A few BIG travel days..
Friday 7th August 2020
I didn’t get chance to write yesterday. It’s been really full on the last few days, but really enjoyable. This is our 4th and final campsite of our journey and today we made it to Portugal. Even though I am looking forward to a proper bed again (and some air conditioning) I’ve loved the camping. Before the trip I kept banging on to Nathan about how much better camping abroad is and I think he is converted!
I mean we have done our fair share of camping together in the UK too, most famously the Summer of 2014 where we worked and camped for an events parking company for a whole summer. We had a busy and fun time doing that, but, we had our fair share of rainy mornings and punctured air beds.
I have lots of fond memories of camping with my family in France, Spain and Portugal and this has just been a huge reminder for me of those great times.
Don’t get me wrong (and if you know us you will confirm) we love a bit of luxury and our creature comforts too, but we haven’t struggled at all. Nathan needs a good shower and moisturising routine, we like, ok love, good food and I’m a bit obsessive about getting a good amount of sleep to help me function. Yet waking up in a tent and knowing the weather is great and you have fantastic scenery all around you really makes up for the lack of luxuries.
ALL 4 campsites we have chosen, while being completely different, have been great, with clean and plentiful facilities and in spot on locations. Our tent and shelter has been an ideal set up and a bit of proper bedding has meant we have slept really well. Our 3 man Quechua tent has windows on either side which has allowed really good circulation of air and the shelter has been essential for the last 3 sites, as it is HOT!
We have seen temperatures of up to 37ºc and it’s been very still, putting the tent up has been a very sweaty affair.
I say we don’t miss luxury but this current campsite is in fact next to the most beautiful Boutique Hotel and Spa in Fundão, Portugal. I would be lying if I said it didn’t look extremely tempting!
Regardless we are already planning our next Portuguese camping trip, hopefully on a weekend between our Lusa Language School classes in Lisbon.
So things we have loved..
After my last entry we wandered to Socoa near Saint-Jean-De-Luz and had a lovely evening. I am usually an absolute sucker for TripAdvisor. I mean I very rarely review, unless something has been exceptionally good or to recognise a specific member of staff. We always say we really should review more, as we go to lots of really deserving places and I think we are quite fair, tolerant and reasonable in our judgments (not sure if all our family and friends would agree). I do like using TripAdvisor to get an idea of what is decent/nearby or maybe just to find a certain type of cuisine we are fancying, or to see some photos and get a feel for a place. I certainly take reviews with a pinch of salt and often then may use other sites or social media to check the place out. Having both worked in hospitality we know reviewing can be pretty harsh and often damaging and unfair. BUT if you bear that in mind it can be a very useful tool to use.
Yet when we are travelling to new, wonderful places with great options for eating we want to go somewhere good and spend our money well and enjoy the experience. When I say this I don’t necessarily mean fancy ‘high end’ restaurants, we love a variety and just local, random restaurants with a bit of atmosphere are often the best. The service is really important to us and we often say we can have an average meal but with fantastic service and we remember it a lot better than the fantastic meal with average service. Anyway this is a whole new conversation I won’t go into now.
I had spotted a few restaurants online that looked good but with the current Covid situation we thought best to wander in and wing it.
The town was really buzzing, very popular with a great feel. When we got to the harbour area we followed the swarms of people heading towards the Fort Socoa walls where we witnessed a FANTASTIC sunset. It was a lovely unexpected bonus and if we had pre booked somewhere we probably would have missed this treat. A great fish meal and some French craft beer followed and a top night was had.
The next day (yesterday) Thursday 6th of August only after a few miles took us over the border into Spain. I’m not sure if you can even call that a border, just a few policeman and border control hanging around on a junction. I think before we had left the UK we had had the fear put into us about the tightening of the borders etc in light of the pandemic, but we really needn’t had worried.
We then headed on to Salamanca. We hadn’t planned to stop in Spain but we wanted to break up the journey more and felt like it was safe enough to do so. Nathan was enjoying the driving more than in France and he liked the Spanish roads better so we pushed on past Valladolid. Several people had recommended Salamanca and it didn’t disappoint. We planned on visiting at some point and we will definitely return for a longer trip again.
We turned up at what I believe is usually a very popular campsite (there isn’t much choice in this area of Spain) which had been recommended by my parents on the outskirts of the city, but it was VERY quiet. We had a whole section of the campsite to ourselves and we really have nailed the setting up of camp. The campsite was Camping Don Quijote, again great facilities and a lovely spot.
A few differences we have noticed here already. Obviously the Spanish late night eating culture which we have experienced before and we really enjoy as it suits our lifestyle quite well anyway. Nobody wants to eat a big meal when it is still so hot and sweaty out. Now we just to need to get into the siesta culture too! So we chose to head into Salamanca after Nathan’s evening session at 9.30pm and wander the beautiful streets and plazas. We saw the phenomenal church Convento de San Esteban and listened to amazing street music outside. We finished our evening with some amazing tapas in iPan iVino and of course a bottle of local red (also very good).
We really noticed the wearing of masks is everywhere in this area, currently only really taken off when seated in restaurants and bars, it feels a lot stricter than in France.
The bad news was the bottle of red didn’t really help my morning run today. I managed to get out and get it done. I am trying to do a few miles every morning this week. When travelling like this there aren’t many forms of exercise that seem convenient but running works well. We have some exercise equipment in the car too but I treat my run like a sightseeing/exploration run and I have seen some really cool places in the process. Nathan is usually training clients when I go which I don’t mind as I usually hold him up anyway.
He is currently training the first of his 2 clients this evening while I drink a Sagres Mini (we have agreed its the perfect size beer) to help me write. Another day and another setting for his sessions and for his clients to enjoy. The viewpoint for his session here overlooking Fundão as you can see is amazing…
No real hiccups to report but a few useful things to mention. Firstly having a backup to your sat nav is quite important, our car is relatively new but still doesn’t update or pick up some new roads. An up-to-date A-Z road map or a phone with more recent map updates as a back-up works well.
Not advice but a thought I had as well. We saw a hitchhiker at a service station in Spain yesterday with a sign that just said Portugal. I think that’s a pretty brave thing to do and especially at the moment with Covid etc. We were chocker full and couldn’t help but I really respect people who do it, even though I’m not sure if I could/would.
Anyway we are in Portugal and only have another 2.5 hours drive tomorrow to our final destination that is Lisbon. Like I mentioned we are staying in Fundão which from what we have seen is a cute little town.
Our Portuguese language skills are still pretty limited (even after 10 months of Duolingo), though the plan is for that to change soon. We still are totally confused by how to use the ‘Electronic Toll’ and slightly perplexed by the chilled out border crossings but LOVE it here already. The people we have met have been really welcoming, we hope the same is to be said about the people of Lisbon.
We are heading to the campiste restaurant for some dinner, I think it could be an interesting night.
P.s: Nathan said it’s really F*****g hot…