Dog Necklace and Free Wifi

2018 5

(Tierra de Campos from a moving motorhome)

Yesterday we travelled through a vast flat landscape, with gently undulating bits for added variety, called Tierra de Campos. The name means Land of Fields and that describes it well. The road we drove on was very good but no places to stop for photographs. I took some from the van but wished I’d washed the windscreen first…

2018 3

(See, no space to stop)

After two hours we arrived at the Spanish town of Palencia. We had never heard of it before but there’s a great motorhome parking spot with electricity and wifi, all free, so here we are. The town which is surprisingly beautiful, is a short walk through a park and over an old bridge. I got some pictures there and wrote in my notebook.

2018 10

(Main pedestrian street is called Calle Mayor)

The shopping street is full of beautiful buildings interspersed with very old cathedrals, churches and monasteries. There’s a lot to see in a very small space.

2018 8

(The old Roman bridge between the park and the town)

We’re getting used to being in a different country. There’s been a few changes… The time zone is different. The language is different. The availability of English speakers has reduced dramatically causing us to dig deep into our Spanish language resources. The love of change instead of banknotes is gone. The ease of using a credit card has increased… detrimentally.

2018 9

(Some lovely old shops here)

Another change is the shops close during the middle of the day, they open again around 5pm. So far we haven’t seen a big change in prices, definitely more expensive than Portugal but still way less than Ireland. I don’t know if it’s true of all of Spain but in this town there are a lot of Dad’s taking care of small children. There was an adorably lovely Dad yesterday pushing a small (<12 months) boy in a buggy with another possibly 3 year-old child wandering around him. But what made the Dad adorable was he was holding the little boy’s soother in his mouth. Well, that’s where I used to keep it clean too.

2018 7

(Interesting exhibit in the Archaeological museum… not dog hair)

I went to the Archaeological museum too and it was free on certain days and to certain ages and if you are a member of the EU. I seemed to qualify under one of those, the man in the ticket office didn’t have an English, but he decided it was free to me. Full of interesting exhibits including mosaics. They also had an exhibition of the work of art students in the area. The one I cannot forget is a felted necklace made from the artist’s dog’s hair!

Better that than stuck to the cushions I suppose… Mairead.

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Last day in Portugal, sniff, sniff

2018 2

(There’s a steep walk from the parking)

We found another wall. In the town of Bragança in the north-east corner of Portugal. The town provides free overnight motorhome parking just under the castle walls. Unfortunately, the castle was closed on Monday but I went to see the walls, they’re open all the time.

2018 3

(Can you see the road sign? Cars go through this gate in both directions!)

They can’t close the walls because there are houses in there, people are still living within the walls. It reminded me of Carcassonne in southern France. Except for the crowds. And the number of shops. It’s what I wished for in Carcassonne – peace and quiet.

2018 6

(This is too high! Too high!)

Remember my new rule about climbing city walls? A railing is required. I forgot. Somehow these walls lulled me into a false sense of security and again I found myself very high up without a railing… I started off at a low section with only four steps – no problem. By the time I was looking down over the houses I was thinking of ringing Denis. Instead I turned around very slowly and kept looking up until I was back where I started on the ground in front of the four steps.

2018 7

(The views were nice though)

Later that evening we went to dinner at a restaurant inside the walls. I booked it after I climbed backwards down the four steps. It got great reviews in the parkings app and as this was our last night in Portugal we were celebrating. Or maybe commiserating. Anyway, we arrived at 7.31pm. one minute after opening. There was a young couple already seated (must have been waiting outside) and we waited while the waiter explained the menu to them. Then he came over and directed us to the table right next to them… There was no one else in the restaurant and the four of us were as close as family. The waiter went back to explaining and Denis and I partook of the up and down eyebrow thing you do in such situations.

2018 8

(This gate is only one way…)

After the waiter left them they were speaking in one of the languages we don’t speak (i.e. any other language that’s not English) so we wouldn’t be able to understand them and they wouldn’t be able to understand us, grand. The waiter arrived with us and explained the menu and as we were deciding I overheard our neighbour say they were on bicycles. In English. Right so they will understand us… more eyebrows. But hang on.

