Posts tagged Aire

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.

Monti Sibillini

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After the hustle and bustle of touristy towns, we escaped to Monti Sibillini and its eerie National Park, which straddles the Le Marche and Umbrian region of Italy. We stayed in a grassy (and free) area di sosta close to the town of Castleluccio, surrounded by mountains.

Handgliders and paragliders make good use of the flat basin, perfect for easy landings. Some of the more adventurous ones could even be seen disappearing in and out of clouds that tumble down the sides of the mountains.

The area is perfect for hiking and mountain biking; we did both whilst we were there. Apparently, there are numerous wild animals and plants to be spotted, but the wildest thing we saw was a bleary eyed shepherd and five sheepdogs who thought that Odie looked like a good appetiser.

Deutscheland

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Frieburg has wonderful architecture

Deutscheland! Quite often we’re not sure when we have crossed the border from one European country into another as there are no border posts. It became blindingly obvious though when our TomTom stopped showing a speed limit and BMWs flew past us at 200km/h – we were on the autobahn!

German efficiency was apparent to us right from the start. We arrived at the Stellplatz (the German version of camperstops), parked the van and walked across to the office. A minute later, as we were trying to work out what to do, the official arrived and asked us if we were the English owners of the van parked across the way. He had left a note on our windscreen asking us to come to the office to sort out payment!

Freiburg is Germany’s southern most city (apparently the most sunny too) and has excellent green credentials. It is famous for its Munster church, worth a visit as well as the square it sits, in which has a market every week day. We had our first Bratwurst, mine a hectic curry flavour and David’s a traditional grilled version.

Many buildings retain their original character

We visited a wine festival in the main square and tried a Rielsing (heaven) and a very potent red which left a salty encrustation on the glass. Speaking to the wine buff we were told that very good red wines produce this calcium deposit. Clearly we have not been drinking enough very expensive wines then! Another worthwhile excursion in Freiburg is climbing the hill with the Schlossberg tower which gives a fine view of the excellent architecture in Freiburg.

En France – Deuxieme fois

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At last, we have returned to France. Our first stop, quite close to the border, was to do a bit of snorkelling. We’d read about a snorkel safari in a protected marine park and were keen to try it out. We ended up on the wrong beach, however, and this turned out to be a stroke of luck. The snorkelling was fantastic, with huge shoals of fish surrounding us like something out of a BBC documentary. On the way out we saw the official snorkel safari beach which was littered with people, and probably far fewer fish than we had the fortune to see.

Our final stop was Port Vendres – a pretty town, especially at night when its lights reflect across the bay, and little fishing boats return late at night with their catch. Four lighthouses (two are really just lightbulbs on a long stick) mark the entrance to the bay.

With no internet connection available we headed to the local cafes in search of free WiFi. I spent three hours working on a fault giving poor Christine plenty of time to reacquaint herself with speaking French. “Il travail encore” (he’s still working) was repeated many times, with an accompanying sigh and roll of the eyes. No single customer in the history of the cafe has ever ordered so many glasses of water; they must have thought we had a dolphin hidden under the table.

We spent the night in the local Aire (hurrah for free camping again) and baked ourselves silly.   It was the hottest night of our trip so far and, with no electric hookup (and therefore no fan), we lay awake half the night in a puddle of sweat and bristly dog hair, listening to the distant sound of booming bass drums and a hooter which shrieked for hours until the car battery ran out.

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