Monday 25th November – Quarteira to Albufeira (16 miles)
Some of the ‘Aires’ on our travels have been of the automated variety, meaning that upon entry you take a ticket and on departure you put the ticket into a machine and it will tell you how much to pay. However, the one downside to this system is that entry is timed and payment is for every 24 hours. So, if you arrive at a certain time e.g. 09:30am then on the day of departure you must leave no later than 09:30am otherwise you get charged for another complete 24 hour period. No such problem on the ‘Aire’ here at Quarteira, yes we got checked in by our friendly gatekeeper but there was no need to rush off in the morning, he was happy for us to stay until midday !! But as it always is, because there was no rush we were actually awake early, had the morning coffee’s, got ‘Big Momma’ ready for the road and all by 09:30am !! Harry and Hazel actually left before us so we said our farewells and then waved them off before hitting the road ourselves. Earlier that morning, whilst shuffling around the van barefoot, I stubbed my little toe on a ‘sticky out bit’ on one of the cupboards, damn did it hurt, words like “oh dear, what a silly place to put a sticky out bit on a cupboard” were nothing like the words I actually used, but I will leave you to try and guess the actual words I may or may not have uttered !!
According to ‘Snoopy’ we only had 16 miles to our next destination. We had intended going to an ‘Aire’ with full facilities at ‘Parque de Gale’, the one that the ‘nice‘ Frenchman had told us about when we were at ‘Luz’, now that feels such a long time ago ! However, Tony and Danny, another British fulltiming couple we had met whilst here at Quarteira, told us about a fairly new ‘Aire’ right in the heart of Albufeira and it took big vans, much bigger than ours, and it had ‘Full Facilities’, so we decided to save ‘Parque de Gale’ for another day as that was situated about 5km North West of Albufeira.
The drive was easy, if you discount the few bumps due to yet more worn and uneven road surfaces. We only had GPS co- ordinates that Tony had provided us with, so trusted him in that we would have no problems with access routes etc. ‘Snoopy’ was back to her normal self and guided us right to the front door of ‘Parque de Palmeira’ and Tony was spot on, the route was ideal for ‘Big Momma’, no cobbled one way dead-end streets to contend with on this particular journey.
We pulled up at the ‘manned’ checkpoint at the entrance, we were asked to show our passport (pretty routine practice), our vehicle registration was noted down on a piece of paper on ‘gatekeepers’ clipboard and we were told to park wherever there was a free space. We asked the obvious questions, starting with cost then facilities. We were informed “€8 per day (£6.94) for the first 72 hours and thereafter €7 per day (£6.07) ‘All Inclusive’, Fresh Water, Grey Waste, Chemical Waste, Electricity, Toilets, Hot Showers, WiFi and use of the football stadium clubhouse (Bar/Cafe/Eatery) and for €4.50 there were Washing Machines”. We had a choice of lots of ‘free’ spaces, in fact these spaces were individually marked areas, gravel hard standing and long enough to take vehicles a few feet longer than ‘Big Momma’ and wide enough to put out Awnings, tables, chairs and BBQ’s. That is not to say that the Aire was ’empty’, no it was just that this Aire was ‘big’, there were already lots of other vans parked up, British, Dutch, German, French and lots of Swedish vans.
First we needed to do the necessary with the on-board facilities, the one thing that the ‘Aire’ at Quarteira lacked and that was somewhere to dispose of ‘Grey Waste’. So, after we had got the essentials sorted we did a slow drive around, good job the police were not around or they may have ‘arrested’ us for ‘Kerb Crawling’. You see, It is not just a matter of parking anywhere, there are things that have to be considered, not just ease of entry and exit from the selected parking area, or the choice to have or not to have a neighbour, or keeping away from the ‘Service Point’ and the rubbish bins, No, the most important factor, where to park so that the habitation door side is facing the sun !! So, selected area chosen, we parked in between two Swedish vans at the back of the ‘Aire’ so we would have the best of the sunshine, well from sunrise to about 4pm, the sun was setting around 5:30pm these days !! You know when you go somewhere you have never been to before, but you know instantly that you are going to like it, well we had a very good feeling about this place and we hadn’t even gone off the Aire to explore our surroundings yet !!
