Friday, 24 August 2007

From Salamanca to Santiago – via Portugal

This post covers our journey from Spain into Portugal and back into Spain again.

On Tuesday 14 August we left Salamanca and headed towards Portugal. After an hour we stopped off at the town of Ciudad Rodrigo which the British had captured from the French during the Peninsula Wars in the 19th Century. The old town is on a hill and surrounded by town walls. Our guide book said it was a sleepy place but we found it was the opposite when we came to visit. Today was their annual fiesta and thousands of people had crammed into the old town to celebrate. Dozens of people had water pistols and were enjoying soaking each other while many young children had bought megaphones much to the dismay of our ears!
Above: Sarah and I on the (misty) beach in Portugal
Below: Ciudad Rodrigo

We walked around part of the town walls before jumping back in Ace and heading to the border. We drove into Portugal which is one hour behind the rest of Western Europe. I had a chat to the woman in the tourism office and she gave me 2 suggestions for campsites, one an hour away and one in Porto. We drove an hour towards the Atlantic Coast and came to the town with the first campsite. We finally found it – deserted and long since closed down. It had a map with the name of another town further down the road which had 2 campsites so we drove for another half hour. The first campsite was a very small farm, too small for our big boy Ace, and the second looked nice but did not accept motorhomes!

Dejected we drove on to the coast, surely there would be campsites on the beaches? We hit the coast and drove north but the main road was devoid of the usual campsite signs you see in France. We arrived in Porto and drove through some very narrow, very steep streets to get to the sea. There was a huge car park at the port where a couple of motorhomes had set up for the night. Sarah was happy but I was a little bit concerned about the area so eventually we drove off in search of the other campsite the tourist woman had given us. Surprise, surprise, it was closed down too! Back to the port we went and set up Ace next to a French motorhome for the night. Whilst making dinner Sarah somehow managed to set one of our wooden spoons on fire! She was engrossed in her Harry Potter novel at the time…

The next day we awoke to grey skies and headed north along the motorway. We had lunch in a small town and slowly the weather was beginning to improve. We headed further north to a beach by the sea where we parked up for the afternoon. We spent an interesting hour in the sunshine walking along the beach. The waves were absolutely huge and were crashing into the rocks which formed a protective barrier for the harbour with its fishing boats. The tide even surprised some of the locals with the water flooding their beach towels and picnics! All of a sudden there was a commotion down by the rocks, someone must’ve been walking along them and got knocked off. Hundreds of people stood watching the emergency services arrive with medical attention. Lifeguards on the rocks were holding onto each other in a rigid line in order not to get knocked off themselves!
Above: Beach emergency, Portugal
Below: Beach tents, Portugal

We headed back to Ace and decided to get out the portable bbq Sarah had bought me for my birthday. In a park near the beach we had BBQ pork, home made beef burgers with cheese, marinated chicken and mushrooms. By this stage we had decided to stay the night in one of the beach car parks as it was a fairly quiet little town, expcept for the railway above the car park! We played monopoly in the van before walking along the beach at sunset. Sarah was quite cold in the evening as the wind was making it a bit chilly!

I could understand a fair bit of written Portuguese as many words are similar to Spanish. It sounds completely different though! Many of the tourist signs we saw in Portugal were in English, French, German and Portuguese – no sign of Spanish anywhere!

The next day I got up and went for a walk along the beach while Sarah had her weekly shower. Joookee! No joke really… We then headed north to Caminha and got the small car ferry across the river to Spain. We drove along the Galician coastline and eventually found a campsite with room right on the sea. The pitch for Ace was quite small and quite steep so we drove onto Baiona, one of the largest towns on the coast and very pretty too. It was choc full of holiday makers and both the campsites were rammed. We were given a list of campsites in Galicia so we got back in Ace and kept driving north, this time past the city of Vigo back towards the coast again.
Above: Wild Galician coastline
Below: Sarah loving the sunset

Signage for campsites was very poor yet again and Sarah jumped out at the tourism office for directions. We eventually found a campsite at 6pm – Camping Aldan – which had room for us. Most of the campsite was for tents and caravans but there was one small empty field for Ace. They dangled a hose out of the flat above reception so we could fill up our water supplies before heading to our pitch. We had loads of room, free wifi and it was sunny. Bliss! Or so we thought…

Around 7pm, 2 caravans and a motorhome turned up and all of a sudden our huge private space was no more! We went for a walk to the beach and watched the sunset – a very steep walk down a hill and a very steep climb back up later on! At 10pm, music started up from the campsite to entertain people at the bar. We were probably in the part of the campsite the most far away yet we had to turn the volume up the whole way on the laptop so we could finish watching our movie. Signs in the campsite prohibit the sounding of horns after 11pm but apparently live bands playing until 1am are okay! Most of the people at the campsite were families with small children so I can’t imagine they liked it too much.

The next day was a big jobs day – we cleaned the whole of our boot (the storage space under the bed), did our washing and hoovered Ace’s interior. Ace is still in need of a bath for his exterior though. We played table tennis and walked along the beach again. We had intended to update the website but the WiFi had stopped working! Grrrrr! Yet again we had a 10pm concert – this time it was an accordion playing until 1am. Thankfully, it wasn’t quite as loud as the previous night.

The next morning it was hot and sunny again as we once more asked for the hose to be dangled down from the heavens to fill Ace’s tank. We set off on the motorway towards Santiago as the clouds rolled in from the Atlantic.

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