Thursday, 20 April 2023

Portugal Turistcampo. Days Out by Bus. Sagres and Lagos

 Turistcampo is beautifully placed for bus trips. The bus stop is right outside the site Sagres in one direction and Lagos in the other.

Basically two different bus lines in this part of Portugal, a local bus service Onda and a coach service Vamus. The two services overlap but the bus tickets are not interchangeable. Both bus services operate and have stops outside the campsite and timetables are readily available from reception or online. The buses are not too frequent and are heavily used by tourists, back packers, locals and school kids. Early morning 7am to 10am are most frequent. You do need to check the timetables as sometimes there is a long gap between buses.

Turistcampo to Lagos by bus.

A relatively short journey about 20 mins on the Vamus 47 bus, marked Cabo S. Vincente - Lagos ( por Sagres) A trip to Capo S Vincente ( the most westerly point of Portugal ) is tricky as there are only around 4 buses that go all the way. We opted for a day out in Lagos a very easy journey. We caught 10.28 bus which was only 10 minutes late. The coach driver was very friendly and helpful. A point to remember if you have a dog. Dogs are not allowed on buses in Portugal as a Dutch family in the queue found out. The fair was 5.20 Euros one way for the two of us. It is easy to find the stop as its on the end of the line at the bus terminal  ( Terminal Rodrigues) on the sea front at Lagos. The bus to get back stops at the same place.

Lagos is well worth a day out. You can get an old town map with a walking route, which we didn't do this time. It takes in all the major sites. Lagos is very touristy with loads of stalls selling various boat trips at various prices. For the hardy types you can even do a kayak trip. We opted for a leisurely stroll.

The area around the harbour was very busy.

Loads of places to eat, we opted for a small bar around the back streets which was lovely.

The beach which is very picturesque was also busy but being April I think the sea was rather chilly. We didn't try it!

All in all a lovely day out and perfect use of local buses! Make sure you wait for the bus on the right side of the road, easy to go wrong!

Day out. Turiscampo to Sagres by bus.

Another easy day out. A bit further to Sagres. It took us 35 minutes to get there  but an hour and a half to get back ( the bus stopped at all the small stops to let kids off. We obviously picked the wrong time.

Buses in Portugal do a lot of turning around and doubling back on themselves to cover the small villages so don't panic if you think the bus is going the wrong way. A slightly longer journey this time it cost us 8.40 Euros. We also had to keep our eyes peeled for the bus stop to get off. The best stop is the one by the harbour in Sagres, we didn't know this and got off a bit early. Still it was a nice day for a walk.

Sagres is still a bit of a hippy place, full of surfers with lots of campers. It looks like since we were there 2 years ago the place has been tidied up. The waste ground where campers parked up is now a proper massive car park. I don't think overnighting is allows although it did look like some still ignored this. 

Having visited the fort before, we decided to make for the beach this time and have a stroll around.

The long straight road to the fort. Slightly reconstructed but very imposing!

I think this used to be a wild camping spot. Now a car park. No charge as far as we could see but it did say parking between specific times.

The beach was full of surfers although it was cold in the water. Very wavy!!

Hardy souls. We opted for the beach bar and a cold beer.

After a wander around we found a lovely spot for lunch which just happened to be a local brewery. As he wasn't driving Den managed a few tasters before we found the bus stop home. The journey home with school kids on board was quite interesting as it took in all the villages. Incidentally buses only take cash!

Another great camper free day out and we got to meet the locals.

Monday, 17 April 2023

UK to Portugal. Tunnel or Ferry Cruise? Pros & Cons.

 For the last 4 years we have travelled from England to Portugal or Spain using the tunnel and driving through France. 

The Western route through Bordeaux and across into Spain at Urrugne, has been our favoured route. We used this route as it was relatively easy to find French campsites that were open all year round and we were travelling in January and latterly in late March. We also tend to use Tolled motorways, we just find it quicker and less stressful. We have a toll tag for France, Spain and Portugal, Emovis, so this helps and is so much easier than hanging out of the window.

We have never really been great lovers of Aires although we have used them occasionally. We prefer campsites with decent facilities and EHU, especially if its a bit chilly. Consequentially, our journey to the sunshine has never been a cheap one. If you are on a tight budget, cutting out toll roads, using Aires or wild camping spots and only filling up in supermarkets would considerably reduce the overall costs.

First stop La Source Wissant.  An all year round municipal site.

