Thursday 12th December – Portimao to Silves (15 Miles)
We knew that we were not going to have the best of weather during our stay on the ‘Aire’ at Portimao, our pretty consistently reliable eight-day weather forecast ‘App’ on my iPad had correctly predicted the extremely strong winds, however, we had not had the rain that it had predicted, that was until 04:15am. Now whether (no pun intended) it was the noise of the rain on the roof, or the need for me to still get rid of some excess cold beer, that had woken me up I do not know but that was it, I was awake and try as I may I could not get back into a nice sleep, so it was a mere short burst of dozes until eventually at 08:30am I dragged myself reluctantly out of bed to conduct the morning rituals before getting ready, once again, to move on. The nice French lady who sold Bread and Pastries, came onto the Aire in her van, just before we were about to leave so Shazza bought a ‘still warm from the oven’ baguette for our lunchtime sandwich. As we pulled away we stopped at Paul & Sharon’s van and said our farewells and told them that we would let them know whether we would be joining the ‘rally’ for the festive period. After a short halt at the ‘Service Point’ we pulled off the ‘Aire’ to make our way, the short distance, to a ‘Motorhome Park’ at ‘Silves’. First though I wanted to fill up my LPG, we had used one bottle and was now onto the second. The ‘All the Aires Guide – Spain and Portugal‘ conveniently provides details of LPG (GPL) service stations at the back of the book and there was one quite conveniently located on our route and just 2 miles out of Portimao. The one thing I will add here is that whilst this information in this guide is extremely useful, as it gives GPS Co-ordinates, it does not actually provide a comprehensive list of all the service stations where LPG is available. We have noticed on our travels that there are a lot of service stations that sell it which are not in the guide. For example, before getting to the ‘Repsol’ service station indicated in the guide there is a ‘BP’ service station along the same route (N124) and the access to the LPG pump was good for larger vehicles, unfortunately we saw it a little too late so went to the ‘Repsol’. I always felt more comfortable when I knew that I had full LPG tanks just in case we couldn’t get on to a particular location and needed to park somewhere where we needed to be self-sufficient.
We briefly joined our more familiar road (N125) before turning off onto the N124-1, which I have to say after all my criticism in past posts of these Portuguese roads, was a very smooth surfaced road all the way to ‘Silves’. We had been told by many people we had met on our travels about ‘Silves’ being a lovely little town, and more particularly about this ‘Motorhome Park’ that provided individual pitches with Electricity (6 Amp) and Fresh Water, Washing Machines and the usual Motorhome ‘Service Point’ for €6 per day. We entered ‘Silves’ and followed ‘Snoopy’s’ guidance. We passed a parking area on our Left which had a small number of Motorhomes already parked up and then we came to a Roundabout and to the left of it were absolutely loads of RV’s and Motorhomes all parked up. ‘Snoops’ indicated that we had arrived at our destination, not her fault that it wasn’t, as we were using Co-ordinates given to us. We pulled in and it became quite obvious that there would be ‘No Room’ at this particular Inn ! We were the ‘entertainment’ for the morning as the numerous occupants of the already ‘parked’ vans just stood staring at us trying to manoeuvre our way out again, but we did it, huh ! If I can survive the ‘Portimao Experience’ then this was mere child’s play I thought. Feeling quite smug with myself at not looking an ‘Arse’ with so many onlookers, I casually lowered my window and asked one of the ‘onlookers’ if they knew the location of the ‘Motorhome Park’, they did and fortunately it was a mere 200-300 metres further up the road, and conveniently for ‘Shazza’s’ research project, within a two-minute walk of a ‘Continente Supermercado’ ! Which did make me have a bit of a ‘school boy’ humorous thought. If I let Shazza go into the store whilst I waited outside and somebody we knew asked me where she was, I could say “Shazza is ‘Incontinente'”, well I did say it was ‘school boy humour’. We pulled into the entrance of this immaculate and new (opened in September this year) Motorhome Park, which is what they call it, however, and not to denigrate what the owners have provided, it is an ‘Aire’. There are ‘Fifty’ very spacious individual marked gravel parking bays, Electric Bollards providing 6amp Hook-Ups and each bollard has a tap providing Fresh Water. There is a small wooden building that houses a Washing Machine and Dryer, there is a well laid out Motorhome ‘Service Point’ (which can be used by other Motorhomes not staying at the park, what is known as passers by, for a charge of €2.50) and there is WiFi available to each pitch, all this for the modest sum of €6 per 24 hour period.
Once we had got ourselves settled in we had a late breakfast and then it was ‘Shazza Expedition’ time again !! the overcast sky looked a little bit moody today so taking no chances it was jeans, sweater, proper walking shoes and this time our rain jackets ! We passed the very convenient ‘Continente’ Supermercado, too convenient for my liking, and then went into the local Tourist Information office. The very nice lady, who spoke excellent English, actually took the time to explain a little about the town and areas of potential interest. We had noticed the town had a Municipal ‘Piscine’ (Swimming Pool) so enquired as the opening hours. The very nice lady told us that last year a Tornado had hit the town and caused a lot of damage, the ‘Piscine’ was being renovated and would not re-open until January.
