We stayed at Turiscampo another three days after waving goodbye to our good friends Katherine and James.
There was still some exploring to do and we were reluctant to move away from the comforts of the site. The contrast between touring and staying put for a while is interesting. Once we get on the road we love it. Finding out what is round the next corner, looking for interesting places to stay and just feeling free to roam is quite addictive, yet, once we’ve settled down for a couple of weeks on a good site, we find it difficult to move on. Turiscampo was full of good memories and happy experiences but we knew it was time to get back on the road. Apart from anything else we need to get the scrapes repaired on the roof of the van and then make our way slowly back north to get to the ferry by mid March. We don’t want to rush and spoil all the good work we’ve put into travelling slowly and mindfully.
On our last afternoon we made good use of the wifi to skype with Adrian, Rachel and Cara then Chris and Mary then we decided to go to the site restaurant for a last supper. We loved the buffet there and we wanted one last dive into its delights so we wandered up towards the warm glow of the lights and the smell of good food with rumbling tummies. In we went, all smiles, only to be turned away. They were having a private event and there was no room for us. We were devastated!! Fortunately neither of us had partaken of a pre-dinner drink so we jumped into our little hire car and headed on down to Lagos to find something to eat. This part of Portugal is full to brimming with restaurants selling all kinds of fish, fresh off the sea. If it’s true that fish is good for the brains then we will be geniuses when we leave. We found a gorgeous little cosy place that was fuller than most of the others that we’d passed – always a good sign – and trotted inside. I ordered sword fish and Shirley had sea bass. We love the way the Portuguese serve their fish. Simply but beautifully cooked with a small portion of boiled potatoes and stacks of vegetables and salad. The sword fish had the restaurant’s special sauce on it. It was tomato, garlic, sultanas and sliced almonds. Fabulous! The waiter seemed surprised when we ordered a large bottle of still water to share. When he brought it over he poured a little into my glass and invited me to taste it while holding the bottle as though it were fine wine. We thought he was serious for a moment until he burst out laughing. One course is plenty of food when it’s Portuguese portions so we refused the delightful looking puddings – it hurt to do so but needs must. Back at the van we gave in to a G&T that we definitely heard calling to us from the fridge in a mournful tone and played cards. We really know how to have fun!
We were sad to hand over our car keys and wave goodbye to Turiscampo the next morning. We’ve loved so much about it – the staff, the facilities, the position, the restaurant – if you’re considering visiting it we can wholeheartedly recommend it.
A Night by the Ocean
First stop after leaving Lagos was Armacao. We originally planned to meet our pal Mary there for a couple of nights as it’s her place of choice to escape a month or so of Scottish winter. Sadly Mary had to cancel her trip so we couldn’t meet up but we went there anyway to stay in the motorhome parking right by the beach. A stay here costs €1.50 a night and to fill up the tanks with fresh water another €1.50. Pretty good value and really nothing beats falling asleep to the sound of Atlantic waves on the shore about 50 feet away. We had dropped in a few weeks ago and we noticed when we came back that some of the same motorhomes were still in residence. It’s our guess that some people spend the whole winter here. We walked on the beach then up through the town to the cliff tops and tired ourselves and the dogs out. We’d planned, when we got back, to take our little folding BBQ down on to the beach and cook sausages for supper, using the BBQ as a fire pit afterwards to warm ourselves as the sun set but unfortunately the wind was too strong to risk it. Wandering back to the van we spotted a restaurant offering four courses with wine and coffee for €12.50 per person and we quickly booked a table, returning later to yet again eat our fill of local fish and vegetables. It’s becoming a habit but we reckon it’s a healthy one.
Several people have recommended Carlos, a man with a body shop near Olhao, to fix our poor scratched motorhome. I use the term scratched loosely – the surface of the GRP was removed in two places on the roof edge by my tussle with the awning in Lidl’s carpark and it really needs to be properly sealed. Apparently Carlos is the local expert on all things GRP and fibreglass so the next morning we set off, having set the sat nav to the right co-ordinates. Our sat nav is a trucker’s model and it usually keeps us on good wide roads. For some reason it decided otherwise on this bit of the trip and we were led a scary dance through small towns, narrow roads and round tight bends. Shirley’s nerves were in tatters by the time we found Carlos, his workshop nestling on a corner about 100 yards from a wide open road. The trouble with a sat nav is that shouting at it and asking why it didn’t take the easy route is pointless, it just keeps a dignified silence. Carlos listened to our tale of woe, hopped up his ladder onto the roof, talked to himself in Portuguese for a bit and then delivered his verdict. “No bother – I fix it on Thursday.” We were thrilled to bits. We’d worried that he would tell us we had to wait three weeks.
