Saturday, 30 January 2010

Be careful what you wish for...

written 28th January 2010

So after a final night in our beach view carpark and a final bbq - during which we got a bit fed up of the giggly (stoned,) genial german surfers who wandered over for a chat  just completely by coincidence at the same time our dinner was about to come off the bbq and stood around making polite conversation, much of which seemed to revolve around the fact that they had had pasta for three days running...  If they had at least bought a beer or two with them they might have got half a sausage! as it was we resolutely did not get the hints which were clanging to the floor around us and merely wished them and their pasta well until they gave up and went back to their vans and their German rock/metal music - so anyway, having had enough of Sagres, where middle aged english people and feckless german surfers hang out and there is a billboard on the side of a restuarant which says "heaven is where nothing ever happens" and headed on in a vaguely Lagos direction, and as is our usual wont, tried to find the smallest, wiggliest, clost to the beach road to do it, rather than the dull big red road.

And thus we found ourselves - through three conflicting maps, a closed road,  a no-signs diversion and a random turn when the road seemed to be going in the wrong direction - no where near where we wanted to be but at the near deserted beach of Praia de Furnes, just west of the small village of Figueira. 
The road was a little bit epic - we forded streams, squelched through mud puddles, mounted rocks etc etc en route - but nothing like the Seisimbra cliff road (much smaller cars than ours make the trip, I am probably over exagerating for dramatic effect, Bill you and Bear would be fine) and it was well worth the effort for the glorious cove in which we found ourselves, populated by only two fisherpeople and a crouching boy with an ipod - bit wierd - and beautiful golden sand with a stream running through it, rising orange cliffs, a cave or two and blue blue sea

"Oooh" we said, "wouldn't it be nice to stop here and realise our bbq on the beach dream", which we have now come close to but more bbq-with-a-view-of-the-beach-it's-not-far-just-over-there rather than actually on the beach thus far.

"I can grant you that wish" said the benevolent Genie of Inclination and Adventure with an enthusiastic smile, pinging into hitherto unknown existence in a small puff of sand.  "proceed forthwith to Lagos see what it is like, buy some food and return here tonight - it is simple!"

"I know" we said "why don't we go to Lagos, see what it is like, buy some food and come back!  It's not that far and it really is much nicer here than it was is Sagres, this would be lovely!"

So this is what we duly did, fording the river, splashing through the mud puddles, mounting the rocks, pushing through the long grass swish swish swish - no sorry, I remember, thats a bear hunt... :) - and I got my first lesson in nearly off road driving (keep the speed up in muddly puddles but slow down through deep rocky fords - most emphatically not the other way round.... and after a bit more little wiggly road, we got to Lagos and Intermarche and successfully foraged our dinner - pork belly, beef steak and prawns, a bbq first for us.  Will also bought the cheapest fishing rod he could find with dreams of catching his own dinner.   Personally I think the €20 would have been better spent on buying actual fish from the fish counter but as Will has spent the entire journey since bordeaux complaining that I wouldn't let him buy an antique chicken turner (which is lies as I said if he wanted to have one he could but he decided -rightly - that we didn't really need one and anyway, he can make one if he ever finishes fettling and needs a new project...) I gave in on this one figuring that catch something or not, it will make a good story...

Lagos is much bigger than Sagres, has a fort (unvisited), a walled old bit with wiggly streets, a not walled new bit with lots of high rise apartment blocks, a cultural centre with cafe and free wifi and is a bit pretty and alright for a wander for an hour or so but really nothing special.  So, internetting done, food bought, and the sun begining to set, we set off back in search of beach bbq nirvana.

We got back just after sunset to find the beach deserted and, seeing big rocks in the way of where we had walked before, forded the stream again, where clearly vehicles go, if only those which empty the bins on that side of the stream.   We got to a high spot, just behind the bins and nearly stopped, when "You don't want to stop here!" said the Genie of Inclination and Adventure, benevolently but with a slightly maniacal grin, "this isn't on the beach!  'we got all the way down here and then stopped on a dune with a view of the bins and carried the bbq to the beach' isn't really the beach sleeping dream, what sort of story will that make for the good people back home?  eh eh??"  

