What did we ever do before we had the Internet? Finding a motorhome dealer with a good reputation in a foreign land is so much easier with Mr Google at your disposal. Searching for the answer to our wastewater problem, we chose Campilusa near Coimbra because of its proximity to our route and the fact that several Brits had reviewed it as a place where they could speak English and gave good service. They weren’t wrong.

We had spent the night before at Coimbra motorhome parking on the banks of the River Mondego. Parking here is free and in a pleasant green park. It is a place that is popular with long-term motorhomers and van parking is mixed with car parking for the many sporting opportunities on the riverside. Arriving late on a Sunday afternoon we expected it to be quiet but it had been a very warm afternoon and the place was hooching with families, students, surfer types in ancient vans and lots and lots of dogs. It had a happy atmosphere so we found a slightly cramped spot and waited for the crowds to go home before moving to a better one.

Up close and personal in Coimbra

The most important consideration was finding a place where we could easily drive off in the morning and head for Campilusa where we hoped to get our leak fixed once and for all. We’ve come to terms with the fact that springing the occasional leak and bits failing is all part of the fun of long-term motorhoming. One thing is for certain, this lifestyle changes your priorities. Getting things fixed brings on feelings of near euphoria, as does finding a well-designed place to empty the chemical loo, getting a full tank of fresh clean water and meeting a friendly English speaker … oh and turning a corner to see the distinctive yellow sign of Lidl. That is in a class of its own, bringing on shouts of delight.

So we headed out into the Monday morning traffic to find Campilusa. We realised straight away that we should have waited an hour. Nothing happens quickly, first thing in the morning at a motorhome dealers and the traffic was heavy. Pulling up outside we got Google translate ready on the phone to explain what the problem was. We didn’t need it. The person who listened to our tale of woe asked us to wait a few minutes – that’s Portuguese minutes so multiply it up accordingly – and then everything swung into action. A man came out to look at the problem, decided what part we needed and took us back inside. Pleasant lady who had served us on arrival explained that the workshop was 5km away and so someone would escort us there and then a mechanic would tell us whether it could be fixed. A kindly man of advancing years came out and explained that he would drive in front of us and we were immediately thankful that he had. We were led up tiny roads, through minute villages and up into the hills until we began to believe he had lost his way and then, miraculously, we were there. José the mechanic got to work and our kindly guide began to chat with us. We asked if he had a motorhome, just to make conversation, and he laughed. It turned out he was the owner of the whole outfit. “I own lots of them,” he replied, “so if I want one I just take one. These days though, I would rather take a plane and stay in a hotel.” Vasco was the most charming host, showing us his extensive workshops and talking knowledgeably about Scotland and his feeling that it is a very different country and should be independent. His English was not fluent but he was able to communicate amazingly well, especially given that he confided in us that he is 82 years old and still working part-time. This whole experience was beginning to feel surreal. We couldn’t imagine getting service like this in a British company. Once José had worked his magic, taking off all the pipes and putting them back together with a new valve and tap in the workshop, we were escorted back to the shop where we paid the very reasonable bill and were bid a warm farewell by all the staff. We left feeling uplifted – and relieved too. We were watertight!

Coimbra from the riverside

Back at the motorhome parking we found a convenient spot, got out our folding chairs and sat by the river reading our books and watching a team of canoe polo players in training. This was November 21st and it was 25c. These hot afternoons in November are not guaranteed so we make the most of them. Portugal is in desperate need of rain and Vasco had told us that morning that it was on its way. He had smiled and said “I know you’ve come from Scotland and have seen enough rain but we need it. Sorry.”

We spent three nights at the free motorhome parking in Coimbra, taking the opportunity to explore the beautiful town, climb the steep streets, buy some fresh fruit in the market and eat roasted chestnuts from a street seller. We loved it there and can thoroughly recommend it. The dogs gave it four paws of approval as they could run about along the riverside off their leads.

Meringues as big as your head in Coimbra – we resisted.

A Goldilocks Day

Some days are definitely of the Goldilocks variety when nothing you try is quite right. We made up our minds that our next stop would be to visit Fatima, place of pilgrimage, followed by Batalha, famous for its monastery. Once we arrived at Fatima we realised straight away that we wouldn’t be staying overnight. The six motorhome parking spots were taken and none of the others was long enough for our van. We had also mistakenly arrived with no water on board, not realising that there were no services there.  Fatima attracts many thousands of faithful pilgrims each year and we were astonished by the sheer size of the place and the beauty of some of the modern artwork and sculptures. This was a brief visit as we had to be sure to find a place to sleep that night.

