Tchau, Portugal / Hola España

Crossing Spain

We chose to return to France along a part of Spain we hadn’t visited before – La Rioja. Our first stop, not far from the Portuguese Border was Zamora. We decided to stop in a Motorhome Area, FREE, along the side of the river with a great view of the walled town. The last time we drove through Zamora, heading south, but now we had time to spend visiting. Zamora is famous for its numerous Romanesque Churches built in the 11th and 12th Centuries, while we didn’t see them all, we did wander up to the Castle on the top of the hill and crossed the Poets Bridge, wandered the small bar-lined narrow streets. Zamora is definitely worth a visit!

Heading east towards France our next stop was a very pleasant surprise – Haro – the capital of La Rioja and the centre of the wine producing region. We stopped at https://www.campingdeharo.com/en, located just outside another very picturesque town, centred around a square and the old streets meandering off around. At the base of the hill there are a number of Wine Bodegas, think Caves in France, more than a store, generally the hub of the wine production.

After Haro, we continued our journey east, the intention was to stop overnight at Canfranc-Estación. We stopped for lunch close to the Motorcycle Circuit de Navarra, at Los Arcos. We did ask the Security guard if we could take photos inside but she was not impressed!

We had been watching the weather for a few days, as there were avalanche warnings in the Pyrenees and more importantly at Canfranc. Canfranc-Estación was designed in a very elaborate style and at great expense, on one of the few border crossings between France and Spain. It had a slightly chequered past, a fire in its early days, a hub for Nazi profiteering and strangely also a known route for Resistance, Jews and British Military leaving occupied France in World War Two, before closing in the 1970s, when the last train to leave actually demolished a bridge on the line (without fatality). It was left abandoned for several years, but typically is now surrounded by scaffolding and fencing as it is being refurbished and brought back into life as a Station and Hotel.

Instead of staying at Canfranc, with the threat of bad weather, we headed through the Somport Tunnel and into France…. As always, thank you for reading, we hope you and your families are safe and well, we’ll be back with our trip through France, soon!

Thirteen Days in Portugal…

Reg meets the Easter Bunny in Obidos (he doesn’t look too sure though!)

Having only spent one night in Portugal before, we planned to do a brief tour and take in a few sites. We didn’t really know too much about the country so we were very keen. Our plan was to head west along the coast and then north, before crossing eastwards back to Spain.

Crossing the border into Portugal, in the worst rain, since Finland 2019, was an adventure. We got onto the toll road, rather than a ferry (as we couldn’t find any information about the maximum size of vehicle), and over the bridge, then we were at a Toll Plaza (Portagem), where foreigners are directed to a machine to pay, but it wouldn’t accept any of our cards! We weren’t the only ones, everyone seemed to be having an issue, we tried logging in to the website, but still nothing, so last result – DRIVE!!! We have subsequently found out that there are often issues with the website and have since logged in and signed up,fingers crossed we haven’t got a letter when we get home!

We got off the Toll Road at the next junction and headed to Faro. Our first night stay was at the Faro Motorhome stop https://www.farocampervanpark.com/ Just a short walk from the town and the airport, but due to the torrential rain, we only wondered to the local shops.

Our next stop was Alvor and Camping Alvor https://www.campingalvor.com/en/ We managed to find a relatively nice pitch, but it was very cramped and despite finding an Indian Restaurant in Irish Town, we decided to head off the next day. In Portimão, we found an International Supermarket – we weren’t actually looking for English Food, but English mustard, Greg’s Steak pies and Cheddar, how could we refuse! We also found a Worten, a little like Currys/PC World at home, where we were able to buy a Portuguese Data SIM – MEO €14.99 Unlimited Data for 15 days!

We headed along the coast to Sagres, not quite the most southern point of Portugal but definitely one of the most exposed, with coastline south east and west – next stop USA! Our camping stop, Parque de Campismo Sagres https://www.orbitur.pt/en/destinations/algarve/orbitur-sagres was amongst the Pine trees, a short walk to the coast and close to the lighthouse, the Farol do Cabo de São Vicente, opened in the 1500s and first destroyed by Frances Drake in 1587.

After a couple of nights we headed north towards Lisbon, stopping at an unplanned location in the beautiful town of Odemira. Although not a lot more than a car park, it was right on the river and a stone’s throw from the old walled town.

Next, we stopped at a motorhome Aire just outside the walled town of Évora, the capital of the Alentejo Region. In the centre stands the old Roman temple of Diana, a twelfth century cathedral, white washed houses, cobbled streets and the Chapel of Bones.

Heading North, we stopped at another Orbitur site, just outside Lisbon, in the town of Cascais, next to a nature reserve, with view of the surfing beaches

Continuing north we headed slightly inland to another walled city – Obidos, home to a Chocolate Festival and Reg met the Easter Bunny.

We headed to the Catholic Pilgrimage Site of Fátima. There is a motorhome stop at the Cathedral, The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima, but we chose not to stop as we’re not believers and the bells rang every fifteen minutes, without knowing whether they continued all night it was too much to consider! Fátima, is the fourth most popular catholic pilgrimage destination in the world. It is a place of pilgrimage, which celebrates the memory of its founding event, the apparitions of Our Lady to the three little Shepherds, who are honoured in the Cathedral – Lúcia and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco.

Instead we stopped at a campsite in he town of Coimbra, before heading to Estrelo Paxio de Varzim and a campsite right on the Atlantic, with a fabulous sandy beach, next to a golf course, which is great until Reg chases a seagull shadow up the rocks towards the green (Don’t know which hole, as he came back before reaching it!). Estrelo Paxio de Varzim is also on one of the Camino routes.

Our last night in Portugal, was in the town of Chaves. We had stopped here before on our first trip to Spain, back in 2019, but had never ventured into the city, it was another fabulous old walled city.

Now our journey takes a turn back to Spain, we’re heading homeward, but looking forward to touring areas we haven’t seen. Portugal has surprised us, there is so much history and countryside to explore, we will be back, in the future to hopefully explore the areas we haven’t yet seen. As always, thank you for reading, we hope you and your families are safe and well. We’ll be back soon with news from our second Spanish Leg…