Time For A Road Trip

Having fun on 6 wheels!
  • Day628

    It's been a busy few days!

    February 23 in Portugal ⋅ ☁️ 17 °C

    A weekend of absolutely gorgeous weather made for getting out and about on the bike and it started with 168 of them!

    Our campsite location coincided with one of the 5 stages in the 45th Volte do Algarve, a professional cycle race across the Algarve with international teams taking part. As we joined other spectators on the side of the road, the police arrived and, at the appointed time, closed off the road to allow the huge pack of riders through. We looked in amazement as the cycling throng descended the hill before us and then swiftly divided into two packs to circumnavigate the roundabout. Blink, and you missed it.

    Out on our bike, we did a three-centre day trip taking in Vila Real de Santo Antonio, which looks eye-to-eye with Spain across the Guadiana River, the impressive 14th century castle and lunch in Castro Marim which is a typical Portuguese town of white-washed houses, and finally Cacela Vehla, a tiny cobble-stoned, historic town overlooking the start of the sandy islands that make up the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa.

    As if that wasn't enough, the next day we headed down the road to the fishing village of Santa Luzia and Praia do Barril, a stunning offshore beach with miles and miles of white sand that ranks in the Top 10 beaches of the Algarve, if not No. 1 in our opinion. We crossed the bridge that connects the mainland with the island, and then rather than taking the small tourist train to the beach, we chose to take the path instead and read the story-boards about the various birds on the way. Buildings that once housed tuna fishermen and their families are now home to a couple of restaurants, but fortunately the tourist factor has been kept low-key here. Alongside the buildings is an anchor cemetery where rows of varying sized anchors lie part-buried the the sand as a reminder of times gone by.

    Santa Luzia is famous for its octopus and we were looking forward to sampling some. Chris made a great choice of an octopus stew with black pudding, smoked ham, beans and rice. I didn't make such a good choice in deep-fried octopus patties but the location was superb, as we sat in the sunshine overlooking the beach front.
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  • Day627

    Friday in Faro

    February 22 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    From our new base at Campsite Ria Formosa, near Tavira in the eastern Algarve, we jumped on the bike to visit Faro, the capital of the Algarve and a place that is sometimes overlooked by visitors who just pass through heading to and from the airport.

    We spent our time wandering around the cobbled streets of the old town and around the marina. Within the medieval walls the centrepiece is the cathedral, completed in 1251 but, like everything else down here, it was badly damaged in the 1755 earthquake and todays version is a mixture of gothic, renaissance and baroque architecture. The interior was beautifully decorated with tiles, painted wood and a gilded alter. The baroque organ was being played and added atmosphere to our visit. We think all churches and cathedrals should have music playing or choirs singing in between masses. It really makes a difference! The cathedral also houses a small museum of priestly vestments, chalices and grisly relics of St. Bonifaces forearms. However, more macabre was to come outside with a shrine built of monks skulls and bones! We climbed the tower and came out onto a terrace housing the bells with magnificent views across the city and the Rio Formosa Nature Reserve, where the sand banks would make for tricky navigation.

    The square in front of the cathedral was lined with orange trees that were in full blossom and their fragrance filled the air as bees and insects gorged on the nectar.

    We had lunch outside on the upper floor of a restaurant overlooking the marina and enjoyed the sun shine while watching the world go by below.

    A lovely day.
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  • Day625

    Tavira

    February 20 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    Tavira has played an important role here in the Algarve. The Romans built the seven-arched bridge across the Rio Gilão at Tavira to link Castro Marim, near the Spanish border, to Faro. The Moors occupied the town in the 8th century and then Dom Pères Correia reconquered it in 1242. As the closet Portuguese port to Morocco, it became important during the Age of Discoveries, serving as a base for expeditions to North Africa. By 1520 it had become the Algarve's most populated settlement and was raised rank to a city.

    Its decline began in the 17th century when North African expeditions were abandoned and the river silted up. If that wasn't enough, the plague struck in 1645, followed by the earthquake of 1755! After it's tuna fishing and canning industry also declined in the 1950's, tourists have now become the biggest source of income and it is a lovely place to visit.

