May 31, 2022 Cordoba SP

After 13 days in Portugal we headed back into Spain. While we enjoyed our time in Portugal and had some good experiences, some countries resonate with you and others don’t. Spain resonates with us more than Portugal so we feel almost at home now that we are back in Spain.

A museum dedicated to bullfighting in Cordoba.

On our first trip to Spain we had very reluctantly cut Cordoba out of the trip due to time constraints. When I was looking at the map last night Cordoba was an easy days drive away, so we were both excited to add it to the trip.

A statue dedicated to an Arab resident of the city during the period it was under Moslem rule.

The other good thing about going from the Algarve in Portugal to Cordoba is you pass thru Seville which has a Costco. We had visited the Costco in Seville last time we visited Spain so we stopped in again. The problem with Costco when you have a little camper is finding a place for everything we would have liked to buy. As we walked around we reluctantly left a few things on the shelf because we didn’t think they would fit. Despite that we still ran up the biggest grocery bill of the trip. But now we have a nice combination of favorite things from home and interesting Costco European items, and in the case of some of the dry goods enough for the rest of this trip and part of the next.

We were tempted to attend the Flamenco show, but we are going to have to adapt back to a Spanish clock. The dinner show did not start until 8:45 pm.

We arrived in Cordoba about 4pm and initially headed to a reasonably priced aire, but when we got there we realized it was way out of town, and the bus connections were sporadic. So we decided to bite the bullet and head to the aire in the city center. It is conveniently located 5 minutes from the old town, but is outrageously priced. On this trip this is the second most we have payed to stay somewhere and for the cost we get absolutely nothing but a parking spot, no electricity, no water, nothing but a good location.

Streets like these are why they can charge such an outlandish amount for a parking lot.

I told Ton we should head into the town for a quick look around and she somewhat reluctantly agreed to join me. But 5 minutes into the walk I new that Cordoba had hooked her. Every 5o yards she was off taking a photo of something. She was really in the zone and completely enjoying herself. It is a special town.

Part of the interior of the 14th century synagogue in Cordoba.

We spent a couple of hours just wandering alleys in the old town. We spent a lot of the time in the old Jewish quarter and visited the Synagogue which is from the 1300’s. In 1492 the Jews were expelled from Spain and for the next 450 years it was used for many other functions before being restored in the 1950’s. After a while we decided to head over to the UNESCO world heritage site Cathedral/Mosque to see where it is located. Tomorrow we have a ticket to visit the interior of the Cathedral/Mosque but it is very impressive from the outside.

You can see the Arab influence on the side walls of the Cathedral/Mosque. This door is unrestored.
This recently restored door is adjacent to the one above.

While the streets of old town Cordoba are obviously catering primarily to tourists, they do it in a way that does not detract from the history and atmosphere of the city. The French and the Spanish seem to do this very well. We are really looking forward to continuing our visit tomorrow.

May 30, 2022 Tavira PO

As I expected our days as beach bums came to a rapid end. While we are finding ourselves taking more days off on this trip than in the past, neither of us are capable of sitting still more than a couple of days before the itch to get moving takes hold.

The port in Tavira, a very charming town in the Algarve region.

We have shifted about 60km’s further east to a pretty coastal town called Tavira. The guidebooks all called it picturesque and they are right. It is the most beautiful small town we have visited in Portugal. We are staying on the new town side of the river near a bunch of salt flats that used to be a big driver of the local economy.

Ton liked the tile and wrought iron balconies on this building.
The seven arch bridge in Tavira has been in place for a couple of thousand years.

The river front is dominated by a bridge that goes back to Roman times, though it was largely rebuilt in the 1700’s. It is one of the biggest attractions in the town. The old town winds up to the castle and cathedral on top of the hill. The castle was originally built by the Moors, and after the reconquest was maintained by the Portuguese until it became obsolete. The remnants now are part of a beautiful park that we really enjoyed. The gardens within the walls of the castle are really beautiful and all of the trees and plants are flowering so it was really colorful.

The gardens inside the old castle in Tavira. All of the plants were flowering and the colors were really vivid.

As we were walking towards the cathedral we saw a sign advertising a Fado concert daily. Fado is the national music of Portugal. The theme of the songs are mostly tragic, and somewhat melancholy, but sung with great passion. We have heard it here and there as we have moved around Portugal so we decided to take in the concert. Unfortunately when we went to buy tickets for the show we were told that the concerts were on hold because one of the singers has Covid. We might have to write a Fado about our missed opportunity to hear Fado.

Tavira from the top of the castle walls.

We spent a couple of hours exploring Tavira and really enjoyed ourselves. Tomorrow we are heading into Spain, so this will be our last day in Portugal.

