Thursday, 14 January 2010

Trundling on

written 14th January

A largely uneventful few days since leaving Porto.  We escaped the city on tuesday after the port buying and the obligatory stop at an electronics shop - we are aiming for one in every country now! but at least this was a cheap stop, just new multimeter probes, a diode and new power connectors for the 12v laptop power supply and the woman spoke excellent english! - and headed for the beach at Senohra de Pedra, a pretty little church built on a beach, and then on down the coast to Figueira da Foz where Bill had recommended a great beach carpark.

En route, we also found a whole garage that just sold GPL!  how different things are here than spain!  and following our new resolution to by gas whenever we see it - we are not going back to France from here! - we have found that our new adaptor works as well - brilliant!  (although we think he actually might have had the right adaptor, he had a good look then started off towards his hut... ho hum, better off with too many adaptors than not enough!)

As always Bill was right, as we found it, as promised, at the southern end of the massive beach, where they are continually doing some sort of processing of massive rocks. 

We think they are extending the breakwater at the mouth of the river, the result of which is that the beach at that end is about 300m deep and floodlit with all sorts of permanent facilities in the sand like basetball and tennic courst, football pitches and children's play equipment.  The sea is so far away there are even cycle track boardwalks to help you get half way there - it is massive!  We also met an english couple in the carpark who live there in their motorhome from Novemeber to April every year.  They have friends in the area and this year a little car (last year it was a scooter) to potter about in and that is just what they do - apparently know one seems to mind!  They pointed us in the direction of the good supermarkets and also the public showers on the beach, 20 minute walk away.  We are finding that motorhome people are very friendly (in general!) and everyone we've spoken to has contributed something useful or helpful to our adventures so far which is nice.

They were definitely right about the showers too!  After a wet, grey day of fettling and wet sanding - something has to be done about poor Jules tatty grey face - and 12th night celebrations of christmas cake and port before reluctantly taking the tinsel down, the following day was gloriously sunny as we set off for a walk to the showers and they were simply the best showers ever! 

Housed in a blue and white candy striped building and presided over by two dumpy women in overalls, it was like standing under a hot fire hose on full blast - I have never been so clean! 

We pottered on a bit further through the old fishing village and then the walk back along the the beach was glorious and I was even allowed to collect pocketfulls of shells which I have good intentions to do something useful with... Or something :)

We had fancied a bbq and had suitably provisioned ourselves with beer and chicken legs but unfortunately it turned out to be just too windy and on reflection, a fire next to a shipping lane would probably be frowned on - they might think we are wreckers or smugglers or something :)

We have also seen two of the most massive camping-car conversions here.  In St Sebastian, we were parked next to by a converted English Routemaster double decker (we think it was a hire vehicle but we never saw the occupants) which was big enough but here we saw two separate converted coaches, one from the Netherlands which was towing an MX5 on the trailer and one articulated coach - so in effect two coaches, like a bendy bus, which had twee little lace curtains - what do they do with all that space???  and how do they ever find somewhere to park???  it is simply astonishing.

After one final day of fettling and painting - Jules now has a blue face!  which looks terrible, even if I do say so myself, but at the same time, so much better than it did before :)  I just need to some maksing tape to sort out the white stripe then from a distance, in bad light, if you squint, at speed - it will look ok... :) - we set of to Coimbra, in the hopes of some friday night fado.

Coimbra is Portugal's famous university town - its version of Cambridge - set high up on the hill over looking the new town and the river, the university is housed in an old royal palace, which was donated for university use in 1530-something by King Jao (although one of the buildings remained a roayl residence untilt he monarchy dies out in the 1950's).  The university itself was actually established 300 years previously by King Dinis but swapped between lisbon and Coimbra until it finally settled here. 

The journey to Coimbra was uneventful (although it did mean we will miss Bill's recommendation of a drive over the huge Vasco da Gama bridge at Figueira) and the tourist offices non-existent (and probably shut) so we parked ourselves at the top of the hill behind the physics dept and set off into town.  Which was completely deserted!  We had hoped for food and fado (Portuguese folk singing) but at 8:00 on a saturday night, nothing seemed to be open.  We evenutally found ourselves in really cheap but really nice self service caff, down in the town where we were served caldo verde (portuguese speciality of potato and cabbage soup) and some sort of chickeny, sausagey breadcrumbed thing whilst watching what we guessed must be students who got all the left overs cheap  - takes me back to pipe cleaning night at the Albion, students will really eat/drink anything cheap!  The waiters were really friendly though, the food was delicious and we even got some port and cake on the house so all good!