    We climbed to the castle ramparts for views across the numerous terracotta rooftops where we glimpsed a young couple having lunch on their roof terrace in the sunshine. Whilst today's structure is a reconstruction from the 17th century, the castle is believed to date back to neolithic times and was rebuilt by the Phoenicians. In the small interior garden we saw what we can only describe as an upside down hydrangea tree. The huge tree was laden with heavily-scented pink hydrangea flowers that hung downwards. It was beautiful. After crossing the Roman bridge we came across another beautiful garden that was small but well manicured.

    As we wandered around we noticed a lot of building renovations going on so it looks like Tavira is working hard at its reputation as 'arguably the Algarve's most charming town'.
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  • Day620

    Friends and family visit

    February 15 in Portugal ⋅ ☁️ 17 °C

    Friends Yvonne and Ross made a road trip from their home in Spain to spend a few days with us, staying in one of the bungalows at our campsite. We have been blessed with great weather this winter but unfortunately their trip happened to coincide with a cold snap. Despite some blustery and wet conditions, they were still happy to do some sightseeing and our laughter made up for the lack of sunshine.

    Not long afterwards, my sister, Audra, and her husband, Gavin, flew in from the UK for a few days. Like Yvonne and Ross, they too stayed in one of the bungalows. However, unlike Yvonne and Ross, they had much better weather during their stay. We had a busy few days together visiting our favourite places from the beaches of Alvor, up to Foia, the highest point in the Algarve, where Audra was able to buy a thick, knitted cardigan to keep her warm back home in Yorkshire.

    Our time in the eastern Algarve is almost at its end, so now we are getting ourselves ready to hit the road again. We have loved our time down here and look forward to returning again at some point.
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  • Day615

    Silves Castelo & Odeceixe beach

    February 10 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 16 °C

    Silves is an attractive town, 15km inland from the coast, built above the banks of the Rio Arade, once an important trading route into the interior for the Phoenicians, Greeks and Carthaginians, who wanted the copper and iron minerals found in this part of the country.

    The cathedral, with its Gothic interior and tombs, and castle are its main tourist attractions today. From the castle ramparts the views take in the town, surrounding countryside and hills in the distance. The castle today dates mostly from the Moorish era and lots of excavating is currently going on unearthing treasures from times past. A lot of restoration took place during the 20th century when the castle was beginning to look very unloved. One of the most recent, modern additions was to incorporate a cafe into the castle grounds. Here we sat in the sunshine, surrounded by history, for a bite to eat. The 12th century water cisterns, 5m deep, are host temporary exhibitions. It was here that we learnt about the Iberian Lynx and how it is close to extinction despite large numbers found in Portugal only 80 years ago. People are working hard to reintroduce this beautiful wild cat and build the numbers back up. There is a long way to go.

    On the west coast we visited Praia Odexeice, a beautiful, horseshoe shaped beach at the head of an estuary that carved its way through the valley floor. With the Atlantic surf pounding the outlying rocks, we sat on the clifftop looking down onto the fine, golden sands below where a few brave people were dipping their toes into the cold waters below.
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  • Day614

    Cliff Richard in the Algarve

    February 9 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    For the past couple of months, we have been lucky to find ourselves in the same campsite as Hans & Mireille, a Dutch couple who recently bought a caravan and decided to do some exploring. We've had plenty of good times together and when they asked us to join them for a day trip out, we didn't hesitate.

    First stop was the beautiful church of St. Lawrence in Almancil whose origins date from the 16th century. The whole of the interior including the domed ceiling is decorated with famous blue and white Portuguese glazed tiles known as 'azulejos', in contrast to the highly gilded alter piece and woodwork. The tiles depict the life of St. Lawrence, who became the patron Saint back in 1722 when local inhabitants, desperate for water, implored the Saint for help while digging, vowing to build a temple if only they could find water. You can guess at what happened next.

    From here we headed into the town of Loulé, to see the art-nouveau building of the market with its Arab-influenced cupolas and tiles. It was in here that we had a bit of a shock to see Cliff Richard stood behind a counter selling wine! Doing a double-take and upon closer inspection, it turned out that it wasn't the man in person but a life-size cutout peddling wine from his vineyard nearby!