2018 4

(View of new part of town from inside the walls)

I have a secret talent. It turns out that even though I can’t speak another language I am very good at identifying languages. Go me. I identified they were speaking German to each other or it could have been Dutch or maybe Flemish? It didn’t matter this meant they had cycled from Germany (or Holland or Belgium.) I was now more interested in them than I was in Denis so I ignored his eyebrows and the first chance I got I turned my head a little and said, did you say you were travelling by bicycle?

2018 5

(The easy bit that tempted me)

That was it. We talked all night, like family – on a good day. The language was German but they both speak English. They’d been travelling 100km a day, by bicycle! They had travelled all over Portugal and then down to Morocco and this was their last day in Portugal too. They’d been to Lisbon and Serpa as well, remember Serpa? She’s a language teacher. When her secondary school teacher told her French was the hardest language she decided to study that first! I can’t remember how many languages she has but it’s her full-time job, well except when they can negotiate holidays like this six-week trip. She explained why I have such difficulty with languages (I’ll tell you later.) He was born in East Germany and was 11 when the wall came down. The biggest impact for him was his heroes from comics and television disappeared overnight to be replaced by our heroes… that made me sad. He also missed their sweets. They were really inspiring and such a gift for our last night. Before we left we all thanked the waiter for seating us together and he nodded knowingly. He’s French, they know stuff.

Oh and the reason I have difficult with languages? It takes time to learn and I give up too soon. Mairead.

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Scary Story by the Lake

2018 3

(Our spot beside the lake at Macedo de Cavaleiros)

On Sunday we parked beside a lake. People arrived and left all day to go for walks or just to have a look. They brought children, dogs or cameras. Some just got out long enough to smoke a cigarette. Then there was one guy on a bicycle with panniers full of camping gear. He rode around the car park first while taking a video with his phone. Quite impressive, to be able to manage riding the bike and videoing his surroundings. He headed off in the direction of the forest path past the cork trees. I wondered why he was taking a video.

2018 5

(Cork tree near the lake. The number 7 indicates the cork was last harvested in 2007)

The constant flow of people visiting stopped as the sun set and it was just us. So peaceful and quiet… I began to worry. A thought struck me… maybe the guy on the bike was videoing his route in case he disappeared under suspicious circumstances. This was a deserted lake. This is the kind of place scary movies are made. Maybe we should be videoing too? No one knows exactly where we are…

2018 6

(Path is flooded. There was a lot of rain in Portugal this year)

Imagination is a great thing but not that useful to me at a deserted lake. Unless I want to write a scary story… Do I want to write a scary story? Well I do seem to have plenty of material, there’s a deserted lake, a forest, a cyclist, the dark. Just one problem. Unfortunately I take scary stories very personally. I get into the story and the story gets into me and before I know it I think it’s real.

2018 2

(In summer the lake is used for swimming and water sports)

It would be so much fun to imagine a lovely story and think it was real. One where the cyclist is a future famous filmmaker who travels all over the world filming his journey. One night in the future we are watching a documentary called, The camping experience that changed everything and we are astonished to see ourselves peeping out the window of Ruby in the car park at Macedo de Cavaleiros! We contact the cyclist/filmmaker and he tells us the amazing thing that happened that night in the forest by the lake in the dark.

Amazing. Mairead.

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On the Rocks

2018 6

(The Clock Tower at Mȇda)

Continuing on our journey out of Portugal, two days ago we reached the town Mȇda. We are still in the land of huge rocks and it may not be clear from the photos how huge they really are. The medium-sized ones are the size of elephants and the large ones are bigger…

2018 7

(Stone wall… small rocks)

The outcroppings are everywhere. We stayed in a campsite in the town because our electricity and water need top ups and there was a mound of naturally occurring rocks there too. I walked up to the tower passing old stone walls that you might well see in Wicklow and definitely in the West of Ireland.

2018 3

(On the way to the Clock Tower… elephant sized rocks)

Earlier on our way into the town in search of a supermarket we passed a man and woman on a cart pulled by a donkey. Something I vaguely remember seeing as a child and seeing it here was very nostalgic. While pushing the trolley around the supermarket I almost bumped into the woman. They were doing their shopping. The new supermarket has been built just outside the town on a different hill. If you didn’t have a car it would be very difficult to shop there. The donkey and cart still has a place here. We passed them again going back down the hill and they were both walking, possibly too steep to let the donkey take the full load. Made me think of the donkey as part of the team.