"No!" we said, "we can't stop here, not when we are so close to realising our actual sleep on the beach dream, won't it be lovely!"  so we headed off back down to the side of the river, down through the small stones and on to the sand to avoid the big, exhaust pipe ripping off ones.  We were just contemplating where the high tide line might be and which way round we wanted to face when, with a cough and a splutter, Jules stopped.

"muhahahahahaha!"  said the now clearly malevolent Genie of Inclination and (Mis-)Adventure with a gleeful evil grin "you said you wanted to stop on the beach!  you didn't specify anything about leaving the beach again!  you should think more carefully about what you wish for in future!"  and promptly vanished again in a swirl of sand, abandoning us, stuck, a foot deep in sand and going nowhere fast.

I would like to be able to tell you that it was all fine, with a full moon and clear starlit sky, we didn't need the torches, we chocked the wheels with some handy rocks and drove away - but that would only be 50% true (the bits about the moon, the stars and the torches and the bit about the rocks, not the bits about driving away and it being fine).  

I would then like to be able to tell you that by the light of this same moon, we jacked Jules up on some driftwood, put some rocks right under the wheels, drove away and it was all fine  - again, only 60% true - the bits about the moon, the jacking and the rocks...

I would then like to be able to tell you that we jacked the van up, built an entire road of rocks and drove away into the moonlight - 66.66% true - you can guess which bits....

The pictures only show it after lots of digging out, at one point, the wheels were half buried and the exhaust was resting on a rock which was looking threateningly at the gearbox if we did managed to move forward...

Still, through Will's heroic jacking and rock laying efforts and my rock gathering contribution, we were footing (a bit more progress per jack and rock effort than inching but not much) forward with every go until, disaster, the driftwood snapped and the jack exploded into its constituent parts of twisted, mangled metal and all seemed lost...  ironically, we think it was only held together by years of neglect, Will's attempt at protecting it from the sand with application of WD40 was probably its undoing :(  

The jack has also damaged the paintwork slightly  but it is all out of necessity and nothing which can't be fixed - good job we are not driving some pristine, perfect van - would have cost us hundreds in respray costs... ;)

But never fear, Will has another jack for just such eventualities - an inferior scissor jack which doesn't really get high enough but is better than nothing - and had thought of a new plan of using our fold flat beach seats (an adventure present from Jim and Elissa which we nearly didn't bring due to lack of space and already having fold up chairs but which have actually been really useful for sitting on cliff tops, beaches and the side of the van, very comfortable and which double as car seat covers!) so all was not lost again...

...until the really badly designed windy handle on that jack sheered off and we seemed to be irrevocably stuck.  Will took the hacksaws (one blunt, one twisted) to the jackwinder and made enough flat edges to be able to jerryrig the enomous AJ and the big screwdriver as a makeshift winder so we got a bit further with jacking and rocks and seat laying before, at midnight, after 6 hours and about 10m progress, and with the tide in and the river now risen to only a foot or so from our front wheels, we decided to do what we should have done a couple of hours previously and stopped and went in for a mug of comforting hot chocolate, and settled in for the night, still stuck in the Sands of Doom, to dream of sinking sand, wet feet and little vans floating over the seas to africa and hoping it would look better in the morning.

