I am writing this on the last day of 2019. Perhaps I’m a bit slow on the uptake but it only occurred to me this morning that this is the end of a decade. Tomorrow we enter the Twenties … I wonder if they’ll be as roaring as the last decade of the same name.
We spent Christmas on the Motorhome parking at Lagos. It truly is one of our favourites, yet, reading the reviews of other users this opinion is not shared by many. We like it because it feels safe, it costs very little to stay there and you can take up as much room as you need. Many motorhome parking spots don’t allow what is called “Camping behaviour”. Contrary to the first thing that might come into one’s head, this has nothing to do with striking poses or behaving like stereotypical gay men. Camping behaviour includes putting out chairs and tables, using BBQs, hanging out washing or otherwise behaving as though you are on a campsite. Lagos Aire allows any and all of these things, it has an atmosphere of relaxation and easy going acceptance, as long as you pay your 3€ a night. As the years have gone by on our touring adventures our expectations have become lower and, in direct consequence, our enjoyment of the simple pleasures of life has increased.
Choosing the Aire for our Christmas spot, as opposed to the swanky campsite of previous years, meant having less luxuries such as posh bathrooms and electricity but it also meant that we were close to town and we could do something that I’ve never done before. We had Christmas lunch in a restaurant. Our chosen venue was Lazy Jacks where we have had pleasant meals and snacks many times in the past. We spent the day with our friends Mary and Jacqui and I have to admit that, having been the one who suggested the place, I was anxious in case it was a poor choice. I am delighted to report that the whole experience was fabulous.
A beautifully set table for four overlooking the marina, really excellent traditional Christmas Dinner, and relaxed and friendly service from the staff. The food was top quality, beautifully prepared and cooked and the price about half what it would have cost in the UK. If you get the chance, we can recommend it thoroughly. We couldn’t move for several hours afterwards.
In the evening we got out our tiny fire pit and lit it as darkness fell. Six of us, Biz, Melanie, Mary, Jacqui and ourselves gathered around it with the twinkling lights of our laser light projector lighting up the side of the van. Somehow, despite being drugged by an abundance of food and wine, we managed to eat some nibbles, drink some more wine and fill the evening with chat and laughter.
It was the end of a lovely day and we felt truly blessed. In a quiet moment Shirley and I agreed that it could only have been made more perfect by having our family around us. Sunshine, good food, loving friends and family and a simple life – it’s a recipe for contentment.
In the Algarve Christmas is more low key than in the UK. We had noticed this before the big day, where the only places that were busy were the supermarkets with people shopping for a special meal with family. By Boxing Day life was returning to normal. There were no massive after Christmas sales, no mad rushes to the shops and so we celebrated by going to the laundrette. We cycled along with our washing in the shopping trailer and popped it into one of the big 14kg machines. Next to us was a lady who appeared to be confused by the whole process as she spun on the spot several times and flapped her arms. I considered trying to explain how it works to her but as instructions were pinned on every machine in three different languages, I decided to leave well alone. Off we went to spend half an hour in a nearby coffee shop, returning in time to find the machine finishing its cycle. By then the place was full and to our amazement we found that Mrs Spinning Lady had appointed herself fount of all laundrette knowledge and she was going from person to person telling them in heavily accented English how to use the machines. Local ladies were shrugging helplessly as they tried to bypass her flailing arms to put their washing in and, as more people arrived with loads of washing, the confusion got worse as she hopped from person to person. After we put our washing into a dryer, a process that involves racing against other users who come in with home washed clothes wanting only the benefit of the dryers, we hid in a corner to avoid getting involved. I remember the days when farces were shown on TV during the Christmas season. What a pity it has gone out of fashion – the laundrette behind the bus station in Lagos would have made an ideal scene. After a few minutes a very pleasant lady approached us and asked in English how to pay for the washing. She was clearly not impressed by the Dutch spinning lady, who was also speaking good English but not making much sense, and decided to ask us instead. We were pleased to help and soon afterwards packed up our clean clothes and headed out to our bikes. The pleasant lady followed us outside, probably for self preservation, and struck up a conversation with us. She was Italian, speaking excellent English and in truly Italian form went into raptures at the sight of our bikes with the trailer attached. Just as we left she put her hand on her heart and said “As long as you have spirit, you will never grow old.” Wow!
A little kindness goes a long way
Just before Christmas we had noticed a rather sad sight at the service point. A lady living in a decrepit old caravan could be seen scuttling out to the water point whenever a van left it having filled up. She tried every time to see if there was any fresh water left to fill her water container. More often than not the fresh water was all used up by the vans filling their tanks and she left with only the non drinkable water provided for rinsing toilet cassettes. It was clear that she lived in poverty and we felt sad for her. So many people are just one step away from destitution and so often they are judged by those of us more fortunate as inferior. We decided to get a little bag of goodies to give her for Christmas and Shirley went along to hand them to her. Honestly it was a very small gift, a cake, some crisps, some drinks and biscuits but she was delighted to receive it. Shirley said, “Feliz Natal! (Portuguese) Feliz Navidad! (Spanish) and Happy Christmas! and the woman laughed and clapped her hands in delight. We were humbled to see how little it takes to brighten someone’s day.