Open air Church at Fatima – space for many thousands of pilgrims

The wind was getting up and the temperature was dropping, forecasts of heavy rain were rumoured and we felt the need to find a nice sheltered spot so we set off for Batalha where part two of the Goldilocks Saga occurred. The motorhome parking here is close to the monastery in the middle of a pretty little town. Free services and individual parking spaces are provided but we discovered, after filling up with water, that once again we were too long for the provided parking spots. It was very busy in the town and we tried hard to find an alternative place but eventually had to accept that we needed to move on again. By now it was getting dark and we hastily chose the nearest motorhome parking, which was back in the direction of Fatima and, as we discovered very quickly, involved a drive up into the mountains around numerous hairpin bends and steep inclines. Shirley managed the whole trip as a passenger without her usual response of squeaking like Beaker in the Muppets. She may have been catatonic with fright – I don’t know. I was too busy gripping the steering wheel and praying. Sao Mamede is a lovely little town, out in the sticks, about 5 km from Fatima. Here we found a proper service point, ample parking space and a lot of peace and quiet. Thank you, Sao Mamede.

Nazaré, Peniche and another kind of leak

Waking the next morning we got online to choose our next stop. Shirley loves to be near the sea and, as we haven’t had a seaside stop so far on this trip, we decided to head west in the direction of the Atlantic Ocean. We chose Peniche as our stop for the weekend, planning some walking, sightseeing and doing the tourist thing. In the end it didn’t turn out that way … more on that shortly. We stopped en route at Nazaré, a seaside town about 30 miles north of Peniche. On a driving day we usually wait until our first stop before we have breakfast and coffee and, if possible, we try to find an attractive spot to make the journey more interesting. Nazaré was the ideal spot, not too far off our route, yet a beautiful seaside town with a great beach. We found the motorhome parking, which was little more than a sandy patch of waste ground, within an easy walk of the beach and pulled into the last remaining parking space. The dogs can smell a beach within about half a mile so they were lined up by the door and ready for action in double quick time. No chance of having coffee before going out for a walk here. Putting on their leads we saw through the front windows a strange and rather severe looking couple walking up and down the parked vehicles in the style of camp commandants. We immediately thought that there must be a charge for parking here and waited for them to approach us but they walked on by, glancing surreptitiously into the van in the way we all do when we want to see what the layout of someone else’s van is like without actually looking too nosy. Off we went to the beach, where the dogs went nuts with delight and we stood with a number of other people watching the crashing Atlantic rollers, hypnotised by the sheer power and relentless energy of the ocean. Eventually, the mutts returned to our sides, looking up at us with that happy dog look of lolling tongue and floppy ears, ready for the next adventure so we returned to the van, all four of us ready for breakfast.


Back at the van, we noted that the self-appointed camp guards were still on duty, marching up and down the line of vans with arms folded and a serious expression on their faces. Their military bearing was rather spoiled by the woman’s frilly pinny and slippers but her expression would have frightened the most hardened criminal. We worked out that they were resident in a French motorhome in pole position at the bottom of the parking area and pondered on the nature of some people’s travelling lives. Why drive hundreds of miles south to spend your time walking up and down a car park glowering at people? Strange.

Next stop was Peniche and we chose to stay in ASA Peniche Motorhome Parking, a commercial parking area right in the town. If you look at the link do not be fooled by the picture of the ocean. The parking is behind high walls in a secure compound. Staff are friendly and helpful, parking is level, services are clean and plentiful and it is an easy walk to most places of interest. What it is not is beautiful.

Rather strange but secure motorhome parking at Peniche

As it happened this turned out to be no problem at all, as the storm and rain that had been promised hit us with full force just as we drove in. We got drenched at the service point and more drenched plugging in the electric but once settled we were thankful for the high walls that protected us from the ferocious pounding of the wind blowing in from the ocean. For twenty-four hours we hid from the weather, going out only to take the dogs for toilet breaks and rushing back into the warm. Peniche is an interesting place. A mixture of tourist town and working fishing port, it has history, culture, good restaurants and wonderful surfing beaches. When the storm finally broke we went out for a walk with the dogs, thinking we could circle the peninsula. The man at reception had mentioned 3km. I think we misheard him and ended up walking miles, getting hopelessly lost and having to go into tourist information to find our way home.

Fishers risking life and limb on the dangerous cliffs

That evening we went out for a lovely meal in one of the fresh fish restaurants and strolled back to the van feeling full of the joys, only to be met by an unpleasant sight on opening the van door. One of the dogs had been horribly sick and as soon as we opened the door they both shot out into the night, and the mercifully fully enclosed parking area, on the hunt for a place to …. you don’t need to know the rest.

