Where's Frankie?

Castles in the sky

Friday 27th November

It’s Black Friday, hurrah, I can get 20% off the drone that we all want me to get so I have routed us past the nearest Media Markt which happens to be in Badojaz, no aires but Steve from two nights ago told me about a parking area in the town and we had the option of moving on a tiny little bit into Elvas, Portugal.

The problem with the aire in Elvas is that it is in the local Intermarche, has only one pitch and wasn’t very highly rated. The other problem was that if I went near a Media Markt I would be spending £1000 so I looked around and found Marvao. The reviews were good and the views were meant to be lovely so off we went due west. At one point Stella was saying turn right in 60 miles so nice straight roads most of the way.

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As we are driving along we see a new type of tree. They’re not olives, they’ve obviously been planted and they are surrounded by high fences to stop them escaping, what could they be? Lucy eventually worked out that they must be Oak trees but definitely not cork oaks or if they were had never been harvested. She then had an epiphany and said they are food for the pigs. At this time of year in every shop, supermarket and restaurant there are large hams hanging from the ceilings (the best are the ones where the pigs are acorn fed) but we’ve hardly seen a pig in the wild. We must be here at the wrong time although we did see a couple of pigs snuffling around the trees,; there must be hundreds of square miles of pig farms and not a mini nissan hut in sight. I think she’s a boffin for working it all out.

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Welcome to Portugal and this is as much of a border as we get now. There was a car park, a couple of shuttered up buildings but not a soul in sight.

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From the border it was only 7 miles to our aire and we could see this town stuck on top of a mountain.

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Lucy said jokingly that the aire must be at the top, just what we need, some more high altitude chilliness.

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But there is a castle at the top, there won’t be any room left to fit us in.

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And here we are, nearly at the top of a mountain.That skinny fence at the front is to stop us falling over the edge in case Frankie comes off his blocks.

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Taps and drinking water. Listen up, this is where we share some technical information. Normally the water taps have threaded ends on the spout and we can screw in a hozelock connector and then link up the water. I have three different adaptors for screw threads and they are sitting on the top of the plinth. The left hand one was bought in Portugal from a ferrataria (iron monger, they are everywhere and it’s like going back in time when you step into one, I love them) and the other two were bought in Aldi before we left home. They are all brass, plastic is not as good so we have a range of sizes from 20mm to 33mm.

This tap just had a straight on connection so I have a connector with a rubber seal that tightens onto the tap outlet with a kind of jubilee clip, you can buy them in any hardware shop. I also have a length of orange webbing with a loop in the end of it. Some of the taps have the press button that releases itself after 30 seconds, you have to keep pressing on the button if you want to fill up a large onboard tank. I just tie it up, job done. You can’t use it everywhere but it is very handy.

In the last five weeks I have used all four of these connectors, this is only the second time I’ve used the rubber jubilee clip connector in two years but if you don’t have it you will get caught out.

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After filling the water and levelling up Frankie (Lucy thinks I haven’t levelled up yet but I can’t get the front up any higher) I went for a walk by myself. Look at our view, free aire, bbq point and picnic tables. This is one of our top five aires and it is empty. There are 12 spaces and we did get three more vans turn up (in the dark).

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Into town, through the defensive walls and every street looks like this, narrow, steep, cobblestoned and white buildings, I did get lost once or twice.

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Part of the castle defensive walls, sheer drop to the left.

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Looking back from near the top towards the Convent. Frankie is right in the middle of the shot. 

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There has been a defensive position here since prehistoric times, the Romans, Moors, Spanish, French and English have all been here. Somehow this castle has been taken many times.

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Not sure what these birds are but they fly just like tiny Vulcan bombers, they must be part of the swift family but all my book of European Birds tells me is that Bridget Bardot was a bit of a looker.

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The views from the top are amazing, there is a 360º panorama and on a good sunny day like today you can see for miles.

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The castle keep. To get to this point you have to battle your way through four doors in the town’s defensive wall and another four doors in the castle walls. To get into the keep there are another five doors.

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Next morning I had to take Lucy up to see the castle and we were treated to another beautiful day.

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This is the water vault, rain water would be channeled into this cistern and once full there was enough to keep everyone going for six months.

