We took delivery of our motorhome six months ago and have only slept in it for 6 weeks or 23% of the time! We had thought that we would ‘slow travel’ at times but hadn’t planned on starting so soon! And we have spent 50% of the last year living under lockdowns in Cayman, France and Portugal.
After spending Christmas in France with our neighbours, we got our second set of Covid tests and crossed into Portugal via Spain. We have spent the last 2½ months in the Algarve and while Portugal locked down a few days after we arrived (and is still in a partial lockdown) the goals of letting Amelia spend time with other children while attending a forest school and finding warmer weather for outside activities have been achieved. Portugal had one of the coldest and wettest winters in recent times but January and February were still warmer and sunnier than France.
With cafés and restaurants closed and the requirement to stay home unless for essential reasons, we feel like we haven’t got to know Portugal like we experienced France. Our Airbnb hosts are a retired couple from Sweden and, at times, it feels like we have learnt more about Sweden than we have of Portugal. We have been introduced to Swedish “fika” which is a coffee and cake break with friends; you cannot fika by yourself and it can be a verb, as in “let’s fika”. Fika has become a part of our daily routine, though we must admit to often switching the coffee and cake to Portuguese wine, beer, and cheese. Amelia has made friends with the owners’ dogs and can give all their commands in Swedish as they play their favourite games, like searching for their ball.
You are allowed to leave your property to exercise so we have taken the opportunity to visit various beaches; either as a family or just the two of us while Amelia was at school. We’ve enjoyed the rugged coastline of cliffs interspersed by anything from tiny coves to long sandy beaches. The cliffs are made from soft rocks meaning the erosion is extensive; we’ve lost count of the number of arches and tunnels we’ve seen! In Portugal the tidal range is about three metres while we are used to less than half a metre in the Caribbean. We have been surprised how the coastline changes during our visits to the beach; Amelia can play in a tunnel one day and the next time (or even later during the same visit) it is submerged.
While staying in one place from winter into spring, we have seen almond trees go from bare branches to full of flowers within days (the leaves come later). Then the trees start buzzing with bees. The bees collect so much pollen you can see the full pollen sacs (or baskets) on their hind legs. We saw a mongoose cross the road to the property (Egyptian Mongooses are found in Spain and Portugal and might have been introduced by the Romans some 2,000 years ago) and our new trail camera caught a fox trotting down the same road. Even the orange trees (of which there are lots here in the Algarve) surprised us; some trees still have this season’s fruit but are already blossoming or even growing next season’s oranges! It seems strange to have two seasons’ worth of fruit on the same tree at the same time.
Gary has had time to experiment with his photography again. In 2010 he bought an intervalometer shutter release which he hadn’t really used. However, during the last two new moons he used it to take many photos of the night sky which were later stacked to create star trails. The next challenge is to shoot a star trail with the motorhome in the frame.
Of course, we have also been playing and homeschooling. Amelia has been making good progress with her studies and has enjoyed some fun online classes from outschool.com. We have also used doyogawithme.com for great online yoga classes – currently offered free for two months due to Covid.
So, we’ve kept ourselves busy. Just not sitting at the local, street café sipping coffee and eating bifanas or piri piri frango (chicken). We did however discover some online cooking classes, including a Spanish tortilla class and a Portuguese tapas class, and we have had some Portuguese takeaway recommended by Amelia’s teachers.
Now our time in Portugal is coming to an end and we look forward to heading back to France. Hopefully, the next 6 months will bring more motorhome travel and not our fourth lockdown!