633-642: Porto with Roberto!

633-634 – Sunday 19th February 2017 & Monday 20th:  Chores and Catching Breath

Such a lot seems to have happened in the past week or so – these posts may be a little truncated…  In advance of our friend Robert (from Brizzle) arriving, we repaired to a campsite for 2 nights – jobs – laundry, cleaning Jez – and resting, our team..


635-636 – Tuesday 21st & Wednesday 22nd February:  Robert and Porto

Tuesday – ‘Robert’ day.  Always a bit worried about taking our van into an airport (we got really stuck in a narrow car park in Chardonnay at Bordeaux Airport) – it was a relief to find an adjacent parking with a wide access and loads of space.  Easyjet bang on time – and off we headed to Porto Centro-ish. Robert had come from cold and Drizzle Brizzle – to Porto in blazing sunshine and 19C!  Our identified free overnight parking was fairly central – just along the river Douro.  The last road down to it was narrow – and with 2-way traffic – nervy stuff – but safe. Truly excellent parking with about 10 vans. Lunch on board (KHCS) – ‘K Haute Cuisine Soup’ – and the perambulations began.  Only 3 km to the bridge.  

We passed a queue for a river cruise – instant decision to go – but dog friendly?  ‘Si’ – the owner had dogs and we assured him that the boys were placid – Robert, James and Oscar!    Stunning tour – Porto has 6 river bridges – different designs – one steel arch truss railway bridge designed by Gustav Eiffel’ colleague whilst working with Eiffel et Cie.  And the double decker iconic one, by the same architect, but by this time he had parted company from Eiffel.  We passed by all the Port establishments (didn’t sample) – wandered the streets – and took wine – Robert is a Bass beer man and sampled the local Brock Super lager.  He late developed quite a taste for white port.

Wednesday, our intrepid tour guide K had us booked on a 9:20 am (!) free walking tour – an hours walk from the van!  Brekkie was in the middle of the night, it seemed (our guest doesn’t normally rise early either).  The walk to the start included loads of steps – uphill…. We made it in time and drew breath….we were told the walk would be 3.5 hours long!  All told, this amounts to about 6 hours on foot…. we were now members of the Royal Porto Light Infantry (or RIPL – well, it scans better…).  Our guide was Eugenia and we had 2 other girls (German and French) for company.  Porto is quite something – Libraria Lello e Irmao (and worldwide famous bookshop) cathedral, buildings, squares – even the MacDonalds is a listed building with Art Deco and Art Nuveau interior.  I could see Hercule Poirot scoffing a MacPortoDeco sandwich!  

We rested for very welcome coffee and cake – which attached itself to my beard (as usual) – and visited a famous guitar maker – they explained about Porto and Coimbra Fado guitars. “Fado” is the folk music of Portugal – haunting, sad and very beautiful – Eugenia played us some of the music.  The old railways station has the most amazing tiled murals – all telling a separate story.

One of the bridges is 2 level – car traffic below – and Metro rail on top – with pedestrians wandering along the rail tracks!  Health and Safety?   

Lunch – Eugenia recommended a restaurant and the local ‘sandwich’ a “Francesina”.  It’s a cliche to call a meal ‘a heart attack waiting to happen’ – this so-called sandwich is enormous – with ham, sausage, cheese,bread and all ‘cooked’ in a homogenous cube with fried egg, sauce and chips!  Just look at Robert’s expression in the restaurant!  He ate it though – I managed half – and K sensibly had a small sausage.

On our way back to Jez, we couldn’t help but notice how stunning the river looks by night – with the reflections.  Doggydinner was late – whoops, sorry, Oscar…. we may have stopped for a small port on the way home!

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The Ponte de Dom Luis 1, completed in 1886.  A very clever design with an upper and lower deck.  The arches reach 172m hight, is 385m long and all that wrought iron weighs over 3000 tons.

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Hooray – Oscar looked calm and was allowed on board.

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The old Eiffel Maria Pia railway bridge 1876 with the new one behind.  Only closed in 1991.  I would not have fancied being in a train crossing in wind … it is very narrow with open sleepers.

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Ribeira: a warren of winding lanes with bars and restaurants.

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Some of the port lodge flags in Vila Nova de Gaia …. we recognised most of them!

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Outside the cathedral – a lovely Manueline Pillory, still with its hooks.

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Aah!  No wonder Porto keeps being voted best city destination and is getting very popular.


Lello e Irmao bookshop 1906:  apparently it is so popular that there is now an EUR4 entry fee.  It is considered to be one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world.  Our guide told us that there were lots of Porto links with JK Rowling, as she had been briefly married to a local chap here, until his physical abuse drove her back to the UK.  Porto claims that many of the design features for Hogwarts came from the bookshop.  Salazar Slitherin is named after the Dictator.


Igreza dos Clerigos … we’d just climbed for an hour to get up here, no need to climb the tower too!


