595-600 : Exploring Industries of the Alentejo

595 – Thursday 12th 2017: Sao Pedro do Corval Pottery and Evora

It’s got to be said – we pottered our way around the pottery town Sao Pedro do Corval.  K bought some arty-fax and the almond cheesecakes won us over – was ever a maiden so ‘bowl’-ed over?  

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Some of the old furnaces … we saw a lot of modern ones in villager’s gardens, although the shops were mostly along the main road.

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A really pleasant but ordinary town centre, where we found the locals popular cafe/bar.  And sampled the MOST delicious almond cheesecakes.

Evora is pleasant large town to walk around – cathedral and Roman remains, city walls, aqueduct etc.  It is one of Portugal’s most well preserved Medieval towns with lots of Moorish influences.  Preserved as it’s riches slumped and investment (modernisation) ceased … so poverty kept the town intact.  The remains of a young man who seemed to be caught with his pants down climbing in through some gates – there’s no flies on him!  Overnight stay at the Intermarche – a GB van tried to climb up our exhaust pipe – he couldn’t have got closer…

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Unusually not Praca da Replica – most towns seem to have one, a bit like the Piazza Garibaldi in Italy, but Praca do Giraldo … Giraldo, aka Gerald the Fearless, single handedly defeated the Muslims and so got back Evora for the Christians.  He scaled a watch tower on a series of ladder spears driven into the walls and distracted the sentries whilst his Christian compatriots took the town with little fight.

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Gerald the Fearless?  And what is that growing out of your flies?

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The cathedral was built on fortress lines with asymmetrical towers. Vasco da Gama’s ship’s flags were blessed here.

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The Roman Temple (thought to be to Diana) was at one point used as a slaughterhouse.  The dome behind is on the rear of the cathedral.

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Overnight stay … the Frenchman on the right was first, then us on the left … so why did the other Brit park just quite so close to us … most un-British!


596 – Friday 13th January:  Vila Vicosa

Home of the Dukes of Braganza – last Kings of Portugal – one assassinated with his heir in 1908.  Fabulous Ducal Palace – excellent tour inside supposed to be in Portuguese, but in English as the other visitors were Amercian and English speaking Portuguese … so lucky we were.  Pity no internal photos although one of our group didn’t seem to quite appreciate the rules… Sumptuous carpets and rugs from Persia and Portugal – ornate wood carved seats and desks – cosmopolitan furniture. Shades of Versailles, here.  We learned that “tea” means “transport, ‘erbs’ and ‘aromatic’…  Afternoon tea is a custom brought to England by Catherine of Braganza who married Charles II – he was a philanderer, so she had all the ladies to tea so she could see who was absent and therefore his current flame.

The main industry around here is marble excavation and preparation.  A lot of Portuguese marble goes overseas, particularly to Italy.  The pavements and most walls are all made from marble.  The town has a lovely soft glow as a result. 

We left Oscar in Jez for a second time whilst we lunched … wind too cold for outside eating on a local dish of roast pork cuts with clams and sea bass.  Doggy bag taken away to be made into a casserole for tomorrow’s supper.

We intended overnighting in a car park at the castle – young lovers started to arrive – Friday night is party night – we bolted to the Baragem Lucifer – well – Lucefi – nothing evil about it … just us, full moon and starlit night – perfect.

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Another Praca da Republic, looking back to the castle that the Duke of Braganza found to be uncomfortable, so had this built from 1501 …

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… The Palace Square and Ducal Palace:  the Square alone covers 16,000 sq metres.  We saw about 35 rooms, only 20% of the whole.  In the centre is a statute of Joao IV, who had the ground floor of the Palace built.  It was used as a Summer Palace / Hunting Lodge once the Braganzas became the premier royal family.  Some of the furniture went to Lisbon and some to Brazil, when the royal family escaped there during Spanish occupation and liked it so much they stayed a long time, but there is some wonderful carved furniture, carpets (incl. Persian and local from Arraiolas), tapestries and some wonderful porcelain.   The last King and Queens’s bedrooms contained hairbrushes etc, as Dom Carlos and his heir left in the morning for Lisbon in 1908 and never came back – assassinated.

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The other side of the Square.

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The Knot Gate, a symbol of the Braganzas in marble and granite.

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The Pillory … will I get a whipping?  It was described as having some great frog stonework … but even with imagination we could not see them.

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With so much marble being excavated, the downside are the massive holes in the ground and slag heaps of rubbish stone – seen here on the horizon.  When we first saw some waste piles, they looked like a town that had been demolished.

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Don’t jump … you’re not insured!  We walked the castle ramparts, whilst keeping our lemming dog on a tight leash.  

A large perimeter, containing the main church with some more lovely tiles and houses.  We did not fancy the museum containing all the Braganza hunting trophies!

 

597 – Saturday 14th January:  Sitting Still But Not Being Still

We had a most amazing peaceful night’s sleep.  A slow start to the morning, followed by a run and Pilates on the banks of the barragem (lake).  We ended up not moving the van and staying a second night.  We cleaned Jez, pottered, played some cards and I managed to do a big chunk of knitting.  Sometimes you just need to be still.

 

598 – Sunday 15th January:  Marble Museum and Arroliles Carpets

We headed back into Vila Vicosa to the marble museum.  Only a small museum and the information was in Portuguese only, but there were some good images of the processes and some statues of carved marble.  There were some amazing huge panels, and I’ve told J I want our bathroom walls and floors re-done with marble … but not in Jez as too heavy.  The drive away was along the factories where the massive blocks of marble are prepared for floors and walls.

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A pastoral scene of cattle but with the marble slag piles.

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For my boudoir walls and floors.

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Massive blocks carved out.

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Boobs awry … in both directions.

We stopped at Arraiolos; home of hand made carpets.  We’d seen some on the floors in the Ducal Palace.  Given the hand working they are right out of our price bracket.  Beautiful designs of birds and flowers.  Many of these towns are centred around a single industry, be it marble, pottery or carpets, and they are pretty much the only form of employment.

We then shot across the River Tagus to about 35 km north of Lisbon.  We are on a way to spend a good few days in Lisbon; our friend Alison is joining us for a week.  We spent the night at another Intermarche … they have embraced motorhomes with dedicated parking and some have food services.  Shame Tesco has has not gone the same route.  I did a big shop ready for our visitor and managed to spend half the spend on booze!!!

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Arraiolos has a castle, but we did not head up that way … seen quite a few.  We had a coffee and cake and wandered the streets.

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My view from the cafe – faded blue and white church behind modern water jets.

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Oscar’s turn at the pillory.

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One retailer told me that the wool comes from further north in Portugal.

599 – Monday 16th January:  And So Onto Lisbon

We drove via the airport to pick up a Ford Fiesta hire car so we can get around with the dog for a week.  We drove the short hop to the campsite.  As I am flying home to see my Munchkin a few days after Alison leaves, so we’ve decided to stay on the campsite a few days longer … they offered a whopping 40% discount for 15 nights … so this is how long we will be here.

