A Busy Day in Sevilla

re 15/12/17

At the end of our day in Seville our mobile devices told us that we’d walked over 9 miles, which I can believe as my feet were aching. A day in a city can be as arduous as any mountain walk.

This was our best city day so far, both of us relaxed and a good selection of sights to see. It’s hard to put my finger on what makes a good city visit for us as a couple but Seville hit the sweet spot, neither too big or too small with a calm atmosphere that allowed us to wander without feeling unsafe or pestered, even when we wandered alongside the river through a less than salubrious area where homeless people had laid claim to the shelter of the bridges.

We started the day by walking from our parking spot across the river and through the park to the Plaza de España where we whiled away half an hour looking at the various tiled niches that exhibited each province of Spain. I think I may have a better grasp of Spain’s geography now.

The Plaza de Espana
The niche for Lugo – we had visited the Roman city of Lugo earlier in our trip, before Portugal

Once we’d dodged the mounted policemen with their beautiful horses and the Gitanos selling lucky heather around the plaza (Gitanos are Andalusian Romany people and there is a large population in Seville), we moved onto take a quick look at the university buildings – previously the Royal Tobacco factory made famous by the opera Carmen. It was just a quick walk through on the way to the Alcazar.

The Alcazar in Seville is a Royal palace, still used occasionally as residence for Spanish royalty. Started in the 1300’s on the site of a Moorish fort it has been extended and added to over time. Much of the architecture and interior design is Mudejar – Christian adaptation of Moorish influences – but there are some other elements including gothic and renaissance. Plus it has extensive gardens which weren’t at their best due to the time of year but still pleasant to wander around. It is difficult to adequately describe how ornate, ostentatious and beautiful the palace is, and I don’t have the skill to capture it in photographic form; it has a combination of incredibly intricate detail amongst the structural elements and I could never decide where to focus. We paid the extra for the audio guides which were a great help, although we had sore ears by the time we had made our way around the building. We didn’t pay the extra to see the current royal quarters and to be honest we didn’t really have the energy to do any more after the main palace.

The Mercury pool and fountain
Arches leading to the Hall of the Ambassadors
Courtyard of the maidens

After the Alcazar we stopped to relax and have some lunch at one of the many restaurants that line the streets of the old city. We took our time over tapas and a glass of wine (for me anyway) before heading onto Las Setas. It was siesta time and many shops were shut, parents were walking their children back from school and bars and restaurants were full.

The Metropol Parasol is a wooden installation in Plaza de la Encarnacion, a more modern part of the city and is nicknamed Las Setas (the mushrooms) because of it’s shape. I remembered seeing this on a Rick Stein programme and wanted to walk along the top of the structure to see the views of the city. We took some time trying to find the entrance, lots of people on trip advisor had noted how hard it was to find but hadn’t given any guidance on how to find it. The answer is that you have to go to the basement, which can be entered down wide steps from the northwest or southwest corner of the square and is signposted to the Antiquarium. If you enter from the north west you come to the Antiquarium first on your left and then the kiosk for the lift to the Mirador.

Having finally found the entrance – taking in the market (almost closed) and ice-rink (puddle) – without having an argument we both felt pretty ebullient. We wandered around the walkway taking in the views and the sunshine. It doesn’t cost much to get in, at €3 it was worth it and you also got a euro off a drink at the bar at the top (not a free drink as the ticket says), we couldn’t say no.

Views across the city from Las Setas
The structure is constructed of Finnish birch wood and walkways wind around it, quite impressive from above

Our Alcazar ticket gave us entrance into the Antiquarium, an underground museum housing some of the finds from excavation of the plaza when they erected Las Setas. Many of the electronic displays were not working and there was a pervading smell of drains from being in the basement. Nevertheless what we saw was an interesting insight into a working area of a Roman city, we only spent half an hour and I wouldn’t make it a focal point of a visit, but as it was essentially free…

At this point we didn’t feel like visiting any more sights, so we decided to wander back along the river to the parking spot, passing the bull ring and the Torre del Oro on the way. We wound through narrow streets down to the river where we walked, initially through some run down areas until we hit the more tourist oriented area around Puente de Triana.

We took in the bull ring from the outside, the white walls and yellow door/window surrounds are typical of a number of buildings in Seville. We’d discussed bullfighting the night before; neither of us are supporters of activities that inflict unnecessary cruelty on animals purely for entertainment (Celebrity Love Island anyone?), but we recognise that bull fighting is a part of Spain’s cultural identity. Anyway it was one of ‘those’ conversations, and the outcome was that we recognised our hypocrisy as meat eaters and leather wearers but we didn’t want to see a bull fight or any bullfighting memorabilia.

Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza – the bull ring of Seville – taken from the opposite side of the road to get a good view of the building, but also the cars and vans passing by!

The Torre del Oro (Tower of Gold) was also an ‘outside only’ visit. A 13th century building on the side of the river, it currently houses a small museum but we didn’t have the energy to visit.  

 

The Torre del Oro on the banks of the Guadalquivir river

Finally we found our way back to Bertie, footsore and ready to slump, the sun was beginning to drop and street lights were coming on.

 

Seville really was a beautiful and relaxed city, it would be easy to spend several days here, especially if you are a city lover, visiting sights and wandering the streets.

p.s. while we were here we were wondering why we spell and pronounce place names differently than the native population – is it colonial arrogance? or something that gets lost in translation as place names evolve over time? Either way I am still writing Seville instead of Sevilla which seems wrong.

 

Roman Ruins at Italica

14/12/17

From Aracena we decided to head south towards Seville, on the way we were planning to visit Italica, a Roman city that has been partially excavated near the current town of Santiponce and was the birthplace of emperor Hadrian. Many important pieces, sculptures and mosaics, are in the museum at Seville, but there is something about seeing an ancient city in situ that it is far more impressive than seeing individual pieces in well lit museums with their accompanying explanatory placards. 

Not that it wouldn’t have been useful to have some explanation. There were a few boards by the main buildings but remarkably little to help us make sense of the large site – I found out later that there is a guide book for 10 euros which, given that entry was free for EU citizens, would have been worth buying. Anyway, we spent a few hours here walking around the ruins and drawing our own conclusions, later ratified (or not) by the internet .

The main building is a large amphitheatre sitting just outside the Roman city walls. It is the third largest Roman amphitheatre in the world, according to some, large enough to hold more than the estimated population of the city (it’s believed it was the main amphitheatre for the whole region, attracting people from Roman Seville). You can easily see the amphitheatre on google maps looking like an eye staring out at you.

