Not the best of days, but it ended well. The Chef is sleeping better  in our box on wheels than she does at home. In fact she slept right through the noise made by three crazy local dogs which sounded as if they lived just a stone's throw away. Odd really, because the previous night I hadn't heard any of them.

Having showered and dried her hair The Chef informed me that the electricity had gone off. I think it must have been caused by a new neighbour, a Portuguese peasant, who parked next to us yesterday evening. There was no way of resetting a trip and so that was that, a morning cup of tea made with water boiled in the kettle on the gas hob.

Unfortunately we still have the water leak. I tried to find the source after breakfast but I just can't see where it's coming from. It's not a serious leak fortunately, but all leaks are a problem in a caravan or motorhome. I'll have to take another look in the coming days. Having taken on fresh water and dumped we struggled to get away from the dump as we were light on the front, or put another way, heavy on the rear. This seems to have improved now since topping up the fuel tank which was pretty low.

Today's cunning plan was to drive along the northern side of the Douro river to Porto. Google said it would take us at least three hours compared with an hour and a half on the toll road, but we felt it would be rather nice to enjoy the scenery along the route.

Once The Chef had topped up supplies at a rather indifferent Intermarché supermarket we headed out of town. Oh my Lord. I remember talking to a Scotsman back in Vila Nova de Cerveira who was making his way home. He said to be careful about some of the back roads because they can be pretty rough. Stick to the toll roads if you can. He has been so right.

So along the N108 road we went. It wasn't too long before we were questioning our decision. The road was narrow, with a lousy surface and had very tight bends in it as it kept taking us up the sides of mountains rather than along the side of the river. Eventually we decided to call it a day, it was just too dangerous, not helped by Portuguese drivers appearing round a corner from the opposite direction riding the white line or having crossed over it. We were fortunate to find a small area to turn around on, mindful that a lunatic could appear from around the bend and 'T' bone us. So back to town we went, and no matter how close we got back to Pesa de Regua located not far from the toll road, the damned satnav kept insisting on us doing a 'U' turn and continuing on the N108. In the end I turned it off. We didn't actually turn it back on until we'd found our way back on to the toll road, having on two occasions gone completely round a roundabout just so that we could read the direction signs.

A couple of hours later, having stopped on the way for lunch, we arrived in the suburbs of Porto. Now it was all or nothing. As we turned the corner I couldn't believe my luck - there were spaces available in the car park next to the Metro station (N41.175378° W8.541768°). There are no dedicated parking spaces for motorhomes which means we have to fit in to the spaces designed for cars. I backed in to an available space, but was concerned that the lack of space between us and the vehicle two spaces down would be too tight for most motorhomes, maybe a motorist would park their car in there, but it couldn't be guaranteed. We ran the risk of not getting back in the vehicle tomorrow if we couldn't open our habitation door wide enough. Then, having climbed out for a quick look around I spotted an ideal space ahead of us and before long The Chef was shepherding me back in to what is probably the best space in the car park, complete with a patch of grass outside the door. Nobody can grumble because there is space behind us for our overhang and all of the vehicle fits in perfectly.

We went for a wander around the local area and had a look around the Aldi store which is almost across the road from where we're parked.

The local dogs have given me a little welcome and on the other side of the grass we have a full timing Portuguese peasant whose vehicle goes nowhere, this being free and with a dump station. In fact there are two of them on this car park. We've seen a few of them on the trip so far. I suppose if you're as good as homeless, but can afford a battered motorhome, it's an affordable lifestyle.

I see in the news, Rishi Sunak and the gang are giving us more promises of what they're going to do, safe in the knowledge come the election they won't be in a position to deliver on any of it. This time it's an extra three quarters of a billion pounds on Defence. Much needed, given how our armed forces have been cut to the bone over the past years. I appreciate we've had austerity following the collapse of the banking system, bailed out by all of us, then the Pandemic, but they've always found money for housing illegal migrants in hotels etc. But don't get me going on that. Until the money is spent on new weapons which will, no doubt, be delivered years behind schedule and grossly overpriced we'll just have to hope the Isle of Wight doesn't illegally declare independence and we have to go and get it back again. Our two cut-and-shut aircraft carriers would probably have to be towed across The Solent because they'd only break down if they tried to make the crossing on their own.

Tomorrow we're off in to Porto, having hopefully mastered the Metro ticket machines.

Tomorrow I shall also start another chapter on the blog.

The tumble drier without the tumble - or electricity

Spot the Germans

The freebies

Where did all the neighbours go?

TUESDAY 23-4-24

I think because they forecast a cold night last night, dog owners kept their mutts indoors because I didn't hear one of them on any occasion I awoke. Three cheers for cold nights, though typically their informed guess regarding the weather was wrong.

This morning, having enjoyed yet another lovely hot shower, with The Chef confident enough to go first this time, it was chores day.

We've been on the road now for ten days without support from a campsite, though we have been fortunate to use parking facilities with dump stations on many of those days. Therefore there was much to do as far as housework was concerned. Rather than get in each other's way I volunteered to do the grafting leaving The Chef to seek out some fresh bread and  work on her tan.

