Portugal VW T25 1981 Campervan

We’re crossing the border into Portugal and our destination is Faro, we camp a night inland not far from Faro before setting in the next day. Faro is an old fishing town that seems to be the gateway by boat to a lot of the tourist attractions on the Algarve, the place itself wasn’t all that inspiring with the usual church in the middle and fortified walls surrounding the town. Faro is surrounded by a lot of sand banks that you need a boat to take you out to a lot of the beaches.

So after looking around we jump back into the old girl and set off along the coast towards Lagos, here we will drive past Lagos to an area called Figueira. We are 5 Km from the beach and have a tip off from one of the few campers here which seems a whole campsite to ourselves. “Up that gravel road over the hill” says the Dutch camper, “Beautiful beach!” of course we read about some beach that you walk to and only locals seem to go there. I was very cautious to say the least because watching vehicles from a distance it looked steep! So hesitantly I agree to drive up and walk the further 2 Km’s from a park where you can drive no further. We set off down the hill through bush and begin to see the ocean. The outlook was serenity and only one family were on this beach, golden sandy beach with this particular beach very sheltered on what was a very windy day. Surrounded by a rocky cliff face and blocked either end by rock boulders this was a beach to ourselves. Walk to the waters edge and you see fish half a metre long swimming in shoals of 20 hunting their catch, the water falls deep within two metres off the shore line. Paddle the water and it’s freezing… This so they say is the Atlantic waters, coming from Spain in such extreme hot conditions to driving over and feeling the cold wind whip off the ocean, is this what we are in for for the rest of Portugal?

The next day we pack up early and beat the tourist to visit Lagos, known for it’s clear turquoise ocean surrounded by steep corroded and weathered coastline, this one was a photographer’s dream. We take a walk down to the bottom with steps made for access and take in the surrounding area. We also went to a beach sheltered from this corroded landscape and went for a swim, let’s just say it’s quite fresh… Nemo and Karen went for a much needed swim after hiding out in Ians waterproof! Unfortunately we got caught out playing ball in the pool with Maureen for Ian to hide Nemo in our camper! So this was Lagos for the morning and we set off the west coast and stop in a seaside village called Porto Covo.

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Porto Covo is a quiet little quaint fishing village that is home to a very rocky outcrop to the Atlantic sea, what’s striking to see here is the number of hippies around playing music and socialising but mingled with other parts of the community. While shops and restaurants stay open late all the hippies selling jewellery and crafts and when you head further to the beach the gypsies living together with their sheds of shops selling clothes and all sorts. Walk a little further and you hit the rocky coastline of Porto Covo and to watch the sunset onto the horizon. This was a brief stop before heading away early in the morning to Sintra.

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We arrive in Sintra and stay at a park for campers at the back of semi professional football club, surrounded by artificial turf I wanted to play some football. Caught blank starring at the stadium whilst Karen was talking to me and I was basically out to the world, miss my indoor! So walking up the hill we arrive at Sintra a very stylish old architectural town that is dominated by the Moorish Castle which was built around the 10th century by the Muslim population that occupied the Iberian peninsula, it acted as a control tower for the Atlantic coast. From the highest point of the castle offered exceptional views over towards the Atlantic and inland of Portugal. From our viewing point and you could see this from the village also is The Palace of Pena built in the 19th century, this design was of Portuguese Romanticism and the integration of natural and built heritage. This Palace is in a vast array of vibrant colours that adds to the Sintra’s World heritage site.

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When walking around the little cobbly village we stumbled upon a little shop selling Ports, wines and liqueurs, a local tradition we tried and recommended was a chocolate cup (about a shot glass) filled with cherry liqueur. Matey what a genius! delicious enough said. I asked him about Piri Piri and he happily took us out the back to try a range of Piri piri sauces….. This stuff is the bee’s knees of chilli sauces, and why not let’s have a sample of white port too while we are at it. So finally getting out of that shop we were lucky to witness an orchestra performing on a patio to a small crowd. We are getting hungry now and search for a local restaurant to get some traditional Portuguese cuisine. After walking around aimlessly for 30 mins from tip offs from locals we finally found a place to eat, didn’t look like much from the outside and actually walked past first time turning our noses up. Well what a lesson learnt, it was as local as you will get and the food was sensational. I ordered BBQ chicken with piri piri sauce of cause with chips and Karen had the classic salted cod with scallop potatoes. A few drinks later this place is heaving with locals, pays not to be fussy because you miss out on gems like these! That’s Sintra in a nutshell and a worthy place to visit.

We drive inland towards the Serra da Estrela, not going into the park itself due to the capabilities of the Green Machine this is home of Portugals highest mountain, so we decided against driving it, we did a walk near our campsite we stayed at for two days. A peaceful campsite in the middle of nowhere surrounded by tree’s was pretty good as it gets, we went for a walk around the area with taking the local campsite dog for a walk, with our GPS given to us by the campsite we follow the trails that had been marked. That night we had a beef stew and mash on the menu for the campsite and had an evening socialising with a dutch couple. A good stop once again to catch up on jobs and emails and restart in the Green Machine heading north.