To complete with Lisbon, Porto built the Avenida dos Aliados in early 1900’s.  It has a French Boulevard feeling with some super art deco and art nouveau buildings.


The McDonalds complete with its art deco features … Robert really did not want to be photo’d in front of a McDs!  But he did not purchase, honest!


Sao Bento railway station 1916 and a feast of tiles telling the story of transport and historic scenes.


Transport above, history in blue.


Fado guitars with 10-12 strings.  The Lisbon and Coimbra versions.


Our walking tour took us onto the upper deck of the Ponte Dom Luis – we shared the space with the Metro!  Apparently if gets so crowded in summer that Porto is thinking they will have to encase the pedestrians for their own safety.


View off the bridge looking down onto Vila Nova de Gaia, where all the port lodges are.


Ribeira … looks like unsteady cardboard structures.


Inside the old town wall.  Isn’t it lunchtime yet?


The Francesina – wood oven baked.


637 -Thursday 23rd:  Barcelos Market

We went to Barcelos – for the market – well it’s the biggest in Portugal – everything – except meat and fish – which we wanted…  Lots of ‘headed’ chickens (as opposed to headless ones) – Oscar didn’t much fancy the crowds.  Directional signs – to everywhere – except the meat and fish – well, we could probably get meat and fish in London, Paris and Las Vegas – but it wasn’t really convenient, just then…

We has a nice run before market time along the riverside…..

Now, to Braga…and a nice secluded campsite for 2 nights.

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I’ll take two!  Could have picked up some pretty song birds too.

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Where next then?  Check out those matching stripes!


Braga municipal campsite … EUR15 per night with 16 amp.  BBQ night.


638-639 – Friday 24th and Saturday 25th:  Braga & Bom Jesus

It’s Carnival time in Portugal these days – lots of children in lovely outfits on the streets. She wouldn’t sit still, but we spotted a toddler as a little chick, thankfully Not on the way to market.

Sharp-eyed Robert noticed a sign – for a – walking tour (after Porto, he might have learned better) – and we ‘coffee’d’ whilst awaiting the guide. But, the start was actually about 1km away, we observed late….  Olympic-style walk racing was now a priority – with K and O in the vanguard.  Just in time, we greeted Paolo -a young Masters graduate from the city.  A 2 hour tour was promised – and he introduced the history of Braga first – the mixture of Moors, Spanish, Gothic and Manuelian influences…

Saturday – Bom Jesus (“Good Jesus”) – the star attraction of the Braga area. The Stations of the Cross paved the way to a Cathedral on the top of – the most gigantic set of steps. – everything in reflective white.  Visually a huge impact with views of Braga and the surrounding countryside on all sides… 

Coffee and ice-cream before descending – to Jez again.


We’d seen aisles of costumes in supermarkets … seriously ALL the children join in.


The new gate with the coat of arms of the very powerful bishop … Braga is the Canterbury of Portugal …


… with the oldest cathedral – design styles are Romanesque and Manueline, with a Gothic porch.


You little devil!


The grooves show where a revolving door used to be – for unwanted babies to be placed in the Monastery.


Braga has lots of squares with fountains … can’t remember all the symbolism on this one….


This one has a phoenix who has stabbed her heart with her beak to feed her children.


A marmite building.  I loved the blue tiles and balconies … someone else who shall remain nameless … Robert, thought it was OTT.  The Palacia do Raio now houses the museum.



At the bottom of the steps up to Bom Jesus – conceived in 1722 by the very small Bishop … we saw his minuscule shoes – 4’1” tall.



About a third of the way up … there are three sections built at different times.  The lower has 14 chapels with the stations of the cross.  The middle the Five Senses and finally the Three Virtues.  And yes we did feel virtuous!  Especially me as this is my third visit … as a grumbling teen when I could not understand why my parents had not forked out for the funiculare.  And then, it slowly dawned on me that we all came again abut 5 years ago when we were in Portugal to celebrate the Aged P’s 50th wedding anniversary!



That orange bowl goes everywhere … O needed a drink …


… and so did we.


Grotty!  Sorry, grotto!


Saturday 25th cont…  Guimeraes

An initial free parking (possibly overnight – with a faint possibility of seeing 6-Nations rugby? The self-appointed parking attendant (Portuguese) greeted us in fluent Yorkshire dialect! He had lived in UK for some years in Yorkshire/Lincolnshire and talked about returning as an ‘illegal’ – what happened to ‘EU free movement of workers across the continent?  

The town search for a rugby bar was fruitless – but the wine was good in the square with lots of bars…..  Eventually, K took O back to the van and young Robert and I supped a bit more…

Our ‘Yorkshire’ friend had advised K to move car parks for the overnight – party night and ‘Carnaval’ – wisely, she piloted the van to higher ground and more space – just as R and I arrived back from non-rugby bar – I then followed the game (Ireland v France) by Internet text – a victory for the Irish keeps their Championship hopes alive. To keep the balance, England overcame a spirited Italian side on Sunday – it’s all boiling up nicely indeed…


Guimaraes was the first Portuguese capital, when Alfonso Henrique proclaimed himself king in 1139.  It is beautifuly medieval with lots of overhanging buildings and squares.