Which, with the sun shining, the tide out again, and finding that none of our nightmares had come true, it did.  Although Jules still looked very sad :(

and very stuck

Will fixed the proper jack, by bashing it with two large rocks - there was some precision application of screwdrivers etc as well but it was mostly rocks and bashing - we scavenged a solid crate-side among the driftwood to use as a jack stand and even better 4 large pieces of 5mm MDF from a nearby abandoned ruin of a building and we figured that; we had 2 days worth of proper food (we had cooked some bbq but not all of it and hadn't really appreciated it the previous evening), 4 days if you count the emergency pasta, enough beer in the fridge for 3 days, we weren't that far by bike from civilisation and anyway, we knew a German in Sagres who owed us a favour.... and it was all looking up! - or so we reasoned to the scottish dog walking man who came over to see if we were ok but couldn't really offer anything more useful than moral support.  He asked how we got there, we said "we were looking for adventure", he laughed :)

With all these new-found things and optimism, I emptied the van of heavy things, Will jacked up the van once again, we wedged the mdf under the wheels, and, although expecting to only go a few feet, Will started it up, and clever Jules got all the way to the firm sand, round the corner before falling in the stream and out!  Hurrah!!  It is a very patient and tolerant little van, and it does try very, very hard to persevere, despite everything we put it through :) 

This is how far we had got the previous night, Will is standing where the rear wheels first sunk - ie not far

And Jules was a happy van again!

We celebrated our triumphant conquest over the Sands of Doom with a lovely beer

and a paddle (yes, silly face - the water was colder then I thought!)

before moving Jules back up to the dune behind the bins - which weren't so bad really,

and we set of for a swim in the sea.  Well, more of a deep paddle, feet didn't leave the ground except when I got swept off them and ended up all wet, even the silly hat!  There was lots of squealing and giggling and it was all a lot of fun and not too cold - swimming in the atlantic in january, who would have thought! - and it was simply glorious.

And Will has his, heroic saving-the-day-from-complete-disaster-using-only-found-objects story - which, as I said before we left, he wouldn't be happy without and so far, he has not saved the day with found objects, only those which he packed for such eventualities - I do keep saying, "oh it's lucky we happened to have that" to which he says "yes that is exactly why we do have that packed"... he is very good - which just isn't the same... Still, we have that story now, lets hope there aren't too many more... :)

We had actually been saying, only earlier the previous day, that the Algarve, such as we have seen of it so far, is very pleasant, but that is a bit damning with faint praise.  People seem to come here and just stop and whilst its perfectly nice, that's about it.  Which would be perfect for a two week, escape the ratrace, winter sun holiday but is a bit too full of brits and over developed for us on this particular adventure.  And on the subject of the above-mentioned  restaurant billboard sign, which was also part of the earlier, pre-sands of doom conversation, we both agree that you can only really appreciate true, perfect happiness - as we so frequently have on this trip so far - if you occasionally have some adversity as a comparison - which we have fortunately had less of :)  Or to quote Moliere: "unbroken happiness is a bore; it should have ups and downs"

We spent the rest of the day happily in the sun, sitting or pottering around and solar showering - solar shower had spent the day propped up in full sun on Jules'  reflective sun shades - everything we carry has a dual purpose! - and was properly, properly hot this time, like a shower at home, was lovely! - and collecting driftwod for our fire,

which was how we spent the evening, and how we cooked the remains of our bbq food

 - prawns  were a happy success too, it is amazing how they go grey to pink!, will try that again!

Will did try a bit of fishing but couldn't get close enough to the sea without risking his life getting washed off the rocks and then cracked the float by practiceing casting on the beach, so we have left that for another day....

Today has been much the same, book reading beach laziness for me, followed by a cliffside scramble

and clifftop walk,

whilst Will, having a lower tolerance for lazing and not enough battery life for computer based fettling - we need a solar panel for this beach life really but nowhere to put it, we can only just squeeze under 2.2 height restrictions as it is - fixed the lights, which have been blowing fuses for ages and has had some form of temporary fix for the last x hundred miles, as well as some other diy jobs.  And it has all been lovely.

But, we have had enough of this perfection for now, and need water and electricity generation so we are back on the road once more, charging the batteries and in search of adventures and pastures new...

Monday, 25 January 2010

there are pix now BTW :)

Half a week and half a country away.

