Thursday 4 August 2016

Four Countries, Four Nights: Our Return to the UK

Luxembourg, Belgium, France and the UK, 5th – 8th July 2016

We’re in a very different location from where we last left off in Germany, having crossed four country borders.  I’m writing this sat on a sofa in an actual living room of an actual house, rather than in the confines of our now empty van.  The bottles of sun cream have been retired and self-service launderettes have been traded for domestic washing machines.  Yes, we’ve finally returned home.  Our travels have now come to an end, and we’re gearing up for the next big challenge: employment!  But before we got here, we managed to squeeze another two new countries into our travels, starting with Luxembourg.

Friday 8 July 2016

Moseying along the Mosel

Cochem and the Mosel River

Germany, 1st – 4th July 2016

For the time we’d have in Germany we decided to spend it along the Mosel and Rhein (Rhine) rivers after Steve and Diane who we met in Austria highly recommended it for motorhoming with there being Stellplatzen in almost every village or town and cycle paths following alongside the river making for good flat cycling terrain. So after the couple of days primarily travelling across the country we’ve spent this week in the Rheinland-Pfalz region meeting friends, visiting towns, cycling and staying on some great riverside camperstops.

Sunday 3 July 2016

Pilsen to Karlovy Vary, and onwards into Germany

The main square in Pilsen

Czech Republic and Germany, 27th – 30th June 2016

It feels strange to think that our trip is nearly coming to an end.  Here we are less than a day’s drive from the English Channel parked by a riverside in Germany, the country that we first stayed in back in April 2015 when we had just set out with no return ferry booked.  We still have no return ferry booked now so I suppose some things don’t change, but we will be booking one soon as we plan to be home before the British school holidays hit full swing.  The last time we posted we were in the Czech Republic having visited Prague, but before we left the country for here there were still a couple more places we wanted to see, starting with Pilsen.

Thursday 30 June 2016


Czech Republic, 24th - 26th June 2016

Mala Strana
Our main reason for fitting the Czech Republic into this trip was to go to Prague, as it was a place we wanted to visit at some point and it had also been recommended by friends. We’d been enjoying the rest of the country with some interesting towns, being able to spend time sat out in the hot weather on cheap campsites, and the cheap beer and food. Now it was time for the main event though as we were nearing the capital city. Temperatures were soaring making it hotter than ideal really for exploring a large city but we stuck at it and enjoyed our couple of days here. It’s a nice city with a gothic, gritty feel and is a lively place with lots going on and plenty to see and do which kept us busy. Costs are reasonable for a capital city although more expensive than the rest of the country, roughly 50% more for camping, drinks and ice creams for example, but some lower priced places can be searched out.

Tuesday 28 June 2016

Beer and Bones: Exploring the Czech Republic

The Czech Republic really love their beer. This is a selection
Matt bought to try when we arrived

Czech Republic, 20th – 24th June 2016

It was time to put Austria behind us and move on into the Czech Republic. We’d been in Western Europe for a long time, where there are motorhomes everywhere and things are generally rather easy.  The Czech Republic marks our first Eastern European country in a while (depending on where you define East), and for the first time in months we weren’t sure what to expect or where to stay.  There was a certain kind of adventurous spirit about the act of crossing the border into unknown territory that we’ve not felt in a while, amplified by the fact that we were in the less touristy more rural part of the country, Moravia.

Sunday 26 June 2016

Coffee, Cake and Currywurst, Thanks Vienna

Austria, 17th – 19th June 2016

The Schönbrunn Palace, summer residence of the Habsburgs

The key word when it comes to describing Vienna: grand.  It seems that all of the major historical landmarks have been designed to make a statement, with gold plated domes atop museums and shining halos on the fountain statues.  Vienna (or Wien as the Austrians know it) was home to the Habsburgs, the family that ruled Austria as well as an empire spanning multiple countries, and so it is only fitting that the city is one that leaves an impression.  History aside, it has a culture that has embraced the idea of coffee and cake, with numerous cafés all over the town offering a large selection of sweet treats.  Two famous establishments spent nine years bickering over who was the first to create one well-known cake, the Sachertorte.  Any place that takes chocolate cake that seriously is a place that sits well with me.