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The castle has been evolving over time, evidence of the Moors in the 9th century is evident as well as Vaubinesque walls and angles of fire (we met Vaubin in Blaye and Pamplona, he had a huge influence over the design of defensive positions throughout Europe).

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We could drive 8 miles to the next aire or 50 miles to another, we could do with some food (and drink) but it wasn’t essential although tomorrow is Sunday and all the shops are likely to be closed. Can we make it till Monday? The answer was yes so we opted for a short little trip to Castelo de Vide.

On the way we found a Pingo Doce, a really nice Portugeuse supermarket chain so stopped and filled up three parking bays. The meat looks fantastic and seems (to me) to be really inexpensive. Pork fillets are €5.18 per kg (£3.72) and rump steaks are €6.29 per kg (£4.50). Obviously we had to try the wine and took a couple of bottles.

Our aire is behind the local swimming pool. It has bins but nothing else other than FREE WIFI. There is a free wifi signal throughout the town , a free gift from the mayor.

Castelo de Vide is the next defensive position along from Marvao along the front line with the border with Spain and Lucy was just itching to get up the top and see the view from another fort so off we went looking for the steepest road to climb.

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This was a good one, unbelievably we met a car coming down. I think Lucy has finally twigged that castles and forts are at the top of steep hills, she’s showing signs of becoming less interested in them! It didn’t help that the fort at the top of the top of the next road to this was closed. 

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On the way back we browsed the mini boot fair and then went looking for a bar. Two glasses of vino tinto (90c each) later Lucy was all recovered. The sports channel was on while we were in the bar, can’t decide if I want to watch the Japanese snowball fighting championship, the blind judo completion or women’s volleyball.

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On the way back I took a couple of photos of Igreja de Santa Maria…

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… and the castle. We gave up on the castle, too high for us and walked back to Frankie.

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Castelo de Vide is famous for it’s flowers and gardens, can you imagine public spaces like this in England? Tonight the circus is on just round the corner. It’s a tiny little circus tent, no animals and only half dozen or so acts. It might be a quiet night, or it might not be!

7 thoughts on “Castles in the sky

  1. Thomas Burrell

    Thank you for a very good blog I have been to Portugal twice with our Mohome and loved it there is a good place by the harbour in mertola and a wonderful free aire at the silver mines north of mertola beside a lake it is beautiful

    1. Mark Post author

      Thanks for the info, we could be moving over that way soon and will check it out.We love Portugal as well, everything just seems to be a little bit easier (except for the raised pedestrian crossings).
      May be we will see you one day.

  2. Shawn and Emma

    Great blog. More so as we love Marvao. We spent 4 months close by during winter 2010/11 with our van and came back and stayed in a apartment for a few weeks in Jan/Feb 2013. Just missed you as we tried and failed to get on the Marvao aire last night (Saturday) three vans there already and as I had the trailer as well we didn’t want to block up another couple of pitches. Ended up in Beira next to the now closed railway station. We’ll be using Pingo whilst we are here, which we love, we do use the village Saturday market and there’s a great Monday market just across into Spain at Valencia.
    Enjoying the blogs as always so please keep up the good work. Happy travels.
    Shawn and Emma.

  3. Ann and Eric McLaren

    Hi Mark and Lucy,
    So glad you have safely crossed the cold parts of Spain. We froze in Salamanca a number of years ago, it was the unexpectedly biting winds that caught me out after the heat of the south of Portugal we were going the other way round to you, you understand.
    It seems to me you may be getting near Evora, if you have not found it already the Roman Temple in Town is well worth the look. I really enjoyed my visit to town there.
    Have fun,
    Love Ann and Eric

    1. Mark Post author

      We went to Evora last year, that’s when Lucy nicknamed my “Crazy Inglese”. Evora was nice but it was off our route. See you next year

  4. Paul Murphy

    Mark I have been following your blog for the past six months after finding the link on Our Tour.
    Since following Our Tour we have also bought a Frakia and have spent the last six weeks in Spain we are heading back to Essex this Saturday on the ferry from Santander to get ready fro the ski season.
    I look forward to following your travels. Paul

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