Written 25th January 

Estremoz was, unfortunately, nothing special.  It is a marble town with a 13th century hilltop fortress and an old walled town, set in the hills of Alto Alejanto and was only really on the itinerary as a stopping point on the way north to the walled towns of Castelo de Vide and Marvao further north. But we have decided that there are only so many walled towns we can really fit into the schedule and that one 3,000 feet up, although undoubtedly spectacular, is probably not where we really want to be at this time of year...  And a 160km detour north and away from our stated Algarve goal is more than our petrol budget can take right now. :)

Arriving late, we found a huge, well-lit car park, with another motor home already installed, right in the centre of town that also had wifi - excellent! - but as walled cities go, we have been to better and prettier and we didn't fancy any of the museums. Not to worry, we have lots of other places to see. 

The only quite interesting thing it does have is an actual scale model of the solar system - one of only two in Europe - where not only are the  planets in correct scale but the orbits are too.

Due to the distances involved, and the fact that they wanted the sun outside the Estremoz science museum and Pluto in a particular location elsewhere, the sun is represented by a disc 3-4 metres in diametre,

Mercury is a sphere the size of a smallish marble located on the far side of the car park,

Venus, the Earth and Saturn are elsewhere in the town, and the other planets are in other towns in the surrounding countryside with Pluto being outside the chapel in Evoramonte some 7.5 kms away.  We only found the sun and mercury and weren't sufficiently bothered to go find the others but it is not something I have seen anywhere before so there you go.  

Onwards once more, in the late afternoon sun, to Evora, a university city stuffed with history, from the remains of a Roman temple, a mediaeval gothic cathedral - apparently the largest cathedral in Portugal  - 14th century town walls and best of all, a 17th century Franciscan chapel of bones -

literally built out of human bones and constructed by raiding all the town's cemetaries so that the Franciscans could meditate and contemplate the human condition - and it is brilliant, if not just a little creepy, including the inscription above the door which reads "We bones that are here we are waiting for yours" - propoer spooky stuff!

The university was only the second established in Portugal - after Coimbra - and students could study theology, science, maths and rhetoric  - whatever that is! - but although it was founded in the 16th century, it was closed in the 18th century when the franciscans were expelled from the city and not reopened until 1979 - history does not relate what they did to warrant expulsion or what happened to the buildings in those intervening 200-odd years - well at least not the history we had which we got from an audio tour from the tourist office which was informative, if a bit like being on in a tour group with an enthusiastic simpleton who can't stop asking questions and a very patient if patronising tour guide - no baftas would be awarded for this piece of audio drama... ;)  it was an entertaining way to spend a morning at least :)

But we have had enough of chilly cities and cold hilltop towns, and, having been thoroughly spoilt by Seisimbra, we decided that warm beaches are where we really want to be so off we set southwards once more.

I was driving this leg as Will wanted fettling time on the laptop and we have discovered that Seisimbra's cliff road was more unkind to poor Jules than we realised and with no power, even on the gentlest slopes, a tendancy to judder and stall and a complete inability to start again once stalled - which usually manifested itself on narrow, uphill streets in towns with cars behind and many amused onlookers - may all their cars be cursed - it was not a happy bunny :( poor little van.  We have also lost the exhaust tailpipe off the end of the silencer - presumably left in a clifftop ravine somewhere - not vital but we are now venting exhaust sideways not backwards and I can only imagime the effect this lack of forward thrust is having on our top speed... I am only half joking, apparently it was by repositioning the exhast on the engines from sideways to backwards that the spitfire engineers got the extra 70lbs of thrust they needed to get to a top speed of 380mph, so there! - not that Jules can really be compared to a spitfire I know - I mean we have a fridge and a kettle and movies, they didn't even have an in-flight magazine! - but every little helps... ;)  

Anyway, after the single longest and most miserable journey of our travels so far through a land devoid of petrol stations, supermarkets and even proper road surfaces (in one county the main N-road was cobbles - cobbles!! - for bloody miles!) the three of us eventually limped, late, into Sagres at the south-western tip of Portugal and stopped.