I went straight into massive washing load … did not manage to complete it all … my drying lines were full.  Darks will go through another day.  Cold and tired from my endeavours so we tried the campsite restaurant …. not to be repeated.  Cold food re-heated and low quality.  But it filled a hole.

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Oscar KNOWS that I keep dog treats in my hand bag.  I left him for all of 5 minutes and when I came back he was wearing my handbag …. head and a leg through a handle.  No sign of the treats or the plastic bag.  Is this a sheepish look.

600 – Tuesday 17th January:  Lisboa Campsite and Collecting Alison

Another leisurely start. Chat to a French couple travelling with their dog and cat … van comparisons.  Then a chap approached and invited us over to introduce us to his two Welsh Springer Spaniels.  They are a minority breed and Oscar did look very LARGE and SOLID compared to his compatriots.  I took Oscar for a massive walk around the woods behind the site up to a mirador (viewing point).  It was bit of a clamber.  I’m OK going up, but dodgy knees coming down so I found an alternative route … still ended up a short way descending on my bum!

We collected Alison from the airport … her plane landed 25 minutes early, so we just made it in time.  A convivial supper back at Jez.

 

Oscar’s Diary.

Hello folks – I’m a bit nervous about this – new to me and all that. I know Mr Dimbelby interviewed me last week – and he was OK but, now it’s just me…

Where do I start?  Well at my previous owners – my mate George tipped me the nod that I was going to some new people (George and me didn’t always see nose to nose – we scrapped a bit – I always won though) and so I was prepared. Solihull was my home although I am a Welshie. They showed up on time with a motorhome – I know about these as Elaine has one, fortunately. The lady (Katherine) is a bit of a looker but I wasn’t sure about the skinny bearded one – he does have a nice smile though.  James they call him – fair enough for an Irishman.  Roomy van with an acceptable doggy bed for now – I’ll sort that out later, I thought.

Well, moving on by 4 months – they have improved and are responding well to my training – Katherine reacts to food treats and James is partial to red wine – I have to ration him nicely. I try to do a bit of training with them most days – but i’m also busy with my other bits.  “Whoosh”! Sorry, that was me sneezing – whoops – a piece of my snot just landed in Katherine’s shoe!  If it feels wet when she slips her for in – she will just blame James!  He dribbles everywhere…  

They travel a lot which is OK – but they mention a place called Scotland – up in the Arctic Circle – Eskimos and big bears…. Not sure – if I am in doubt, I will contact my local branch of the WSSU (Welsh Springer Spaniel’s Union).  I know the Secretary well – Mr Hatsu – (Japanese father) – I call him Dai.  

I’ve made some nice friends – Boo and Poppy (their owners come from Arctic Scotland – they do talk with a strange accent.) K and J tell me we’re a place called Portogooseland – the sun shines and it’s quite warm.

Now, they have started a bad habit – leaving me in the van while they gallivant about town. I’ve told Dai and he says that I should re-arrange the furniture and stuff in the van while they’re out and that usually works.  I did it – and got roundly told off!   I’m only trying to help – I even remade their bed – me being all nice – you just cannot please these human all the time… James used a word I don’t know – ‘feck’ – I need to watch him.

I’ll give them a second chance – we’re soon going to a place called “Lipton” (or Lizbon) – I think they make tea there – clever K9, me – I’m ejumicated – I passed the ‘11Plusall4s’ exam recently.

They’re coming now – I need to hide my KPad – and it’s doggydinner time – I do hope they get the portions right, this time. K has no problems getting her food portions in place – something about 2 stomachs – wine and ice cream go there…

If I get some reviews, I’ll keep writing, fellow pets.

Ta Ra and Yakkydoo – (I think that’s Welsh, sort of…)

Oscar

xxx 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

593-594: Monsaraz … Men-here, but no Dogs

593 – Tuesday 10th January 2016:  Luz Museum and Monsaraz

Early morning saw a lovely mist over the lake from our stunning waterside pitch. After a peaceful night’s sleep, we ran for 3k with Oscar (who seems to have recovered from his irreverent peeing of yesterday. We brekkied and set off to visit the Museo da Luz – leaving O in charge of the van again, having ensured that K’s coffee beaker was stowed away safely this time (last time, it had been carefully placed out of the way on the table; on our return it had been Oscar-up-ended … onto a seat … coffee drained).  The highlight of the museum is definitely the film of the relocation of Luz village – the original homes were demolished for the new lake caused by the Dam. We could write a lot about this film – it’s heartrending and we can only recommend it highly to any of our motor homing friends who may visit the area…

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We were parked up by the motorhome on the shore … one of our best ever spots.  And there’s a free aire in the village.

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The Museum had info boards in English with some bare details about the dam and flooding the reservoir, but most of the information came from the film with English subtitles.  It was very moving, as people had lived in the old village all their lives.  

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The new village was an approximation of the old in terms of layout, so most people had the same neighbour.  But the houses were not the same:  there were reports of bad build quality and people were left without large fireplaces where they would smoke their slaughtered pig etc.  One improvement J spotted was that the electricity cables went underground.  Of the 400 residents that were relocated only about 200 are still alive / here.  As with all these rural villages, many young people have headed for the towns so there are many vacant cottages.

We pointed Jez in the direction of Monsaraz – another mountain town (?) we thought…  No way Jose (not Mourinho!) !  It’s that word again…stunning even on the approach. We passed the first wild parking area as we had seen vans parked up higher. Got to the turning in and balked at the narrow entrance – millimetres wider than Jez. I walked up to do a recce and enquired of the chap in the first GB van about access – Norman.  He very kindly came to our van and sat in the cockpit to guide us up a different entrance – milk of human kindness?  Now our reader(s?) will gape at this – Norman is 80 and his wife Beryl is 90 – and they are virtually full-time and have been travelling for over 22 years)!!!  How about that for inspiration, fellow bloggers? They have driven across the Pyrenees in snow with our snow chains, went to Morocco without a map, currency or Satnav and got lost, but reached the Sahara Desert and travelled 2500 km – a Moroccan man offered to buy Beryl for 2 camels and Norman had verbals with some local policemen about having taken movies of police road blocks … he stated he would have taken a pic of the Queen and suitably impressed the policeman backed down.  To be fair, Beryl was only 86 then! And it was before her stroke a couple of years back in Denmark.

We then realised it was a collection of UK vans – 5 in all with some French and NL neighbours.  The parking is just below the castle.  Lots of vanny chats – and up to the town.  360 degree views – very narrow cobbled streets – no vehicles up top. I cannot use the word stunning again, can I?  How about “Stunazing” or “Amazunning” – that might scratch the surface… By far the most impressive hill town we have seen in Portugal. K bought some more rugs for Jez because a certain K9 likes to decorate the floor with sand – but, we do our bit too.  We were only intending to stay one night but immediately increased it to two. We only saw parts of the town and not the castle.  We will walk to some menhirs tomorrow and see the Castello.

