Our Initial Retirement Trip – Part Nineteen

Sunday 1st December – Wild Camp Location to Aljezur (14 miles)


We awoke to the chilliest morning yet, only 7.2 degrees(c) !! Morning rituals have never been conducted so fast and I was soon back under the duvet ! I had opened up some of the side window blinds as well as the front Heki skylight to allow as much of the morning sunshine in as possible and I was going nowhere until the temperature inside the van had risen by at least another two degrees. The sky was blue with just a few wispy clouds so we knew that within a couple of hours it was going to be a hot day. It would have been good to have stayed here for at least one more day but unfortunately we were being dictated to by the need to empty the toilet cassette. If only there had been ‘services’ at Sagres, as the Camperstop Book had stated there would be, then we would have been fine, however, the Camperstop book says that there are facilities at ‘Aljezur’ so that is where we are headed with the small consolation that we will be able to go to the second day of the ‘Batata Doce’ (Sweet Potato) Festival !!

We left early on one of the ‘Yellow’ roads on the map, it was a lovely drive through and up some lovely countryside, we were in one of the National Parks which extends from the South West Coast virtually all the way up to Lisbon.

Lovely scenic drive but note the worn patches on the road surface

Lovely scenic drive but note the worn patches on the road surface

More worn out road surface ! We had got used to this by now so just took it slowly (30-40mph) and enjoyed the scenery !

More worn out road surface ! We had got used to this by now so just took it slowly (30-40mph) and enjoyed the scenery !

It was a short drive of only 14 miles and as we entered, what we now know, was the ‘old part’ of Aljezur, ‘Snoopy’ indicated that the Aire was on our right-hand side and sure enough we could see two or three Motorhomes already parked up, this looked good, right in the centre of town. It did not look like a formal Aire, just a bit of hard ground really but it would serve its purpose for a night or two. We looked for the ‘Service Point’ but there was no obvious sign of it. fortunately there was a Belgian registered van parked up with the occupants sat inside, I went across and asked if they could tell me where the service point was. The elderly man and his wife both spoke excellent English and they told me that there was no services here, however, there was another Motorhome parking area, directly across the road behind the ‘Municipal Market’ and perhaps the service point was there. We thanked them and then went to where he had directed us. Right enough, there were four other Motorhomes parked up, again it was just rough ground by the river with a lovely view of the ‘Castelo’, one of the Motorhomes was ‘Portuguese’ but the other three were all ‘British’. Again we looked around for the ‘Service Point’, again with no joy. I went across to one of the British Vans and asked about the services, they showed me where to empty the toilet cassette but stated that their was no ‘Grey Waste’ drain and no Fresh Water, unless you got it out of a tap from the public toilets behind the Market !! Fortunately we had half a tank of Fresh Water and the grey tank didn’t actually need to be emptied, so at least we could empty the toilet cassette which was the real priority. This was the second bit of mis-information in the Camperstop Guide about available services, I am beginning to lose confidence in it now which us a pity as it had been really useful but Motorhomers who use such guides, especially guides that say that the places have been ‘inspected’, rely on accurate information. We had actually deviated just to come and use these ‘non-existent’ services !! I feel an Email of discontent coming on to the publishers of this guide !!

Looking across to the 'Castelo' from the 'new' part of 'Aljezur'

Looking across to the ‘Castelo’ from the ‘new’ part of ‘Aljezur’

However, we were here now, the sun is shining and the temperatures were beginning to climb and we do have the ‘Batata Doce’ to look forward to ? We discovered that Aljezur is a town of two halves, on one side of the river is the old town, built on the side of a hill with houses ‘glued’ together on the very steep inclines with cobbled roads that intertwined all the way up to the ‘Castelo’. The new town is more like a separate town as it is not joined in any logical way to the ‘old bit’ except by a stretch of road !! However, it is quite plain to see from the buildings that this certainly is new ! It is also where the ‘Intermarche’ Supermercado is located. Did we go into such establishment, of course we did !! We only needed some fresh bread though, did we come out with just bread ? I think you may already know the answer to that one !! So, back to ‘Big Momma’ and a sandwich lunch and then back out to see why a ‘vegetable’ would have its own Festival. This was not unusual though, Spain have a tomato Festival, bit strange though as everyone throws thousand of tomatoes at each other !! At least tomatoes are relatively soft, at least when they are ripe, but ‘Sweet Potatoes’ ? Perhaps we should have worn our bicycle crash helmets !!