We’ve noticed since we adopted the “Motorhoming with a little kindness” idea that small acts of kindness often return to us in spades. It really isn’t the reason we do it but there is no doubt that we almost always receive more than we give. A few days later, Biz came along and offered to climb up the front of our motorhome and clean off the green algae that had collected on the bump above the windscreen. He did this rather spectacular climb from the front tyre, on to the ledge between the window and the bonnet and set to with the Koh spray bottle, getting it clean and sparkling in double quick time. Next he got his extending ladders out of the garage of his motorhome and went up on the roof to clean the skylight above the lounge. We were so grateful for his help – after all, no-one wants a green slimy nose on their motorhome. I have added a set of extending ladders to our motorhoming wish list and Melanie and Biz have added a Koh cleaning set to theirs.
The Cake Kids
One of the delights of Lagos Aire is the twice weekly visit of two young people who bring home made cakes and savoury snacks for sale. In the last two weeks we have given into the temptation of their wares twice. We can throughly recommend the delights they bring and, as an added bonus, you get a lovely warm smiley chat with them. We were warned by the Frenchman in Campillos that you can’t leave Portugal without being several kilos heavier and we are now convinced that he was right. The Portuguese really know how to bake. Banoffee Tart, Lemon Meringue Pie, Chocolate Cake and Pineapple and Cream cheese cake …. need I say more?
Alvor Beach and Mr Precious Bike
We left Lagos after more than two weeks to head over to Alvor for some beach time. There is a paid Motorhome Parking Aire in Alvor and right next to it there is an attractive tree lined car park where motorhomes are allowed to stay for free. In the past we have stayed on the Aire and also on the free parking and at first glance it seems difficult to choose between the two. The free parking is prettier but there is no room to sit outside your van. There are no services on the free parking either however, for the price of one night on the paid aire (4.50€) you can go in every couple of days and fill up with water, empty waste etc. You can also go in and empty and rinse your toilet cassette for 1€. The official aire is unattractive, covered in red sand that gets everywhere and is often very full.The free one is pretty and you can pick up your folding chairs and walk to the beach where there is enough space for hundreds of people to sit out in peace. It’s a no brainer really – we decided to stay on the free parking and pay the aire for services when we need them. All this seemed simple until we arrived on Sunday and struggled to find a place long enough for the van and the trailer. Eventually we found a good long space but getting tucked in meant parking quite close to the back end of a huge motorhome that was plonked right in the middle of the row. We got settled in and put the kettle on, leaving the door open to let the warmth of the sun in and sat back to relax. Just as we were enjoying that sigh of pleasure when you realise the van is level, everything is as it should be, the sun is shining and the beach is just 20 yards away, the lady from the van in front came up to ask us to move the van. “I’m worried that hubby won’t be able to get his bike out with you parked so close.” she said. “He’s very precious about his bike.” We looked at her van, thinking it must have a door on the back of it and offered to move back a few feet. This clearly wasn’t going to satisfy her so I suggested that they move forward a few feet as they were in the middle with no-one parked in front. “Oh no, I can’t do that,” she said, “We’ve got our legs down”. These big expensive vans often have automatic levellers that drop legs down in a matter of seconds and level the whole van. I sighed. “You want us to move the whole rig don’t you?” “Well…” a long silence laden with meaning ensued. I explained at that point that we hadn’t realised their van had a door on the back and she said it didn’t. The door that ‘hubby’ needed to get his bike out was on the side but because he was very precious about it he didn’t want anything in his way when he got it out of the side door. This made no sense at all as we were behind them and the only thing that would get in his way was a mahoosive palm tree and a huge bush that was right beside the aforesaid side door. We had impasse. Shirley, troubled by the atmosphere wanted to move but by now there were two cars parked behind us. The lady with the enormous motorhome wanted us to move for reasons that were at best unclear and at worst frankly suspicious and I was all for digging my heels in and reminding her that this was a free parking and none of us had the right to call it our own. At this moment Melanie and Biz turned up and took in the scene. One of the cars had moved by now so they offered to help us by unhooking the trailer and pushing it back a few feet and we then reversed the van away from “Mrs Married to Man with Precious Bike”. Having moved and put our van back into relaxing mode she returned a few minutes later to tell us that she didn’t want us to move back a few feet and she had identified another place we could go. By now we were all out of patience so we pointed out that the way was clear for hubby and the bike and we considered the drama over. The next morning we awoke to the sound of big growly engines and the huge motorhome drove away. Did they go because he was still worried about his bike? Did they have another reason for not wanting people behind them? If so why didn’t they park at the end where no-one could possible get in behind them? Do we care? Not a lot. All is quiet now in the parking at Alvor. We have walked miles on the beach, the dogs have run their little legs off, we’ve enjoyed the harbour front cafés and we’re looking forward the the New Year fireworks. What more could you ask for?
So it’s Happy New Year from us in sunny Portugal. Feliz Novo Ano! (Portuguese) Lang may yer lum reek! (Scots)