Last Days in Portugal (For Now)

Following on from our last post, we headed to an Aire just inland on the Algarve that got very good but very intriguing reviews on the internet. “Motorhome Friends”did indeed turn out to have a very outgoing owner called Pedro who, rather than collecting your 8 Euros 50 a night and disappearing seemed to spend much of his time rounding people up for “optional” activities. We arrived on the Monday lunchtime and had hardly parked, been given our extensive tour of the facilities and grabbed a late lunch before he appeared again, scampering round the site blowing a whistle and, if that didn’t work, banging on doors to make sure we all showed up for the weekly Petanque contest…….  It was all so unusual that I completely forgot to take a photo…..

The next day we picked up a map for the walk to the local castle. There was a bit of a downpour on the way, but it didn’t last long (a good opportunity for me to appear on a photo without actually appearing on a photo).

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There was a Roman bridge to see on the way….

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Then as we got closer to the castle and reached a track running up to it, Mark suddenly announced that this was starting to look very familiar. Damn – it was indeed the same castle that we’d stopped off to have a look at last year on our way back to the coast from a day trip around some of the inland villages…

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We managed to run away from Motorhome Friends after two nights. Apparently people do arrive for two nights and end up staying a month as there is always an “oh, but you must stay for the xyz”. In our case we missed the Soup and Sausages tea on Wednesday night, the shopping trip on Thursday, and the big weekly barbecue on Saturday afternoon. Oh well, we had other places to explore….. I think we only managed to pay and quickly leave on Wednesday morning because Pedro was so engrossed at the time with setting tables for the Soup and Sausages….

Our next stop was Faro Beach, which had been recommended by a Cornish couple we’d bumped into a couple of times this year (and who had recognised Mark from last year). This was a big sandbar across a causeway just beyond the airport. We had the beach just on one side of the car park and the lagoon part just on the other side of the car park. Luckily, the flight path was not directly overhead, so whilst there the proximity to the airport wasn’t at all obvious.

We stayed two nights at Faro Beach before continuing East to Castro Marim, which is near the coast just before the border with Spain. We’d looked here after we first entered Portugal last year, but the Aire was full and there was nowhere to park so we’d carried on. This year we arrived earlier in the day to find the Aire closed off for the monthly market the day after and all of the vans parked on bits of waste ground nearby. We joined them and had a wander round the town. There’s nothing much there apart from two castles, one of which was open (and a bargain visit at 1 Euro 10 each) and the other closed.

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The next morning we had a look around the extensive market. Mark did suddenly get left behind at one point. Whilst waiting for him to catch up, I perused a bag stall and found something worth having – a plain black bag of a suitable size for carrying an ipad, A4 notebook etc in very lightweight “leather” that would also make it suitable for travel. All for 5 Euros. Mark caught up and I asked him what he thought. He was extremely enthusiastic – “ooooh yes, I’ve got 5 Euros here…. where’s the woman….?….”. The question marks were just floating past the insides of my eyes, cartoon-style, when I discovered the reason for his enthusiasm, and his tardiness. He’d spotted some bottle-openers and had quietly stopped to purchase a bottle-opening foot for a Euro. Hence his enthusiasm for me to acquire something so that nothing could be said about the number of bottle openers he now has in his Kampington collection (hang on…. this’ll worry him…. <collection removed from hooks> ten and counting…..).

DSC01116After all that extravagance, we headed back to Kampington via the obligatory cheese stall for Mark to acquire some smelly stuff, and continued on our way. We’d decided to head inland up the border a bit (we’d travelled up the border further North last year, but hadn’t done this very bottom part).

We drove up the Guadiana River, stopping for a night at Almada de Ouro.

DSC01118  We stopped for lunch the next day at a car park and viewpoint. It was here that we had an interesting encounter with the local police.

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A police car drove into the car park, dithered a bit (Mark reckoned they had come to eat their butties) then turned and parked diagonally across the front of Kampington, presumably a standard ploy to prevent escape. I went to the sliding door and opened it to find two Portuguese plods standing outside, one middle-aged and one very young one. They stood there looking at me and saying nothing, so I gave them my best “boa tarde” and stood there looking back at them, figuring it was up to them to make the next move. They then started looking all sheepish and glancing at each other. Young plod eventually lost the glance-off and was forced to take charge. “Eengleesh?” he said. At this point I reckoned that my Portuguese was limited to possibly saying that we were having our lunch then leaving, but that if it got any more complicated than that I’d be stuck. Besides, if the Portuguese police were civilised enough to want to speak foreign languages to visitors, then who was I to disappoint them…..

Basking in the obvious advantage I now had, I smiled and waited patiently for young plod to muster his next utterance. “You alone?” “No, there are two of us” (pointing to Mark sat on the sofa). More silence. “You OK?”. “Yes, thank you”.  Then a very long silence whilst they glanced at each other with ever increasing desperation on their faces before older plod decided all was well and they should say their goodbyes and leave….

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After our excitement for the day we continued North and stayed overnight at a tiny little place called Pomerau right next to the river.

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We’re now at Monsaraz, the fortified town on the border that we visited during the day and really liked last year.

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We’re planning to spent two nights here then cross back into Spain on Wednesday.

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