View of the amphitheatre through the trees
View of the central pit from the amphitheatre gallery
Valking through the corridors of the amphitheatre

Inside the city walls you can walk down streets paved (in part) with the original Roman slabs and see the outlines of the villas that made up this area. A few villas have beautiful mosaics in place – some restored onto flat surfaces and some still sitting on the original surface now distorted with time. We spent some time watching conservationists who were working on one of the buildings using tools that sounded like they came out of a dental surgery – I wonder how they feel working in such a public setting on something so delicate, I would prefer to be hidden away. To one side of the site is an aqueduct that once channelled water to the city and, for the privileged villas, brought it directly into the buildings. 

Beautifully restored mosaic showing the gods
Hard at work restoring a mosaic
Mosaic from the house of the birds – the photo doesn’t do the colours justice
We weren’t sure what was happening here

As with many Roman cities, in previous centuries the ruins were plundered for their dressed stone, but because the river silted up the site could not continue to support a large population so the ruins were better preserved than some. 

Fountains and pillars
Looking out over the footprint of one of the villas – I have decided that I want a mosaic floored villa

That afternoon we moved onto Seville, we’d had a quick stop to deposit waste and refill with water at a Repsol garage so that we could park near the centre of Seville at a site we knew didn’t have any facilities. After missing the same exit off a roundabout TWICE (not a sat nav issue this time, our own stupid fault) we finally managed to find the car park with the friendly attendants directing us into a spot with a view of the river where we whiled away the evening watching the activity on the river and beyond and preparing ourselves for an assault on Seville.

Sierra de Aracena

13/12/17

North of Huelva, the town of Aracena sits in the folds of the Sierra de Aracena; gentle forested hills and mountains that form part of the wider Sierra Morena mountain range. Towns and villages are scattered amongst the hills, the population relying either on agriculture or mining for support. It is an area renowned for the ham from it’s Iberico pigs which root around under the canopy of the cork oaks.

Our arrival had been largely uneventful apart from a slight contretemps with the satnav and we had spent the night in the large market parking area with a couple of other Spanish motorhomes. There was a Mercadona supermarket and a Lidl in the town, so we stocked up – Paul being especially happy to find that the Mercadona was stocking cider from the Asturias region which met his benchmark of being ‘proper’ cider.

Aracena has a castle sitting on a conical hill at the edge of the town, so we took a quick stroll up, it was closed and seemed to have odd opening hours ie it opened on the hour to let people in. We contented ourselves with a walk around the walls before descending back to the Tourist office where I bought a map of the area. I expected more for my €4.50 than a glossy pamphlet, a contour line or two maybe, but it felt churlish to hand it back. 

Aracena bell tower, church and castle all sit on top of the hill at the edge of the village.

We had fancied some time in the mountains, but to be honest the hills of Aracena didn’t really meet our requirements. We did have a lovely walk following a marked trail

out to Linares and then up to Los Marines before returning to Aracena, but it was rural rather than mountainous, following old farm tracks between the villages taking in cork oak forests, rooting pigs, herds of sheep, sharp horned cattle and a couple of chicken farms. We did attempt to branch off at one point to reach the high point of the ridge but were thwarted by fences and a quarry and ended up having to push through brambles and other spiky things to regain the path. The path was marked with slate markers or wooden makers and the numbering bore no resemblance to the numbers on my map!

 

Signposting on the Aracena paths 

Denuded cork oak, the red colour is natural and gradually fades as the bark grows back. Cork is harvested from each tree roughly every 7-9 years.

From looking at the other marked paths in the area we knew that rural was likely to be the character of most of the walks. We decided that we wouldn’t linger to do any more walks here but would move onto another area for our mountain fix. It was a pretty place but not quite to our expectations. Of course we picked up some Iberico ham before we left, we’re not daft. 

Lucky pigs – lucky because they havent been slaughtered to make delicious ham – under the trees

 

In the Footsteps of Columbus

11/12/17 – 12/12/17

We crossed the border between Portugal and Spain, passing into the province of Huelva, an area of Spain I had never heard of before. There is a lot of industry here with mines inland and a large port at Huelva city, but there is also a long stretch of coastline with coastal resorts backed by pine trees and cork oak forests and a huge national park that encompasses the wetlands around the Guadalquivir and Odiel rivers.

We had fancied spending a night by the coast but we couldn’t find anywhere we felt comfortable, the parking in the forests was on soft ground made softer by the overnight rain and other parking was too close to the road. We settled for having lunch in a parking spot alongside the road and taking a short walk along the beach.

We proceeded onto Huelva city and drove around the outskirts to the large area of parking next to La Rabida monastery. On the way we passed through the wetlands; the ‘Marismas del Odiel’ where we saw flamingos, we didn’t stop here as we were on the main road but it looked good for a bit of bird watching.

Huelva has strong ties with Christopher Columbus, La Rabida monastery was where he approached the Franciscan order for aid in securing royal funding for his first expedition west to find the Indies, and the town of Palos de la Frontera was the point that the first expedition set sail from.

While we were here we cycled into Palos de la Frontera, and attractive town with the church where the sailors on Columbus’s first voyage received a blessing before setting off. We also found the point that the three ships set sail from, although the river is silted up and there is no port any more. On the way we passed through fields of polytunnels where strawberries were being grown – apparently the area is famous for them – and saw more birds on the wetlands this side of the city including several glossy ibis. 

We visited La Rabida monastery, it was based on a Moorish site and had some Mudéjar architectural elements which made it feel cool and tranquil. There were  audio guides in English which explained the history and Columbus related artefacts. We wandered around with the guides glued to our ears, the only people in the building apart from cleaners.

Courtyard in La Rabida monastery
Chapel with Mudejar architectural influences in La Rabida monastery

We also visited the replica ships from Columbus’s first voyage. These ships were constructed in the late eighties to be part of the celebrations of the fifth centenary of the discover of the Americas. They sailed to America before returning to Spain where they now sit in a dock with an accompanying small museum. It’s quite astounding how small the ships are, the ‘Pinta’ and ‘Niña’ were caravels and the bigger ‘Santa Maria’ was a carrack but is still under 19 meters long. When walking round the vessels we imagined what it must have been like on the heavy swells of the Atlantic, with water rushing down the curve of the deck, trying to manage the sails and the climb the rigging. Some of the reviews of the museum had been less than complementary but we found it really interesting, although some of the waxwork dummies of sailors and natives were unnecessary.