The cap in the doorway was singing along LOUDLY to his music.  A rather nice red … I managed two before ….


… Oscar and I both felt cold so had to have a cuddle!

641-642 – Sunday 26th & Monday 27th:  Along the Duoro before it floods to the Atlantic

On being asked what he fancied seeing next, Robert responded with the Atlantic.  We plotted a route along the Duro to just S of Porto.  We’d planned to stop at a town for late morning coffee but ‘P’ Poor Planning and lack of obvious parking for our big beastie meant we just kept going to Campsite at Parque Seguiresos – plain site – price Eur 16 for 2 nights – 3 peeps and 1 doggo!!!  Plus 10 amp electric, which we managed to blow a couple of times!  OK – plain adequate facilities…. close to the beach for a couple of wet dog walks … K and R!  James, where were you?

Pouring rain, and more teeming rain, and more stair rods of rain for Monday.  Just as it started to abate, we headed off for a farewell good lunch.  Doggy bags of both some starters and mains and no room for pud!

The week with Robert has flown by – nights of Crib with K, all sorts of medium loud rock music from 60s to 80s – especially the Eagles – the last night doing Crosswords – R – you are so sharp especially at anagrams – what’s an anagram of anagram?  Grannymarg?  Mannymarg? Grabagranny?  Over to you, Robert.  And i know he’ll proof read this and find numerous spelling errors and unnecessary explanation marks!



625-627: Of Science and Religion

625 – Saturday 11th February 2017: Fatima and Rugby

Brought up as a staunch Catholic, I still hold lots of beliefs that are not easily explained logically or scientifically – a good friend (sadly deceased) strong Catholic became an agnostic because he (as a scientist) could not reconcile his science to religion.  We had been to Lisieux in France and were disappointed – the place is dirty and unkept – why – the shrine to St Therese?

Fatima is immaculate and huge – the square rivals St Peters in Rome – the white Basilica is sympathetic and dates from 1953.  The new church at the end of a wide colonnade seats 9,000 worshippers and was completed in 2007.  Watching the faithful light candles at the scene of one of the apparitions and the believers making their way on their knees hundreds of metres to the shrine – we couldn’t but be impressed – there are strong beliefs here…  People are obviously taken by the fact that 3 small children were at the heart of all this.  2 died at the ages of 9 and 10 and the third died age 97 in 2005.  Well worth the visit, whatever one’s creed.  

Well, it does me good to say that Ireland woke up at rugby today and scored 9 tries in Rome – I feel sorry for Conor O’Shea and Italy – but he has a longer term plan – oh dear, it had to come out “Rome wasn’t built in a day”…

(By the way, England won, also.)


The Sanctuary with its 65m tower.


And the esplanade twice the size of St Peter’s Square in Rome.  And we saw pictures of it packed, especially on 12 & 13th May and October when pilgrims arrive to commemorate the Shepherd children’s sightings of the Virgin and an angel.  We watched people slowly make their way down the marble path to the right of the pic on their knees.



The windows tell the tale of the sightings.


All three of the Shepherd Children are burried here, the two girls together.


An inferno melting the several tons of candle offerings on the site of one of the sightings.


626 – Sunday 12th February:  Dinosaurs, Knights Templar and a Monastery 

To cut to the chase – we have seen Dinosaur footprints from – yes believe it – 175 million years ago – even before Bruce Forsythe was born!!!  The site proves that America was once joined to Europe.  The staff were amazing (as usual in Portugal) and so informative in perfect English. It rained – but we were prepared for that.  These beasties were up to 30 metres long and weighed in at 70 tonnes – 17 times the weight of Jez – even without our wine!  


Monumental Natural das Pegadas dos Dinossaurios:  The site was a quarry and the excavations were deep … all those layers of subsequent rock.


You can make out some of the tracks here – one was 175m There are several which proves that these sauropod herbivores travelled as a pack.  The enthusiastic attendant spoke really good English and explained that the site had very rare conditions:  it was a lagoon with no tidal water to erase the prints.  The muddy water contained calcium carbonate which created a crust over the prints and protected them.  They helped to prove tectonic plate theory, that Europe was once attached to America.  Interestingly this place gets only a few lines in one of the guide books … the attendant said that people from Fatima do not promote it as it science and contradicts religious belief.  Surely there is room for both.


Up close you could make out the toes.


For scale.

On to Tomar – free parking by the river for overnight, we walked up to the Castle and Convent – Oscar with us – we had left him in the van twice in the last couple of days. We took turns for the visit – huge and hugely impressive convent/monastery – Knights Templar originally – immense structures and the K photos tell a a lot. Back to our Jez and more of Tomar planned for tomorrow …

Oscar’s pre-next diary note: (We were not allowed to read this before publishing.)