The next day, we stayed in bed whilst it rained and got up with the sun to find ourselves facing the sea and surrounded by other vans.  Making the most of the weather we set off on our bikes to the famous fortress where alledgedly Henry the Navigator founded his navigation school and therefore single handedly enabled the portuguese sailors to be able to take full advantage of the prevailing winds to set off on their journeys without having to stick by the coasts in order to know where they were and thus setting the wheels (or sails) in motion for the Discoveries.  

On arriving, we found that, once again, being a Sunday morning, it was free and also that we could take our bikes in and cycle round - brilliant!  

Just a side note - if you ever go to Portugal, remember that most museums and other things of interest are free on a sunday 10am-2pm, they won't tell you this on most signs or tourist info as they will want you to sleep in after a night spending your tourist euro in one of their fine restaurants and then spend more tourist euro going in things which locals get for free by dint of getting up - not unreasonable but worth planning around...

Anyway, whether or not Henry was ever there, the Sagres fort is brilliant on a clear sunny day.  It is right where the land turns a corner from west to south - nearby Cabo Sao Vincente is the most south-western tip of mainland europe - and is a foot of land sticking out into the sea with the fortress as a a kind of heavy-duty stone ankle bracelet at the narrowest point.

Beyond the fort, it is largely a vast expanse of wild land, with various exhibits about the history of sailing, world maps and navigation and also some stuff about renewable energy.    

Did you know, for example, that port and starboard on boats are so named because in sailing down the atlantic - which is where the prevailing winds and currents took boats at the time of Henry - the left side would face the ports and home whereas the right side faced the unknown and adventure - hence port and starboard respectively.  And that the green starboard light represents hope and discovery and the red port light signifies heart and health?  I didn't!

And it was great for cycling round in the sun - if a bit windy!  Back to the van and Will set about cheering poor Jules up, discovering that our problems were caused by a combination of; loose leads, incorrect timing, an unoiled (although new) distributor, a dwell of virtually nothing and the dislodging of a small, yet apparently vital piece of pencil lead which is all that stands between us and non-starting, non-runnng disaster...  No, I didn't know about this either, and on balance, I preferred it when I believed the whole thing ran by magic due to pixies on bicycles, or maybe hamsters... ;)

It turns out, that one of the features  of the space-age technology with which our van is equipped  - think carefully about that, it isn't as good as it first sounds... - is an airflow sensor which works by a flap which is in the air intake and which is connected to a wiper which runs over a variable resistor, the reading of which tells the fuel injectors how much fuel is required for the correct air/fuel mix.  Not only is this piece of technical wizardry specific to vw campervans, it is specific to vw campervans made in the US (but importantly not california) between 1977 and 1978... And is therefore expensive, virtually irreplaceable, and in our particular case, wearing out... Leading to inefficient fuel consumption and lumpy driving.

It is this that Will is working to bypass with some of his fettling - basically using a modern airflow sensor and a chip, the processing power of which would have taken a computer the size of a small room back when Jules was built, to brute force override this miracle of cutting-edge-as-it-was-at-the-time technology - the original engineers would be weeping!

Anyhoo, the small (approx 2mm long), yet perfectly fashioned (there are carved notches) piece of pencil lead - which I knew nothing about and which has apparently been in place since cambridge - sits under the two prongs of the wiper, creating a smooth sweep across the track of the variable resistor which simultaneously improves the connection to the track and smooths out the worn out bits - needless to state this is only a temporary fix until the "project" is finished...

