Weeks 6 - 10 - Wandering towards Christmas.

19th - 25th November 2017


We are still in the area of the Serra da Estrela Natural Park and seem to have spent all our time in this region driving around, and, in an area as spectacular as this, that is no surprise. There seem to be few foreign tourists, there were no menus in languages other than Portuguese outside restaurants and those locals we spoke to seemed surprised but pleased to see us. It is a great place to explore particularly if walking or rambling is your thing; the trails are endless and range from very easy to “bloody hell’. It is a place we would want to revisit, but in the spring or autumn, not the winter.

Moving day - southwards towards the warmer weather, we hope, and an unashamed Portuguese seaside holiday area.

We have fetched up at a small seaside town called Vagueira, it is home to a very rare animal indeed, a decent Orbitur campsite. I have moaned about Orbitur before, they are the biggest camping site company in Portugal and have sites in all the best places. Unfortunately Orbitur have never heard the word “maintenance” let alone the two words “planned maintenance”. On our first adventure during the winter 2011/12 we visited an Orbitur site that had just opened a brand new toilet block when we went back three years later although the block was still clean the shower heads were so full of limescale they squirted small amounts of water in all directions, the shower mixers were so in need of re-washering that water, some of it in boiling jets was escaping from every joint, all the loo seats were gone and the place felt thirty not three years old. Camping Park Da Vagueira is the exception that proves the rule, click HERE to read my report.

Wednesday - Sunday
Close to where we are staying is the small seaside town of Costa Nova do Prado, whose two claims to fame are a soft sandy beach and striped houses, that have become a traditional and unique feature of the town.

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The main reason we came to this area was Alveiro - known as the Venice of Portugal.

Alveiro, a university town, has a number of canals running round and through it and a, very in your face, canal boat ride tourism industry. The boats are traditional, a little like the shape of Ventian gondola but larger and propelled by a large outboard motor rather than a big stick. The boat tours are short but interesting and inexpensive. Alveiro is very much an art nouveau town where there are many fine art nouveau buildings and an art nouveau museum that is worth a visit.

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26th November - 3rd December 2017

Monday - Thursday
This week has gently passed us by, we have done the laundry and other household tasks and taken long walks along the seafront, with a quick visit to Arouca where we hoped to visit the convent and its associated museum. Unfortunately for us a Christmas market was being set up so we managed neither objective. We did however find out why sweets and desserts using egg yolks as the prime ingredient are such a speciality of the area. It seems that the nuns habits were kept starched with a concoction made from egg whites which resulted in a great many yolks with no clear purpose, so with lots of sugar and ingenuity the delicious “convent sweets” were invented.

The area is also known as the Arouca Geopark a large natural park where some of the finest fossil specimens have been found. Sadly this is not the season to visit and in any case it is far too big an area for the time we have available but we will be back.

We had intended to spend the weekend here continuing our week of doing nothing very much but a Dutch family arrived yesterday mum, dad, two daughters aged around seven and nine and an old red setter dog. The first thing they did on arrival was turn the dog out where it was left to amuse itself. All was OK until in the wee small hours it got cold and lonely, so it started to bark which turned into a pitiful howl, it went on for the remainder of the night. It was not until the morning that we realised the dog had no bed, no food or water bowls - no nothing, no wonder it was fed up.

Not wanting to get into a row about animal care and certainly not wanting another sleepless night despite our “never move on a Friday” rule we packed up and left.

Fridays are the days the Portuguese and Spanish tend to head for the sites for a weekend of partying, moving on a Friday may mean you having a pitch right in the middle of a two day bar-B-que/street party and as pleasant and hospitable as they are it can be very tiring.

We arrived at Parque de Campismo Baía Azul (Blue Bay Camping) and have set up with a view across the very blue bay of São Martinho do Porto.


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We went for a very pleasant walk around the bay today, no need to use the car, just walk out the gate and turn right. Half way along the prom and one road back is a municipal building that houses the tourist information office at the back of which is a lift that whisks you up four floors to the level of the old town centre - how civilised is that?

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The Lift

4th December - 10th December 2017

São Martinho do Porto is unashamedly a seaside holiday town, far enough from the nearest airport at Lisbon to discourage foreign package tours (although lots of Brits own property round here) but a perfect distance for Lisbon residents. Here the beach is king, there being many miles of unspoiled golden sands and within the town precincts more bars and restaurants than you can shake a stick at and at all price levels. While this is great in season, many are closed in the winter but enough stay open, particularly at weekends, to give a very good choice.