This year I thought I would try and work out if it would be better and more cost effective to cruise to Santander or drive from Calais. Certainly cruising would cut down on the driving, but we have always felt that the journey was part of the holiday. It's so exciting getting lost down some narrow country track......NOT.

Bearing in mind we live just outside Glastonbury in Somerset, our first drive is to Folkestone and it usually takes in the region of 4 hours ( traffic permitting) We filled up with diesel before we left and I estimate that the full tank cost 109 Euros. Sorry can't be more accurate than that. That's the only bit of guess work!

We always allow a minimum of 5 days for the journey and try not to drive for more that 5 hours each day. We aim to arrive by early afternoon so that we are in with a chance of finding Reception open. We try and have food onboard and usually stop for a drink and sandwich for around 30 mins. We often stop for loo breaks and maybe a coffee. Den does all the driving so if he gets too tired or bored, we stop for a bit. We also try and have a brief stop at least an hour before getting to a campsite, so we are not too cranky when we finally arrive. If we are going to get lost and it can happen, it's usually just before you get to a campsite then it's "grumps" all round!

Fuel stops, we usually do at around half a tank. If a supermarket is handy we use that because fuel is always cheaper! However, we usually stop wherever its handy and even on a motorway, the prices vary. 

This year we paid between 95 and 124 Euros per litre, depending where we stopped. In England we filled up at Costco and paid £1.66 a litre ( obviously a bad fuel day!!)

Second stop. Onlycamp Tours. Brilliant little site open all year. We discovered it by chance last year.

Third stop. Larouletta Urrugne. Open all year. Good facilities. I got ACSI rates here.

Fourth Stop. Olimpia, near Salamanca in Spain. Very nice meal on site for 13 Euros. Clean and just by a very handy fuel station. Closed first two weeks in June!

Fifth Stop. Alentejo near Evora. Lovely tidy clean site.

Usually when we travel we try and bring at least a few easy meals. A bit more tricky this year with food rules for travellers into the EU. We try and eat out if we can but always have a few trusty standbys just in case. We cooked at 4 out of the 5 stops this year, mainly because we had food in the fridge I wanted to use up.

A comfort break just over the border into Spain.

We have a trusty Tesco credit card which I use for everything at home. This gives me a few Tesco points ( reducing by the minute, you can't win them all!) I use the points to reduce the tunnel costs. "Every little helps"
Here's a breakdown of costs one way in Euros. If you need it in £, ask a friend!

FUEL:   100                                               MOTORWAY TOLLS: 175.21              CAMPSITES: 23.30
               124.10                                                                                 24.99                                       22.32
               117.83                                                                                                                                  28.50
                94.93                                                                                                                                    21.01
Total       436.86                                        Total                                 220.20                 Total            109.63


 Fuel:                               436.86

 Tolls:                               220.20

 Campsite Fees                109.63

Eurotunnel ( one way)     166.49 ( £147)


Hope this helps.

Almost the same price as Portsmouth to Santander Ferry.😎 You would also have to factor in one or two overnight stops and a tank of fuel.

Wednesday, 12 April 2023

Tunnel to Portugal 2023

 Time for the great escape from a cold Spring to a warmer Spring ....we hope!!

This year we have decided to go back to Portugal for an early Spring/Summer break. We have booked two long breaks one for 3 weeks at Turistcampo near Lagos and 4 weeks at Rio Formosa near Tavira, both on The Algarve. 

Being creatures of habit and liking an easy life we plumped once again for the Western route, via Rouen, Bordeaux and across Spain into Portugal. A relatively easy route with 5 stops on the way, though lots of driving. We do use the tolls in France, expensive but much faster and usually quieter than the long slog through the villages.

We took the late afternoon tunnel crossing just making it in time and then a short drive towards Wissant on the coast. No real checks or problems going through customs at Folkestone, although I did get my passport stamped. No food checks, although they did insist we demonstrated our gas was off before we entered the tunnel, by trying to turn the hob on....odd, of course it was off.

Our first stop was Wissant, Camping La Source, a very French municipal. We were going to try the Aire which wasn't that busy but eventually settled on the camp site as it was nearer the village and had facilities.

Actually quite a nice pitch and the facilities were OK. We wandered into the village and found a local restaurant something and chips, but it was fine and filled us up.

Of course we managed some local wine too.

The next morning found us travelling towards Rouen which we navigated pretty smartly, heading for Tours. Madam Satnav performed well. On our last trip we found a campsite at Tours which was pretty handy and ticked all the boxes. Clean , tidy and easy in and out. Only Camp Tours, another good night stop. Nice bottle of local red from the camp shop!

