Shirley and Cara … wishing I was there just for the day

Shirley returned from her flying visit home on Saturday evening. It was easy for me to work out when to drive to the airport, as I could see her flight approaching from the van window. Driving around the airport carparks I tried hard to find one that didn’t have a height restriction. Finally, I saw one and attempted to get in but was stopped in my tracks by a cacophony of horns from behind me. It turned out that this carpark was for authorised minibuses only and they had taken umbrage at my attempts to get in. In the end, I had to park up in the coach park near departures and hope that no official was on the prowl looking to impose a fine on a random tourist. As it happened, they were only interested in nipping out of the airport for a smoke so I waited in peace until Shirley appeared. We spent a lovely evening consuming Portuguese wine and playing cards with Mo and Ken before sleeping like dead things, tucked up like hamsters in our cosy little nest.

Hoopoe outside our van at Faro

After a brisk walk along the waterside pathways with the three dogs, we wished our pals a fond farewell and headed back west to Alvor. We stopped on the way at Intermarché in Portimao where there is a free motorhome service point and did our laundry in the outdoor laundrette, bought groceries and had our breakfast in the carpark. When you see a motorhome parked up in a supermarket carpark you just never know what activities might be happening inside. We’ve been known to have a shower in a Lidl carpark, cook a full meal to put in the Wonderbag and do the vacuuming. These days, when we drive places in a car, I feel cheated because we don’t have our own loo on board. I should mention here that along the road from Faro to Alvor Shirley suggested on two separate occasions that we fill up with LPG. I confidently answered her with, “I think we’ve got plenty”. These facts were, unknown to me, to come back to haunt me within forty-eight hours.

Alvor from the boardwalks

On our way to Alvor, we got a text from Steve and Judy to say that the official parking was a quagmire from the rain overnight but the free parking was fine. That settled it. It was the cheap seats for us. We parked up in full sun and listened to the solar system slurping happily, turned the seats around and walked the dogs on the beach. Before long Steve and Judy had popped in and accepted our offer of a drink and we had the place feeling like home again.

I mentioned in a previous post that Alvor has much to recommend it and we were very pleased to receive an invitation to sample the gentle art of birding. We used to call it twitching but as we are now approaching that age when twitching is involuntary we are glad that the terminology has become more appropriately descriptive. Jo and Doug texted to say that they were coming to Alvor to do a little birding and invited us to join them. Out came the big camera and the monocular and we went to sleep the night before eagerly looking forward to learning from our pals, who know a whole lot more than we do about our feathered friends.

I was woken the next morning by Shirley getting back into bed and muttering, “The fridge is flashing.” My blood ran cold. The fridge flashes for two reasons. One is that we have run out of gas, the other is that the automatic switchover has failed. I tested the most likely scenario by trying to light a ring on the gas hob. No gas! I had no defence against the shivering and icy looks from my three motorhoming companions. The van was freezing, the wind was howling outside and we had no way of even making a cup of tea. Wrapped up in the big fleecy blanket on the bed I used Google to find the nearest LPG station. Five minutes away in Portimao it claimed, so, while I took the dogs out for the quickest tank emptying of their lives, Shirley had the van ready for take-off and we were on our way at 8.00 a.m. when the petrol station opened. Error number ‘now too many to count’ followed – I used Google Maps instead of the satnav to navigate to the gas station. Google Maps was not on my side in my attempt to appease a cold and miserable Shirley. It took us around behind hotels, through car parks and finally up a steep and narrow ramp into the gas station where we saw that we should have stayed on the main road – the very one that Mr Google had taken us off a few yards earlier and we would have just driven in. A kind man who empties the bins and keeps the gas station clean helped us attach the filler to the van and we filled up. The two tanks were completely and totally empty so it took some time before getting on to the diesel pumps and filling up there. 104€ and what remained of my credibility lighter we trundled back to Alvor just in time to meet up with Jo and Doug and enjoy a lovely stroll along the boardwalks.

Redshank peeps out at us
Beautiful goldfinch

Isn’t it amazing how spending a little time looking at nature and strolling with friends can put everything to rights? We were surprised by how many birds we would have missed, or assumed were sparrows and ignored. Many of them turned out to be interesting, beautiful and surprisingly willing to be photographed. I wish I could remember all the species that were pointed out to us – we’ll take a notebook next time. It was very cold, even in full bright sunshine so we ended our walk in the shelter of the sports centre café drinking coffee and eating Pastel de Nata, a delicious Portuguese speciality custard tart. Thank you Jo and Doug, you made our day.

