2020 begins…. .

Well, may I be the last person to wish you all a Happy New Year.  I had it in my head that I would get a blog post out soon after the New Year but, true to form, what happens in my head doesn’t actually happen in reality. So, there we are, late as usual.  Still, better late than never.  It’ll have to be Happy Friday then.

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A perfect day for a stoll on the beach at Monte Clerigo.

After all the rain we’d had the weather bucked up just before Christmas and we basked in sunshine throughout Christmas and the New Year period.  Christmas Day was spent on the beach with coffee and egg sandwiches!  We like to take our simple life to extremes sometimes.

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Christmas Day……….we know how to live!

As a bit of a change, we’d had a couple of trips down to Portimão before Christmas where we stumbled across a Waitrose/Iceland in one of the retail parks.  Alas, they’d run out of Ginster’s pasties but fortunately pork pies, mince pies, custard creams and bourbons weren’t in short supply.

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‘No taste of Cornwall’

On the way back, just as we were coming into Aljezur, we were stopped by the police for a document check.  We often see the GNR on roundabouts or at the side of the road pulling people over to check they’re all legal.  In Portugal and some other European countries you need to have the paper documents in the vehicle ready for inspection should you be asked.   Normally it wouldn’t have been a problem as all the documents for insurance and the like are in a folder in the van.  But, as we weren’t going to be using the van on a regular basis we’d decided to take them out of the van for safe keeping.  So, the one and only time we have ever been stopped in the nearly four years we have been travelling we didn’t have the documents in the van.  It hadn’t occurred to either one of us to take them with us on our little outing to Portimão.  After numerous apologies and fiddling and faffing Tim was able to come up with a PDF document of our insurance which the officer accepted.

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I’d already mentioned the custard creams and bourbons were really daylight robbery compared to the price you’d pay in England but if we’d had a hefty fine as well on top of that it might just have spoilt my Christmas.

img_20191230_145610739_hdrTime is marching on and we’re more than half way through our four month ‘staycation’ here in Portugal.  Following the frenzy of concerts and socials in the run up to Christmas it’s all been quiet for Tim on the band front and I think he’s starting to climb the walls.  I think he’s hankering after a shed where he can do, I don’t know, man stuff.  During our extended stay here we have had numerous conversations about what our ideal life would look like in the future and it turns out a shed cum workshop is high on the list of ‘must haves’ for Tim.  He likes to fix things and there haven’t been a whole lot of opportunities going on in the way of things to fix.  My bike could do with looking at as I think some bearings have gone somewhere on it as it’s started to make a clacking noise as I ride along. I’m sure, if we had a shed cum workshop, the back wheel would have been whipped off by now but, as we haven’t, I’m still clacking along.  Fortunately, there’s some fencing that needs doing at Donkey HQ so Tim will be busy with that for a few days at least.

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Donkey HQ

Several donkeys have been out on various excursions over the last couple of weeks so reinforcements are needed.  Like children, when they get bored they get themselves into trouble.  Over the winter period there’s not so much going on with treks, people coming and going and so on so the donkeys are at a bit of a loose end.

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Sunrise:)

From time to time, if a friend or neighbour offers some grazing land some of the donkeys get an opportunity for a holiday.  Just before Christmas we had a lovely trek of five or six kilometres to drop four of them to a friend’s for a three week holiday.

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Kiko, Flor, Luna and Olivia off on their holidays.

I’m sure they enjoy the change and the opportunity to have a bit of peace and quiet away from the main herd.

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Getting ready for a road trip.

Treks are thin on the ground at this time of year but there have been one or two.  We took seven donkeys out a couple of weeks ago and it was Isabella’s first trip.  She carried the luggage and took to it like a duck to water.  Having had a previous job in agriculture carrying the pack lunches can’t have been particularly arduous for her.

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Isabella carries the luggage.

We dropped the three older donkeys in at ‘donkey day care’ and then continued on into the hills for a two hour trek.

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The three oldies were left at ‘donkey daycare’ whilst the others carried on.

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Donkey parking.

Meanwhile back at ‘Dog HQ’ we’ve continued to take ‘our three’ out three times a week.