We followed all the signs to the ‘Batata Doce’, past the ‘Intermarche’, note this time I said ‘past’ ! Then turned up a road that went up a big hill, a bloody big hill ! Then we turned right again up another hill and then turned left up another bit of a hill. We expected to find something like market stalls, each cooking different things made from ‘Sweet Potato’ and some even selling them in their ‘natural’ state. What we found was a big exhibition hall, free entry, but it was a bit like a massive country fete inside, stall holders selling an array of goods from kitchen ware, wicker baskets, Christmas Candles, honey, wine, sweets, hams and salamis, dried herbs, tourist stalls advertising regional walks, even a stall offering to build garden ponds and a man selling Nissan Cars !! As for the prestigious ‘Batata Doce’, one stall selling sacks full of the stuff, one area with seats with a Chef that would, at a designated time, provide a demonstration on how to cook the ‘revered’ vegetable and another that sold ‘crepes’ with all different fillings, including ‘Sweet Potato’. Well we could not come all this way without giving it a go could we ? Two crepes it was then, both filled with the star of the show ! Now at the risk of offending avid lovers of this ‘delicacy’ all I can say is that we both found it bloody awful, but perhaps the Crepe just didn’t do it justice !! So, curiosities duly satisfied, if not our taste buds, we departed and made our way back to ‘Big Momma’. Now how were we, strangers to this town, expected to know that the route we had taken to get to the ‘Festival’ was the vehicle route !! The route that we decided to take back, by sheer chance I hasten to add, was about half the distance, oh well, that took care of today’s exercise regime !!

The 'revired' Batata Doce, sack fulls of them !!

The ‘revired’ Batata Doce, sack fulls of them !!

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Is it a Pizza ? No it's a Batata Doce Fritter !

Is it a Pizza ? No it’s a Batata Doce Fritter !

Making a 'Crepe' with the obligatory Batata Doce filling of course !!

Making a ‘Crepe’ with the obligatory Batata Doce filling of course !!

And Shazza will say that one of those was for me ? really !!

And Shazza will say that one of those was for me ? really !!

When we arrived at Aljezur earlier this morning we did not know whether we would stay for a day or two. We still had to visit the castle, do we save that ‘steep uphill walk’ for tomorrow or should we do it today ? It was now very hot, a beatiful day so we decided to take advantage and climb up to the ‘Castelo’. It was a well marked route, up cobbled roads and alleys (and I mean ‘up’) zig zagging our way between the houses, the ones ‘glued’ together up the hill. It was well worth the effort, a castle ‘ruins’ is like any castle ‘ruins’ but the 360 degree views were tremendous. There were also information boards dotted around explaining what some of the buildings had been used for and giving a brief history of the castle, what’s more, these were multi-lingual information boards and so contained ‘English’ versions. Now, as you well know by now, I am not really in to history as such, but there are some things that do occasionally interest me and this was another such place. I have taken some pictures of a couple of the more interesting information boards so I will let you read them for yourself, just click on the photograph if you need to enlarge them !! that was the tourist bit of Aljezur done !

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The views from the Castelo over the 'new' part of Aljezur

The views from the Castelo over the ‘new’ part of Aljezur

It wasn't quite warm enough for shorts !!

It wasn’t quite warm enough for shorts !!

'Queen' of the Castelo ?

‘Queen’ of the Castelo ?

Holy Cows ! 'Big Momma's' being stampeded !!!

Holy Cows ! ‘Big Momma’s’ being stampeded !!!

No need to stay another day, seen it, done it, got another Tee-shirt so tomorrow we will move back to the South Coast again. We would have spent the last four nights Wild Camping and our accommodation costs ? absolutely nothing !! It hasn’t been all expense free however, there was one ‘small’ bottle of ‘Medronho e Mel’ and two rather nasty ‘Batata Doce Crepes’ and the ‘fresh bread’ (and a few small extras) so our costs over the last four days has been a massive €22.00 !! Perhaps it was time to give Shazza a break from cooking duties, tonight, we would dine out. It may have been a nice gesture but come on Eric, not only was the ‘Batata Festival’ still in full swing until ten o’clock tonight but it was also a ‘Sunday’ !! But not to be defeated we went in search of an establishment where we could eat, it didn’t have to be fine dining, a ‘scabby horse’ would have sufficed we were that hungry !! And we did find the one ‘Open’ Restaraunt in town. The young waiter informed us that due to the ‘Festival’ there were only four choices on the menu and they all involved bloody ‘Sweet Potato’ !!

Back in ‘Big Momma’, Shazza conjured up a terrific ‘Chicken Supreme, Rice and Garlic Bread’…………..

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