May 29, 2022 Falesia PO

Another day being beach bums makes for a short post. After sleeping in late, having a nice coffee and breakfast we moved across the street in the afternoon to a food cart restaurant to watch the Monaco Grand Prix with Meow and Gerd who are big F1 fans. This is the second meal we have eaten at this humble little outside restaurant and Ton and I think it may be the best food we have eaten in Portugal. All of the dishes we have tried were fantastic.

In the evening we went to a local restaurant that specializes in suckling pigs. Meow and Gerd had eaten there a couple of days before we arrived and raved about it. It was quite delicious and the pig was cooked perfectly. When we arrived back at the campground we shared one more bottle of wine with our friends before turning in for the night.

May 28, 2022 Falesia PO

Today we are trying to be beach bums. We are enjoying the sun and the company of good friends. In the evening we headed over to a local pub to watch the European Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid. The crowd at the Portuguese pub was entirely routing for Liverpool including us. Unfortunately Liverpool lost so we all left disappointed.

May 27, 2022 Falesia PO

Our plans today were to meet up with our new friends Meow and Gerd for the weekend at a camping aire near Falesia. The night before I checked the website for the aire and they have a neat feature that shows in real time how many sports are available. When I checked there were only 5 spots left out of a total of 120. Since they do not take reservations we had an early departure.

The trip down was uneventful and we arrived at the aire about 9:30 am. After we picked our spot I was just about to set out to find Meow and Gerds van when Gerd rode up on his bike. He was on his way out to buy some bread for breakfast.

Ton announced she could be a beach bum today. We are going to test that the next few days.

The rest of the day was spent taking care of chores around François and catching up with Meow and Gerd. Not an exciting day but a pleasant one.

May 26, 2022 Cuba PO

Yesterday I spoke of our unhappiness with Portugal. Today was a day when Portugal was fantastic. When you take these trips you hope everyday is like today was.

Our ultimate destination in what turned out to be a pretty special day.

The day started out pretty routinely. As I mentioned last night we received a last minute invitation to visit and stay at Herdade do Rocim winery near Cuba. We were about to give up on the region and head back to the coast but instead went out to this winery for the day after they confirmed they could give us a place to stay for the night.

The church in Cuba. The big event in town was the grand opening of a supermarket.

After a quick final stop in Evora to give François a much needed bath we headed towards the winery. We had told them we would arrive around 2 pm but found ourselves at the winery around noon. Rather than arrive too early we decided to head into the nearby town of Cuba to see what we would see.

It turns out Cuba is a nice but very quiet country town of a few thousand people. But today was a big day for Cuba as a brand new Intermarche Supermarket was opening. When we first got to the town we noticed that all of the traffic and pedestrians were heading in one direction toward the Intermarche. So we followed, and joined the crowd there. While in the store we were approached by a group of high school students who hit us with a blast of Portuguese. When we explained we did not speak Portuguese the leader sent one of the students off to find another student who spoke English. She told us they were soliciting for a raffle to win a coffee maker to help pay for their class trip. The cost of a ticket was €1 so we donated a euro because we would not be around to collect our coffee maker if we won.

Herdade do Rocim is known for its Amphora wines. Wines made in clay jugs like the Romans did it.

Having contributed to the senior trip for the high school in Cuba we headed to the winery for our tour. When we arrived we were the only vehicle in the parking lot of a very beautiful winery.

The view from our parking spot for the night.

When we went inside we were introduced to Elena who was to be our guide for the day. As we went around the winery her knowledge of the Portuguese wine industry, and the local grapes and growing conditions was very impressive. She had detailed knowledge of climate, grapes, and details about farming that we assumed she had acquired over many years. One thing we noticed is we crossed paths with another young lady several times during the tour and they always spoke English with each other so I told Ton that the other girl must not be Portuguese.

Elena showing us how to open a wine bottle with a knife.

As we sat down for our tasting Elena told us they had some extra wine for us to taste as before we had arrived they had been practicing opening wine with a knife. The technique is to strike the top of the bottle with a knife just below the cork which if done right causes the top of the bottle to break cleanly. I asked her if this was a Portuguese thing, and she said no it is just cool. Later her colleague had her show us how it is done, which got us another glass of wine.

At this point I asked Elena where her colleague was from and she answered Portugal, so I asked why they were communicating in English, and her answer astonished me. Elena is Ukrainian and had just arrived in Portugal two months ago from Kiev because of the war. What an astonishing young lady, not only was she dealing with being displaced from her homeland, but in a couple of months she had learned so much about Portuguese wine and the region that I assumed she was a native. It turns out she was in the wine industry in the Ukraine and had a vast background about wines in general that she was able to apply to Portuguese wine. The winery is hosting her and her daughter and mother on site. Ton and I were blown away. Elena is hopeful to return home with her family after harvest this year and we really hope it comes to pass.