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Off to walk the dogs.

 

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Vicky, Barley and Ghee.

Alas there were a few new arrivals over the Christmas and New Year period.

I have my eye on one but Tim says NO!

Ah well there’s still a bit of time yet!

Até logo!

 

 

Boas Festas…. .

A week of rain.  A week.  Still, Portugal needs it after a very dry summer so we mustn’t grumble.  It was just a week.  Not too long.  Just a week.  Seven days.  Actually I lie.  It was really six days as there was one good day in amongst the seven wet ones.  So, six days then.  Not a week at all.

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Grey skies.
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The town car park was closed later in the day as the river kept rising.

 

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Flooded fields.

As we weren’t cooped up in the van it didn’t bother us.  The donkeys were miserable though.  They really don’t like the rain.  They are desert animals after all so who can blame them. They don’t have a double layer waterproof suit so they are susceptible to skin problems if they stay wet for long periods. Normally the older ones go to various different grazing spots during the day (I call it donkey day care) but when it’s wet they’re confined to barracks as that’s the only place where there is any shelter from the rain.  And they get bored.  Sooo bored.  It’s also tricky trying to feed twenty donkeys inside when it’s wet as there isn’t much room and hooves start flying as they jostle for the best positions. 

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Off to donkey day care before the period of rainy weather.
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Happy donkeys.

The donkeys weren’t the only ones who were bored.  When we took the dogs out on Friday they were all absolutely manic.  Not so many volunteers turned up so we went out with our usual three for an hour and then came back to get three more. 

img_20191220_103901172_hdrTrying to get three hyper dogs all booted and spurred ready to go out was no mean feat.  Tim just leaves me to it and waits for me to hand him a lead or two when they are ready.  No chance of him getting muddy. 

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Trying to get these three ready to go out was a trial.

But the monsoon season appears to be over now as we have had wall to wall sunshine for the last couple of days. 

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The first dry morning for several days.
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The warm weather brought visitors.

Meanwhile back at the band Tim has been busy with various rehearsals, functions and festivities.  Food seems to always feature at the various different functions he has played at. 

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Cake!
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Prawns.

A week or so ago they did a tour of four villages doing a short concert at each of them and food was provided at all but one of them.  I received several text messages throughout the day just keeping me abreast of what was going on:  1st concert and meal finished.  2nd finished, no food! 3rd one, on a roll, port and cake! They stopped after that but later he smugly told me that a three course dinner was laid on after the last concert. 

The final concert before the New Year was on Saturday where the band played at a Christmas meal for one of the local banks who had donated some money to buy some new instruments.  A new bass clarinet, timpani, euphonium and glockenspiel have now been added to the bands stable of instruments.

Marvellous. 

So with that I’ll wish all of you ‘Boas Festas’ whatever you are doing and thank you all for reading the blog this year.

Até a próxima!           

Life in the slow lane…. .

The eve of the local Christmas Market here in Aljezur has given me the nudge to remind me that it was about time I updated the blog.  It’s hard to believe we’ve been here for six weeks already.  It’s also quite hard to believe we are nearing the Festive Season as it’s much more low key here.  There are some lights up here and there around the town but if you’re like me and don’t go out much after dark then Christmas could pass you by which is exactly how I like it.  My former work colleagues would attest to the ‘bah-humbug’ I used to be (and still am) at this time of year.  Secret Santa?  No thanks.  Work Christmas do? Not for me.  But here I do like to go to a few of the local events so we’ll be heading on over to the Christmas Market later on today.

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The old town.

Aside from that we have established our routines here with our various interests.  The Banda Dos Bombeiros Volunários de Aljezur has welcomed Tim with open arms.  A seat was rustled up, music was printed off, a uniform sourced from the depths of the store cupboard, and voila, you’d never know he wasn’t Portuguese.  Principally the band is made up of young people between the ages of twelve and twenty six but they didn’t seem to mind or notice the age gap.  The band is bank rolled by the fundraising efforts of the Bombeiros (fire brigade) and seems to be very active within the local community.

img_20191116_152809951_hdrThey were joined by two other bands a couple of weeks ago for a Festival of bands where the three bands marched through different parts of the town followed by a concert.