Sunset with wispy clouds to spread the light was ’stonkingerazingesque’ !

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That’s where we’re headed … of course, I’d checked the route is suitable for Jez, James!

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Views can’t get much better than this.

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The Pillory and well between two churches in the main square.

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From every side street, a view of the surrounding countryside.

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The flags are at half mast because some days ago Mario Soares died – he of the ‘Carnation Revolution’ fame that ended the rule of Dictator Salazar on 25th April 1974.   

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The reservoir is quite unlike a lake as it has many many islands on it and the coast is not smooth, unlike a glacial or river formed lake.

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594 – Wednesday 11th January:  In Search of Mehirs and Lunch

I managed to capture some sunrise photos at 7:00 am this morning – the emerging light was ‘nice’ – or maybe gorgeousness personified.  We waved goodbye to Beryl and Norman this morning – where will their next adventures be?  Wish we had a way of knowing … so inspirational.

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We walked to see some baby Stonehenge-esque Mehirs – K and O posed for photos. It’s Spring and the little lambs have sprung. We thought we would spring a little Monsaraz restaurant lunch on ourselves – no!  Each of four establishments didn’t want dogs on their terraces – dog unfriendly – loss of revenue for them – money saved for Team Jez.  Lovely homemade soup in our van and knitting chats between Katherine and Rosemary from the van next door.  

The Castle of Monsaraz beckoned and an artisan shop for one more floor rug to compliment the two we bought yesterday.

Our two day stay has been one of the most memorable experiences of many fantastic journeys. 

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One way of keeping the grass down in the vineyard.  The region has some rather good Alentejo reds.

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Is that another men-here?  No it’s a fem-here.

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Coffee between menhirs … K basking.

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Discovered in 1970 and placed atop a granite base to take it up to original height … why are they so often phallic?

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Views from the castle.

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Oscar still attracting a lot of attention; this Brazilian showing me his dogs back home.

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The castle doubles up as a bullring.

 

 

59-592: Alentejo Sines to the Hills

590 – Saturday 7th January 2017: Porto Covo and Sines

Villa Nova de Milfontes is one of the best wild camping spots we have ever had – alone, views out to sea and cliffs (lemmings on the cliffs!), the sound of waves crashing during the night – slightly reminiscent of Capo Lo Vito in south west Sicilia for the sounds of the sea…

AM – K ran (too many wild dogs around though, so retreated) and Pilate’d – I rested – not really wimping.  We are still on the coast but now in Alentejo – now itching to move inland and back up into the hills and away from most of the tourists.

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The view that greeted us in the morning.

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Yes, we really were on the cliff edge.

Porto Covo – van services and relaxing coffee – we regularly remark that these days of sun would pass for high summer in UK and most of west/northern Europe – how lucky are we?  K:  It had been raved about by several motorhomers, but was essentially a very smart and touristy one horse street.  J went to see if the amply stocked newsagents had an English speaking newspaper… it had … The Mail, which said it all.  He left empty handed.  I spoke to a British motorhomer, they’d been here a month already as they had services, some shops and the sea … what more could they want, he asked?  Something to do, thought I that is not exactly the same every day.  I did speak to a charming Frenchman (in French) and we shared good camping spots.

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Porto Covo is essentially a street down to a cliff above the sea; brimming with cafes.

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A view from Porto Covo with industrial Sines in the distance.

Sines” – how many of you have jested that you “Followed the signs to Sines sinefully and after purchasing a Sinecure (for a late night) – Signed out of Sines?  It can’t be just us, surely!  

The town is a busy working port, with offshore oil rigs,  but pretty.  Vasco de Gama was born on the top floor of the Castle – a very impressive man according to his statue – does he look a tad like Henry V!!! ? K:  the guidebooks raved about the Vasco da Gama museum in the castle, sadly it consisted of a film about his life … but only in Portuguese.  We left none the wiser. A good romp for us and Oscar along the beach, ducking under the long fishing lines the locals had cast about 40 metres to the sea from the pavements.  As we left, our road took as along and over the wide river of oil pipes inland to the refinery … they were quite a sight.

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The castle at Sines looking out over the fishing harbour.

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Vasco da Gama was born in the caste here.  His father was the equivalent of the mayor.

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From the castle looking east to the industrial port.  Whilst J was in the museum, I watched a container ship lumber by.

Our overnight intended location was Santiago do Cacem – now Colin (CoPilot SatNav) brought us unerringly to the road in question – it was closed.  Never mind, we said – go to the next town aire – OK, team?   We drove around not quite aimlessly  – the exit route was also closed – and then we spotted – the Police Station.  K hopped out and received great directions from the Duty Officer who said “Ignore the no entry signs and drive on!!!”  It took us down a dirt track with a marvellous sump damaging hump where K had to navigate me forward inch by inch, having set off, yet again, all the local barking dogs.  Our location was to the Lousal mining town – and off we sailed again.  The aire in Lousal was well paved, level and quiet on the edge of town but private, with some houses around – sorted…

Fed, Oscar walked – we settled to sleep ‘perchance to dream?’   Now then, fellow motorhomers – what are the unwritten rules about townside wilding on Saturday – local party night???   Before we are deluged with replies – the answer of course is – you don’t go there at all…  The very close barking dogs started the party (well, their party) – then the quite close (within our earshot) local bar revellers – loudly – the little motor cycles we call ‘gnats’ – racing around in their only engine gear – ‘gnattygear’.  Around 1:00 am, a car entered our parking place (we were the only van) and parked close by. I was awake anyway due to the noise and I rehearsed in my head the ‘vanevac’ rules – we always leave the driver’s seat in position – face the car park exit, etc.  The car left eventually – at 2:00 am (?) and we breathed a sigh of relief- back to bed – to sleep?  No.  

Lesson relearned – more care of wilding on Fri/Sat/Sunday nights – always and everywhere – even in the country, ‘gnatspartyville’ can come and bite you on the bum!  We were reminded of Trapani harbourside in Sicilia a year ago…


591 – Sunday 8th January:  Lousal Mine Museum and Beja

Anyway, untainted – sorry, dotnaughtied – bugger – UNDAUNTED, we left Oscar in the van and walked to the museum at 10:00 am with heavy eyes – ours, not his – he slept through all the fuss…

The Lousal Mining Museum is one of those rare gems that is not even in our guide books.  We were only here as it had an aire!   Our personal guide, Andrea who is working full time whilst studying at University for a veterinary degree (she has permission to not attend all lectures); full of enthusiasm and superb knowledge.  It was like one-to-one tuition – we learned a huge amount – Belgian owners – treated their employees brilliantly (unlike the British owners at the Sao Domingoes mines, which we visited before Christmas. There were schools, a hospital and a maternity wing.  Workers were given their houses for free until their death.  As the mine only closed in 1988, there are still ex-mining residents.  Health and Safety rules were very different, even in the 1980’s – no safety gloves, shoes or protective suits – only hard hats…  and they worked at 500m underground.

