Week 4 –Aljezur to Lisbon to Algarve


 

After a superb day, the night turned chilly – an absolutely freezing wind appeared from somewhere.  We were fine with the heating on, but overnight we both awoke rather fresh!  Continuing our journey up the cost, we ventured via Sines where we planned to stay and have a run, but the wind was unbelievably biting.  With fingers crossed, we decided to change coasts – from the west coast, to a secluded peninsular where we hoped we’d be shielded.  We chose a known spot near Setubal where our route went through the town – whichappeared to be a cross between rough docks, tower block heaven, and nothing much else to tempt us to stay. Continuing west into “Parque Natural da Serra da Arrábida” we found a very quiet secluded beach behind some cliffs where the wind was nonexistent.  After almost being ill doing some “speed work” running training, we were eventually treated to a lovely sunset where you could actually watch the sun move behind the cliff.  Bizarre.

The next morning we ventured north, via the outskirts of Lisbon, through Sintra, down towards Cascais.  This turned out to be a lovely drive – the hills and countryside near Sintra looked superb which is fortunate as we planed to stay at Sintra later on.  We opted for a campsite to empty waste and refill everything and catch up on their free WiFi! A lovely site with a 800m walk to a mini sand-dune desert and beach with some amazing surf.  After heading back we got the bikes and cycled around 10 miles to Cascias which seemed to be a lovely town mixing the old with the new, nice harbour, and some interesting shops.  We’d eyed up the coast road as a fairly flat route for an 11 mile run in the morning. Oh joy!

The morning run was as bad as expected!  Still a bit stiff from the bike ride, we were okay till around 9 miles when we started struggling, then the last mile was up hill.  Great!  Once back and showered, we packed up and headed towards Cape Roca – the furthest point west on mainland Europe.  The drive there was hugely challenging on very tight and windy roads, not helped by the fact it appeared to be a bikers race track with 100’s of motorbikes and quads overtaking everything in sight!  More than once we’re amazed we didn’t decapitate a biker as they were overtaking round blind bends and leaning the bike over vast amounts for the corners not realising their head was well over the white line and we could not move over any further. 

On getting to the Cape we realised why there were so many bikes – there was a huge bike meet there!  We reckon 500 bikes of all shapes and sizes.  We wonder how many got home…  We did some climbing down towards a beach down the cliffs, but it appeared the tide was in – so had a long climb back up.  Once everyone had cleared off the place was deserted so we stayed there the night – so officially the western most campers in Europe that night!  The sunset was again stunning – flaming red sky that looked wonderful behind the monument.  On this trip, we’ve now been at the most southern, south-westerly and westerly points of Europe!  All of which are vastly better than the UKs most Easterly point (Lowestoft Ness) which is, literally, a rubbish dump.

From here we headed to Sintra where we planned to stay the night.  After some more challenging roads we found a suitable place and went exploring up the mountains and through the town.  A very interesting and nice place to look around, but not really enough there to keep us entertained.  So we cleared off to Lisbon wild camping in Belem next to the river and harbour.  After walking into the main city (5 miles – in hindsight not a good idea) we had a good exploration of the main centre and got our bearings planning the following days activities.  Wisely we got a tram back to the van for the night.

Having learned our lesson, we got the tram to the city the next and looked around the main attractions – and decided Lisbon is vast, and whilst there are some superb sights to see – it doesn’t really compete with some of the better cities we’ve seen.  That said, the main sights are worth seeing and its a place well worth the visit. 

As we’d got to Lisbon a few days earlier than planned, we headed to a place called Evora which, according to the guidebooks, is a must see place – a fortress like town.  We hoped it would be good enough for us to stay for Christmas.  Unfortunately the campsite nearby was, well, a dump.  Even the free WiFi was faulty which is a cardinal sin of monumental proportions!  We did venture into Evora itself which did appear to be a fantastically interesting place with a huge amount of history.  Due to its location it was fairly quiet and we guess would really lack the festive spirit.  A quiet town; naff campsite; and no sea or beach wasn’t what we wanted or dreamed of for Christmas…  After a brainstorming session (you can tell I miss work!) we decided we actually preferred southern Portugal and really wanted Christmas by the beach.  So we got up early on Christmas Eve and headed South back to the Algarve.

Arriving just before mid day, we got to Quarteira with a campsite a few 100 meters from the beach. It was a lot warmer, the sun was blazing, and it was much more what we were hoping for!  After doing a couple of loads of washing (see – even we have chores!) we went for a 7 mile run along the beach into Vilamoura and bumped into a guy we’d seen in Gibraltar!  Small world.  Continuing the run in perfect running conditions, lovely beach, and loads of nice bars eyed up for later.  Phew!  This is much more what we dreamed of!

We ventured out for Christmas Eve for beers and meal back past the bars we eyed up earlier – and they were all closed!  Oops.  We carried on to Vilamoura where there were more restaurants and the only one open was a curry house.  So, in typical tradition and as we’ve done for the last 4-5 years – we had a Christmas Eve curry – and a nice beach walk back to our van.

Christmas morning Mel woke up early and excited as usual, but presents are banned till after breakfast which neither of us could face too early!  After a while, champagne, orange juice, smoked salmon, croissants, waffles and omelette proved too tempting – not least that after we could raid our present stash that we’d been carrying for the last 2,500 miles!  The early light cloud burned off so we were able to open our lovely presents sitting in the sun!  After pigging out a bit, we had a short beach walk before coming back, eating lots more goodies and feeling a little ill!  A good nights sleep was had all round ready for a long Boxing Day run – then planning where week 5 and New Year will take us…

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