Goodbye Portugal, Hello Spain (again)
I’ve left it far too long between posts and have over a month of park up spots to try and remember and write about. Goal for next month... make a list of everywhere we’ve stayed. I don’t want to look back on this in ten years time and have no idea where we’ve been! We’ve enjoyed a month of travelling through Portugal and have been living life at a slower pace. I emailed my Granny recently and said that time has a strange way of moving on the road and it really does. Days seem to stretch on forever, with endless amounts of time to do everything we want to do but then, before you know it, a month has passed.
Night 50-51, 18th January Lake- Praia de Sao Pedro de Moel
Spent a couple of nights by this lake- the surroundings were charred so I guess they were badly burnt in a fire recently. There were loggers working nearby removing most of the charred tress so it felt quite desolate. It turned out it didn’t really matter what it looked like as I had a bad cold and it was raining so instead of exploring and being outside we hunkered down for a couple of days and watch a lot of Netflix.
Night 52-53 20th-21st Jan Intermarche
We spent a couple of nights in the Intermarche car park (classy) We arrived in the evening on the first night and the washing machines/dryers were in constant use all evening (locals had come to use the dryers because of the rain) so we waited until the next day to do all of our washing, when it was quieter. We don’t like use the machines and dryer if there are locals waiting, we have nowhere to be whereas they are probably squeezing it in between work etc, it feels polite to wait. Plus, we have our house with us, they are just in their cars. I was still a bit ill and the weather wasn’t great so just decided to spend another night. We also did a shop, fuelled up and refilled water and toilet. One stop shop!
Night 54-55 22nd-23rd Jan beach park up
I’ve literally just written ‘beach park up’ for in my notebook for this one and I have no idea where we were. I think the weather probably wasn’t that great still as it was rainy when we were in Sintra.
Night 56 24th Jan Nazaré
Nazare was on our list of must see places in Portugal and is legendary due to its huge waves and yearly surfing competition. We were there on a cold and rainy day. It was just drizzling for most of the day so we, and everyone in the other 20+ vans that were there still got out to enjoy the scenery. This was our first experience of being parked with loads of other vans, and it definitely has got busier as we’ve moved further south. The waves were huge and recorded as reaching 50ft that day. There were only a couple of surfers out, coupled with someone on a jet ski to keep them safe and take them back out after catching a wave. We watched from the beach and then climbed up the rocks to the fort at the top of the cliff. It was extremely busy with cars parked all long the road leading to it, I suppose it must be like this year round. We then walked into the town, which was maybe about half an hour. On our way down we passed on of the people who had been surfing, who must have been a professional as he was being pick up by a group of people in a car advertising the surf competition. He was greated by a takeaway pizza- what a way to warm up! As well as a wetsuit he was wearing a life jacket- I wonder if they wear them year round or just because the waves were so ferocious, I’ve never seen a surfer wearing one before. The town wasn’t really anything special. A small, touristy seaside town, a nice, clean beach but a bit touristy really. We did get the funicular back up to the fort which was fun though! We’d assumed it was a touristy thing but it was actually filled with people finishing work, just like a regular bus. During the night the wind really picked up and we were awoken (for the first time) by it. It howeled and rocked the van and was actually quite scary! We wished that we had parked further away from the cliff edge that night. We sat up and listened to Harry Potter for several hours and then put our earplugs in for a couple of hours rest.
Night 57-58 25th-26th Jan Caldas da Rainha
Our aim the next day was to go somewhere as quiet as possible, away from the wind. So, we went inland slightly and settled by a beautiful lake, that led down to the sea eventually. We drove away from the main parking place and settled into a clearing, surrounded by trees and still with a view of the lake. It was really beautiful. And the weather was much better, still and with the sun shining. We spent a couple of days here. There was a lovely walk around the edge of the lake, we went one way on the first day and the other on the next. I climbed some trees which made me feel like a kid again and we watched some windsurfers out on the lake. We got the hammock out and hung it between two trees where I was bitten really badly by mozzies. We hadn’t noticed them and I was wearing jeans, a vest and a longsleeved t-shirt so I really don’t know how I got bitten over 70 times on my back and backs of my legs. It was pretty brutal. After this happened we decided to head off.