2018 1 1

(While walking to the tower I saw a cart like the one at the supermarket, donkey-less)

All this is reminding me of home, even the weather. It’s been cold these last few days which is actually great for walking up hills. Also, the higher you go the better the breeze. I cannot imagine it in blazing sunshine. Must remember that, these expeditions are so much easier in a cool climate.

2018 2

(View from the top in the direction of Spain)

We’ll arrive in Spain tomorrow and we’ll have to change the clock to European Time. That’s another thing Portugal has in common with Ireland – the time.

Thinking of home. Mairead.

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Thank you, Celorico da Beira!

2018 1

(Funicular Viseu)

We are still in Portugal but moving every day. The day before yesterday we stopped off in the city of Viseu. Denis did some work while I went off to find the funicular to the old town on top of the hill. After getting a little lost at the bus station I eventually found it. It’s completely free and probably makes the steep uphill journey easy…

2018 3

(View from the station at the top)

Unfortunately, it wasn’t working. I walked up. Probably better for me. At the top there’s a cathedral and a couple of museums, tourist office and restaurants. It was lunch time so I resisted a very tempting ice cream shop (nata ice cream?) and went back to the van. We couldn’t stay in Viseu because we needed electricity so we set off for the next place after lunch.

2018 4

(Beautiful tiled courtyard at the cathedral, Viseu)

Our next stop was in a small town called Celorico da Beira where the town provides free electricity, for which we are very grateful. Thank you. This town is also on top of a hill and has a castle and walls! But no funicular. I went to have a look anyway. We were parked in the old part of the town and all the houses there are made of stone. We had got used to seeing houses painted white all over the country. Remember I mentioned the variety of Portugal? Well I don’t want to keep going on about it but it’s hard not to. This area is like nowhere else we’ve been in Portugal. It actually reminds me of the Rock of Cashel in Tipperary but on a much bigger scale. There’s outcroppings of rock everywhere for miles and miles. So I suppose when they were building the houses they used what was most plentiful – stone.

2018 15

(Here you can see the stone houses and how narrow the streets are!)

Only a tower remains of the castle and of course the walls around it. I was hoping to climb them but I have a new requirement for walls – railing. I learned this requirement the hard way. I have no trouble going up a staircase – because I’m looking up. It’s only on the way down – looking down – seeing the ground so far away and so easy to get to (but not in a good way) makes me a little dizzy. But I didn’t have to climb the un-railed walls because I climbed the tower instead. I wasn’t expecting a ladder at the top though…

2018 8

(Here’s the view of the new part of the town from the top of the tower. Can you see the old walls?)

In the summertime they charge €1 to climb the tower but at the moment it’s free. Thank you. There’s a steep staircase on the outside, then two more steep staircases inside the tower and then a ladder. Yep, a ladder. It turned out to be much easier than an un-railed staircase because you never have to look down on a ladder…

2018 9

(That’s the ladder on to the walkway at the top of the tower. I know it’s tiny and firmly attached to the wall but it’s very high up!)

Everything’s looking up, Mairead.

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Blue Skies and Craft Tables

2018 1

(Free motorhome parking beside the fishing boat harbour)

Yesterday was sunny and warm. We stayed at a fishing harbour. Even from the pictures I think you can see how it’s so different from the previous days. That’s another thing about Portugal, the variety. Each day can be different just by moving. Yesterday it was blue and green.

2018 3

(Little beach beside the motorhome parking)

I spent the whole day crafting. Even though there was a cycle path. Even though there was a town less than a kilometre away. Even though I could have written a blog. All because there was a picnic table… I mean, there was a craft table right beside our spot. Although it was warm and sunny, there was a breeze coming from the water so I was all bundled up but it was still fun. And it must have looked like fun because people kept coming up to me to ask what I was doing.

2018 4

(I’m not wearing the hairband to be fashionable… the wind was hurting my ears. Look at all the other craft tables!)

It’s hard to describe what I’m doing. Even in English. I’m playing? I’m working? I’m making cards of encouragement for others or for myself? I’m feeding some part of me that likes that kind of thing? The next time Linda and I run Mindcraftie (probably July) I’ll be making these cards. So if you want to come and watch me make or if you want to come and play or if you want to feed that part of you too, I’d love to see you there. I’ll remind you closer to the time but in the meantime if you want to see crafty stuff on your facebook feed click here and like us.

