The Wild West of Portugal
Following an action packed day in Porto, we hit the road quite late given the generous checkout time of 5pm at Canidelo Camping, and headed about an hour south. While we quite enjoyed the nice rural Portuguese roads in this area, albeit still full of potholes, we didn't enjoy the incredibly average Portuguese drivers who insist on constantly being over the center-line, practically touching your bumper by following way to close, and only passing when a blind corner or narrow stretch of road was ahead. Eventually, following this game of Portuguese roulette, we arrived at a camper parking area right next to a little beach town called Praia de Vagueira.
The beach access had been heavily destroyed by the recent wild weather, and the sea was still pretty rough! Nevertheless we parked up in between thirty or so white RVs (in which the small and bright turquoise Gary stands out considerably as the only non-white camper in the entire spot; "The only colourful one in the village"). Following a pretty chilled evening, and a quick stop to pickup some famous Portuguese tarts, coffee and other important morning rituals, we continued south.
We then pulled up at a Costa de Lavos, a sleepy little fishing village with an excellent dedicated camper area right on the beach (with fresh water showers and toilets - something we found quite rare in Portugal). The sun was shining, and whilst the sea was still wild, this would be our first opportunity of the entire trip so far to actually lie on the beach and sunbath. Needless to say we absolutely loved it. Following a day of reading, fresh salads, swimming, exploring the small town and some beers, we headed to sleep extremely satisfied.
The next morning we bounced out of bed with an optimistic spring in our step, and continued south. Whilst we initially planned to stay at a few other small beaches along this coast (like Beach Pedrogão), it looked like the forecast, whilst sunny, was still going to be quite windy, and as we aren't surfers, kite surfers, or wind surfers, like so many of the people we met down this coast, we made the decision to increase the rate of our decent towards the Algarves.
Doing so took us slightly inland, and we spotted an epic monastery right near the highway we were on, so immediately veered directly towards the exit lane. Note that whilst neither of us are religious, we love the history behind the ancient architecture, regardless of it's purpose. This turned out to be an epic unplanned pit-stop, as Batalha Monastery is extremely unique, and right up there with Notre-Dame de Paris, and even similar in some ways (although definitely not exceeding) Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia. It's unfinished chapels are a must see, and it's brimming with history from what appears to be quite a crazy period for Spain during the 12th to 15th centuries.
Next we continued on to what was a planned stop for the day, the walled town of Óbidos. Continuing Dan's fascination with castles, keeps, fortresses and pretty much anything with a stone wall, this was non-negotiable. It's a small town about an hour north of Lisbon, with a rich history dating back to a Roman settlement, which following their collapse, and sometime in the 8th century, led to the current fortification by the Moors (thanks Wikipedia). It's well worth a visit, and completely free to access and walk along the top of the entire wall perimeter (which of coarse Dan insisted we did). The town is also full of great little shops, bars and restaurants.
With the plan to visit Sintra the following day en route to the Algarves, we then headed to a wild coastal town not too far away, and parked up at Ericeira Camping. We didn't have too much time here, but met some two sets of lovely Germans, who were ironically parked either side of us, with one in a beautiful VW T3 and the other in a nice modern VW T5. With our T4 parked in the middle, it's something Volkswagon would have been proud of. Following a quick wander down to the beach and a few beers, we cooked a quick Chorizo Pasta (something we were now becoming quite good at) and then spent a few hours drinking wine and yarning with Dan (great name!), Linda and their puppy.
Following the now familiar red wine headache, we awoke quite optimistic given we were returning to the beauty of the Sintra area, a place we had visited only seven months earlier, but hadn't had time to explore all the palaces. But more on that soon - stay tuned for the next post :)
Bidi & Dan :)