Elena and the owner of Herdade do Rocim.

The rest of the afternoon was a pleasure of tasting very good wines, and having great conversations with Elena and a Portuguese and American couple who are having there wedding here on Saturday.

As I am writing this we are sitting in the middle of a beautiful winery enjoying sunset after having met an incredible person who made us realize how very lucky we are. If you see a bottle of Rocim wine anywhere (we understand it is sold in 30 states) I highly recommend you buy it, as the wine is wonderful, and the people behind it deserve your support for taking in Elena and her family and giving her a chance to show her incredible knowledge of the wine industry while giving her family a safe place to live during these troubled times. We were humbled to meet her.

May 25, 2022 Evora PO

We are beginning to struggle a bit with Portugal. We had high expectations and many people told us we were going to love it. But so far all of our stops have been near misses. Nothing has been bad, but there is always a little hitch in our plans that throws us off. One example is that at most toll booths our credit cards are rejected until we press the help button and the invisible attendant intervenes. The attendants are always nice, and it only takes a minute or two for them to fix whatever is causing our card to be rejected and we are on our way, but it is annoying, and has never happened anywhere else in Europe.

Alentejo is known for its wine and olive production, as well as the biggest source of cork in Europe. These are olive trees near our hotel.

Today we have moved to a new region in Portugal called Alentejo. It is about 1/3 of the total land in Portugal but only has about 8% of the people. It is also a famous wine region. We were really excited about coming here as it is the kind of place we usually enjoy. Our plans were to visit a tourism office they have set up for their wine industry where their website claimed they would help you plan a trip thru the regions wineries.

We followed the medieval walls of the old town as we were walking to the wine tourism office.

So after our night of luxury in the posh hotel we were up early for the 20 minute drive to the campground in Evora to get checked in. When we arrived they asked how long we were planning to stay and I said a few days, and was told that we could only stay a maximum of 2 days. This is not their fault we didn’t book in advance, but it threw our plans off and is unusual in the shoulder season.

The gothic cathedral in Evora.

Our next stop was the wine route tourism office. We were there right when they reopened at 2pm, and followed a group of about 6 people in. The office website says that in addition to help you plan your route they will give you a tasting of two local wines. The building is quite nice, and they had an interesting display explaining the wines of the region. We looked around for about 15 minutes while a young guy ran around. He finally approached us looking a bit frazzled and said that he was truly sorry but he could not help us today. He said that in addition to the group in front of us, he had a group of 30 coming shortly and they were short handed. We told him our dilemma as we had counted on their assistance, he looked truly sorry, and spent a very rushed five minutes with us, handed us a map of the region and said he really had to go. We mentioned we were in a RV and he said that some of the wineries allowed RV’s to stay and they had an interactive map that would show us which ones. He then showed us how to use the interactive screen, told us to make sure we contacted them in advance of arrival and said he really had to go, and we did not see him again.

The Roman temple of Diana, one of the best preserved Roman sites in Portugal.

From the interactive screen we took pictures of the contact information for 5 wineries that said they would host RV’s. We then went down the street to a little coffee shop where I went on to the website for each winery, and using their email contact page sent them a request to visit tomorrow. We finished sending the emails by about 2:30 and then took a tour of Evora. As I am writing this it is almost 9pm and we have not heard back from anyone, so we are working on a plan b that involves going to the Algarve and meeting our new Thai-German friends. This has been typical of our Portugal experience, nothing bad, the people are nice, but other than the second day in Porto, nothing particularly memorable or interesting. A lot of missed opportunities.

This area is also famous for marble production, this marble statue was located near the temple of Diana.

By the way Evora is a lovely city with interesting architecture and a well preserved Roman temple. We did enjoy our afternoon stroll thru town.

Evora is a lovely city with whitewashed buildings to try to reflect the sun which is relentless in the summer.

Note: Right before I hit publish for the day one of the wineries reached out and said we could stay on site tomorrow, so plan A is back on.

May 23, 2022 Obidos PO

The plan this morning was to stop in Obidos on the way to Lisbon. The whole time in Portugal we have been struggling with the concept of Lisbon. The camping options are not very convenient, and many of our friends who have visited Lisbon were not very happy with their visits. Most of the fellow RV’ers we have run into on this trip, no matter their nationality gave Lisbon a pretty meh review. Today when we arrived in Obidos the first impression of the little town was striking. As we were parking in the RV lot we ran into a nice Belgian couple who also gave Lisbon a meh review. Ton and I decided we would think about it as we walked and make a decision about whether to stay in Obidos for the night, or go on to Lisbon. At the end of the walk we both decided to skip Lisbon, it turns out we were both feeling obliged to go , but not excited. So we decided to skip Lisbon.

