So being that it is summer, we of cause are in our element & loving every moment. Back doing what we love most, living every day in our togs, swimming, fishing, BBQ-ing and enjoying the cold outdoor shower. It’s just total bliss and we are going to miss this when we go back home. I hope one day you all spend a summer in Europe as we have, in a camper, mingling with the locals and taking each day as it comes.
As you can imagine, Portugal’s coastline is windy? 90% of the coast is along the Atlantic, so that means it’s battered by strong winds and huge surf. The wind is so strong along parts of the coast it hurts as it whips any exposed skin and makes it almost impossible to stand up straight. In some areas it rocked the van vigorously throughout the night it made for a sleepless night. We did a wee bit of boogie boarding and surfing, but the waves where crashing right on the beach at Carrapateira, a world renown surf Mecca, that the surf life savers had closed the beach for the day as it was just too dangerous to go in. We love waves, hate wind. It’s OK for a day or two but after a while it ends up doing your head in.
We’ve made it through Portugal in lightening speed, staying just 1 or 2 nights in most places. What we thought would take us 6 weeks took us just over 2 and before we know it we where straddling the boarder of Spain and Portugal once more and we’ve stayed here, on the boarder, at Vila Real Santo Antonio for 5 weeks, but we’ll get to that in another post.
wow…it seems like ages ago that we dropped Daniel off at the airport, but it was only 7 weeks ago. We’ve done so much, seen so much, met so many great people I hardly know where to start.
We followed the northern Spanish coast as far as Gijon
We followed the northern Spanish coast as far as Gijon where we stayed enjoying wonderful bay views from a well known free motor home parking spot. Then headed inland towards Portugal, stopping just before the boarder, close to Vigo, in a town called Rodendella. Unbeknownst to us, it was market day the following morning and we awoke to find we where totally surrounded by market stalls and cars. …so we stayed for a few days, enjoyed the market food and activity and watched as more pilgrims embarked on the route along the Camino de Santiago before heading into Portugal.
Quickly realizing the Northern Coast of Portugal wasn’t for us, we headed straight to city of Porto. And just as well we did because the city was gearing up for one of the biggest parties of the year. Its Festa de Sao Joan or St John’s Eve. It’s huge and one of the most important days in any Latin country calendar with parties held around the world in honor of this Saint. The whole city was in party mode, bunting and decorations everywhere, dinning tables, chairs & BBQ’s lining the streets, music stages and entertainment in every corner of the city and we where treated to an amazing fire works show from Dom Luis Bridge that would easily rival the New Years Eve party on Sydney Harbor.
The motorhome parking is right on the river, with wonderful views of the city and only 1km from the bridge. When we arrived, having no idea a party was going to happen the following day, the parking area was not that busy with only a few motorhome’s already parked up. Upon entering the site we see 2 other English campers, one being another Auto-Trail, what’s the chances of that! We of cause pounce and quickly strike up a conversation, always desperate to talk to fellow campers, especially if they are English or can speak English. Marissa & Paul and Di & Mike are all from England, like minded wild campers like us and all met each other wild camping in Portugal. For the next 2 days we watched as the city and our parking area became shoulder to shoulder, packed full of people and campers. Families up late, having a party in the parking lot, music & BBQ’s everywhere…..what a night! I’m not sure how the Saint would feel about the ‘not so holy’ parties that continue on till sunrise.
It was a night to remember, one we shall never forget and meeting the fab 4 was like icing on the cake. These guys are “pro-fo” wild-campers and have been doing it full time for years, so after quickly knabbing all their wild-camping spots and getting lots and lots of pointers from them it was a sad goodbye when they finally had to leave. Timing is a funny thing, we seem to be meeting all these fabulous people, just as our journey is coming to an end. Where were you all these past 2 years???? We cant wait to see Di, Mike, Paul & Marissa (and many others who are now friends) when you all come and see us in Australia.
We ended up staying a few extra days in Porto to check it out & fill our tummies with as many Portuguese tarts as possible. It is a FANTASTIC city a HIGHLIGHT for us on this trip. Its a UNESCO World Heritage listed site and really vibrant along the waterfront. It felt like I was walking around a movie set, with its beautiful tiled buildings and facades, cobble stone streets and wonderful views over the river and valley below. It is also home to that fortified wine we love so much – PORT. When in Porto you must drink, or at least try, as many different types of Vinho do Porto as possible. The Adegas line the river and make for a really spectacular setting. All the famous names are here, Grahams, Sandman, Dows, Taylors, Calem, Offley, Cockburns…the list goes on! It really is very picturesque, another unexpected highlight place for us on this trip. After travelling for nearly 3 years, its great to get excited and inspired by a location again. If your ever in this part of the world, then make sure you visit Porto.