The sun was shining the next day as we found the tourist office and set off to explore the sights - the university (which we went round the free bits but not in the paying bits), the new cathedral (shut), the old cathedral (nice), the Santa Clara monostery (also shut) - but this didn't take more than a couple of hours so we found ourselves a spot in an irish bar with a power socket and free wifi and spent the rest of the day drinking wine and catching up (I say free wifi, it cost the price of 4 wines, 3 coffees, 2 beers and 2 burgers but kept us happily occupied for about 8 hours... first internet in over a week! :) ) 

We did also find some fado that night in a bar which used to be a chapel where a lugubrious man in the iconic black cloak sang soul searching songs accompanied by 2 guitars - it was very good but not quite what I was expecting.  TBH, I had been expecting more nightclub singing but then the LP does say that Fado in Coimbra is more cerebral than in Lisbon, so we shall see what the differences are!

onwards again the next day in the torrential rain to Nazare, a seaside resort where in the summer, you apparently get the full beach tourist experience with local costumes and everything. 

On a sunny day in January, you get some traditional costume (dumpy old ladies wearing really unflattering kneelength skirts with the tradiional 7 petticoats (according to the tourist brochure - we didn't stop any old ladies and count them!), beige knee socks and shawls, either clashing colours or black if they have lost a male relative to the sea),

fish drying on fish drying racks

and a nice walk up to the cliff top pilgrimage village because the funicular is broken :)

Apart from the beaches, Nazare draws its crowds though its local miracle.  Apparently in the early years AD, a monk brought a statue of the virgin mary here from the midle east and put it in a grotto where it was subsequently discovered and worshipped by fishermen.  After that, the man who founded Portugal came here on a hunting trip and just as the stag he was hunting tumbled over the cliff and his horse had only its two hind legs on the cliff edge and was about the follow it down, a vision of the virgin mary appeared in the sky and miraculously his horse found its footing and crisis was averted.  He was so stunned and amazed, he built a small chapel with a little grotto for the statue to commemorate it, and then returned and built a proper sanctuary which was later rebulit by another king and a hospital and pilgrims rest house established.  Miracle or early examples of public vote winning PR, who can say but the church was very nice - even by our churched out standards - and nicely gold leafed and polished, although we couldn't work out which old testament stories the tile paintings we supposed to show - sorry no pics allowed so you will have to go see for yourself!

We also walked to the light house where we found a steep set of steps down and round, which all looked fine, if a bit rickerty, until you got to the bottom and discovered that they were not in fact made of steel, there were fibre glass, and all the bottom handrails had been smashed off by the tides - all good...

and it was all jolly very nice :)

Monday night - golly, where has the week gone! - we headed on to Obidos which is apparently a very pretty walled city with lots of history and, finding that they wanted to charge us €6 for a parking space with no facilities, parked behind Pingo (supermarket) instead where Will set about swapping the distributor over - very easily done and less traumatic than last time but still hasn't fixed the juddering problem.  Tuesday morning was torrential rain again and we decided that there us no point going to a photogenic town in the rain if we can help it, so we checked into a lovely campsite new Foz da Arelho which has free electricity and wifi and have spent the last 48 hours squeezing every last cents worth out of both - so Will has fettled (and encountered all sorts of bugs and problems and redo from start errors and may have fried something) and all my pictures are now uploaded!

The sun is finally shining again so in a bit, we will get going and try again for Obidos.

Oh, challenge for you all - see below a link to a picture of the entrance to the maths dept at Coimbra - we could work out some of the pictures but not all - prizes to anyone who can correctly identify all of them!

maths challenge

1 comment:

  1. Great pics.

    Now i know what the candy-stripe building was!

    Just reading free download of How Katie Pulled Boris (from motorhomefun site link)

    Within a few pages you will be reminded how lucky we are with small vans - but, at my advanced age, I couldn't do without the 'convenience' of my onboard loo!