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img_20191116_192603665December 8th was a procession in Monchique, twenty miles away, for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception with a coach laid on to get the musicians to and from the town.

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The Procession through Monchique.
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The price of living with less stuff………tatty walking boots instead of polished black shoes!

fb_img_1575883140800The film ‘Brassed Off’ came into my mind.  If you haven’t seen the film then I’d recommend it.

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After the concert waiting for the bus.

Then tonight there will be a concert at the church in Aljezur.  Starting at 9.30pm.  9.30pm?  Everything seems to start late here. Me, I’m normally getting ready for bed at that time but I’ll make an exception tonight and support it.

As for me the donkeys continue to keep me busy three mornings a week.

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A rainy day at Donkey HQ.
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They really don’t like the rain.

We had two new arrivals a couple of weeks ago.  Pasquale, an elderly donkey, was in need of a home and a chance at a comfortable retirement.  He worked in agriculture in his previous life so he can now enjoy a bit of down time in his later years.

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Pasquale looking forward to a retirement now.

Isabella came with him but she is much younger so will hopefully make a good trekking donkey with a bit of time and training.  She’s a big girl of some sort of Spanish origin and she’s bigger than nearly all the males.

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Isabella takes a roll AFTER I’ve just brushed her and made her look pretty!

They were both pretty nervous to start with but after a few days began to trust their new humans and I think they now enjoy the attention.

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Pasquale, Isabella, Romano, Margarida and Mocco off to the neighbours for a days grazing in one of their fields.

img_20191116_103903148As for the dogs? Well, there are about forty or so of them and they are reliant on the volunteers if they want to get out for a walk three days a week.

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Brody……..a big softie.
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Shanna.

Generally there are enough people but some days have been a bit thin on the ground so we’ll take two or three for an hour or so and then go back for two or three more.

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Lisa and Jackson.

As I knew would happen, one of them is going to break my heart.  I knew it as soon as I clapped eyes on him.  He’s a scruffy young Pedengo (Mediterranean hunting dog) and he has stolen my heart already.

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Vicki, Ghee and Barley.  Barley is the heart breaker!

He’s not ready for rehoming yet as he is still really nervous of people but we can see a change in him with us since we’ve been taking him out as he seems much more relaxed and content with us now.

img_20191115_112500482Tim keeps reminding me that three is a crowd.

I can safely say that I won’t be getting a scruffy Pedengo for Christmas then!

Até a próxima.

Settling in to routines…. .

Ok, so we felt we needed a break from vanlife to remain in one place for a while.  But what are we going to do during our static four months with so much time on our hands?  Certainly this lifestyle we have has given us the luxury of time.  Time to do as we please, live our life on our own terms and pick and choose what we want to do and what we don’t want to do.  I can’t deny it’s a super luxurious position to be in and it’s one we try not to take for granted.  Having so much time though also throws up a few challenges.  At least for me.  Tim is a much more laid back, live in the moment, don’t analyse it kind of person.  Me?  I can analyse something to the nth degree and then some!

I’m not talking about boredom here.  I’ve never been bored on our travels.  Yes, there have been times where I’ve felt flat, frustrated or cooped up during prolonged periods of rain but I wouldn’t say I’ve been bored.  I’ll always find something to do.  Pottering. It’s one of my favourite things to do but I’m not yet quite of an age where pottering about ALL day is fulfilling enough.  Maybe in a year or two;)  For me, the amount of time we have on our hands is more a question of purpose.  Throughout our travels I’ve always been plagued by the ‘P’ word.  Or maybe there’s a bit of guilt thrown in there too.  Drifting around from place to place with no end game in mind can, for me, feel a bit like I have no purpose.  I think I’m just the kind of person that needs a bit of structure and a ‘why’.  It was one of the reasons we had decided that as part of our travels we would do some volunteering.  We viewed it as a chance to meet new people, learn new skills, experience different lifestyles and ideas and generally make a difference to someone.  It was also a chance to have a focus for a while.

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Painting the railings of the village War Memorial whilst on a Helpx in France in 2016.

