A Different Christmas here on the Algarve

Well, what a bizarre year 2020 turned out to be, for all the wrong reasons. Who would have believed that the World would be turned on its head almost overnight and we would all be flung into a scene from some far fetched apocalyptic movie. I lost my dear old Mum (not Covid related). We both lost our jobs with Camping in the Forest but thankfully managed to salvage the season and find alternative employment which turned out far better than we could have hoped. We fled the country just before it all hit the fan again and made it over the various borders and into Portugal just in time. Lockdown. The Sequel!

On arrival, It became clear almost immediately that the face of Motorhoming had changed for good here in Portugal. The spread of Corona Virus had forced the authorities to take a stand against wild camping. Instead of vans turning up for the Winter months once the Summer Tourists had departed and moving on from each location after a couple of days, hordes of hippy kids had hung around all year, totally out staying their welcome, clogging up beach carparks and dumping toilet waste all over the National Park. The large gatherings breached lockdown rules and the virus began to spread in the worst affected areas. It gave the Portuguese Government every good reason and possibly the excuse they had been looking for for some time to outlaw wild camping. A great shame for those of us who played by the (albeit unwritten) rules. It’s not all about ‘free’ camping you see. Most of us are not free loaders. we just like to experience the wild and beautiful spots without having to be tied to the uniformity of Aires or Campsites. We have all facilities on board and can be self sufficient for a few days at a time before we need to access a site to ‘fill and dump’. We pay our way by eating out and shopping locally ie putting money into an economy which otherwise struggles through Winter with very few tourists around. The bars, cafes, shops and restaurants are clearly suffering now. Many have closed up. It’s a real shame. The end of an era.

Anyway, aside from all that, we were very comfortable where we were and so decided to stick around at Figueira until the end of January. The weather had been amazing considering it was December. Restrictions were starting to be imposed again though. Curfews were out in place over bank holidays etc. to try and stop large family gatherings and concerts and Christmas Markets were cancelled. Matt and Lucy were still planning to fly out to us for Christmas and the New Year if Boris and his Tier System would allow. It was all getting a bit tense. We picked up a hire car from Lagos for a month rather than risk moving the van around. It would be handy if the kids made it out. We would be able to collect them from the Airport and do a bit of sightseeing depending on the regulations. It’s a funny old thing having your freedom mucked around with isn’t it? Ho hum, so the day arrived for them to leave England, (after 3 flight cancellations cutting Matts trip almost in half), and bugger me if it’s not the day the new vile strain of Covid rears it’s ugly head. European countries immediately started to ‘ban the British’. We were literally just about the set off to Faro when Matt called to say they’d been taken off the plane. Spain, France and Portugal were making further announcements at 6pm. It was not looking good. Poor Lucy was beside herself. I admit to feeling ever so slightly devastated myself. Two hours later I’d given up completely and gone off to do a grocery shop at Intermarche. As I was getting out of the car with my bags a jubilant message pinged through to say ‘Mum, we are coming’!!! Relieved didn’t touch the sides. I burst into tears but at least they were happy ones. What a nail biter. It’s 4 years since we got to spend a Christmas with our Son.

Their original month long trip was cut down to two weeks but we managed to cram quite a lot in between Matt’s epic surfing sessions. It was a bit of a squeeze getting 4 adults, a dog a surfboard and 2 skate boards into a Ford Fiesta!! We took them to all our favourite haunts along the Algarve. Armacao do Pera and the beautiful chapel of Nossa Senhorha da Rocha on the headland at Porches. Ferragudo, Alvor and of course lovely Lagos which looked especially pretty at night dressed in its sparkling Christmas lights. In the opposite direction we visited Aljezur, the surf resort of Arrifana, wild and wonderful Carrapeteira and Praia do Armado.

You’ll find all of these fabulous spots under separate headings so I won’t harp on but suffice it to say the kids loved them all. We got to explore many new to us beaches too. Having the car was a huge bonus. So many spots which would have been otherwise inaccessible with our big van. The dramatic Cliff formations of Ponta da Piedade just outside Lagos were a real highlight for me. Praias de Zavial and Ingrina between Figueira and Vila do Bispo, can’t believe we have missed these previously, they were both so pretty. We went out for Sunday lunch on the terrace at Cafe Ingles by the castle at Silves and watched a super live band. Great food and just a wonderful atmosphere sitting outside in the sunshine. Our good friends here at Figueira have all made the kids feel so welcome, from a safe distance of course. They tagged on to a couple of our group celebratory meals out. We just had to split the tables in order to comply with the rules. Such great company. On Christmas Day we were treated to our own private Circus by Spanish and Italian performers staying on site. How amazing was that!

In the evenings Matt and I have mostly cooked. He has been suitably impressed by the fresh produce available here. We managed to visit a couple of markets although the larger ones were of course cancelled due to Covid. We’ve barbecued a few times too and sat around the fire pit outside the van. Cards against Humanity is the worst best game ever! I’ve laughed til my face hurt! It’s been a truly magical time. We feel extremely lucky. A very welcome reminder of almost normality. I say almost. We’ve obviously worn our masks, sanitised to within an inch of our lives and complied with curfews and social distancing rules as were required of us here on the Algarve. I guess that IS the new norm? Hopefully now the vaccine is here though there is finally light at the end of this very long, dark tunnel. Matt and Lucy have left us and flown back to quarantine in a chilly, snow covered England. It’s back to the quiet life for us. I’m trying to stem the tears. Dylan will miss his cuddles from Lucy and Matt’s frisbee games on the beach.

It only remains for me to wish all of you out there a very happy (and more importantly healthy) New Year. Feliz Ano Novo as they say around here. Sending love and hope to you guys. Thanks for reading as always. Bye for now. Peace out. Michelle and Mark. PS. Dry January is most unlikely at Casa Wadsworth!! Cheers to that ❤️🍷

2 comments

  1. Nice to here from you again Michelle, it was a surprise that you’ve found quite a few new beauty spots along the Algarve, I thought we knew the coastline like the back of our hands, goes to show, everyday is a school day, we will be giving them a coat of looking at as soon as its possible. Pleased to hear that you managed to have a family Xmas, keep on keeping on.

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