Sunday, July 17, 2011

Epiblog - Mission Accomplished!

Well, home again and mission accomplished! More of that in a moment...

If you have been following this blog you will already know that we have had a great little journey, been to some fab places and enjoyed some great company with new friends. Our trip to Portugal did however have other aims and in addition to the ubiquitous researching along the way for new sites or aires for 'Club Motorhome' we were looking to complete the journey within the following guidelines:

- the first to spend no more per day than our 'home' budget
- the second to limit our diesel to our 'home' energy costs which includes electric, wood, gas, and water etc.
- to have fun and experience what the southern areas of Spain and, fingers crossed Portugal, have to offer us.

This is of course without spending over 'budget' and unless you are a math genius my bumbling with numbers of what I had and hadn't in the purse will be meaningless in terms of figures. I hope you will have gleaned however that with my 'mastery' (ahem) of budgeting and economical cooking we have managed to live within the 'home' budget. Contrary to finding Portugal expensive I found it to be similar to Spain.

Typically we ate well and healthily, obviously the slip-ups we had in the way of cheese and biscuit 'dinners' resulted out of meeting some good company on our journey. We say shame on them for leading us astray! Using aires and free / wild camping meant that our 'stopping fees' were kept to a minimum although that is quite normal for us when travelling.

The end result is that we have come in under budget by a princely 22 euros which is actually not bad at all. Our biggest extravagances along the way were a tank full of premium diesel by mistake (him) and keeping the water fired up with gas when we had electric hook up at the campsite (me).

We have also added some 13 new places to stay in a motorhome to our steadily growing website database which can be viewed here

Finally I mentioned that I wanted to stay on the weight loss trail. It was a close thing but I returned home a couple of pounds lighter than when I left. RESULT!

Friday 23rd April - Distant fireworks and local lightning!!!

Yet another long trip and this time to Ibi in the Alicante region. Expecting it to be fairly busy we are surprised to find oursleves alone once again. Electric storms close in and we are absolutely tippled on and very nearly get rocked over by the thunderbolts which seemed to be surrounding us. Is this the time to be seeking assurance that we are safe in our little exposed MH?. Anhow rain over and the ladies are out collecting snails - tea' s up!

As the day is St Georges and the neaby town of Alcoy is enjoying the big battle day between the Moors and Christians we are further amazed when no one turns up after the show. This is a UNESCO interest event and yes it is spectacular as we have witnessed before. Put it this way, we heard it in Ibi some 20 km away from Alcoi!!! Oh, by the way I stopped off and got some steak for tonights dinner - special treat, well you've got to, havent you?

Thursday 22nd April - Gas in the night, the van that is!

Not sure if this should start today or finish yesterday it being only four(ish) in the morning when we are awoken by the sound of the fridge ignition ticking - we've run out of gas. Oh well a quick step outside and cylinders changed over and we soon got snuggled down again despite my offer of an early breakfast. He said 'I don't think so! Or something similar.

After breakfast we spend a hour or so wandering the town getting a few shots and finding a very convenient Cepsa gas cylinder seller - brilliant!

On our way again we know we are heading off to Venta Del Peral one of our outward stops. All we have to do is find a supermarket. This we manage to do 14 km from our destination. I guess we must have missed some on our 190 km or so journey!

We spend around fifteen euro for our meals that will last until until we get home and a couple of drinks in the cafe, leaving us with 51 euro until Monday.

As the evening draws on we have neighbours turn up so from being the only MHers there to start with we become one of five all very suddenly and all very late. I wonder if we will ever have the confidence of risking not getting a space by arriving somewhere so late. Usually we are arriving quite early and then sit and watch the place fill up around us. I think of late we are becoming a bit more confident but I still like to get settled before dark.

Wednesday 21st April - Farewell Portugal...

We travel east for several hours and our destination is Villanueva de Algaidas. I have a good idea that we should take the short route as we reach the end of the journey, How difficult could it be? A straight run through, erm, villages that don't exist and some that do but shouldn't, parts of roads missing and next time I have solemnly sworn that when I have a good idea I will keep it entirely to myself! It turns out not to be our final destination for the night as it was enveloped in an incredibly strong but putrid smell, which we could not decide was something to do with olive or cheese production or possibly something to do with neither of those better options.

Our most sensible substitute for the night was Archidona and what a revelation. It is a typical Spanish town complete with a hilltop fortification and chapel and numerous other historic buildings. Very picturesque! The signpost at the aire also promised good natural space for walking or cycling. I drop into the main street all up and down hill for a carton of orange and a promise of a return visit the following day. An early dinner and night, although the night was not quiet. The aire is right beside the sports centre where children were playing until quite late (normal for Spain) and some farily excitable aerobics or dance classes were underway - bet it was the third age!

Tuesday 20th April - Vila Senhora de Rocha, Portugal

We take a short walk the following morning along the cliff tops taking in a little more of this stunning views before saying farewell to Margot and heading off to Altura in a gradual move towards home.

With 70 euro and a few coppers only we get a couple of things at the mini market and still have the notes left.We have food for Wednesday.