The Belgian owners still own the rights to the mine and have been heavily involved in the redevelopment of the town as a mining museum and science learning centre.  At its height, there were over 2000 residents in the town, now about 400.  So how few residents had been out last night making all that noise?

Andrea also explained that State universities expect higher grades than the private ones, and are therefore better regarded.  Every town and village had a road named after the dictator, Salazar – these have been renamed 25th April 1974 after the peaceful revolution (white carnations in gun barrels – Like :)). Students learn English in Primary school.  And how there is currently snow in the North!

K’s photos speak for themselves!  

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The electricity control centre.  It supplied the mine and the local community.
 

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All the machines were kept so they could be brought back on line if a later engine failed.  They could still be run.

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The electricity boxes just still clinging to the wall of the roofless and collapsing building that once housed the women who worked a long conveyors, smashing up the rock and separating it.  They and the menfolk consequently suffered from silicosis.  

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The Green Lagoon.

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Even kaolin was found here.

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There were two mine shafts for ore and men.  This one for ore is right beside the departing building.

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Next, Beja – capital of Lower Alentejo – nice unassuming town – highlight – amazing museum in the  ornate old Convent – cloister tiles and love letters from a lovesick nun to her French paramour, which were published in 1669 – must have made erotic reading!  Beja municipal campsite was our overnight (no free motorhome parking) – ‘basic’ facilities but adequate – I mile walk from town centre – price with electric – Euro 6.96!!!  About the price of a small glass of wine in UK?  

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The tiles in the regional Museum, former Convent, were stunning.  

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Off the ‘net, as too dark for my hand wobble pix … and sadly it doesn’t do justice to the C16 ‘azulejos’ (tiles).
 

592 – Monday 9th January:  Showers and Serpa

Due to the basic campsite facilities, we showered in our van – luxury indeed – then refilled with fresh water and off to Serpa.  

A truly beautiful town – ancient aquaduct, castle (closed) – excellent meat/veg/stew/soup lunch – lunch with orange juice, James!  Having consumed most of our Aged P visit and Christmas / New Year booze to remove temptation, we are now largely on the wagon!!!  Drinkaware App being deployed!

We had noticed a lovely outdoor Nativity  scene set in a square – Portugal doesn’t bother with taking decorations down soon after Christmas.  Oscar – in his K9ndness – peed on the Nativity scene!!!  Sorry to upset you devout believers – but – the saving grace was – he missed (thank goodness the typing key for ‘p’ is not near the ‘m’ key) the baby Jesus…  

 A lovely place to wander … pretty narrow and cobbled streets and lots of open squares.

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Walking into the centre along the aqueduct and town walls.

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The Porta de Beja with its ‘nora’, Arab water wheel won from the Moors in 1232 … amazing how the wood has lasted!

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The landscape is gently rolling hills with cork, olive trees and cattle.  The hill top towns are really only hill top mounds, but this view caught my eye.  The roof top terrace was crammed with kitsch that looked like lego.

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A really tasty half “dose” (portion) of veal and vegetable stew in one of the many squares of Serpa … and yes, not a drop of vino in sight … that is fizzy organge!

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We had to buy some and I can verify it is truly yummy, if a little whiffy.   “Perhaps the most famous traditional cheese in southern Portugal, Serpa gets its strong scent and spicy flavor from the unique climate, soil and pasture of the Alentejo region. Made from sheep’s milk, the cheese is curdled with vegetable rennet and wrapped in cloth to mature. Inside the natural rind, the flesh is so creamy that it almost spills when cut. Serpa is one of the most genuinely crafted and high quality cheeses from Portugal.”

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And a queijada da Serpa – a cheesecake sort of cake … a bit of a a gastro day.

Now to Luz…. a town completely rebuilt after the Aguavera dam flooded the area in 2002…..

We have rarely, if ever seen a more peaceful wild camping setting near major water – fairly remote – 2 other vans in a large lakeside area – completely peaceful – and a mega beautiful sunset – can our life get any better???    Not a ‘gnat’ within miles…

More about Luz and the dam in our next blog….


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Luz was rebuilt when they flooded the local area … we are right on the lake shore…. as the sun goes down.

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585-589: Moving on to the End of the World

585 – Monday 2nd January 2017:  Rain Soaked in Luz

Monday in 2017 – where did 2016 go? Answer – beautifully….  K did a quick supermercados shop and we returned the lovely ‘Oscar-ka-ka’ – Ford Ka – we would drive the model again.  Really nippy.

Walk to Luz (pronounced ‘Loos’) where no loose women live… It wasn’t really going to rain – was it?  Then what are those bits of moisture from the sky – is my nose running?  Alas, it was ‘baisteach’ – rain in Irish Gaeilge. We reached Luz to find all the coffee shops closed (or at least with no awnings out for those with dogs … something to do with the wind and rain?) and retreated by road instead of the knee-deep clover path we had arrived by.  Maps.me app is generally brilliant, but somehow we’d missed a turn and ended up circumnavigating, a la Henri the Navigator, clumps of bamboo, around ditches and finally over a wall.

We haven’t had rain for a month … really can’t complain!

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Another stick and ankle deep in clover.

 

586 – Tuesday 3rd January:  Golf and Danish Bastard

Margaret, Shirley and I decided the play the Algarve equivalent of the Ryder/Solheim Cup of Scotland v Ireland…  Nice to see that Margaret calls Shirley ‘the bum-biter’ – she bit our bums big time!  Margaret and I went sand castle building in bunkers while Shirley’s short game dominated.  A new word to us … “babu” = bloody awful but useful.  Another was a “mother in law” = M or S mother-in-law used to shoot sideways out of a bunker to extract herself.  We were sort of ‘bunkting’.  

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K had done laundry and run a doggydaycarecentre for the few hours, kindly.   A BBQ of an unknown fish, translated as croaker… hope no one croaked from it!  Cards – rummy and a new game to us called – Danish Bastard:  you just think you are going out when some Bar Steward makes you pick up a fistful of cards … and of course, post Championship celebratory drinkies.


587 – Wednesday 4th January: Cleaning and Super Supper

Morning run with Oscar – we will need to run separately and without him – he just pull us all over the place, if we can’t let him off the lead.  We cleaned Jez inside and had a major sort out – always satisfying.  We are still just about in the season of “Deck yer balls with bows of jolly”… although our decorations came down on 2nd Jan … can’t bear all that clutter and our Christmas balls constantly dropping from whence we had loosely masking taped them.  

One amusing interlude – fellow motorhomers chatting at our pitch – the gentleman seeing K said – “is that your daughter?” !!!  Huge compliment for K – but moi?  She needs to stop calling me Daddy now…

Shigs and Migs (sorry girls – I am having a Martini Cocktail as I write) – Shirls and Curls came over for an aperitif and continued to tutor us in the card game “Danish Bastard”!  Lots of calls of “you bar steward” and “bugger” ensued.  They then kindly took us out to the campsite restaurant for a super duper supper – buffet with loads of good food and vino.  It was to be our last evening together and there was a sense of sadness too.  We first met S&M near Inverness in June last year (already we have to say 2016 is last year!).  It was only a weekend, but we hit it off.  We both write up our travels in our blog, so we have got to know each really well through our reflections.  They have totally made Christmas and New Year for us and we know we will see them early summer in Scotland.