“Look here – see – they left me twice in 2 days – now boyos (Welsh, you see) – I cannot admit to them that I’m getting used to it – that would be madness. But, I am developing my routines – I arrange things as I like them – ok pulling their coats off the hooks was a bit of a boo boo – they should buy proper gloo gloo – but it sniffed well – made me feel a high. The hooks can be reused…  I straighten the rugs (my way) and make nice imprints (I think) on the dashboard – art,it is…  When I saw them returning yesterday, I showed my usual extruderance and leaped up at the window (they like to know I missed them).  I saw a switch thing and put my paw on it – and ‘hocus pokeus’, it opened the blinking window!  They praised my K9 endeavours – so next time, I may try the cooker controls – not sure about the spark switch – I haven’t been trained in Fire Extinguisher usage – I suppose you pull the plug and point it somewhere?”

“I wasn’t going to mention but – K arose from her slumbers – at 10:00 am this morning – standards Katherine, you know…. slippage may not be toiletrated!”


The Knight’s Templar on the pavements.


No idea of the size of the complex from this angle. The C12 castle contains the Convento de Cristo – the headquarters of the Knights Templar.  The Knights were founded in 1119 to protect pilgrims visit ing the Holy Land.  They became a strictly organised and semi religious gang.  Members took a vow of poverty, but that did not stop them accepting land and riches in return for military victories.  In Portugal they played a key part in expelling the Moors.  By the C14 they had become so strong that the French and Portuguese Kings disbanded the order.  However, the Portuguese King reinstated them under a different name and his control.  They pretty much funded the Age of Discoveries started under Henry the Navigator.





An exhibition about medicine and its development within monasteries.


Sorry about the number of pix … I have got keen on the Manueline architecture … last years it was the Scilian Baroque!


Just love all those curves.




One of the main sights is the C12 Charola: based on the Rotonda of Jerusalem’s Holy Sepulchre, with a central octagon of alters.  It is said that the circular design enabled the Knights to attend mass on horseback.



The longest dormitary, I’ve ever seen.  Doors off on either side for Friars’ cells.


The Manueline window.


From the roof of one of the cloisters … think I counted 5 cloisters.

627 – Monday 13th February:  Tomar-2-Not-2-Be and Batalha 

Hard and noisy rain overnight – not conducive to continuous sleeping… However, out to run early-ish. K and O ran 4km (and got wet) and I – a lot less (in the dry) – but, we are getting back into it. We had intended seeing more of Tomar, but a security guard at our (market) parking advised us that we needed to leave in a couple of hours – so up “we rose and twitched our mantle blew – to fresh pastures new” – Lycidas by John Milton – abridged. 

Batalha the destination – another monastery to view.  Sadly, we left our alarmed dog – Oscar. As we exited the van, we heard him mutter “What’s with these people and blankety monasteries, anyway? They’re all the same – towers, pinnacles, colonnades, promenades, rosy posy windows and gargoyles!  The face of a monkey spouting out rainy water over your head – exciting or what? I can spout water on them from my drinking bowl, if that’s what turns them on…”

It was very different, Oscar.  Manuelian, Gothic, unfinished chapel, tomb of the unknown soldiers and just hugely impressive.

In the afternoon, we rested and did some admin – and K planning for the next adventures – and no rain – sunshine, we hope!

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Mosteiro de Santa Maria de Vitoria, built to commemorate the 1385 battle Aljubarrota when 6,500 Portuguese defied the odds and repelled the 30,000 strong Spanish army.  Thus securing the Portuguese throne for the House of Avis, through Dom Joao, the illegitimate son of Fernando I.  It has an instant wow factor with its flying buttresses, pinnacles and ornate windows and doorways.  On the left is the Capelas Imperfeitas, the unfinished chapel, commissioned in 1437 – huge columns head skyward.  It was abandoned in favour of Jeronimos monastery in Belem.  Joao I and his wife Philippa of Lancaster are buried here, as are their 4 sons, including Henry the Navigator.

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The Unfinished Chapel – more Manueline Architecture.

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Much of the stained glass inside the Church was replaced after the 1755 earthquake, but the sun came out … finally.

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This glass is original and was developmental from mid C14.

IMG 7589The Royal Cloisters have the most amazing Gothic arches embellished with …. Manueline tracery.  

IMG 7586In the Chapter House lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers form the First World War.

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Limited off lead walking for O, but we did find the Ponte da Boutaca 1862 with its 4 empty towers.