The following morning the weather really perked up and the sun came out. We were heading for the Spanish border and the camp site Larouletta. A place we have been many times before, notable for the weird and somewhat spooky trees. A long drive again, but a bit more cheerful as the sun was shining.

The site was rammed with mainly Dutch and German vans on their way home from winter sun holidays. Never seen it so busy and the restaurant was closed!! Back to home cooking then!
Still we managed a pleasant evening, tomorrow Spain.

At this point of the journey it feels like we are actually making progress although the next bit through Spain is a pretty boring long drive. Eventually we made Salamanca and things took a turn for the better. Our preferred site, Olimpia, a small camping hotel on the outskirts was open! A very cheap and pleasant meal with wine 13.50e with wine for two courses, served with a smile.

Another sweep across the Sierras and we were actually in Portugal. A very nice Dutch site at Evamonte called  Alentejo. Very tidy in a pretty setting for 15E a night. Another place quite busy with travellers mostly staying for a night or two.

Our final stop before Turistcampo near Lagos our home for the next 3 weeks.

The suns up, the wines cooled busy but looks good!!

After a bit of fiddling about, we have a small tent out, ground sheet pegged down and a sunny spot.

Saturday, 13 August 2022

Vantage Habitation Check. Return from Leeds via Cheshire, Shell Island & Hereford.

 We could hardly believe that 3 years has flown by and Krystal was due for a first MOT. Happily she passed with flying colours. A slight blip, with the oil warning alarm light but hopefully that will resolve itself! Colin Edwards in Street, highly recommended by a neighbour and easily sorted out service and MOT, Krystal was legal again, fit and healthy!!

The next hurdle was the habitation check and a trip to Leeds back to her birth place at the Vantage factory. Quite a hike for us but we decided to take a week off from "decorating" and head for some R&R. We always book the habitation check a year in advance. I had booked a Sunday night at a Premier Inn at Knottingly (about 8 miles from Leeds) for the princely sum of £29, Easy parking and a relatively easy drive into Leeds on a Monday morning arriving at the factory by 8.30 am.

Krystal was soon settled in by Jamie. We only had a few minor things to be fixed. A droopy over head cab carpet and a dodgy TV ariel. Not bad really. We did the usual canal stroll into Leeds and had breakfast and a wander. By mid afternoon we were done and back at the factor. Jamie had been very thorough as usual, completed our jobs  and had changed the shower head, which had been leaking and tightening up the oven handle which had been loose. While we had been strolling around Leeds we decided to change the plan for next years habitation. Arrive Leeds, Monday late PM and leave Krystal at the Vantage factory. Stroll down to the Holiday Inn Express around the corner and pick Krystal up on Tuesday after her checks. This would avoid the heavy traffic we had encountered coming into Leeds Central on a Monday morning. Worth a try.

Habition done we headed for Moor Lodge and our normal stop over at Bardsley a few miles away. A lovely spot very rural round the corner from The Bingley Arms ( no meals on a Monday)

We enjoyed the sunshine and wandered down The Gunnell ( rather overgrown) for a cold beer.

An easy stroll down, a bit of a hike on the way back...... it could have been the beer.

The next morning we were off to Cheshire, Shays Farm, and a visit to Den's brother Paul and his wife Ann-Maria at Tarporley. We always enjoy seeing them and catching up with family gossip over a couple of good meals. Shays Farm is another lovely site, very up together and quiet.

A good fishing site and great for kids with a big ball field.

Whilst we were there we went out with Paul across to North Wales to a place called Holywell. Sadly, Holywell is not thriving  as it used to be. Still we took a nostalgic tour of some of the sites that were so familiar 50 years ago.

Here is the site of the old bakery, café and bread shop. Now an Indian restaurant. This was where Matthew Schwarz Den's Dad was born.

Next door was the Opticians also belonging to the family. In the window was some of the family history.

While we were taking photos the door to the opticians opened and we met old cousins and spent some time talking family history which was lovely.

We then went up to the monastery at Pantasaph where many of the family are peacefully lying. We paid our respects in this very peaceful place, which has changed very little over the years. A beautiful final resting place.

Our last destination in this part of Wales was to meet up with Den's cousins Christina and Kieran. We looked around Christina's cottage at Brynford where we hadn't been for many years. Finally, we had a lovely meal in a local hostelry and chatted about old times and memories past.. Altogether a great couple of days we will have to do it again soon. North Wales is a lovely part of the world and even better when the sun shines. Big thank you to Paul and Ann-Maria and the cousins we met on the way, We enjoyed your company.

