564-566: Nothing Dry in Tavira or Alcoutim

564 – Monday 12th December 2016:  Tavira Revisited

After slowest ever fill of 140 litres into Jez’ empty water tank, we ‘escaped’ Camping Olhao.  A bit unfair really, as it was not that bad as sites go and only cost EUR12 per night.  Apparently, it dropped to 7.50, incl. electricity for a month long stay, and probably less for 6 months … no wonder so many long termers here.  But not us … we’re off wilding and travelling for a week until our two week stay back at Turiscamp in Lagos.

We parked up by the Municipal Market in Tavira, with about 15 other motorhomes – a pitch we’d spotted on our Tuk Tuk tour with the Aged P’s.  Getting towards lunchtime, so we headed straight to the Black Anchor, a bottle of white and sea bass for K ordered…. GULP SHOCK  HORROR – they’d none left … sea bream it had to be!  The waitress recognised us and once we’d emptied our bottle and went to wine and port by the glass, she filled them to the brim … and we managed a couple of Ports on the way home too … what a lovely day.

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Beautifully cooked sea bream but not a patch on Mutt’s sea bass a few days earlier.  I did NOT eat the chips … someone else made a good inroads into them!

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Sunny, so the sun hat made an appearance … 

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Our view of the Roman bridge … we sat there so long that not only did we take root, the water level dropped from high tide.

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And getting dark by the time we wended our way home.

565 – Tuesday 13th December – Alcoutim Caught Us

We wandered into the Tavira market in the morning, but not being Saturday, it was only half operational.  We did leave with some fish though, including sea bass to compensate for the mild disappointment yesterday.  Wrapped and in the freezer 🙂

By the time we arrived in Alcoutim at a fully serviced aire (even electric seemed to be for free, although we did not need it), it was lunchtime.  A cuppa soup was all we had on board as I’d not made any soup recently … how about a wander into the town and have a SMALL DISH with a glass of water as TODAY IS GOING TO BE A DRY ONE?  Stupid idea really, as we have 0 will power.   Best laid plans and all that … we found a restaurant overlooking the river that acts as the border with Spain … full of locals and some tourists.   Apparently Tuesday is when the fresh fish is delivered … but we only discovered this after having ordered.  The menu only offered vegetable soup as a small dish …. what to do?  J had chicken (frango in Portuguese – what great sounding word) and I had the veal stew.  No kidding, mine could have fed a family of 4 … Literally a doggy bag: a dog poo sack came in handy for the meat I could not manage, i.e. most of it!  As for being dry … it must have been cheaper to drink the house wine than water … a litre jug of red was all of EUR3 and very palatable.  We also had a small plate of cheese, coffees and shared an almond cake with a glass of Port (each!) … total bill all of EUR21 …. we can really tell we’ve moved away from the expensive Algarve coast.  

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Spain with a massive fortress.

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The only way across is on a small boat as a foot passenger.

Over lunch we’d started chatting to an English couple; they work the summer season in York, selling ice-cream from boats … and have a boat down here.  Apparently you don’t need to register the boat with either Spanish or Portuguese authorities as the middle of the river is international waters.  That explains why there are so many boats along here then.

We walked off our lunch wandering the narrow streets and then up to the castle.  This castle was a lot more ruinous than its Spanish counterpart, but there were some good views.  Seeing these castles and the river border, really brought home the history of battles across the border.  We’ve been on and through so many border points, but here seems somehow more real.

Up by the aire are some signed walks, so took Oscar for a longer leg stretch.  Part of the Algarve Way, which runs east-west follows the river nearby.    And then I rectified the lack of homemade soup – tomato and basil and made a casserole with the veal for the freezer.  Another most excellent day.

 

266 – Wednesday 14th December:  A day of two halves

We’d already decided to stay another night and had planned to do a big local walk.  However, the wet skies put paid to that … so we did a load of admin jobs.  Including re-insuring our car that Dad drives / cares for for us.  I’d got a few quotes as the current provider expected the best part of £500 – not happening!  Bingo, £367and with adding J to the policy!  

By the time the first of the tomato soup was consumed, the sun came out … boots on and off we set.  A navigational error on my part … cut the walk a little short, but we still had a good two hours up in the hills and crossing / fording rivers that had swollen.

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The whole of this hill side had the trees lined up in regiments.

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It might not look much, but J got wet feet crossing and I spent some time throwing stones in to build stepping stones.  J did some impressive stone skimming too.

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Oscar looking remarkably comfortable in the water … not a good thing as we’ve not encouraged this with him being a van dog!  

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The next couple of rivers had stepping stones 🙂  And Oscar was wading up to his shoulders … when we first got him in August, he would walk around puddles!  Oh dear!

