Albufeira – Faro – Alvor (69 miles)
For the first time, since finishing work at the end of our first season with the ‘Caravan Club’, we actually had to set the alarm on the travel clock as we needed to be up early. We had to pick up Shazza’s mum from the Apartment and take her to Faro Airport for her return flight to ‘Doncaster’, but first we needed to enjoy our last ‘site showers’ with all that lovely ‘unlimited‘ hot water, as after today it would be back to using our own ‘on-board’ facilities, then we needed to go over to the ‘Motorhome Service Point’ and do the necessary with the ”on-board’ facilities, then we had to go and ‘pay’ the bill of €94.00 for our thirteen night stay (£5.89 per day) and then Shazza ‘needed‘ to make a ‘quick‘ stop at ‘LIDL’ to pick up a few bits ‘n’ pieces, now why didn’t that surprise me !! On top of all of that we were leaving Albufiera at ‘Rush hour’ and for the first time on this trip we saw more ‘traffic’ on the road than we had encountered in the whole five weeks we have been here, typical ! However, it was only a twenty-five mile journey and we did make good time and were parked up in the ‘P6 Bus Park‘ at the Airport in plenty of time. We got Shazza’s mum through the ‘Baggage Check-in’, well her suitcase not actually her mum ! We then spent a short time with her until she went through into the ‘secure area’, we said our farewells, wished each other a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and then gave a final wave of ‘Bon Voyage’.
For the last two days on the ‘Aire’ at Albufeira, their WiFi had been ‘down’, this meant that I could not update my last blog masterpiece or insert any photographs and worst of all, I couldn’t ‘publish it’ !! Worse than that, if their could be anything worse than not keeping my ‘readers’ updated on our ‘goings on‘, was the fact that I was unable to check the ‘works of fiction’ so that we could decide where our next destination would be. The last weather ‘update’ we had seen, indicated much of the same gloriously hot temperatures for the foreseeable future, and we had agreed that whilst the temperatures remained very high we may as well remain close to a beach and the refreshingly cooling sea. However, the ‘works of fiction’ can and do change dramatically on a daily basis and we certainly wouldn’t want to get caught out unprepared.
Prior to our earlier than scheduled arrival at Albufiera we had been on the ‘Aire’ at Alvor, however, when the weather had suddenly deteriorated, we had to leave the beautiful golden sandy beach a bit sharpish like. So, with the weather now back to being hot, hot, hot, or with no information to the contrary, it made sense to go back and continue where we had left off. I turned to ‘Shazza’ and said, “Shall I programme Snoopy to take us back to Alvor” ? She replied, in her best ‘Star Trekky’ voice, “Make it so Jeeves” !! Oh I do like it when she is so masterful, not that I generally have any choice in the matter.
Like anyone who spends a great deal of time together, there are bound to be the odd disagreements, no not me and Shazza ! me and ‘Snoopy’ !! When we had programmed her to take us to Faro Airport, (it is a ‘her‘ because we have programmed it with a ‘her‘ voice command), a relatively straightforward journey, along the ‘N125’ until you see the turn-off for the Airport, ‘Snoopy’ decided to tell us to turn off onto a minor road. I knew this was not right so just ignored her, ‘she’ didn’t have a hissy fit this time, ‘she’ just re-calculated to the route that I was already taking !! Then, when we were about to depart the Airport I re-programmed ‘her’ to take us to the ‘Aire’ at ‘Alvor’, I could see no problems with the route, ‘she’ wasn’t trying to give me another brown trouser ‘Portimao Experience’ like last year, in fact it was pretty straightforward, back onto the ‘N125’ towards ‘Portimao’ then the ‘N124’ to ‘Alvor’. However, it was only a relatively short trip but for some reason ‘she’ was telling me that it was over 50 miles and that we would not get there until after 1pm !! My own calculations reckoned on it being a little over 40 miles and getting there at around 12pm, fortunately I knew this route so if ‘she’ played up again I would simply ignore her, again, hissy fit or not. We were within 3 miles of our destination when ‘she’ instructed me to “Take the next exit on the right“, what !! I ignored ‘her’, again there was no hissy fit ‘she’ simply re-calculated to the route I was already taking ! We arrived on the ‘Aire’ at 12:07pm and had travelled 44 miles !! I couldn’t help but feel smug on this occasion, but what if I hadn’t known the route and had to rely on ‘her‘ guidance ? I didn’t want to be too hard on the old ‘girl’ as for the majority of this trip she has actually performed impeccably, perhaps it is just a case of a bit of ‘sun stroke’. However, ‘she‘ has had the talk, anymore nonsense and ‘she‘ will become a ‘he‘, I will perform the routine operation myself, I have the necessary skills to switch her over to a ‘man‘ voice !!