622-624: Prisoners and Murdered Lovers

 622 – Wednesday 8th February 2017:  Penitents of Peniche

AM and K leaped into action – running shoes and kit on and Oscar at the ready – off they went for a 4km run – the furthest she has run for weeks/months?  I (excuse coming up, James?) rested my brawn, brain and back!  As the parking area was free – quite a few vans – we decided to stay 2 nights and enjoy the area.  We walked into town after breakfast – coffee and custard cake…  I had slept badly so I retired to have a sleep catch up – K and O has a marathon walk – about 11km in all.  Afternoon – I had revived myself and we perambulated to Dictator Salazar’s notorious prison for his political prisoners……  Oscar’s thoughts ringing in our ears “They’ve blankety blank left me again in the van – I’m no political poisoner – I vote Plaid Crumbly in Wales and the Deservative Party in England”!  We can see an Omail going to the Union, again…

A truly grim reminder of what happened only about 40-50 years ago – and not just in Portugal…

The town Lace Museum was a gem – including a very informative film with English sub titles.

Supper was sardines, we think, bought from the fisherman who knocked at the door last night.  He tried to sell us a massive bag for EUR10, but what would we do with that much fish?

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Peniche women supplemented the household income with bobbin lace making.
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The rocky cost had massive waves breaking with a periodic ‘boom’ as they hit the rock.

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Oscar and I had the odd shower from the spray.

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I was so close to the Lighthouse, I kept going …. it looked closer than it was and then there was the rest of the peninsula to walk … fine on a non-back-to-running-day.

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From the light house viewing platform, I could see the nature reserve islands of Berlenga.

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The approach to the Fortress – this was the sight Salazar’s political prisoners would have first seen of their new ‘home’’.  Originally a C16 castle, it has also seen service as a refuge for soldiers from the Boer War, a temporary home in 1970’s for refugees from newly independent African Portuguese colonies and now the town museum.  The council seized a vacant moment in the 1980’s to locate the town museum here.

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Visitors were ‘received’ by the prisoners here.

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Some of the prison cells overlooking the exercise yard.

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A number of inmates effected an escape in 1960, but we could find out very little as most of the info was only in Portuguese, except that Alvaro Cunhal went to Russia and was the Head of the Portuguese Communist Party.  He later served in the government.

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Drying fish in town.

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At the Lace museum there were some superb examples.  To keep the skills being handed down, there is a Lace Making School with classes for all ages.  I watched an older lady deftly spin and twist the bobbins.  Not for me … too complicated – I’m still regularly unpicking my jumper

623 – Thursday 9th February:  Touristy Obidos

Question for our reader(s?) – how many of you have stripped stark naked and showered in a supermarket car park?  That many?  Well, we did it (showered, that is!) in the Intermarche car park – do we need to say it was in the van?  Otherwise, we might have seen the inside of the Penichenciary…  K arranged more philaundering as we bathed….

All motorhome services at Intermarche as well – fully serviced and cleaned – we set the compass for Obidos.  Our overnight parking App showed a nice small aire with services right beside the town – and a ‘trace’ of UK vans – well, if 2 is a brace – why not 3 for a ‘trace’.  One motorhomer chap turned out to be a Chicago Cubs fellow-fan.

Oscar accompanied us to the town – simple and lovely (yes, Oscar – you are lovely) – lived in and lively. Lots of Ginga sellers but nowhere to sit outside for a nip. Nice walking around the perimetre and at last we saw some tables outside for a glass of vinho – just as we finished, the rains came down – hotfoot back to Jez.  It rained cats and dogs (where does that come from, Oscar?) during the night – prompted by my cooking? Maybe not. I produced (eventually) a Risotto for 2 very small people (Lilyputian portions) – not my finest culinary hours!  It will get better, James…

Sleep – and rain…

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Porta da Vila with C18 tiles and the initial evidence of ‘touristy’.

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All along the street the sour cherry liqueur Ginja was being sold.  There are 3 main producers locally, but none were offering tours – I had emailed two!

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Walking the walls was an option, but not one that J agreed to take!  Something to do with heights and lack of barrier.

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The Pousada occupied the castle at one end of the town … liked the look of the dining room window, but that was as close as we got, given a main dish was around EUR31!

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Is that my boy coming in for a cuddle?

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A number of book shops in the town; this one inside a church.

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The Pillory is docrorated with a fishing net, the emblem of Dona Leonor (wife of Joao II) to commemorate the fishermen who tried to save her drowning son.  The Santa Maria church is where the future Alfonso V was married to his cousin, Isabel in 1441.  Not remarkable in that, except that he was 10 and she only 8!

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Inside more beautiful blue tiles and the wooden celling was painted by Josefa de Obidos in 1661, unusually a female painter when the only ‘careers’ for women were wife, mother or nun!

