Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Proper Pint Glasses and a Big Rock

Hola!  We are now back in Espana (well kind of) and having a tip top time with my wonderful friend Angela & her boyfriend Dean.  After a long drive from the west coast of Portugal, via a health clinic (John's been deaf in one ear) & a 2 hour stint around the ring road of Seville to find a campsite that shut 2 years ago, we finally found a place to pitch for a couple of nights.  We've heard that it's hot in England at the mo but seriously people, we're talking 45 degrees C!  John was so shocked by the heat (apparently it's the hottest place he's ever been) he treated himself to a 1 euro thermometer & spent the next few days checking it regularly.  Even at night it was 35 degrees.

We definitely can't complain though, everywhere we go seems to have a beach or a swimming pool & plenty of cold beer options so we are very happy.  We spent the weekend in Tarifa, a cool hippy surf town that even had a vegetarian restaurant & suited us perfectly.  Ang & her friend Kerry showed us the sights & the local night spots, which played everything from Flamenco to AC/DC to Whigfield.  Much fun was had before heading back to their dwellings in La Linea.

We're now in Angela's beautiful apartment which feels like being in a 5* hotel, complete with balcony overlooking the water & a swimming pool.  She's about 100 metres from the border with Gibraltar so our days have been spent half in Spain, half in a mini version of Britain (just with more sun).  It's so bizarre crossing the border into a land of red post boxes, pound coins and proper pint glasses, but quite refreshing not to have to keep struggling with our bad Spanish!  Walking into Gib takes you across the airport runway where you're definitely encouraged not to drop litter, just in case the karma gets you!

Yesterday Ang took us on a hike up the big rock which felt like punishment at the time but was very rewarding in the end.  The views were beautiful (we could even see Morocco) and we managed to spot some of the wild monkeys on the way down.

John's hearing is now working again so we're heading to a waterpark tomorrow and then taking a mini trip to Morocco for a few days.  Photos and updates to come soon!x

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Carol's Place

Carol's place is a beautifully renovated, traditional Portuguese home with 12 acres of land including meadows, forest and a lake. We've just finished our 2 week stint but could have easily stayed a lot longer – it's such a relaxed and happy place. There was always things to do but also plenty of time to relax, chat, swim in the lake, drink wine, read books, watch films and play games so it's felt much more like a holiday than 'work'.

We thought the food couldn't get any better after the last place but were wrong, turns out Carol used to be a chef so each meal was absolutely delicious and there was yet another endless supply of home-made chutney to keep John happy. He also got to make is own peanut butter which he was very chuffed with! As well as us and Carol, there was also the lovely Julien, Chelsea and Jo, who it turns out was also from Manchester and used to live about 2 minutes from our old house in Chorlton! Small world.

We arrived at the perfect time as the local village of Santa Clara (10km away) was holding it's annual festival, and what a bizarre but very entertaining treat! The whole village seemed to turn out for the evening dance, possibly because they heard that John would be joining the folk dancers on stage for the last number – amazing! His reputation was apparent when locals were coming up to him the next day to shake his hand and impersonate his moves. The Portuguese seem to take their dances seriously so looked on with bemusement as we tried to dance along to the accordion player, I don't think we were quite up to their standards but definitely had fun trying :-) Both days we just parked up and slept in the village car park – turns out its very easy to camp where we like in Portugal which makes a very refreshing change!

Last weekend we went 'wild camping' on the west coast and found an amazing spot on top of the dunes right above a gorgeous beach. Having not seen another VW for what feels like months, we ended up sleeping opposite another T25, half red half yellow, so Roo felt amongst family again. The west coast was beautiful, very ragged with lots of cliffs and rocks but also long sandy beaches and great waves (if only either of us knew how to surf). We arrived back in Santa Clara to yet another party, this time for Tomate's birthday which we celebrated outdoors at the bottom of the dam. It was great to hang out with our local friends again and lots of games and drinking ensued.

Unfortunately our stay in this beautiful part of the world has come to an end, but I don't doubt that we'll be back again at some point. We've learnt so much, made new friends and had a great time. Now onto new adventures – heading east again and back into Spain to meet up with my wonderful friend Angela for a camping trip on the south coast.  Adeus!x
p.s will take us a few more days to upload our photos but our flickr page (link on the right) will be up to date soon!x

Monday, 6 June 2011

Portugal and Potatas

Hola! so, much has happened since our last post, and since this is My post, it shall have to be a good one.  I am currently sat on the end of the bed, with my back up against the back door on cushions, in Portugal, just north west of Lisbon, 10am ish. We have washing hung up all over on ropes between the trees, and I have just semi-successfully made porridge not in the pan, but in a bowl (wasnt that good really). The fridge is buzzing away and laura's tea is getting cold (got my eyes on it!).

So we left Salamanca in a wake of traffic violations and loop-de-loops.  The signing is always pretty bad, like a trail of breadcrumbs that abrubtly ends, just after you think youve found your signs out of the town.  Very like Jack Nicholson at the end of the Shining where his son tricks him into a hedge maze in sub zero weather and erases his foot steps so he cant find his way out and dies.

Salamanca was v pretty and had some very nice parts, but we were not that taken with it for whatever reason really. Had a great square and some impressive university buildings though.  That evening we found a lovely campsite that is my favourite so far, right on a river that you could swim in, and with bbq pits and things.  We had a great cooked up dinner, and here afterwards is a picture of me playing Sweet Home Alabama on a ukulele (who knew it was 3 chords?).  You WISH you could hear it!  Laura wasnt paying much attention to it though, dont know why...

Next morning we drove 20 miles or so and the clutch pedal seemed to go pretty flat and soft.  WE pulled into a layby and a quick crawl underneath showed brake fluid squirting out :( The van has a hydraulic clutch, which is good, but it shares its fluid with the brake system and soon enough we wouldnt be able to change gear anymore (or brake? not sure).  It was the slave cylinder at the back that looked to be split, and we got a new safer place to stop where laura ran off to ask for a mechanics, and i had another look.  It only gone and turned out that we had broke down about 100 metres away from a 'vintage parts' ordering place, and with the very kind of help of Tiego and his friends, we had the part ordered (on his business account because he wanted to save us the VAT! what a nice man) and a new job for me the next day on his forecourt when it would arrive.  Van went into his storage lockup, and we went on our way up the hill till the morning.

Anyway, we ended up tent camping 5km up in the surrounding hills that night, and had a grand time of it.  Id spoke to dad for some internet details on swapping the part, and we got a  taxi back down to where the van was and got stuck in.  Here's some pictures of the job and after 3/4 hours of heaving and sighing it went well and we were moving again. hurrah!

my messiest job yet, and i was dead happy to have got it working again.

The next day we treated ourselves to a beach day near Peniche, a popular surfing place and baked away nicely, heading back up the trail to the van for a brew and snack.  I think then we stayed in Ericia, but to be honest i cant remember where we were last night either.  We wanted to catch a west coast sunset, which we did, but it plumeted into a thick cloud layer and dissapeared before it hit the water! Here's a pic of it when it was best though.

Plus, laura wouldnt let me look directly into he setting sun, saying my eyes would set on fire, so i was only looking at the bits around where the sun was.  Still think i would have been alright though...

Sintra was fantastic too, where i had some cherry liquor in a chocolate cup.  Going into Lisbon today-bye!