Now, back to the story of my sore toe, after taking off my shoes and socks to be replaced with what has become my most popular footwear of choice, namely ‘flip-flops’, my toe was very red and swollen and still hurt like crazy !! However, sore toe or not, after a nice Tuna Baguette, made with my beloved’s own fair hands and aided by a tin of Tuna and a freshly baked Baguette, we decided to explore the outer walls of this very pleasant sanctuary. We were on a hill at the top end of the town, Albufeira is a seaside resort, that means a walk downhill and more importantly an ‘uphill’ walk back !! Although on the plus side when the tide came in we were not going to get our feet wet !! It was a pleasant twenty-minute walk to the ‘Old Town’ and the beach, and the shops, and the Cafés, Bars and Restaurants. I have already provided an earlier post with ‘Albufeira Images’, they do not do justice to this place in its entirety but I hope you got a feel for the place. Let me just add that it is as ‘Magnificent’ as it looks and if you have not been here then you should visit, you will certainly not be disappointed and I can understand why people come here on holiday in the summer and also in the winter !! It is Winter, I have to keep reminding myself of this fact as it easy to forget when you are walking around all day in shorts, tee-shirt and flip flops in gorgeous warm sunshine. Also, this place has lots of people still milling around, wandering through the maze of alleyways off the central square, all adorned with little shops, bars, cafe’s and restaurants and many with Christmas decorations on sale !! It just doesn’t seem natural for people like us from colder climates to see Christmas in shops when the sun is burning the back of your neck and legs !!
There was just too much to see, we needed to come back tomorrow and spend a good few hours exploring all the alleyways, walking to the harbour and walking on the beach because whilst it was great whilst the sun was shining, being dressed in shorts, tee shirts and flip-flops when the sun went down is not a good idea. When the sun drops, the temperature plummets and believe me it gets cold !! So we re-traced our steps back to the ‘Aire’. Now we are used to walking at least 6 miles a day so we have become relatively fit, compared to just a few months ago in our old lives that is, so don’t go entering me into any Marathons just yet, but the walk back was uphill and my toe was hurting so much that it wasn’t a walk it was a hobble !! When we eventually got back to ‘Big Momma’ we realised that my toe was a deep colour of ‘Purple’, extremely swollen and I couldn’t move it !! Oh dear, this is perhaps not just a bruised toe but perhaps a ‘broken toe’ and spending the last two hours walking around was probably not the best idea ?
We spent the rest of the evening on our iPads using the ‘All Inclusive’ WiFi, not a brilliant connection or the quickest but it did the job. I logged on to the Motorhome Forum (www.motorhome365.com) to read the latest posts and would you believe it, a post from a new member to this particular forum, saying hello and informing other forum members that he was currently in his RV on an Aire in Albufeira, an Aire that sounded exactly like the one that we were currently parked on. So I posted a response and asked him to provide details of his RV so that I could find him tomorrow and perhaps say hello face to face. He had logged off and so it would be a matter of tomorrow wandering around the ‘Aire’ checking out all the UK registered vehicles, although it did dawn on me that even though his forum name was ‘Scouser’ this didn’t necessarily mean that he would be in a UK registered vehicle ? The only clue was that his own description of his RV was that it was a ‘Big Bugger’ !!
It was a painful and sleepless night, it’s amazing how heavy ‘duvets’ can feel on a sore toe !! However, when I got up in the morning, although still slightly red and swollen, my toe that is not me ! it was no longer a deep purple and more importantly I could ‘wiggle it’, a non-technical term on this occasion ! and it didn’t hurt when I put weight on it, Doctor Eric’s prognosis, toe bruised not broken !! Once the morning ritual’s had been conducted I went outside to do the customary weather check and have another cigarette. Whilst out there, if I see people walking past I always say Good morning, make some inane remark about the weather being beautiful, or not as the case may be, and on this particular morning my jovial morning banter was to a lady who was passing. The said lady responded just as jovially and what’s more the said lady was English and what’s more the said lady was a ‘scouser’. Now for none English readers of this blog let me just explain, a ‘Scouser’ is someone who comes from Liverpool, England like a ‘Geordie’ is someone who comes from Newcastle or a ‘Cockney’ who comes from the East End of London etc. etc. I know you are already ahead of me on this one, this lady was Mrs Scouser (Beryl) the wife of ‘Scouser’ (Dave) who had posted on the forum yesterday. Now what is more of a coincidence is that Mr & Mrs Scouser were parked next door but one to me !! Not far to go to ask for a cup of sugar then, or in these surroundings more like a cold beer !!
