Carol writes: We made good use of our four days at the Naval Air Station in Rota, Spain. We booked passage for our RV with the same shipping company (Hoegh Autoliners) that we used last April when we shipped the RV to Amsterdam. We selected Jacksonville, Florida, as our U.S. port of call, hopefully avoiding any potentially bad/snowy weather that might hit the more northerly ports along the eastern seaboard. The transit time for our RV across the Atlantic will be 30 days, so we will have lots of time on our hands as we await its January 11th arrival date.
Our last night in Spain was spent in an interesting little pilgrimage town called El Rocio. As we strolled along the dirt-packed streets of El Rocio, we felt like we had entered a time warp. Hitching posts of a bygone era lined the streets--a look right out of a western movie set.
The spiritual and geographical heart of El Rocio was the town church, Our Lady of El Rocio, with its quintessential Spanish façade.
We capped off our afternoon walk with a cappuccino/beer on the town’s dirt-packed plaza. This Spanish “cowboy” was interesting to watch as he put his horse through a workout of “prancing and head-nodding” moves. Never seen anything like it…
The next day we headed across the border and drove along Portugal’s southern coast through a region called the Algarve. We had come to the Algarve for the sun and the beaches, and Portugal did not disappoint us. We also found Portugal’s reputation for being very camper friendly to be quite true. For five straight days we enjoyed totally free campsites, so called ‘wild camping.’ We were quite pleased with our first beach campsite, which was also the scene of a Portuguese national fishing competition. Unfortunately, the fish weren’t informed, and none were biting…
The next day our beach camping spot was located a few minutes’ walk from the edge of a beautiful scenic cliff overlooking the waves of the Atlantic Ocean as they broke onto shore.
We hiked to the scenic beach below and had a fabulous beach almost to ourselves.
The hike along the cliffs was a delight in the late afternoon sun.
Simply made for sangria and beer at sunset…
One of our loveliest camping spots was at Sangres near the Cape of Saó Vincente at the very southwestern tip of Portugal where it juts out into the Atlantic Ocean. The remains of a 16th century fort graced this picturesque and strategic point of land. The walk around the fort was spectacular on a day with a brilliant blue sky.
The fishermen were fearless as they dangled over the cliffs, high above the water, while trying to sense a hit on the line!
At our camping spot we met a friendly Belgian man who seemed very interested in talking with us. He was a good source of information on where to find fresh water and a dump site for emptying our waste tanks the next day—“just an hour away up the coast.” As we were leaving the next morning, we noticed that the French man who had pulled in behind us the evening before was taking a picture of our RV. He and his wife seemed overjoyed when we stepped out to chat. Seems they “love Americans” and have enjoyed traveling in the western part of the U.S. The French man proudly showed me the “Arizona” and “Utah” license plates he had on display at the bottom of his camper windshield. It was an enjoyable and memorable conversation with them—us trying very hard to communicate in our rudimentary French, with the Belgian man running interference. Those impromptu multicultural meetings have been such a joy throughout our travels.
Eventually, we found fresh water at a beach stop about an hour up the coast. At first we couldn’t locate any kind of water tap until a friendly Swedish man pointed out a little set of stairs leading down to the beach where there was a pipe that was spewing fresh water. He assured us this water was some of the best water he had ever tasted, so Al got to work and proceeded to lug three 5-gallon jugs up to the RV.
Our streak of solitary, unspoiled beach scenery continued the next night. What a lovely setting to get in a little off-season beach reading, and we had it all to ourselves.
We could not pass up a day and a night in Lisbon when we heard about a great free camping spot right in the city along the shore of the Tagus River, very near some of the sights we wanted to see. It was a very short walk to the Monastery of Jerónimos, renowned for its Manueline architecture,
the tomb of Vasco de Gama,
and a peaceful cloister.
We capped off our whirlwind tour of Lisbon with a quick visit on the shore of the Tagus at a wonderfully artistic stone monument dedicated to Portugal’s explorers, led by none other than Vasco de Gama,
then hopped on a tram for a ride into Lisbon’s Commerce Square in the Baixa District.
We found Lisbon to be a city under stress—lots of buildings in need of paint and/or stucco repair. Sadly, we also experienced many more beggars, some quite aggressive in their approach, obviously a deplorable reflection on today’s Portuguese economy. In addition, many of the roads in Portugal were in poor repair. The acronym PIIGS (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, Spain) has evolved to denote the five countries in the European Union that are the most financially stressed. It was obvious to us that Portugal has a long way to go to get kicked out of the PIIGS club.
Our visit to Lisbon marked the completion of 8 months of travel in our home on wheels. Al did a quick calculation and informed me that Amsterdam was 1500 miles from Lisbon, so we had a lot of driving ahead of us. As we made the turn north, the days were getting shorter and nighttime temperatures were getting much colder. RV life was getting more challenging, and we both felt that with no major mishaps to date we might be pushing our luck just a bit too far if we were to extend our RV adventure much longer. We were happy with our decision to start the long journey back to Colorado. Meanwhile, we had an interesting drive ahead of us, and the next day was Thanksgiving. Where would we have our “turkey dinner?”
“We should come home from adventures, and perils, and discoveries every day with new experience and character.” Henry David Thoreau