This castle is now a luxury hotel.

Obidos is an interesting city with a long history originally settled by Celts, it has been Roman, Moorish, and Portuguese for extended periods of time. The castle was originally built by the Moors and has the distinctive square shape towers. The Portuguese continued to expand on the castle and it is very well preserved. The main quarters of the castle are now a hotel, something that is very common in Portugal where historical buildings are converted to luxury hotels.

François parked in front of a medieval aqueduct, our parking place for the night.

They have a distinctive local liqueur made from cherries and herbs called Ginja that Obidos is famous for. Ton wanted to sample some from a bar called Ibn Erik Rex, but when we went by around noon it was closed. So we tried some at another place and neither of us was that impressed.

A chocolate cup filled with cherry liquor designed for tourists.

After lounging around François for a few hours in the afternoon we decided to take an evening stroll thru town. By then most of the tourists had departed so the atmosphere was much more relaxed, and happily Ibn Erik Rex was open so we could give Ginja another try. The second taste was much better than the first, but the fun part was the owner who was a character and gave us a very thorough history of the Iberian Peninsula back to the reconquest.

The wall in the place with good Ginja, there is a secret lurking in the painting.
The secret revealed.

The interior of the bar was atmospheric with hundreds of bottles in the ceiling and art on the walls. There was even a secret picture of a nude women under a flap on the wall, that was apparently quite scandalous when it was originally painted in the 1950’s.

May 22, 2022 Nazare PO

We visited two places today, Fatima and Nazare. One is a religious shrine, and the other is one of the great surfing places in the world.

The beach at Nazare we thought would be the highlight of the day.

Yesterday we rode the bus into town with a Dutch women who was staying at our campground. We had a nice conversation with her, and she told us about Fatima. We had seen it in our research and were undecided about visiting it, but she told us it was worth a stop and quite interesting.

Ton went to school from kindergarten thru High School at a Catholic school called Regina Caeli so this sign meant a lot to her.

So after another night of extremely loud college students outside our door we were up early and punched Fatima into the GPS. When we arrived we were surprised by the giant parking area for the Shrine. Neither one of us were expecting the large crowds that were heading into the area of the Shrine. The shrine is immense with a large basilica centering a plaza. Today there was a mass going on on the steps of the basilica facing the plaza and there were probably a couple of thousand people in the plaza. Some where focused on the mass but many where just wandering around taking pictures and enjoying the sites. It was very different than the other masses I have attended, much less formal.

The plaza where mass was being celebrated is on the field where the original miracle was reported to happen.

We joined in for a while before moving on to another very modern building that is partially underground, but includes several chapels, and one very large very modernistic church the size of a lot of cathedrals. One of the small chapels was also having a mass, and shortly after we entered the larger church another mass started. Also, in amidst all of the chapels and churches there is also a museum which we walked thru. All of this is to support the thousands of pilgrims who come every year to Fatima.

The basilica that was built in the 1930’s. You can see the priests for the mass under the roof in front.

I assumed the miracle of Fatima happened hundreds of years ago, but it turns out that the miracle that has driven all of this activity happened in 1917. That year three young children, a brother and sister and their cousin were tending the family sheep in a field when a bright shining lady (Mary)appeared to them and told them that prayer could end the great war (WWI). They went home and told their mother who told them not to tell anyone else as she was embarrassed. She told a couple of her friends who spread the word and people began to appear to pray for peace. The brother and sister died the next year during the great flu epidemic, but the cousin became a nun and continued to receive visits from the bright shining lady during her life.

The three young shepherds who saw the vision of Mary.

The basilica building was built around 1930. The plaza we saw all of the people on covers the field where the children saw the vision. The modern churches were build in the 60’s and 70’s. There was a lot of modern religious art around the site which we both found interesting. A stop we thought would be a quick walk thru an old church turned into a much longer walk thru a vast but quite modern religious site.

One of the many modern pieces of religious art on the site at Fatima.

Nazare was the place we had thought was going to be the focus of our day. Due to an interesting combination of a steep cliff jutting into the ocean, and a deep underwater canyon just off shore when the conditions are right enormous waves of up to 100 feet can be generated. Over the last few years using tow boats surfers have gone out and surfed these monster waves, with the current record being 80 feet.

The cliffs at Nazare which help to produce 100 foot waves just off shore when the conditions are right.

Today the conditions were not generating those kind of waves, in fact they were hardly generating any waves, and most of the surfers looked bored. There was a beach soccer tournament going on, and a lot of people were enjoying the weekend at the beach. But otherwise it looked like another pretty beach town along the Atlantic coast.

Walking down to the beach. It was worth every penny for the cab ride up the hill later.