Another morning and although the sun was up it still felt chilly, not cold enough for heating but certainly a sweat top. By the time we had drunk our coffee, got washed and dressed the temperatures had risen enough to convince us that today would be another shorts and Tee Shirts day. Shazza made the sandwiches whilst I made a small flask of coffee, today we were going to burn some rubber, flip-flop rubber that is ! Strange, but in my old life the only time I wore flip-flops was when I went on holiday and then only for walking around the pool area. To wear shorts, Tee shirt and flip-flops to go down town at home, Sacreu Bleu !! Not on your life !! It was too cold during the early part of our travels to wear such footwear but since reaching the Algarve this has been my normal daily attire !! It now feels decidedly uncomfortable when I have to wear shoes and socks, but I try to limit those occurrences to when I am driving or going out in the evening.
We decided to alter the route we took into the ‘old town’ today as we wanted to find the ‘Aldi’ supermarket, for Shazza’s research purposes you understand ? We had been told that it was not far from the ‘Aire’ and had been given some basic directions. Just before we set off there was a knock on the van door, it was ‘Scouser’ (Dave), although I had met Mrs Scouser (Beryl) I had not met Dave himself. We stood chatting for a while but he realised from my well laden rucksack, which was perched on my shoulder, that we were on our way out. He said that they were out for the day tomorrow, a bus ride to another town, so perhaps we could try to hook up in the evening.
So we locked the van and started to make our way from the Aire, we passed another ‘motor home resident’ and passed the usual pleasantries as we passed. Then, she called back to us and it was only then that we recognised her as being another ‘British’ Motorhomer that we had met when we were on the ‘Aire’ at ‘Minas São Domingo’s’ and again a few days later at ‘Castro Marim’. That is the thing with this lifestyle you often meet up with the same people over and over again somewhere else on your travels.
We eventually managed to get off the ‘Aire’ and followed the directions that had been given to us. As we hung a right we came across a small courtyard, it looked interesting, and being the nosey bugger I am, I went inside and lo and behold it was only the ‘Municipal Mercado’. So we spent ten minutes or so having a quick nosey around but Shazza didn’t buy anything !! We then continued following the directions and came across the ‘Aldi’ supermarket and just across the road was a ‘Lidl’ supermarket as well, “isn’t Eric in for some fun research I thought to myself”. Shazza decided that as the rucksack was not empty we should save her ‘research’ for the way back, “Joy of Joys” I again thought to myself. We did eventually make it into Albufeira ‘old town’ but with all the detours it was now lunchtime. We found ourselves a nice place to park our bums and we sat and ate our picnic and drank our coffee. Suitably refreshed it was time to hit the streets, and there were plenty of them, the central hub being the square which had a large open area with seating all around, some in direct sunshine and some under the shade of overhanging tree branches. Around the sides of this square there were numerous Cafe’s and Restaurants all with there respective proprietors or staff trying to direct you to a table at their establishments. It was certainly suitable weather for a spot of ‘Al Fresco’ dining but having already dined at our own Beachside venue we smiled but graciously declined. For those of you who may never have visited this absolutely beautiful seaside town let me just say that whilst the beachfront part is obviously on a level, the rest of the town is built on a hill, so the alleyways and shops require a bit of a climb, nothing mountainous but it does stretch the calf muscles on occasions !! To get to the harbour there is a most amazing walk, through a maze of cobbled streets that take you up and away from the main shops and Cafés, although the route is lined with appropriate Cafe/Bars and restaurants should you require a refreshment break, or two ! Down some of the alleys there are viewing points that provide some superb views back across the rooftops of the ‘old town’, out to sea or a view over the small sheltered working harbour. I was a little disappointed as I could see, from one of the viewing points, that it was just a harbour and not, as I had hoped, a Marina housing some rather nice private luxury sailing craft, perhaps I will have to wait to see such indulgences when we reach ‘Portimao’ a little later into our journey Westwards. We turned back to re-trace our steps and came across a ‘beach elevator’ which transported people from high up over the town down to the glorious sandy beach below, and of course vice-versa. It was pretty thoughtful, or it would have been had it been working !! We took the steps down and believe me there were a lot of steps down ! It was worth it, we removed flip-flops and walked across the sand to the sea then walked through the up rushing waves right along to where we had first stopped to eat our picnic. The sea was certainly just a little bit too chilly