All along the Algarve!

From the SW corner we have travelled east through the Algarve. We confess to thinking this would be the least enjoyable part of our trip, with images of endless tourism development. Well we were so wrong. The development is concentrated in the cities of Lagos, Albufeira, Porto Maio and Faro, but in-between are beautiful beaches, stunning coastal scenery, and, amazingly, some superb wetlands with great birdwatching.

We played tourist to visit the glorious rock formations at Ponta da Piedade. Wow!

Then a hot but splendid cliff top walk from Praia de Marinha to Benagil, followed by a wonderful night at Lagoa dos salgados. We were parked at the lakeside and our only companions were the myriad of birds including flamingo, glossy ibis and spoonbill. Sunrise across the lake was enjoyed while still in bed… lazy birdwatching indeed! 

Sunday saw us walking to Praia Salgados, then meandering to the riverside town of Santa Luzia for an Octopus based lunch.. their specialist dish.

 Another walk then onto Camping Rio Formosa to get organised ready for the journey home. Good campsite where we met lots of people who had just arrived and would not go home until March! Standing in shorts, in the warm sun, it seemed like a jolly good idea!

Our last day in Portugal was a cracker. We visited the charming town of Tavira before meeting Luiz, the owner of Pernatur, who runs guided birding walks. He took us for a superb walk around the Rio Formosa wetlands near Faro. The highlights were an Osprey with a huge fish, purple swamp hen, and a Little bittern, which posed briefly before slipping back into the reeds. A great end to our stay in Portugal. Then a quick getaway to drive across the border for a lovely visit with Maria-Luisa in Seville…..   and a real bed for the night. 

Heading south…. wonderful scenery!

3 great days meandering south down the west coast of Portugal. Temperatures 28 -30 degrees☺ 

Firstly a visit to Monserrate Palace near Sintra. Wow! Created by an Englishman in the 1750s who employed the Head gardener from Kew, and laid out massive English style gardens on the steep hillside. House was in the arabic style and has recently been restored.

 

We decided to bypass Lisbon and Sintra on this trip, and so headed south before visiting a super bird reserve at  Lago Pequena, then driving through the beautiful scenery of the Parque natural da Arrabida, where we camped in the ecopark near Setubal.   8 euros with full if simple facilities and electric hook up, and facing the sea.

Day 2 we headed for the south-west coast of Portugal. En route we saw the great sight of storks nesting on pylons! 

Remote, undeveloped and with the best scenery… we loved it. Our first objective was a local seafood restaurant… restaurant Azenha do Mar –  getting our priorities right! It was in the middle of nowhere at a tiny port. We arrived at 12.00 and just got a table. It reminded me of our favourite places in France. Great home cooking and packed with locals and artisans. We chose the local speciality… rice with crab and king prawns. The crabs were brought in from the fishing boat while we were there! Beer was 1 euro!  Fantastic meal for the total sum of £12 per person.

Then we explored the stunning coast with great cliff top walks,  before watching the sunset at Cabo Sardao and spending the night at the excellent camping Villa Park Zambiyeira.

Zambijeira was a lovely coastal village with a stunning beach.

Day 3 we continued exploring coastal spots and walking wherever possible. Migrating birds were frequently passing overhead, the highlight of which was great views of a booted eagle.

Our 2 favourite spots were Odeceixe, and Bordeira beach near Carrapateira.

Finally we arrived at the very southwestern tip of Portugal and continental europe. We free camped on the headland at Sagres, and watched the sun set into the sea. Then a chance find of Mums restaurant in Sagres…. a small cosy place catering for vegans, vegetarians and Pescatorians. Best meal of the trip so far. A great sleep then up to watch the sunrise, because this headland faces east towards the Mediterranean as well! Fab!

Fabulous Douro Valley

My blogs have caught up with my facebook posts! I will still post in both places as I have friends who only use one of them. It would be lovely to have some more followers for the blog. Then you get notified when we make a new blog post 😀

Yesterday was super…it just all came together. Lamego is the home of a chapel built high on a hill, in the mid 1700’s. A huge ornate stairway was built, ascending from the town below, with tile panels on every landing. The church is Santuário da nossa Senhora dos Romedios do Lamego. Pilgrims ascend the 684 stairs on their knees! Thanks to a sneaky back entrance to our campsite, we were already high up, so we descended!😀

We then explored the old town centre and the cathedral before driving to Regua. 

We parked easily in the super new camper spaces by the river. 3 € per night including electricity! Then a lovely lunch in Sus Douro in a beautifully converted goods shed before our train trip. 

And what a trip! The track hugged the riverbank as it wound up the Douro valley passed steep terraces of vines and olives owned by all the major port wine houses. It was a special trip using a vintage steam train pulling historic carriages. Free glasses of port were handed out,  and a costumed folk band moved through the carriages. Everyone was singing, clapping and even dancing. We felt as though we had gatecrashed a huge party! At the 2 stops an artisan market was set up with all manner of local produce to try, and the stations were decorated with tile panels which were over 100 years old. What a trip!

Portugal at last!

We drove into Portugal and immediately noticed the change in architecture and cultivation. Weird! Came to the amazingly pretty town of Ponte de Lima which claims to be the oldest town in Portugal. It has a roman bridge. . well part of it is original… and delightful buildings. Campervans park free by the river and we had a lovely, very inexpensive meal in the local taberna.

Our favourite thing is the sculpture of roman soldiers next to Boris.

On the opposite river bank is a roman general on his white horse.

In 135AD a roman general arrived here… his men thought the river was a legendary river Lethe, and if they crossed it they would lose their memory. The general rode across first and called every soldier by name to prove he had kept his memory! The soldiers are on this side…the white blob is the general on his horse!! This town is so lovely it plays classical music through it’s lamposts! Sad to leave!

Bom tempo para patos!

We can officially confirm that the forest fires are out…. you can stop raining now for a while..  please!!

Thankfully good waterproofs mean the rain doesnt stop us getting out and seeing the sights. And Boris is very cosy😊. The next day we drove to  Viana de Castelo on the coast. There are the remains of a large 500bc celtic village there which sadly was closed!! Also an amazing 1920s neobyzantine basilica (!) high on the hill, a beautiful 16th century old town centre and a restored hospital ship, the Gil Eannes, which was used to support the massive Newfoundland fishing fleets, and was really fascinating. 

Then on to Porto. They have great free parking for campers on the riverbank opposite the city. Just a 2km walk along a lovely riverside boardwalk to the bridge across the river Douro. And back of course. Stunning on a balmy summer day. Fairly stunning in the pouring rain..  and more forecast Friday. We are here until Saturday… please can we gave a dry day then!

We did have great tapas in Jameo’s … including elvers…. a first for both of us.