Getting fatter in Portugal

One of the main reasons to coming back to Portugal is that we know people here so we can catch up with friends and what’s happening on their land as well as enjoy the winter out of the UK. First stop was Leif and Noelia and their two boys so we headed over to Penamacor, as is always the custom when staying in Penamacor you have to have dinner at least once at the Cave and although they don’t do the full menu of the day in the evening anymore it’s still great value for money and a tasty treat.

Next we learnt a new route onto their land, the new way although longer is much easier on an old motorhome and we were soon back in our hilltop spot at their Quinta. Nature works hard to reclaim land as quickly as it can and the Quinta has got slightly overgrown in places due to life, corona virus and escaping pigs playing havoc over the past year but it’s still very beautiful and it was nice to be back. The stone house we used to use as a kitchen last time is in need of a new roof and is currently being used to house the escape artist pigs, so they had put up a huge old marquee tent to be used as a kitchen and communal space which worked really well and there were 3 new guests staying on the land. 

Richard, Carolyn and their 2yr old Meg had recently moved to the area and were going through the process of buying a plot of land in the neighbouring town of Aquas and as they were both horsey, similar ages to Paul and myself and loved a glass of wine I’m afraid I might have bored everyone silly for the first few days chatting horses, music and Buffy.

We were blessed with good weather for the first couple of weeks and Paul managed to get his drone out for a few spins around the land. We hindered more than helped Leif do a bit of dry stone walling on the old ruin by the river but it was fascinating to watch it slowly build up and as the well needed cleaning before the rains came, we got Dillon in to clean out the muck from the bottom. I honestly don't know how they managed to work all day filling, lifting and emptying the mud as I was feeling it after only a few barrow loads but by the end of the day we had hit the rock bottom and the well was much cleaner.

Rich and Carolyn’s horses also arrived all the way from the UK and were staying on a bit of land Leif and Noelia own 10 mins away whilst the sale is finalised, and they could make their own land horse proof. This meant all hands on deck to help walk their 4 horses, get the Land Rover with Meg and dog Amber round to the field and pump water from the well; I walked a horse round – obviously, whilst Paul got to drive their Land Rover Discovery round to meet us. The horses seemed to take everything in their stride and did not blink an eye at strange handlers or their new location and were soon free to explore the new field and have the cuddles their anxious owners had missed.


It can’t be sunny all the time and boy does it rain in Portugal when it wants to, so much so that we managed to collect 75 litres in just a couple of hours with the runoff from our awning. Free water is great but not so much when you have new rivers forming through your communal area and the kids play things get soaked, it never lasts long though and within a few days we were back to having sunny spells to help dry everything out. I think it was one of these rainy days that I decided at the age of 40 that I needed to learn how to make bread. The first couple were ok, bit dense but I got the baking bug that day and I’m now on loaf 14 in only 4 weeks

An LPG refill trip took us into Castelo Branco and as Paul loves to surprise me with the amazing restaurants he looks up we had a cheap but very tasty Indian menu of the day at lunch, (hadn’t had a curry in ages and this definitely ticked the right boxes) and then a perfect Portuguese place called Cabra Preta for a posh evening meal. Except he didn’t tell me it was posh and I’ll apologise for looking a bit too grubby for the white table service place this ended up being. The food, wine and secret liqueur they give you when paying the bill was all amazing. I will be back.

Time goes quick when you’re doing nothing and soon we would have been in Portugal for about a month and still not been to see any of our other friends or travelled about at all. As lockdowns weren’t restricting movement, we planned a few free and paying park ups and set off into the sunshine. We made a quick pit stop to check in on Devo and his land, which was looking really good and he’d added 4 cute kittens and 2 pigs to his Quinta, before heading for dinner and a catch up with Shaun and Andy at the Café a Fonte; which might be edging it as my fav cheap restaurant over the Cave in Penamacor!

Our next few days were spent just bumbling about taking in amazing views, baking bread, feeding ducks the failed bread and generally chilling out. We’re very lucky in Portugal as you are never more than about 1hrs drive from a motorhome waste point and some of these are in lovely old campsites or near parks and villages, so you can just bounce about these without too much trouble. We stopped for a couple of nights at a few free places then decided to spoil ourselves with hook-up and hot showers at a fancy new place, it was a bit soulless but convenient and cheapish at 6 euros a night, then we headed to Barril de Alva which we knew was a free park up with a bit more character.

We’d not had amazing weather since we left Penamacor and the solar set up wasn’t always leaving us much power to spare on cloudy days so we decided to make home for a week or so at Barril and see what would happen. We weren’t the only ones to be setting up home here, about 11 or so vans seemed to be permanently pitched with groups from Germany and the UK being the most prevalent and as the parking area actually has some trees and wildlife it’s a much nicer place to base yourself to a while. Waste is free but you pay for fresh water (not very much we found out) and the next door bar does cold beers and cheap grub, plus they do provide hook-up at 4 euros a night if you need it so it was perfect for us to try and fine tune our solar issues.

I whiled away the hours baking bread, making cakes, watching the birds, chatting with neighbours and walking into the village or along the river, it was pretty perfect and working out as not that expensive - although we really need to be doing a lot more walking to counter the bread consumption. We figured out the solar issue with the help from a friend and solar technician in the UK, it was a simple problem with the way we disconnect and re-connect the batteries and how our controller sees it; lesson learnt now all we had to worry about was the path of the sun at this time of year, tree shade, how level the ground is and which way we faced. There are a lot more things to think of when parking up for extended periods and you never remember them all until it’s too late, I think we tried 3 different locations during our week at Barril, but found a good spot by the 7th day!

Next stop was Oliveira do Hospital, where we caught up with Lisa and Rich & Garyn and Judith, these were the guys that I almost got locked down with back in March and I’d been looking forward to seeing them all. This is also a big town with multiple shops and as I had run out of bread flour and Paul had run out of beer it was getting desperate. I did experiment with going to the little local shop for flour but it seems that the most common flour for baking bread here is just normal plain white wheat flour, I tried to make some bread with this but it behaved so differently that I ended up with a few failures!

The park up we use when going into Oliveira is a couple of miles away from the main town but has all the waste and water facilities as well as free electric hook up! A few down sides to this site are that it is right between two roads, one of which can get quite busy, the church right next door chimes a melody every half hour all day and all through the night and it’s a popular spot at the weekend for kids to have a fire in the communal BBQ area. In actual fact they were very quiet for a group of kids, nothing like the gatherings of drunk youths you’d get in the UK and they didn’t pay any attention to us at all….the church melody though would drive you nuts eventually.

Lisa and Rich were both looking well and had added a new puppy to the family since I was last there and Garyn and Judith and their 3 dogs welcomed me back on their land like I hadn’t been away. Unfortunately we wouldn’t attempt to get poor elderly Daisy down the tracks to their bits anymore so it was only a quick beer and catch up but I’m sure we’ll see them again over the winter, especially as Oliveira had managed to avoid being on the naughty covid list, unlike Penamacor, so we thought we’d stay around this neck of the woods for a bit.


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