Tuesday 21 June 2016

Down the Danube: Melk and the Wachau Valley

Austria, 13th – 16th June 2016

Recently the weather in Austria has been very variable between hot and sunny, and thunderstorms and rain on the same day. We’d been lucky the day we visited Graz with only a light shower for a short period, then later during the drive to Stainz it poured it down, with full-speed windscreen wipers required and our speed was down to 50 km/h on the main road. We thankfully had nicer weather in the morning with a bright sunny day materialising so after a bit of planning where to go that day we went for a look around Stainz. It’s a pleasant little town with some cafés and shops that we wandered around for a while then investigated at a large building that turned out to house a museum, and the nearby church.

Tuesday 14 June 2016

Ambling across Austria: Zell am See to Graz

Austria, 7th – 12th June 2016

Lake Zell
The main reason behind choosing to stay at Brock am der Grossglockner was because it was fairly close to Zell am See, but for the main town of Zell am See we didn’t have any parking listed other than a couple of campsites a few km away around the lake.  We decided we’d wing it and set Daisy the Satnav to lead us to a fairly central open parking area with the hope there were no height barriers.  It looked promising when we arrived and found there were indeed no height barriers, but less promising were the signs banning motorhomes and lorries.  We left the main town and drove around the lake, looking for parking in the various nearby villages and finding all were either private parking or had anti-motorhome signs; it seems we’re not so welcome here.  After doing a full lap of the lake we came back to Zell am See and in a last ditch attempt tracked down the bus parking, which was quiet and out of the way, free, and best of all had no signs banning us.  We assumed it wouldn’t be a problem for a few hours at this time of year, so gave it a chance.

Friday 10 June 2016

Into Austria, In and Around Innsbruck


Austria, 3rd – 6th June 2016

We’ve been making our way east through the Tirol region of Austria in the area around Innsbruck which has involved having a nice meal out at a restaurant, socialising with fellow Europe-wide travellers and spending all but one night on paid overnight spots which was a shock to the system! There aren’t many free places in this area which we’re hoping will change as we get further east.

Monday 6 June 2016

Isny and Lindau, Germany

The harbour clock tower at Lindau

Switzerland and Germany, 30th May – 3rd June 2016

We’re getting some relief this morning from the rain that’s been pattering down on the roof at our current location in western Austria, after having left Switzerland and spent a few days in Germany.  We’ve been told that there’s been flooding problems this week around southern Germany and Austria, but haven’t seen any signs of trouble so far spare for a bit of rain and this unappealing, overcast sky.  This time last week we would have had to place drip-trays in the van to catch water leaking through a skylight during such weather, but no more!  Our motorhome is now touting a brand new skylight, which is filled with air rather than puddles and condensation.

Monday 30 May 2016

Liechtenstein and an Unplanned Italian Detour

Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Italy, 24th – 29th May 2016

The view at Eneuhur

This week we’ve stayed in three countries, it’s been a while since we’ve done that. We’ve been into Liechtenstein to visit Vaduz, made our way down through Switzerland to St. Moritz via the Julierpass, and had a little trip into northern Italy for some freeparking and for their food!

At Hergiswil it was still raining the next morning with just occasional pauses so we did some planning of where to go next and did a few jobs (Photo of that spot now added to the previous post). A fair bit of driving was done in the afternoon, passing through Luzern and many other towns and villages on our non-motorway route but progress was fine. We headed to a picnic site near Eneuhur (GPS: 47.21694 9.31710) at the end of a small road by a stream surrounded by mountains. The ticket machine was in service so we paid our 5 Fr for 12 hours, and with being after 5pm the ticket started from midnight for the next day.

Tuesday 24 May 2016

Torrent Neuf and Interlaken

Switzerland, 20th – 23rd May 2016

Expensive or not, it's definitely beautiful!  Iseltwald village
Every time we’ve mentioned Switzerland in conversation with anyone, we always seemed to get the same response.  “It’s a beautiful country… but expensive.”  We’ve been here over a week now, and while it’s a cost increase on the last few months of living we have found areas where we can control the damage.  Certain things are more expensive (like eating out, where the average main course is 20 Fr+) and fresh bread, fruit and veg, but at least Lidl beer is cheap at 0.90 Fr (€0.82) per litre.  We’re still avoiding vignette roads, and we keep an eye on fuel prices so that when we spotted one that was significantly cheaper than the average we knew to pull in and fill up.  But on Thursday evening after our helicopter entertainment had left, we decided to test a new important area in which we could make savings: Swiss chocolate.

