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Portugal 2011 - to the South Coast

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Portugal - to the South Coast

For our first night in Portugal we stayed at a pleasant English owned CL type campsite in the small village of San Antonio das Areias where we sawseveral birds including hoopoe and some eagles. We also saw a local lady carrying her shopping in a basket balanced on her head, and strolled along to the village with its bullring and lavoir still in use. This was traditional Portugal with old men sat on seats in the town square and a few shops that were just the front rooms of houses with no signs outside. Next morning we drove up to the interesting fortified hilltop town of Marvão. There is plenty of parking (possibly suitable for an overnight stay) outside the seventeenth century walls and we spent a couple of hours wandering around the narrow cobbled streets, neat gardens and the castle ramparts with spectacular views across the surrounding countryside. It was obviously a strategic site for defending the border between Spain and Portugal which in fact has been virtually unchanged since the 12th century.

Church at Sant Antonio das Areaias
Church at San Antonio das Areias
fonte and lavoir
Fonte and lavoir near campsite
Marvao castle and gardens
Marvão gardens and castle
We returned to the the main road and stopped in Portalegre for fuel before heading south, taking back roads through gentle countryside and small villages. We struggled to find suitable laybys for a lunch stop and after following signs with a dolmen which turned out to be the logo for a waste recycling plant in the middle of nowhere, we came across a fonte outside a small town on a muddy and littered patch of ground. Once refreshed we reached the main road at Sousel with a very bumpy pavé surface which at least slows down the cars, and bypassed the larger town of Estremoz before turning west to the Barragem do Divor for a free overnight stop with just one other French motorhome.  After a peaceful night we drove into the compact city of Evora and found parking at the Rossio de Sao Bras on the southern edge of the city centre, after getting lost in the narrow oneway streets. There are many old buildings in the city, from the ruins of a Roman temple to the large cathedral, lots of churches and other ecclesiastical buildings and palaces, many with typical 16th Century Manueline architectural features, as well as an ossuary which closes at lunchtimes. In the back streets we came across a small square with an interesting globe fountain built in the Sixteenth Century.
Evora Manueline style doorway
Manueline doorway at Evora

Alvito tiled plaque
Alvito Azulejos (traditional tiles)

We continued south stopping at the small town of Alvito with a castle, now a Pousada (state run hotel) and a Manueline church, and headed across the plains to Castro Verde where we found a new cheap municipal campsite which was open but empty. We took an evening stroll to the town centre where we found many typical traditional tiled buildings, an old windmill, modern art on the roundabouts and were stared at intentedly by more old men sitting on benches. The large fire station was surrounded by orange trees and had a café and bar. The Bombeiros Voluntarios (volunteer firefighters) in Portugal are looked on as heroes although they are often ill equipped compared to those in other European countries. The town is set among extensive grasslands of the Alentejo and the area is popular with birdwatchers being the home of the great bustard although when we drove to a nature reserve by a remote chapel the next morning we didn't see or hear any. However a couple of large trees by the campsite had several storks nests and about a hundred young storks roosting. Apparently the town holds one of the largest traditional markets and fairs every October and the largest copper mine in Europe is nearby. It also has distinctive town signs on the approach roads.

Castro Verde sign
Castro Verde sign

We spent another free night at the Baragem do Monte da Rocha before heading across country climbing through wooded hills on a very uneven road (N266) to the town of Monchique in the Algarve. After a tour of the town with several attractive old buildings and street art we drove up to the "mountain" of Foia for extensive views of the Algarve coast (if you ignore the multitude of radio masts and very ugly concrete visitors centre). We pulled in to the mirador on the road down where there was a fonte with local residents filling up dozens of water containers.

The private motorhome aire at Caldas de Monchique was temporarily closed so we continued to the busy coast and a campsite at Alvor. We discovered free motorhome parking the next day by the beach but had booked in to the site for two nights. After a lazy day in the warm sunshine we drove along the coast to Carvoeiro where we had stayed many years ago but it was far busier than we remembered.
Monchique house
Monchique tiled house

The next morning we drove west calling in at Lagos for a stroll along the prom before continuing along the coast through the resorts of Praia de Luz and Burgau then over the hills to Boca de Rio, a delightfiul undeveloped estuary where a few motorhomes were parked - it's apparently popular for overwintering but there are no facilities. After lunch and another stroll we followed the main road inland for a few miles before driving down to another small beach with just a restaurant at Praia do Ingrina where we parked up on the cliff top with half a dozen Dutch, French and British motorhomes. The next morning we walked over the cliffs to the next bay where there were a few surfers' vans then chatted to a couple from Northern Ireland who had been visiting to Portugal for years, before setting off along the coast to Sagres which was deserted so we continued about 6km to Cabo de S. Vicente, the south westerly tip of Europe where there is a fort and lighthouse and a few stalls selling woollen ponchos as it's frequently very windy. The most amazing site were the anglers on the edge of the 200ft high cliffs. We returned to Sagres for another free overnight stay above the beach.

Clifftop fisherman
Clifftop fisherman

    Marvao castle    Marvao watchtower
castle courtyard and ramparts                castle watch-tower

Evora Roman Diana temple
Roman Temple of Diana at Evora

Evora fountain
Fountain at Evora

Alvito church
Alvito Manueline church

Castro Verde tiled house
Castro Verde tiled house
Castro verde tiled seatand bench
Castro Verde windmill
Castro Verde windmill 
Castro verde Moorish building
Moorish style house

Castro verde storks
    Castro Verde storks

Monchique mural
Mural at Monchique

 Lagos chapel
Lagos chapel

Overnight stop at Pria do Ingrina
Overnight stop at Praia do Ingrina, Western Algarve

Cabo s Vicente Ponchos stall
Cabo de S Vicente Ponchos for sale

Sagres Praia da Mareta
Sagres - Evening at Praia da Mareta

Now we turned north up the less developed Algarve coast calling in at various beaches, one popular with surfers at Praia do Amado, and headed for Praia de Odeceixe where motorhomes are banned from the small clifftop village but there was plenty of free overnight parking on the terraces above the delightful beach, where we were surprised to be surrounded by horses for a short while.  The conical rock is the home to several storks nests, this coast being the only place where they nest by the sea, especially at Cabo Sardão which we visited the next day after looking at the pleasant but virtually deserted resort of Zambujeira do Mar.  Driving further up the coast we reached the larger and busier resort of Vila Nova de Milfontes where we stayed overnight at the large but virtually empty Camping Milfontes in the town centre, and walked down the beach to watch the Portuguese at play enjoying a sunny weekend.

Praia de Odeceixe
Praia de Odeceixe
horses at carpark
Horses in car park
Chapel at Zambujeira do Mar
Chapel at Zambujeira
Clifftop storks nest Cabo Sardao
Storks nest on cliff Cabo Sardão
Balanced pebbles at Vila Nova de Milfontes
Balanced stones at Vila Nova
Cliffs at Porto Covo
Porto Covo clifftop
The next morning we drove along the coast road to the small resort of Porto Covo where we parked up with several motorhomes in a free clifftop carpark (with a height barrier from June to September) just north of the town centre and spent the day lazing in the sunshine and planning the next few days route. In the evening we walked further along the cliffs where there were several other motorhomes parked overnight in the large laybys.