Alvor – Albufiera (29 Miles)
Decisions on where to re-locate to are not always straightforward choices. We had managed for nearly three weeks without the need for an Electric Hook-up, coping more than adequately with the energy that the Solar Panels were putting into our Leisure Batteries. even with the forecasted bout of ‘inclement’ weather we could cope for several days longer if needs be, well we could if it wasn’t for our reliance on our ‘gadgets’ !! In order to stave off ‘Cabin Fever’, when confined to barracks, it is useful to have a scenario for ‘wet weather’ periods, this, for some, involves reading books, of the paper variety, or jigsaws or other such activities. However, in this modern technological world lots of hobbies and interests are conducted via ‘electronic gadgets’ like iPhones, iPads, iPods, Laptops, Kindles or similar E-Reading devices, all of which, at some point require re-charging. We had been getting over eight hours of sunshine each day, more than enough to keep our Leisure batteries topped up and still power our 12v inverter, which we were able to use to re-charge said devices. However, we only had one 12v socket in the van and our small 300w inverter can only charge one device at a time. So in order to prevent any arguments we shared the access to the inverter by only partially charging each device. With reduced Solar Energy, due to the lack of bright sunshine, this meant that the leisure batteries were not getting topped up to maximum and so, to conserve the power, we could not use the inverter for as long as we had been able to previously, therefore our all important ‘gadgets’ we’re getting pretty low on charge as well. With a predicted period of five days of rain On the way we were likely to be confined to barracks for prolonged periods and have no ‘gadgets’ to stave off ‘Cabin Fever’. With lots of sharp objects in the van this would not bode well !! Now I know that this is a rather long-winded way of saying that we needed to find somewhere with EHU, but for those still ‘dreaming‘ of this Fulltiming life it is something else that needs to be considered, as even in ‘winter sun‘ locations it does still rain from time to time !!
Normally such a decision would have been an easy one to make, ‘Silves‘, another one of our favourite locations, had an Aire with dedicated individual Hardstandings, EHU point with water tap, a good Motorhome Service Point, Laundry facilities and was only a two-minute walk to a Supermarket and five-minutes into the town. ‘Silves’ from our current red, sticky, ‘gloopy’ mud location, was less than a half hours drive away. However, we also needed to be in ‘Albufeira‘ in just five days time, so that we could do a bit of a ‘reconnaissance’, before ‘Our Overseas Visitors’ arrived. Sharon’s mum was flying from ‘Doncaster Airport‘ and Chris and Sarah, who had also decided to fly out for a holiday, were flying from ‘Gatwick Airport‘. Although both were travelling on the same day they would be arriving at different times, but there was only an hour or so’s difference in their arrival times so we would pick them both up from ‘Faro Airport’. The other difference was that because their travel arrangements were made separately, Sharon’s mum is staying at a different location to Chris and Sarah. Shazza had made the accommodation arrangements for her mum so the ‘reconnaissance’ mission was to find out how far away her holiday apartment was from the ‘Aire’ we would be staying at.
The ‘Aire’ at Albufeira was at the top end of the town, near the football stadium, right opposite the bus station and within a half hours walk of the town and beach, it had individual Hardstanding pitches, EHU with excellent ‘Ampage’, a good Motorhome Service Point, Laundry facilities, Showers and Toilets and WiFi and not one but ‘Four’ Supermercado’s all within walking distance !! For me it was the hot showers that gave Albufeira the edge, I somehow think that there were four other reasons why it got Shazza’s vote !!
It was around 03:30am when we were both awoken by the ‘Thunder’ and the crashing of the rain on the roof and it just confirmed that our decision to move was the right one. When we got up later, I went out to inspect the state of the ‘gloop’ and lo and behold we had a new neighbour arrive in the night, not just any old neighbour, this was our ‘Swedish’ neighbour from ‘Porto Covo’ and the same neighbour we had met in the car park at the ‘Lidl’ store. It really is a small travelling community down here on the Algarve, anyway we engaged in the usual friendly greeting before taking ‘Big Momma’ across to the ‘Motorhome Service Point’ to do the necessary with the on-board facilities.
We pulled off the ‘gloop’ and set off on the relatively short journey of 25 miles to Albufiera. We had one or two minor deviations to make before reaching our destination. The first was to top up the LPG and we knew exactly where we could do this. I believe I may have made the same comment on previous posts, but I remember this route quite vividly from last year’s trip and so remembered that there were two service stations in close proximity that had LPG. We were going to be static on the ‘Aire’ at Albufiera for at least thirteen days, that could be a lot of baking days !!
