• Vincent Vanlife

New Year, New Country, New Adventures

It’s been a while since my last post, and it’s been a blissful start to the New Year. I feel very lucky to be able to be on this adventure and am savouring every destination we visit. Life on the road comes with a more relaxed natural pace; it’s such a good feeling to be able to take life a bit more slowly, to have nowhere to go but at the same time everywhere to see. I’ve picked up at our last destination and taken you through our route right to today; night 49 of our European road trip.

Night 21 ~ 20th December, Viseu, Portugal

Night two in Portugal and we were on a mission to drive South to make it to our friends land for Christmas. We did a long, not-so-scenic drive down the Portuguese motorway and stopped for the night in Viseu, a fairly large town. We stayed in a practical car park with a designated area for campervans. We always feel a bit stupid in these spots; the van is small enough for regular parking space, but these ones are close to the water points to fill up and are generally a bit quieter. Headed into the town in the evening and had a look at all the lovely Christmas lights.

There’s a massive shopping centre in Viseu which we drove to the next day as we wanted to get each other something small for Christmas. It’s always more stressful parking in this sort of place, as well as supermarkets, as the designated parking is always underground and we don’t fit so we have to try and find something nearby. Seb bought me a purse as mine had broken a couple of days before (I’ve had it since I was about 15, so that’s pretty good going!) and I bought Seb some golden syrup (a commodity out here!) and some chocolate cake and cake bars. Wild! Another long, motorway drive down the country to make it to Theo and Bee's.

Night 22- 33 ~21st December - 1st Jan, Theo and Bee’s

We had such a lovely time with Theo and Bee at their land in Portugal, it was really nice to be with friends for Christmas, New Year, and Seb’s Birthday, and it made it all feel a lot more festive. We both felt very welcomed. We went on several day trips to nearby places, went sledging, visited some lakes and picturesque villages. We helped them (a little) with their outhouse build, and it was so great to hear the plans that they have for their Portuguese homestead.

On Christmas Day Bee cooked up a feast; we had nut roast, roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, sprouts, gravy, and all the trimmings- they have an oven in their van, very jealous! We ate together on a makeshift table outside, and we even had Christmas crackers! Such a lovely way to celebrate. We built a fire pit to bring in the New Year; the Portuguese don’t seem to do fireworks so much, but there were numerous gunshots at midnight! Seb’s birthday is on New Years Day, so we spent the day out together, and Seb and I sampled the wood-fired, outdoor bath in the evening. Such a treat and amazing to bathe under the stars. Thank you, Theo and Bee, for having us!

Night 34-35 ~ 2nd - 3rd Jan, Back On The Road

Back on the road again and we spent much of the first day away from Theo and Bee’s in an Intermarche car park! We dropped off our toilet waste, grey water and filled up again, did a food shop and all of our washing in the outdoor washing machines. We then filled up with diesel and headed for the open road. We arrived at our park up spot as night was falling and woke up to such a beautiful sight. We were parked right on a lake’s edge, and it was stunning. We went on a two-hour walk by the lake and spent the rest of the day planning where we wanted to go next and thinking about the month ahead. We also found a small saucer by the lakeside that is the perfect size and shape to be a sushi dipping dish; I have always wanted one of those! We decided that we wanted to get all of the work we needed to do for the month out of the way so that we could relax for the rest of the month and focus on travelling and our own projects.

Night 36-38 ~ 4th-6th Jan Moimenta Do Beira, Viseu District

This spot was absolutely gorgeous, and I know I say this about most of the places we visit, but this is definitely up there as one of the most beautiful places we’ve been so far. We were parked right by a lake, on a large boulder that we’d driven down a dirt track to reach. The lake seemed to stretch for miles, and the whole area was mostly untouched- however, they did blow something up on the other side of the lake with what I can only guess was dynamite; that was pretty unexpected. Every half an hour, a nearby town or village (that we couldn’t see) played 'silent night' on the church bells, and aside from this, the only noises were of nature (and the dynamite).

We hunkered down here for three days to get all of our writing done for the month; it was quite a sense of accomplishment to work together and earn our money for the month. Definitely the most beautiful office I’ve ever had. We also did some yoga, and I started practising my German on Duolingo again which I’m enjoying. We had some visitors on Sunday afternoon of a whole rally of people on their dirt bikes- it looked very fun and as though it would be a great place to go off-roading! This spot is definitely one we’d return to if we were nearby, although it was exceptionally cold and we even had ice on the windows when we woke up. Going to Theo and Bee’s has meant that we’ve seen an area of Portugal we may not have otherwise visited as we may well have just driven directly down the coast. We’re both so pleased that we didn’t, as we have really enjoyed the time we spent inland and seeing these beautiful landscapes.

