It’s been a while since we got this big bus on the road. Too long. We’ve been pretty rooted in Cornwall but now we’re both craving sunshine and ready for a bit of a change. It’s been a miserable weather Winter, colder than I remember for a while. Things are pretty quiet at work after the mayhem of Christmas so fortunately for me, I was given the opportunity to take January and February as unpaid leave. Boom! Without further ado, the tunnel was booked, maps came out and plans were made! The doggo is more of a consideration than it ever was before Brexit. Obviously, the rabies jab has to be up to date. I’ve kept the old pet passport as, whilst it’s no longer valid, it is a good record. You’ll need proof of up to date inoculations including rabies and microchip certificate in order to obtain the Animal Health Certificate from your Vet, ten days prior to travel (the rabies jab has to have been administered at least 21 days before). The AHC lasts for 4 months so something to consider for travellers staying out of UK for longer than the 90 days. The process is quite expensive. I was quoted £280 but only paid £180 in Cornwall. It’s a bit different now when you leave UK via Eurotunnel as your pet has to be checked at the Folkestone end. The Pet Reception is just past the entrance for duty free etc. Leave yourself enough time before your train, it took us 20 minutes. We were both so excited to be travelling again. We got to Folkestone with no hitches, it was a lovely sunny day for driving. Our train was booked for 4pm but we managed to jump on an hour earlier at no extra cost. That would buy us another hour of daylight in France or so we thought. Unfortunately, the car in front of us wouldn’t start when we reached France so we were stuck until the breakdown guys had the good sense to roll him off and let us off the damn train. Bugger! It ended up being a dark and drizzly 3 hour drive to Honfleur. We were both tired and road weary by then but it was amazing to be back. We bagged a pitch with a view of Le Basin, I’d prepared a lamb curry that just needed warming. Wine was corked. Whoopeedoo. Let the adventure begin! We awoke to a crisp, blue sky day in beautiful Honfy. The remains of the Christmas trimmings were being dismantled as we walked around town. It must have looked spectacular at its festive best. We had a coffee at our favourite spot and bought Calvados as we always do. This place never disappoints. After collecting a few supplies and something for supper, we decided to stay another night. Mark wasn’t feeling another big drive. It was a no brainer. There had been a few small changes to Honfleur since our last visit. Even more Art Galleries now to browse around. My favourite Boutique had sadly gone, as had the traditional Boucherie we had used for many years. You can certainly tell that this place is a favoured haunt of wealthy Parisiennes. It’s just so, well, French!! Next morning we felt fully refreshed and ready to put some more miles in. Rain was forecast just about everywhere and of course, we had half an eye on the weather further down as the dreaded white stuff can come thick and fast over the mountainous route into Spain. Next stop was Saumur in the Loire. It was an uneventful drive. We took the fastest route and sucked up the exorbitant toll fee, time was too precious to worry about that. Saumur is a handsome white town with a beautiful Chateau overlooking the river. Not today though. It was cold, grey and drizzly. Not ideal for exploring. Never mind, you can’t win ‘em all. It was essential that I picked up my fix of Saumur Fizz before we were allowed to leave so I dragged himself out and over the bridge in the rain to do some shopping!! Bought a selection of delicious cheese and fresh bread (as well as the bubbles) and returned to prepare a yummy, hearty Tartaflette to cheer us up. The wine was a great accompaniment. We were up before first light and on the road, hoping to get as close to the border as possible . The rain had buggered off thankfully. All was well until the Sat Nav, well actually both as we always run with two going, had a meltdown at the last hurdle. It brought us off the motorway an exit before we would normally come off which I should have questioned but I went along with it. Sweet Mother of Mary, that was a huge mistake!! We ended up in a squeezy cobbled, very busy, town centre going round and round in circles with both sat navs contradicting each other. Every Motorhomers nightmare!! After much swearing and a most unpleasant twenty minutes of motoring, I managed to navigate us out and back to familiar territory. These are the things you laugh about later!! Next disaster, we arrived at Soustons, another old favourite, to find it closed. This was a great disappointment. We’ve had such happy times here for years. For now though, we were both tired and teasy and needed somewhere to pitch up for the night before it got dark. We ended up at an Aire on the edge of Hossegor a bit further down the west coast. Thank the Lord for the French Camping Carpark system. We got there as the sun was setting. It was warm and pleasant with a friendly feel to it. Amen to that. We walked doggo out to the tidal lake. We both needed a leg stretch, (little sod dived straight in despite being told no) then returned, soggy dog and all, to the van and sat outside in the last few rays of sunshine for sundowners. Supper had to be make do as we hadn’t shopped but hubby was delighted as we had sausages and oatcakes in the freezer. Not very French! Next morning we found a huge Carrefour close by and stocked up properly with all the lovely French goodies. Now the French are good at most things but they are absolutely outstanding at effing road diversions NOT! Nothing turns your gut in a 9 meter truck quite like a Route Barree sign. They divert you round and back the way you came then just stop the diversion signs in the middle of nowhere leaving you clueless. What should have been a ten minute drive to the motorway took an hour and was incredibly stressful. Finally, we were back on track and sailed over the border without further ado. We were expecting Northern Spain to be chilly and knew that we wouldn’t have electricity at our next stop. Hot water bottles and been filled and stuffed in beds to keep them warm and flasks of boiling water prepped. We drove the whole day to get the hilly bits out of the way in case of snow. We arrived at Tordesillas late afternoon. It was the last day of their All Saints festival so the locals were out in force and celebrating, lots of children singing and dancing. It was bitterly cold though so we didn’t hang around for long. I won’t elaborate on this town as I’ve covered it before. It’s very typically Spanish, not touristy, right on the River Douro. Well worth a look if you’re on this route. We woke up before 5 next morning so decided to have a quick cuppa and be on our way. It’s good to put a bit of distance in before breakfast and beat the lorries. We stopped for our first bocadillo de tortilla mid morning then decided we could make it to Seville if we put our foot down. It was great driving weather. The roads were pretty clear and we were literally layering off the closer we got. Warmer climes at last.
