Christmas In Lagos

Having been on the same site for more than a week now and still looking forward to a couple more days here.  “Touristcampo Yelloh! Village” is beginning to grow on us.  We immediately put up the awning and spread our gear like everyone else.

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The site is huge – well beyond what we have experienced before with about 150 touring pitches and over 100 bungalows, shop, bar, restaurant, swimming pool, fitness suite, wellness room, carwash and laundry; all very well kept and in a shady quiet location.  Perhaps it is just the Christmas spirit but everyone seems friendly and eager to wish you a “Bon Dia”, “Ola”, “Guten Morgen” or “Bonjour” as their numberplate dictates.

Many of the people we have met here are here for 3 or four months each year.  They pitch up in their favourite slot or cabina, pop to the supermarket for essentials like beer and wine, lay out their deckchairs and enjoy the sun.

It is just a 30 minute walk or 10 minute bike ride to the beach at Luz. (Bit longer getting back as it is downhill to the sea unusually.) where Sheila went for the surf:

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And I just strolled along the sand.

beachwalk

“You’re a bit short for a Stormtrooper arent you?” Poor Carrie Fisher.  Walking along the beach on Christmas Eve and making the most of the sunshine in the shiny new awning.

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Christmas dinner was a duck – I would like to say taditional in this part of the world but they eat turkey and just call it “peru”.

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Merry Christmas and a happy new year to all.

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Serpa Mystery

One of the pins in our map had always been the town of Serpa in Portugal and we took a slight detour to spend a couple of nights there.  It has a “Municipal” campsite, one run by the local authority that is cheap, close to the town centre and shops, has a swimming pool attached and gives discount to over 65’s.

Waking up in the morning in Serpa was certainly a pleasure, we were beginning to climb down from the mountainous regions and the air was warmer even though we were approaching the shortest day.

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Serpa is an ancient city dating back to before the Moors who ruled this area about a thousand years ago. Narrow alleyways, strange chimneys, tiled roofs  and domed houses jostle with modern apartments alongside the castle.

serpa-street

The entrance to the castle is through an arch roofed over by an enormous slab of displaced masonry caught by its neighbour as it fell  during an attempt at invading the city.

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The castle wall is accessible to the brave (or foolhardy)

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and provides a commanding view over the city and surrounding countryside.

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When we visited the castle it was thronged with winter visitors as you can see from this picture.

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Looking down from this lofty height we could see a lonely workman wrestling with a leaky roof.

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He has some way to go though:

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Nestling within the sheltering walls of the castle is this olive tree said (by local authorities in these things) to date from the time of Jesus – so nearly 2017 years old.  Not having a handy chainsaw, I had to take their word for it.

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Here is the mystery alluded to above – The original castle walls were overtopped by about 7 metres of additional stonework arches carrying an aqueduct.

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This was said to provide fresh water to a manor house built in to the castle walls but either end of the aqueduct is about 30 metres above ground.  Above the end shown above there are the remains of a pump consisting of a vertical shaft, geared wheels and chains.

chainpump

Online guide books talk of a type of device called a “noria” but these were powered by moving water and there is NO moving water hereabouts on the top of a hill. There is, however, a circular chamber at the bottom of the shaft about wide enough for a donkey to walk in a never-ending circle powering the pump taking water from a well.

On the subject of crowds, busy streets and densely packed turrets, there was often no one else around no matter what time of day we nosed about.  This picture was taken at 8:15 one evening and shows the typically deserted street.  Makes you wonder why they bothered to decorate them.

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Off then to Lagos.  Just to show you what Sheila meant about me “snapping” things on the go; we passed this man at about 50mph (80kph) and I whipped my trusty Nikon from its holster by the gearstick, zoomed, focussed, framed and exposed in a millisecond or two.

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Well worth the effort.

oak oak oak cork cork cork….