So crisis averted as we have pencils and knives, grease, a timing gun  - we are once again very grateful to Austin for the lend of his spare timing gun, it has proved a vital thing! - and all the requisite spanners and screwdrivers to deal with all these eventualities - honestly, it is a testament to Jules' perseverance in the face of adversity  and the standard of vw engineering that we even got here with that list of things wrong! - so they were soon fixed, whilst I painted daisies and got chatting to two australian lads, who were on a three day surfing break from london however they had arrived but easyjet had neglected to send their surfboards so had spent 2 days staring at the sea and hoping the boards would arrive in time for at least an hours surfing (apparently they couldn't hire exactly the right boards out here - I don't know, I don't understand surfing, isn't a board a board?? How picky do you need to be if it is a choice between some surfing and no surfing??) before their monday flight home. They circled some places in italy on our map from a previous three month road trip and donated us the remains of their lunch that they had bought from lidl and were about to throw away (bread, sausages, cheese and jars of olives and pickled peppers), and then we were back on the road as if in a new van and on the way to lidl for bbq supplies.  The dream is still alive!

I am not sure quite how I got the dubious pleasure of the longest drive with the most unhappy van and have insisted I get another go now it is better but I do at least find driving much less stressful than Will does as I am largely oblivious to little indicators to things which might be going terribly wrong and therefore don't worry about them and I am blissfully unaware of the knife edge on which we are apparently balanced between going and stopped...  Just turn the radio up I say - if you can't hear a problem, it ain't there... ;)

Today, after a nice chat with an irish couple on the beach about life, vans and winters in Portugal - they have cone here for short winter sun holidays for 4 years running now and up to yesterday have had the worst weather of any year and just when they have to think about leaving, it is finally set to be sunny! - we cycled the 5.5kms of cliff top road to Cabo Sao Vincente - the aforementioned most south-westerly point of mainland europe - in the sun only to find that all there was were three white transit vans with trestle tables outside selling tat and alpaca wool ponchos - it is not the weather for a woolly poncho! -

the light house closed with a big barred gate, no way round the outside of it and many other bemused tourists - mostly in motor homes, honestly you get them at every turn here! -wondering quite why they were there and what to now they were.  Not even an icecream to be had!  But still better than the temple to consumerism that is lands end...

So we cycled back - freewheeling downhill with the wind behind us most of the way wheeeeee! - and were about to settle in to some fettling in the sun when a genial german surfer loped over to us, clutching a car radio and said that an english speaking couple in a van at the top had said that we might be the right people to talk to about why his radio didn't work.  He had apparently got it from a friend and tried to fit it but it blew a fuse so he put a bigger fuse in and it blew that, repeat up to 30amps and now he was stuck... 

Well we are obviously always looking to chat to new people - he is on a break from an architecture degree and has convinced his lecturers that a road trip round europe to study different styles of architecture is a valid reason to do this but has in reality spent two month surfing and smoking pot in Sagres... :) - and opportunities to build up our busma so Will set to whilst we all had a beer and eventually, through judicious use of multimeter and complete disassembly of the radio  (I have never seen the insides of a car radio before, it is very complicated!) tracked the problem down to a cooked diode, ironically the one which is meant to blow a fuse if the radio is connected up the wrong way round so as to protect the radio - which Woller admitted he may have done, who knows - and so had actally admirably done its job before being goaded into self destruction by continual application of bigger fuses...  

Fortunately Will was able to replace it with a spare one we have lying around - as you do! - and fit the thing correctly into the spaghetti wiring of Woller's van - Woller can't test it as his speakers don't work for some reason and he is hoping to buy some external computer ones at a market next week as replacements - but he is at least one step closer to music and as he said, he just can't play his guitar whilst driving...

So, here we are, surrounded by german surfers - two more sets have just pulled up - with the sunsetting on another sucessful day - Will's PIC program might finally be doing the right thing! - and off to Lagos tomorrow for a change of scene.

ttfn xx

Friday, 22 January 2010

Living the dream

written 21st January

We are once again indebted to Bill for, by following another of his suggestions, we have had the most idyllic couple of days in Seisimbra.

