Upsticks bright and early on Tuesday for the relatively short 70kms along the Algarve to LAGOS ( pronounced Lagosh) and not to be confused with somewhere in darkest Africa, Nigeria I think.. The plan was to follow the pretty route along the N125 which ran from door to door so speak and has been called the most dangerous road in Europe ( or was that the N340 in Spain which we travelled so much ?)......they all merge into a red mist of buttock clenching moments. Anyway, we were going to detour into ALBUFEIRA for lunch as we thought we ought to look at the self-styled capital of the Algarve as we were in the vicinity.The first pangs of doubt arose as we circumnavigated FARO and bore left with the N125 rather than bearing right onto the A22 motorway which was being heavily touted as THE only way to get to LAGOS. After a mere 100 yards the road surface began to resemble a washboard (younger readers should refer to their mothers for an explanation of this allusion). And it wasn't pretty. And it had a lot of roundabouts. And potholes. But we got to ALBUFEIRA at lunchtime and tried to find our way down to the beachfront or locate a good parking area for motorhomes near the football ground apparently. The Satnav couldn't cope with new roads built this month into yet another holiday complex and I couldn't cope with the narrow hilly oneway streets full of parked cars.....we could see the beach (and it did look nice) but getting there was proving difficult in a motorhome. The Gf tends to get disheartened in these circumstances and the only possible larger carpark we found had a sign, reserving the spaces for local buses, after we had turned into it. I am sure that a bit more perseverance would have found us on 'the Strip',fabled
downtown central but the tackiness of the whole place had left me without the will to live. Its very clean,tidy etc with great views of the Atlantic but I think it's Legoland-meets-Scarborough-sur-Mer.
OK.....we have never been to the Algarve before (and now I know why) and I had not appeciated just how English it is. At least until here, signs outside shops,bars or restaurants were in Portugese with maybe a translation. Here, they are unashamedly in English only. Bars are called The Plough,Pig's Head or The Bull, restaurants offer the All Day English Breakfast and Bars advertise Happy Hours whilst showing all the premier league matches on Sky with a promise for the ladies of wall-to-wall episodes of the current Soaps.
OK...so I'm being snobby but I just find it horrendous and couldn't shake the dust of Albufeira from us quickly enough and head westward on the A22 motorway, having had enough of the N125 as well.
Arrived at our new watering hole around midday without further incident, 3kms west of LAGOS, next to a village called ESPICHE and a walk away from LUZ, which I now discover is famous (or infamous) as the village from which Madeline McCann was abducted. I am on alert as bing an orphan I feel particularly vulnerable.
Booking in was no problem, assisited by the ample charms on display of the comely Portuguese receptionist ( the Gf sniffily declared them to be surgically enhanced, but what do I know?) but the first pitch allocated was a) already in shade from a wall and tall firs and b) difficult to access so we had a scout round and found a perfect pitch, 916, which was very large, had a bit of a terrace and uninterrupted sun from east to west. Apparently had only just been vacated by an enormous RV so was just the job and was not subject to another booking so here we are and THE SUN LOUNGE IS UP AGAIN.
TURISCAMPO is a very nice site, terraced,good pitches,good facilities, lovely swimming pool and decent bar with restaurant serving daily all-you-can-eat-buffet for 6.90€ with bigger version on sat/sun for 9.90€. Also well stocked shop. LUZ is a bit of a hike, esp. on the way back which is more uphill, but the large village is quite charming with stunning horseshoe shaped beach and cliffs. But it is very,very,colonised by the brits and very developed. The local supermarkets know the trade they are catering for and the selection is very british and expensive (There was a very large display cabinet full of vintage ports at 90€ +). We had a nice sundowner at a beachside restaurant, great for watching the surf and the sunset and I can see the attraction.
So far we have explored LAGOS (that's Lagooosh,otherwise we are in Nigeria which might be confusing)which is a pleasant watering hole, Bournemouth-sur-mer and all of the above apply, great beaches and great looking beach restaurants. Full of brits en vacance and oiking round the narrow streets which are full of restaurants. Good local museum and the golden chapel of Santo Antonio wherein lies the tomb of Irishman Hugo Beaty who led the Portuguese army against the Spanish. Found 2 very large supermarkets, the native Pingo Doce and an Intermarche, both much more reasonably priced (Wine at 2€ and less) but both still catering for the anglo-european trade.
Cultural Note (1): All the supermarkets have a good supply of Port but the most popular variety appears to be Tawny, with many different brands from around 6€ upwards. This is not a version I am familiar with but rest assured tasting notes will be supplied soon.
The Port brands range from the unknown to the usual suspects and I noticed a bottle of Dows Midnight at 5.99€ which I think retails in the UK around the £8-£10 mark. LBV port is much less in evidence, White ports are very common and I shall re-aquaint myself with some in the interests of research, as I foolishly only bought one bottle of spanish brandy before we left......
Cultural Note (2) : I had assumed a smattering of Spanish would suffice for Portugal. Wrong. Apparently the language ratings are Portuguese,English,French and Spanish as a last resort and that spanish spoken by a non-spaniard is more or less unintelligible to the average Portuguese. As I have discovered. Habla Inglese ? receives a blank stare as it should be Fa-la Ingleesh (there are an awful lot of eesh/oosh/osh sounds in Portugal).
We have explored some way along the coast, notably to BURGAU and a rather fine tucked away beach called BOCA DA RIO which had 20 or so motorhomes wildcamping a stones throw from the crashing surf. Again this appears to be tolerated in the winter but there are tales of police fining people for camping if they so much as put a table or chair outside the van. Many people on the campsite have indulged in wildcamping occasionally and I have seen another copy of the Motorhometrails book which is supposedly still in print form Vicarious Books and is being updated this year by James Gamgee..see www.motorhometrails.com
The main problem with wildcamping here is the problem of water,waste and toilet emptying
and you can spot the wildcampers coming into a campsite for 1 or 2 days to refill and empty everything. The real diehards fill up with water from drinking fountains or buy bottled at Lidl and carry iron hooks to lift sewer manholes to empty toilet cassettes.But everybody knows bars or restaurants where these things can be done after chatting up the owners and where public standpipes can be found. We've picked a couple of sites from the book and shall certainly aim to wildcamp for a few nights after here.
The wifi here is charged (1€ hour) but there is only a really good signal in the internet room but LAGOS has a public hotspot in the main square so we might use that instead
Well done England but beaten by the better team.
I might be back ...
10 months ago