It can be difficult to have a focus when you’re moving from place to place for an extended period of time.  It can also be difficult to justify what we are doing.  Lots of people nowadays take a midlife gap year which is totally understandable. Take a year or so out, explore, recharge and then pick up from where you left off.  People can understand that.  But take off with no idea of how long you’ll be gone for or if you’ll ever go back to a conventional life is a bit harder for people to take in.  If we meet people and get into a discussion on our current lifestyle we have occasionally had the awkward question of ‘yes, but what do you do all day’? If I’m honest it’s not an easy one to answer without sounding a bit lame.  It generally goes something like this: ‘Oh well, you know, we walk a bit, maybe go for a cycle, plan where to go next, sort out emptying and refilling the van, read, erm, go to Lidl, volunteer a bit, erm, you know, erm, stuff like that’.  You see.  Wishy washy and lame.  You can see in people’s eyes they don’t really get it and are probably thinking we’re just a bit work shy.  I think it’s partly an age thing as if we were in our late sixties or seventies I don’t think anyone would question what we do with our time.  You’ve earnt your retirement so live it large and put your feet up.  Or maybe it’s just my own perception of things.  I don’t know but it’s not always easy to justify what we do with our time and where it all goes. But it goes.  And very quickly too.  Filling the time whilst on the road in the van is pretty easy though as you’re constantly stimulated by new sights, different landscapes, a changing set of neighbours, the odd challenge and hundreds of questions going through your head about this and that.  Filling the time in one place though is a bit different.

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Where does the time go?!

So, after nearly seven hundred words I’ve still not answered what we’ll be doing during our extended time here.  Well, for Tim one of the biggest sacrifices he made when taking on this lifestyle was leaving behind the music scene where we lived.  Music IS a huge part of his life.  HUGE.  He’s had to adapt to not being able to be a part of several bands.  He hardly played at all in our first year away but in the last two or so years he’s adjusted to playing solo.  In an ideal world he’d want to be playing in several bands but playing solo has been a compromise.  Over the last three weeks he’s been busy making contacts and putting out feelers to get into something here and/or start something new.

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The compromise…. .

For me I have the donkeys!  I’m spending a few mornings a week cleaning up after them and generally enjoying some donkey time.  Mucking out wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea but I find it quite therapeutic and of course I love spending time with the donkeys.

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Sunrise over Donkey HQ after a wet night.

One of the things I wanted to do when travelling was to learn a new language or two.  I’d dabbled in French on and off since 2016, did a few months of learning German when we were in Germany and then promptly forgot it all again and ditto last year for Spanish.  Unfortunately, spending an extended period of time in a foreign country doesn’t mean to say you miraculously absorb the language.  Alas, it takes consistent time and effort.  Consistency had never been my strong point regarding languages.  Or anything else for that matter but this lifestyle has forced me into creating a few routines as I know I feel more content if I feel I have achieved something each day whether that be physical or mental.  At the beginning of this year I set myself the challenge to improve my French and I’m glad to say, even though I’m not yet where I want to be with it, I have made some mprovement.  So a consistent effort at continuing to improve the French and learning some Portuguese will be a feature of my day too.

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Time for a cup of tea and a French podcast.

Then we have some dog walking to do.  The AEZA refuge is a non-profit association taking in stray dogs and cats.  Three days a week volunteers are welcome to walk a dog or two.  Tim unwittingly gave me the idea when he said ‘I don’t think it would be a good idea for you to do the dog walking at the dog refuge’.  As a dog lover and having had four of our own dogs in the past he knows I have a weakness for them but when our last one went to the big kennel in the sky in 2013 we agreed we would have a period without the responsibility a dog brings. I’ve done pretty well in sticking to it.  It took all my resolve not to take home half a dozen strays from Greece a couple of years ago.  But, the dogs need walking and I have time on my hands so it was a fait accompli.

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I don’t normally do selfies but needs must………………Gwen enjoying her walk!

I just have to hope I don’t fall in love with one…………or two.

Até já!

And relax…. .

