12/04/2017 – Portugal – from the Beach to the Mountains

Monday 4th and Tuesday 5th December

To date, the Internet speeds and phone reception in this part of Portugal have been woeful.  Apple asked us to find somewhere with high internet speeds and good telephone reception so that they could assist us with unlocking my iPad.  With the 10 hour time difference to Australia, it also caused some issues and has only given us a short time frame in the morning to speak to a technician in Australia.

On one occasion they forgot about the time difference and phoned us around 02:30 AM.

Our campsite for two nights:  Parque Da Gale, Vale de Parra

This campsite was excellent and has an extremely high rating awarded by guests staying here. Internet speeds were excellent so we set about reloading some of our travel APPs onto Rob’s iPad (just in case we couldn’t get mine going again)  Rob’s has only a quarter of the RAM that mine has so we were limited with what we could download.  We contacted Apple and booked in a call for 8.30am next morning.

Looking from Albuferia Beach back towards Lagos

At this campsite there is a games and TV room and a small billiards table so after a long walk, we hit the table and played a couple of games.  My driver negotiated all the bends and successfully parked all his balls in the pockets whereas the navigator tried to find alternate routes and was not as successful.  It didn’t help that the cue attached to the rest was broken so many shots were played left handed or stretched across the table with legs dangling in the air – not a pretty sight.  We had fun though.

Albuferia Marina

Call came through from Apple at 8.30am sharp and Benjamin (based in Perth) was extremely helpful.  He went in through iCloud and was able to find our original iCloud password used to set up the iPad many years ago (very different to what we thought).   Next we had to reset the password and then wait another 24 hours for acceptance.

The campsite also has a heated pool but no one was in swimming.  Even though it was a fabulous sunny day, the temperature in the middle of the day was still a cool 18 degrees.

Only a short couple of kms away was the beautiful beach (Albuferia) with really interesting rock formations.  The rocks were in the middle of the beach where the beautiful deep blue ocean had gouged away the bottom leaving a stem with a top – bit like a mushroom.

Played more billiards, read books and just relaxed for the rest of the day.

Email arrived next morning with steps provided to reset my iPad.  Watched my best friend become more agitated with each keyboard stroke – Apple products !!! – won’t say the words he used.  Finally after an hour or so – success. 

Another area still not recovered from the GFC – thousands of Units lie uncompleted with no WIP

Got to thank Apple though as they were really great to deal with and so helpful – shame about the products – being locked out of your device having used it for a year or more does not make sense.

Wednesday 6th December

The navigator had a spring in her step today – had so missed the iPad. It is really amazing to think of the hours one spends per day on these devices.  What ever did we do before computers?

Another picture perfect day today. We are heading into Orange Country now and everywhere there are acres and acres of orange trees.  On the side of the road, stalls are set up with sacks of oranges for sale for €5 for three sacks – think somewhere from 3 – 5 kgs per sack – if only I had my juicer.  My driver would not volunteer to squeeze these for me, so bought just a few from Lidl instead – what a shame.

Our camp site for tonight: Area St. luzia, Santa Luzia

What a find – a small fishing village on the river.  Couldn’t wait to explore this one so no sooner than the engine was turned off, we headed off.  Just across the road, the tide was fully in and a multitude of fishing boats bounced around in the current.

Timber rowing boat being hand crafted on the road side

There was a beautiful boardwalk along the river front with restaurants and outdoor eating areas in the sun.   At the end several fishermen’s huts and beyond that some truly beautiful Spanish/Portugese apartment blocks.  The town only has a few streets and we happily walked through all of these taking photos of the townhouses with their fronts featuring a full wall of mosaic tiles.  Some were really gory but some really spectacular.

Nice tiles ???
More nice tiles???

Next morning we again headed up the boardwalk and took more photos – this time the river was almost dry at low tide and the fishing boats now sitting on mud flats – what a difference a full tide makes.  Saw a timber rowing boat being hand made on the side of the road – a real craftsman and a large fishing boat high and dry and leaning into the jetty for support.

Jetty supporting the boat – no OH&S inspectors around here

Thursday 7th December

Decided to do “a sea change to tree change” today so headed inland to the mountains.  Quite a big difference to the coast where now the soil and the landscape is so dry.