The wind is quite a welcome relief in the evening though. If not right on the coast, the land and cities do get very VERY hot during the day. When the sun is starting to set, the winds pick up for a few hours and cool very thing and every one off. It’s wonderful, just like the “Freo Doctor” in Perth and makes sleeping a whole lot easier. The first time we really felt the “Portugal Doctor” was during party night in Porto….ahh what a wonderful thing when you are really hot and bothered and this breeze coming straight off the ocean is a life saver.
Continuing south along the coast we visited Eveiro (the Venice of Portugal), then the surf beach and coastline around Quiaios & Figueira da Foz and stayed for a few days to enjoy the beautiful views from a wonderful wild-camping spot above the cliffs of Peniche. It’s also hosts world spearfishing championships so Paul of cause needed to get in the water and check it out. Beautiful coastline and some really pretty secluded beaches, but the water was just too cold to swim in, we headed south again.
We stopped in Sesimbra, about 1hr south of Lisbon and explored this part of the coastline and did a day trip to Lisbon in the car. After falling in love with Porto, we where really excited about visiting Lisbon, but unfortunately it just didn’t capture us & a 1/2 day visit was all we needed. We explored the coastline from Sesimbra to Setubal which form part of the beautiful Arrabida National Park & Sesimbra Marine Park. This whole area is just beautiful! Sparkling clear CALM water, rocky outcrops and hidden bays and a wonderful coastal drive. Portugal’s Amalfi coast is the best way I can describe it, not quite the same, but crazy little windy road, way too many double parked cars and stunning views and secluded swimming bays & beaches.
From here we headed further south to Porto Covo, where we had another amazing wild camping spot right above the cliffs and did day trips in the car to Sines, Milfontes, Isla Pessegueiro. Then further south to Carrapateira, but the waves where even to full on for the experienced surfer that we decided to head to Algarve region. Everyone keeps talking about the Algarve area and how beautiful it is. Its certainly the most famous area, for it’s beaches, calmer waters (although not all that calm) and sadly the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. There are some stunning rock formations and secluded beaches to access, but it was a little too mainstream for us. We did quickly checkout Sagres, Lagos and Portimao but then headed along the coast further towards the Spanish boarder.
Just when we thought we couldn’t find the right spot in Portugal and we where about to head into Spain, we’ve been saved by Vila Real Santo Antonio. It’s not as beautiful as the other locations in Algarve, but we’ve found a great wild camping spot, met some more great friends (more about them later), there’s ample fish in the water (this makes for a happy Paulie) and the water is calmer & warmer than anywhere else in Portugal, so why would we leave?
Here we’ve been able to catch our breath, stop touring and start preparing ourselves for our return journey home. We’ve also been able to see the true Portugal & beyond the masses of tourism & SHOCKINGLY bad drivers. We’ve met so many great locals and realize that a 2 week visit would not have done the country justice and would have left us with the wrong impression of the country.
Portugal is a wonderful country, very laid back & friendly. I’ve also come to realize just how much I don’t know about the world and history that it’s a little embarrassing. I wasn’t really sure what I was expecting of Portugal, maybe I thought it would be like Spain but it’s nothing like Spain. Gosh, they must get that all the time and hate it. Bit like Kiwi’s being called Aussies. They certainly don’t speak the same language. Portuguese sounds totally different, more eastern European than anything. The food, the towns, cities, villages & fortifications are totally different and it’s much less developed than it’s neighbour. Christopher Columbus set sail for the America’s from here, Brazil and many other Latin countries speaks Portuguese – not Spanish.
The Portuguese also don’t mind wild-camping & we’ve had many locals coming up to us, asking what we think of the area. One man dropped off some wine to us, others have joined us for lunch & Paul has met a fellow spearo buddy so they are off diving or fishing every day and getting the locals knowledge.
At low tide, you could walk out onto any beach in Portugal and see 1/2 the country is bent over, ‘mooning’ each other. The national pastime is collecting conkilla (cockles) to cook up with a bit of garlic, olive oil and Vinho Branco for lunch or dinner the following day. I don’t know how there are even any cockles left in Portugal, but there up and at’em first thing in the morning and late in the afternoon.
So now that summer has arrived, so have the Spanish camper vans. If the Italians have mastered the art of food and cooking, then the Spanish mastered the art of partying. It’s hilarious and noisy right now but we are having a blast, eating heaps of food (that we haven’t prepared – yipee), drinking way too much and making new amigos………Ahhhhh…….. la Dolce Vita Portugal.
Does this ever have to end? Do we really have to go back home? and back to work?
Been a while since we did a recipe, so here’s a drink we got onto using a Portuguese Aniseed type liquor. You could use any light colored or white Aniseed tasting Licquor.
– Crush/blend 4-5 Strawberries till nice & juicy
– add into a tumbler/glass of crushed ice
– add a good serving of Licor Beirao – around 10 swirls
– top up with sparkling or soda water
– now sit back and enjoy the sunset
la Dolce Vita Portugal for sure.
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