Night 39 ~ 7th Jan Paso de Regua, Douro River

With all of our work done our next aim was to reach Porto, and we decided to do this by following the Douro river all the way there. This is quite a popular road trip route (although usually done the other way round, I think) and I can see why; the views were just spectacular. Seb said that it was as good as driving through Yosemite! The road we followed is high above the river, and the view down is fantastic, with the sun sparkling off of the river all the way. We parked up at our first Douro river spot mid-afternoon in a car park right by the river. We lazed all afternoon, and I had a nap as I wasn’t feeling very well. We walked out on the jetty which bobbed up and down as we watched the sunset.

Night 40 ~ 8th Jan, Douro River

Day two of the Douro River route and the views continued to impress us, we stopped several times en-route to get out and admire the view. We parked up for the night at a village’s viewpoint. Beautiful views but incessantly barking dogs and cockerels made for a noisy nights sleep, we were both quite pleased to drive off in the morning.

Night 41-42 ~ 9th-10th Jan Vila Nova de Gaia, Douro River

This was our final stop on the Douro River drive, and we decided to spend two nights in the tranquillity before heading into the city. Again, we were parked right by the river, and we were mostly undisturbed; there was just one van neighbour on the second night. We spent our days by the river, Seb finished his book (!!!), and I did lots of drawing and some painting; it's really nice to get back into it again. I also had a dip in the river although it really was quite cold!

Night 43- 45 ~ 11th-13th Jan, Porto

We reached Porto and did a food shop. Again a stressful time finding somewhere to park at the supermarket as there wasn’t very much outdoor parking. A Portuguese family started shouting at us for no apparent reason, although they were also all yelling at each other too so not really sure what was going on, and then they drove off, which made our parking much more relaxed. After shopping, we reached our park up spot late afternoon. We decided to park outside of the city as we wanted to feel safe leaving the van for the day and didn’t want to have to pay for parking. We were parked in a large grassy car park overlooking the beach and the city. It was reasonably popular with the locals who came to walk along the beach and watch the sunset, and several other vans came and went while we were there.

We walked on the beach and sat to watch the sunset on our first evening and spent the next day on the beach, walking along to the lighthouse and strolling back down and around the seafront path to try and discover how to reach the city. This area had a really active feel about it, with many people out and about, running, rollerblading, walking, cycling, or just watching the boats. We both really liked it here. We’d noticed a boat taxi that would take you across the Douro River to the other side and into the main town, so the next day we went across to visit the city. We did a LOT of walking that day, about eight hours, and we were both exhausted by the time we reached home again. We did enjoy the city and managed to see most of the main touristy things in the day we spent there. My favourite was definitely the giant rabbit mural on the side of a building which is made out of recycled plastic bits- really cool! We enjoyed our time here but I don’t think either of us is that much of a city lover, so it was nice to head off again into nature.

Night 46-47 ~ 14th- 15th Saibreira, Coimbra

Our first night on the coastal route that we’re planning to take from Porto to Lisbon and we were greeted by many surfers! We were parked right on the edge of the cliff, and it was a great place chill and watch them catching the waves. I felt envious of their wetsuits and think I would like to give surfing another try at some point. I tried it once when I was about 14 and just remember feeling like I was in a washing machine every time I fell off; I was too light, not a strong swimmer, and the waves were too big- maybe I’d have more luck if I tried again. Not everyone was surfing though; there were a few people on paddle boards and some with body boards and flippers on their feet.

The next day I decided that I wanted to go in the water, so I did a workout on the beach to warm myself up and headed in wearing my swimmers. It was great! The perfect beach for swimming at this time of year; shallow enough so that you feel safe but also as though you’re properly in the water with big crashing waves. I was in the water up to waist height, but when the waves came in, they would lift me completely off my feet! Swimming in the sea is always such a thrill, and I must have been in for about half an hour before I got too cold. We walked along the beach which seemed to stretch for miles and watched the sunset again from the clifftop.

Night 48-49 ~ 16th- 17th Jan, Coimbra

Moving on to our second beach spot. This one is much quieter than the first. We both expected the coast to be much busier than the rest of the places that we have visited so far and were surprised when we got here and only found a couple of people fishing. However, it is mid-week, and this doesn’t seem to be a surfing spot; the waves look too vicious. It was grey yesterday and a bit drizzly (our first rain this year though so can’t really complain), so we spent the afternoon in the van writing and drawing. We walked down to the beach during a rain break, and I paddled a little in the sea. Thankfully it's sunny today, so we walked much further down the beach and found it to be wholly deserted; we didn't see a single person while we were out. Paddled up to my knees but the waves look far too strong to be able to swim in the water. I did a workout and some yoga when we came back to the van, and we both had a shower; always good to have clean hair! We’re planning on moving off tomorrow to our next destination, although we haven’t decided where that is yet, we will look at the map tonight!

I feel like life really has slowed down, even compared to our trip through Spain. We feel content to spend a couple of days in one place before moving on to the next, and we are just enjoying being present and in the moment. Next, we plan to head down the coast to Lisbon, let us know if there is anything you think we should see along the way!

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