As a Post Script - We kept in touch with Margot following this trip but we were not to meet again. Sadly Margot died following a short illness at the beginning of 2011.

Monday 20th April - Vila Senhora de Rocha, Portugal

Margot has agreed to join us for a night at Senhora la Rocha. As we have a couple of things to do we arrange to meet up at the parking a bit later having handed over the GPS co-ordinates. We first have the Monday chores of topping up the budget and getting a couple of things in for lunch I won't buy more dinners until a a bit later as we still have our two left over from last week. Shopping done, we have 93 euro left until next Monday when we expect to be home. The weather has taken a bit of a change today and we are tempted to stay in Portugal longer since we have already come this far. We have already decided, however, that we will come back this way so perhaps another time will give us the chance to really get into Portugal. We have hardly scraped the surface so far but we do like what we have seen up to now! We have only driven along the Algarve so there is so much more to discover. Before we drove to tonights stop we had a little look at Alvor and it seems a lovely resort, as promised by various friends. I did not go and buy a cork handbag so I will have to go back to Silves for that one day.

Before leaving Silves we heard that the homeless man had previously been burgled with his home being ransacked and his motorhome stolen. Poor chap!

Had a little clifftop walk with brave Margot - we took a long set of steps down to a little cove. Wandering along the beach a little we found some more steps which were a little less steep and on taking these came across some toilets which had a very useful shower to remove the sand from my feet. Very smart they were too and then we realised that we were in an hotel's grounds. It wasn't until leaving through the barriered entry we realised we had just used the facilities of the 5 star Thalasso Spa Resort! Ooops I say how the other half live - that's those that can't afford a motorhome and have to just go away for a week or so!!!!

Totally blew the budget. Went to a bar and had a couple of drinks with Margot together with a Portuguese language and history lesson. The very charming bar owner was incredibly kind, suffering us fools very graciously. On the way to Portugal we had both realised that we knew not one word of Portuguese. Whilst the area that we were travelling in was one where local people spoke very good and advanced English I make a promise that I will not travel to a country where I cannot learn a little of the language. Its just too embarrassing. Supper again became a plate of cheese once more as it was too late to cook. Due to the romantic setting but without any candles I had to sit, barely stifling my giggles looking at the head torch that was being worn to create ambient lighting!!

Saturday/Sunday 17th/18th April - Silves, Portugal

Well we have been here almost a week now. The weather has been a mixture of sun and showers but they are very heavy! It is difficult to judge when the next one might be so walks have been short or in some cases dodging from one building to the next. I have had another good swim and this time a jacuzzi. We have decided to stay until Monday when the weather forecast promises a more settled day or two. It could be a worse place to stop and is unlikely there are many hardstanding places to go that you wouldn't run the risk of getting stuck in the mud. Tavira apparently had a tornado the other day so maybe it is a good thing the Mayor has banned motorhomes! We decline an invitation to join in the quiz night at the the 'English' Bar but judging by the revellers when they finally returned early hours, we missed a good night.

Saturday we shopped still keeping in budget - just! The campsite, laundry and swimming twice has hammered the cash a bit but we manage to buy veg for Saturday's meal (already in the freezer) and a meal for Sunday and still have about 6 euro in the kitty. So this is not bad and as an extra start this coming week we were not hungry enough to cook last night (Sat) and Margot has kindly invited us for dinner Sunday night! Two meals in the bag before starting next week.

We also managed between showers to have a good look round Silves. Wandering up to the fortress and church and through the winding and steep streets.

One of the many storks posed on its chimney pot nest and it was an enjoyable afternoon.

Missing entirely any showers. Also missing the opportunity to get a birthday present of a cork handbag. Sounds a little strange but the cork shop sells the most amazing cork items; baseball caps, wallets, ties, to name but a few. You will not be surprised to learn that we missed the Saturday opening hours by about an hour and with no Sunday opening my dilemma of whether a cork handbag is sensible, needed, tasteful, (well you know how some things seem like a good idea when you are on holiday but when home you think, whatever next!) simply disappeared. Oh well I guess it was not meant to be.

On return to the van I finally had a real go at the Psychology downloads I had prepared for this trip. Not entirely surprised, I was to fail miserably at the math aspect getting only about 66%. On marking I realised that in part it was rushing and not paying enough attention to detail. So already a good lesson or reminder at least of studying.

Last night the rain returned and seemed bent on driving its way through the roof! I spent the night sleep walking between opening and shutting the roof lights.

Sad as we were about Robert we are alarmed to notice that there is a man and his dog living in the car park now. He is apparently living in a fiesta size car and simply sits all day and night. I am becoming troubled by this although he does now seem to have made friends with some of the motorhomers and maybe they will be able to assist in his plight as they are clearly speaking a common language!

After a lazy start (well it is Sunday) we do a little housework. Still love that you can do it all, hardly moving more than three paces. The sun has just started to shine again so a walk is on the cards and I am pretty sure that we will move on tomorrow.

We enjoy a great evening with Margot and her Spag Bol - including tablecloth, napkins, sideplates and the works. Thanks Margot - I wonder if you ever ate the leftovers? Lovely as it is in Silves, a week is long enough in a car park however so this will be our final night here!