I think this was the Santa Maria, note the  sailor in the rigging – sadly I didn’t get any gratuitous photos of the naked natives
The three replica ships that undertook the voyage to the ‘Indies’

That afternoon we moved on into the mountains, heading to the town of Aracena. On the way we passed huge mine workings and at one point a large rodent ran out across the road in front of us. We thought it might be a marmot, but after a bit of investigation it’s more like to be an Egyptian mongoose.   

Last Days in Portugal

08/12/17 – 09/12/17

Our planning day had been fruitful and we knew what we wanted to do before meeting up with Aaron. So we were off on the way to Spain.

On the way we drove along the N125 with it’s many new roundabouts, we came across at least a dozen roundabouts that were either new or in the process of being built and wondered what the motivation was; safety, road budget surplus, or pushing people onto the toll roads? With the quiet out-of-season traffic they didnt hold us up much and we got used to the sounds of our belongings shifting in Bertie with each one we traversed.

We stopped off for the night at a large paid aire in Manta Rota. This was a different insight into long term motorhoming. Not the large pitches of the campsite with their extended dwellings, this was a car park with spaces big enough for a motorhome and maybe a couple of chairs but not much else. Despite this it had a more pleasant feel, being much busier than the campsite (maybe half a dozen spaces available), next to the village and right in front of the beach.

We went for a bike ride while here, following a path that took us out of the western end of the campsite and along walking trails behind the lagoon formed by the Rio Formosa. Eventually we picked up the cycle route that runs on roads and tracks all the way along this stretch of coast. On the way we found a Christmas market in the pretty village of Cacela Velha as well as dipping into the village of Fabrica and the town of Cabanas and finally ending up on the outskirts of Tavira. We cycled through many orange groves and past pomegranate trees with ripe fruits hanging on the leafless branches.

Foot powered drawing mechanism on well near Manta Rota
View across the lagoon at Cacela Velha
Promeade and boats at Cabanas

We stayed at Manta Rota for a second night because strong winds were forecast and we had a nice sheltered spot. The rain and wind battered the motorhomes in the campsite and in the night we could hear the leaves of palm trees brushing against Bertie as they bent over in the face of the storm. We hadn’t experienced such strong winds since the UK. 

Zombie Nation

06/12/17 – 08/12/17

We didn’t intend to spend much time in the Algarve, but we wanted to see the rock formations of the Algarve cliffs somewhere and Lagos seemed as good a place as anywhere.

We stopped off at the Intermarche supermarket on the approach to Lagos and here we got an indication that there may be a few British people around. As well as hearing a lot of English spoken we were also able to get our hands on some British produce. Blackcurrant squash was number one on the list for us.

We parked up at Praia de Porto de Mos on the western side of Lagos where there is a large dirt car park behind the beach and from here we walked along the coast towards the Faro. Or at least we tried to. There is a lot of development right up to the coast and it was difficult to find a coastal path on the way out. We ended up walking up residential streets trying to find a way through to the coast with no luck, and eventually walked through a hotel complex, climbing through a hole in the fence around their golf course before we were able to get onto the headland. On the way back it was much easier to find the coast path, we had just picked the wrong street, and we only had to leave the coast for the last part of the descent back to Bertie.

Rock formations at Ponta da Piedade, Lagos

The cliffs around the headland of Ponta de Piedade were spectacular, worth exploring with lots of paths and stairs winding around cliffs, arches and grottoes. There were plenty of people there, including a rapper (grime artist?) making a video to the backdrop of the golden arches. 

From Lagos we moved onto a campsite at Armarcao de Pera for a couple of days of rest. We had arranged to meet our son and his girlfriend for a couple of days near Malaga just before Christmas so we wanted to do some planning to see how quickly we needed to move.

The campsite we arrived on gave us a taste of the life of the people who stay on campsites long term. We were amazed by the shanty style dwellings that had been erected by some of the residents. In some cases you couldn’t see the caravan or motorhome, they were covered with shelters and surrounded by windbreaks and awnings. Even fences and gates had been erected. The social life of the campsite took place at lunch time – making the most of the daylight hours – we saw people joining each other for lunch, going out for a walk or just stopping to exchange greetings. By evening it was a different matter, the campsite was deathly quiet. We went into Armarcao de Pera to have dinner one evening, when we got back we thought we’d crossed into a parallel world inhabited by shuffling, dressing-gown-wearing, zombies.   

To the Furthest Corner of Europe

05/12/17

Well…one of them anyway.

Our parking spot was at Cabo São Vicente, the south-west corner of Europe near the town of Sagres. We had emptied and refilled Bertie at the Intermarche supermarket in Sagres before finding a parking spot.

When we arrived on the evening of the 4th we parked up with views of the sunset which was spreading rose and amber colours across the sky. I was so caught up in watching the colours that I forgot to take a photo. Oh well, it’s sometimes nice to just enjoy something without thinking ‘I must take a photo for the blog’.

The following morning we set off to walk along the coast, the cliffs here are spectacularly high and the wind swirled around them, carrying sea birds, pigeons and falcons in swooping curves above and below us. As usual there were fishermen dropping their lines from high vantage points into the sea below. We rock hopped amidst the scrubland between the top of the cliffs and the road, heading west and skirting around a couple of military installations until we hit private property just before Praia de Tonel that would have forced us inland. Instead we decided to turn around and back to Bertie. We dropped down to the Praia de Beliche for a spot of lunch and a paddle – enjoying the sunshine and sheltered from the wind by the high cliffs – before making our way back by a more direct route parallel with the road.

Cliffs and chasms in the coast between Cabo Sao Vicente and Sagres
Flower heads on the clifftops

That evening we moved a little further along the coast to the Praia de Boca do Rio. On first sight this seemed like a run down place with an abandoned graffiti covered building between the car park and the sea and a very small beach at high tide. But ignoring the building the car park was set in an attractive river valley nature reserve and also has some roman ruins. At low tide much more beach was exposed. We stayed for the night even though there were signs forbidding overnight parking, I think they probably don’t bother enforcing this in low season. We didn’t stay for long the next morning just took a short walk to the top of the cliffs before we left. 