So, we’re currently on a break from ‘vanlife’.  We arrived in Aljezur in the south west of Portugal just over a week ago and we are intending to spend at least four months here.  So, why the extended break here?  We spent two months in this area in 2016/17 and then another two months here in 2018/19 doing some volunteering so got to know the area a little bit during those extended stays.  When we left here at the beginning of February this year to continue our travels we felt like we could have stayed longer but we were also ready to move on.  If that makes sense?  No, I thought not.  I’ll try to explain.

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View across to the new town of Aljezur.

During our two extended stays here we did some volunteering with Sofia who runs a donkey trekking business. It gave us time out of the van, a focus on something other than travel, enjoyable work and a chance to live like a local for a short while.  And of course, for me, spending time with all those donkeys was a super enriching experience.  However, after two months we were ready to live our independent life again but we would have liked to spend a bit longer in the area.  We really like the laid back slow pace of life here and it’s really the only place we have been to since starting our travels where we could see ourselves spending a chunk of time during the winter.  However, at the time we had already made our plans for our trip to Morocco.  We’d organised our Green Card for the insurance on the van in a non EU country and we were looking forward to exploring a new country.  But.  Had we not organised ourselves to go to Morocco we could have easily stayed another month or two in Aljezur either renting a house or staying at the campsite outside the town.  Tim had established a few connections with his music and I was happy to help with the donkeys.

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Cows grazing just at the edge of the town.

We decided, then, to look at the possibilities of renting somewhere in the area during the winter of 2019 to try out an extended stay here but one that was on our own terms where we weren’t volunteering in exchange for accommodation and food.  Going into our fourth year of continuous travel we were ready to stretch out a bit and stay put for a while.  Travelling fulltime can become tiring.  Not in the sense that you feel flaked out all the time but more in a sense of mentally dealing with a life on the move.  Planning where to go to next, taking in new sights and experiences daily, emptying and refilling the van, sorting out laundry every couple of weeks, living cheek by jowl with each other twenty four hours a day!

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In between the old town and new town.

When we embarked on our life change to give up our jobs and do something completely different we viewed it as a new chapter in our lives.  It wasn’t going to be a ‘gap year’ it was going to be more of a ‘gap decade’ to travel to different countries, experience different cultures, experience and learn new things and live in different ways to the norm.  There wasn’t any time limit on it.  We were just going to see how things unfolded and go with whatever felt right at the time.  This little sojourn in Portugal, then, is just a chapter within the chapter. It’s as much a time to recharge and give our brains a rest as it is an opportunity to experience living in another country for an extended period to try it on for size so to speak.

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Lunch in the sun:)

Our travels are far from over but we are ready for a break from them.

So we’ve hunkered down and settled in to our little house on a hill in the old town over the last ten days and we’re looking forward to seeing how it all pans out.

Até logo!

Onwards into Portugal…. .

The great thing about vanlife is that if you arrive somewhere and don’t feel the love for it you can just move on.  Equally, if you do feel the love for somewhere you can stay longer than you’d originally intended.  Marvão, a few kilometres over the border into Portugal was one of those places that waylaid us.  By a week.  We’d intended staying a night or two but……..well…….we couldn’t tear ourselves away.  If we hadn’t needed to be further south by the end of October we would probably have stretched our stay into two weeks.  Or three.  Admittedly we had a spell of warm sunny weather so that always makes a difference.  Pitched up at Asseiceira camping we relaxed into rural life in Portugal.

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Camping Asseiceira.

The hilltop town of Marvão probably is the main attraction for visitors to this area of the Alentejo region of Portugal.

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Marvão.
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The views are superb.

And it is spectacular perched on top of a high peak, but for me it was the rolling, granite bouldered landscape with miles and miles of traffic free lanes to explore on the bike that captured my attention.

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Typical hamlet in this region.

I’d been sadly disillusioned exploring Cornwall by bike whilst we were working on a campsite during the summer by the amount of traffic I had to contend with even on the minor roads.  Everywhere seemed to be rat run to get from one place to another.  In contrast the bike riding around Marvão was completely stress free and practically car free.

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Miles of glorious cycling.

According to Wikipedia the Alentejo region of Portugal covers over 27,000 square kilometres with a population density averaging less than twenty people per square kilometre.  Cornwall on the other hand covers 3,500 square kilometres and during the summer months has a population density of over 12000 people per square kilometre.  Quite a difference then.  Sheesh, no wonder it felt soooo busy in Cornwall.  Anyway, hopefully I’ve got the maths right there as it has never been one of my strengths.