Friday 20 May 2016

Sampling the Fantastic Scenery and Walking in the Pennine Alps

Switzerland, 16th – 19th May 2016

View up the valley from our parking spot at Zinal
Being in Switzerland, a new country complete with a “foreign” currency too, has been a refreshing change after over 6 months in France, Portugal and Spain over winter. As much as we enjoyed our time there it’s now familiar and easy territory to tour and we were ready for a change. We’ve spent the last few days in the Val d’Anniviers (Anniviers Valley) in the Swiss Pennine Alps getting some good walking in, including one particularly with amazing scenery surrounding us. Unfortunately much of the best walking areas at the higher altitudes are not accessible due to the amount of snow still around. The summer season starts in June which explains why it’s very quiet around here. The scenery’s amazing though and with there being other walks we are keen to do it’s going to be a must to come back to for a holiday to experience the place further.

Monday 16 May 2016

Snow Capped Mountains in Switzerland!

Our current spot by the river at Zinal

France and Switzerland, 11th – 15th May 2016

We’ve crossed a new country border, and can now say we’re in Switzerland!  In terms of staying somewhere with a view, I can’t really fault our current location; we’re parked for free near the town of Zinal in the Pennine Alps, right by the beginnings of a river with uninterrupted views of the still snowy mountains around us.  The ski season has finished at this point in the year, but there are still patches of the white stuff within walking distance.  Hot chocolates have been consumed and fleeces have made their way out of the cupboards.  Tonight we may even be so extravagant as to turn the heating on for the first time in months; we shall have to see how the temperature drops at night.

Saturday 14 May 2016

From One Brilliant View to Another, Into the Northern French Alps Ski Resorts

France, 6th – 10th May 2016

The mountains were calling out to us, it was time to
head north...
We’d had a busy few days seeing lots of sights around the Avignon area and following this from Aiguéze we planned to see some more of the Ardeche region. We set off to take the scenic road up through the gorge but before reaching the start came across a 2.7m width restricted bridge at St Martin d’Ardeche which we wondered if it might be a sign of what was to come further down the road too. Pulled over we checked alternative routes around it and had a quick look online about the road to see if it would be suitable. There were mentions of overhanging rocks and comments saying it was fine for passing from the south-east direction when these would be on the other side, but this was the opposite direction to which we were going. Not fancying narrow roads and projecting obstructions with increased bank holiday traffic which would likely make for a stressful drive we decided to give it a miss for now as we’ll be back in this area at some point on future holidays.

Thursday 12 May 2016

Roman remains and a 3800% increase in the wine budget, Arles to l'Ardèche

France, 2nd – 5th May 2016

We’d been told that one of the towns not too far from Mérindol, Ansouis, was one of the prettiest towns in Provence, so while we were in the neighbourhood it seemed a shame not to investigate it for ourselves.  After approaching through fields of vineyards, we reached a town full of stone cottages and lots of potted plants.  To me, it felt a little like being in the Lake District but with a French twist; the lakes were replaced with vineyards, and the constant rainclouds with beautiful sunshine.  It was pretty but being a small place there isn’t much to keep you around for long, so we continued to Arles.

Monday 9 May 2016

Blown Away by the Winds (and Sights) in the Luberon, Provence

Taking in the views from the Petit Luberon, Provence

France, 28th April – 1st May 2016

We’d returned to France with the ambition of getting the van serviced at an official Fiat garage in a country where Matt could bumble his way through the language rather than struggling with Spanish, but without already having booked an appointment we had a waiting game.  We’d already emailed a few garages while we were in Spain and had only heard back from one of them in Narbonne, who quoted more than we were hoping to pay and with no availability until 5th May, at which point we were hoping to be a lot further north in France towards Switzerland.  Whilst we were waiting around for the other garages to get back to us we didn’t have too much planned beyond slowly crossing the country, but we did set ourselves one very important daily goal: acquiring pain au chocolats.