As we reached the outskirts of Seville, however, a weird, very warm fog descended. Bugger that! We wanted sunshine. Keep driving Mark. Let’s go to Portugal! An hour or so later, we were pulling up at lovely Castro Marim. We had made it! Last time we were at Castro was pre-Covid. We came with our old friends Janine and Graeme just as the whole virus thing was starting to unfold. It has smartened up quite a lot since then. We had a nice stroll up to the castle taking in the lovely familiar Portuguese smells. Our plan was to head down to Figueira but there was no room on the site. It was an impossibility for us to drive past Manta Rota on the N125 without popping in to say hello, Once we arrived, it was clear we wouldn’t be moving much. All the familiar faces were here, we received such a warm welcome. It felt like home. We got a brilliant pitch right on the edge of the dunes and nature reserve straight away. We set up camp and settled in to the sound of the sea. In our giddy haste to get here, we had forgotten outdoor chairs, table and our Moroccan mat. Oops! Guess we needed to go shopping. As we no longer have our Brompton bikes, we also needed to sort some car hire. We took the train to Faro, Max and Chris, our buddies from Cornwall, had recommended a car hire company at the Airport. It was an easy process. More expensive than Marina in Lagos who we normally use but hey ho. We were soon mobile and nipped to Decathlon to buy the bits we needed before driving back. We’ve hired for a month and added the kids on as they are flying out in a few days. We have soon settled in to life at lovely Manta Rota. We have lots of friends here so it feels very comfortable. The place is a delight and there is certainly lots to see in the Eastern Algarve. The Ria Formosa is a haven for wildlife. We live the simple life, beach walking, enjoying the fantastic fresh fish, buzzing daily markets etc with a bit of exploring and dining out thrown in for good measure. It’s a very easy lifestyle to relax into and hey, the sun shines! A lot! The Baker’s van comes each morning as do the orange, avocado and strawberry sellers, and of course, the adorable laundry lady who takes your dirty laundry and returns it next day beautifully clean and pressed for a mere pittance. There are several great places to eat, a couple of brilliant bars, the most amazing Butcher and a well stocked Supermarket up in the village. The trees are bursting with oranges and the Mimosa is just starting the blossom. The air is heavy with the scent mingling with the salty smell of the sea. Sandy beaches for miles. What’s not to love?
From Manta you can visit Olhao, the BEST Saturday market, in my opinion, on the Algarve. Full of music, life and incredible produce. The beautiful town of Tavira is just 10 minutes down the road. Fuzeta for the absolute finest fish grills ever (Rui’s if you can get in), Santa Luiza, the quaint little Octopus town with spectacular Barril Beach and the anchor graveyard and in the opposite direction, Monte Gordo, Castro Marim and Vila Real where you can see Spain on the opposite banks of the Guadiana River. No need to move the Moho, take a stroll up to Vila Nova de Cacela and jump on the train. It’s so easy and inexpensive. For all you Motorhomers, the wild camping ban has been relaxed a little provided the old 48 hour rule is adhered to, apparently. We couldn’t see any signs preventing Motorhomes at Pedras del Rei but the price has increased. Still worth it for that sunset view. The official Aires are mostly full. It’s one in and one out. You have to be prepared to arrive early and wait for someone to leave. There’s always movement if you’re patient.
I’ll sign off on that note. There are a few chores to be done around here in order to earn my afternoon beach time!! Fire pit needs cleaning and there are oranges to be squeezed. It’s a grueller 😆 Hope all is good with you and yours. Sending love and blue skies from this amazing Country 🇵🇹
All sounds lovely (apart from naughty sat nav and route barees!) We’re in Costa Calida Spain and slowly making our way to Portugal 😁 Enjoy! Xx
Hi guys, isn’t it just fab to be back on the road!! How is the weather in Spain? We don’t have long, undecided whether to carry on down Portugal or do a U turn and head into Spain !
Yes lovely to be back here for the first time since we left in March 2020. Our weather here in Calnegre is about the same as Manta Rota, we’ve had very cold nights up to a few days ago (1°c) when we were in Costa Blanca but up to 14° in the day, slowly getting better this week and we will be heading further south west. Is there much space at Manta Rota? We’ve only been once before and loved it! Enjoy time with your family xx
It seems to be quite full but always movement in a morning. There are loads of vans on the Carpark so you would be ok. It’s such a beautiful spot. Price is now €10 per night and €5 for 24 hours electric which you have to book in advance if you need it