Beach at Boca do Rio, beautiful despite the abandoned, graffiti covered, building

Laid Back at Praia de Bordeira

03/12/17 – 04/12/17

When we woke up at the Praia de Bordeira we were surrounded by vans. The usual big white boxes of various nationalities, but also smaller campervans and van conversions of all sizes. Surfing seemed to be the main theme here with many surfers already on their way to the beach to catch the tide, but the thing that made this stop stand out for us was the number of young families travelling with children. The whole combination gave the parking area a laid back vibe, although it took our ears a while to readjust to the sound of children’s chatter.

The car park here sits behind the river, you can reach the beach either by wading through the river (seldom more than knee deep), or you can walk along the point to the south of the parking area and descend wooden steps to the beach where the river disappears below the sand, this second option is not always available as the river channel changes and sometimes flows above ground all the way to the sea.

River and beach from the headland at Praia de Bordeira. You can see someone wading across the river

We spend two days here, chilling out in the sun, watching surfers, swimming at the beach and walking the paths around the headland. and village. Large fishes swam languorously in the river, plenty of sea and river birds enjoyed the waters, storks flew overhead, their orange beaks and legs making them easy to distinguish, and at one point a peregrine falcon alighted on the bank of the river, turning it’s grey moustached face backwards and forwards to survey the area before flying off again.

Views of the cliffs on the other side (south) of the headland
Portuguese fishermen scaling the cliffs to find the best fishing spot

If there had been somewhere to dump our waste and refresh our water we might have stayed for longer, but instead we moved on further south.  

Another view of the beach from the headland

Sand in our Shoes

02/12/17

From our parking spot at the Praia de Almograve we could access part of the Ruta Vincentina, two interconnected long distance trails that run all the way down the south west of Portugal from Santiago do Cacem to Cabo Sao Vincente. There is a historical trail, a fisherman’s trail and a number of circular routes that allow you to join the two together.

Exposed rocks on the beach at Almograve

We joined the fisherman’s trail and walked south, heading for Cabo Sardao. The route took us for a short distance down a well made track until we reached a small fishing port. There were plenty of other people walking this section of the path and most turned around here.

Looking down on the tiny port

The route struck off over the clifftops with the paths mostly soft sand between rocky outcrops. It was hard going on the uphill stretches as we slogged through the sand, but worth it for the fine views of the ochre cliffs against the blue sea.

Colours of sunsets and rust in the cliffs south of Almograve

As we approached the Cabo Sardao we detoured inland to avoid a large sand dune, this took us through a forest which gave us welcome respite from the sun.

Cool shelter provided by eucalyptus and pines in the forest

On the other side of the forest we were only on the coast for a short distance before we took another inland detour along tracks and roads to avoid a deep valley, on the other side of this was the lighthouse at Cabo Sardao which had plenty of decking platforms for people to admire the view. We were sure that we hadn’t needed to take that detour, so on the way back we followed faint tracks down into the valley and up broken steps the other side to emerge in a thicket of shrubs – we would never have found this from the other direction. Not the designated path but it cut out a lot of the less interesting walking.

This walk was incredibly beautiful and worth doing, despite the tonnes of sand we found in our boots, clothes and rucksacks at the end of it. The coastline, constantly being redefined due to erosion, is made up of many shades from cream to deep ochre and is sculpted into interesting shapes and precipitous overhangs. Being Portugal the fishermen still manage to find somewhere high and dangerous to fish from.

After our walk we wanted to find somewhere we could enjoy the sunshine and relax, so we took off down the coast and explored a few parking spots. Eventually, after exploring a number of spots and with darkness fully upon us, we settled on Praia de Bordeira. There were plenty of other vans here, in the dark we didn’t know if it would fit the bill but it was time to stop for the evening and we would decide whether to stay the following day.   

The Special One

30/11/17 – 01/12/17

The next couple of days were spent around the Setubal area, birthplace of Jose Mourinho, the Special One. Setubal is just south of Lisbon and we skirted the capital to get to our first parking spot which was Figueirinha beach, a wide expanse of white sand and enticingly turquoise sea. Sadly, despite the sunshine, the wind was whipping along the coast and put paid to any thoughts of going for a swim. Instead we got on our bikes and headed up to the Forte de Sao Fillipe. The ride took us along the coast road, past the large cement factory where the air tasted of fine cement dust and left our skin feeling dried out. Then up through cobbled country lanes and dirt tracks before joining the tarmac road that leads to the fortress.

The fortress is a hotel, part of a chain of Pousada hotels, similar to the Paradors of Spain this chain specialises in hotels in historic buildings, but this doesn’t stop people from looking around.

Beautiful chapel decorated with azueljo tiles

Recently extensive renovations have been carried out and the hotel only reopened earlier this year. We explored the walls of this ‘star’ fort, with it’s battlements pointing out towards the surrounding countryside; views of windmills on hilltops inland, views across the city of Setubal and views out to sea. It would be a lovely place to have a meal or a drink with it’s rooftop bar and restaurant but too windy today.

Windmills had been a feature of the drive down this part of the Portuguese coast – from the fort we could see several in various states of repair
Each point of the ‘star’ fort was very similar apart from the views – this point looked over Setúbal and the sea, a view of strategic importance, protecting naval access to Lisbon

The following day we moved onto Comporta, not far as the crow flies, but the road has to bypass the estuary of the Sado river. As we drove through Setúbal we traversed Av. Jose Mourinho, of course, there don’t seem to be any statues yet!

We stopped in Comporta at a dusty aire on the village market square with several other vans and took another bike ride along the spit of land that points back towards Setubal. This time we were cycling on flat easy roads past rice fields, we were aiming for the roman ruins but these were closed for the season; we peeked through the fences. The whole area at the end of the spit is a holiday resort and was a bit of a ghost town, empty for the low season. You got the impression they really didn’t want anyone going there out of season with lots of barriers and security. We tried to get a bit of variety to our route on the way back by heading off road, but each time we did we ended up wallowing in deep sand. It was one of those places we felt we could have lived without, but the number of cans in the parking left us wondering if we had missed something. Maybe we should have gone into the Rice Museum.

A distant view of the Roman ruins through chain link fence
View from the Troia peninsular

Time to move on, so we set sights for the coast south of here. I had seen good things about Vila Nova de Milfontes, but the amount of ‘no motorhome’ signs put us off (it didn’t put everyone off, we saw one French van parks across four spaces in front of the ‘no autocaravannas’ sign) and so we moved onto Praia de Almograve where we were the only motorhome parked on a large concrete parking area above the beach, but still felt more welcome.   