Sunday 8 May 2016

Costa Brava

Spain and France, 24th – 27th April 2016

Views from the St Feliu de Guíxols coastal walk
Next for us was the Costa Blanca, which we didn’t want to miss after reading about it on OurTour’s blog from when they visited this area in November. We did it quite briefly though passing from place to place as it was time we made our way back into France after two months in Spain, which we’d planned to have taken a month to six weeks for. It’s a large country though with lots of great places to see which we’ve enjoyed, we’ve still only seen some of what’s to offer though, leaving lots more to return to one day. We had a couple of reasons for getting back up to France, the first one being the van was due its full 2-year mechanical service in the first week of May which I wanted to be in France so I was able to communicate sufficiently with the garage. The other was so that we have enough time to visit Switzerland and Austria, the remaining key counties we’d like to cover during this trip.

Saturday 30 April 2016

Barcelona and Dia de Sant Jordi

Spain, 20th – 23rd April 2016

Situated between the Serra de Collserola mountain range and the Mediterranean Sea, Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain after the capital Madrid, and is the capital of the region of Catalunya (Catalonia).  It’s ideal city break territory, with lots to see and do between sightseeing, art museums, shopping and plenty of beaches.  We’d also been warned by a couple of people that it’s supposed to be rife with pickpockets, and is a hotspot for campers having their vans ‘done over’ (meaning having it broken into and stuff nicked).  I’m glad to report that the van is still safe with no broken windows or busted locks, and if anything has been stolen from our pockets it can’t have been anything of more consequence than lint.

Wednesday 27 April 2016

Morella and the Delta de l'Ebre

Morella lit up at night

Spain, 15th – 19th April 2016

We’ve hugged the coast pretty much all of the way up the east of Spain from Almeria, but we had recommendations of a few places north of Valencia to try.  The first of these was in the mountains at Albarracin, but as we’re at the stage now where we’re starting to think about how many miles we put on the van for resale we decided it too big a detour for this trip.  The second recommendation of Morella wasn’t too far off-route, so we’ve visited there this week as well as a couple of places on the path to Barcelona.

Monday 25 April 2016

Touring a Continent for a Year: Cost Breakdown

On the 24th April last year, we woke up in a parking bay on Dover seafront and caught a ferry to Calais with no booked return journey.  We had a vague plan of what route we wanted to take, as well as what we wanted to spend.  It’s now a year on and it seems we massively over predicted the amount of countries we could cover in a year, not quite realising how ambitious an undertaking it would be to try and fit Scandinavia and the Baltics into our schedule.  Similarly our estimate of how much we’d be spending over the year turned out to be a rather loose estimate, but the good news?  It was an over-estimate.

People in our age-group are a minority when it comes to motorhoming, and we’re very lucky to have had the opportunity to do this.  We’re certainly not rich however, and this trip was the result of a lot of time rigorously saving.  A few years ago, we spent 16 days on a 3000 mile trip down to north Portugal in a self-build campervan, a holiday in which we kept written records of all our spending.  To choose a target of how much we’d need to save for this trip, we looked at what we spent during that previous holiday, making adjustments for what we expected we’d do over the long term (such as a lot less time driving!) and extrapolating it out over a year.  This brought us to the nice round target of £10000 (£415 per person per month) excluding the van road tax and insurance, which works out as a £192 weekly budget.  We also allowed for a £2000 contingency in case the money didn’t stretch as far as we hoped or something expensive cropped up like a van repair.

Twelve months down the line, and how’s that 10k looking?

Tuesday 19 April 2016

Paella of the Past and Buildings of the Future: Valencia

Spain, 11th – 14th April 2016

A bus journey from the hustle and bustle of Valencia, Spain’s third largest city, lies the lagoon known as l’Albufera.  You can glimpse the lagoon from the road running directly south of the city, where egrets stalk the water beyond the rushes that shelter it from the rush of traffic.  One particular turn-off from this road takes you towards El Palmar, down a road running between fields of rice paddies and various growing vegetables.  In contrast to the plastic sea of tomatoes further south in Spain, the fields appear to be more like allotments with potatoes, cabbages and the like.