Since we’d failed to have a alcohol dry day yesterday, we thought today would be …. however the walk finished back in the town centre … ho hum … back to the same bar / restaurant … a half carafe of red, followed by another!  And two helpings of almond cake … not sharing now we know how good it is!  The boating couple joined us … their boat sounds a lot more basic than a motorhome, and it doesn’t go anywhere as the engine is kaputt!  They have small solar panel for a leisure battery and run everything pretty much off gas bottles.  Water is what they can carry aboard … they have to use local showers … infrequently!  We’ll stick with Jez thank you.  Whilst we were in the bar a local arrived with a massive basket of wild mushrooms.  He and some friends were BBQing them on the restaurant outside grill … a little salt and oil.  We were offered samples too … mild tasting and the chap told us that the French and Spanish go mad for them.  Can understand why.  A good use of google translate and we found out they were Rovellones.  A lovely interaction with the locals, which makes a day so memorable.

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The basket and some of the mushrooms were really huge, honestly.

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And just before we left … a rainbow.

Later on walking Oscar, both sides of the river were lit up … the Spanish all bright white and Alcoutim still using mellow yellow lights.  Another reminder of the border. 

Another superb day in the Clune household.

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Taken from the cockpit of Jez … across to Spain.

554-563: The Aged P’s and Portugal

554 – Friday 2nd December 2016:  Driving Day and Villa Real San Antonio

We basically awoke surprisingly OK after the excess of last night …. led astray by the Grey Gappers!  Having recently spent a few additional spontaneous nights at different places (we blame the company we’re meeting!), we had to head straight for Portugal for our rendezvous with my Aged P’s near Lagos.  We overnighted at VRSA (Villa Real San Antonio), having been told that it was a good stop over for cheap towels, bathrobes etc.  We parked in the gated aire there …. really not very pleasant and EUR4.50, as it was crowded, some rubbish and barking stray dogs if you headed one way…. all a bit derilict like the railway station adjacent.  However, it was walking distance to the town.  Essentially a few streets, selling only linen and towels.  The only other premises were cafes – we were not moved to stop and sample.  I did buy 3 small hand towels for Jez though.

555 – Saturday 3rd December:  Lagos – Turiscamp and THE AGED P’S 🙂

The Aged P’s had booked a bungalow for 4 nights at Turiscamp in Lagos and then for another 4 at Olhao … we’re stopping in Jez.  We’ve done this before, and the benefit of having them really close by is brilliant for those (all of us) that like to have a drink!  Turiscamp is extremely well run and clean.  I’ve never seen washrooms with smart tiles like here.  Don’t know how we do it, but we both pretty much arrived at the same time …   So good to see them.

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All immaculate, but given the rain there were not many users.

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Large pic, as need it for so many bottles.  Most of this is sherries … for sampling and comparing.  Tonight, we just finished a Canasta and ???, I forget!


556 – Sunday 4th December –  A Tax-ing Lunch

J here on:  One of the letters that Diane and Grahame brought was news of a tax rebate of £4k for me – an instant excuse for a good lunch out !  Excellent luncheon at a recommended fish restaurant in Lagos…..  Wines to accompany the dishes…Heavy rain most of the day !

Sherry sampling tonight was two Manzanillas and a Tio Pepe – a neighbouring motor homing lady saw the bottles on the booze bar in our van – she laughed when K said the contents had already been much reduced – by sampling !

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Prawns with garlic, salmon and swordfish … no room for pud.  We’re discovering that portion sizes in Portugal are HUGE. 

557 – Monday 5th December – Lagos

We wandered around the town centre and bought ice cream, some window shopping and some sunshine….  We even managed to loose Dad for a short while, but her turned up again like the proverbial bad penny, having already had an ice cream…

Sherry sampling tonight was the best of last night – the Tio Pepe and two Olorosso

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Even out of season, Lagos is geared to tourists.

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The market place where slaves were first traded.

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I did a couple of loads in my twin tub and turned the Aged P’s deck into a Chinese Laundry … spot the girl guide line back and forth from the eaves!

 

558 – Tuesday 6th December – Moncheekie (actually Monchique)

Aged P’s had been before and knew where to go … Caldas de Monchique – slightly bizarre spa hamlet with a nice atmosphere, built at the head of the spring, with a bottling plant and a spa hotel.  A few bars … so …early glasses of wine and uphill to a beautiful picnic spot …

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…  up to Foia, the highest peak in the Serra de Monchique.  Almost at the top we stopped for a picnic.  Mostly but great views out to the Atlantic (we thought it may be the S coast, but I checked it in the guide book).  Several cars were stopping to fill water containers from a spring … K went to investigate.  The very nice chap (38 yrs old, a site foreman who has worked all over Europe on major constructions, spoke excellent English and is home for a month for Christmas) gave me a 5 litre container to take away!  I spoke to an Irishman who has lived in London for 50 years and still has retained his inner city “Liberties”accent…

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Out to sea over humpy ground … I thought it looked volcanic (most places are!) and evidence of a recent fire.