I’m enjoying relearning guitar chords on my super Christmas gift from my gorgeous K… Status Quo – be warned! 

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The Last Supper.  For a while.

 

688 – Thursday 5th January:  To the end of the world and beyond

After a fabulous time at Lagos Camping, we sadly said adieu to S and M and headed west for some 10 days of ‘wilding’.   Happy holidays to Boo, Poppy, Maigret and Sherlock!   We’ve never stayed on a site for so long …. it helped having the car to zip about in, but if we ever get to the stage where travelling palls or is too much, we reckon we could stop here for a couple of months.  It feels strange setting off in Jez, sort of familiar routines of packing up and doing checks, but unfamiliar through lack of recent use.  But it is good to be on the move again.  Still water stagnates.

Sagres – a massive fort, originally built by of Henry the Navigator and sacked by Sir Francis Drake in 1587 – he wrecked most of the coastal towns and fortifications around here – he must have been a very busy man.  The guide book describes him as a ‘privateer’  – more like a pirate really.  Amazing that Portugal is friendly to us, and certainly in the South students are offered French and English from grade 7, but 99% choose English.  The fort gave impressive views out along this cliff coast.

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A replica of the Portuguese-stake-my-land-cross that used to be placed on all new territories during the years of exploration and acquisition.

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Hitting the W coast and the Atlantic … Surfer territory.

Nightfall finds us peacefully at Cape St Vincent – the most southwestern point in Europe – Atlantic waves crashing in the darkness – just a few motorhomes for company – Oscar, ourselves and beautiful memories of our times with Shirley and Margaret – and of course, Boo and Poppydog!

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SW point of Portugal.  Pic taken by a couple of English lady walkers who were fascinated by the freedom of our lifestyle.

Now, I am unashamedly plagiarising Margaret and Shirley’s blog where Boo-the-dog gives his commentary and Poppy-the-tart usually gives a riposte of ’Tee Hee”.  The following is an interview between Richard Dimbleby (or did he hit the dust in 2016 too?) and our Oscar…

RD – Now Oscar – are you happy with your new owners?

O – They’re ok but they need to smarten up their act in the feeding me more often department.

RD – OK, noted, but what about the travelling?

O – It’s a bit boring lying on the floor of a nice 26’ foot tin can for a few hours – but when we stop, I let them both out for a pee. And a number 2 modestly – I don’t want them being messy – so I clear up after them, of course – they’re still being house trained by me.  James is the one I worry about – he wants to wave it all about and it spoils his aim but he’s OK.

RD – So you’re actually happy with life generally?

O – Definitely – but that Shirley is a real ‘bum biter’ – Boo and Poppy need to watch her – and Margaret the ‘Danish Starbewart’ – sorry Dicky – they keep adding gin to my rummy dinner…

And it’s goodnight from us at Vap Can Viventos…..

 

589 – Friday 6th:  Cliffs, Castles and Beaches

Morning – running and Pilates – Oscar was pulling a lot less than the other day… (he did not have J in his sights … the game “where’s James” and run to him is not the best when trying to run oneself!).  The most amazing coastal views for the run and stretches … it really cannot get any better than this.

We drove to a magical surfing beach at “Androphone” or it sounded like that? Actually Amado beach at Carrapateira – about 50 motorhomes parked up.  Plenty of surfers and loads of room for Oscar to run – even though he may have been tired after his interview last evening. He’s been booked by Sky for next week…  

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Amanda beach: great rocks and big wide sandy beach.

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Oscar found a friend to chase him- unusually larger than him.

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Surfer … we’ve not been tempted to get our wet suits on and I don’t think our small polystyrene boogy board would have fitted in here … they were all too good.

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Colours were just beautiful.

Then to Al Jazur (which in Arabic means ‘island’ – 10th Century castle and lovely views.  Actually James, it was Aljezur. Lunch and a walk up to the Moorish castle for the views.  

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Whilst we had lunch, I heard a few cow bells in the car park.  What?  

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View of the hills that we’re headed to tomorrow and in the foreground excavated Moorish house footings.

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This view is out to the estuary leading to the sea.

Next adventure was at our overnight stay – Villa Nova do Milfontes – the first time we’ve wilded alone since Dungeness in October!  Stunning cliff faces and we can hear the waves as K prepares prandials – gin and tonic for K and gin cocktail for moi… 

And Oscar is not having din with his gin dins tonight (would we?) – never…


580-584: Still on Holiday in the Algarve

580 – Wednesday 28th December:  Luz and Cleaning

Wednesday – already?  Mega cleaning – garage unpacking and floor washing – I used the ladder with the intention of climbing on to Jez’s roof – and wimped with lack of handrails – hence no roof washing.  K reorganised lots of cupboards – result, I cannot find my – socks!  Never mind, I can ‘reorganise’ something…   Motorhomers will know -when you unpack and then repack, things don’t quite go back where they should be?  

We drove down into Praia de Luz (pronounced ‘Loose’) – is nice – but ordinary.  Just discovered that this is infamous for Madeleine McCann … K bought a cream wool cardigan from one of the street stalls, who did the sob story that she had 100 children to feed and no sales!  Full of English and the bar where we had coffee had a Portuguese / English only menu.  No dogs signs for the beach.

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Lovely rocks again along this part o the coast.

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I forgot to add this pic to the last posting … on Christmas Eve when ‘home alone’ Oscar had unwrapped one of J’s Christmas pressies … so when it came to opening his own, he was an knew exactly what to do!

And here is Shirley’s Christmas song that she wrote and performed in Christmas Evening.  Boo is one of their dogs.  

A Christmas Song (sung to the tune of “Mary’s Boy Child”)

 

We’re all having fun in Portugal

Far away from ice and snow

While friends at home sit shivering

In several degrees below

 

Katherine and James and Oscar Dog

Have travelled from afar

Their van is packed with so much stuff

They’ve had to hire a car

 

Chorus

Tapas, chicken, Christmas pud

And jolly good company

I couldn’t eat another bite

Ah, go on, it’s Christmas Day.

 

Chris and Mary have joined us here

Bringing tidings and good cheer

They also bring their cocktail skills

And plenty wine and beer

 

Mags and Shirl love to celebrate 

And any excuse will do.

Someone has a birthday today

The baby Jesus and of course Boo!

 

Chorus

 

So Happy Seventh Birthday Boo!

One of our cheeriest kids

We’ll take you for a birthday walk

And avoid the cattle grids

 

Let’s raise a glass to absent friends

And to those we hold most dear

And give thanks for this Christmas Day

And all the gifts of this year

 

Chorus

 

581 – Thursday 29th December:  High Alte in Rocha da Pena

As I write this, our Oscar dog is sitting on K’s knee sprawled across her – and loudly “snoring”!!! He’s “Osnoring! Pic to follow…

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Back on subject – Alte is a small hill town and a cold wind prevailed – We had coffee and a nice picnic lunch. 