Of course, any area known for lagoons and rice is generally going to be a flat wetlands area where mosquitoes thrive in the summer, and there were already a few of the blighters about at this time of year.  A few of you who have been reading for a while may have picked up that I generally don’t do well where mosquitoes are concerned, so you may be wondering: why?  Why had we chosen to come to this particular area?  Was it to wage war on their species?  Well, no, although it has to be said that at least one met a squashed end that night in our van.  To justify our visit, these three words should explain all: origin of paella.

Monday 18 April 2016

Alicante to Javea via Benidorm!

Spain, 6th – 10th April 2016

View from Alicante castle
When we met up with Julie and Jason of OurTour in November we spoke about getting recognised in public through having a blog. I remember saying we didn’t have that many readers so didn’t expect we’d get this, but Jay said it would happen in time from their experience. Sure enough it has now occurred for the first time. We got a message through our Facebook page from Kim to say that while having their breakfast they’d spotted me at the beach parking spot at El Pinet where they happened to be staying too. I'd been having a wander to take photos of the area just before we left to head to Alicante so unfortunately they didn’t get chance to come over to say hello, maybe another time Kim!

Sunday 10 April 2016

Puerto de Mazarrón, Cartagena and onto the Costa Blanca

Spain, 2nd – 5th April 2016

From our freeparking spot in La Azohia we had a day trip out in the van to visit nearby Puerto de Mazarrón and Bolnuevo. From here we next went to Cartagena then onto a couple more beach spots whilst heading for Alicante.

The main thing at Bolnuevo are some unusual sculpted sandstone rocks in the cliffs which have been formed by water and wind erosion. We parked in the area next to them to have a look before a walk out of the edge of the town. From here the road becomes a rough dirt track leading around to Calnegre passing some nice bays but we didn’t want to drive it in the camper, remembering how rough, potholed and scattered with rocks it was when going along it in a hire car with family when I visited this part of the Spanish coast some years ago on a holiday. We stayed in a house in Puerto de Mazarrón so I wanted to revisit it as it was a nice town and to see if it had changed. Finding a spot to park on a wide quiet street near two other British vans we’ve spotted three times previously while we’ve been in Southern Spain, we first had a look in a large Chinese shop and picked up a couple of bits. We had a walk along the length of the paseo (promenade) before getting some lovely gelatos from a shop on a street back and ate them sat by the marina. Mazarrón seemed about the same as before, with some improvement works to the beachside and port area, and is still a pleasant place to wander around with a large selection of restaurants.

Wednesday 6 April 2016

The Golfo de Mazarrón

Spain, 29th March – 1st April 2016

After a night of stormy weather we’re currently looking out at cloudy skies from our latest free beachside location, but after days of sunshine we’ve got few complaints to make.  We’ve been in Spain for a month now, and so far it’s been proving a great place to tour in a motorhome.  Our overnight costs for the duration of March have been a grand total of €24; for anyone who is curious as to how we can finance this lifestyle, there’s your answer.  I sense this sum will be significantly higher for the duration of April as the stretch of Spain between here and the French border is known to be stricter on overnight parking and we’ll have to get a few more paying aires/campsites under our belt in order to visit some places (Barcelona, I’m looking at you!), but I still imagine our total costs will be far less than what we’d have to pay for just a few days of hotel accommodation to see the same places.

Wednesday 30 March 2016

Back to the Coast: Cabo de Gata and the Costa Calida

Our spot at Playa de las Palmeras

Spain, 24th – 28th March 2016

We’re now back on the coast having worked our way east from Almeria and started going north along the Costa Calida finding some great beach parking spots to stay. I didn’t realise how mountainous this area was, in some parts all the way to the coastline, it’s clear why much of it is undeveloped. We’ve been on a lot of twisty and hilly roads to get about the area with some nice scenery. It seems beach parking is very tolerated in these parts which is good news for us, and surprisingly even “camping activities” overlooked. We’ve seen a lot of vans, including many VW campers, with awnings, chairs and tables out, and have seen Guardia Civil drive by without stopping at two of the places.

Saturday marked the 356 days on the road milestone for us. With our original plans for a year touring Europe we'd be back in the UK now, but with our efficient spending can extend it for a few more months now and keep enjoying it!