We head towards Furodouro enroute Àgueda, this place is known for the vibrant umbrellas decorating the streets as cover from the sun, what a clever idea and really was a cool find.

We head to the coastline to cut our trip to two days on our way to Porto, and stay at beach side town called Furadouro. The sunset here was outstanding along this long sandy beach with dunes built up on the banks from the fierce Atlantic winds. We set off early and make way for Porto.

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Arriving into Porto we had emailed a VW garage to order an oil filter for the Green Machine to have an oil change prepared in a few days, this was so they had enough time to order the filter and delivery time….. Email unanswered and a blunt phone call saying they never received an email I promptly tell him I will email you again can we just have this sorted. Feeling abit messed around I had a cunning idea that sent the company into action. Send my email again forwarding onto each different departments from that VW service and promptly receiving an email higher up the chain that your filter will be here Monday, hooray. We didn’t ask for much!

We are staying at a Biological park here in Porto that has a camper stop and a big park of native bush and animals. This was our stop for two days, the village next door however are celebrating something with rockets! It’s not fireworks we didn’t see any, but randomly during the day or really late at night sometimes in the middle of the night what sounds like gun shots and explosions. It felt like a war zone strangely enough we were informed it’s a celebration….

We head into Porto by bus and take a walk around the old town. What a completely different contrast Porto gives compared to other European cities, The most prominent buildings you notice once you hit the top over looking the Douro river is the Sé Catedral this over looks both ends of Porto with being able to see clearly the Torre dos Clérigos which has a bell tower like structure soaring over the city. The other was the Câmara Municipal do Porto. We took a look into Sé Catedral and felt the outside carving looked quite impressive, we walked down towards the inner part of Porto’s old town and take a look in the railway station. In Portugal alone decorative tiles on the fronts of their houses seems really popular and do look really elaborate, well here it’s on full show and it’s impressive as the photos will show. We had a really good wander around the old town and even popped into the local bakery, Portuguese are known for bloody awesome pastries! Their top and most popular seller are Custard tarts that have been blow torched on top creating a caramerilised skin, these are the best things ever. Even got hit up by a local fella while Karen was off taking pictures talking to me in Portuguese pestering me while I was taking a photo, turns out the whole time he was asking me to buy his weed, and he didn’t even disguise it either. Looking at him with a shocked look on my face should of been enough, to then walk off still looking at me nodding as if I was interested. Was funny though as Karen was puzzled what was going on, lets move on! Now luckily for the day we chose to come into Porto is hosting the Formula 1 of Motor boat racing up and down the Douro river, these things had noise, smell and speed, not to mention a stunt plane coming up and down through the Douro river. We sought ourselves a primo spot to watch the boat racing before walking over the common bridge called Ponte de D. Luis I, this was known to transport port back in the day. So the main reason for heading over this bridge aside from the stunning scenery is…… to try some port.

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If you didn’t know with the name is that port is originally from Porto and is home to some of the worlds biggest names of port producing. What is port? Basically a sweet version of wine, red or white with more alcoholic percentage. We head to Sandeman and sit outside with the stunning view of old town Porto and the bridge with the River Douro beneath, we order two different reds one being the common Ruby and the other Imperial Tawny. Both were an absolute gem of a drink, some of these cellars have been around for 300 years. This area along the river is full of cellars of all different types and makes of Port. We take a wander further down the waters edge and walk into a cellar called Quevedo. And move upstairs to try the white port with jamon and crackers, what a tough day. Of course we needed to purchase some bottles of port so Offeley Ruby and Porto’s Conde De Monsul white was added to our cellar in the camper, perfect.

And that is our day in Porto, sight seeing, boat racing and Port tastings, tough life really.

The next day will be a chilled out day and to wander the local area we are in and get some jobs done, find a mechanic for work the following day and visit the Biological park that we are camped in. One not so convenient thing for us that has happened, we seemed to have found mouse poo! We have a little critter living in our camper since we have been at this Biological park, and the thought of it living in this small space makes us cringe. So research on the net has it that it is quite common in campers and only need a 1/4 of an inch gap to get in, well that’s a piece of cake in the Green Machine ’cause there’s a tonne of places it could slip in! So this will be an ongoing saga of how to rid this critter, and you thought driving along with the loud noise and shakiness of the Green Machine would scare it…. Nope!

Our final morning would see us pick up our oil filter from the VW specialist and head to a mechanic we found the day before and get our oil change done, wash the camper because a bit of water and jet blasting would scare the critter off…. NOPE! Not even the noise from the vacuuming. So this is our time up in Portugal before heading into northern Spain to trail the coastline to France. Portugal has been for me an amazing place to visit, the people are friendly as ever and the scenery is breath taking most certainly the beaches too. Don’t come here for warm beaches because in the majority of the country the water is really chilly. The food is second to none, and I’m bias I love my chilli and bbq piri piri chicken this stuff is rock solid. Porto is a must see for European cities it has everything and will catch you with it’s charm, and finally the port wine is as ever a must for the originality for this country. So long Portugal.

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