From Cheshire we ambled back to Wales and soon we were on our way to Shell Island. A unique HUGE campsite just north of Barmouth on the coast. The campsite is only assessible at low tide. We had booked a spot and checked the tide times so all was well. "Camp anywhere", we were told. Sand dunes or mountain views. We opted for the middle ground and pitched up on a hill, sea behind us mountains in front.

Clean showers and loos, bar and food available. All was well until the weekend when it did get rather full. Still we enjoyed the views and the sea air and we would go back off season.

The beach was beautiful and pretty empty. There was soft sand and loads of rock pools. I think if we went again the "dog free" field would be our first choice. Most of the campsite was grass so not sure what it would be like in bad weather, I guess you would have to be careful where you camped.

Strange how some campers didn't seem to understand the 15m rule in operation here. A mid week visit would be best as the site gets pretty crowded at weekends.

Finally we were on our way home but decided at the last moment that one more stop would make an easier journey. A quick look at camper contact and search for sites and we located Lucksall Caravan and Camping at Fiddlers Green not far from Hereford by the River Wye. I rang the site and they had spaces, I also booked a table at the restaurant, on site but run separately.

Lucksall site is absolutely beautifully kept with grass manicured within an inch of it's life. Pitches are a good size and facilities spotless. We had a beautiful meal in the restaurant and a drink in the bar overlooking the River Wye.

People we paddle boarding from the site and swimming further up the river. This is certainly a site we will go back to.

Altogether a very successful week!!!

Sunday, 19 June 2022

Portugal to Calais EuroTunnel.

Finally after 8 weeks of sunshine in Portugal we were on our way home. We allowed 6 nights for the journey from Ria Formosa in the Algarve, to the tunnel. 

For those who like figures, 

The total journey was 3380 miles, door to door.

Fuel cost £502

Tolls in France, Spain and Portugal, 190 Euros.

Tunnel only £150 , as we used our Tesco coupons!

Campsite fees 1106.70 Euros. 

Bargain of the holiday was Ria Formosa Camping. As we arrived before 1st June and stayed for a month, we got the special rate of 365 Euros all in. Camping Turiscampo was a Yelloh Village site which we booked and paid for in advance. All the campsites en route we just turned up for and booked in at will, they varied in price from 15 Euros ( Alentejo Portugal) to 29 Euros ( Only Camp Tours)

The only site we could have made a saving with using ACSI, was Larouletta in France, we would have saved the princely sum of 1 euro if I had bought the ACSI card and book. Travelling home was very easy as all the sites were open. Going down at the beginning of April we used Camping & Caravanning Winter Sun sites as we knew they were open. Most of the other sites we used were already known to us or we picked them up on Camper Contact ( well worth 5.99 Euros a year) We could probably have saved a bit of money if we had used Aires, but we prefer sites and we don't wild camp.

All in all, including spending money and food, the holiday cost £61.14 a day, that included fuel and travelling costs. Not bad overall we thought for 64 nights away.

Leaving Ria Formosa we travelled back up through Portugal to Alentejo near Evoramonte. Again we passed a quiet night and bought a pizza from the site shop for dinner. Delivered hot to the van by the site owner, not bad for 7.50 Euros. Washed down with a bottle of local wine. The camp site was slightly busier than on the way down and the pool was open. This site is beautifully kept the owner lives on the premises. Nice hot clean sanitary facilities and an outdoor pool. Our last night in Portugal very warm.

The next morning we headed over into Spain and after a long drive made it to Salamanca. Our first choice stop over was closed, so we made a slight detour to Hotel Regio where we had stayed before.

Hotel Regio has a campsite attached, large toilet block and campers get a discount in the restaurant. It was a great stop this time as the weather was beautiful and all the facilities were open. A nice outside bar and a swimming pool which we didn't use. The meal in the restaurant was good too. Next time we go we will stop for two nights and take a trip into Salamanca the bus stop is at the hotel.

Slightly long grass and dodgy electrics, but clean and well worth a stop and reasonable at 23.10 Euros a night.


We had a very nice meal in the restaurant here.

The following morning found us doing another long drive to France. Just over the border and back to Larouletta. This time the weird trees had leaves on them so seemed lass spooky.

Two months makes a world of difference to a tree!!!