to actually swim in but it was wonderfully cooling for hot feet, especially one particular hot foot with a bruised toe ! Before heading back we waited for the sun to dry our feet, in reality to dry the sand on our feet so that we could brush it off before re-applying our flip-flops. Now, you may, or then again may not, have noticed Shazza in most of our ‘day trip’ photographs contained within this blog wearing a pink sun cap. This isn’t just any old pink sun cap, no ! This pink sun cap took weeks of shopping to locate, it had to be the right shade of pink ! It had to fit well and of course it had to be of a certain price range that didn’t say ‘cheap’, suffice to say that this pink sun cap became one of Shazza’s prized possessions. However, you will note that after the post ‘Albufeira Images’ there will no longer be any pictures of Shazza in this particular pink sun cap. We had brushed the sand off our feet, we had taken the double level escalator back up one of the hills, we had got half way up another hill when suddenly Shazza put both hands on top of her head and screamed ‘My Hat’ !! Being a former Officer of the Law I listened intently to the ‘victims’ statement, noting when she could last recall having had said head wear on one’s Northern most extremity. Was there a ‘Perpetrator’, had ‘George Seagull’ pecked it from one’s head ? It would appear that whilst waiting for the sand to dry on her feet she had removed said article and placed it on the bench seat. Having sorted out one’s sand less feet she then proceeded in a Northerly direction up the previously stated double level escalators leaving one’s most favourite possession unattended on a bench !! I knew just how attached she had become to this hat (well, unattached now !) so decided that we should go back as it may still be where she left it. As we were making our way back to the double level escalator we were passed by a ‘vagrant’, we had seen him the previous day outside the Cafe were we had stopped for our cold beers where he was ‘begging’ cigarettes off customers sat outside these establishments. On that occasion the only thing that was on his head, other than a mop of long unwashed hair were his companions, a travelling flea circus ! However, today as he passed us he was sporting on his head a nice pink sun cap !! I asked Shazza if she wanted me to get it back but for some reason she declined ? We finished our trek up the hill with a ‘research’ visit to the ‘Aldi’ store, we made a few minor ‘research’ purchases, one bottle of ‘Vino Tinto’ and one bottle of ‘White sparkling wine’, well she did need some sort of anti-depressant having just suffered a major trauma and she informs me that this always worked for her !!
We had always intended just travelling West along the Algarve Coastline until we reached ‘Sagres’, or more accurately, ‘Cabot São Vincente’ (Cape St. Vincent) the most Westerly point of Europe. We would stop at ‘Portimao’ to spend Christmas with some of our former travelling companions and new-found friends and then after reaching the most Westerly point we would head North up the Western Coast of Portugal, into Northern Spain and then to Bilbao by 16th January for our reluctant ferry back to England. However, we had been advised by many people on our travels that ‘Cabot São Vincente’ is extremely windy and the further West we travel the colder it will get. There was no ‘Aire’ at Cabo São Vincente so we would be Wild Camping and have to be self-sufficient. We didn’t want to miss out this particular place on our trip so we amended our proposed plan, we would leave ‘Albufeira’ and drive the fifty or so miles directly to the most Westerly point and then work our way back in reverse order.
We still had one more day though on this wonderful ‘Aire’ so we used the morning to walk into the newer part of town where they had large ‘Pingo Doce’ and ‘Continente’ supermarkets. We decided on using ‘Continente’ for just one very good reason, it sold ‘Sausages’ that looked and tasted like ‘Real English Butcher’s Sausages’!! We had first tried them at ‘Tavira’ but had only bought four, having now tasted them we wanted more and ‘Continente’ was the only place that we could find that sold them, so this bit of information must certainly be included on Shazza’s website ‘Compare de Supermercado.Com’, that is once she publishes it and she informs me that this will not be anytime soon as she still has ‘loads more’ research to conduct and she does not know when she will be able to fit this into her hectic retirement schedule !!
We have not really missed anything from the UK, food wise that is, but on our way back from the supermarket we just happened to pass a ‘Kentucky Fried Chicken’ establishment, okay !! We didn’t just pass it, we went in and had Chicken & Fries and it was without any doubt absolutely bloody marvellous !! We spent the rest of the day at leisure, meaning that for once, in the last three days, I could rest my weary feet and sit in my recliner and soak up the afternoon sunshine……..we never did get to have that beer with Dave & Beryl, however, they are staying there until February so we do plan on returning to the ‘Aire’ before we leave this part of Portugal, so keep those drinks on ice folks ……………………………