No that’s not some bird call. It is the dominent scenery in this part of Portugal.  Next time you pull a cork from a bottle of wine think of these poor trees: naked and shivering without their bark in the winter sun:

troaks

corkoak

There are so many cork trees here it is the major industry of the region.  Each oak tree is “peeled” every nine years (After the first 25 to 30 years growing up of course!) and the peeling leaves a distinctive red scar, fading to black then corklike whilst another nine years of growth builds up for the axeman.

When consulting my bird book, some birds are described as inhabiting “cork oak savanna” demonstrating just how dominant the industry is here.  It is different but begins to cloy after a while so not so many current photographs.

Here, however, are a few to catch up with what we did in Spain on the way here:

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Salamanca Cathedral from over the river Tormes where we stayed for a couple of nights on a free aire. (motorhome stopover site).

salamancathedral

However, the cathedral and the rest of the town came in to its own at night in anticipation of the Christmas holiday.

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At night all the major buildings are floodlit showing off their splendid architecture.

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with a little help of course from the city council and Christmas.streetlights

 

During daylight hours it was just as beautiful.  We stopped a passing couple and asked if they would take our picture with the Plaza Mayor in thr background.  I was weakly explaining how my camera worked and the girl I had handed it to (Rebecca) said  “Its all right.  I have one exactly the same,”  Mumbled embarrased replies from me……

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The man with Rebecca introduced himself as Oliver and was a student from South America studying in spain and Rebecca was Italian.  We had a great chat with these wonderful people and Oliver took a “Selfie” of the four of us on his phone and emailed it to us.

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Meanwhile, back on the oak ranch..

We always chat with other motorhomers, especially those travelling in the other direction, to get a flavour of what to expect ahead.  We are getting very close to the festive season now and were beginning to get a little anxious about finding somewhere to stay over the holiday.  A couple with a very similar van to ours had been to southern Portugal several times at this time of year and recommended a campsite so we decided to book ten nights over the internet.  Ironically, it was cheaper and easier to book this through the Camping Club in Britain than to do it directly.  So..We are heading towards Lagos in the Algarve to be on a site by the 19th.

 

The Olive Harvest

The olive harvest time comes late in these deserted mountains especially to Janeiro De Baxio where we are staying on a campsite.  There are unfortunately many abandoned and lonely houses all around this district as people have fled to the cities of Portugal and other European countries to find employment. 

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The people do, however, return to the land of their origin for this time of year.  This Sunday is a “saints day” and a national holiday,  a time to return to your roots and to harvest the olives. 

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It is a traditional ladder and catch net affair involving all the family.

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Nets are spread over the ground beneath the olive trees whilst someone climbs the ladder and strips the olives from the branches by hand.  Leaves and twigs come from the trees and all have to be tugged off and separated.

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Olives and leaves are bagged up and transported to the centre of town

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where modern machinery is brought to bear on the task.

 

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It is important however to be able to recognise the two varieties of olive.  The green olive and the black walking olive – (best avoided).

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Division of labour.

My tasks when we are travelling are simple enough.  I take the blame for everything that goes wrong, I set the Satnav destination, I make snacks and fetch drinks for the driver, and as has been mentioned earlier, I take photographs to record our journey.

I can snap a tree:

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or a solar panel array:

solar-array

or the desert scenery between mountain ranges:

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or a beautiful abandoned stone house.

quaint-house

I don’t confine my photography to times of travel of course.  Here we are only a matter of a few days until the shortest day which means you don’t have to get up particularly early to view a beautiful sunrise.  Here are a couple of shots over a lake in central Portugal near the village of Malcata:

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eastlight-lake

Malcata was very kind to us.  We were able to stay two nights for free on the side of the lake just outside the village.  No electricity but fresh water and waste disposal facilities. 

