Wednesday 2 May
– Last night we were freecamped by the river and Roman bridge at Alcantara. Today we drove back up into town for a look-see. Weather overcast and chilly – fairly interesting town, pretty much deserted. Had a coffee in the square and moved on. An hour or so’s drive to Valencia de Alcantara through varied countryside – flat & barren, green & rolling, hilly & rocky. We stopped half way on a farm track for lunch and a siesta and arrived In Valencia de Alcantara late afternoon – freecamping next to the bullring. Thursday 3 May
– The town is very pleasant and busy. Groups of old men sitting in the square, women gossiping on street corners. Our Spanish successfully tracked down and purchased a Mother’s Day card for Oz before a walk around the older part of town, including a charming church and castle.
Back to the square at about 1.30 to meet up with Gill & Chris (friends of Helen, Norma’s sister who live here). He plays in a band and she gives English lessons. They took us to a nearby bar where the drinks flowed – the tapas were interesting......we all declined the
pig’s ears. At about 3.30 they suggested we follow them just out of town to their idyllic, rural, stone built home. Chris cooked up a terrific Moroccan chicken dish with cuscus and potato rosti all washed down with yet more wine/beer. We started playing Killer Uno at about 11pm and finally wove our way back to the van at about 2am. Great night, terrific people....interesting and amusing. Friday 4 May
– slept ‘til late. Baz OK but J had the hangover from hell – usual declaration about never drinking again! We finally said our goodbyes, headed back to town to shop then late afternoon we did a 3½ mile walk deep into the countryside, following a barely discernible path, to view Dolmans (Burial tombs – piles of rock – from Neolithic times). The countryside was great, the dolmens underwhelming. From there we headed for Portugal – 8 miles away but stopped en route as we saw a campsite in a lovely setting. Booked in, showers, chores and now relaxing. Sadly this fantastic location was lessened by dull, patchy weather. Saturday 5 May
– After a lazy start we tried blogging at the campsite’s free wi-fi cafe – frustrating
as we can’t seem to get the blog to publish. We finally set off for Portugal and the overcast morning gradually improved. The countryside was lovely and we whooshed through the former border post catching our first distant glimpse of Marvao , the hill-top village (recommended by Gill & Chris)we were headed for. The road took us up & round and up & round – following a posse of 20 or so local lads having huge fun on their put-put motorbikes....’til we reached as near to the top as we were willing to park.
We walked up the steep cobbled path into the walled village, through one of the series of gates. The inner was an extremely quaint, old and ordered series of little streets, threading this way and that.....especially up to the amazing castle with endless turrets, battlements, underground water chambers and so on.
Needless to say, being so high the views in every direction were superb. The rain stayed away and in the sun, it was quite hot......we actually took our coats off for a while! After much meandering we came across a bar/restaurant where we had the 9 euro menu of the day – delicious
whiting fillets. We had to try and dig our please, thankyou etc Portuguese words from the depths of memory. We wandered back to the van and moved it 300yds down the hill to a bespoke Aires site, also with magnificent views. There are 5 other vans here .....2 x E, 2 x F and 1 x GB (haven’t yet made contact with any). We have spent a lazy afternoon reading/cross-wording and will no doubt head back into Spain tomorrow. Sunday 6 May
– Last night the lights of the villages in the valley below and the illuminated castle above were very pretty. A cold and extremely foggy morning gradually gave way to clear views and patchy sunshine. Before moving on, on the chance of being able to Skype Tom in Turkey, we braved the long perpendicular cobbled route back up into the village, carrying the heavy laptop bag, where we’d seen a wi-fi sign. After several attempts to get a signal, wandering around with the damn machine, trying to see where the curser is in the sunshine.....we gave up. The museum confirmed that wi-fi was ‘No possible’.
A quick chat with our fellow parked pommy-mobilers, then back to
Spain, a stop for bread in Vanencia de Altantara, then onwards to Alburquerque (stopping for lunch & siesta on the way). Alburquerque from a distance looked fabby – a huge castle perched on the hill. Our approach was amusing as every other telegraph pole either side of the road had a stork’s nest – with mum keeping guard and a few baby heads peeking out.
Alburquerque close up was not so good – a bit tatty and unkempt. The castle ramparts were impressive (castle itself out-of-bounds – unsafe?) – one of us seems to want to climb to the highest point wherever we are, the other needs persuasion. So we mounted endless health&saftelyless steps and across precipitous walkways, ‘til we could go no further.
Back in the town we had a coffee in a square and enjoyed watching Spanish families. From there we headed for Caceres – about an hour’s drive through lovely and varied terrain...often thick with wild cistus, also cork oaks with ¾ of their dark trunks harvested and an abundance of wild flowers and lavender. On the roads we’re taking we may not pass another car for up to an hour....bliss.
Coming into Caceres, a
BIG town, a couple of dozen tall poles have been erected solely for the use of nesting storks. TomTom took us straight to a good Aires site, 10 mins walk from the old town, which we’ll explore tomorrow. Several nationalities here – Dutch, Belgium, German, Spanish and two GBers – both with monstrously long motorhomes – one towing a car! – how silly. More tomorrow. Monday 7 May
– An overcast morning....nothing new....although in recent days the skies have cleared to patchy sunshine from about midday – not today! We walked 10 minutes or so up to the old town, stopping to look around a church, interesting as it offered something different from the usual ornate alters etc. There were a couple of life size Madonnas clad in magnificent robes and an amazing life sized tableau of the Last Supper. From there we entered the enormous Plaza Mayor – virtually deserted with only a few empty chairs and tables outside the restaurants that were open.
The entrance into the old city is impressive and what lies beyond, equally so. Palace after palace, church after church, monastery after monastery and so on. It really was (is) a charming place
to stroll around....until the wind got up and it started to drizzle! A refreshment stop under a dripping umbrella before going in search of a Correos (post office) to try and buy a phone card to ring Tom in Turkey. It’s a take-a-ticket and wait-your-turn system.....number 62 when we entered.....we were number 84! We were there ages and our wait was fruitless – ‘No possilbe’ (how do you say shit in Spanish?)
Lunch was also al fresco under another dripping umbrella.....Sunny Spain? However our spirits lifted by a bottle of red, we explored some more. In a pretty convent garden we saw a fig tree – reputedly over 1,000 years old (see photo 27) and in the church (photo 28) is a figure called the Cristo Negro, which according to tradition killed those who dared to look at it or touch it with their hands. Today, members of the Brotherhood who carry this figure of Christ during the processions of Holy Week wear white gloves and protect their faces with the hoods of their robes (see photo 30).............they look more like members of the Klu Klux Klan!! Anyway we finally returned to the van late afternoon – just as
the sun came out. Its appearance was momentary, grey skies are back with drizzle on and off. Since we are able to hook up to free electricity at this Aires site, I expect we’ll spend a quiet night in watching a DVD. Tomorrow we’re off to Trujillo and we reallyo trujillo hope for a sunny day. Tuesday 8 May
– Since we’ve made a detour to find a MacDonalds (to Skype Tom) – not successful, number didn’t work! – We’ll take the opportunity to blog again.............so ‘til next time...
Since Alcantara: Valencia de Alcantara; Marvao (Portugal); Alburquerque; Caceres
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