I don’t think that our trusty travel bible has done justice to ‘Silves’, it says the town is worthy of a half day visit. Well even a ‘history heathen’ like myself has to say that even someone with only half an interest in History or Medieval Architecture could quite easily fill a couple of days here !! It was a quirky sort of town, but a nice quirky in a strange sort of way. As I have now become accustomed to Portuguese towns, with their maze of alleys and no real Main Street as such, and ‘Silves’ is no different in that respect, it does have something about it that is a rugged charm and around every corner there was another photograph to be taken. So rather than give you a blow-by-blow account of our every footstep I will let you see some of the town in pictures !
Well you may just get the idea from this ‘small’ photographic tour that there was just a bit of walking involved in another one of ‘Shazza’s Expeditions’, we didn’t visit the exhibition of the ‘Pirates’ or any of the ‘Museums’ but we did wander through some very narrow cobbled streets. This town really is a great place to just wander around and although the ‘older’ part of the town is mostly at the top of the hills !! There are plenty of places to rest or to stop for a coffee or to browse through shops and it really is worth the effort.
I for one was really pleased to get back to ‘Big Momma’, If I thought that after nearly nine weeks of being ‘on the road’ and averaging at least 6 miles walking a day, never mind the cycling and odd bit of Kayaking, that I was now fit, believe me it certainly didn’t feel like it, my back ached, my legs ached, my feet ached, to put it bluntly, I was bloody knackered !! It was time to put my foot down, very gently of course so as not to burst the blisters ! “Shazza, I’m all done in, tomorrow is a chillax day” I announced. “Okay she said” just before she too collapsed on the bed in a heap !!
There had been no dogs barking, no wind blowing a Force 5 gale, no bicycle cover flapping in the wind and I had been physically tired, so you would have thought that I would have slept soundly, no ! I was up at 01:30am and looking for something to eat, I was starving !! I couldn’t put the lights on for fear of waking up my beloved and suffering her wrath, I even had the courtesy to stumble around quietly ! Eventually I found an open packet of ‘Kracker Wheat’ biscuits and I sat and finished off the packet, sucking them rather than crunching so as not to make a noise of course !! Needless to say I didn’t wake up until 09:30am, then I only got up to make a coffee and kick-start the lungs before returning to bed to wake up properly. I was then informed that we needed to do a re-stock mission ? “But, today we agreed was a chillax day” I protested. There are days when I just have to put my foot down, today obviously wasn’t going to be one of them so we went shopping !!
Today however was going to be a ‘day to potter’, no Shazza Expeditions ! Having a fresh water tap on the pitch was so convenient as it meant that I could keep the tank topped up which would save time on ‘moving on’ day. We also had to decide on where we would be spending Christmas ? We were not totally enamoured with Portimao so it was safe to say that was one which we had ruled out although we would need to text Brian & Carole to let them know. I still liked the idea of holding up at ‘Parque de Palmeira’, the ‘Aire had everything we would require and it was close to the Supermercado’s and the town, the only thing we could not be certain of is whether there would be any spaces left for us !! However, after meeting Paul and Sharon who had suggested the ‘Christmas Rally’, this also sounded like a great festive option but we not only needed to check if their were any places left but, as it was being held on a Campsite, whether they had any availability for us and a pitch large enough for ‘Big Momma’. So it was possible that we could end up with a dilemma if their was no room at the ‘Aire’ and no spaces left on the ‘Christmas Rally’ !! It reminded me of another couple of travellers who, at this time of year, were looking for somewhere to stay but couldn’t find a ‘Room at the Inn’ ? They were travelling with a donkey, we had ‘The Duck !’, they were expecting a new arrival, we had already had ours,…………’Dave’ !!
I made the important phone call, this had to be via the UK rather than the Campsite, and it wasn’t a straightforward ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. Because of the length of ‘Big Momma’ they had to ring the Campsite to check and then get back to us ? Would it not have been quicker and cheaper for us to have rang the site direct ? However, the young lady did ring back as promised within a couple of hours and confirmed that there was a ‘pitch’ large enough for us and space on the ‘Christmas Rally’. I have to say that the Christmas Dinner menu did look good’ with the usual traditional Christmas fare and with ‘unlimited’ drinks (soft drinks as well as the ‘Vino’) that was Shazza sorted !! We now had to let Steve and Lyssa know as well as Brian and Carole, we were hoping that they didn’t think that we were ungrateful for not accepting their very kind and generous invitations to join them for Christmas ? I sent them both a text and we did not feel too bad as Brian, Carole, Ray and Sheila had changed their minds anyway about Christmas in Portimao, they had decided to return to ‘Vila Real’ to spend Christmas. They had booked to go to the same Restaurant where we had enjoyed the ’60’s/70’s’ night. This made good sense as They were returning to the UK via Spain and ‘Vila Real’ was right on the border. Steve and Lyssa were also good about it, they were in the Apartment at Albufeira and would have friends from the UK staying with them so we didn’t feel as though we were leaving them in the lurch and we would probably either get to see them before Christmas or just afterwards as we would be in the area.
