Wednesday, 25 October 2017

And so to Portugal.

This is out third visit to Portugal by motorhome; this time we are determined to love it. The previous two times where somewhat fraught, but I think that was down to bad luck. In March 2015 we were heading north through Extramadura when travellers we met heading in the opposite direction reported snowdrifts in the Cantabrian mountains and the army rescuing people on the motorway north of Burgos. We decided to make an entirely unplanned trip to central Portugal visiting Coimbra, Figueres da Foz and Nazaré. It was interesting, but we never quite got the hang of Portugal. The rural poverty, potholed narrow roads and driving habits more suicidal than  Sicilians made it a less than relaxing few days.

 We were better prepared last autumn and enjoyed our days in Porto and Lisbon, but generally the weather was unseasonably cold and rainy. We scuttled south to Seville. This time with autumn colour and summer warmth forecast into November this is our moment to embrace the chicken, salt the cod, devour the nata and down the Taylor's Chip Dry; we are determined to enjoy Portugal.

Portugal - the pot-holes welcome you...
before the sign
It is fair to say that we have had a slightly shaky start. We knew the aires would be busy, but the one at Praia Manta Rota was packed with motorhomes, mostly French, parked nose to tail. We gave up and found a campsite nearby in Cabanas. It had plenty of space. At first sight it seems a tad ove-r managed with barrier cards and turnstiles at reception. There is something slightly demoralising about having to check in and out even when you are on foot or bicycle. I guess this sense of order and cast-iron security must appeal to Daily Mail readers. There are many 'hail fellow well met' Brits on the site, flags fluttering proudly from Swift's and Autotrails, hearty laughter ringing across the site, Essex persons all abroad together. 

We will stay a couple of days because the station is nearby and its only one stop from Tavira. Also the Praia de Cabanas is a sand island off the coast about a kilometre from here, the beach looks stunning, temperatures over the next couple of days are forecast to be close to 30°. It's a bit too far to lug the bodyboard, but I could have a go at building my confidence at swimming in the surf.

So I need to ignore minor irritations and embrace the positive (probably not). Just before this new more tolerant, amenable me emerges, I must mention, why do middle-aged British men whistle when they go about their ablutions? No other nationality does. What's that all about?

If the site irritates you then the best thing is to explore nearby. The fishing village of Cabanas de Tavira is about a kilometre distant. Portugal shares with Italy a love of the intermittant footpath. Here being a pedestrian is an extreme sport, So we unloaded the bikes and cycled to the village. It is an attractive place, still a fishing village, but somewhat cleaned-up for tourists, traditional cottages intersersed with stylish gleaming white duplexes vaguely nodding towards the neo-modern - all rectilinear pure white concrete and darkened plate glass.

The light at the moment is stunning. Autumn clears the air in the south and given these windless, cloudless days a depth of colour which assaults the senses. Simply looking becomes delicious.

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