When we had departed ‘Alvor’ last time there had only been a handful of Motorhomes using it, this time it was pretty busy and although we couldn’t ‘claim‘ our favourite parking spot we were able to park not too far away and still facing ‘South’. It was already pretty damn hot, 27 degrees(c) but there was a very welcome strong and cooling breeze blowing which helped to take away some of the blistering heat. It didn’t take long to get set-up, including getting the awning rolled out, pegged down and getting the sun chairs out, it is just like an efficient military operation now, we each know what our individual tasks are and so it wasn’t long before we were sat eating our lunch, a nice tuna sandwich made with some of the fresh crispy rolls that Shazza had picked up from the supermarket that morning. We had parked up at the side of a ‘Spanish’ registered van, our neighbours already sat outside enjoying the early afternoon sunshine. I said “Olah, Buenos Dias” and they responded with “Good Morning”. Okay, so technically it was afternoon, but in this ‘lifestyle’ the time of day is of no consequence, not only that, as was proven throughout our other casual chats with said neighbours, their command of the ‘English’ language was far superior to our smattering of ‘Espanol’ so who was I to be ‘picky’ !!
It wasn’t long before Shazza could hear the call of the sea, I love the sight and sound of the sea but I am not totally confident of swimming in it, so will either just sit on the relative safety of the sandy beach and watch her swimming or playing in the breakers, or I will occasionally venture out in it, but only as long as my feet can still feel the bottom !! There were still quite a few people on the beach and in the water, the beachside Cafes were still open, we walked down to the water’s edge looking for a place to lay out our beach mats and towels, when we met ‘Bertril and Elisabeth’, our ‘Swedish’ friends. We had a nice catch-up chat, as you do, they had been here for a week during the ‘really hot spell of sunshine’. We found ourselves a suitable place to claim as ‘UK Sovereign Territory‘, for a couple of hours at least, and then today, I decided to be brave and went for a swim, twice !! We hadn’t made any sort of plans for our first evening, however, after eating our evening meal and doing the dishes we decided to take a short stroll to one of the harbour side cafes and enjoy a coffee. The fact that I knew, from our previous visit here last year, that one of these provided ‘free’ WiFi, was surely just a sheer coincidence ? Coffee turned into a ‘Piña Colada’, ‘Chocolate Brownie Explosion‘ and a ‘JD & Coke‘. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to work out which ‘one‘ was mine !!
Shazza was kept pre-occupied whilst I did what I had to do, when the bill came you could not consider it as ‘Free WiFi’ !! It had been well worth the investment though, as part of the ‘doing what I had to do‘ involved checking the latest ‘work of fiction‘, which told me that the weather was going to ‘break‘ again, which meant more red sticky gloop if we remained here after Monday. However, before we made any hasty decisions I would need to do another check at the weekend, but perhaps I will suggest that instead of ‘coffee’, Shazza should go to the beach for a spot of ‘solar basting’ whilst I went to partake in a spot of ‘Personal Sacrifice‘ at the beach bar !!
Shazza hadn’t slept well, she was kept awake by the noise of traffic, which makes a change from the noise of barking dogs, I on the other hand had slept soundly. We had no plans for the day, other than a visit to the local mini-market in the town to get some fresh bread rolls for lunch, five for just €0.60 (£0.49), after that the weather would dictate whether it would be another day on the beach or ‘another‘ activity. It had been a sunny start to the day but by the time we returned from the local shops it had clouded over, still very warm but not the sort of day to lay on a beach. Shazza had done quite enough walking over the last week, so we decided that the ‘other activity‘ would be to sit outside ‘Big Momma’ and do some ‘People Watching‘ in dispersed with perhaps a few periods of Individual ‘Personal Contemplation‘, two of my most favourite pastimes so it got both my votes !! However, at a little after three-thirty the clouds parted and the sun made an extremely strong appearance, one that sent us both scurrying down to the beach.
