Monday 7th December
It’s been three days since the last blog and things have taken a turn for the worse. Now we have 100% cloud cover and it’s gone a little bit chilly, only 15ºC today but first things first.
We moved to Mertola Saturday morning on the recommendation of Thomas Burrell, one of our readers. There are two aires here, one by the harbour and you have to drive down a narrow, steep, cobblestoned road and another by the castle. The harbour aire is by far the nicest with a view of the river.
From a distance it looks just like any other town in this area, castle on top of a steep hill, town inside the defensive walls, this one had some unusual history attached to it though. Can you see the white church just in front of the castle, that is our first stop.
This is the view of it from my brand new drone (in my dreams), it is the Igreja Matriz, originally the site of a Roman temple and then Christianised from the 6th century it became an Almoad Mosque from the 12th century. In 1238 when Mertola was integrated into the Portuguese kingdom it became St. Mary’s church. Much of what you can see dates from 1565.
Behind the altar are traces of the former mosque.
I think this may be the first church that I have been in which is wider than it is deep.
Moving on up the hill we came to a replica of an Islamic house., very cool inside, the guide was dressed in fleece, scarf and wooly hat. It wasn’t clear at first why this replica was here, not until we moved on a little further did we realise the significance.
At the base of the castle were the excavated remains of an Islamic village, it was easy to see the different rooms, the signs were clear and informative and we had a nice elevated walkway so we could get a good view.
There were also traces of earlier Roman remains, some mosaics, a huge vaulted water cistern and parts of the Bishops Palace.
Inside the castle was the keep. We’d been informed that it cost €5 each to visit the excavations and castle but all the ticket offices are locked up for the winter. There may have been a fee to get into the keep but the minder had just nipped out (for a moment), we waited many moments but he didn’t come back.
And the view from the walls.We are right in the middle facing the Rio Guardiana.
There were only two of us when we arrived but while we were out for our walk three more vans turned up.
Walking through the town of Mertola we saw this house with lots of plants and flowers. Pretty as a picture, someone was taking a pride in their house.
When we got back to the aire it was so hot we decided to copy the Dutch next to us and get our chairs out and do some kindling. All of a sudden five Spanish motorhomes came down the hill and parked in a carefully rehearsed manoeuvre followed ten minutes later by the GNR. They sat there for a minute or two and then got out and knocked on the door of the motorhome parked right in the middle of the harbour area. It was a British couple, Peter and Serena who were off wandering. It turned out they didn’t like them parking in the middle, we were just about OK and they weren’t at all worried about our chairs being out.
The Spanish were noisy and they had kids, it is the weekend after all and we hadn’t realised that Monday was a Spanish Bank Holiday (It’s Tuesday in Portugal). They did quite down by 11pm but the town itself made up with it playing loud music until 2pm, at least there weren’t any church bells.
We thought that Sunday might be noisy in Mertola as well so moved on and found Alcoutim, another town right on the Rio Guardiana which has now become the border between Spain and Portugal. We had lunch here and went for a walk, over the river is Sanlucar de Guardiana with a large fort on top of the hill. This is border country and raids across the river were frequent and bloody. There was also competition between churches, two each side of the river competing to see who could play the loudest bells, despite the free services we decided to move on, I had a circle marked around a town on my map which must be a recommendation from someone, we’ll try there. Also as you can see the clouds are starting to form.
Here is the view from our latest aire at Odeliete. Again Spain is in the distance just over the river. We are paying the princely sum of €7 per night but we do get free wifi and electric for that. We need a bit of juice at the moment, our battery is really struggling but good news is on it’s way, we are getting close to a motorhome service place and he has leisure batteries for sale – 110Ah for €264 – ouch.
Xmas decorations are up.
Do you think I’ve over done it? We are staying a second night, we need to get a move on and find somewhere to stay over Xmas, we know half a dozen people going to Portimao, it sounds like it may be the place for us as well.