    A cup of coffee and a pastel de nata later and we went down to the coast to check out the famous Praia Falaise, a stretch of beach between Albufeira and Vilamoura where the deep terracotta cliffs and rock formations took our breath away. We walked along the beach and then up and along the clifftop marveling at nature.

    We had a great day out and added to our collection of good times with our pals.
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  • Day592

    World Super Bikes winter testing

    January 18 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    Just 12 miles from our campsite, in a beautiful, countryside setting between the sea and the hills of Monchique, we paid a visit to the Autodromo International do Algarve.

    At the time of our visit, this new and highly impressive facility was hosting pre-season final testing for the World Super Bikes, before they head off to Australia to start the seasons racing.

    Unlike Moto GP, which is the biking equivalent of Formula 1, the WSB bikes are all production based and both look and sound spectacular. It was a great opportunity to experience these machines close-up, being ridden by young men who had quite clearly overdosed on the brave pills for breakfast.

    Fortunately, Chris did not try to emulate them on the journey back on our bike!
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  • Day591

    West Coast & Carvoeiro, Portugal

    January 17 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    A trip out on the bike to explore some of the west coast where we watched hang-gliders soaring above the cliffs.

    Next day we did a coastal walk along the cliffs at Carvoeiro with Dutch friends Hans & Mireille followed by an Italian themed buffet at the campsite restaurant. Fab day.

  • Day580

    Hello from the Algarve

    January 6 in Portugal ⋅ 🌙 11 °C

    We chose to take the toll motorway from Setúbal to the Algarve as we had been told that the alternative was a long, bumpy journey over badly maintained roads. Just 3 hours and €48 later (this was because we had to pay the 4-axle rate!), we arrived at Turiscampo, just outside Praia de Luz and Lagos.

    The site certainly lives up to the great reviews with indoor & outdoor pools and jacuzzis, luxurious showers with non-stop hot water, on-site restaurant/bar & supermarket, spa & gym and daily activities that include free Portuguese lessons, yoga and archery. We could be here a while!

    On Christmas Eve, we walked into the village of Espiche to The Grapevine bar/restaurant where we joined other Brits singing Christmas carols with music provided by a brass instrument quartet. On Christmas Day morning we had a walk along the beach at Praia de Luz before returning to cook a traditional turkey roast minus sprouts as we couldn't find any!

    Over the Christmas & New Year week, the campsite bar put on nightly entertainment so there was plenty of music and dancing to enjoy. We saw in the New Year in the bar and raised a toast to all of our family and friends, while the local Portuguese danced a waltz to see in 2019.

    From what we have seen so far, the area in this western end of the Algarve looks very interesting with rugged cliffs and rock formations, sandy beaches, old towns, surfing and the mountainous woodlands of Monchique and Fóia at 902m, the Algarve's highest point. Looks like the motorbike is going to getting plenty of use.
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  • Day542

    Sardines, cake, choco frito, vinho verde

    November 29, 2018 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    As well as a great location, Setúbal and the surrounding area has lots to offer to tempt the taste buds.

    Sardine fishing, processing and canning was once a huge employer in the town with over 140 factories which did everything from processing the fish to making the tins and then decorating them using lithography to create very attractive labels before they were exported all over the world. Today they are no more but one of the factories has been turned into a museum showcasing life in those days and includes a 1920's shop that was transported from Lisbon to go on show here.

    As well as sardines, the town is famous for its choc frito - deep-fried cuttlefish. Every restaurant sells it, there is a cuttlefish jumping out of a frying pan statue on the main street and the market is full of them. They resemble ginormous squid and, whilst we love squid, I really didn't think I would like what looked like huge pieces of deep-fried rubber, but I was wrong and they were tender and juicy especially accompanied by a glass or two of chilled vinho verde, a young, slightly sparkling and light, local white wine.

    We also tried some Azeitão ewe's cheese from the hills just behind us. It was very runny and spreadable with a tangy flavour. Azeitão is also famous for its cake rolls, light sponge with a custard filling.

    One of our favourite finds though was Moscatel de Setúbal, a sweet, fortified wine served chilled with a twist of lemon peel, as an aperitif.

    If only Setúbal could guarantee the weather, we could stayed all winter but the warmer temperatures were beckoning us south.
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