We drove to nearby Rocha da Pena – walked for a couple of hours on a limestone ridge with some beautiful mixed wildlife – and only the end of December – Spring flowers!  We met an English couple who just bought a house here and raved about the area.  Having been coming to the Algarve for over 10 years, they’d bought in the more fertile and less populated with Brits western Algarve.  We can see why they like the hills.

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The Nossa Senhora da Assuncao containing more wonderful carvings and rare blue Sevillian painted tiles.

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The Fonte Grande in Alte, where towns folk collected water and did washing.  Now a picnic area with tiles and statues dedicated to a local poet.

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Picnic lunch:  Oscar just gets water.  And yes, he’s up on the bench.

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Yummy Portugese custard tarts … warm.

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We’re going up there?

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We made it!  Wonderful views.

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A ridge dated from the Iron Age and used as part of a defence system by the Moors.

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Would that be ANOTHER stick, Oscar?

 582 – Friday 30th December:  Crumbling Cliffs in Carvoeiro

Lonely Planet describes Carvoeiro as a “cluster of whitewashed buildings rising up from tawny, gold and green cliffs backed by hills.”  Seemed like a good idea to walk along the cliff to a light lunch in the town …

Stunning scenery along the cliff walk – a walk which would have been banned by the HSE in the UK – but it was doable….. just.  Having scrabbled and largely kept Oscar on the lead as he has no sense regarding staying away from the crumbling cliff edge, we decided the cliff path was exhilarating, but just getting to the town was excitement enough.  We would go back to the car by road!

We met an English family in town – why Oscar’s fur feel funny?  That would be because K gave him a mega short crew cut!  She told the young lad that as a teacher she used to ‘improperly’ stroke the head of any students with new crew cuts … !?!  We explained about his origins – most questions came from a 10-year-old boy who lives in France and is completely bilingual. Oscar’s non-verbal communication is – ‘globalingual’.  The inevitable ice creams just launched themselves at us from a shop – yummy indeed.   Loads of hugely upmarket villas here. 

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So much new rock fall so fresh colours. 

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We hugged the fence on the left clambering up.

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Caves washed out from under where we’d walked!  Just ready for a big wave and then another part of the cliff will come crashing down!

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A recent landfall.

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No sex please, we’re British!  Saturday and Sunday are named, but Monday to Friday get numbers, starting with number two.
 

583 – Saturday 31st December: New Year’s Eve

K was lying in bed – and had a brainwave – I thought she was looking romantically at me with intent – she was gazing at the roof light thinking ‘”can I stuff my hubby up there?”  She can stuff the knocking out of me anytime… Let’s knock the knocking on the head now, James… We both crawled out through the romantic roof light and – cleaned the roof thoroughly (had a romantic kiss up there) and then cleaned the bodywork too – a very satisfying afternoon. 

The gorgeous girlies Shirls and Mags kindly drove us to the New Year fireworks in Lagos after a prandialissimo ‘KHC’ (K Haut Cuissine’.  Now Ocsardog doesn’t like noise – if somebody sneezes, he wonders where the earthquake is!  When the wireforks started, he commenced his quivering – and our bravest team member – the Rt Hon Member for Oscarbury in South Gloucestershower – retreated with O to a nearby bar and forced herself to drink port!!!   

“Bo Anno” to all our friends and families – everywhere…

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More help with my Pilates – at one point Oscar’s little Dutch friend Fluffy was helping too.

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584 – Sunday 1st December: Barragem Bravura Walk

The old braincells were in 2nd gear after a wonderful night with some Vino Collapso – thus our perambulations around the Baragem Bravura were cut somewhat short.  We do work in sync – we both weren’t feeling the planned mega trek.  How long shall we walk for?  10 mins, no make it 20 then we’ll turn.  We retreated to Jezville and barbecued  – and then to early zzzzburgh…. not even a wirecog!

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Barragem Bravura.

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Is it time to turn around?


Oscar is our second Welsh Springer Spaniel … even though he is most un Spaniel like.  

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Our Oscar.

Resting will

And I dug out a pix of our last Welsh Springer, Will the Wuss.  Oscar is definitely more butch and heavier set.

 

570-579: On Holiday from a ‘Holiday’ in the Algarve

570 – Sunday 18th December 2016:  Resident in Lagos

We left our really lovely pitch and at the Barragem Arade and headed back to Turiscamp, where we had stayed with the Aged P’s for 4 nights.  A quick stop to fill with LPG, which is easy to find over here and we arrived around lunchtime.  Just as we were hunting out the motorhome services and causing a traffic jam, Margaret and Shirley and their two pooches spotted us.  I went into a mega washing load – having established that my twin tub was not in fact broken … the last site in Olhao where I had used it, had blown the fuse.  Relief, and a good week’s washing plus bedding completed.  M and S (wonder if they get dubbed S&M – can’t imagine that they’re into hurting people!) joined us for a cuppa and a tour of Jez.

571 – Monday 19th: We Gets Wheels

Is it Monday?  One of the many joys of full time travelling is – what day is it?  Well, any day will do – every day is a holiday…  Katherine and Margaret did the fitness stretching class.  I took delivery of our hire car; whilst the campsite is possibly the best we’ve ever stayed on, it is not walking distance to much and we didn’t want to be moving Zez every other day.  The car will also give us access to some of the smaller hill towns.   With me behind the wheel … the first real car I’ve driven since April 2015 (!!!), we headed into Lagos (pronounced “Lagosh” – so we couldn’t avoid “oh my gosh we’re in Lagosh” quips) for a wander and and ice-cream.  The ice creams were delicious – not ‘Siciliano’ standard – do we worry?  Supermarket shopping… an ancient ‘Axiam’ car parked too close and scraped our Ka car a little, whilst I was sat in it with Oscar. The even more ancient driver in sign language vehemently denied everything blaming on me – ‘no blame culture’? …  Fortunately, we have a cover all policy and this little scrape will bend with the others on the car.  

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We dubbed the hire Ford Ka … Os-Ka-Ka.

572 – Tuesday 20th:  Silves

Another gem of a town – Portugal is growing in a major way on us…. cork shops – coffee – very quiet.  K’s purchase of cork items was the shop’s first of the day and the shop seller said the Algarve is quieter than normal for this time of year.  Suits us.  Quiet – a bit like Radio 3 – if you’ve heard the John Coleshaw comedy BB4 Radio show …. “Quiet.  Shhh – there’s nobody out there” .  Other classics from this programme were:   President George Bush wanted to visit ‘Afganistanshire’?  Vice P Dan Quale (allegedly) refused to visit Latin America because he didn’t speak Latin???  We love America…  Do get back on track, James… 

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The Silves version of the Roman Bridge … all to do with the style of construction, not age.

