Monday 2nd December – Aljezur to Lagos (19 miles)
Flipping heck was it cold this morning, just 5.2 degrees(c) inside ‘Big Momma’ and a little over 2 degrees(c) outside, for the first time on this trip we actually had ‘frost’ on the outside of the windows !! No electricity hook up or not, it was time to switch on the heating. We had never had a need to do this before so we were not sure how much power the electric blown air system would take out of the leisure batteries, we were soon going to find out ? We grabbed our ‘cold’ clothes off the side lockers and put them under the duvet with us until they were warm enough to actually put on !! We did giggle a bit when we did this as we never thought it would be that cold to resort to such measures. The decision was made there and then, we needed to move back to the South Coast where it was a little warmer !
Once we were dressed, I put the kettle back on for the second coffee, not just for another hot drink but the gas hob would help heat the van up a bit quicker. I checked the solar regulator to see how the power was holding up on the batteries and was amazed to see that after 40 minutes the ‘Ampage’ had only dropped by 0.01% !! I went outside and the sun was just getting up but it was enough to start defrosting the front windscreen. We didn’t hang about, ‘Big Momma’ was prepared for travelling and we left ‘Aljezur’ and the frost behind. It was quite amazing how as soon as we started to descend down to sea level the outside temperature went from just 2 degrees(c) to 12 degrees(c) and we could turn off the internal cab heating with the sun providing sufficient warmth through ‘Big Momma’s’ large front window. The drive down was quite spectacular, the road (N120) was surprisingly good as it snaked its way through little villages and soon we joined the N125 again. This was the road that ran the full length of the Algarve, East to West, or vice versa dependent on which direction you were headed. We had spent so much time on this road over the last few weeks that it felt familiar, a bit like being on home territory again !
We were headed for an ‘Aire’ at Lagos, a 20 van site, so we were hoping there would be room for us as we would be arriving by 10:00am. When we arrived there were four spaces but we were glad that we had arrived when we did. By 11:00am there was a queue of vans trying to find somewhere to park.
The ‘Aire’ at Lagos is outside the ‘Municipal Stadium’, it costs €3 per night for the first 72 hours then reduces to €2.50 thereafter. We had just had four nights ‘free parking’ and two days out of the four where we had spent absolutely nothing so our budget was even healthier. If I have said this before then please forgive me, but even we are staggered at just how cheap this lifestyle is, compared to our expectations, and that is without scrimping and scraping !! There are services (Grey & Chemical Waste) but Fresh Water costs an additional €2 for 100 litres. We didn’t require to refill just yet but we would before we departed. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that the ‘Aire’ also had WC’s (very clean and meticulously maintained) and free WiFi and if you wanted to take a shower you could use the ‘stadiums’ facilities for €2, very useful for the ladies who liked oodles of hot water to wash and condition their hair !!
This is a popular ‘Aire’ because it is only a twenty-minute stroll to the main town, a flat walk and alongside the river which leads to the sea, there is a beautiful marina that you walk past along a very long and beautiful promenade. You can even see the fish in the crystal clear waters. Follow the promenade all the way to the end and you arrive at a small sandy beach or turn right and go into the town, the old town is beautiful and the newer bit just seems to blend in. There are plenty of Super Markets, Lidl, Aldi, Intermarche and Pingo Doce so re-stocking of provisions is not a problem here. We decided to eat lunch out today and found a quaint pavement establishment down one of the side streets where we could bask in the heat of the early afternoon sunshine. We were rewarded with some musical accompaniment from the Cafe next door, where a couple of musicians, who were sat at a table drinking coffee, decided to have an impromptu jamming session, they were excellent and it made for a very pleasant lunch experience.
After a pleasant and relaxing lunch we wandered back to the Main Street and along the promenade. We decided to take the footbridge across the river estuary into the ‘Marina de Lagos’ and nosey at the multi-million pound yachts that were moored in their very neat regimented rows amongst overlooked by the regimented multi-million pound apartments. This was a public place, no barriers to keep non-residents out, we were free to wander along the waterside and past the twin storey building that accommodated numerous Cafés, Bars and Restaurants which were well occupied with people who were taking full advantage of the mid-afternoon sunshine. We returned to ‘Big Momma’ and settled down to relax for the evening and as the sun lowered itself in the sky there was a noticeable drop in the temperature too.