We were recommended, by someone on the site, to a tiny cafe in a back alley that turned out to be a little gem, run by a young couple - he the chef, she front of house - on our first visit it was his night off so no food was available, we went back a couple of days later. The menu comprised lots of small plates of Portuguese speciality food designed to be shared. Even taking into account the casual attitude to time of the Portuguese we thought the food took an unreasonable time to reach our table but when it did we realised the amount of care, attention and skill that had gone into each element, for instance the grilled gambons (prawns) had been carefully peeled and the vein removed from the back without removing the head or tail before coating in spices and grilling. Absolutely Fabulous, and the entire meal was cooked to the same standard. By Portuguese standards it was not cheap at €42.00 for the two of us but that did include a bottle of wine and a couple of pints of beer and, we thought, good value for money.

We spent the remainder of the week wandering the beaches and the town with the intention of moving on on Friday until we learned that São Martinho do Porto has a floating Christmas tree. It is the only one in Europe and one of only two in the world, the other being in Brazil, this we had to see, even if it meant staying put until Monday.

The lighting ceremony was scheduled to start at 10.30pm.

Yea right! This is Portugal - midnight is a much more likely time.

The organiser was obviously not Poirtugese, as on the stroke of 10.30 the tree was switched on and a few minutes later the fireworks started. They were superb, the best we can remember at the end of which a band - Hi-Fi, Energy Music - leapt onto a large mobile stage built across the main prom road and started a concert that lasted until 2.30am. We know because we were less than a half mile from the stage with nothing in between to deaden the sound.

It was a great and successful night for the town and on Saturday evening we walked along the prom in a blustery wind to admire the floating tree and its stunning computer controlled light show.

The following morning we again wandered the prom and at first could not understand what was different. Oh yes. No tree.

The wind overnight had been very strong and the tree was now at the bottom of the bay. The company that provided and installed the Christmas light display was already with a “cherry picker” repairing the on land displays but I can’t see how they can recover, repair and replace the floating tree in time for this year. What a shame, a sad and presumably expensive end to a great idea.

11th December - 17th December 2017

Monday is moving day, we have moved further south to Parque de Campismo Alcacer do Sal, it is a small municipal site we planned to stay for around ten days but on arrival were told that the site was to close on Wednesday 13th until further notice for “essential maintenance work”.

Like many sites in Portugal this one has a motorhome/caravan/car cleaning bay, as we wandered around looking for a good pitch I noticed a motorhome with a UK numberplate being cleaned.

I’m sure you can all guess my reaction, I went over and said to the guy “When you’ve practiced on that one I’ve got a caravan that needs doing” he turned to speak unfortunately with the gushing hose in his hand. I was soaked from head to toe. Hells teeth was it cold!!!!!

With just one day we decided to do the washing using the 18kg machine in the supermarket next door to the site - such excitement.

Second move in a week. We are now at Camping Milfontes which will be our base until at least the new year.

18th December - 24th December 2017

Even less to write about this week than last, we have spent our time preparing for Christmas, but for us there is not much planning to do. We bought some wine, some beer and some gin, so my Christmas was sorted but Sue insisted on buying food as well.

One of the reasons we came to this particular site is because we knew from past experience there was a large group of Brits and a large group of members of a German singles group meet up here each Christmas - except it seems this one. Some of the Brits are here but none of the Germans and the atmosphere is very subdued.

I was reading a caravan forum this morning and read a thread on travel timings when towing a caravan. Nothing wrong with that. The opening poster was planning a journey towing a caravan to Devon from Sheffield, again no problem till he said the journey was to take place in July 2018 - ye gods, I thought I was being a bit laid back when we get up in the morning hitch up the van input a lat/long destination into the sat-nav and headed off into Europe with no other planning but to start planing a 250/300 mile trip in UK six months in advance?????????

25th December - 31st December 2017

Christmas came and went with barely a whimper although we did get our traditional Christmas morning paddle. We had a very pleasant dinner, we bought a LARGE turkey leg, removed bone and tendons, then with home made stuffing rolled and roasted it. Served with all the trimmings and a bottle of Portuguese wine - fantabulous.

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The wine was a Christmas gift from the camp site, two bottles of red and a bottle of white in a presentation box. Very nice but we do wonder why they do it, and how recipients are selected as not all campers receive - weird.

The site is still very quiet, there have been no Christmas get togethers and this week has passed almost un-noticed.

Whoa!!! Take back all I said, we have an invite. A New Years Eve party. Not sure who is organising it but we will go for a while later.

Later - We still don’t know who organised the afternoon party but whoever it was could certainly cook. the food was superb. We said our goodbyes around tea time but some were still partying well into the night.

© S W Ghost 2017