The End of the World is Running Out of Cider

28/11/17-29/11/17

The forecast for the 28th was rain, so we didn’t make many plans except for a spot of grocery shopping. It was a mega two supermarket shop. Lidl for the bargains and stuff we know that they sell (i.e. cheddar cheese) and Intermarche for their baked goods and French cider. Paul, being almost exclusively a cider drinker, has had some interesting experiences in Portugal with Somersby and Strongbow – so called – cider. He was very excited when he saw these British brands in the supermarkets, but disappointed to find that it wasn’t really cider especially as he went a bit mad and bought 24 bottles. Instead it is a mixture of cider, apple juice and apple flavouring and tastes like an apple alco-pop. Luckily Intermarche sells the french stuff which passes muster and I’m sure we’ll find some british brands for vastly inflated prices when we get down to the ex-pat territory of the Algarve.

After stocking the cupboards we decided to take a quick trip to Cabo da Roca, the headland that is the most westerly point in mainland Europe. We approached along busy roads and drove into the carpark only to drive out again, narrowly avoiding the hordes of tourists. We parked for a cuppa on a layby to the side of the road and watched coaches arriving and leaving with great regularity. It’s obviously a popular day out from Lisbon. The Romans believed that this was the end of the world.

Although we’d fancied the walking from Cabo da Roca, we didn’t fancy the company of the tourists so we pushed on further south to Cabo Espichel. Another headland but much quieter this time although it seems to have more going for it than just geography. The church of Nossa Senhora do Cabo has been a place of pilgrimage and still has the dormitories for pilgrims lining the approach, although they are now boarded up. There is also a chapel lined with Azulejos – the blue and while tiles  that Portugal is famous for – depicting the story behind the dedication of the church, although it was locked when we were there and we had to peer through the bars on the door.   

The church of Nossa Senhora do Cabo and the pilgrims accommodation
This tiny chapel was beautifully decorated inside with azueljos

The skies were a deep grey by now and rain was threatening. We decided not to venture too far from Bertie and sure enough the rain began to descend heavily almost straight away. We watched as the car park in front of us turned into a small pond and water ran in rivulets down Bertie’s sides and then down the carpark eroding channels in the clay. It was an afternoon for a bit of TV and web surfing.

The following day the rain had passed and we went for a walk around the headland, following a marked route to the south, passing the lighthouse and taking us to a ruined 17th century (we think) fort where a rusted pillar would have once held a warning beacon. 

Lighthouse at Cabo Espichel
We clambered around on this ruined fort which gave us good views out to the south

 

On the coast below the fort was this emplacement, including a rusted post for a warning beacon. These days it looks like someone uses it as a fishing spot.

From the fort we cut across the headland, passing half built villas, maybe from the 80s which were now derelict. Building materials were scattered around and Paul identified a few asbestos tiles – nice. 

Half completed buildings, there must have been a dozen of these in various states of completion.

On the north side of the headland we joined another marked route that followed the northern coast to the Pedra da Mua – the footsteps of the dinosaurs. The coast here is made of many layers of sedimentary rocks and several steps of dinosaur footprints have been found. The only ones we could make out were those that tracked up the cliff opposite the viewpoint, although there are others we couldn’t find them and I would recommend looking on the internet for some pointers before going rather than afterwards! These footprints form part of the legend of the area with stories that the Virgin Mary rode a giant mule out of the sea and up to the headland.

Can you make them out?
Eroded paths, channels have been scoured by rain waters through the soft sandstone

 At the end of the walk we investigated another building, this was part of the water supply and laundry area for the church and pilgrim buildings and an aqueduct can be seen near the road that leads to the headland.

Laundry, water supply and now there is a rustic campsite within the walls to the right of the picture (summer only)

Because of the previous day’s rain the walk had been extremely muddy, we both felt a couple of inches taller with the amount of claggy sediment that was clinging to the bottom of our boots. Despite our best endeavours this mud got everywhere. 

 

 

 

Guincho Beach

26/11/17-27/11/17

Next we drove to Foz do Lizandro, intending to stop there for the evening. We parked up on the clifftop and walked down steps to the beach where the Rio Lizandro enters the ocean. The waves washing up the beach were coming from two directions, making interesting swirling patterns where they met. There was plenty of surf and surfers out to sea but towards the beach the waters were calmer, protected by a sandbank. We decided to go in the water, less a swim and more of a float as we allowed ourselves to be churned around in the currents created by waves washing over the sandbank.

After our swim we lazed on the beach drying out and warming up, but the sky was starting to cloud over which drove us back to Bertie. We looked at the local area and decided we might as well move on. We ended up at Praia Guincho, another surfer’s beach where campervans and motorhomes were parked up for the evening. When we got there in late afternoon the sea was still full of the black dots of surfers taking advantage of as much light as possible before they gave up for the day, it seemed fully dark to me by the time the last few were walking up the beach.

The usual Portuguese fishing spot. This isn’t Paul fishing, he prefers to get closer to the sea

Paul had been sussing out the cliffs to the north of Guincho and thought he might have some fishing spots, so we took a random walk along the coast that soon met a signposted route, so we followed it until we reached the promontory that Paul was aiming for. Here we followed fishermen’s paths down to the sea. The coast was south facing and slightly more sheltered from the ocean swells, but there were still big waves washing up and causing Paul to jump back every now and again. Paul fished (unsuccessfully) while I relaxed on the rocks reading. 

The coastline north of Guincho beach, taken from Paul’s fishing spot

Occasionally I would have a little clamber about on the rocks to see what was around. Down at the edge of the water were mussels and gooseneck barnacles. The mussels were too small to gather and I think that the gathering of gooseneck barnacles (known locally as percebes, expensive, delicious and slightly odd looking) is probably regulated, so I decided against it – that, and they were too difficult to prise from the rocks by hand.

Percebes hidden between the rocks. Called gooseneck barnacles because it was once believed that they were the larvae of the Barnacle Goose

We stayed a Guincho again that night, it had a relaxed atmosphere, but we knew that rain was due the following day and we would need to find some services too.    

Peniche

25/11/17

Peniche is a town on a small headland that sticks out from the west coast of Portugal just north of Lisbon. It’s known for it’s great surf, and because it has coast facing in many directions it’s usually possible to surf here regardless of wind direction. Not that this was why we were here, but there were plenty of surfers around and also a lot of Portuguese motorhomes here for the weekend.