We walked from the campsite to the beach, but the guy at the campsite recommended we walk to the beach and then spend the €5 it would cost for a taxi ride home. He was right as it would have been quite a climb back. When we got back we stopped in the campsite bar to watch a Premier league soccer game before heading back to François for the night.

May 21, 2022 Coimbra PO

Coimbra is a university town, and the university here is the oldest in Portugal. To add to the university feeling it is graduation week, so the town is alive with young people enjoying their last week before setting off to work. Unfortunately a good number of them are enjoying it here in the campground. Last night we had about 15 or 20 of them partying across the street from us until 3 or 4 in the morning. On our side of the road by some weird coincidence 8 of the 10 RV’s were from the Netherlands and they did not appreciate their youthful exuberance and beat a steady line up to the campground office to complain in the morning. This evening the Dutch have mostly moved on, and the kids are still here. Hopefully, they will reign it in a little tonight.

The tower at the university. This main square is the center of the university, but 3 of the 4 sides of the square are under maintenance and covered with scaffolding.

We headed into town in the morning to see what Coimbra has to offer, it turns out it is mostly the university. The bus drops you off by the riverfront, but like a lot of medieval towns the main living area is on the top of a hill to help with defenses of the city. Coimbra’s hill is exceptionally defendable as it is very steep, and the university is at the very top of the hill. So the climb got us our workout for the day. At the top there were a lot of students walking around in their gowns, many with their families. We noticed that many of them were carrying baskets and talking to the tourists, finally a coed walked up to us, assessed us for a second and asked in flawless English if we wanted to buy a pen for €2 to help support their graduation. So we now have a cute pen from the University of Coimbra.

One of the steep streets in Coimbra. This picture does not do justice to the steepness of the hill.

The University is quite large, though most of the buildings look like they are from the 1950’s. The historical buildings are supposed to be beautiful inside but they all cost money to enter. Pictures we saw of the old library look stunning but it cost €12 to enter for 20 minutes so we passed.

Part of the university crew race.

Because we are from Portland our next stop was the local micro brewery which was back down the hill and across the river. As we were walking across the bridge there was a rowing race going on with 2, 4 and 8 person boats participating. Looking at the racers I am guessing these are university crew teams.

Our lunch today. Pork steaks with fries and the worlds best Imperial Stout.

The microbrewery was our first one on this trip, and it was excellent. Their featured beer was an Imperial Stout that had won the best beer in the world at the London Beer Festival. Since the British know their beer we decided it was worth a try, and it was world class. Ton made the call to order one main dish as she suspected the portions would be huge and she was right.

Ton liked this statue of a women shaped like a guitar.

It was spitting rain off and on and threatening a big downpour so we decided to head back to François. Interestingly the big rain never came but several times we were hit with a few big drops, but it was like there was dirt in the drops of rain as the windshield is now coated in dirt.

The front of the statue. It is dedicated to a famous Fado singer, the national music of Portugal.

May 20, 2022 Coimbra PO

There is not a lot to talk about today. We shifted south about 150km’s to Coimbra. As we were driving we talked about whether we would take it easy for the day when we arrived or head into town for a recon before exploring it in earnest tomorrow. When we arrived the temperatures were in the high 80’s with about 70% humidity so our motivation for the recon was low. Then when we checked in the lady informed us that the bus drivers were on strike today so there was no public transit available. Since it is about 2.5 miles one way to downtown, it was easy to say that today was a day of rest.

This picture is from two days ago, though we did cross over that bridge leaving town. It had a really nice view.

The only thing was we had an oops moment with the road system here. I usually do a quick Google check before we enter a new country to make sure there are not any weird rules I need to know about. For whatever reason I did not do that here. The first toll road had the normal toll both system. Today on a freeway near the campground I noticed a sign announcing a toll and shortly after I saw a large bank of cameras mounted over all three lanes. As soon as we stopped at an Aldi for groceries I googled Portuguese toll cameras, and sure enough on a few of the secondary toll ways they have instituted a camera system and foreign vehicles need to register on a website with a credit card so that you can be charged. I think we will be ok for today as I registered a few minutes after I went thru the toll, but now I remember passing under a similar bank of cameras the first day and wondering what that was all about. So I fear there is a fine in my future for not paying a €2 toll.

May 19, 2022 Porto PO

The photographer in the couple spent much of yesterday complaining about the light. At the end of the day she was unhappy with most of her photos. When we woke up this morning she was very happy because the light was fantastic.

Ton really like these trees, and the way they framed Porto.