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Again, lots of storks roosting.  They make one hell of a clatter to communicate.

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The Cathedral.

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We took turns in the castle.  This was a cistern that now is used as an exhibition space.  However, when it use, the literage fed the whole town with water for a year.

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This well is dubbed the well of dogs, as a number to strays were flung down it only to reappear a few days later.  It is believed that an escape passage leads out into the countryside.

 

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Fabulous views all the way round the wall.

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Double knockers!  But not the same.   Moorish origin.  The right hand one is smaller and ladies should use this to knock.  The lone woman of the house then knew a lady was at the door and that it would be safe to open it.  But only, of course, if the robber / rapist male played by the rules.

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Picnic by the river on a thoughtfully provided bench; fortunately we had equally thoughtfully packed our chairs.

573 – Wednesday 21st December:  Are we Feeling Christmas Yet?

Dawn dawned at the usual hour for us – 0900 hours in military time – Katherine, Mary, Chris and Margaret did the fitness class – I had some (?) difficulty in forcing myself (oh, the pain) to stay in bed for a while longer… 

Shopped for Christmas decorations – thankfully, Portugal has not the UK style of over commercialisation of the festive season…but we are getting more more Christmassy… 

“Deck the halls with boughs of holly…”  We’ve learnt from the cellotape mistake of last year.  It pulled off some of the wood effect when the decs came down.  Using masking tape this year: definitely not as sticky as we have to keep re-sticking bits.

Margaret and Shirley brought Chris (M’s son) and Mary (wife of C) over for soup and cheese and a listen to Handel’s Messiah.  Back home, we’d often seek out a concert or carols and so we had our own bit of culture here.  

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Lights, tinsel and decorations … Oh and the saddest ever of Ponsettias, dropping leaves at a fast rate … should make it to Christmas Day, but not, perhaps New Year.

574 – Thursday 22nd December:  Alvor

Alvor is not far away and we didn’t visit the town, but it definitely the best beach we have seen for ages – it goes one for miles – stunning (have we used that word before on our travels – a lot?) sunset…fabulous!  We did a circular walk, starting along a path behind the dunes by the wide tidal estuary.

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Clam pickers at low tide.

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Lots of names picked out in stone … I wonder how often the stones are recycled.

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575 – Friday 23rd December: Faro

Faro is the capital of the Algarve, so relatively large.  The walled old town centre is nice to visit, but not too much to see and therefore maybe not return.   Our visit weather was cold to begin – a warming coffee in a local bar – and then – wall to wall sunshine!  The TIC chap told us to hurry along to a Church dedicated to St Francis as it had some really good blue tiles depicting his life (no pix allowed).  A really nice Cathedral – good views from the roof top walk… an excellent lunch – with – chips for moi….   We even bumped into Margaret, Shirley, Chris and Mary … small world!  We then headed to the Faro Forum … massive shopping mecca.  I stayed in the car with Oscar, once we’d found a parking place and watched the pre-Christmas stressed frenzy of people trying to get parked.  

K: I bought  replacement hard drive as the main one we used had packed up and Seagate would have wanted over £500 to rip the data from it !!!  Fortunately most data and pix were backed up to another hard drive and Dropbox, but we’ve lost the albums that we’d uploaded to iTunes … they’ve been dragged into the replacement iTunes, but having lost all their metadata, they appear as tracks with no artist or album attached … if anyone has any ideas ….?  There was also a massive Jumbo superstore, so i bought what I needed for Christmas.  The Algarve, is NOT cheap.  I spotted a bottle of Brockman’s Gin – a snip at EUR38 … it was delivered at home for under £30.  It stayed on the shelf!  I did find some Bols Advocat – now that is Christmassy 🙂

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Dome full of christmas Trees decorated by the local community.

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Typical old town street.

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The Se – the Cathedral.

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Views from the top …

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Beautiful blue tiles inside …

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With wonderful baroque wood carvings …

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… Check out the number of cherubs – enough to open a kinder garten!

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This one’s trouble … he’s a rapper!

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Small, but a Chapel of Bones.

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One of the old town gates.

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Would that be chips James?  Must be another lunch then!!!

576 – Saturday 24th December:  Christmas Eve

Running quite early, I went back to my roots – some sprint training repetitions – 600 metre reps with slow recoveries – magic endorphins – or is it ‘el dolphins’ – I had quite forgotten the benefits of intensive exercise.  

Oscar got a rather severe trim … two months worth of fur and fluff … a little too bald in places; we’re having to apply sun lotion!

Supper with Margaret, Shirley, Mary and Chris in the bungalow … Haute Cuisine salmon and too much wine…  

The forecast is good for our second Christmas Day away – we hear it will be the warmest Christmas for many years in the UK.   

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OK, we can live with this!

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Oscar helping and doing his Pilates 100’s!

577 – Sunday 25th December:  It Must be Christmas Day!

A slow start … something to do with K’s foggy brain …. too much imbibed last night.  A sort of American style supper day – Tapas at ours at 1:00 pm, rest – dinner at S&M’s later – lots of silly games – pass the orange via bodily parts – enough of that…  A yummy Portuguese Chicken casserole and Mary made the most stunning Christmas Pudding, ever!  Songs, recitations, Charades – I even managed to imitate Robby Williams song ‘Angels’ for my Charade… Note the silly sunglasses…

If you can’t be with family, being with good friends in 20 C sunshine cuts it pretty well.  It’s a good life…

We remembered absent friends in our toasts… 

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Just how photogenic is Shirley – sporting her Xmas sun glasses.

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We all had sunglasses and hats …

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… except Oscar who just had tinsel, which did stay on all day!

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Don’ ask!  It involved two oranges and gales of laughter.

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And we only met yesterday!

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Racing Santas:  oops two hit the deck and mine is doing an about turn. 

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Main course and pud in the warmth of the bungalow.    The panorama shot did something a bit strange to the visage of our menfolk and Mary really does not have a bottle up her nose!

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Shirley singing her especially written song for Christmas.  We were all in it and sang along to the chorus (except me, as I can’t sing a note!)

578 – Monday 26th December:  Praia da Roche, near Portimao

Beaches in Portugal are wonderful – in December – August must be overcrowded – we like ‘uncrowded’ places…. last Christmes in Punta Braccetto in Sicilia  was great but here there is more to do all around – ‘Ola’ to Dan and our friends in that lovely area – magic sunsets there too.  Walking along the cliff top and then on the beach  – ‘whoops no wallet’ – so no ice creams – but – (but K had preprared  a magic picnic).

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Amazing rock formations.

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Portomao looks totally uninviting … a town planners embarrassing scene of high rises.  I keep wanting to call it Torremolinas.  Can’t begin to imagine how packed this beach much be in high season with the amount of accommodation.

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Oscar joining me on our picnic bench.

 

579 – Tuesday 27th December: In Search of Shoes and Needles

We headed into Portimao centre in search of new running shoes for K – Aged P’s pressie and the correct sized knitting needles.  No luck today: shops shut for holidays or the wrong staff in.  