We drove along the north side of the peninsular, stopping at Intermarche for a quick restock and taking note of the motorhome facilities in their car park, then taking a look at a few parking spots. The one we had liked the look of on google turned out to have no motorhome/campervan signs all over it so we drove on out to Cabo Carvoeiro lighthouse.

We decided to take a walk around the headland, following tracks around the south coast until we got to the Fortazela and harbour area where we wandered through narrow streets of tiled houses and apartments, lived in and busy. Restaurants lined the harbours edge and were full of people out for their Saturday lunch.

Peniche Fortezela – closed for lunch when we walked by

From the harbour we followed an inlet north, this cuts across the middle of the peninsular making it almost an island, the town walls hug the western edge of the water and an industrial estate is on the less picturesque east side. We crossed the main road to the northern coast where we stopped to watch surfers before following the cliffs back to Bertie. Along the way we noticed that fishing spots were marked with yellow fish symbols on white posts, these fishing spots often clung precariously to the side of the cliffs, down steps onto small platforms that looked like they might have been built by the fishermen. Some were already slipping down the cliff or undercut by the sea.

A marker post for one of the many fishing spots along the cliffs
Collapsing steps down to what was once a fishing spot

The rock of the peninsular is heavily weathered limestone forming odd and beautiful karst formations with limestone pavements, deep crevices and sea stacks.

Limestone pavement, looking towards the chapel of Igreja de Nossa Senhora dos Remédios
Eroded and undercut, the cliffs of the south coast

This was a nice place to spend the day and set the tone for the next few days as we followed the coast, the fishermen, and the surfers, south. 

What Happened to My Christmas Spirit?

 

Sitting here in Bertie, waiting for my curry to finish cooking I’m wondering what happened to my Christmas Spirit.

Christmas is an odd time of year, but I love it. I don’t have a particular affinity for the day itself, it’s too soon over and done, but the whole season is magical.

I love the build up, the way that nights draw in and the lights slowly go up in homes and across towns. I relish the cold weather, forcing us to bundle up and wear chunky knitwear, thick socks and boots. I love the generally positive vibe, making people more optimistic, giving and thoughtful about others. I enjoy the entry to the party season, knowing that everyone is looking for an opportunity to turn their everyday into an event with sparkles and glitter.  

Then there is time. Time off work and time to do things. It’s an easy time (in my line of work anyway) to have a long break, with so many bank holidays one week’s allowance turns into two weeks of holiday. And it’s not a holiday where I go away to forget about it all, but a holiday where I focus on home and hearth. This is when my oven gets cleaned (an annual event – sorry Nan). This is when I have time to entertain friends and family. This is when I cook dishes that take hours to prepare. This is when I get to see the people I have not managed to cross paths with for the rest of the year.    

So what’s happened this year? We’re sitting here and thinking about our friends in Exmouth who are enjoying the annual Christmas meal and Secret Santa; we’re not there and can only vicariously enjoy the photos and comments. I’m trying to motivate myself to purchase presents online for niece and nephews that I wont see opened. I want to buy decorations for Bertie but cant bring myself to do it. I’m just not feeling Christmassy

I put it down it the following things:

  1. People. We’re too far away from the people that matter to us, the people we’re used to spending Christmas with. It doesn’t feel the same without friends and family.
  2. Weather. I’m swimming in the sea and walking and cycling and enjoying sunshine and finding it all very surreal. Where is the icy cold, the rain, wind and (ok it rarely happens, but there’s always the possibility) snow?
  3. Lack of preparation. I don’t know why, but I didn’t pack any Christmas decorations for Bertie. Christmas seemed so far away when we left and I think I might have been in denial.

So, I cannot sit here and complain about it (after this post anyway), I have decided that I will have to do something to invoke my Christmas spirit, I will conjure it up with the singing of carols and Christmas tunes. I will festoon Bertie with decorations. I will make plans for a Christmas dinner. I might even clean Bertie’s oven, just to get in the mood.  

Hopefully in a few days you will see some evidence that the Christmas spirit has finally be summoned to Bertie. 

The Obidos Lagoon

24/11/17

We were staying at a large paid aire at Foz do Arelho. This area of parking nestled between the coast and the Óbidos lagoon and was very busy with motorhomes. Because we didn’t want electricity we managed to nab a spot on the front looking out over the lagoon, an unforeseen advantage of solar panels.

After all the rain the previous day the weather had improved and we decided to go on a bike ride. We thought we would try to cycle around the lagoon. We knew we couldn’t make it a circular route as the lagoon is not completely separated from the ocean, but we could do a horseshoe there and back again. There are cycle routes down each side of the lagoon and it didn’t seem like it would be too difficult to join them together.

Looking towards the village of Foz do Arelho

Joining them together was a bit of an adventure as we tried to head down tracks rather than roads. We didn’t manage it on the way out but on the way back we found it easier to track the edge of the lagoon most of the way, including one narrow path that we followed along the lagoon shore. At one point we encountered a herd of goats and sheep; the herder whistled and they moved aside and let us through – very well trained!

The lagoon was very attractive, we saw loads of wetland birds as we cycled around including pale pink flamingos sitting on a sand bar. Having to join the different cycle routes together meant we cycled through a village, crossed farmlands and navigated through a vineyard giving us a bit of variety of terrain. The previous day’s rain left us mud spattered with the claggy white clay of the tracks. 

Collapsing bridge across one of the streams feeding the lagoon

We liked our outlook enough to cough up for another night at this aire before moving on. We spent the late afternoon watching the goings on on the lagoon. As well as the usual fishermen on the shore or out on boats there were a number of people who were snorkelling. We didn’t know what they were collecting but they towed buckets buoyed up by rubber rings and obviously were collecting something edible. One of them swam up to the shore in front of us with his haul but we couldn’t work out what it was.  

Sunsetcolours from our parking spot

Underground, Overground

 23/11/17

We spent the night of 22nd parked at Batalha in preparation for a visit to Batalha Monastery. We wanted to visit one monastery while we were in Portugal and it was a pretty random decision that bought us here of all the monasteries we had flagged as possibilities.

Batalha means ‘Battle’; the monastery was built by King João I to give thanks to the Virgin Mary for victory in battle over the Castilians in 1385. For many this was the deciding point in establishing Portugal as a country, distinct from Spain, and so the monastery has a special place in the Portuguese people’s regard. 