 624 – Friday 10th February:   Alcobaca and Porto de Mos

Alcobaca has the largest church in Portugal – the nave is 60 metres long and 23 metres wide – really simple design – very effective.  The Cistercian monks developed into a more corpulent community a special door led to the refectory – if you didn’t fit through – you fasted!  K could fit – our slimmer of the year, Katherine.  The sheer scale is immense – royal lovers buried side by side – murder, intrigue, heart eating, decomposed hand kissing – just like the Conservative Party Annual Conference in Somethingbourne…

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Another impressive exterior.  Building started in 1178 and the monks were given a lot of land to farm.  40 years later the monastery estate had become one of the richest and most powerful.  At one point there were 999 monks, not sure of the significance of the 999, and a whole new cloister wing was built for novices.

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The church interior is refreshingly simple.

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Tomb of Dona Ines.  There is a matching one for Dom Pedro – a true Romeo and Juliet story.  Pedro fell in love with one of his wife’s ladies in waiting, but even after he was widowed, his father Dom Alfonso IV forbade the marriage, as Ines had Spanish connections. The King ordered her murder unaware that the two lovers had already secretly married.  Two years later when Pedro succeeded to the tHorne, he exacted his gruesome revenge … he ripped out the hearts of the murderers and …. ate them!  He exhumed Ines and crowned her body and then …. made the court pay homage to her by kissing her decomposing hand!

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Liking the Manueline style.

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Whilst the monks ate they were read biblical scripts from this pulpit.

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J won’t you come closer to the edge, dear?  No, don’t … you’re not insured!

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Squeeze in!  If the monks didn’t fit through the doorway, then were put on a starvation diet.  Having said that William Beckford (British artist and bon viveur, who owned Monsarrate in Sintra, which we visited) was shocked at the ‘perpetual gormandising … the fat wadling monks and sleek friars with wanton eyes …’.

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The massive kitchen chimney … Beckford wrote ‘the most distinguished temple of gluttony in all Europe”.  Under scaffolding there was a pool diverted from the Rio Alcoa, which provided not only water for cooking and washing, but fresh fish.

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The Cloister of Silence.  The lower part from 1300’s and the upper Manueline from 1500’s.

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Nightly bivouac in a free parking (alone) outside the Porto de Mos Bombeiros – fire service – will they test the sirens during the night?  K walked to the Castle while I cleaned a bit and deleted some photos – and guitar practice – fingers are getting the hard skin that I need – to play at the Old Oprey – not!

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The C13 castle – much restored so that it has a Disney-esque look.  The green roof tiles are echoed in houses’ doors and shutters.

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I followed the signs to the castle spring … sadly neglected and abused.

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Sao Antonio chapel – shut, but I peered through to glimpse the C17 tiles.

289 – Feeding Frenzy

May 30th 206 – 12th June …. Repairs and Seeing People

Bristol for Chardonnay’s visit to the motorhome surgeon

From the Wildcamping.co.uk Rutland meet we stayed on Bristol Marina for 2 nights, courtesy of a friend.  Great location, right on the harbourside.  Dentist for K (just a filling), picked up my car from Mercedes, who had kindly agreed to do a bumper paint job FOC, and we dropped Chardonnay in for her repairs.  These were jobs that Family Leisure Travel in Brislington (Bristol) had not had time to do in April, had not been able to get hold of the parts and to deal with the dreaded damp they had found on her habitation service.  We did manage to catch up with quite a few friends in one sitting and had a great meal out.  

On one of our morning runs, J spotted a cyclist that had been knocked off her bike at a roundabout … he checked she was OK, whilst I got to control the traffic flow around the roundabout …. oh the power.  I was quite disappointed when the Policeman thanked me and told me he could take over!  But if I ever need a job, it fair beats teaching!


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Surprised to spot this advert!  And on a newish truck.

Ash Vale – Home!

Having left Chard in Bristol, we were now homeless.  So we moved into our ‘official’ residence.  Post comes here.  The car and Chard are registered here. Our Brexit Postal Vote came here.  We have occupied half the attic with a lot of our stuff.  We keep a wash kit here.  K’s parents are very long suffering!  Whilst here for a week, we managed to catch up with a few people and had a few days out with the Aged P’s.


Al & Mark, Bron & Dave and Gill & Gordon in Kingston

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Aged P’s impression of the stone Eagle at The Vyne, National Trust

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Maddy Munchkin – this is apple juice, honest.

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Lunch out – “Was I sharing the Black Sambucca? Better have one of my own!!!”

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A Basingstoke Canalside run … this poor swan had 9 cygnets.  Could have been all hers or perhaps it was a cygnet Play Date.

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More canal wildlife, which gave me an excuse to pause in my running!

We also managed to squeeze in a tea, and thanks for the homemade scones, with Sharon and Katharine and K had a great fish BBQ with Bev, Mike and Lottie, whilst James met up with his youngest daughter and eldest son in London.  The week past in such a blur and we did not manage to do everything we’d planned.  I think there may have been 11 loads through the washing machine!

We collected Chard on the Friday …. all repairs completed 🙂 and drove back to Surrey … I followed J in the car and received a phone all from an unknown number – Candida, an ex colleague, had recognised my car as she overtook me on the M4 …. great to have a catchup.