I was glad that we had chosen to re-fill as we had used 19 Litres since our last top up only ten days previously. We were wondering why we appeared to be using more LPG this trip than we had on the last one, however, when we thought about it, last year we used three Campsites on the way down and so would have been on electric for things like the Fridge and Freezer, water boiler and Shazza had primarily used the electric hob plate and her electric ‘Ramoska’ for cooking, so that was at least a nine-day saving on the LPG requirements. However, It is worth thinking about these sorts of things when planning budgets for such trips, you can save on one hand by doing some ‘Free Camping’ but you also need to cater for the additional usage of LPG by doing so, personally, I believe that it is still more cost-effective to ‘Free Camp’ as LPG (they call it GPL over here) is relatively inexpensive. However, for us at least, it is not about a principle of saving money, if ‘our’ needs require us to spend a few Euro on an Aire then so be it. Our next scheduled stop was at an ‘ALDI’ that we knew of en route to Albufiera, we had found this quite by chance last year and knew that it had plenty of space to park ‘Big Momma’. Then, with all our immediate requirements fulfilled we pointed the van in the direction of ‘Parque de Palmeira‘.
We arrived, booked in at the main entrance, and once again on this trip was pleasantly surprised to discover that the daily charges had not increased from last year, €8 per day for the first three days, then €7 every day thereafter, that included all the Motorhome services inclusive of Toilets, Showers, EHU and WiFi. The laundry cost is the most expensive we have seen so far at €4.50 per wash, but it was worth it as we needed to wash beach towels and bedding. The advantage of having used this ‘Aire’ previously, is that I remembered where the sun rose and set and so was able to select a South facing pitch. We soon settled onto our spacious hardstanding pitch and had the luxury of being able to get out the sun awning, yes this will do very nicely as our temporary home for the next thirteen days !
Although our day had started rather wet, the sun was now shining, the sky was blue and it was very hot ! Whilst we were sat having lunch, and looking around at our fellow motor-homers Shazza saw a ‘Auto Trail Chieftain’ parked up on another pitch some distance away, it wasn’t the Motorhome she was actually looking at though, it was the dog outside the said Motorhome which looked very similar to ‘Tilly’, one of Roy and Amanda’s two dogs. I said that I was convinced that it was them, for although we had not actually seen their Motorhome, I knew that they had a ‘Chieftain’. This was surely too much of a coincidence, so I decided to go and satisfy my curiosity and sure enough it was Roy and Amanda ! They had seen us arrive but had decided to let us settle in before coming across a little later to say hello.
We are not new to living in Caravans or Motorhomes, I have been doing it for well in excess of twenty-five years, albeit not fulltiming, so I am well aware of the compromises that have to be made between living in a house to that of a plastic box on wheels. Such compromises like, not having unlimited supplies of electricity at the flick of a switch, having to be economical with water, not having reliable and consistent WiFi, to name but three ! So it is hard to describe the sheer and utter luxury of being able to stand underneath a shower with an unlimited supply of very hot water. Now don’t misunderstand me, the shower in ‘Big Momma’ is wonderful, the new heating element we had fitted whilst in Scotland is working a treat and delivers scalding hot water in no time at all. However, the capacity of water that the on-board water boiler can hold is minimal compared with a domestic water boiler, so in the van it is a case of wet down, turn off water supply, soap up and then rinse off as quickly as possible. But this particular evening, for the first time since getting off the ferry in Santander, three weeks ago, I was able to use the shower facilities provided on the ‘Aire”, sheer unadulterated luxury. I think that I will be making full use of this facility over the next couple of weeks !!
Whilst I was wandering around the Aire taking the above photographs I heard someone calling, not my name, just a general sort of attention seeking call. At first I thought it may have been the site staff wondering why I was taking photographs of their facilities, but I couldn’t see anyone at the Reception hut so I carried on. Then I heard the call again, when I looked around I saw a chap, sat in a sun chair at the side of his Motorhome, he was waving at me ! It took a while for my brain to register who it was, Shazza says it’s an age thing ! anyway, when it did finally register, I saw that it was our fellow ‘Swedish’ Motorhome travellers that we had now met several times on our current meanderings. They told me that they had only just arrived and had come here after I had ‘recommended‘ it to them in one of our previous conversations !! There is one problem with making recommendations, what is that saying about “One man’s meat is another man’s poison” !!