Whilst I was making the phone calls and texts I hadn’t noticed the Autotrail chieftain pull onto the pitch next to us, it was Tom and Karen, so once I had ‘sorted’ out the Christmas arrangements I went and said hello. We had of course already seen them briefly whilst at Portimao but we had left without seeing them to say farewell.
Well you know what it is like when you meet up again with old friends, you need a glass of ‘Vino Tinto’ (or two !) to keep the tonsils lubricated whilst catching up on everything whilst stood in the warmth of the evening sun ? Well we did have so much to talk about, it had been all of two days since we last spoke with them. As we stood outside the vans, with our glasses of liquid nectar the sun slipped from the sky and we witnessed the most spectacular crimson sunset…………
It was nice to awaken to blue sky and sunshine again, the last few days have seen Gale Force Winds, dark leaden skies and yesterday the rare and unwelcome appearance of some of that wet stuff !! But ‘normality’ has returned and we have decided to stay another day at this nice and comfortable ‘Motorhome Park’. Although there was no real need to go outside in shorts and Tee-shirt to do a weather check, I already knew that today was shorts, sleeveless shirt and a flip-flops day but I enjoy standing outside with my cup of coffee in one hand, cigarette in the other and looking out and around my surroundings. Today I am looking across at a small wooded hill in the background with green fields in the foreground, there are several horses just slowly roaming freely grazing on the grass, amongst them, foraging in the field are approximately twenty ‘Storks’. Each evening they soar into the sky directly above us, provide us with a magnificent synchronised aerobatics display before heading off into their roosts for the night. In the morning I hear what sounds like the muffled sound of an automatic machine gun but a gentler less aggressive noise, more of a tap….tap……tap…. Rather than a sequence of bangs. I am no Ornithologist but it appears that this is the ‘Storks’ way of saying ‘good morning’ to the rest of the flock as they stretch out their wide wings ready to fly down to the fields for another day of foraging.
After sitting out with my second coffee soaking up the sunshine, it is still only 09:30am, but we decide to take the short walk into the town to the ‘Municipal Mercado’, this would be my only ‘Expedition’ today. I remember, when we owned a house, sitting and watching the travel programmes like ‘A Place In The Sun‘, we would look at the French, Spanish, Portugeuse, Greek villages and towns and see the busy street markets selling all the regional and more local produce and say to each other that that was just one of the things that we were looking forward to doing when we eventually managed to turn our ‘dreams’ into ‘reality’, and now, here we are actually doing it !! We didn’t actually need anything, we had done the re-stock of provisions yesterday but it was sometimes just the ambience of the place. What we intended to do, or not to do, were two quite different things, but I guess by now you will have learnt that about us. First we bought some lovely freshly baked home-made bread rolls, then we saw two rather nice ‘Robalo’ (Sea Bass) that screamed out at us to buy them, the young man who sold them to us was assisted by his Grandmother, she would clean and prepare the fish for us but she had a queue so we were asked if we could return in twenty-minutes. Shazza had taken a liking now to eating fish whilst they were looking at her, she always did have a sadistic streak !! She had decided that they would be on this evenings dinner menu and was musing over what she would prepare to accompany them. I enquired whether she had the mandatory ‘lemon’, you cannot have fish without lemon, she said she would need one so we sauntered over to the appropriate stall and after a bit of rummaging she selected one and held it up to the lady behind the stall, the gesture of “How much for this ?”, the lady waved her hand in the gesture of “You only want the one, just take it, no charge !!” A smile exchanged by all parties concerned and then onwards to look at what else was on offer today. Apart from purchasing today’s edition of the ‘Daily Mail’, the first I had bought since being at ‘Manta Rota’, we just looked and then returned to retrieve our now descaled, de-finned and gutted Sea Bass.
Back at ‘Big Momma’, local produce put away, it was time to assume the position ! Sitting in one’s reclining sun chair with my cigarettes at hand, a hot freshly brewed coffee and my iPad. The rest of the day will be spent ‘At Leisure’ as they say. And where will we be tomorrow ? A Barragem (Reservoir) perhaps ? Maybe another Beach or a different town or village ? At this precise moment in time we do not know but that is the great thing about this lifestyle, the freedom to move on or not and such a wide choice of destinations within hands reach !! The weather forecast has predicted another three days of sunshine so with ‘full and empty’ on board facilities as appropriate, I feel another spot of Wild Camping coming on……………….