Posts tagged Dogs

Westwards

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We are now meandering up the Western coast of Portugal, we stopped at Castelejo beach and managed to adopt two doggies who inhabit a little picnic spot. We took them on a walk and fed them, much to Odie’s chagrin, especially as they gorged themselves on ham.

The western coast is less developed, the sea is rougher and the weather more windy than the southern Algarve but it is perfect for wild camping by the sea. A lot of the coast reminds us of our travels in Australia with its jaw dropping scenery.

We had an abrupt reality check when we developed a puncture after stopping in Carrapateira. Luckily the AA managed to change it for us and recommended a repair shop where two very hard working Portuguese fixed it up for only 30!

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.

Spanglish mates

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We were feeling rather weary after our overly exuberant new year celebrations in Benalmadena and after a night of recuperation we drove southwards in search of sunnier climes. We decided to return to one of our favourite Spanish campsites, near to the Cabo de Trafalgar (where Nelson fought the Spaniards).

The area is famous in Spain for its pine trees. They were planted by Franco to stop the endless march of sand inland. The trees still produce pine kernels and in January provide a home to an apparently very poisonous caterpillar. We were told by other campers that said caterpillar was both attractive and fatal to dogs. Luckily we only saw a couple of dead specimens and Odie was not at all interested in them, so they can’t be such a delicious doggie delicacy.

There are some fantastic cycling routes which thread though the natural pine park. We were looking forward to using our bikes to discover more of the area. Unfortunately our ambitious plans were rudely interrupted by some enterprising bicycle thieves who nicked our bikes in the middle of the night. They kindly left our bike cover, which means we don’t have to replace it for a third time! After discovering our loss, I had to make a trip to Barbate police station to report it and during this tedious exercise found out that the campsite had been targeted the previous month and that eight other bikes had been nicked in one night not long before we arrived! Pity no one had mentioned this fact when we turned up or we would have locked them to our van instead of to a tree!

We did not let our loss detract from our stay in the lush Costa de Luz, there were plenty of walks to the beach, lighthouse and along the surrounding hills. We were blessed with sunshine for most of the month and this meant David could work outside, although he had to defend his laptop from the sunshine and his legs from mosquitoes!

We squeezed in a visit to Cadiz, Europe’s oldest city, with narrow streets, exotic plants and hardly any parking spaces. We replaced our bikes with some cheap mountain bikes from Decathalon, and David purchased a mound of new clothes to replace his crusty look with a smart sporty style.

The campsite was a very sociable place, which was a major draw for us to stay for a month. We participated in 2 quiz nights (one sober; one with a very random combination of drinks) and played bingo for the very first time (besht played when tipshy!)

We met Padget, a bearded collie, and his owners, Bill and Jane, who are on a traveling adventure like us. It was fantastic to have some mates about again. We went for long lunches, played some hectic tennis and table tennis, went for long walks and drank quite a few beers together. If you want to check out their blog go to: http://www.getjealous.com/Billandjayne

We also met another couple, Paul and Tracey, and all 6 of us played an interesting match of TT which involved running around the table and trying to hit one ball each before stepping out of play. It made me feel rather dizzy and David was complaining of stiff obliques the next day.  This was soon followed by a boozy curry night before we hit the road once again! Months of social deprivation were made up in just a few weeks. Keep in touch guys!

Pompeii

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Pompeii!  A city frozen in time.  We were staying just across the road at Camping Pompeii. Although the site is convenient it is not very quiet due to all the tourist hubbub.  If you are not keen on staying in the city, the campsite does provide parking for the day too.  Entry to the archeological site is €11. Audio guides are available from the main entrance but these are not necessary if you get a map and brief guide in English.  We spent two and a half hours there but felt a bit rushed as we left it late in the day (hoping the crowds had thinned) to visit. I’d recommend at least 3 or 4 hours for a decent visit.  Make sure you take water and sunscreen if it is hot.  There are some lovely shady spots great for picnics if you have time.  Dogs are permitted at no charge.

We have by now seen quite a few Roman sights, and at first I wasn’t that impressed by Pompeii but after half an hour I realised just how huge and interesting it is.  The scale is unmatched by any other excavation. It is a good walk to see all the sights and you will need sturdy walking shoes as many of the roads are uneven.  There are deep grooves in the roads from the wheels of the carts which used to trundle across this city.  The amphitheatre is huge – it used to hold an impressive 20,000 people and was used for gladiatorial matches.  They used one gate for releasing them into the arena and the other to take the injured out.  There are signs on the floor of metal rungs, perhaps to loop lions or other beasts onto.

A haunting sight was the mummified remains of the victims trapped by the pyroclastic wave of ash.  Most of the forms are huddled up in a foetus position.  Some of their faces show expressions of fear and pain.  The garden of fugitives has a few all huddled together and includes children and babies.  What they experienced must have been absolutely horrifying.

