We spent five nights at the motorhome parking at Quarteira. The parking itself isn’t very interesting, being just a large secure car park with a motorhome service point, but it does have a few big positives. It is very close to a Lidl supermarket, a good launderette and a great take away chicken and pizza shop, all of which we put to good use. Walks into the town and to the seafront are long. Good for the health but not so much for the feet. Ours were quite tired by the time we had walked there and back three days in a row but we achieved more than our 10k steps a day and were still standing at the end of it.
We were parked beside Ken and Mo and enjoyed sharing walks into town, games of cards, bottles of wine and, on the last evening, a BBQ. Ken gets the award for Biggest Act of Kindness when he cleaned and polished our van for us, tiring himself out but making us look a whole lot smarter. What a hero. Thank you, Ken
As he was working, several of the other motorhomers came along and tried to persuade him to clean their vans too. He remained polite and smiled each time they approached and we never heard him utter a single rude word. If you are looking for a business opportunity in the Algarve, this might just be a good one. Dusty motorhomes as far as the eye can see although getting the retired army of sunseekers to part with any money might be more of a challenge.
It was the weekend of the Mardi Gras Fiesta and we all walked into the town to watch the parade. We spent a long time standing about waiting for it to start and then couldn’t see much once the procession began, being short in stature and altogether too British for our own good, but it was fun and we had a great ice cream when it was all over. Okay, I admit it, I love ice cream more than I love parades.
Shirley arranged to have her stitches removed in a private clinic in Quarteira. It all worked out far more easily than we anticipated and we were both relieved. Shirley because it was done quickly, painlessly and only cost 10€ and me because I was lined up to do it if we couldn’t find a clinic to do it for her. She was more confident than me that I would have no problem if she gave me clear instructions. I’ve got a slight tremor and was worried that I might remove a kidney by mistake.
When it was time to move on from Quarteira we looked at one another and agreed that the crowds of motorhomes in the Algarve were getting a bit too much for us and we needed to find some space and a bit of quiet. I read that the number of motorhomes coming to the Algarve each winter from Northern Europe is increasing by 15% per year and the infrastructure is struggling to provide for them. It certainly has been our experience this year that finding legal and serviced parking is increasingly difficult and at the same time the police are warning and moving anyone who parks on unofficial spaces. A combination of these two things can make the experience a bit stressful. The rest of Portugal is so delightful that we would probably choose that for another trip and leave out the busy south coast. But who knows? With a motorhome we can go wherever we choose.
Running away to the Mountains
We decided to move on to Almada d’Ouro Club, a commercial aire up in the hills overlooking the Guadiana river, which is the border with Spain. It is a hunting club that has seen the need for good quality motorhome parking and jumped at the opportunity. We read reviews that promised beautiful views, great services, electricity, peace and quiet and a cheap bar. What more could we want? We set our satnav to the coordinates given in Camper Contact and set off feeling hopeful. We were on the A22 motorway when it dawned on us that we should find a supermarket and stock up as we were going to the middle of nowhere. I looked on the POIs file for a supermarket and it told me there was one 1.8km away. ‘Oh good!’ I cried with premature enthusiasm and then set the satnav to take us there. Suddenly the 1.8km became 24 miles because we would have to drive to the next exit and turn around and come back. I quickly changed the satnav back to its original destination and we decided to find a supermarket en-route. All was going so swimmingly as we found a Pingo Doce supermarket, stocked up with some nice food and got back in the van ready to complete our journey. The satnav told us that we only had 15 miles to go and we were surprised – but sadly not surprised enough to check that it was actually planning to take us to our desired destination. The realisation that this piece of electronic intelligence hadn’t erased the earlier setting only hit us when we noticed that we were back on the motorway and going in the wrong direction. Forty miles later we found ourselves back at PIngo Doce. Mysterious instructions to drive up farm tracks and narrow steep streets had been ignored so often that our nerves were in tatters and our patience long gone out of the windows. We reset the satnav and gave her a good talking to but we’ve noticed that she is immune to any kind of outrage and nothing in her demeanour suggested any remorse at all. Eventually, we made our way up into the hills where we found an oasis of calm, a warm welcome, the promised views and the blissful sound of a hot engine cooling down and breathing a sigh of relief.
This place is a delight. There’s not a lot to do here other than to go for a walk, have a drink in the bar and breathe fresh air but it is well worth a visit. Our friends Jo and Doug got in touch to see where we were and were as keen as we were to escape the crowds, so, on our second day they rolled up to enjoy the peace and the mountain air. It was Shrove Tuesday when they arrived and I decided to try to make banana pancakes using a mixture of a great recipe Shirley used last week with a creative twist of my own. You can probably tell where this is going. My creative twist turned the original perfectly good recipe into strange unidentifiable beige clumps, cunningly disguised with strawberries and greek yoghurt. Jo and Doug were polite and are still alive to tell the tale. It was a gorgeous afternoon so we all went out for a walk to walk off the clumps and try to get to the Barragem (reservoir) visible from our front windows. Sense should have told us that it was a long way down and by some amazing twist in the time-space continuum, a hell of a lot further back. We panted back up the hill with two small canines who doggedly refused to pull us back up and fell into the van in a sweaty heap.
Later, when we were more fragrant and able to put one foot in front of the other we joined Jo and Doug for drinks in their van and then saw that the bar was open … so guess what we did next?
The bar is a simple affair where a round of four drinks can be bought for 4€. Sitting at a small wooden table we enjoyed a chat with a delightful French couple. This exchange was made infinitely easier by the fact that Jo speaks excellent French and George, the Frenchman, speaks good English too. We did pretty well understanding the exchange but typically, we took so long thinking of responses, that the conversation had moved on through three different subjects and left us behind. We were happy though to join in the conversation about the sensational victory of Scotland over France in the rugby last Sunday. We had watched it on the laptop in Quarteira with the Scottish flag flying bravely and the sound of Shirley roaring echoing all around the parking.
So this is our last day in Portugal. Tomorrow we will drive the few short miles to the bridge that crosses the river Guadiana and takes us into Spain. We’ve been here since November and it has been a real adventure but it’s time to move on.
Thank you, Portugal. We’ve loved the variety, the hospitality, the friendships we’ve made and the wonderful fish, fresh off the sea. Another country and another adventure awaits us.
Until the next time …