Posts tagged freecamping

Aljezur

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An old motorbike parked on an Aljezur street

Aljezur is an old Moorish town with a hilltop castle and stunning views to the mountainous region of Monchique. The cobbled streets lead up narrow lanes bordered by tiled houses. We spent a couple of nights at the campsite and also wild camped at a few local beaches.

The Amoeira beach is divided by an estuary with an aquamarine river providing a home to what looked like trout. Unfortunately David hasn’t managed to catch us an dinner, although secretly I am pleased as I am not too keen on gutting a fish. I dealt with a couple of squid the other day, one had nothing inside but the other had undigested little fishies which made me jump out of my skin and squeal when I discovered them.

Children dress up in bright colours for a festival in Aljezur

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!

Town Fever

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We started our regional itinerary of Abruzzo in Sulmona. The town is famous for its sugared almonds that are traditionally given to guests at weddings. The Sulmona area di sosta (camperstop) was overgrown, weeds crowding the entrance and had no services available. We parked up near this almost derelict spot and saw signs for an ‘elevator’ to take us up to the ‘centrico’. The ‘elevator’ turned out to be barricaded shut and some rather seedy stairs led us to our destination.

The town was pleasing enough, but I fear we have become desensitised as we have seen so many beautiful Italian towns. Unfortunately Sulmona did not leave us with a very favourable impression. The only saving grace was the weekly market. There we managed to purchase some delicious grapes, prickly pears and other succulent treats.

We decided to push on and found an idyllic wild camping spot in the nearby Parco Nazionale della Majella, overlooking a vast valley. The National Park is home to wolves, bears and rare species of deer but only a few local mushroom pickers made an appearance. We did get to see another pretty sunrise though; that’s twice in two days. 🙂

Anon to Annency

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Annency is famed for its crystal clear blue lake.  We weren’t disappointed!  Even in the pouring rain the lake still retains its magical colour.  We dared to brave the downpour by walking in search of some local wine, but ended up rather sodden and had to resort to driving to a nearby supermarket. The next day the sun made an appearance and we could truly appreciate the beautiful landscapes.

The camping ground we stayed in was a municipal site (only 1 star) with extremely basic facilities. Incredibly they had so many wash basins that there was almost one per motorhome, but there was only one toilet for the entire site!

Although Annency is gorgeous it is also heaving with tourists in August. We found it difficult to navigate the hoards of cars, bikes and pedestrians after the relative quiet countryside we have experienced up to now. We decided to head up to the hills, and found an incredible free camping spot close to the border of Switzerland with spectacular views of Mt Blanc. Cows in the field next to us made an absolute racket as their bells clonked at different pitches, but quietened down after sunset when they went to sleep. Well, most of them anyway. One greedy critter stayed up until almost midnight munching and clonking her bell. Perhaps she had a secret stash of grass hidden away …

Le Tour

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We drove into Rodes to check out the terrain the day before the Tour de France came through town.  A fantastic park along the river and walkway provided a stunning backdrop for our picnic.  We explored the area and eventually found a great freecamping spot lakeside along with 35 other motorhomes.

We got up at the crack of dawn for the Tour de France, and spent 6 hours waiting at the roadside for the cyclists, who, when they finally arrived, flew past us in less than a minute. However the floats that preceded the riders were worth the wait and we left loaded with various goodies including some sexy spotty Carrefour caps : )

The rest of day was spent driving eastwards and we free-camped at a wild spot with stunning viewpoint.  A windy night meant we closed all the windows for the first time and only left one of our vents open. We were rudely awoken at 2am when our carbon monoxide alarm went off. Although it was loud enough to wake anyone within a ten mile radius I still took it upon myself to shout in David’s ear and shake him vigorously. 🙂

We have deduced that the van doesn’t have enough of an air flow to clear the gas from our fridge and therefore need to leave both vents open.  If you are travelling in a motorhome with gas then get an alarm, it is well worth the small cost.

Grottos Art

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Can you spot our van?

We got going early, I think mostly due to lack of sleep, and drove up along the coast through Collioure.  Even at 8am there were throngs of people and after being unable to find an appropriate van parking we decided to give up on our leisurely stroll through the town and had to miss views that inspired Matisse.  We ploughed on through to Ceret for a trip to the Muse d’Art Moderne.  After many brown rectangles and random collages we got to see several works by Picasso and the earlier period of modern art which I enjoy.  All modern art is subjective, of course, but I prefer to see things that I couldn’t have done myself, armed with no more than some brown paint and a rolling pin. One of the brown rectangles was imaginatively titled “Door” – where do they get their inspiration?

We zipped up north on the motorways and managed to make a late tour of the Grotto Rose in Darglian.  This limestone cavern with rose tinges is fascinating, with the largest limestone wall formation in the world. Some tulips and a statue of a fox were put under the dripping limestone water and are slowly turning into shapely stalagmites. The tour in French helped accelerate my command of the language.

As it was late we decided to free camp nearby amongst strange, swirly grasses with the only the sound of the pine forest to keep us company.  Or so I thought.  After dinner, we heard a growling noise from the undergrowth.  I panicked and ran to shut the fly screen so that this unknown creature could not attack us, but that just gave Odie an opportunity to escape and act like a brave guard dog.  I gave chase and my plaintive wailing brought him scarpering back to me.  No attempt by David would persuade me (or Odie, looking considerably less brave) to leave the safety of the van until the next morning.  It was probably only a wild boar but better safe than sorry I always say …

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