Our second French site was at Tours. Another mammoth drive but easy on the motorway with little traffic. Lucky for us it was a Sunday so no lorries.

Only Camp in Tours is just off the main road and avoiding the "No Entry" signs over the bridge we managed to find it. Clean, friendly and convenient. Tours is walking distance but the site is by the River Loire so lots to see. We wandered into the village but all the restaurants were closed as it was a Sunday. We finally manged to find a pizza place and had a very entertaining meal surrounded by all the locals all for 10 Euros.

The camp site is on Pilgrims route to Compostela. Lots of cyclists so looks like it could get busy in season. Opens from February so a handy stop.

We were on the final route to the tunnel one more sleep at our usual stopping place Les Erables at Escalles. The sun was shining in the distance over the white cliffs of Dover. England only 22 miles away.

 Another great meal at the restaurant  Les Falaise in the village and then finally home!

What would we do differently? We will definitely go back to Portugal next year at the same time. April to the  beginning of June. I think we would buy a flexi ticket for the tunnel next time and not worry about booking sites as most places are quiet in April/May. The weather is certainly better at this time and most of the attractions are open but less crowded. We may make a couple of two night stops on the way home so Den gets a break from driving. Can't wait till next year. Just a van to clean now. 

Wednesday, 1 June 2022

Review Camping Ria Formosa. Portugal.

 Our second site of this season takes us to Camping Ria Formosa near Tavira almost at the Spanish border. We had been before in January/February and thought we would like to try it more in season.

Ria Formosa is situated almost in Tavira in the village of  Conceicao and Cabanas de Tavira. The site is right by the train station and an easy one stop into Tavira main town. Infact, the train very conveniently, goes all the way along the Algarve and in the opposite direction to Spain, so it is perfect for motor homers who want to use public transport.

 Loads of bike paths nearby and you can even cycle into Tavira across the salt flats which we did. 

We think this site has the best of two worlds, traditionally Portuguese in Conceicao and a bit more touristy in Cabanas. Cabanas in actually an old fishing village and has lots of bars, cafes and a beautiful beach accessed by water taxi at 1.50 Euros return. Cabanas is a bustling resort but not yet ruined by too much tourism!

The beach is beautiful fine sand, with loads of umbrella for shade.

Not too busy in May!

There is also another local beach called appropriately "Poor Man's Beach", because at low tide you can actually wade across to the beach avoiding the charge of a water taxi. We road our bikes across the salt flats to reach it. Good going for me!!

Cabanas itself is a great place to relax and is full of old fisherman's cottages that still retain their charm and have actual fishermen living in them.

There are a few tourist shops but also local shops for meat and fish. This is a local community garden filled with mannequins, fun but a bit spooky I thought.

We couldn't really make out what it was about but the dummies were really well done!

The campsite is very well laid out. We opted for a double pitch for not much extra. We actually got a bargain winter rate for a month which cost 365 Euros all in, so we had a double bonus. Pitches are all on gravel and the site staff are very fussy about keeping within the pitch markings, which was fine for us. The shower blocks and loos are beautifully clean and well kept with loads of hot water. There is a site supermarket, but also two more good local supermarkets in walking distance. A huge Lidl is at Tavira next door to the train station. We did the journey a few times and with a "wrinkly discount" ( you have to ask!) the fare was 1.50 Euros return.

Tavira is well worth a day or more to look around. There is an old town and you can take boat trips along the river or to Tavira Island, the beach resort. We had a fabulous meal of grilled sardines in a typical Portuguese back street restaurant.

There is also a well priced restaurant which does a daily menu but there are loads of places to eat. We managed a main meal and wine for around 20 euros. At the local Expat bar "The Barrel", a main meal, dessert, coffee and wine is 10 Euros. Wine came in at 1 Euro a glass. All in all, a cheap place to eat out.

The weather this year was really hot temperatures in the high 20's most days, certainly we will return next year at the same time.

We spent our days in the sun and with walking, biking, eating and drinking, 4 weeks has flown by really fast. There is a lovely swimming pool on site with lots of loungers great for cooling off in.

We did a trip up the train track to Monte Gordo ( two stops) If you like Blackpool you will love Monte Gordo a tourist hot spot. Massive hotels backing onto the beach. Not our cup of tea but worth a day out!

The best bit of beach at Monte Gorda was the fisherman's end, but not as authentic as Cabanas.

We have thoroughly enjoyed our holiday this year. Staying put has its advantages and we have certainly found out loads more about this area of Portugal. We will be back.