We park Chard at my sister’s house as she has room on the drive.  They also fed us and we fed the fire pit!  A bit of a later night than planned, but after a long day, we deserved a bevy.

I don’t know how, but we filled the car removing our sacks of washing etc from the Aged P’s house to take over to Chardonnay.  Dad came with us to take the car back to its official residence.  We arrived at Clare’s and the gate code would not work.  Clare, Chris and family all out!  Bugger – I’d got frozen foods that needed urgently to go into the freezer.  My hero came to the rescue … we lobbed James over the fence (his crown jewels took a bit of a beating whilst he balanced on the top) and he drove Chard down the drive to activate the gates … we then nipped through whilst he reversed several bendy hundred feet. 


Feeding Non-stop in the New Forest (Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th June)

We’d originally planned to meet Penny, a motorhomer we’d met in Italy and kept in touch with, but she had to work. So J had got in touch with Geoff and Carole, who gave us tea, cucumber sarnies and scones!  They are both petrol heads who are celebrating their Ruby Wedding next weekend …. between them they have 3 MGs and two other cars … we both fell in love with this 1993 V8, which was Carole’s new toy …

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The pic does not do it justice … it really is a thing of beauty and given their wedding anniversary and the colour, it’s name …. Ruby!

We arrived in New Milton to be fed a BBQ by Frances and Edward … this is the amazing couple we met twice in Sicily and then again in Naples … they, like us, like food, travel and can knock back a glass or two …. no wonder we get on so well!  Not only had they offered us their driveway for two nights, but the electric hook up cable was ready and waiting for us.    The Sunday plan was to picnic at the town Queen’s Birthday celebration with another couple, but as you know plans do not always get stuck to.  We started on the sherry at 11.45.  Lunch was leisurely.  So leisurely that we did not finish until 10.00 pm …. I think this must have been the longest lunch record for us all!  The closest we got to the Queen’s festivities was the program of events that Edward printed off!  We did raise a glass to her Majesty.  

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Would that be the bottle of Benedictine we’re battling through?!  Was I posing for the photo, or can’t I sit up straight?

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Inspired by Frances and Edward, I too wore red, white and blue.  Being Irish, J was absolved.

289 – Monday 13th June:  Back on the Road again

The feeding did not stop … we were breakfasted on smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, followed by a choice of three homemade marmalades!   I would declare that we will stop this feeding frenzy and get back onto a carefully controlled diet (well for me), but I can’t quite see the end of it yet.  We have driven up from the New Forest to Scotland – just over the border to a wild camping next to Gretna.  Tomorrow we will visit a good friend of J’s from when he worked in Jordan … I suspect that more good food is to come our way … I have managed to remain tee total tonight.

Whilst it is absolutely brilliant to spend time with friends and family (and I am missing Maddy and the Aged P’s especially), we are both very happy to be back on the road heading for places, scenery and adventures we don’t yet know.  

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Our nosey neighbours on our overnight pitch.


382-288: Rutlandish

382 – Tuesday 24th May 2016:  John Smedley and that’s NOT a Beer!

Last night when we arrived at our CL site, we were relatively late, after 5.00.  Down a longish, up and down lane, fortunately signed with the Caravan Club all the way to a five bar gate.  A note attached with our names on it.  Take Pitch 1, welcome, oh and by the way, rubbish reception here so if you have a TV here’s a cable into our system.  Spot on – no internet, phone or text and we were here 3 nights – GRR!  Peaceful though.

Today we both ran.  Sun is out and it is warm.  Table and chairs made an appearance from under the bed and we decided on a leisurely soak up the rays day.  By late afternoon this was beginning to pall on us and clouds had appeared, so we wandered down the lane to the factory.  It had been whirring last night and was in full whirring mode now.  John Smedley, fine knits since 1794 and some of the buildings definitely dated from then.  We perused the factory shop just before closing and K came away with two long sleeved cotton jumpers.  My excuse for the wanton expenditure … they were only a tenner each and I am soooo feeling the cold and have insufficient long sleeved tops!  Conversation about Brexit with the 40 yr old shop assistant – cotton comes from New Zealand via Italy where it is cleaned and dyed.  Japan, Germany and Italy are their major markets.  He had not travelled much but firmly believed we had a lot to learn from other European cultures, especially when it comes to looking after and being involved with family.  Enough excitement for one day so we returned to our pitch.


383 – Wednesday 25th May 2016:  Remembering and Trams

I dreamt of Nicky again last night – I do about once a week.  But more often at the moment as today would have been her 51st birthday.  