Although nice and warm in ‘Big Momma’ under the Duvet, it had been another cold night, frost was still on the Heki skylights as the sun, although rising, still had insufficient warmth to melt it. Having some confidence now that the heating took very little out of the leisure batteries I turned it on for half an hour whilst we drank our coffees in bed. By the time I decided to get out of bed and get dressed, the heater had done its job, no need to take our clothes into bed with us today !! The free WiFi was very slow and yesterday I had problems getting my photographs uploaded, however, this early in the morning it seemed a little quicker and more willing to upload my blog media, perhaps it was still too early for the other WiFi users ? Whilst I took advantage of the ‘faster’ upload speeds Shazza decided to go for a walk to check out the beach on the other side of the river and call in at the ‘Pingo Doce’ Supermercado on her way back, just to get some fresh fruit and gather a little more research for her ‘Compare de Supermercado.Com’ website. This should make a ‘fascinating’ read when she eventually gets around to publishing it !! Shazza returned from her four mile walk, was that a quarter of a mile to ‘Pingo Doce’, quarter of a mile back and three and half miles up and down the supermarket Aisles ? She does take her research very seriously !! I had just about finished uploading all my photographs but I now had to select which ones to insert into my three pre-drafted blog posts, then spell check them before publishing. This is one problem with me being too tight to part with some money to purchase a ‘Data SIM Card’ for my iPad, I was at the mercy of finding somewhere where I could connect to the Internet, so although I had posts ‘ready to go’ they had to wait, which is why you, the readers of my humble ramblings, sometimes have to wait, then like waiting forever for a bus to arrive, three or four come at once !! Anyway, Shazza whilst patiently waiting for me to finish my mission, made us both a chicken sandwich for lunch and then mission accomplished it was time for our daily exercise !!
Having had the luxury of WiFi we were able to update ourselves with what the weather had in store for us over the next eight days. We were elated to discover that rather than get colder the temperatures were set to improve, good sunny days and much warmer temperatures at night, over those eight days the night-time temperatures will vary between 11-15 degrees(c), goodbye Mr Jack Frost, well for now at least. So we decided to take full advantage, we would leave our ‘Aire’ here at Lagos tomorrow and head West beyond ‘Portimao’ to the Coast, the stretch we had by-passed in order to get to ‘Sagres’. We have become quite fond of finding Wild Camping locations and as we would be starting with ‘Full and Empty’ on-board tanks as appropriate, we knew that we could be self-sufficient for at least three days. However, we did need to ensure that we had sufficient basic essentials to see us through (Bread & Milk) and, if the weather was going to be this nice, I certainly wanted a variety of meats for BBQ’s and perhaps some beer. The last time I had cooked us a meal on the BBQ was when we were at ‘Tavira’ !! So we decided to do our last walk around the Alleyways of the town and then come back via the ‘Lidl’ super market. Although we were quite happy to use the local shops, the Municipal Mercado’s, or the supermarkets we have actually found that, over here at least, ‘Lidl’ do better quality fresh meat !!
We had also decided that it was about time to top up the ‘coffers’ in the wallet again so we found an ATM machine (Multibanco) and withdrew some cash using our pre-loaded ‘Caxton Euro Cash Card’. Now at the risk of probably repeating myself, we have had no issues with the Caxton Euro Cash Card whatsoever. Although we had pre-loaded it before we departed UK and have not had cause to top it up since being here, it is quite easy to do, either by ringing on our mobile phones, texting or using the Internet. The ATM’s we have used in both Spain & Portugal have had simple instructions in English and when I have checked my ‘Caxton’ statements on-line they have been correct. None of the ATM’s we have used have charged for making cash withdrawals, however, I understand from people we have spoken to, who use their UK Bank Debit Cards (Visa or MasterCard), that they have been charged every time they make a cash withdrawal !! I am not promoting just the use of ‘Caxton’ as there are several companies that provide ‘Cash Cards’, but it makes sense to me to use these as opposed to your UK Debit Cards if you are going to be charged for every cash withdrawal that you make. It is also worth noting that irrespective of the daily amount that your ‘own’ bank or ‘Cash Card’ provider allows you to withdraw at any one time, the ATM’s will only let you withdraw a maximum of €200 at any one time.
We returned to the ‘Aire’ and as we approached ‘Big Momma’ we saw, parked next to us, ‘Big Bird’ (Steve & Lyssa). Now for those of you who have been following my blog from the early days, before we had even departed the UK, you will know that Steve & Lyssa were, like us, just about to commence ‘fulltiming’ themselves. So the first and only time that we had met them was when we, they and two other couples had a get together for a weekend at ‘Wisbech’ (see our earlier post “Back On The Road Again”). Lyssa also writes a blog (The Adventures of Big Bird) and so we have been following each other’s posts with interest.
The last post published by Lyssa was whilst they were at Lisbon, we knew they were planning to be at ‘Albufeira’ by the 8th December, but we had no idea what route they would be taking prior to that. We had not published any posts for several days so they could not have known that we would be at Lagos, so this was a completely coincidental and very pleasant surprise. Well you can probably imagine the discussions that ensued, where we had been, where they had been, recommendations on places to stop and/or stay. We spent the evening in ‘Big Momma’ and just generally had a good old catch up, it was really great to see them both again and I used this ‘special occasion’ to break open the bottle of ‘Medronho e Mel’, and very nice it is too !! Steve and Lyssa are staying in an Apartment over Christmas before hitting the road again for the New Year and continuing with their fulltiming travels around Europe, they have kindly invited us to spend Christmas Day with them if we are in Albufeira, aren’t they such lovely people. I will also be eternally grateful to them both for ‘giving’ us an external Hard-Drive so that we can back-up and store all of our photographs.