São Martinho Portugal : October 2017
We are headed up to the Silver Coast of Portugal, as we have previously done a flying visit to Lisbon along with neighboring Cascais and Sintra we are going to give Lisbon a miss this time.
I plotted the route and it took us a little too close to the outskirts (Chris: Outskirts?? More like plotting a course right through the centre)of Lisbon for Chris’s liking. The toll charge was high and the traffic was bad BUT look at this bridge we got to drive over! ( Chris:That should read “Chris got to drive over, with a pretty fierce wind buffeting old ScootR, whilst Rose got to admire the scenery.”) This is the Ponte Vasco da Gama bridge and it’s spectacular.
We planned to overnight in Peniche, by all accounts a scenic old town as well as the departure point for boats trips the Berlengas Island nature reserve. During the drive there it had been getting darker and grayer by the minute, with a good drizzle greeting us as we drove into town. We saw lots of tourist buses as well as surfers in kombis and campervans. I am not sure if it was the weather, or just our mood but we did not feel that Peniche was talking to us, so we moved on.
Next choice was São Martinho do Porto, a small holiday town known mostly to the Portuguese. This I chose from a picture I saw on Pinterest. It has a perfect ‘scallop shaped’ bay, really amazing. The camp site is right on the beach road with a fantastic view of the bay, and a 5min walk into town. The camp site was meh, but the view from our camper was worth it.
So you know how we always leave everything to the last minute, like finding the perfect auto bank to withdraw money! We had come to realize that Portugal is not big on foreign credit cards, they seem to favour cash or a Portuguese card (multibanco). The camp site did not take a card and we were out of cash, so no problem we would walk into town later and draw some. Later on we stroll into town admiring the view and the neat pretty houses, keeping one eye open for a ‘hole in the wall’ to draw cash. Not really seeing any and being a girl I decide to ask the guy in the tourist office. He looks at me and says hmmm there is only the multibanco around the corner and then maybe in the next village 10km’s away. Oh sugar (as Pam would say) what now? We need to eat and the camp site is hardly going to be happy if we drive out without paying. We tried the multibanco and no luck, but then thank goodness the machine next to it worked and the disaster was averted. NOTE to selves & others, DO NOT get caught without cash in Portugal. We were nearly caught in a similar fashion at one of the toll booths where we didn’t have enough cash, after trying three or four different cards the supervisor suddenly popped his head out from one of the booths and in slightly stilted English instructed Chris to put the card in and then PULL OUT QUICK! This did the trick, but I fear Chris had a bad feeling of coitus interruptus 🙂
It’s a lovely little town with quite a few restaurants and bars as well as a beautiful beach surrounding the bay. At the one end of the bay there is a narrow pedestrian tunnel through the rocks which when you walk though gives an awesome look at the open sea beyond.
With the number of restaurants, bars and even ice-cream shops, it is clear that the town must be pretty busy in season but by now was pretty quiet. We found a fairly lively but casual tapas bar for dinner and had a good laugh as the owner Mario spoke very good English having worked for British Airways for years and in fact knew South Africa and Cape Town very well. We loved his English accent and English sense of humour. The food was fine, nothing special but the atmosphere is fun and the service great.
Whilst driving up here during the day we had noticed an awful lot of burnt vegetation and still smoldering country side; however it was only when my mother Emilie messaged me in a slight panic as to our whereabouts and safety that we realized So what we had not realized that the part of Portugal we were traveling through and into was in the grip of massive wild fires. Chris reads the news on the internet from cover to cover, but I think he concentrates more on Zuma and his shenanigans than the local Portuguese news. Now we watched the TV news and discovered just how devastating the fires had been, with reports of 31 people dying in the exact area we were headed! It had been drizzling fairly solidly and of course as we left the restaurant to go back to the campsite, the heavens opened with great crashes of thunder and flashes of lightning. Not good for our clothes but great news for the firefighters.
Caldas da Rainha Portugal : October 2017
When we headed off the next morning the weather had largely cleared but we decided to drive on towards Coimbra and see how things were. We first stopped at Caldas da Rainha, a small city well known for its hot springs ( the name means Queen’s hot spring), as well as its ceramics. According to wiki, it is in a region rich in clay, and because of this a great many ceramic factories were founded there.It is now known as the “capital of Portuguese Pottery” . We visited the fresh produce market and bought a few bits, which took ages because we had to tour the market twice to find the parsleyspursuit of the perfect pear and potato and ….
But my absolute favourite part of Caldas Da Rainha were the tiles or azulejos on the buildings. I spent ages taking pics of different ones and in fact we found an entire block of apartments called the barrio Azul which is just covered in these blue & white tiles. These are really so interesting and I plan to do a post all about them at a later stage.
We stopped for a quick cup of coffee and pastries in the fairly stylish pedestrianized centre of town ( 2 coffees and 2 pastries for €3.20 put somebody in a good mood) . Time to ScootR off to Portugal’s main university town and former capital; Coimbra is calling. . .