Sherry sampling tonight was the best Olorosso of last night and a Cream and Moscatel.  Think we may have hit the Perdro Ximenez too!

 

559 – Wednesday 7th December 2016:  A Move East and a BBQ

We packed up from Turiscamp in Lagos and headed east to Olhao.  Whilst the Aged P’s bungalow was larger it was dark in side with dated decor … but it did have a great patio for a BBQ.  Sherry sampling tonight was a free for all, drinking up the ends of a lot of bottles!

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560 – Thursday 8th December:  Tuk Tuk Tavira and THE SEA BASS

Tuk Tuk treat was a Piaggio scooter driven rickshaw – electric power – Joachim was our very well informed guide – a one hour tour gave us an excellent potted history of Tavira…

Lunch at an Irish pub “The Black Anchor” turned out to be the most spectacular meal of the Aged Ps visit.  we’d only stopped for a drink thinking an Irish bar is not going to present the best of Portuguese fare, but how wrong were we – melon, parma ham, sea bass, veal, garlic prawns and fish cakes……..xxxxx  and wine… definitely worth the positive Tripadvisor post from K – and the same for the Tuk Tuk tour…..

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The Roman Bridge – called so due to its shape.

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Outside the free to enter small castle on one of the three hills … a garden and tower inside with views.

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We all just fitted in … and Oscar, who some unaccountable fear of my father (a dog friendly person … has to be … he’s dog sat, walked and fed all my other dogs), even lay quietly under his legs.

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561 – Friday 9th December:  Estoi and Milreu

Estoi promised much – and didn’t really deliver! A Pousada hotel (SLHW – “Small Luxury Hotels of the World”) built from an old palace – the guide books were out of date – the much vaunted gardens were shut and having rebuilding works – from what we could see, they were very early stages in this.  After a fairly brief walk, we selected a small cafe bar for lunch – and the resulting food was not very good!  On our tours, there have not been many places where we have experienced disappointment – not  a bad result in 20 months of full-time travelling…

On our way out of town, we looked for the Milreu Roman ruins – and guess what – we didn’t stop to even look having no signage to help us find them.    

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No entry here … 

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Very little to see garden wise, but you can see the impressive building of the Pousada behind.

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Square where we had the rubbish quality lunch … a nativity scene under the tarpaulin. 

 

562 – Saturday 10th:  Olhoa and a BBQ

Olhao town on Saturday has a bustling market – Grahame drove and found free parking near an carpark full of motorhomes.  Lots of caged birds, turkeys and chickens on sale – is Christmas coming soon?  K not tempted to buy a gooble cock and fatten it up!  We let Oscar off for a good romp along the seafront. A bit later, we found – guess what? – a cafe bar – for a glass of vino tintos!  Only one – as we had planned a BBQ for the afternoon….at chez Jez. 

I fired up the Weber (invented in Chicago – as was the Ferris Wheel – no obvious connection to Portugal – just nice to keep our reader informed…) with lumped charcoal from the Murco Fuel Station on the Gloucester Road near Almondsbury… will you get back on topic, James please!  OK so I won’t describe the ‘twigettes’ I used for kindling, then….  

Chicken and bits – and wine – for 4 ‘OS’ folks – no, not Ordinance Survey people – just ‘Old Soaks’!  No Sherry … tonight was a Port night.  White as an aperitif and a good red after.

Reasonably early to bed – Grahame and Diane will leave for a few days in Faro in the morning…and then back to the UK winter wonderland – just imagine readers – they have to wait a whole month before their next holiday in the sun in South Africa!  Life’s a real bummer…

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Faro is off to the left.

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Yes, mother is at the coffee again … all this caffeine really is not good for one!

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If not a pet turkey, how about a canary?

 

563 – Sunday 11th December 2016:  A Dry Day and Cleaning

After a nice week with K’s parents – outings and dining – we decided to have an alcohol-free day!  Yes, really!!!   Although we had not warmed to the campsite, as it is a bit higgledly piggledy laid out with lots of permanent caravans and campers, we decided to stop another day.  We’ve never seen so many huge Concordes and Carthegos … Nordic countries were well represented.  Today was van cleaning – our campsite has very sandy soil which seems to want to spread itself all inside our Jez home …  We had a ‘dry’ BBQ – unheard of!

You may notice our ‘booze bar’ is greatly reduced in quantity… but the produce was hugely enjoyed …

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