Night 59 27th Jan nr. Sintra
We parked near Sintra, in a car park by the beach. It wasn’t very glamerous and we arrived at sundown as we had been to a supermarket in the day and then tried to park by a lighthouse that was meant to have good views. However, when we arrived at the lighthouse it was absolutely packed with people watching the sunset and a broken down lorry, accompanied by a GNR lorry were taking up half of the parking. We turned around and pulled up in a lay-by to find somewhere else to park. Whilst in the lay-by the broken down lorry came past being towed on another truck and being escorted by the GNR, with flashing lights and something shouted through a megaphone announcing their arrival. Seemed a bit over the top for a breakdown to me... On our way to the nearby spot we’d chosen our Sat Nav took us down a steep dirt track, with only space for one car. I really don’t know what we would have done if something else came the other way. When we came off the dirt track it was clear that the road we’d come off to take the track was the one we were coming back onto. Why does it do that?!
Night 60-61 28th-29th Jan Sintra
I would definitely recommend visiting Sintra if you’re nearby- it’s only a short train journey from Lisbon. Such a beautiful place. We stayed in a little village at the bottom of the road you take to visit the Palace de Pena and it was a perfect spot to visit the palace and Sintra from. We spent the first day doing the Moorish walk around the castle. We walked up to Palace de Pena, an elderly Portuguese lady showed us the right way to go. It’s funny how you can communicate even without understanding each other. Then we walked onto the castle and through the woodland. It’s a really lovely walk and this bit is all free. If you want to go into the castle itself I think it was about €9 each, not bad but we decided against it as we wanted to visit the Palace de Pena gardens. We instead walked down into Sintra and had a look around the town. On the way down we passed some rock climbers, apparently it is a famous spot for climbing in Portugal. I would have love to have had a go! The town of Sintra was very quaint, with little cobbled streets. We wandered around and had a look at all the sights. There are loads of places you can pay to go in, but we decided not to, you’d spend a fortune if you visited them all. The next day we angina walked up the steep hill to Palace de Pena. The weather was pretty grim- drizzly and rainy but we still decided to go into the gardens. I would 100% recommend, we had such a lovely day. Although we didn’t pay to go in the Palace itself we could still see parts of it, including the kitchen and the chapel and you can walk along the turrets and take in the view below (or you can if it’s not super foggy). Considering the weather we thought we’d be back in the van by 3pm for a chilled afternoon but there was so much to see that we left the park when it closed at 6pm. Visiting the Palace is definitely a full day activity. We wandered the grounds looking at the gardens and followed the path up into the forest, where we didn’t see anyone else for a couple of hours. We visited the stables and the horses and looked in all the greenhouses (for some reason, I love a good greenhouse). We visited the chalet that is in the grounds and had to rush back through all the lakes and fountains to make it to the gate before closing. This is a place you can get lost in for hours, would love to return someday.
Night 62-63 30th-31st Jan Mafra
Next on our list of places to go was Lisbon as it was only a forty minute drive or so from Sintra. However, the weather forecast was terrible and we didn’t fancy seeing Lisbon for the first time in the rain so, instead, we headed to nearby Mafra and to a practical car park. There were many other vans there all with the same idea I think. Sure enough, it rained heavily and solidly for two days. We wrote, draw, edited out Youtube video and watched Netflix. From the car park we could see Mafra palace and we did wander down to look at it ion a break from the rain. We went inside the chapel there but not the palace itself. The outside was very reminiscent of a Wes Anderson film, so symmetrical. Although it wasn’t the most exciting couple of days it was the right decision as, on our arrival in Lisbon, we were greeted by lovely weather.