Evening BBQ – with S&M – M&S?  Sparks and Mincers?  Spanks and monsters?  Steady, James…  K is a pyromaniac with a firelog, as we know, Oscar… we are forbidden to mess with said ‘lirefog’!  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

567-569: Wilding in the Algarve and Alentejo

567 – Thursday 15th December 2016:  Minas de Sao Domingos

We departed from Alcoutim with some sadness – one of our gems in Portugal so far…..and a lovely free aire.

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Alcoutim aire over looking the town, river and Spain.  Jez is behind the service point.

Heading north, the roads into the Alentejo region became a bit “bockety” – an Irish word for ‘uneven’ – Amelia – you will know this saying…. all cupboards rearranged involuntary.

Minas de Sao Domingos is a bit of a ghost town – copper mining took place for 100+ years up to 1965 – an English company was in charge and they didn’t treat their employees very well – lots of tiny cottages lining the streets – the town council is trying to rebuild anew to attract tourist revenues – the old character will be sadly lost though – progress….?

Armed with ‘MapsMe’, we set off for an exploratory perambulation – a nice cafe with wine – well, its almost a very important birthday – tomorrow!  K will be xx years young…

Stunning white church on the hill, much construction activity – and the inevitable photo by moi – of a Caterpillar excavator (K:  You should see his collection of earth moving models!  Beats etchings – just!).  Public showers – no washing facilities in the workers cottages. The English cemetery was for workers from Cornwall – it is said that soil from Cornwall was imported for the graves – only 6 still standing. The colours in the open cast mine slopes are striking – green, ochre and yellow – with deep water and sky refections. Another glass of local wine – 1 Euro for 2 glasses! – about 45 pence for a medium glass of vino – Bristol price – £5.00?

Oscar played his ‘you won’t take my stick away’ game again – his ‘happy dance’.   We rounded off with a visit to the Post Office and the supermarket – and a short visit to a miners cottage – a real piece of Portuguese history…

Quiet in our aire tonight – we may run tomorrow around the nearby lake….  wishful thinking!!!

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Another nice water side aire – tree lined and loads of space – 12 vans, 6 of which were UK vans – are there any motorhomes left in UK? Lots in Portugal, every where we’ve been…

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Hundreds of single storey white worker cottages.

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A motorhomer told me ages ago that lots of Portuguese villages have public showers for the residents.  We’ve not had to use them, but they looked clean.

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I really liked the pinnacles atop the columns.

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The glass of white costing only EUR0.50 … we are so happy with these prices.

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As well as communal showers, this was a communal oven . A couple of them around the town.

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The English cemetery.

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The pit was open cast and when it stopped being worked in 1965 it was allowed to slowing fill with water.  Not suitable for swimming as all the minerals make the water toxic as well as an odd colour. 

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Seriously amazing colours.

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The ruins of the offices and the loading bays for the ore. 

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It puzzled us … newer than the mine workings and what was it supposed to be used for?  J spotted the small plaque … a art installation to remember the mine workers.

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A typical mine workers cottage.

 568 – Friday 16th December:  Mertola and K’ Birthday

Cards and tea in bed for K … J not a graphic artist, had made me a card … it even stood up 🙂  I had been royally treated by J who had taken pity on my constant gasps of annoyance when trying to use my iPad (think it may have been version 1! – it is definitely dying!) and had bought me a new one.  So happy … he’d involved my whole family just about.  Chris had bought it in the States, Clare bought me a cover for it and the Aged P’s bought it out with them.  Such a happy bunny!

J did all the morning chores, whilst I walked Oscar until I could not cross a ford due to the recent heavy rains.  We only had to drive a short way to Mertola.  We parked up at the top of the town which was handy for the castle and old town.  From the top we spied the waterfront parking … we’d eschewed it as the road looked tight.  Another van was there so it was doable … we squeezed Jez down and fortunately most of it was one way.  Parked cars are such a nuisance when opposite overhanging building and lamp posts!

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The town wall falls away on the right from the castle above another waterway and gorge … really impressive from afar.

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The church on the site of a Moorish Mosque.

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The castle gates were open and consequently free.

We left Oscar in the van; watching us from a window as we departed and we headed to a restaurant we’d spotted that looked full of locals.  For the first time in ages, we were able to eat inside.  J’s Migas is a local dish … using up stale bread crumbs, mixed with garlic and green olives.  It was much lighter than it looked and really tasty.  Again portion sizes are ridiculous and there was a lot left and this was with no starter!

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Minas with pork and sausage.

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My rabbit in wine … I made good headway, but had help with all the chips!

Oscar was asleep … on the table when we returned!  I left J sleeping off his Migas (in the bed, not the table) and took Oscar for a walk exploring a bit more of the old town.  The guide books described Merotola as an open air museum.  It has been largely unchanged since its Moorish rulers.  A small supper of cheese and port rounded off a very special day.

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Part of a Roman lookout over the river from when Mertola was an important port.

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The original Moorish street layout

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569 – Saturday 17th December:  Barragem Arade Walk

Given the narrow streets and being Saturday, we set the alarm for 7.00 so we could move Jez back up to the big carpark for breakfast before locals started blocking the road with their cars.  We did what for one chap to move his ‘shooting brake’ towing a trailer with about 5 English Springers.

We keep commenting on how attractive the scenery around this part of Portugal is … not stunning but really pleasant with always something to look at.

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We headed down to a wild spot on the Arade, that I think Sarah, Mac and Rockydog had told us about.  We saw some motorhomes in a massive carpark just under the dam and pulled in.  Lots of space and sun.  Another parking a bit further up was really congested – not our scene.  Only a conclave of 8 pretty permanent German motorhomes and one permanent British van here.  They must be resident for months, given the worn paths around the truck.  An old M reg camper van pulled in not far from us and J went to say hello.  Mary who wilds for the last 10+ years in the Algarve for the Winter – she would travel all the time, but has a 3 month Winter reprieve from looking after her 92 year old Mum.  She’s backpacked extensively around the world – Australia, the States, where she arrived with no money and obviously all over Europe.  She put us to shame … she keeps life simple in her van, has done a lot of the repairs herself … including adding 3 sachets of pepper to a leaking radiator to seal it up.  She made J and I feel very un-intrepid.  She is an avid walker and gave us some advice on the route around the lake.  She must have thought we looked fitter than we are, as the walk took about 4 hours and we reckon was at least 12 miles.

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Barragem Arade.

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Check out Oscar wading through the muddy puddles!

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I was convinced that these mushrooms are the same as the ones we sampled in the bar at Alcoutim … a nice little harvest transported in a dog poo sack … so handy.  Sadly, when I tried to cook them they were very bitter and had to be thrown away.

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Mary had not warned us about the very steep scree slope.  My balance is shocking, my feet slide uncontrollably and I have a real fear of falling over … solution: come down crab like on my hands.  Oscar decided to help!  Honestly, it was a lot steeper than it looks!!!