Lazy first day chilling in the campsite in the Portuguese sun, first time on the trip that we have just relaxed and enjoyed the sun and peace. Headed into Porto in the evening for dinner and port, of course. On arriving in Porto there were lots of barricades and what looked like stages and grandstands, then a classic car with livery zoomed by behind the barricade. We had visited the city on the one day of the Porto Rally, we are not car fans but what a sound to behold! The cordoned streets meant we had a nice walk around the city down to the river where we stopped for lunch and of course had some Pastel de Natas, yum! Full of Port and food we got the metro back to the campsite before the races finished to avoid the crush, but it was great fun to have been in amongst it.
From Porto we headed inland towards the Serra da Estrela national park for more wine and maybe port tasting and some fresh air. First stop Viseu which is bigger than we expected and took some time to find the old town with its narrow cobbled streets. We saw a few pieces of the street art trail and stopped for a Guinness at the Irish bar, the local port might be good but the beer less so!
Had a go at finding a winery to do some port or wine tasting, maybe it’s just out of season but we failed to find anywhere open or willing. Once we got fed up of searching through endless vineyards for strangely elusive wine we headed for the municipal camp site by a river. I bet in the 70’s it was ace, nice location by the water, small town with a few shops and big, leafy and grassy pitches. Today it is worn out, tired, not been decorated since the 70’s and not been cleaned properly since either by the looks of it. My initial thoughts of staying longer were dashed after seeing the facilities and we stayed one night and boosted back towards the coast. We managed a walk though and saw some cool rock formations called the library as it looks like a bookcase and a kind of eel ladder man made into the river like we do for salmon sometimes. Luckily the local shops sold wine so we got some in the end!
The next day we made up for the municipal camp site of misery and stayed at the wonderful Camp Tamanco, a beautiful eco camp site with Yurts, cool sleeping tubes made from (unused) sewer pipes, a menagerie of small animals (loads of baby chicks), nice secluded pitches, brilliant home cooked meals and lovely home made gifts for sale. The owners cook all the food and you can choose from a small menu in the off season which is all fantastic and the wine is good too. They have on site screen and block printing and sell clothes, bags, notebooks and other cool stuff as well as local crafts such as ceramics and shepherd’s slippers made by shepherd’s in their off-season from scraps of fabrics, I wish I had bought some so maybe on the return leg I should!
Headed towards Lisbon as it was my birthday on Thursday and the only rule I had was no driving (and plenty of food and drink). On the way stopped at the national monument of dinosaur footprints, the largest collection of preserved Dino prints in Europe (or something) and it was pretty cool to walk around a quarry and be right next to and able to spot and touch massive prints in the rock. Onwards to Palmela and a camper stop in a car park next to a big castle, great spot and even better is the unnassuming bar round the corner which when you enter, opens out to a massive terrace with views for miles over terracotta rooftops as far as the eye can see.
The next day we travelled closer to Lisbon and a camp site at the Costa Caparica which was home for 2 nights. A nice, if a little rocky and sandy, campsite which was a good base for the bus to Lisbon and a short walk to a nice beach. A couple of day mooching around the streets of Lisbon, lunch on the seafront, lots of sangria and Pastel de Natas from the place they were first created, birthday bliss.
Now we are by the Spanish border again, tomorrow we cross and try to find the location of a zip line that traverses the two countries before we venture on South into Spain.
Note, about general van life.
The budget recommended in our guide book is 75 Euros per adult per day, we are on a budget of 60 euros between two of us (excluding fuel and road tolls) and still managing to keep any extra money each day to put into a fund for fun stuff that may cost more later. People often ask how can we afford to travel so much and so often, well, we budget hard. On trips we alternate staying in the free or cheap ‘stellplatz’ spots for campers, sometimes just a parking spot, sometimes with provisions for fresh water but rarely more than that. Other nights we stay at campsites, today is day 2 on this particular one because it is nice and also has a washing machine so we can get all our clothes clean ready for the next adventures. We eat out sometimes but mostly eat in the van or on the BBQ to save the cash for gondolas, sightseeing or anything else that takes our fancy. Our jobs are freelance and fairly flexible, I make things from whisky barrels and other reclaimed materials and work as a graphic designer from time to time and supplement my income working as a biomass boiler service engineer, a job that is heavily weighted to winter work which is great. I converted the van myself and we are fairly careful at home so we can have these adventures. There are plenty of people travelling in greater luxury and some more cramped and haphazard than us, it is all good and it is all fun. I love seeing the world in this way and look forward to many more trips in the future. Just get out there, on any budget, in any vehicle, adventure is possible!