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.