Thursday 24 March 2016

Exploring Inland Andalucía: El Torcal, Antequera and Sierra Nevada

Spain, 18th – 23rd March 2016

Rather than following our usual patterns of edging along coastlines we’ve stayed inland this week.  From Ronda we skipped the rest of the Costa del Sol by travelling east with no intention of coming back to the sea until reaching Almeria on the other side of Andalucía.  That’s quite a chunk of coast we’ve left unexplored, but between the stunning karstic landscape of El Torcal and the views of distant snow-capped mountains in the Sierra Nevada, I think we probably made a good call.

Sunday 20 March 2016

From British Fish 'n' Chips to Moorish White Towns: Gibraltar to Ronda

Spain and Gibraltar, 14th – 18th March 2016

Following Portugal I wasn’t expecting much of Spain and thought we may face a plateau in our trip at this point so travel through quickly. We’d heard lots of stories of problems and of not being able to freepark in southern Spain but so far it’s been great. It confirms to us further that you shouldn’t believe all the stories that go around and instead get there and find out for yourself. We’ve had some great beach locations last week, then this week have visited Gibraltar before heading inland into the mountains to the Pueblos Blancos, the White Towns.

Tuesday 15 March 2016

Looking out at Africa from Tarifa, Andalucia

Spain, 4th – 13th March 2016

We’re currently parked up for the night on a piece of land near Tarifa, overlooking the ocean and the beach where all the kitesurfers and windsurfers flock.  Morocco is close enough to our kipping spot that we can see the white specks of buildings as well as a windfarm on the mountain peaks on the other side of the water.  This is the point of our trip where we’d considered going over to Morocco and branching our travels to include a little bit outside of Europe, but from a practical standpoint it didn’t quite materialise this time around; give us a couple of years and maybe it will be a different story.  Our trip down to this southern extreme of Spain hasn’t been for nothing however, as amazingly, Matt’s long neglected windsurf gear has finally had a dusting off.

Saturday 12 March 2016

Adios Piri-Piri, Hola Tapas! Seville and El Rócio

Portugal and Spain, 29th February – 4th March 2016

After two months we’ve finally put Portugal behind us, which means that we’ve got to swap our ‘obrigad(o/a)’ for ‘gracias’, and also that sadly there’s no more cheap piri-piri chicken on the horizon.  The good news is that I’ve already found a way of filling the food-shaped hole in my heart; after all, we’re in tapas territory now.

Tuesday 8 March 2016

The Final Stretch of the Algarve and Mina de São Domingos

Portugal, 24th – 28th February 2016

We have finally left Portugal, after two months here we've spent about twice as long here as we’d originally planned as we've enjoyed it again down here and found lots more nice and interesting places. We were aiming to get over to Morocco this winter and had gone as far as having immunisations while back in the UK and buying a Rough Guide and Camping Morocco books, however were not completely decided. The key thing that was still required was a vehicle insurance green card for the period that we would be there which would have to be arranged and posted, and after realising we were going to be in Portugal for a longer period it would be March before we would arrive which would be too late really as we’d want to allow 4-6 weeks over there. In addition there would be the added mileage on the van and a service due, so decided it will have to be left for another time.

Friday 4 March 2016

Eastern Algarve: Faro, Loulé and Estói

Faro marina

Portugal, 20th – 23rd February 2016

We’ve finally moved on from the Portimão area, and after a few weeks on the southwestern end of the Algarve we are covering new ground in the east, with the Spanish border coming ever closer.  We’ve had a few learning experiences this week, namely about the limits of what our solar-free electric setup can cope with, and also about what may drive a person to physically suck on a tap (the good news is the water pump still works, and hot showers are still within my grasp).  We’ve also been catching up with fellow motorhoming friends Matt and Ellie, which marked a special occasion in our fridge: the cans of Lidl lager were replaced with not just bottles, but branded bottles.  First bottled wine and now beer, aren’t we fancy pants?

Monday 29 February 2016

Ferragudo, Monchique and Alvor

Portugal, 15th – 20th February 2016

Taking over from where Jo left it last time, we had several more days of a busy week with my parents on holiday visiting us. It was nice to spend time with them down here and we had a great time doing more sightseeing and walking. It was a shame the weather wasn’t too good, it was mixed with mainly dull skies, some rain showers and a bit of sun. Typically after my mum and dad went home it improved that day becoming sunny and warm, then the following days were very nice with sun and temperatures around 22°C.