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…….and acorn eating pigs.

So the Alentejo then is a vast area covering a chunk of Portugal which stretches from the Atlantic coast in the west to the Spanish border in the east and the Algarve in the South.  We’d explored some of the south eastern area around Monsaraz in 2016 and really loved it and we weren’t disappointed with the north eastern part either.

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The old station at Beira.

You really can’t beat a hilltop town for a good old exploration on foot.  Marvão at over eight hundred metres is the highest village in the Alentejo.  It is enclosed by 13th Century walls, has a castle at the top where you can walk the walls if you’ve a head for heights, some formal gardens and narrow medieval winding streets lined by white washed houses.  On a good day the panoramic views all around are worth the climb up.

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Walking from the campsite to Marvão.
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It’s gets pretty steep.

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img_20191020_154315904_hdrThe campsite we stayed on is just outside the workaday little town of Santo António das Areias and just under five kilometres from Marvão.

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Cork oaks.
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An early morning walk.

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The view over Castelo de Vide, another historic town in the area.

After a walk or a cycle we enjoyed popping into the mini market everyday for a coffee and a pastel de nata to observe village life in action.  There’s a little cafe inside the mini market with a couple of tables and it seemed to be the hub of the town.

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Simple pleasures.

A steady stream of people would come in, order a coffee, have a chitty chat with whoever happened to be in there at the time, buy a few groceries and then go again.  Everyone seemed to know everyone and happily spent a few minutes chewing the fat.  Barely a mobile phone in sight.  You do have to have a bit of patience or time on your hands when buying your groceries in rural towns and villages in Portugal as no one appears to be in a hurry.  News is swapped and children are cooed over.  We are so used to standing in a queue at a check-out, being served briskly with no one exchanging a word because everyone is in a hurry.  It’s quite the mind set change but a refreshing change at that. 

It felt good to be back in Portugal but time was pressing on so after a week we reluctantly moved on.  Having been brought up by the sea and then spending over twenty years being a two hour drive away from the sea we’re still always drawn to it.  We do like a good coastal walk so after an overnight stop in Évora we spent a few of nights on the Atlantic coast before arriving just over the border into the Algarve for an extended stop. 

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Back on the Atlantic coast near Vila Nova de Milfontes.

img_20191029_114553216_hdrAs regular readers of the blog will know we are swapping van life for bricks and mortar life this winter.    

It will be a chance to take an extended break from travelling and van dwelling to relax, recharge, regroup, reset, reflect and reboot. 

Well that’s the theory anyway. 

We moved out of the van yesterday. 

Time will tell to see how it all pans out and how we get on. 

Até breve!

A hop, skip and a jump across France and Spain…. .

Some days don’t always turn out how you expect them to.  On leaving the chateâu our plan had been to get south of Bordeaux for our first stop.  Unfortunately, the sat nav seemed to be having an ‘off’ day.  After lack of use over several months during the summer I was thinking she was a tad rusty.  She just didn’t want to take us the way I thought she should be taking us.  And she was being really stubborn about it by trying to get us back to where she wanted us to go after I’d over ruled her.  Again.  And again.  And again.  So anyway, after a diversion following a road closure and what seemed like forever we arrived in Cognac well short of our intended first stop.

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Cognac.

Still, Cognac isn’t the worst place we could have ended up in and the aire is just a few metres from the river.  I had thought the quickest route to get us south of Bordeaux avoiding tolls would be via Niort but the sat nav was trying to take us via Poitiers.  On hindsight I should have kept my nose out really and left her to get on with it.  Long story short, and though it pains me to admit it, I think her route via Poitiers would have been better.  Ah well.  I didn’t admit that to Tim until a few days later.  It was baking hot when we arrived in Cognac though so we enjoyed a stroll around the town in the evening.

The following day we did manage to get south of Bordeaux and arrived in the seaside town of Capbreton just before a massive storm.  The sky had been looking ominous for several hours and the heavens opened just as we got parked up at the intermarche.