Our camp for tonight: Almada D’Ouro Club, Alcaria

We climbed high into the mountains and found our next campsite sitting on the peak with views over the mountains and valleys, Spain on one side and Portugal on the other.  A beautiful river meandering through the valleys in front of us and small villages dotted throughout the valleys – so easy to see as they are white against the green backdrop.

Portugal to the right, Spain to the left and hunting lodge in the foreground

This is a Hunting Club that provides space for around 20 motorhomes –  all with spectacular views. Inside the clubhouse, there are pictures of hunted wild pigs and ducks and a bust of the head of a wild pig – very scary looking. 

The bar opens at 5pm and you can have any drink you can see on the shelf for just over €1.   Had a couple of wines (not the best we have tried) though the port was great and shared the sunset and conversation with two German couples – one with the same surname as my mother – but don’t think we are related.  

The Driver had a ton of fun practising his German until one of the young German guys starting speaking in Swabish (a type of high German dialect) and so we decided to retire to Ziggy as it was also getting too cold outside.

That is the end of Portugal for us – we have really enjoyed our stay – it is a lovely country, with beautiful friendly helpful people.


11/28/2017 Portugese Man of War – not here – just great people


Note: My iPad crashed on 30th November so all my notes for the next few days are no longer accessible so will try to remember as best as I can information about these days.  Apple have not been able to rectify the problem as yet and the poor internet reception has not helped them. Unfortunately all our blog information, travel apps, maps and notes are on this IPad.

Rob’s Ipad is ok but all the important information was on mine

Tuesday 28th November

Woke up to rain this morning so decided to travel a longer distance today and head for Portugal.

Again no border patrols and the only indication that we had crossed the border was when our phone beeped and told us so.

The countryside is much more picturesque now as we begin to head closer to the coastline.

The villages and towns are so beautiful here as every house is white with either red or predominately terra cotta tiled roofs.  With the backdrop of the green countryside, it is amazing.  Only differences between the houses are the colours around the window and door frames which are mostly different shades of blue.  Would love to have an exclusive franchise for white paint and terra cotta tiles here.

Our camp for tonight:  Markt, Estremoz

We arrived around midday and parked in a large car park in the middle of Estremoz.  It was still drizzling so put on our wet weather gear and headed up the hill to the old town above.  This was totally enclosed by massive fortified walls which were built in 1299.  Many of the old stone houses within the walls were restored and are now occupied by locals.

Part of the old fortified walls

Businesses also of course were there to take advantage of the tourist trade. In the middle of this old town was a square walled castle which has been restored and now houses a fantastic hotel included as one of Europe’s historic hotels. 

Estremoz’ historic hotel

Sadly more information re this has been lost in my iPad now.

The Navigator checking out the entrance
Looking back to the New Town

Whilst in a local pharmacy the local pharmacist, who spoke perfect English and was so helpful, recommended a restaurant serving traditional Portugese food, so headed in that direction.  It was closed then but reopening at 7pm.  Went back to Ziggy and had a couple of pre dinner drinks and then headed back to town – it was still raining.  Ordered something similar to a seafood paella which was massive and washed that down with a great local white wine (recommended by our waiter).  We had such a great time with the locals here even though no one spoke English.  The waiter was excellent and really looked after us.  At the end of the night he plonked two half bottles of alcohol in front of us and said we should taste these. One was like a vodka moonshine and was so strong, the other a milder red grape liqueur that was beautiful.  He insisted we drink these and/or take them home – we left the moonshine but happily downed the red liqueur.  Happily headed home on unsteady legs (in the rain) and spent the next couple of hours plucking up the courage to climb the 2 steps to the mezzanine floor to sleep (I hope).

Dinner on our first night in Portugal – an Extremoz extreme – we like to have a good time on our first day in a new country

Wednesday 29th November

Woke up to fog – not only outside but my head was a little foggy as well. The driver was fine but the navigator needed a lot of water.  Had such a super first night in Portugal but paid the price today.

A hearty breakfast and a couple of headache tablets for me – and we were on our way.

The fog lifted and what followed was a picture perfect day with sun and blue skies.

The town of Comporta was our planned destination.  Really pretty town with the camp site on the edge of town and the police station on the other corner.  Were looking forward to exploring the town but not long after, we discovered our auto gas supplies were really low.  Decided to move on and find a servo with auto gas as we were concerned about running out overnight.