Night 64-69 1st-6th Feb Six nights in Lisbon
We spent six nights in Lisbon as we loved it there. It was both of our first times in this amazing city and it will definitely be somewhere we visit again. We were parked in Belem, right outside the train station. It was a great little spot, felt really safe as there were other vans as well as people parking their cars but wasn’t a proper carpark, more just unused land, so no one would tell you to leave after the standard 48hrs. Other vans were also there for as long, or longer than us. The spot was right on the river, which was a gorgeous place to walk and about five minutes from the architectural museum which was an amazing building with spectacular views of the sunset from the roof. Across the river, alway in sight was Christ the King, an exact replica of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Geniro just 2m smaller and built from 1949-1959 to commemorate Portugal being able to stay neutral and uninvolved in WW2. Over our time in Lisbon we explored the city, as well as Belem. We visited the castle which took up most of a day and I would really recommend, the views form there are amazing and for me, as I am under 25, it was only €5 (€10 for Seb). If you do visit the castle the ‘360degree tour of Lisbon’ is worth visiting. Using an obsuroscope, originally built to keep watch on the city, you are shown all major points of interest in Lisbon and given some history around them, I loved it. We also went inside the convent which was destroyed in an earthquake and never rebuilt, as a sign of respect for those lost. It was beautiful but we felt it wasn’t really worth the entry fee. The riverside in Lisbon has such a bustling atmosphere, with many (good!) buskers and people enjoying the sun. I imagine in summer it is busier but would be filled with many more people lazing in the sun. We did visit the famous time out market, planning to get some food there. However, we decided against it. It is a nice idea but was so jam packed you could hardly move. The food looked nice but wasn’t what we were expecting. We thought it would be street food, served on paper trays or wrapped in tinfoil and relatively cheap but it was very fancy and fairly expensive. We opted instead for a little traditional restaurant where Seb had chicken and I had prawns, with a massive plate of chips to share. We also walked from Belem to the LX Factory- a trendy collection of independent, artsy shops and cafes. It’s a cool little area, a good place to go for a drink. We visited the famous bookshop with a kinetic art collection, including a flying bike hung from the ceiling. The elderly man that makes all the art can be found at the top of the shop and gives a great (albeit a little strange) talk and tour of his work. On the way back from the LX Factory spotted a collection of repurposed busses and storage containers and wandered over to have a look. It turned out to be a collection of creative studios (and a cafe/ skatepark). I image this would be a great place to have a studio if you were a local artist, had a really cool atmosphere- I think it was called the underground or something like that. In Belem we ate the famous Pastel de Natas. They were pretty good! Even better though was the €3 falafel pitta from the shop a couple of doors down, And, because we had to wait a whole five minutes for fresh falafel, they gave us free chips! We wandered the other way down the river to visit the tower of Belem. We left Lisbon and both said that we’d like to return at some point.
Night 70 7th Feb Corroios
We drove away from Lisbon over the April 25th bridge (named after the day of the fall of the facist regime in 1987) which was an amazing thing to drive over- Seb said it felt like he was back in San Fransisco- and towards the Christ de King. Having viewed the monument for the past week or so over the river we felt we should visit it on ouir way out of Lisbon. I think the view of it is much better than being there. You can pay to go to the top but we didn’t bother as the view of Lisbon was amazing as it was, from the base. We then headed to a nearby park up and fill up stop in Corroios. It was fairly busy, all with people who had visited Lisbon but it was nice and clean. We were parked next to a young family with a baby who had a awesome looking Mercedes bus. We filled up and walked to the nearby Lidl for our shopping.
Night 71 8th Feb Pego do Altar
We found this spot on Park 4 Night. It was a beautiful spot, overlooking a lake but when we arrived it was really really busy. We parked in a space next to another van but the owner rudely told us not to park there as we were too close. We moved and parked next top a lovely couple from the Netherlands who were very friendly. We tried to go on a walk but there didn’t seem to be many routes, every path we ventured down ended in a locked gate. We passed a belgina family (mum, dad, two young children and grandparents) who were travelling in tow old fashion wooden caravans. They had one car between them and a tractor with a top speed of 25km/hr, a very slow pace of life indeed... This parking spot turned out to be a well know Airre and wasn’t really our style, altough we did enjoy the free hot showers. We had intened to spend a few days here doing all of our witing for the month but there also wasn’t any 4g service so we decided to move on.