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It’s not all sunshine and roses you know.

We’d been to Capbreton last year and, as it’s just a short detour from the motorway, it made an ideal stop for the night.  The aire (read: carpark) is directly behind the beach, has electric hook up, water and services and a bread van that visits in the mornings.  €10 a night is all they ask.

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At least the storm blew over for an evenig stroll on the beach at Capbreton.

Fortunately, the aire is fairly sheltered behind the dunes as it lashed down nearly all night.

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The rain came again for most of the night and the next morning though.

Faced with more rain in the morning we were on the road early heading for San Sebastián just over the border into Spain.  The aire in San Sabastián is easy to get to, cheap, quiet and a fifteen minute walk from the seafront.  After visiting for the first time last year we really love it.

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Beach art at San Sebastian.

The town has a really nice vibe to it and we were happy to pass the evening sampling various different Pinxtos, the Basque regions answer to Tapas, in one of the bars.

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Pinxtos (they look fab but in reality they’re a bit too salty and greasy for me).

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img_20191015_173055382_mpEven though we only do about four hours or so of driving per day when we are on the move it does feel like enough.  Having nearly three weeks to get to where we need to be in Southern Portugal we do have time to linger so after four days of driving we pitched up at a campsite twenty kilometres outside Burgos close to a via verde (cycle route on a disused railway) which looked interesting. Tim could swap the driving seat for the saddle for a day.  I’m sure he was thrilled.  No excuses now we have the magic of electric bikes.  Alas, electric bikes don’t shelter you from the rain.  And it was raining again in the morning.  The via verde would have to wait for another time. 

We are both fair weather cyclists.  I don’t mind walking in the rain but I hate cycling in the rain.  We like to think we are quite the ‘outdoorsy’ kind of couple but, in truth, we are quite the ‘indoorsy’ kind of couple when it comes to inclement weather.  We were southern softies before we started our trip and now we are even worse.  We don’t venture out unless it’s dry and at least twenty degrees!  It can be a bit of a hindrance as we have shied away from countries where the temperature is likely to drop into single digits.  I’m looking at you Norway. 

So anyway, the bikes didn’t see the light of day and we were back on the road again heading for Salamanca. 

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Salamanca.

It never ceases to amaze me how inexpensive public transport seems to be everywhere except the UK.  We pitched up for a couple of nights at Don Quijote campsite several kilometres to the east of Salamanca and took the bus into town. At €2.90 return each it was a bargain. 

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Part of the University.

There is a cycleway from the campsite into the city but dodgy weather and the thought in the back of our heads that the bikes might disappear in a large city put paid to that idea.  It’s always in the back of my mind that our bikes are likely to be stolen when left for a few hours in a large city but it doesn’t usually put us off leaving them.  However, knowing that we will be spending four months in Portugal in one place in a couple of weeks time with the bikes as our only form of transport did make me feel a bit precious about them.  It was either that or the fact that I’ve been reading several things about the ‘law of attraction’ recently that made me think if I keep thinking that the bikes are going to be stolen then they probably will be! 

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Museum of Art  Nouveau and Art Deco.

IMG_20191018_113048929_HDR.jpgSalamanca is worth a visit.  It’s quite compact and easy to navigate and explore on foot.  Most of the interesting bits are traffic free giving it a big tick from me.

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The Cathedral.

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Casa de las Conchas – House of the shells.  A symbol of the Order of  Santiago.

The 18th Century square is ‘wow’ inducing even with a book festival being set up in the middle of it. 

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The impressive Plaza Mayor.

IMG_20191018_124802083_HDR.jpgWe stopped in at Cáceres for the night before heading for the border into Portugal. 

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Cáceres

Oh it’s attractive enough but I thought we would be seeing a bit of drama with ‘hanging houses’ perched on rocky outcrops which I’d read about sometime in the dark and distant past.  Obviously if I’d done some research before we arrived I would have realised I’d mixed it up with Cuenca.  Ah well, it’s an easy mistake to make……….maybe. 

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IMG_20191020_121102271_HDR.jpgAnyway, Portugal was on our radar and couldn’t be ignored any longer. 

Hasta luego!