The Secret Language of Indicators

We have undertaken our own extensive research into the use of indicators on Portuguese roundabouts and we are ready to publish the following guidelines for visitors to this fine country.

Flashing Left Indicator

Any of the following meanings

  • I intend to turn left
  • I intend to turn right
  • I intend to go straight on
  • I might just stop at the junction to answer my phone, talk to a passing friend on a motorbike or take a bite from a sandwich

Flashing Right Indicator

Any of the following meanings

  • I intend to turn right
  • I intend to turn left
  • I intend to go straight on
  • I haven’t made my mind up
  • I might just stop at the junction to answer my phone, talk to a passing friend on a motorbike or take a bite from a sandwich

No Indicator Flashing

Any of the following meanings

  • I intend to go straight on
  • I haven’t made my mind up
  • I intend to turn left
  • I intend to turn right
  • Indicator? What indicator?

We are reliably informed that Portuguese police can stop and fine anyone who doesn’t use their indicators on roundabouts. So far we have seen no evidence of this, even the police don’t use them. We humbly suggest that implementing this rule might be a good method of solving the Portuguese financial downturn.

Food how we love you

We had two outstanding meals at Alvor. One was Haggis, neeps and tatties cooked by Judy in their beautiful Hymer motorhome and served with wine and good company. Thank you for the little taste of home Steve and Judy. The dessert was strawberries and Greek Yogurt and we tasted for the first time strawberries with ground pepper. Delicious! Who would have thought it?

Our second culinary treat was dinner at The Navigator restaurant in Alvor. We ate here over a year ago with Chris and Mary and vowed to return. Dinner here is a little more expensive than the average Portuguese eaterie but it is worth every Euro. We had the simple starter of Bread and Olives known as Couvert, then Shirley chose a fish kebab and I had swordfish. Wonderful fresh fish, simply but beautifully prepared served with potatoes, vegetables and a lovely bottle of red wine. The view from the wall of glass looking out to the boats as the sunset made the whole experience extra special so we extended the experience with a wicked dessert and coffee.

The view from our table at the Navigator


Moving on from Alvor, going East in the direction of Spain, we stopped for a few nights at Quarteira where Ken and Mo had done a fine job of selling the place as a grand spot. They were right. More on this in the next post …

Au revoir!

11 thoughts on “Birds and Buddies

  1. So enjoy reading your blog, thanks for the heads up on the Navigator, will give it a try next time we ar in Alvor, may even try the unofficial aire, the official one has never appealed.

    1. He Sue, The unofficial parking at Alvor is excellent and seems to be well tolerated by the locals and the GNR. No problems at all when we were there. M x

  2. Been following along albeit silently. We left Albufeira early because we were cold but it seems the weather has been improving somewhat. So lovely to see your pictures of the birds we like Alvor and I’ll bet you’ll be keeping a weather eye on the gas from now on?
    Never stayed at Quarteira always concerned the market may just appear out of nowhere and being the larger party, that we are, we may be unable to leave. So glad you’ve had a good time and the dogs are too, we moved to Jerez, lovely city so much to do. The stopover for two nights was at a motorhome repairer. Wonderful folks. Then on to Gib And now a few kilometres away from Marbella. Happy travels you four from us four.
    Oh and don’t start me or nick on the Portuguese use of roundabouts ?

    1. Hi Julie, Glad you’re still there. The market at Quarteria is on every Wednesday and they move everyone off on Tuesday. We won’t be staying until Tuesday to avoid the long queues and the move back on again at the end of the day. I think we’ll be heading to the motorhome repairer stopover from here. Happy travels!

  3. Ahhh! Alvor! We have such happy memories of holidays there and it still sounds just as good! I have some paintings somewhere that I did of the harbour from the balcony of a restauant which could well have been the Navigator! Have you made any plans for returning home yet? We would love to see you again if you’re passing by! X

    1. Hi Rachel, We’re returning at the end of April all being well. Not sure which route yet but we’ll let you know if we’re passing your way. We haven’t chosen a crossing yet … reluctant to think about leaving the sunshine. 🙂

  4. Yet another fantastic blog, Strawberries and pepper, my mother in law introduced me to that so yummy. Glad your back ok Shirley, I enjoy both of your adventures. The birds are gorgeous as are the dogs no mention this time. Keep on traveling and have fun. Sandy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.