Weather windier and cloudy so we decided to drive to Crich Tramway Village, the National Tram Museum.  A short drive, but it meant we could connect to the wifi as the signal on our site was non-existent.  After the internet and phone jobs we paid the pricey sum of £28 for our annual tickets which included J’s senior discount.  The enthusiasts started collecting trams back in the 50’s just as they were being decommissioned across the country.  Mostly British, but some overseas and all in pristine condition.  Most of them have been restored to running order and on our visit 3 trams were running.  We handed over our 2d coins (given to us with the entry tickets) and were given a day ticket to freely ride aboard the trams.  The main exhibition was quite interesting as it explained how trams developed from horse drawn, steam tractor drawn and finally to electric.  Their demise was partly due to the war but mostly due to introduction of cheaper to build and run motor busses.  Including lunch, we were actually only in the museum for just over 2 hours, so not really worth the money unless you can visit several times in the year with small children.

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Seriously layered up for the wind and cold

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No, don’t reckon Dr Who ran this on electric!

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The restoration of each tram was flawless.  Hours of work.


384 – Thursday 26th May 2016:  Wildcamping Meet in Rutland

A leisurely start as we only had to drive 1.5 hrs to Rutland Water.  Rutland is the smallest county in England and only really had anything to offer visitors after the valley was flooded in the 1970’s and the reservoir generated an outdoor leisure industry .  K camped here (under canvas) about 9 years ago with Maddy and Kerstin – we managed to persuade Maddy to go on the back of a very heavy hired tandem to cycle around the Water … it was hard work as I’m not sure how much cycling M actually did!  The purpose for our trip is to join a Wildcamping.co.uk meet … a chance to meet like minded motorhomers and pick their brains on places to go and tips.


385 – Friday 27th May 2016:  Exercised Out

We ran, K did pilates and then we cycled around the Water, with a detour to Oakham to buy some beers.  One would think cycling around a reservoir would be flat, but no … lots of smallish ups and downs.  We nearly aborted the full circuit, but a chap at the information centre assured us we had completed the most difficult part.  Scenery OK, but not a patch on Derbyshire.  Once back at the site, we commenced consuming the slightly warm and shaken beers!

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Normanton Church:  preserved from flooding by a retaining wall.  Now a small museum and a wedding venue.


386:  Saturday 28th May 2016:  Race Day!

J had identified a 5 km Park Run along part of the Water.  We’ve since since discovered that this is a 9.00 a.m. free timed event held in multiple locations up and down the country.  Knowing how bumpy the ride along the shore was, we elected to drive to the start … Chardonnay also gave us all our facilities to change in after.  We arrived in good time and walked to the start … no one there!  They started to arrive with 10 mins to go …. no registration at the event; you have to register online and print a bar code.  We’d done neither, to we would get a place and time, but not with our name next to it.  A really easy flat run, the only difficulty was to avoid some of the sheep deposits!  For a man who watches his feet and not scenery when he runs, J managed to pick up a lot of poo!  138 runners and we both improved on our times and positions from 2 weeks ago:  J 35th with 1.25 minutes faster and K 100th and 2.25 mins faster with a final sprint to ’take’ someone.  We shall be on the look out for more races.

An easy afternoon chatting to our lovely neighbours Roy and Doreen.  The only ‘event’ laid on was a cream tea which was a serious overload in sugar, but we also met a couple who will be at the Inverness meet in June, which we will also attend.  


287:  Sunday 29th May 2016:  A Couple of Changes of Plan

We planned to go to the Burghley House Game and Country Fair, via Tescos and buying some diesel.  By the time we’d got up, K had done Pilates and we’d done our shopping, our ETA was 1.45, so it seemed sensible to go to Plan B.  A quick look at the National Trust App and we selected the Priest’s House in Easton on the Hill.  

The Priest’s House is only small and entry is by knocking on designated key holder’s doors.  We tried the nearest and spoke the key holder’s parents who told us that everyone was at the village Gala. OK, Plan C.  We went to the village Gala.  Only small, but they served beer & cider and burgers & hog roast.  A few stalls, singers and bands of very mixed musical talent and the best of all … maypole dancing.  Yes, there was a little tangle at one point and the instructor had to get involved, but lovely.


The Priest’s House.  Where is everyone?



 Never thought of specialising in mole removal as a career!

288 – Burghley House Game and Country Fare

We set the alarm for 7.00 and fell asleep till gone 9.00.  Oops – we really are not accustomed to early starts!  Never mind – straight to Burghley Park and being a motorhome we were parked right by the entrance.  Result – normally motorhomes are parked in the furthest out of the way point.  Three arenas with different non stop displays.  Lots of crafts and shops – conscious that we need to buy Christmas gifts before Sept, unless I ask Mutt to wrap them again (she’s already warned me off that), we embarked on a minor spending spree.  A really lovely event – we both really enjoyed the displays.


How to dress a crab in the Food Kitchen.


Would that be a rare species of chef crab?


Falconary with a difference … with a ferret and dog.


Sheepdog …


… Duckdog!  Seriously stunning how well trained all these animals are … can’t begin to imagine how many hours.

1100791Horse-boarding – a new one on us, but fun to watch, especially when they took a corner too fast or died on the jump!