Glossy ibis, crested larks and wind, rain and more wind!
Almost two weeks have passed since my last update, three weeks and two days since we left home.
As I recall, we were just about to drive half way up the Duoro Valley and catch a train the rest of the way to the Spanish border. Well we did and it was spectacularly underwhelming! The drive to Peso de Regua which the Rough Guide describes as one of the “Must Do” drives of Portugal was tedious and when we got there the aire we’d planned to stay in was in the corner of a huge and very busy car park. However, it was much quieter than we anticipated and had the bonus of free electric hook up which is normally only found on camp sites so we stayed there over the weekend. There were pleasant riverside walks for the dogs and a cafe selling delicious bread rolls just across the road, not to mention a Lidl a short walk away.
One of the Sandeman Quintas
The weather was awful while we were there, the day of the train trip was overcast and miserable though it didn’t actually rain while we were out, making up for it the next day. We left the dogs in the motorhome, walked up to the station and bought our tickets, sat an hour and a half on the train waiting in vain for the spectacular views. We had planned to get lunch in a cafe during the wait for the return train but there was nothing there apart from the station, a cement factory and a bar which was closed and we had nothing with us, only a bottle of water. As it was cold we sat on the train and read our kindles while we waited to go back to Regua!
Inspiring end of the line scenery!
To be fair, we did see many Quintas, (Port wine vineyards) some of which had familiar names e.g. Sandeman, Dows, Cockburns, Taylors. The terraces of vines stretched up precarious hillsides as far as the eye could see, sometimes interspersed with olive groves.
Nice little diversion in the station at Regua
On the walk back to the MH we stopped in this emporium for a treat to dispel the disappointment.
Spoilt for choice!
After Peso de Regua we were going to head to the mountains but as snow was forecast we decided to chicken out and head back towards the coast.
Next stopover was Fatima, the religious capital of Portugal where pilgrims flock in their hundreds of thousands on certain dates. Still raining, we explored the town and were astounded by the numbers of gift shops selling tasteless religious tat! We didn’t even find a bakery, plenty of items for the soul but none, it seemed for the body. There was an atmosphere of peace pervading the place and the religious buildings were beautiful but I cannot imagine how it must be when it’s crowded with pilgrims, some of whom approach the basilica on their knees.
Belle on the walls at Ourem Castle
After Fatima we headed to Tomar, a little further inland. On the way there we stopped at a castle at Ourem, it was closed but we explored (in the rain) the outside and the dogs were able to have a charge about as we were the only people there.
Tomar was a good overnighter, again the weather was naff but we had a very acceptable place to stop under the walls of the former Knights Templar abode. We arrived at dusk and it was quite atmospheric, lights twinkled below us in the town and we could see for miles around. In the morning the view was completely shrouded in mist. We went into the convent and spent several hours exploring, it was very complex inside with many cloisters, having been added to several times over the centuries.
Cloister, one of many!
Tomar’s bell tower
Unfortunately there were no English guidebooks available so we made do with the explanatory panels which were in dual language and actually that was probably enough information to take in. The main feature of the building, the octagonal chapel is being restored and we could only glance from one side and not go in, but it was beautiful and very ornate. We had a bowl of soup and a coffee in the cafe before going back to the motorhome, after which we set off towards Setubal on the coast south of Lisbon.
A lovely parking spot at Figuerinha beach was our next stopover and the following morning dawned bright and clear so after a dog walk we decided to stay another night and not rush off anywhere as the weather was good for once.
Making the most of the sunshine at Figheurinha. solar panels raised but not by the wind this time!
Nigel spotted otter tracks on the beach and I saw a bonellis eagle soaring over the cliffs above. We watched a few large ships coming in with the aid of pilots, one of them was a car transporter from Italy, we looked it up on a marine website and found it had been to Bristol and was now unloading at Setubal before heading back to Italy, presumably delivering Fiats.
Fiat car transporter ship heading for Setubal
I wondered if my little blue Panda had been on that ship. Just as we were planning to leave the morning after our second night, a huge thunder and lightening storm blew up with torrential rain, Belle was a quivering, salivating wreck for half an hour or so until it subsided and we were able to leave.
Cabo Espichal lighthouse
Off we went at last to Cabo Espichal, another lighthouse stopover, we had the lighthouse strobing behind us and the lights of Lisbon twinkling through our windscreen. During the night it was so windy, Nigel went out for a recce to find a more sheltered spot behind some buildings as neither of us could sleep for the buffeting we were getting. I stayed in bed whilst he drove us 100 metres to shelter and we both got back to sleep. Little did we know the next night would be even worse!
A bit later….yes more rain!
From Capo Espichal we returned to Setubal and caught a 15 minute ferry across the bay to a spit of land which gives direct access to the southern Atlantic coast. We headed to Praia de Melides a surfing beach in summer with a huge almost empty car park where we settled for the night…I say settled…………it became so windy during the night that whilst we were rocking all over the show, about 2 a.m. there was suddenly an almighty thumping noise above our heads and we realized one of the solar panels had been blown upright. Nigel went outside and climbed up onto the roof (after having to remove his bike so he could access the ladder) to investigate and put a 5 litre bottle of water on each panel to hold them down. He then wound down our stabilizer legs which helped a bit and eventually after a cup of tea and a read, the wind subsided and we got back to sleep.
Lovely when the sun’s out and the sky is blue!
We stayed put the next day, the sun came out and the wind and rain held off, we had a good walk and watched the birds on the lagoon which included a huge flock of glossy ibis. Today we have driven just 20 k down the coast to another lagoon, we’ve had sun again and a pleasant day strolling along the beach and bird watching, ibis again, crested larks and even some swallows!