Night 72-74 9th-11th Feb Santiago de Cacem
We arrived at the beautiful after driving down a long and very bumpy dirt road, it like driving on a cheesegrater. An amazing spot though. Really quiet and a beautiful sandy beach. The weather was goegous and we spent the next few days doing all of our work outside, walking on the beach as a break. Seb also washed all of our underwear and hung it to dry outside. Such a peaceful place to work from, definitly can’t complain.
Night 75-76 12th-13th Feb Intermarche
We needed to fill up etc. so we headed to an intermarche, when we arrived Seb checked his emails to find a request for his full manuscript from a literary agent. It was very exciting and, whatever happens, it was such a buzz for both of us for someone to be interested in his story. We spent the evening checking through it (again) before sending it off the next day and having a lazy afternoon.
Night 77-70 14th-16th Feb Villa Nova
Parked for several nights in a beautiful spot by the town of Villa Nova. We spent our time on the beach and walking up the river that led to it. We both paddled in the river and enjoyed the glorious weather. We followed a walking path up along the cliffside which was such a beautiful walk, would really recommend it. There was no one else up there but the views were incredible. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of the sight of the ocean.
Night 80-82 17th-19th Feb Lagos
After moving off from Villa Nova we arrived at Lagos after stopping in Sagres. We had planned to stay in Sagres but it was absolutely packed and we were both enjoying the drive that day so continued further south, ending in Lagos. We arrived as the sun was going down at a beautiful spot by the lake. A large group of English speaking students arrived the next day, as well as an English woman with a horse, no idea what was going on, it was strange to hear so much English! Spent the next couple of days walking around the lake and drawing and writing. Really peaceful.
Night 83-84 20th-21st Feb Ancao
This spot was a really beautiful beach, where we stayed in the beach car park. However, to get there we drove through a village where everything was written in English. It was so strange. It felt like a cross between a retirement village and a posh country club. The restaurants, shops, street names, road signs and adverts were all in English and at the beach, everyone was English. We didn’t know whether they lived there or if they were just on holiday- we realied it was school half term holidays so they may have been. If they did live there, it wouldn’t be what I’d want if I were living abroad because it just felt like a posh English suburb! Not our style. The beach was beautiful though and we really enjoyed spending time there and strolling along the shoreline.
Night 85-86 22nd-23rd Feb here
I wrote 'here' and didn't get round to uploading the blogpost and checking our location, now I can't remember where 'here' was. Near the border with Spain somewhere... This spot is really busy, with lots of large motorhomes and their owners enjoying their retirement. Again not really our style but the surroundings are beautiful and the sun is out so we decided to stay another day instead of driving onwards. We are by a lake/the sea. There is a strip of sand that makes the edge of the lake and I think, on the other side must be the sea as locals keep arriving with surfboards and swimming out to it, then disappearing over it. However, as we don’t have wetsuits its not quite warm enough to go and discover! I am sat outside in shorts though, really enjoying the sun!
We are probably about an hour away from Spain at the moment. We plan on stopping off in a natural park before crossing over the border. Then it will be onto Seville and then Gibraltar- another unvisited country for me! We have decided not to head to Morocco this year as we are traveling at a much slower pace than anticipated and want to reach Croatia on this trip! We have much that we want to see that doesn’t involve arranging a ferry and insurance for Africa etc. Maybe we will visit next winter! So, after Gibraltar, we think we are going to head inland for a while and aim for Madrid, then Barcelona, then into France, Switzerland and Italy. Not sure how long that will take considering we’ve been on the road for three months already and are still in Portugal! But for us there is no destination, just the journey and we love just enjoying life and moving at a snails pace!