Statue of King Joao I

The church is free to visit but some of the other buildings require a ticket, after a bit of a search we found the tickets being sold at the back of the church and started our exploration. The building is beautiful with highly ornate stonework in parts, although the church interior was surprisingly stark. The contrast in styles apparently being due to King João’s wife – Philippa of Lancaster – inviting British architects to contribute to the design. We liked the chapterhouse with it’s vaulted ceiling which houses the Portuguese tomb of the unknown soldier, attended at all times by military personnel, the two cloisters, very different in style and the unfinished chapels with their ornate stonework left open to the sky and pigeons.

The Royal Cloister with attractive gothic screens

The ornate stonework of the unfinished chapels

After exploring the monastery we ventured further inland to Mira de Aire. This town is in a Natural Park area of limestone rocks, gorges and caves. We found our parking spot up near the sports complex at the top of the town after another sat nav disagreement (this time it tried to take us straight up a cobbled alley to the top of the town when there was a perfectly sensible road that cut uphill on a more gentle gradient) and wandered down into the town to visit the Grutas Mira de Aire, one of a few tourist cave systems in the area. We bought our tickets and waited for the tour with a handful of people only for a large school party to arrive. The sound of 40 eleven year olds having a good time was an assault to our ears. We crossed our fingers that they would be giving the kids a different tour but it was not to be. With apologies they lumped us in with half of the class. We watched a documentary about the geology of the area (they obviously didn’t believe in dumbing down) which was interesting when we could read the subtitles, but guesswork when showing white subtitles on a limestone background. Then we went down to view the caves, the guide providing commentary in both English and Portuguese.  The part of the cave system on display was vertical, so we descended lots of steps (there was a lift at the end to take us back to the surface) it was well decorated with stalactites, stalagmites, curtains and flowstone. Despite the fact that this is a tourist attraction, has some fairly garish lighting, and water is pumped through during dry periods we still enjoyed viewing the impressive natural decorations. 

Limestone curtain formation – ‘The Organ’
Some of the many stalactites in the cave

We left the caves, walking back uphill to Bertie. The skies were dark with cloud and the first spots of rain started to fall. It quickly got heavier and Paul decided that he wanted to escape the rain rather than stay for the night. We drove back down to the coast in heavier and heavier rain with occasional flashes of lightening. As we approached the coast we got stuck behind a car doing about 15mph, not sure whether he was scared of the dark, worried about the rain or just drunk, we kept our distance until they slowed to a complete stop halfway round a roundabout. We gingerly edged past them and down to our parking spot.          

Portugal’s Silver Coast

21/11/17 – 22/11/17

We had a moment of deja vu as we approached our next destination of Sao Pedro do Moel. This is Portugal’s Silver Coast and had some striking similarities to France’s Cote d’Argent; long sandy beaches, big waves for surfing and dunes backed by pine forest. We drove to a parking spot on the coast just north of Sao Pedro where we had a view from the cliffs with the lighthouse to the south and a long golden beach to the north.

This area had seen significant forest fires this year and we drove through large swathes of burned forest where the sand and ash and dead trees created a starkly monochrome scene of desolation.

The black and white of a burned forest

We took a walk along the cliffs and then down onto the beach, watching fishermen casting into the surf and exploring the lagoon created where the river pooled behind a sandbank. The wind was blowing strongly although the skies were blue and people were wrapped up against the chill.

Cliffs slowly slipping into the sea

The following morning we got on our bikes and followed the bike track north. The road was long and straight, passing coastal resorts that had shut down for the winter, few people seemed to live in these towns where most of the shops and cafes were boarded up waiting for next years tourist season. We sat on the beach in one location watching the sea and were alerted to a pod of dolphins by large numbers of gannets, cormorants and gulls swirling around and diving for the fish that were being driven to the surface. There was life here, but not much human activity. 

The river at Praia de Vieira

Paiva Walkways, the Ultimate in Garden Decking

19/11/17 – 20/11/17

When we moved into our house in Exmouth I remember Paul installing decking in the back garden – decking steps from the backdoor, decking over the crazy-paved patio, and more decking steps down to the lawn. A fun project for Paul. For a while it seemed as though we had the whole of the local timber yard in our garden.

These memories came back to me as we approached the Passadiços do Paiva, our next destination. This walk up the gorge of the Rio Paiva takes place mostly on timber steps and walkways that cling to the sides of the gorge allowing people to walk the length of the gorge from Areinho to Espiunca. 

The walkways are in Arouca geopark, an area of Portugal that is designated a Geopark by UNESCO who use this designation to promote the management and development of sites of geological interest. We started by visiting Arouca itself, a pleasant town inland from Porto with motorhome parking and services in the main carpark. We had a walk around the town; it was Sunday and everywhere was busy with visitors, there was a small farmers market in the park but the main attraction was the monastery (I suppose we would call it a convent as it was home to nuns rather than monks, but I think the term Mosteiro is used interchangeably) with it’s sacred art museum. We popped into the tourist office and spoke to a lovely lady who gave us lots of information about walking in the area and warned us off a couple of the paths where signposting had been damaged by forest fires. She sold us tickets for the walkways (you can also buy them online or at the start of the walk)  – at €1 each it seemed to be good value. 

We had intended to stay the night in Arouca but she suggested we could drive up to the parking for the Paiva walkways and stay there if we wanted to. She advised that with an autocaravana we should park at the Areinho end where there was a large unpaved parking area where it looked like someone had sheered off the top of a hill. There is also some parking down the track that leads to the official start of the walk but it was a narrow road and we couldn’t see how much parking there was so gave it a miss – when we walked down the next day we realised that we could have parked there easily but the track down had no passing places so not an option for a busy day.

Off we toddled, mild sat nav frustration this time as the sat nav didn’t want to allow us to leave Arouca by the main route, there is a 3.5 tonne limit on some roads which was the cause of confusion to the poor thing. We ignored it’s instructions for long enough to get out of town and then found our way easily to the car park where a couple of campervans were already in situ. We watched people returning to their cars at the end of the day, many returning in taxis from the other end of the walk.

Looking down on the Areinho road bridge across the Paiva river.

The next morning it was 5ºC in the van. Much warmer in the snug of our bedroom, but the coldest morning we had experienced so far and only our bladders provided motivation to get out of bed. We slowly warmed up as we prepared a lunch and flasks for our walk. From the car park it was a steady downhill to the official start of the walkway before heading across the main road and straight away tackling the hardest part of the walk – a series of staircases leading up to the top of the gorge. We wondered how people didn’t just avoid purchasing tickets as there are no barriers to stop anyone from accessing the paths, but at the top of the walkway they had cunningly placed the first ticket inspection point. There was another inspection point at the far end of the walk and also a park warden wandering about at the mid-point so you weren’t going to get away with it.  