Thursday 25 February 2016

Portimão, Lagos and Silves

Portugal, 11th – 14th February 2016

We’re still in the Algarve, where I am pleased to report the newly working water pump is getting liberal usage; nothing quite makes you appreciate showers like going a month without running water.  Matt’s parents have been and gone, and after a week of dining out we’re getting used to a life of luxury, having eaten out eight times over a course of nine days and having plans to try out another place soon.  A little beyond our usual extravagance?  Maybe.  Then again, when you can get decent meals for about €8-10 a head in Portugal, it would be wrong not to: at least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

Saturday 13 February 2016

Into the Heart of the Algarve

The beach at Boca do Rio

Portugal, 6th – 11th February 2016

Since last time we’ve moved onto the more sheltered and busier south coast of the Algarve. We’ve been making our way along actually having a deadline to work to for a change, the day that my parents arrive for a holiday visiting us. In the process we’ve skipped the area roughly from Lagos to Portimão to leave new places to visit as we’ll be basing ourselves here for a week while they’re down. After a successful week free parking at beaches we encountered the Police moving us on, which happened to be in the middle of the night!

Sunday 7 February 2016

Retreading Old Steps along the South-West Coast

Portugal, 1st – 5th February 2016

Praia do Amado
It may have taken us six weeks behind our original schedule, but we’ve finally done it: we’ve hit the Algarve.  In van land, our electronics are still charged, there’s still water in the tank, and my Eat Less Meat resolution is still in place, still without complaints from Matt.  As we’ve been freecamping our important scientific research into Alentejo wine has had to be scaled back a little (in the interest of responsible drinking whilst in charge of a vehicle), but I can confirm that all bottles consumed so far have been perfectly palatable.  We’ve even branched out into a Portuguese wine from outside of the Alentejo region, because any decent researcher needs to make sure they have a control group.  That being said, €2.50 is our upper limit for a bottle and we’re still big endorsers of the supermarket wine briks, so take from that what you will.

Monday 1 February 2016

Santiago do Cacém and the Alentejo Coast

Portugal, 24th – 31st January 2016

Ilha do Pessegueiro from the coastal Fisherman's Trail
This last week we visited Santiago do Cacém before going slightly north to the coast around Santo André, including spending some time on a campsite to get some jobs done. From here we’ve started picking up our route south down the Alentejo coast towards the Algarve. We’re now into the area we already know having come up as far north as this point during our time down here last winter, but are not intending to just cover the same things again; instead we plan to see new places amongst the ones we saw before, but also hopefully stay at our favourite spots again.

With today being the end of the month Jo has updated our spending accounts and found we’ve only spent €412, or £310, this month in Portugal which is only 37% of our monthly budget! At this rate we’ll be hanging around here a bit longer and our budget will keep lasting longer. Happy days!

Thursday 28 January 2016

Sitting on top of the world at Monsaraz

Portugal, 19th – 23rd January 2016

When we left Évora last Tuesday, instead of heading west back to the Alentejo coast, the van wheels set into motion and made a move east towards the Spanish border.  We hadn’t made an impromptu decision that we’d had enough of Portugal and wanted to leave, nor had Matt suddenly lost his passion for the sea and decided we’re staying inland.  So what gives?  Well, we’d heard of a little village called Monsaraz with a motorhome parking area and panoramic views.  I’m a sucker for a panorama, and so our next destination was decided.

Monsaraz promised us a view, and it certainly delivered.  The walled village sits atop a hill that sticks out above the rest of the surrounding countryside.  We approached it as the day was coming to a close and followed the signs for caravan parking up something of a tight, winding uphill corner, and came out on a terrace (GPS: 38.44245 -7.37982) occupied by a half-dozen or so vans with views out over the fields and the Barragem de Alqueva (Europe’s largest manmade lake).