After we had returned from the beach, had a coffee then taken showers to get rid of the sand from some of our more delicate places ! We ate our evening meal and did the dishes. We decided that this particular evening we would conduct a little experiment. We rarely watched TV or DVD’s, and on the few occasions that we had, it had always been whilst connected to EHU, so power source was never an issue. So tonight, being solely reliant on our Leisure Batteries, we decided to watch an episode of ‘Death in Paradise’, we had brought a ‘Box Set’ with us, amongst a selection of other DVD’s. Each episode lasted just one hour, we checked the Solar Panel Regulator and after a full day of our Leisure Batteries powering our 300w/12v Inverter, to keep our iPads topped up, and other on-board electrics (Lights and Water Pump), the power in our Leisure Batteries was registering 12.6 and after the hour-long programme we checked again and it was registering……… 12.6 !! We know that the regulator is working as I often check it throughout the day to see how much solar energy is going in. However, I checked it again after three hours, just to be sure, having only used some of our LED lighting, and it had reduced to only 12.5 which I guess means that our built-in TV only uses minimal power from our Leisure Batteries. I can see that this experiment needs to be taken a stage further, so next time we will watch a much longer DVD and monitor the power usage.
We were now on day three at ‘Alvor’, Shazza felt rested and we were both getting itchy feet. We had agreed to remain here for one more day for a very particular reason. Last year when we were here, we discovered that one of the numerous harbour side restaurants held a ‘Jazz‘ evening, unfortunately it was late in the season and whilst the restaurant was still open the ‘Live’ jazz evenings had stopped. However, this time around and the Jazz evenings are still ongoing, so we have booked a table for Sunday evening, a nice way to end our current visit to Alvor. I had decided to give up on the ‘Motorhome WiFi iBoost device‘ at this location, the ‘Jury’ is still out on whether this costly ‘Expenditure’ was one of my better ‘Investments’ as it currently is not performing to my expectations !! I needed to get an update on the local weather though so I did require access to WiFi, my last trip to a Cafe/Bar that provided ‘Free‘ WiFi cost me a ‘Cocktail and Chocolate Brownie explosion’ so I decided on the much cheaper option, to pay O2, my mobile phone service provider, the £1.99 charge for a day’s ‘unlimited’ use. I am pleased that I did for the ‘works of fiction’ had once again totally changed their minds, again !! It had previously forecasted rain for both Tuesday and Wednesday, now it would appear that there is no rain at all in the coming week ! Any other employee’s in any other industry would have been ‘dismissed’ a long time ago for such consistent inconsistencies, well apart from Politicians and Judges that is !!
Shazza and I, whilst sat outside ‘Big Momma’ in our sun chairs enjoying a refreshing glass, or three, of Fizzy Grape Juice, had a moment of reflection on what ‘Big Mommas Great adventure‘ was supposed to be all about, the key words being ‘Great Adventure‘. Last year, It was our first year, so everything was a big adventure, but it was also the fact that we didn’t make any real plans, we just drove and found places to stay, either ‘Wild Camping’ or using ‘Aires’. Although this time around we have spent some time at new places, on the way down to the ‘Algarve’, since getting down here we have stayed at places we know and are familiar with. Of course we needed to base ourselves in ‘Albufiera’ for our family visitor’s, but prior to that, and since their visit, we have stopped on the ‘Aire’ in Alvor. So we have decided that it is about time we re-kindled that ‘Spirit of Adventure’, “To boldly go where no man (or woman) has gone before“, well okay, a few may have passed that way before, and okay some of them may even have stayed for a night or two, but you know the picture that I am trying to build, C’mon work with me here !!
And so the plan as from Monday is this…………………………… There is ‘no’ plan !! We will make the decision on where we are going to travel to on Monday, on Monday ! There are still ‘Aires’ along the Algarve coastline, and higher up, that we have not as yet visited, there are bound to be secluded coves that we have yet to discover with ‘discreet’ places to park for a night, or perhaps two, and of one thing that I am more than certain of, and that is that their will be plenty of ‘Supermercado’s’ out there for Shazza yet to explore !!