Our camp for tonight:  Parque de Grandola, Grandola

It was getting late now and didn’t have a lot of choice of places to camp after filling up with gas.

Grandola had nothing to offer apart from a place to stay for the night.  Didn’t take any photos here.  Large car park with Motorhome facilities and shared the spot with a few other Motorhomes and many trucks who use the same place for overnight sleeping.  Very quiet spot and a peaceful sleep considering the above.

Thursday 30th November – Saturday 2nd December

Travelled along some scenic routes now along the Portugese west coast. Beautiful countryside with the occasional glimpse of sparking blue ocean. We were heading for the Algarve region of south western Portugal. 

Again many beautiful villages along the way with those magnificent white houses and terra cotta roofs – just never get sick of seeing them – just so beautiful.

Our camp for three nights:  Figueira Caravan Park, Figueira

Tucked away in the extreme south western corner of Portugal is the little town of Figuera.  We decided to stay in a caravan park tonight as we needed to catch up on laundry.

On the way to the beach from our caravan park

Headed through some really narrow streets with some not so desirable looking homes and buildings for a short while.  Wanted to get straight out of there but just around the corner the camp site came into view.  Still not sure if we wanted to stay here but after a great welcome by the manager and a cheer from a group of Brits, we felt right at home.  We scored a fantastic spot overlooking a garden – someone had just left here – we were so lucky.

The Brits thought we were one of theirs because of our GB number plates but were just as happy when they discovered we were Aussies (convicts).

Had three wonderful relaxing days here.  The sun and blue skies greeted us every day.  The Brits were in shorts and bikinis and soaking up and worshipping the sun on sun lounges all day.  We were still in long sleeves and trousers.  Temperatures during the day were around  20 degrees but nights are in very low single digits.

Gave Ziggy a wash and debug, did the clothes washing and spent a few hours walking daily to the really picturesque beach about 1.5 kms away.  Really small beach about the size of Froggys Beach at Tweed Heads and waves and stunning blue waters with rocky mountain outcrops framing the beach.

Made quite a lot of Brit friends here – most were permanent travellers with no plans to return home any time soon.  Have received many varied opinions on Brexit and the EU.

Sunday 3rd December – great morning to be an Aussie

It is great to wake up on a Sunday morning to the news that Australia has cleaned up England in the first Ashes cricket test and that Australia beat England in the Rugby League World Cup final – especially when you are surrounded by Brits and pretend you don’t know the results and then ask them if they know the results – I have never known of so many Brits who suddenly don’t follow cricket???.

Reluctantly left this morning but knew there was so much more to see in the Algarve area. Know for sure, that we will see lots more Brits and many other people from northern countries trying to escape the cold.

Didn’t travel far today – only around 50kms but again a picture perfect day.

Our camp for tonight:  Camperplaats Alvor, Alvor

Passed through Lagos which is huge.  Saw hundreds of Motorhomes parked in the caravan park and knew we would have a challenge from now on finding places to stay.  Only a few kms away was our next destination Alvor.

Beachfront Aire at Alvor

This is definitely a really touristy destination.  We rounded the corner and saw Motorhomes parked everywhere.

The campsite itself is right on the oceanfront and is nothing special.  There are so many Motorhomes in here – more than we have seen anywhere.  The campsite itself does not have a blade of grass to be seen anywhere and the soil is rich red.  A real problem if it rains as obviously turns into mud – no rain in sight today so hope it stays that way – when no rain it is a dust bowl.

We walked along the boardwalk to the oceanfront – just like home with miles and miles of beautiful blue ocean and beach – though not quite as white as ours at home.  From there we headed to the fishing village on the oceanfront where there were numerous restaurants – all packed with tourists eating, drinking and soaking up the sunshine (nearly all Brits).  Next up the hill to the centre of town. The narrow cobble stoned streets had restaurants on both sides for at least one to two kms.  

Every building on either side is a restaurant

Some were closed until 21st December but most were still open.  Continued walking for an hour or so into the centre of this town until we came across a bar and restaurant offering a pint of really good beer for €0.90 (AUD1.30).  Just had to have one of these and sat and people watched for some time.  A group of Brits arrived and soon took over the bar so decided it was time to head back.