You can learn a lot about how the people lived in those times as so much of the town was well preserved by the volcanic ash. There are eating houses, with their ceramic food receptacles built into the marble table tops.  The Romans used to eat lunch away from home and these ‘restaurants’ had a couple of different rooms to eat from.  One had chaise longues and they used to eat their lunch lying down in the style of the Greeks.  There is also a house which was built for use as a brothel, unusual in those days.  The baths with their marble basins and piped water are dark but opulent.  The forum is huge, a massive space which accommodated thousands of people.  There are also numerous temples dedicated to the various Roman gods which are frequented by the numerous stray dogs that live in the ruins.

Paestum

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We have been sampling the delights of Campania. One of its most famous foods is buffalo mozzarella.  A tricolori salad made with this cheese is to die for.  We stayed on a buffalo farm, nestled amongst olive trees with only the buffalos for neighbours.  The farm was around the corner from Paestum, a famous ruin which started off as an Ancient Greek settlement in the 6th century BC and later updated by the Romans.  It is a wonderful integration of these two cultures and highlights the similarities between them. It’s amazing to think that these buildings are now nearly 2400 years old, and still in such remarkable condition. It was discovered in the 18th century by road builders who, after making their monumental find, continued building the road which runs through the middle of the site!

Cuckoomania

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Clocks for sale

Our morning adventure was a spontaneous trip to the Vogtsbauernhof (Black Forest Open Air Museum), a charming village of sorts containing local houses from different periods, some of them relocated many miles, brick by brick, to the site. Inside you learn how people lived in those days, and can also watch as craftsmen (and women) create products from the times. We almost bought a little whistle which had a dancing couple that spun when you blew it, until we realised that it would be pretty useless except for attracting randy ducks.

There are quite a number of houses on the site, and you have to have a good attention span to take everything in. I started to get bored after the eighth one, especially when so many of them are based on the same working model. There are only so many farming implements in the loft one can see before the novelty wears off!

The hotel Pfaff is beautiful

On our way towards Triberg we stopped to see a giant cuckoo clock, one of several in the area. This is cuckoo clock country. Every few miles you see signs for “the house of 1000 cuckoo clocks”, though I doubt anybody has bothered to count them. They range from cheap and tacky clocks for a few euros to several thousand for gorgeous hand carved versions. Triberg is famed for its waterfall, but was far too touristy for our liking hence we only stopped for a very short visit.

Bridging the Gorge

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We awoke early for our drive along the Gorges du Tarn.  It’s a busy road in summer and we were unsure about how easy it would be to navigate. The drive can be a bit nerve racking in a motorhome, especially when trying to avoid crashing into overhanging cliffs on one side while minibuses , hauling a bouncing trailer stacked with canoes, charge towards you on the other. Luckily, as it was Bastille Day, the roads were relatively quiet, keeping cries of “watch out!” to a minimum. We were hoping to do some canoeing along the river, but were thwarted by a nasty parasite that lurks in the poisonous Tarn River. It is fatal for dogs so, with Odie’s health in mind, we ambled leisurely along the road instead, enjoying the prolific birdlife and views of climbers scaling the heights.

A visit to Millau is not complete without seeing the bridge; a thin gossamer thread across a deep valley.  It is a beautiful sight and we chose to enjoy it from the road at the nearby Aire which has a view point.  It costs €11.80 to cross and includes a display on how it was built.

Millau is a bustling place and we arrived just in time for the fireworks and celebrations for Bastille Day, although an hour of rain threatened to ruin any celebrations. Once the downpour had settled to gentle dripping we took a walk into into town to enjoy the festivities. It didn’t take many bangs or bass noises to send Odie into a panic so Christine took him back to the campsite, leaving me behind to take photos. What happened next turned out to our worst travel experience so far.

Some enterprising pick pocket made off with my mobile phone and wallet. As if that wasn’t bad enough I missed one of the river crossings on the walk back and got hopelessly lost in the dark. It took several hours for me to find my way to the campsite, and when I eventually got there my heart sank. The van was gone. In its place was a note under a rock. “Dave, have gone to police station and hospital to look for you, reception can help”. So, off I went to reception to try and contact Chris. The campsite owner was anything but helpful, refusing to let me use their phone. I even offered to pay her twenty euros to send Chris an SMS, but that was turned down. “It’s not my problem”, she said, “you’ll have to walk to the hospital, maybe she’s still there. I’ll draw you a map”.

After a considerable amount of begging she eventually relented and arranged for Chris to be told to come and fetch me. We were both incredibly relieved to see each other again. As bad as the experience was it had a positive side – we learnt some valuable lessons, the most important being to appreciate every moment we have together!

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