2018 1 1

(You’re a little treasure)

We’re still moving slowly out of Portugal through places we’ve never been before and seriously thirty kilometres or so the scenery changes and it all looks so different, the variety constantly surprising. As we leave we are soaking up every last sight, feel, taste, smell and sound of this country before it becomes just a memory.

A lovely memory. Mairead.

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The Free City Walls of Tomar

2018 4

(There is only one entrance… and this is not it)

This is my third time in Tomar. The first time was with the Camino walking women. We stayed in a hostel and went on a tour of the Convento de Cristo. The second time was last year with Denis and we did a quick tour of the castle/convent that overlooks the town but didn’t stay overnight. Now this year we stayed in the motorhome park and I went off to visit the Convento on my own.

2018 1

(View over of Tomar and the Convento de Cristo in the background)

The motorhome park used to be the municipal campsite but it was closed down several years ago, no idea why but when it opened up it was free. Yes free! It’s a paradise of wild grasses and trees with birds play fighting amongst the tall weeds. They really look like they’re playing. Dive bombing to hide in the dense greenery or landing on one of the tall stalks of wild oats that bend down to the ground with their weight. I actually think I can hear them giggle as they hop off and the stalk springs back upright. For us there are super clean toilets and cold showers and a place to dump and collect water. Perfect.

2018 11

(My new favourite imaginary place to go when I want to be still… and it’s real)

Yesterday morning started off cloudy. I waited for the sun to shine but it didn’t so I went off to the convent/castle anyway. As I had been here before I decided to mix it up a bit and go in the way I had exited the previous time. I thought it might be interesting to begin at the end and just see the bits I remembered liking. So I went to the back entrance. Except it wasn’t. An entrance, I mean. It was only an exit. There was a woman there and a cash register but there was no way she would allow me to come in the exit. As soon as I exited she closed the door, firmly.

2018 12

(Cute toilets at Convento de Cristo. Do not be put off by the worn door. In real-life real-old gets a bit battered looking. They have everything you need –  real-old door, real-old tiles (floor and wall) paper, soap and hand dryer. Thank you Tomar!)

So I set off for the real entrance. I still wanted a different tour so it seemed like a good idea to notice things I had missed on the previous visits. I walked slowly through the big gate and had a look at the tile covered benches and beyond them into the orange grove (convent/castles don’t have one or two orange trees, they have groves – full of orange trees.) Then as I got closer to the ticket booth I spotted a sign for the toilets. I had not seen the toilets on previous trips and you do know how much I love the Portuguese toilets at their castles. This one did not disappoint.

2018 8

(The courtyard of the Convento de Cristo)

I thought I’d seen everything I’d previously missed so I went off to the ticket booth. On my way I spotted something very exciting. A man taking my picture. Ok, that’s not the exciting bit. The exciting bit is he was taking my picture from a position up on the walls of the castle/convent! I had definitely never noticed the (safe, securely railed) walkway around the walls before. Seems like this is the year of the walls. (Yes I know yesterday I said this was the year of flexibility, it can be both.) Also, it was in the courtyard, so I didn’t even need to go to the ticket booth… the walls at the Convento de Cristo are completely free. Thanks to the woman who would not let me enter through the exit I had found them.

2018 6

(Look at that great railing!)

The walkway snaked slowly around the site and took me about 30 minutes to complete because I was talking pictures at every turn. It was really great up there and I was completely alone. The man who had taken my picture was long gone and no one else seemed to notice this gem, not exactly hidden but maybe camouflaged by the other treasures around it. On the castle/convent side of the walkway I could see the orange grove and there were other walled gardens. On the outer side there was a forest of trees edging on to the town.

2018 7

(Tomar from the castle/convent walls)

At the very end of the walkway was a stone staircase leading to the courtyard. There was something magical about the space so I sat down on the last step and closed my eyes. I could imagine brave knights and gentle nuns and honourable monks who passed this way. I sat listening to the birds completely hidden from people walking unawares to the ticket booth. Have you ever been at a workshop or done a guided meditation where the facilitator says, close your eyes and imagine you are in a beautiful safe place? I usually go to the walled garden in Powerscourt but from now on I will be going to those stone steps that lead from the walkway around the walls of the Convento de Cristo in Tomar.

Although you can’t enter at the exit it is possible to exit at the entrance, so I did. Mairead.

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