And so arrived our last full day at Alvor, well for this visit at least. We had remembered to turn our clocks back one hour, I had also sent Nick and Cath a text to remind them just in case they had forgotten, they were still up on the West Coast making their way down to the Algarve coastline. They responded with a ‘Thank You’ as they stated that they would have forgotten.
It was certainly a less cloudier start to the day than it had been yesterday and the sun was already shining, it felt very warm and it was only 09:00am so a promising day in store. We hadn’t emptied the ‘grey’ waste or topped up the ‘fresh’ water for a couple of days, however, with going out this evening we both wanted showers and Shazza also wanted to wash her hair, that would entail her needing more water than normal. I didn’t want to go to the hassle of moving ‘Big Momma’ across to the service point, which is where my two other minor ‘Investments’ came in useful. A ‘collapsible’ bucket in which to drain the grey waste and a ‘Watering Can‘ to top up the fresh water. It was a ‘routine’ morning domestic duty as everyone did the same thing, unless of course you were just arriving or just departing, then of course you would take the van to the service point. After completing my ‘Domestic duties’ it was time for the usual socialising with one’s neighbours, first it was ‘Steve‘, he and his wife ‘Anne‘, they had got married just ten weeks ago, had been ‘on the road’ for fourteen months in their old Compass Drifter Motorhome, but she had recently returned to the UK for a job interview so Steve was just kicking his heels waiting for her to return. Then it was morning chat time with ‘Eloy‘ and his wife ‘Asun‘, our Spanish neighbours. I really do love this ‘lifestyle’, not just the fact that I have lots of people to talk to, but the different Nationalities that you meet, and everyone is so open and they tell you all about themselves and their wider families, it really is a great community feeling and you do not need to be fluent in any particular language as gesticulations and sign language appear to be working quite well so far, although in our case being fluent in ‘English’ is a good starting point !! After my session of maintaining International Relations we had another ‘leisurely’ morning outside the van before taking a five-minute stroll to a small ‘local produce’ market on the harbour front. We returned for a wee spot of lunch and then spent the rest of the afternoon ‘on the beach’ (cue the ‘Cliff Richard’ song) and I even ventured out for a swim, just putting my feet down every so often to ensure that I could still feel ‘terra firma‘ !!
Our final evening arrived and we made our way along the harbour front to where all the restaurants were lit up, the varied aromas of freshly cooked food wafting into, and lingering, on the now still night air. We could imagine that during the height of the season these would all be busy with the sounds of chattering and laughter, the clinking of wine glasses and the sounds of crockery and cutlery as tables were cleared after one set of diners departed, and then quickly re-set ready to accommodate the next tableful of hungry customers. Alas, this evening, it was the end of season and so the atmosphere was more subdued and only a handful of customers occupied tables in each of the brightly lit restaurants. We began to wonder what the atmosphere would be like in the restaurant we were headed for, as we approached we were pleasantly surprised to see that it appeared to be quite vibrant, the tables were well occupied. We entered and I stated to the waiter that I had made a reservation, he checked his list, crossed our names off and showed us to our table. We were pleased that we had a table near to the front of the dining area, where the band would be playing, at least we would get a decent view. It was a pleasant enough evening, but as always with Portuguese gastronomy, it was good honest food but hardly what you would call ‘fine dining’. The band called themselves the “New Orleans Jazz Band” but to be more accurate they should have re-named themselves the “Old Orleans Jazz Band” as none of them could have been a day under Seventy years old !! However, credit where credit is due, when they started playing I did feel some involuntary movements from my feet, no this wasn’t them trying to run out of the door, in fact their music, initially at least, was pretty damn good.
Shazza and I looked across the table at each other and smiled, the smiles that said “Hey, this isn’t bad at all“, had the band stopped playing after the end of their first session and gone home for their cocoa and digestive biscuit, we would have left that evening feeling pretty well contented. However, they elected to do a ‘second set‘, they were all obviously getting tired by this time, well it takes a lot of lung power to keep decent tunes coming out of ‘Trombones‘, ‘Trumpets‘, ‘Saxophones’ and ‘Clarinets‘, not helped by having to keep taking a puff on an Asthma inhaler every few minutes !! Let’s be brutally frank here, we were not going to get ‘Dixieland‘ class entertainment for €5 a head on the ‘Algarve’ were we ? It was time to move on to pastures new…………..