It really was a beautiful day, the sun was out and the temperatures where in the low 70’s. Having now figured out the ticketing system for the Porto metro we had a much smoother start to our journey, and even passed the muster of a ticket audit. Porto like Portland our hometown runs the transit system on an honor system. You buy your ticket, but there is no turnstile or other way to control access to the system. Periodically workers get on the train and ask for your ticket. If you do not have one than you are fined a substantial amount, I like that as it makes entry and exit to the trains much simpler and there is something about trusting people to do the right thing that makes me feel good.

This church tower was near the Harry Potter book store..

Our first first stop for the day was Livaria Lello which is a bookstore near the university in town. JK Rowling when she lived here and was writing the Harry Potter books was inspired by the interior of this bookstore for hogwarts. It has a beautiful interior with a wooden bridge/balcony that crosses from one side of the store to the other. Unfortunately there are a lot of Harry Potter fans and now the store charges an admission fee to get in, and even at 11am there was a line way down the block waiting to pay to get in. We are not Harry Potter fans so we passed.

Gourmet sardines.
Cod and cheese croquets.

But the walk to the neighborhood was not a waste of time because in the plaza near the store we found a canned sardine store that we really enjoyed. In Brittany, Galicia, and Porto we kept running into these very high end cans of sardines. In the US we consider canned sardines to be cheap food, here they are a luxury item. We kept looking at cans of sardine that in the US would cost at the most a couple of dollars, and here they were around €9.50. Today the guy at the store explained the difference and gave us a chance to taste a sample. In the end we walked out with 5 cans of expensive sardines. Even if the sardines don’t taste 5 times better the cans are works of art in themselves.

The sardine store with someones laundry on the top floor.

Next door was a store called the Portuguese experience that we wandered into and ended up eating our lunch there. It was a simple lunch of a cod and cheese croquet and a glass of port. The building was really nice and we had a third floor dining area overlooking a square to ourselves. It was a simple but nice lunch.

Our elegant private dinning area.

Yesterday we did not cross the River Duoro to the south side of the river where all of the port wine houses are located. The river on that side is lined with many port houses. The grapes are mostly grown a few miles inland from Porto along the Duoro River valley. But historically the shipping was done from Porto so the major buildings for the houses are in Porto.

Replicas of port carrying boats that were used to haul the barrels out to ocean going ships to be shipped overseas.

Part of the reason we did not cross over was that neither of us are huge fans of port wine. But since it was a nice day, and Ton thought she could get some nice pictures of the city we went over there. We had walked past most of the port producers when we came across an old market building that had been refurbished into a food hall. It looked like a nice place to take a break and we sat there for a while enjoying a glass of local non-port wine.

This is an old market building that had been converted into a food hall. It was really well done and quite popular.

Next door to the market was a port house we had never heard of called Porto Ramos-Pinto. Ton liked the building and while she was shooting some pictures I went in and took a look around. It was a beautiful tasting room and the charge for a tasting was pretty inexpensive. So we decided to test our poor impression of port. Our tasting tray arrived with 5 pretty healthy pours of port which we thought was nice. Then a couple of minutes later two of the employees showed up with another taster tray with 5 more glasses and profound apologies for the misunderstanding. We laughed because we had no idea what the misunderstanding was but we appreciated their honesty and sincerity but were worried about the amount of wine we were now committed to drinking. We also were happy that we had a long walk back to the metro station to get rid of some of the alcohol after we were done.

Our unexpectedly extensive port tasting.
Both of us really liked the art work from this advertisement from 1928.

Our appreciation for port went up quite a bit. We had never experienced white port before and found it very appealing. The red varieties were also much better than we remembered. In the end we are glad we stopped in at Porto Ramos-Pinto, both for the good service and the good port.

You are either going straight uphill or straight downhill in Porto, the only flat area is along the river.

The walk back to the metro was a slow one as the hills are steep, and we had a lot of wine to walk off. We both needed to use the bathroom when we saw a sign for the most beautiful McDonalds in the world. It was in a nice building and will have to take them at their word on its beauty, but we did appreciate their facilities.

This is supposed to be the most beautiful McDonalds in the world.

May 18, 2022 Porto PO

Porto turned out to be a great introduction to Portugal. It is the second largest metropolitan area in Portugal and compared to the towns and small cities we have been visiting feels pretty big.

An interesting block of apartments in the old town. The building on the far right is a Fado hall. Fado is the national music of Portugal.

When we were looking for a place to stay we couldn’t find anything close to the city that we were happy with so we landed in a campground in one of the outer suburbs near the ocean. When we arrived at the metro station we joined 2 Dutch couples and 2 German couples from the campground having a team meeting around the only ticket machine at the stop trying to decipher how to buy round trip tickets, much to the bemusement of the Portuguese who all had an app on their phone. We eventually conquered the ticket machine and were on our way.

One of the many buildings faced with blue tiles, some are just geographic patterns and some are art work showing religious or historical events.

