hoping for the Harry Potter effect and we found one in one of the local Chinese shops and yes Kit still cannot get it to fly. Having said that on the way back to the campsite we had a superb Hamburger with egg each in a local Tapas Bar, we are not Big Mac fans but this rivalled it without all the splathering sauces that MacDonald's put on theirs.

The Beach at Armacoa and below a view from the Promenade

                                           Fruit and veg delivery to the Market
Now and again we are asked how we pass the time, we both read quite a bit, keep our minds active with stuff like Codeword and Wordsearch, spend plenty of time chatting with other folks, visit Museums, Castles, Churches and of course Cities and Towns we have not beenn to previously. Neither of us are big on sitting out in the sun all day but plenty folks do so.

Kit's crosstitch, work in progress and on right Gregg catching up with the ironing

This vehicle caused much amusement

Cheers for now Jack n Kit.


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.
(www.jacknkit.co.uk) 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.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Time flies past.

I'm keeping fit

Hard to believe I have not had the time to update the Blog since December but Christmas followed by New Year was followed by a new project that took up more time than expected.

Having finished a genealogy trek through our family surname back as far as 1752 then writing it up and finally finishing just before summer 2010 I decide to do something about the myriad of family photographs, the earliest being approximately 1898, that I inherited from my Father. Age spares no one not even photographs so many were torn, had damp spots or other damage making them not very atractive to say the least.

Lot of damage like this.
A bit of TLC was required,  well a very large bit of TLC was required to be honest so I decide to re-photograph all the old photos with my Digital camera dump them on to the computer and use the magic of imaging software to try and repair damage. I updated Paint Shop Pro and got stuck in.
Now just in case you fancy doing this trust me when I say it has taken two and a half months to get a decent result but having printed out some of the really badly damaged photos onto photo paper after repair, I am more than pleased with the results as you would think the photos had been taken recently.

So now I have these nice photos, but it was going to be expensive to print them out to give my relations copies so once again I spent some money and updated a program I bought about 10 years ago to make a Digital Album in chronological order and am well pleased with the result once again. Now it is just a case of copying to disks with the added bonus that I was able to put the family history into the album as well, killing two birds with one stone.

Unlike the terrible December 2009 to the end of March 2010 when we had unprecedented continuous heavy rain the same period but 2010 to 2011 has in general been back to the Portugal we knew, plenty sunshine with the odd very heavy showers and even Christmas day when we had friends over it was sunny.

I write this while sitting in the Campervan in Tavira where we have
joined Steph and John from the UK with their motorhome on a Portuguese Police campsite, having had a nice easy drive from one side of Portugal to the other and we plan to stay for a couple of days.

If anybody is planning to visit Portugal be aware that as from the 15th of April, 2011 all motorways in the country become Toll roads and though I have not got conformation understand at this time you will have to purchase a Disk which can be read electronically once on the motorway. Up to now the idea is you get the Disk from a Post Office (Correos) for  27 Euros then top it up immediately with 50 Euros so your holiday will start with a 77 Euro tax. At the end of your holiday you will be able to hand in the Disk and get your 27 Euros back and if you dont use all the 50 Euros ? nobody seems to be able to tell us. I suspect this is going to hit Portugal hard tourism wise especially as the non motorway roads are not exactly of the best quality and caravanners and motorhome users will probably head for Spain once again. Communication with the public has a long way to go in Portugal especially when enquiries are not even answered.

Lighthouse at Cabo do Sadoa.

Having said all of the above
yesterday Monday 28th February
Reason for the Lighthouse.

saw us off up the west coast with Greg and Jill another couple of friends to visit some of  the beautiful beaches that border the Atlantic, it was nice to be a passenger instead of the driver.

          Kit's garden is going from strength to strength with potted plants all in a row.

The Brute

Unfortunately for me our next door neighbour offered Kit a palm tree, just a small one, also in a pot. The B****y thing is about 7ft tall and unlike the smaller one she already has this vicious brute has nasty very sharp pointed leaves with which it attacks the unsuspecting mover of various objects on royal command, why SHE cannot stick with things like Crocuses or Daffodils I dont know.

The importance of having more than one backup of work on the computer was driven home a week or two ago when one of my external hard drive's died taking everything with it including backups of other drives. Fortunately I normally use three external drives so nothing was lost but I did have to buy a new one which I got £20.00 off because somebody had priced it wrong but the owner of the shop told the assistant to sell me it at the shown price.

April will see some of our family visiting us for a week's holiday and not to soon after we will hit the trail heading to the UK for our holiday using the campervan. We are a bit early this year but we have a very special birthday party to go to in Scotland which we are looking forward to.

With a bit of luck you may be able to see the following Album which was not hard to put together but getting it up onto the internet was torturous to say the least, if I have it correct you should go straight to it, but dont hold your breath
CLICK here  ...   http://www.flipviewer.com/fven/?opf=http://www.jacknkit.co.uk/DayOut.opf

Once the Album opens just click on the page edge to turn the pages.

Cheers, Jack n Kit.