The stairs wind up the side of the gorge giving plenty of opportunities for photos (and catching your breath)

The sun was shining and the initial climb up all those steps was very warm, but straight away we were going down an equal number of steps into the gorge and there the low November sun was often obscured by the cliffs, providing welcome shade with a bit too much contrast for good photos. We wound our way along the paths through a landscape that switched many times between dry rocky slopes and shaded forest that looked very British with autumn colours, ferns and mosses. Birds and butterflies flitted over the water, we saw plenty of yellow wagtails and a dipper playing in the water, easy to spot with it’s distinctive wide white bib. At one point we saw a European mantis sitting on a step, as cool – and as green – as a cucumber.

European Mantis watching us from the walkway

The Paiva gorge is well known for it’s white water but this year has been so dry that the river’s flow was placid and the rocks that would normally create the rapids were exposed and dry. Boards along the walk pointed out geological features which were easy to see with the river so low. 

Roughly half way the walkways are crossed by a couple of other trails, here there is a suspension bridge; an opportunity to look down on the river from a bouncing and swaying vantage point (not a compulsory part of the walkway). There were also toilets half way, a welcome opportunity as leaving the path for a wee was going to be a bit tricky. 

Suspension bridge, enjoyably springy

Along the way Paul enjoyed pointing out the way that the walkways had been constructed, the clever bolts that were used to anchor the timbers to the rock and the bits of joinery that had been well put together to cope with odd angles. Not just any old garden decking!

We got to the Espiunca end, 8km later, in just over two hours, taxis were waiting for the weary but we turned around and made our way back, taking a bit more time to stop and look around. Despite it being a Monday in November there were a good number of other people on the walkways, I can imagine that in the height of summer it could get quite frustrating and feel like a conveyor belt (I assume they limit the numbers through the ticketing system), but also you could take time to stop by the river and have a paddle or a swim; the November water was far too cold for us. In all it took us 5 hours with plenty of rest stops and photo opportunities. The trudge back up the dusty tracks to the carpark was probably the hardest part of the day.  

We could see why the walk had won tourism awards, it was well maintained with information boards, toilets and cafes but most importantly it was in a beautiful and interesting location. If you’re a decking fan then that would be the icing on the cake!

 

Port, Porto, Portugal!

 

17/11/17 – 18/11/17

On the morning of the 17th we woke up in the aire at Esposende, looked around and decided that we would move on. Sometimes we just don’t feel enthused by somewhere and, possibly because the aire was at the back of the town behind the bus station, or possibly because we’d just got back from somewhere we’d found really inspiring, Esposende just wasn’t doing it for us. How ungrateful do we feel given that the community have provided free facilities for us motorhomers!

After assuaging our guilt by doing some local food shopping we moved on to our next stop – Porto, or actually a campsite outside of Porto in Canidelo. We had decided against staying at one of the motorhome parking areas in Porto due to reports of thievery, although it’s often difficult to determine what is scaremongering. Anyway the campsite gave us an opportunity to do some washing although it’s showers were lukewarm at best which was a disappointment.    

As I’ve said before, we’re not the biggest fans of cities and in Portugal we had decided that, of the two biggest cities, we would visit Porto rather than Lisbon because I’d been to Lisbon before (and loved it by the way – definitely worth visiting). Porto also gave us the opportunity to drink an alcoholic beverage we agree on – Port. Usually we have opposed tastes in drinks, Paul likes cider – I think it tastes of bile (I’m sure you can imagine the teenage activities that led to this view) – I like wine, Paul thinks it tastes of vinegar. I drink beer, Paul doesn’t. I drink gin, Paul drinks vodka. Anyway, we both agree on port, although we don’t usually drink it except at Christmas.

We booked ourselves into Calem – one of the many port wine cellars in Porto – to do a tasting. It was €10 to taste two ports and €15 to taste 3 different ports, so we paid €25 to taste 5 between us. We visited their small museum, which was quite interesting especially the bit where you get to try to identify different component scents of port and wine, then we were taken through a short tour of the wine cellars with some background info about the port making process before the tasting. Unfortunately they did mess up in their organisation a little, so it took some effort to actually get to taste the ports we had paid for. I think some people who hadn’t paid for the three port option just plonked themselves down in front of them and started drinking! But as our guide just disappeared and left us to it when we got to the tasting we had to hunt someone down and explain. Despite this the glasses of port were generous and slipped down our throats with sweet viscosity, leaving me feeling a little squiffy.

We had booked our port tasting for mid afternoon, knowing that we might not feel like doing much afterwards. So our morning had been taken up with our bus journey into Porto and wandering around the streets looking at various historic buildings. Paul doesn’t like aimless wandering so I always try to be prepared with a few things to aim for. The streets of Porto had a lived in and slightly down at heel feeling, with high end shops selling designer goods cheek by jowl with shops selling cheap clothes and groceries, alongside empty buildings. It must reflect the economics of property ownership in the capital, apparently the more wealthy citizens of Porto have moved out into the suburbs leaving the property market in the centre of the city depressed and many property owners without the incentive to renovate or restore.

The whole of the city centre is a UNESCO world heritage site and the reason for this was particularly obvious in the wide squares flanked by historic monuments and when walking along the Ribeira – the waterfront on the Douro river with it’s attractive buildings housing (mostly) cafes and restaurants. We had our lunch at a restaurant on Ribeira’s quay side, sitting in the sun, soaking up the atmosphere and watching street musicians arguing over their turf and the throngs of tourists passing by. 

After lunch, full of food and unwilling to walk up the steps, we caught the funicular to the top of the Ponte Dom Luis I, a bridge designed by Eiffel which has a pedestrian crossing on lower and higher levels. The lower bridge is shared with cars and buses, the higher bridge shared with trams. From the top of the bridge we could see the city of Porto arrayed along the steep northern bank of the river. On the south bank we could see the logos of many well known port brands, Cockburns, Sandemans and Taylors amongst others. The south bank is the town (now a suburb of Porto) of Vila Nova de Gaia and after our port tasting we walked several miles along this bank of the river back to our campsite at Canidelo where the Douro meets the sea. On the way we wondered at the number of buildings which were decrepit and abandoned in what seemed like prime riverside locations, one with goats roaming in and out of the empty doorways.

We got back to our campsite ready for a good night’s sleep before we moved on again.