One of the first things we noticed is that many of the buildings in town are faced with ceramic tiles. By far the most popular color is blue though other colors are used. My hasty research says that there is no deep meaning behind blue it is a stylistic choice.

The newest tourist attraction are replicas of Thai Tuk Tuks. Nearly every major tourist city now features a Tuk Tuk tour.

Ton handed me a list of places she wanted to see today. The first stop was the market which she told me had just completed renovation last year. The article she had read was optimistic as the market was still undergoing renovation. It looks like they are doing a nice job on it even if they are a little behind schedule.

A view of the city from the cathedral.

The next stop was the cathedral which had great views of the city. The exterior of the cathedral didn’t impress us too much and we passed on paying to view the interior.

You can get a sense of the size of the hills on either side of the Duoro from this photo and the photo at the top of the post, this is taken from near the deck of the bridge looking down.

Porto is extremely hilly the drop from the main town to the river is easily a couple of hundred feet and in a short distance so the climb is steep. Interestingly though the entire hillside as steep as it is, is covered in residences. I’m not sure how many are occupied these days, but the residents must certainly be fit.

One of the tile walls in the main railway station depicting various scenes from the history of Porto. Though done in medieval style, they are primarily from the 1800’s.

Ton wanted to visit the railway station to look at the tile walls there, so we headed over there before lunch. Porto is famous for a sandwich called fransecinha and we decided we would split one for lunch as they are huge. They consist of a slice of mortadella, a sausage, a piece of beef all covered in cheese with an egg on top and placed in a gravy with French fries. When Ton saw one she chickened out and ordered a much healthier plate of grilled sardines. I went for the fransechinha and enjoyed it.

My fransechinha. It was quite delicious and just a little over the top.

After lunch we decided Porto needed another day, as it was already quite late and we had not even made it to the other side of the river. So after a stop at the main shopping street lined with all of the luxury brands we headed back to the metro station. The trip back was easy and we enjoyed a quiet evening resting up for the hills of Porto tomorrow.

Most of the streets in and around Porto consist of paving or cobble stones. We have come across these before on pedestrian malls and occasionally for short stretches in towns. Here it seems to be the primary road surface.

May 17, 2022 Vila Cha PO

The weather drove us out of Spain. Overnight and when we got up it was extremely windy, with periodic heavy rains. We were about ready to leave Galicia and head to Portugal, but the weather motivated us to get moving.

Because of the bad weather we even decided to pay to use the toll roads all the way to Portugal. The toll roads are very good, but quite expensive. The trip today was about 200km’s and cost €24. But today it felt like money well spent. We wanted to make a grocery stop out of town but weirdly all of the major grocery chains in Northern Spain close on Tuesdays. We didn’t know this until we had passed two major grocery stores that were dark and Ton checked the internet to find out why.

Our first day in Portugal spent at the beach watching the end of a storm. The waves were spectacular.

The other thing we experienced for the first time today was a time zone change. Portugal is on a different time zone than Spain. I knew this but in the heat of the moment forgot and was arguing with Ton about what time it was.

The Thai are taking over the world. A couple of days ago we ran into a nice Thai-German couple in the campground. Today while we were drinking our welcome to the campground Port wine, another European-Asian couple walked in. We laughed and said there was no way. Later down on the beach we saw them again and I asked and sure enough she was Thai. We were surprised when it happened the first time, this time we just laughed. They also live in Germany and have a cute 9 month old son.

There were several dogs enjoying the surf and chasing shorebirds around.

The surf was really running high at the beach and we enjoyed watching the waves break on the rocks. After spending 45 minutes walking up and down the beach we headed over to a waterfront cafe for some wine and to continue to watch the surf and the people and dogs playing in it before calling it a night.

May 16, 2022 Portonovo SP

While we were sleeping a pretty good storm rolled in. We had planned to go to Vigo but neither of us were terribly excited about it so the weather gave us an excuse to just lie in for the day.

This was as close as Ton got to the beach before the blowing sand drove her back to the road.

About noon the rain finally let up, but the wind was still blowing hard, we decided to head down to the beach. When we got there sand was blowing so hard that Ton decided we had better find somewhere else to walk so we headed into town. Things here seem to be very summer oriented. There are multiple hotels facing the ocean most of which looked like they were closed up. The ones that were open looked very quiet. I can imagine during the summer when all of the hotels are full, and all of the second homes are occupied that it would be teaming with people, but right now it is very quiet.

It was a rough day on the bay, it was hard to hold the phone still because of the wind.

Ton was cold so she headed right back to François, I extended the walk and found a really nice headland with a view of several off shore islands that are part of a Spanish National Park. I tried my hand at a couple of pictures but they are not up to Tons standards.

