Sunday 18th October.
One never sees a country at it's best when it's raining. We arrived in Portugal yesterday crossing the Rio Minho and entering the small town of Vila Nova de Cerveira. The weekly market occupied a large part of the town by the river and resulted in us having to follow diversion signs, squeezing past the back of the market, much to the amusement of the stallholders, and attempting to direct us under a bridge with 2.4m headroom. As the van is 2.7m high this presented a problem but after a couple of trips around the town we managed to find our way out and headed south. At this time the weather was ok and we set off for a parking spot next to the dunes at Afife. We arrived after a tooth rattling last 500m over cobbles, parked up and climbed to look over the dunes to see a fantastic wide sandy beach with a few surfers 41.78065 -8.86993. The sun came out so we returned to the van, changed into shorts and set off to explore the beach. Whilst it was sunny the wind was ferocious and whipped the sand around our legs but we had a pleasant walk through clean sand and rock pools. We passed a couple of guys collecting mussels from the rocks at the end of the beach and then met a guy from Canada doing his third Camino to Santiago. "Wow" I said, "You'll go straight to heaven, no purgatory for you." "Nah, I'm not religious," he replied, "I just enjoy the walk".
The beach at Afife.
The rock pools.
As we got back to the van the clouds gathered and the wind got stronger and then the heavens opened. We turned the van round to face into the wind and realised we'd had the best of the weather. That was at about 3pm yesterday and at the same time today it finally stopped raining after a 24hr deluge.
We were told to look out for the tap coming out of the rocks at Afife; we didn't find any rocks, never mind a tap and although there were toilets, showers and a tap next to the surf info hut everything was locked up and turned off at this time of year. We were running low on water so this morning we headed south again, following the coast road and found some Motorhome services in an Intermarche car park together with some cheap diesel (€1.08/L). In Spain all the shops and supermarkets were closed on Sunday but here in Portugal everything is open, much like the UK. The N13 pretty much follows the coast south as far as Porto and we continued along this route passing small towns with local markets and after a while realised we had discovered the country with the worst drivers in Europe. Overtaking the vehicle in front would appear to be compulsory irrespective of whether you are in a town or not and in defiance of 50kph speed restrictions and "no overtaking" signs. As Phil would say, and I am adapting her phrase for a family audience, "one needs eyes in the back of one's head".
Our plan was to stop at Esposende where there was a Motorhome stop and all services including WiFi if you availed yourself of the adjacent restaurant. Sunday lunch seemed like a good idea but on arrival we found massive sea defence construction occurring where they were creating sandbags the size of large bungalows, limited parking and the restaurant didn't look too inviting either. Another look in the Camperstop book and we headed for Vila do Condo, 50kms south. We arrived and found a car park full of Portuguese motorhomes, squeezed ourselves in and decided we couldn't be bothered driving any further 41.34484 -8.74571. We thought of looking for a restaurant but as it was still pouring with rain Phil rustled up sea trout with mashed potato and broccoli. A delicious Sunday "fried and two veg".
Finally the clouds broke up, the sun came out and we went for a stroll. Well, Phil went for a stroll and then came back for me to show me the Atlantic crashing onto the tiny beach and pier. At the start of the pier was a tiny church with a beautiful painted panel ceiling and altars and statues imploring the saints to bring home fishermen and sailors to safety. We didn't find the name of the church but as we left one of the two elderly ladies sat inside the door gave me a card with an image of one of the side altars with the inscription "Nossa Senhora Da Bonanca". Google translate tells me this means Our Lady of Bonanza. Sad to say no sign of Hoss or Little Joe. The Atlantic here looks really scary, two metre high waves crashing onto the beach and the undertow must be dangerous to say the least. We walked further along to the C17th Forte de Sao Joao Baptista which is now a hotel, looking a little sad out of season, but the receptionist waved us through with a smile as we climbed the steps and walked around the ramparts.
Nobody swimming or surfing here!
View from the ramparts with the tiny white church and the lighthouse.
Inside the church
The view from where we are parked back to Vila do Conde, the convent of Santa Clara to the right and the Capela do Socorro to the left.
The sun has been shining for a couple of hours now and Portugal is looking better and better. We are only 30km north of Porto, a city we would like to visit but we are advised that we would be crazy to take the van. Tomorrow we plan to explore the Douro valley but maybe the next day we will find a town with a car park and a metro link to Porto.