For those not familiar with motorhome travel, here is an explanation of our requirements.  Every two days I need to empty the toilet “holding tank”- 14 litres of “personal” waste products to be polite that require specialist disposal points.  These are usually dedicated man hole covers that can be easily lifted or funnel type openings to the public sewage system made available to motorhome users.  I also need to empty the “grey” water –  a tank holding the water that goes down the plugholes in the kitchen and bathroom sinks and the shower.  The grey water tank holds 80 litres, lasts two or three days and is usually emptied down a drive over drain but sometimes has to be emptied into a bucket and transferred to another drain.  I need to fill with fresh water for washing and washing up and we have a 100 litre tank filled via a hose or occasionally a bucket and pump arrangement and this lasts the same two or three days.   (Water for culinary use is always bought from a supermarket in 2, 5 or even 8 litre bottles.) We have a solar panel on the roof which charges our batteries and even with these short days and low sun we can stay “off grid” for six freebie days before needing to enter a camp site to charge up and do some laundry.

Believe it or not, I have a database of 26,699 spots throughout Europe where we can access these facilities for free or for only a small charge.  (Only 11 of these are in the U.K.  That is why we are perched between a swift flowing river and a snow clad mountain in deepest, darkest Portugal and heading south to spend Christmas in the sun. )

Peaceful Roads

As I don’t compete with John on the photography front but would like to add my two pennies worth to the blog about some of the things that don’t get shown with our photos I will try and write a small account on occasions. This being my first: I do almost all the driving and John is the navigator and photographer, I try to take an interest in what John has planned but if I am honest I don’t really care as I feel that we haven’t got to be anywhere in any particular time frame and any road we are on is therefore the right one! I do however always ask that where we can we avoid the motorways. This isn’t because I fear driving on them, I love driving and will happily drive in cities,towns and motorways in any country. I do though, along with John love the countryside. So when John sets the sat nav and says we can be there in 50 minutes or 3 and a half hours, Yes, you have guessed correctly….it is the 3 and a half hour route that we take. This will inevitably take us miles out of our way through some quaint old Spanish or Portuguese towns and villages where granny is out walking in her thick wrinkled stockings wearing father’s slippers and having not put her teeth in!

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(I only wish John could have taken better photos but of course it would be just too rude.)

We followed the sometimes straight for several kilometre road that then suddenly had all of it’s bends at once where we veered this way and that and climbed up at the same time, wound our way back down again to be faced with another long long stretch of road for as far as the eye could see. We were obviously in an agricultural area, most of it being pig farms and orchards. We also stumbled onto a group of men with guns on there backs and while discussing what they might be shooting came across a dead wild boar with a man stood beside him with his gun…another photo which was just too difficult to take. Of course relying on the sat nav and John isn’t always fool proof as on occasions things go wrong, terribly wrong!!

dead-end

But further along the lake where we stopped for a cup of tea, we decided to camp for a couple of nights, explore the woodland walks and the modern village which hid a beautiful quaint old centre.

Aguillar De Campoo and Valladolid

Three days camping with wifi, electric and 6 beers in the bar for a total of 60 Euro.  It was a lonely site as the only other campers we saw up sticks and left as we arrived.  In our three days we did 5 loads of washing in our twin tub with copious amounts of hot water for washing and rinsing and four stout trees for the washing line.washday

 

We were on a lake and went for plenty of interesting walks and views with not a soul in sight for most of the time.  A strange exception was a class of 14-16 year olds collecting fungi for cooking .  There were some signs that others had fished the lake in the past (Empty sweetcorn cans and discarded line unfortunately.) but not a sign of a fish anywhere so I didn’t try there. 

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The sense of privacy around the lake led Sheila to demonstrate her lack of skills in rock climbing as well as her confidence in our medical insurance policy.  Here she is doing her impression of a Viking warriors helmet.

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For those of you worrying about the paucity of our diets with a basic motorhome kitchen, here is a sample of what I was able to “knock up” for our tea last night.

ribs-for-tea

On then to Valladolid where we did a tour of the sights.  Most impressive of these was the university.  We took in an exhibition of West African art which we both found impressive.

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AS was the home and museum of Cervantes, author of Don Quixote  but the most impressive was the staircase in the students accommodation block that we sneaked in to. 

university-staircase

Nothing like that at Bedford College!!