We spent the rest of our ‘Arrivals Day’ at leisure, sat outside ‘Big Momma’ in our sun chairs just ‘chillaxing’. However, my days of relaxation are ones to be savoured as they seldom last very long. Over the following couple of days Shazza would have me out on her expeditions, anyone who knows Albufiera will also know that the sprawling town is built on a hill, quite a big sprawling hill actually, our Aire just happens to be located at the top of this hill ! Our first expedition was disguised as “merely a walk”, she had quite innocently stated. Now I know that I should have known better but she must have caught me at a weak moment for Shazza was on a mission, it may have helped if she had deemed to have given me the slightest inclination that actually we were on ‘The Reconnaissance‘ mission, the one to locate the Holiday Apartments that she had booked her mum into. It would also have helped if she had thought to have brought her iPad with her, the iPad that had the mapping ‘App’ which already contained the pre-programmed route from our ‘Aire’ to said Apartments !! At least we were headed in the ‘general’ direction but the narrow streets in Albufiera, the ones that have lots of hills, we’re not going to make this search easy and we ended up going around and around in circles. It was either the look on my face that told her that I was about to have a sense of humour failure or the fact that I blatantly refused to walk up another bloody hill, whichever one it was, she told me to sit and have a rest whilst she just walked up the last hill before calling it a day. Well I will have to give Shazza lots of credit for persistence because at the top of this last hill she found the ‘Holy Grail’. I decided that seeing as we had taken all this effort to find the place we may as well case out the joint. Now for £20 a night, a studio apartment with ‘no meals’ included, it would be fair to say that I was expecting ‘a humble establishment‘ and so was exceptionally surprised at what we were looking at. It was a very modern, well maintained block and each ‘Apartment’ had a reasonable sized balcony, the Reception was very clean, and furnished with modern furniture and in very good decorative order. The young female receptionist greeted us with a friendly smile and we explained why we were there, after confirming the reservation details she permitted us to take a look around the ‘Public Areas’. This place had a very nice looking Restaurant, a bar which also provided ‘free’ WiFi and a very pleasant outside social area with a small swimming pool and sun loungers. When we explained who it was that was staying we asked if we, as family of the paying guest, would be permitted to use the facilities as well, now I was thinking ‘Pool and Sun Loungers‘ but I actually said ‘Restaurant‘, the very nice young lady simply responded “Of course“. So that was that, on the day days of said visit, visits, ones rucksack would not only contain appropriate attire for partaking of a meal in the restaurant but also perhaps ones swimmers, a towel, sun cream and iPod !! We asked the very nice, very helpful young female receptionist whether she just happened to have a ‘street plan‘, not only did she have one but she marked on it where the apartments were located, where our ‘Aire’ was located and the quickest route to the ‘Old Town’. The route to the Apartments from our ‘Aire’ was a mere twenty-minute walk and not the hour-long one that we had just taken, which was quite literally ‘all around the houses’ !! Now you would have thought that that would have been quite enough for one day, but no, as the very nice young receptionist had stated that the ‘Old Town’ was only a mere ten-minute stroll away Shazza decided that it would be a good idea, being so close and all that, that ‘we‘ should just ‘quickly’ go and check out the route !! There was one thing for definite, there was certainly going to be no ‘quickly’ about it, my flip-flops had only just stopped smouldering from our first ‘little walk‘. Apart from the ‘thirty thousand steps‘, it was no more than a ten minute descent to Albufiera’s ‘buzzing with life‘ Old Town. We re-acquainted ourselves with the narrow cobbled streets and the main square, all of which were thriving with life, the streets were busy and the numerous pavement cafe’s were packed to the gunnels, I loved this place but Shazza described it more like Blackpool but with Sunshine !! ‘We‘ apparently decided that instead of taking the shortest, and most direct route, back to ‘Big Momma’ that it would be a good idea to re-trace our steps back to the Apartments and then take the ‘correct’, and much shorter route, back to the ‘Aire’ and it would have been a sin wouldn’t it now, had we not have called into the ‘ALDI’ supermarket, that we ‘just happened‘ to be passing on our way back to the ‘Aire’ …………………………………………….
It was good to get back to ‘Big Momma’ and put my feet up, the sun was still shining and so I got a nice cold beer from the fridge, sat outside on my sun chair and spent the rest of the evening conducting one of my favourite pastimes, no not ‘Personal Contemplation‘, my other favourite pastime, ‘people watching‘. We had one very welcome distraction during this period of hectic non-activity, Amanda called by with a plate of her freshly baked ‘über Chili Dogs’ and I have to confess that they didn’t last very long, they were delicious !! Normally I would provide a photo of such delicacies but on this occasion, not being a Shazza creation, and Roy and Amanda having their own blog (Twernt On Tour), it is only right that I leave the photographic evidence of these gastronomic delights to them.