May 15, 2022 Portonovo SP

Sometimes its a small world. Today we parked early in a nice motorhome aire near Portonovo because the weather is atrocious out. What we thought was a passing thunderstorm last night was actually a front moving thru so it rained most of the night and into the day. We made an effort to visit a town on the coast but as soon as we got about 400 yards from François the skies opened up. We were just far enough away to get a good soaking.

Our original plan was to look for a winery to visit, but the weather canceled that plan. This vineyard was across the street from the campground.

At that point we decided we would hunker down for the day and get some laundry done. As we were setting up François Ton noticed another Asian lady in a RV across from us. Just as we finished the laundry we bumped into her on the road and exchanged smiles, then she gave Ton a Sawadee Kha. So in a tiny campground in a pretty remote part of Spain two Thai married to foreigners crossed paths.

We spent the rest of the evening chatting about our travels. Meow and Gerd live near Dortmund Germany. Ton enjoyed an evening speaking Thai, and we stayed up much too late. Part of the fun of traveling are the interesting people you come across. Ton was truly amazed to find another Thai and for one night there were more Thai in the campground than any nationality except the Spanish.

May 14, 2022 Pontevedra SP

We made a short move south to a somewhat undiscovered medieval town called Pontevedra. With an early start we arrived about 10 am to an already full RV parking area so we guess it is not that undiscovered. We pulled into the last available spot and I was really proud of myself for getting here early.

The medieval bridge is still in use today as a pedestrian bridge and is surprisingly wide for its age.

After we finished our coffee we headed out to take a look at the old medieval town and the market. Unlike the market in Santiago yesterday the market here was really bustling when we popped in. It is primarily a seafood market and there were all kinds of interesting and very fresh fish, crabs, and shrimp on display. Ton regretted we did not have a good way to prepare fish in François so we moved on to the old town.

Part of the market in Pontevedra most of the stalls are owned by women.

As we were leaving the market a bunch of people emerged from a building with a bass band. Leading the band was a young couple who danced along to the music. We guess it is a local wedding tradition.

This young couple was leading the band down the street as part of a wedding tradition we think.

It was about 11:30 and we were surprised how quiet the streets were. At one point we came across a small tour group of Americans who were also surprised that the streets were so quiet but appreciated it after the hustle and bustle of the other stops on their trip. The guide said that they are happy to have tourists but do not want to be overrun with tourists like other towns. As the day wore on we were surprised that the most common language after Galician and Spanish we heard was American accented English. So at least the Americans are discovering Pontevedra.

We have been seeing these crosses all across northern Spain. Eavesdropping on a tour today we learned they served to orient visitors to the town, Jesus always faced inland, Mary faced the ocean, and the other figures represented services in town and the rough direction they could be found.

Ton had picked out a bodega which in Spain is a wine bar for us to try some Gallician wines. We sampled a few and had a nice sausage plate to go along with the wine. We took a turn thru the town as the locals began to go about their weekend business. Like all Spanish towns Pontevedra is extremely pedestrian friendly. We are constantly impressed how easy it is to move around on foot in Spanish cities. It was pretty warm today and the wine and sausages starting kicking in so it was time for a siesta.

The coat of arms of the city in the ruins of a 14th century church in town.

Later in the day we joined the rest of town for the evening walk before heading back to François for dinner. We were surprised when a thunderstorm rolled in and doused us for about 25 minutes but it did cool things down.

We liked this chapel on one of the main squares. It is a way station on the Portuguese trail to Santiago. This group of bicyclists had stopped to get their trail passports stamped, according to the sign they are only 67 km’s from the end of the pilgrimage.


We spent three days crossing the provinces of Asturias and Cantabria in Northern Spain. In Asturias we discovered another from of Cider that was different than the Norman and Breton ciders we had grown fond of in France. While the visits were short we enjoyed the two cities we stayed in.

May 9, 2022 Gijon SP

We were really enjoying Santander and were somewhat reluctant to leave even though we need to get moving towards Galicia and Portugal, so we compromised

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Galicia was on our trip itinerary for 2022. It is a region of Spain that is heavily influenced by Celtic culture, and like several other regions has its own language that is commonly used.

It is home to the third most holy city in the Catholic church, Santiago de Compostela. Santiago is a pilgrimage city and every year thousands of people complete walks thru the countryside to the city, there are pilgrimage trails thru out Spain and France that terminate at Santiago.

Outside of Santiago it is not high on the tourist trail for foreigners, so it feels a little more authentic. It is a mountainous region with the mountains often going right down to the Atlantic. We enjoyed our time in Galicia a great deal.

May 15, 2022 Portonovo SP

Sometimes its a small world. Today we parked early in a nice motorhome aire near Portonovo because the weather is atrocious out. What we thought

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