The Best Welcome to Portugal You Could Ask For

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May 26th 2013
Published: May 26th 2013
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Rainbow Over The Valley - Steves PhotoRainbow Over The Valley - Steves PhotoRainbow Over The Valley - Steves Photo

Our first evening at the Chave Grande campsite
I remember mentioning in a previous blog entry, that the difference a warm welcome makes is huge. When we arrived at our chosen campsite: Quinta Chave Grande, near Satao, in central Portugal, we were tired and a bit tense, due to negotiating fairly narrow and steep roads again (flash backs of the road to San Sebastian!!), the reception area was down a steep driveway and the sign on the door said ‘Bar’. We tentatively looked in through the beaded curtain that hung at the open door and were greeted by Theo Pouwels and his wife Charlot, a Dutch couple, who both shook our hands, offered us a seat at the bar and immediately asked what we’d like to drink!

The first drink, we were told, was on the house, as Theo found us maps and site information and advised us to drive down and take a look around, checking the ground as there had been a lot of rain, before we chose our pitch. The tables in the little bar were mostly full of other visitors and we immediately felt that here were people who really enjoyed the social side of their job and who wanted us to feel welcome.

The campsite itself was beautiful, set in a green, green valley, the slopes terraced and dotted with all kinds of fruit trees. As we set up it started to rain, though not the freezing torrential downpours of Salamanca just a day or so earlier, it felt like a summer shower and almost immediately it started, the sun came out to produce a rainbow above the hills.

The next morning we awoke to the sounds of a car horn beep-beeping somewhere close by, wondering why anyone on the site would be inconsiderate enough to do this before 8am, we tutted and huffed a bit, but the beep-beep sounded again a little nearer this time. Looking out of the window we saw it was a bakers van coming along the grass! The baker visits the campsite each day between 7.45 and 8.45am to sell fresh bread, eggs, milk and yoghurt to the visitors, he greets everyone waiting to buy with a hearty ‘Bom dia!’ (good day) and a shake of the hand before filling bags with whatever products have been asked for.

At Chave Grande, the Wi-Fi link was only available at the reception/bar area so we headed up there on Monday afternoon, after a morning cycle to a nearby village, to check emails etc. We got chatting to a Dutch man with a passion for singing and discussion (including corny jokes) and another British couple who’d just arrived. Theo told us that a man who sold piri piri chickens from his van had just arrived at the site and that if we went down the hill to order a chicken from him, he’d cook it ready for us to collect at 5.30pm. Not needing any encouragement at all, it was spicy roast chicken for dinner for us! Before going to collect our chicken, we stopped to put our names on the list for the Tuesday evening barbeque!

With leftover chicken packed in the bag for lunch the next day, we biked to Satao, around 14k from our campsite. There is very little traffic on the roads and the route took us through villages where many of the houses were meticulously painted and well-presented and as we pushed up long hills the views across the valleys were fantastic: single houses or villages on the hillsides, in amongst the greenery.

The cycle ride was truly knackering, owing to the gradients rather than the distance and we were ready for the bbq by the time we’d returned to the site. The food and the company were great, the Pouwell family made sure everyone was looked after, with steaks, sausages, burgers, trays of chips, bread and salad. We were two of the last to leave after a hilarious evening discussing language (amongst other things) with our new Dutch and English friends. The Quinta Chave Grande stay was definitely one of the highlights of our trip so far, all four days of it, the people (owners and other visitors) were so friendly, they really made it fun. The family: Theo, Charlot and Ron, know exactly how to look after their guests to the site. I would love to go back!


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