Off we went, having set the sat nav to find our next stop, a little motorhome park about five miles away. Can you believe it – that blasted sat nav was still in a crazy mood and this time took us down roads that were barely wide enough for one small car. Several times we met people driving in the opposite direction and Shirley, who had taken over the driving, had to reverse to let them through. We were distinctly wobbly when we drove into Route 66, the most quirky place we’ve stayed on so far.
It’s a Wild West themed place with a Sheriff’s Office at the gate, a prison and a saloon bar. The owners are Belgian and virtually every motorhome here is French or Belgian. It’s the weirdest thing to be in Portugal and surrounded by people speaking French but at least we can understand most of it.
Animals and domesticated fowl wander the site – we met these two after the dog walk. Poppy was bewildered.
My birthday sneaked up on me while we were staying at Route 66. Having a January birthday means that I associate it with cold weather, dark nights, sometimes snow, often rain and certainly not sunshine. For all these reasons I didn’t actually believe it was my birthday but fortunately for me Shirley was all prepared to spoil me. Presents and a cup of tea in bed started the day and then, after a lazy morning, we set off walking to Fuseta with the dogs trotting along beside us. The one other British couple staying on the site had come over that morning to introduce themselves and they gave us excellent instructions on how to get there. Fuseta is a working port with small fishing boats bringing in their catch to the harbour.
The fish market stands right by the harbour and the fish literally comes off the boats and straight into the market. Strolling along the pier we came across a café, Casa Corvo, with outside tables right on the harbour. Fish was on ice and a massive BBQ was lit where a chef was cooking fish to order.
We were welcomed by the waiter, chose two fillets of Atlantic croaker fish and were given a table next to another couple. To our surprise the couple turned out to be British and we ended up chatting pleasantly for a couple of hours over a long lazy lunch with olives, salad, wine, barbecued fish and potatoes followed by excellent coffee. Only the second time in my life that I have celebrated my birthday in the sunshine and the last time was Benidorm in the 80s – this was a whole new experience. Eventually we bade our new found friends farewell and walked back to the site. It was a 6 mile round trip and we were all ready to relax when we got back. The dogs fell asleep immediately and didn’t wake up again until 8.30 p.m.
Edging closer to Carlos
As Thursday approached we tried to think what we would do with two small dogs and no van for a whole day. Carlos’s workshop is in the back of beyond so sitting in a series of pavement cafés wouldn’t be an option. We thought about hiring a car for the day but as we’re not staying in a hotel or on an official campsite we couldn’t get one delivered to us. Eventually we hit upon the idea of moving to another Camper place within a couple of miles walk of Carlos and leaving tables, chairs, flask of coffee and a picnic there, dropping the van off then walking back to spend the day on site. The nearest camper park, once again run by a French couple, was happy for us to do this and so we moved there on the day before the repair. Arriving at the site we caused immediate chaos by trying to get our big van onto the small pitch they had allocated us. I tried a couple of times but couldn’t get it in a position where the sun was on our habitation door side. The French owner came along and offered to do it but he was bamboozled by the right hand drive vehicle and couldn’t find the hand brake. Along came a helpful Geordie man who offered to do the manoeuvre but as he spoke no French and the owner spoke no English his offer fell on deaf ears. Even worse, he was standing behind the van when the Frenchman eventually worked out the gears and started to reverse. He moved pretty quickly at that point, almost diving into a mound of sand to avoid being squashed by the van. Eventually we got on the pitch sidewards and pulled out our chairs ready to relax. Or at least I was ready to relax – Shirley had other ideas and before I could say otherwise I found myself walking up the road with her and the dogs towards the little town of Moncarapacho. The walk wasn’t much fun but the coffee outside the betting shop was good. To be fair we didn’t realise it was the betting shop until we sat down and noticed that we were surrounded by flat capped men with fags stuck to their bottom lips, however the coffee was excellent and the people watching second to none. I had a cappuccino that would serve as a dessert with a mountain of whipped cream on the top. Shirley only drinks her coffee black so she got the low calorie version. Given that we were at that particular establishment we decided to buy a Euromillions ticket. Hold your breath for Friday folks.