We spent the rest of our stay in Peniche taking it in turns to walk the dogs to the nearest patch of rough ground as the ill effects of something they had eaten worked its way through their systems. I won’t go into too much detail but we look like new parents, dark smudges under our eyes, hair stood on end and wearing a cross between PJs and jogging bottoms, having taken it in turns to get up several times each night in response to the pitiful wails of two dogs with the runs. I am reminded of the wonderful and much missed  Victoria Wood who described a new mother turning up at the baby clinic with a piece of toast stuck to her hair. Someone remind me why it was a good idea to be dog owners?

21 thoughts on “One leak fixed and then …

  1. “squeaking like Beaker in the Muppets” you two crack me up!! ?? Loving the blog and trying really hard not to be jealous. Enjoy your travels.

  2. Hi Mags and Shirley
    Thought to tell you a couple of things – as you wend your way down the Portuguese coast, we stayed on the beach west of Lisbon at Cascais. Steer clear of Lisbon around rush hour – we got caught in traffic there! Not good. We also stayed overnight near Cabo de Sao Vicente, the most westerly point of mainland Europe – there is a lighthouse there etc, and we stayed in a car park opposite a hotel about 1/4 mile back from the point – it’s way down south. Had a great sunset there!

    Also, my cousin lives further down at Aljezur. I wouldn’t suggest you go and see him, he has a small development of luxury houses near Praia da Luz, and he is a busy man, but if you get into any difficulties, especially with the dogs (his family are great dog rescuers and lovers) let me know and I will give you his contact details. XXX

    1. Thanks Catherine. We’re heading for Cascais in a couple of days and Sao Vicente is very close to where we are spending Christmas. We were there last year and loved it. Portugal is full of delightful places. Dogs now back to full health thank goodness. x x

  3. Ah the joys of having dogs. Several years ago when we’d had our van about two months and it was still sparkling we returned from a meal out to find both our dogs had upset tummies and had left cow pats all over the new carpets:) Ho hum, never mind. Enjoying your blog and seeing where your adventures take you.

    1. Most of the time we wouldn’t be without our dogs but there are some days when they really try your patience. You must have been appalled to find your new van carpets covered in dog poo. Thanks for following us x

  4. Poor dogs! Poor you! I hope they’re on the mend! I won’t show Colin the picture of the fishermen as he would want to join them!! Unlike me, he has no fear of heights!! Stay safe! X

  5. And Oscar pooped on our duvet in Arasaig! I walked around the Peniche head (J nanny napped) … seem to remember to was over 6km – further than I thought too. We really like Coimbra too … did you see students performing fado?

    1. Well, you learn something new every day. We had never heard of Fado but youtube has educated us. We heard some melancholy music coming out of a bar in Coimbra but didn’t venture inside. We’ll just have to go back. I had forgotten about Oscar’s whoopsie in Arisaig. Oh dear. x

      1. Lisbon has its own fado too. Three types of fado and I think Lisbon is the main one. There is coin bright which is second and Porto which is nearly finished. Each for our day has a fairly action on the musical instrument. We went to a small Fardo show in Porto. But it was a bit too soulful for us.

    1. All is well with the mutts now thanks, Alison. In some ways they are more worrying than children because they can’t tell you what’s wrong.

  6. You two are brilliant. Looking forward to next weeks nickname already! Thank you for all the entertainment. Almost feel as if we’ve been to the places you have been, the descriptions are so good – keep it up xxxxx

    1. Thanks, Karen – really glad you’re enjoying the blog. Some of the nicknames we use aren’t suitable for publication though. 😉

  7. Hey lovely ladies, sounds like you’ve had a few adventures since we last saw you! We’re not far behind you in the “comedy of errors” days. We have just been in Tomar (which we really enjoyed), decided to do laundry in a jazzy new launderette near the Aire. The door was electronic & locked us out with (virtually) all our clothes, bedding & towels locked inside!! Then today we decided to try & solve our battery problem which was virtually a mirror image of your day fixing your water leak! Three garages, a hand drawn map, a wiggly hillside drive, many hours & lots of friendly Portuguese mechanics later we finally had a new battery! All done in the pouring rain!! Anyway, hope you & the pooches are well. We’ll be following you South soon, Melanie & Ian xx

    1. Hello! We will be very careful not to leave our smalls in a fancy electronic launderette. That could have been very awkward. 😉 We managed to fuse an entire aire’s electric system last night. It’s all part of the fun though isn’t it? Ordinary domestic systems are nothing like as exciting in a house. Drive safe x x

  8. I just luv all ur blogs. They’re so descriptive almost feel like I’m there myself at times. Glad to hear the dogs have recovered. Carry on enjoying ur journey ladies as I can’t wait for the next episode. The San Juan ladies gave me a journal with “The Adventures of Christine” etched on the front so I can’t wait to start filling it in on my journey round Britain throughout the next year

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.