Archive for February, 2011

Cycling Struggles

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Next stop was Salema, beachside wild camping along with 10 other motorhomers. This spot is in a wetland, and the sound of frogs and waves serenaded us to sleep. We spent a gloriously hot couple of days fishing, sunbathing and generally lazing about. We managed one cycle ride up the rather steep hills into the town, David’s very cheap bike is currently running on one front gear and he had a hissy fit when he saw the climb out of town. Our bbq is getting heavy use now, it is magical to sit next to the ocean, glass of wine in hand of course, and cook some fresh fish or frango piri-piri.

We reluctantly moved onto Sagres, the most westerly town in the Algarve where the weather turned more windy. Consequently, it proved to be another challenging ride to Cabo St Vincent, especially after a couple of G&Ts. David was carrying Odie in his doggie backpack much to the delight of the busloads of Americans who grabbed the opportunity to take a photo, some by asking if they could and others by snapping away when they thought David wasn’t looking. The lighthouse is the most powerful in Europe and its light can be seen for over 90 miles. It’s a very good thing as the sea is very choppy and rough out there.

Sagres town has a couple of places to park in the van, we stayed at both and had a great time walking and fishing near the town. We enjoyed an incredible Sunday lunch of grilled fish and a massive steak washed down with the local beer. All cooked by an old salty looking chef who brings out the uncooked wares for you to examine before singeing them on the grill. Beats a Sunday roast hands down!

Lunch in Lagos

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Apparently Portuguese dogs walk backwards, do their business, then leap into the air !

Lagos warranted a hot, uphill walk during our short stay in Luz. We arrived on the outskirts of town feeling weary and in need of sustenance. Luckily there was a Portuguese equivalent of a builders cafe so we stopped for a very hearty 3 course lunch. David got an amazing meal comprising of a bowl of soup, a pork chop, a sausage, a gamon strip, two ribs, salad, chips, rice, desert, a glass of wine and a coffee, all for just €8 ! It was certainly the right lunch if you are laying bricks but not if you are sightseeing, and after an energizing espresso we managed a rather ungraceful waddle into town. Lagos’ museum’s main attraction is an ornately carved church. Odie interrupted our religious reverie by ensuring his barking echoed in the cavernous room and he was moved to a nearby tree in disgrace. The town is touristy but beautiful. We skipped a boat trip to the coves as we did that on a trip with my Dad a couple of years ago.

Bom Dia Portugal

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Winner of Portugal's "Untidy Garden" award, 2011

We have arrived in the Algarve, only a month late but never mind! Almaco de Pera is a holiday town we have visited before in the winter. Its beach is dotted with fishing boats and the local restaurants offer massive portions of the local catch for lunch. We chose a little shack-like place on the beach and enjoyed ‘sardinas’ in the sunshine. The weather has been incredible since we arrived in Portugal and was baking hot for February. On our walk we discovered a fabulous wild camping parking area on the cliffs overlooking the sea and the western end of town. There were at least 15 campers dotted along the cliffs, but a hefty fine of up to 30k can be levied if you get too near the edge!

It was then time for a bit of culture and history, something we have been missing for the last few weeks as we have mostly been at the sea. We made our way to Silves, a Moorish hill top town an impressive clay coloured castle that dominates the skyline. There is a massive parking area and a huge motorhome community, we counted over 65 vans camped next to the river. We explored the deserted cobble streets by moonlight and only encountered an occasional doggie, of which there seem to be many in Portugal. Silves in the brilliant sunshine was another kettle of fish, the castle and cathedral were our first stops. The castle is laid out with a Moorish garden and you enjoy wonderful views of the town from the ramparts. The cistern is supposedly haunted by a Moorish maiden but all we heard were some brilliant acoustics that David was hugely excited by and he even threatened to come back and sample the sound patterns.

Mmm, doughnuts (drool)

The monthly market was in full swing and we managed to purchase a new grill for fish for our bbq and peruse the local tat. We also caught a virtuoso performance of doughut frying by one of the local vendors and enjoyed a delicious ‘fratera’, a long, thin, crinkle shaped doughut dusted in cinnamon sugar.

El Rocio

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Being back on the road again was a bit of a shock to the system. We drove to Seville in the hope of spending a couple of days exploring this city’s incredible architecture. However our hopes of staying over were thwarted by the blustery weather and the local annual marathon. We had to make do with a drive-by-viewing of the fine buildings, but we hope to come back to the beautiful town after our travels in Portugal.

We hustled on to El Rocio, a genuine spaghetti Western town. The streets are sand covered, as wide as those in Bulawayo (for non-Zimbos that means very wide), and each house has a tethering post outside to cater for the horse population. The horsey way of life even extends to the bars where you are able to enjoy a drink from atop your horse at extra high tables.

The town was almost deserted when we visited but apparently is a famous pilgrimage site with over a million visitors over one weekend each year after Easter. The main draw is to see a statue of Mary that moves of its own accord and party like there is no tomorrow. The church is ornate with a very glittery altar.

Nearby is the Donana National Park, Europe’s biggest wetland (Dad was thinking of you especially), and it provides a winter home to a vast bird population. The enterprising grey herons have decided to use the highest structure in the park to nest in, never mind that they are electricity pylons instead of trees! Unfortunately we didn’t get to see the Iberian lynx, one of the animals we were keen to see on our European travels, I guess it was a bit ambitious to try and see it in one day!

Tiles on one of the El Rocio monuments

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