Monday 2nd February
We think it might be Monday, just had a little argument since we do lose track of time but since it was bread and dripping day it must be Monday!!
We left Sanlucar aiming for our next Camper Contacts aire just 30 miles away along the coast. Unfortunately the Rio Guadalquivir is in-between us and the aire and we had to go the long way round, through Seville. We had thought about staying the night in Seville but the aires didn’t look too tempting and were a bit pricey for our new found wild camping budget of €0 per night. Look at what we found! This is a large car park in the middle of a national park, you can just about see the sea between the trees in the middle and when we arrived there were only two other vans there.
Looking the other way it was forest for as far as the eye could see. The aire is just east of a fishing port called Mazagon and it was so quiet you could almost hear a dog bark! We might not have told you before but the Spanish do like their dogs and they are quite happy to let them bark all night long.
We took a little walk down to the beach but the wind was blowing very strongly so we beat a hasty retreat.
You may be able to make out a bit of the sand being blown about in the distance. First night was lovely and peaceful but the weather was a bit inclement but by lunchtime it was out with the chairs for a nice spot of sunbathing. More units turned up and in the end there were eight of us, three of them right on top of us for some unknown reason, big car park – park close?? We will never understand it. 4pm and a white Landcover turns up with a National Park official who tells us that we can’t stay over night, that’s not quite what he said because he didn’t speak a word of English but now I am the official translator for the Dutch, German, Swedish and Swiss units there and I knew what he was saying nearly. No dormir aqui. We had a little meeting and decided that the next aire along the coast was the place to be.
It just happened to be in Portugal.
Over the rickety bridge (which was built in 1990) and we are streamed off because we are “foreigners”, never thought of myself as a foreigner, I thought everyone else was one! We end up at a machine that wants a credit card and after trying all the cards it eventually selects one it likes and spits out a receipt for 60c with our registration number on it. I think that some of the motorways are toll roads with cameras and if we get seen our credit card will get automatically charged with the toll fee.
The first aire we get to is full up so we ended up in Villa Real de Santo Antonio.
The aire is on the old dockside and costs €4.50 per night. You get free wifi (shared with 100 other vans so really slow), rubbish and water. If you want electric it is €2.50 for 12 hours.
Obviously we didn’t get into the first rank, we are three rows back and it might have rained while we were there. The other side of the river (the Rio Guadiano) is Spain.
Villa Real is a lovely town built round the main square in the Pombalesque style. What do you mean, what’s the Pombalesque style? Do you really want to learn a bit of history? The present Villa Real was founded in 1773 after an earthquake flattened and the subsequent tsunami swept away the old town. The Marques de Pombal leapt at the chance to build a town in a bold new way. The whole town is built in a grid pattern, all the roads are arrow straight and are now mainly pedestrianised.
It took six months to rebuild the town, most of the stone was cut off site and you would expect all the buildings to be the same but there is enough architectural variety to make it all very interesting.
We even get a small harbour with grey lipped mullet swimming around.
From the aire we could see three chimneys with storks nesting at the top. We’ve been told that once a stork nests then the building that it is on becomes protected, so whilst the factory may have gone, the chimneys still stand.
On Saturday we decided (I decided) that we would go and buy a sim card so that we could update the blog a bit more often so we found the only phone shop in town and bought a Vodaphone sim card to use in our MIFI device.We then went to a cafe for a coffee so we could use their free wifi signal (yes, try and work that one out!!)
It wasn’t until Saturday evening that I thought I should check the MIFI thingy and see if we can Skype Emma later in the evening, could I get it to work – no way. I knew what the problem was but there was no information in the paperwork we had been given about setting the APN (access point name).
We sat around sunbathing in between the clouds all day Sunday and first thing Monday morning I got up early to sort out the problem before we moved on again.
Strange thing was that my phone said it was ten to eight and we hadn’t been getting up until 9.30 recently so I checked the radio controlled clock which said ten to nine. Lucy’s iPad said ten to nine as well so I thought by the time I get to the shop it would be ten past nine. Strange thing was it did look a bit dark when I left the van and walking past the church it only rang eight times. What we hadn’t realised was that Portugal is on GMT and my phone had picked up a Portugeuse mobile phone signal and altered itself!
On the way back from getting it all sorted I find Lucy chatting to a couple who had just arrived. They have their own Frankie, same age, same model and just as pleased as we are with ours. They have been full-timing for 2 1/2 years which makes our 15 weeks look rather insignificant. They had just come from an aire at Manta Rota but they said it was pretty full, it was where we had planned to go but since it was only 10 miles down the road we could always return if we couldn’t get in.
Luckily there were two spaces left. The aire consists of a road that goes up to the end and returns back to the start. There is parking either side of the road so in effect you have four lines of motorhomes totalling about 100 units in all. It is operated by the same people as Villa Real so the wifi is rubbish but the prices are the same, however this aire is far nicer than the last. If we gave Villa Real a 7 out of ten this one would get a 9 easily.
From the aire there are a couple of walkways over the dunes onto a beautifully fine golden sandy beach.
In Spain and sometimes in France the bread van would come round. In Portugal we get the Persimmon man as well. Here we’ve had Nell Gwyn with her narangas and limons, the above cost €4.50 in total and then we had the laundry van. Toot toot, bring out your smalls. We were in dire need of some laundry so we’ve given a large bag over which “should” be coming back on Wednesday. We’ve got no idea of the cost but we did see her handing back a finished set of clothes and all the shirts were on hangers.
We’re aiming at staying here for possibly a week until the weather improves a bit. It has been on and off sunny, windy and occasionally raining but when that sun does come out it is really warm. We’ve got a lovely beach, a mini supermarket and cafe just down the road and we’ve seen another three Frankies on this site making a total of 5 Frankias that we’ve seen in one day, I don’t think the factory has ever seen that many in one day, obviously a sign of a premier aire.
Everyone has been saying that the aires are much busier this year and they are all blaming the French (of course). We’ve been told, and we don’t know how true any of this is, but the French are avoiding Morocco this year. Main reasons are Al Queda, Ebola and that the French are only being given three month visas now instead of the usual 6 month visas. We’ve also been told that the Moroccans really dislike the French and have two prices for everything, a French price and a lower proper price, again we really don’t know the truth of this but it makes sense.