The next day’s expedition was slightly different to the previous one, firstly because I elected to wear my ‘Crocs’ instead of my flip-flops and secondly because I had woken up with a rather painful thigh strain, however, rather than disappoint my beloved I decided to be a ‘Brave little soldier‘ and just suffer, my mum would have been so proud of me ! We had again, apparently, decided to walk the route from the ‘Aire’, via the Apartments, to the Old Town, so that we could check the timings !! It took twenty-minutes to the Apartments and ten-minutes to the Old Town, just as the friendly young female receptionist had told us it would. I was confident that she knew her stuff because after telling us the timings she hadn’t once use those words ‘or so‘. We had seen the ‘Old Town’ many times now, both on our previous visit and already on this one so we decided to head out towards the Marina. Last year we had walked just to the point where we could see the entrance to the harbour, the place were we could see all the fishing boats but no signs of what interested me, namely the big, luxurious, Motor Yachts, so on that occasion we decided to turn around and walk back. “Mistake“, one of my fellow Motorhomers had told me, “You should have kept going, the Marina was just a little further“. So today Shazza and I would ‘go all the way‘ if you will pardon the expression ! This was no pleasant little stroll, well it would have been as to get to the Marina you first walk through little narrow streets, all lined with shops and an array of Bars, Cafés and Restaurants, then a path that gives tremendous views over the beach and the coastline as far as ‘Faro’, up around the Fishing harbour and then onto the Marina itself. However, as previously stated, Albufiera is on a hill and so walking anywhere means ‘ascents’ and ‘descents’ of varying proportions, these were playing havoc with my strained thigh. To make matters worse, my decision to change footwear had not been a good one, in all the expeditions undertaken in ones flip-flops, not once had they caused me any pain. Whilst the ‘Crocs’ were comfortable enough to walk in, unfortunately the rubberized top part on just one of them was rubbing away at the skin of my foot causing two blisters to form, so now, what with my strained thigh as well, I was beginning to do an impression of that cowboy chappie, ‘Limpalong Cassidy‘ !!
At this point I should be pronouncing that all the effort and pain to reach the Marina was worth it, it wasn’t ! Yes there were a couple, or three, nice looking ‘expensive’ Motor Yachts moored up, Yes there was the typical Marina Village with its multi-coloured apartments overlooking the moorings. However, this place was obviously built during the property boom, the one that ‘crashed’ quite significantly. Probably about Eighty per cent of the retail outlet units were empty, the handful that were still in existence were not exactly bustling with customers and the ‘Estate Agents’ windows were all advertising the vacant ‘Marina Apartments’ for sale at reduced prices. The walkways had grass and weeds growing through them and so this really did have the look and feel of a ‘Ghost Town’. We did our bit for those who were still trying to earn a crust by stopping for lunch, a relatively decent cup of Coffee but a poor excuse for something that was supposed to be a ‘Ham and Cheese Toastie’. The biggest issue that I now had was that after walking all this way, we now had to walk all the way back again !! And it would have been a sin wouldn’t it now, had we not have called into the ‘LIDL’ supermarket, that we ‘just happened‘ to be passing on our way back to the ‘Aire’ ……………………………………….!!
Fortunately, Shazza took pity on me and so I was permitted to have a day of rest. She on the other hand decided that, along with Amanda, she would go for yet another walk into the town. This allowed me time to ‘potter’, take the odd glass or two of ‘grape juice’, I am sure that I read somewhere that the red variety is good for aiding the relief of blisters and strained thighs, so as I had both ailments, I thought best I have the two !! Although it was a gorgeous sunny and hot day the forecast for the evening was high winds and heavy rain, so later in the afternoon I set about taking in the awning, removing the ‘rock pegs’, that I had hammered in solidly to the awning legs to prevent the awning from being blown away in high winds !!
People reading my humble ramblings would be forgiven for thinking that we are enjoying a ‘life of Riley’, but you would be wrong. Life out here can be stressful, unlike those people who are still in employment. They have few decisions to make, their days already structured, get up, have breakfast, go to work, come home and have tea, watch a bit of TV, have showers, go to bed then the same routine the following day, and the day after that and the day after that. Then at weekends, do the shopping, clean the house, cut the grass, wash the car and then on Sunday get ready for the next structured week. Whereas, each morning I have to wake up and start making decisions, do I drink my first coffee in bed or get up and do a weather check ? If the weather is good do we spend the morning at leisure, should I put the awning out, Does the fresh water need re-filling, the ‘grey’ or ‘chemical’ waste need emptying, what do we have for lunch and then what activity can I suggest we do to get out of another Shazza expedition !! These are all decisions that have to be taken on a daily basis, gone are the days when life was easy, when I knew what time I had to get up, I didn’t even need to think about waking up, the alarm clock did that for me. So just think on, there are decisions to be made in this lifestyle, you have to structure your own days, in fact, just thinking about whether I finish writing this paragraph or do I take a break and re-fill my glass with grape juice, is causing me stress, do these decisions never end !! …………………………………………………….