Arriving late after a nightmare journey from Lisbon - 3h to get 40kms - getting lost, nearly running out of petrol, inadequate road signage etc etc.  We pulled up just past the port area of a seemingly dead end road and just stopped.

In the morning, leaving Jules at the port, and after a spot of much needed bike maintenance - we haven't used them since San Sebastian and they have been out in the rain and snow for over a month - we rode off into the town.  where we found a helpful tourist lady, lots of free brochures and maps - including one of the whole of portugal as the enlightened tourist industry have decided that for people to get here, they ought to know how! - the promise of free fortresses and castles and directions to the market.

Promptly abandoning any consideration for a cheap week - we have been discussing this and we feel we are treading very lightly on local communities on this trip - possibly a bit too lightly.  Usually on holiday we pay to stay in campsites and we try and eat local food from local shops both to support them ard because the food is nicer - but we are significantly more budget conscious than usual on these adventures so are parking for free and tending to shop at big supermarkets where things are cheaper - which is a shame but is keeping the dream alive.  Anyway in warm  sunshine - the warmest we have had for a very long while, Seisimbra felt very holiday like so we dived on in to the market for vegetables, two sorts of cheese - an orange rinded one I tried in Porto and some homemade ricotta which is a local speciality and which she let us try by feeding us great big teaspoons of - mmm delicious! - And thence to the butchers for a massive meat feast of chicken legs and cow belly steak - his particular recomendation - before a wander through the sun-drenched white streets in search of a sticky breakfast bun to eat perched on the sea wall - proper holiday stuff!  

Back to the van and we found that what we had thought was a dead end was actually the start of a gravel cliff track - although in places really worn down by rain, think full on ravines not just slight erosion! The midget would not have got up there, even Jules which has ridiculous amounts of ground clearance grounded out one point! - for once terrain it is better suited for than the midge! Although I use the word 'suited' very very lightly indeed... :)  -

any way our worthy steed got us to the top and the view down over the cliffs to sea was simply stunning and so peaceful with just at puttering of the fishing boats and the cries  of the seagulls chasing them.  it was so quiet, we could even hear the fishermen calling to each other on the boats way down below - just magic!

And so we stayed for two days in our little bit of heaven, watching the sun rising and setting on both days.

Will fettled and I did paintwork - finally as dreamt about, paintwork on a Portuguese cliff top, with wine in the setting sun! - even so warm in the sun that the sundress and silly hat came out!


and restoration the white stripe on the front on the first day,

wet sanding the driver's side yesterday and blue painting this morning before we left. I finished my half can of blue paint which came with the van so sprayed the big panels and apart from a slight colour match issue and some unfortunately illconsidered and lazy masking, it all looks pretty good - well at least much better!


Will also got his dream - finally a sea view out of our mezzanine floor(!) windows

and we had two bbqs, meat the first night accompanied by new year  fizz

and sagres beer with fresh caught sole from the port on the second. 

Christened Fish Vasco in honour of the Discoveries (as they call their empire building) he was cooked whole in foil with white wine, onions, galic and honey and served with sliced potatoes, also cooked in foil, with garlic and olive oil - fish and chips portguese cliff top style! 

We also got our first chance at a proper solar shower - Biarritz doesn't really count! - and after leaving the water basking in the sun for two days, it was lovely and warm so thank you Vicky for the suggestion  - not one we would have thought of our selves - and 'so there!' to every one who laughed at and disbelieved us back in cold old England :) 

We finally dragged ourselves away from our cliff top idyll late this afternoon and set off by way of the castle, a small yet perfectly formed cliff top fortress built when Sesimbra was granted its charter in 1200-something after the land was won back from the Moors and which has two interesting exhibitions,

a lovely wall for walking on, great views - we could see all the way north tho the bridges of Lisbon! - and an attractive entry fee of nothing - brilliant.  one of the best castles we have so far been to!

We are now headed eastwards and upwards, inland towards Evora and Estremoz in search of walled cities.

Truly, living the dream!