Sunday 24 January 2016

A Britfest, a Barragem and a Chapel of Bones: Sesimbra to Évora

Portugal, 15th - 19th January 2016

We’re currently in Alentejo, which is one of the poorest regions in Portugal but the main source of the country’s olives and cork.  We have been told that as far as Portuguese wine goes the Alentejo stuff is generally decent; we’ve been testing this theory on a nice €1.99 bottle, but as one bottle is too small a sample size for conclusive results we’ll have to consume more, all in the name of science of course.   The latest news in Van Land:  We’ve still not got around to replacing the water pump (however we have increased the volume of water in our jug showers to a luxurious 2.5L per person).  My cooking-less-meat resolution is still on track, with no complaints from Matt (yet).  Oh, and we’ve come across a van using a generator to power a portable washing machine, so I feel like we can finally say we’ve seen everything the motorhome world has to offer.

Wednesday 20 January 2016

The Sun Reappears in Sintra and Cascais

Portugal, 11th – 14th January 2016

It’s great news for us from Portugal, the rain has gone and made way for nice sunny weather! After the period of rain we’d had, luckily the next day it changed, there was clear blue sky and the sun was out. I stepped out of the van in the morning to take some photos of the view across the valley to Mafra, felt the warmth of the sun on me and thought this is more like it. So we have resumed normal service of being able to get out and about to explore.

Wednesday 13 January 2016

Waiting out the Weather in Estremadura, Portugal

Portugal, 4th – 10th January 2016 

We’re now about 2/3 of the way down the Portuguese coastline, less than an hour’s drive from Lisbon and, more importantly, a minute’s walk from the water’s edge.  We’ve experienced a week of rain, with the sun occasionally peering out from a break between the clouds to taunt us before hiding for the next downpour.  Our water pump has stopped working, so we currently have no running water in the van.  However, I think it’s important to point out that we’ve somehow managed to avoid killing each other or any passers-by, so we’re taking it all in good spirit.

Saturday 9 January 2016

Into Portugal, Joined by the Rain

Spain and Portugal, 29th December 2015 – 4th January 2016

Happy New Year to all! We made it to the Portuguese coast for New Year’s Eve but unfortunately the rain joined us. It's not as bad here as in the UK at least with temperatures in the high teens. We have spent an unusually long, for us, time at the same beach spot due to being in good company with fellow Brits and to sit out the weather for a while.

Super cheap fuel prices. If passing through this way soon
‘easy’ fuel station on the main road just after Irun is only
cent more, and significantly cheaper than anywhere else
we saw along the main route down through Spain where
they were €0.95-0.98
Before leaving France we called at Capbreton for a stock up on croissants, pain au chocolats and Cidre. Over the border in Spain we found fuel prices were down there too, at Alcampo (which price matches against the local area), diesel was now only €0.845 (down from €0.91 two weeks ago), that’s only 61p, the lowest we’ve ever paid. We made good progress cruising down the E80 dual-carriageway and made use of the time listening to another constructive audiobook - Dale Carnegi’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, which was recommended to me years ago by a summer job colleague, and now finally got around to reading/listening to it. It was sunny and warm in the afternoon at 21°C so we were down to T-shirts. We stopped for the night at an Aire in the village of Torquemada (GPS: 42.03704 -4.31610, Free inc. serv. pt.) next to the church in a quiet spot, where we joined another four motorhomes. In contrast to the warm temperatures during the day, being at quite high elevation we woke up to find it was chilly in the morning at 3°C outside and only 6°C inside so the heating had to go on!

Monday 4 January 2016

Another Christmas in South-West France, Why Not?

France, 22nd - 29th December 2015

We’re back on the continent once more, having come to the end of our UK visit and caught a ferry out again with a fresh MOT in hand – no longer any obligation to return in April!  We’d been expecting to have not had much to report until we’d travelled down to southern Portugal, but the beauty of driving your accommodation around with you is that plans are always adaptable, so instead we’ve been retracing the roads from our journey south last year.

Our morning alarm greeted us in Dover at 5am.  We were running on the assumption that after our last stormy crossing, we’d seen the worst that the English Channel had to offer and that this ferry journey would be a doddle; oh, how wrong we were.  We arrived at the check-in booth and were told our ferry was delayed for at least an hour due to the stormy conditions – “Lucky you”.  Lucky us replied that we were on our way back after crossing in the previous storm a couple of weeks ago, but as far as the check-in guy was concerned, there was no other storm as the channel had been in one continuous storm for the past two weeks.