After a considerable amount of use, today I threw out the two steel wire wool balls, normally used in kettles to avoid lime-scale build up. We used to get the odd obstructed drainage in the shower tray but after a session with drain cleaner and the placing of a stainless steel ball over each drain outlet in the shower tray we've had no further problems. It just means that the balls have to be cleared of hair often, and occasionally I set fire to them to ensure all the hair held within them is zapped.

Whilst doing the chores, I was also charging all battery powered items as well as spare AA and AAA batteries. This can be quite a time consuming process, but I was keen to take advantage of the electricity on offer here for an amazing three Euros a night.

With chores done and a bit of hand washing we enjoyed lunch sat outside. If I see our gardener again I must suggest that he sharpens his rotary mower blade. Probably a third of what he cut yesterday still sits proud and boastful. Never mind, it's been a real treat to be able to sit either in the shade or hot sunshine, with grass under our feet and not having to pay campsite prices.

Most of our neighbours fled this morning. They'd probably heard that the young Canadian couple were returning to make some new friends.

After lunch we decided to take a walk across what was once I'm sure, a railway bridge, but is now enjoyed by pedestrians and cyclists. We like to put things like chairs away when we're parked at places like this when going out. We don't bother on campsites as there is a code of conduct between campers, and nobody touches anything belonging to a fellow camper, however this is a public area and anybody could walk past and take a fancy to whatever is available. We had a few items of hand washing from this morning still finishing drying, but we couldn't leave them out over the chairs and had a light bulb moment - I opened up the blinds covering the windscreen, dropped down the silver foil covered windscreen shade I put in front of the blinds for added sun reflection, and we proceeded to lay the bits to dry on the foil shade.

It was a pleasant enough walk across the river and back. It got us away from the vehicle (not that we don't love it dearly) and gave us a chance to stretch our legs.

Upon our return I found that our bits of clothing left to finish drying were positively frying. It was like tumble drying without the tumble or electricity. So that's one to remember for the future.

Then I needed to turn my attention to a small wet patch which has appeared on the ground near the back of the vehicle. Normally this suggests a leak somewhere in the 'boiler room' where the boiler, pump and associated plumbing are located. As I've told my darling Chef in the past, these sort of things don't scab over and heal like the human body, they just stay broken and just get worse. So first I had to empty half the locker before I could reach the cupboard said items are located in. Yup we had a leak, but it only looked to be a small one. With The Chef's help running each tap in turn I was able to establish the small leak was coming from the joint sending water to the kitchen tap. With some extra turns on the appropriate jubilee clip we looked to have solved it. Currently I have the locker and cupboard doors open to dry things out as well and the sponge I put under that area the last time we had a problem.

So we're about ready to hit the road again. We're both pleased that we're staying here for three nights. It's given us the opportunity to plug in to mains electricity, thus charging both the vehicle and habitation battery fully, get up to date with our washing, get the housework done and spend several hours relaxing in the sunshine. It's still very warm, getting up to the mid twenties in the afternoon but it is due to change towards the end of the week.

Tomorrow we need a lot of luck. The plan is to use the dump facilities before making our way to a large local supermarket, filling up with fuel on the way. Then we plan to drive alongside the Douro river all the way to Porto, which is where we'll need the luck. There is a Camperstop in a good location across the road from a Metro station which will take us in to Porto, but the chance of there being one available for us is pretty slim. If all else fails we'll have to travel further west to a campsite on the coast and get in to town on a bus.

MONDAY 22-4-24

The Chef slept like a log last night but I was rather restless. I remember each time I woke up there were all the neighbourhood dogs spread over quite a wide area barking away, continually setting each other off. I don't know how local folk manage to get a good night's sleep if that always happens.

Following the cleansing of the water system yesterday, The Chef was keen that just for a change I should have a shower first. I think it was something to do with what damage any chlorine residue in the system might do to her hair. So I bit the bullet and got on with it. Thankfully no harm done, besides it was only a weak solution I added, most of which would have been flushed through the system before I topped the tank up.

We modified our list of chores today by deciding to do the housework and charge battery items until tomorrow so that we leave as up to date, clean and tidy as possible Wednesday morning.

So a little about Peso da Regua:

On 3 February 1837, Peso da Régua was elevated to the status of vila (English: town), which included the annexed municipality of Godim, the civil parishes of Godim, Loureiro, Fontelas, Moura Morta and Sedielos.

It's important role as municipality only achieved its zenith in 1836, after the Marquess of Pombal designated the Douro, its vineyards and wine, as a quality brand for export. This was helped through the creation of Companhia Geral das Vinhas do Alto Douro, in 1756, which delimited the vineyards of the Douro Valley by granite markers to regulate the vineyards and wines produced. After this point, through commercialisation and centralisation, Régoa began to become the centre of the region.

It was certainly cooler this morning with a fresh breeze, so much so that when we went out for a walk towards the Lidl store we wore our 'hoodies'. Unfortunately this Lidl store doesn't sell fresh milk either, so I guess it's a Lidl thing, which means when we leave here we'll be visiting a different supermarket to stock up.

We passed a berthing area beside the river where there was quite a lot of river cruiser activity. I can only assume they do cruises down the Duoro to Porto and back again.

On the way back home we were having to take our tops off as it was starting to warm up, and in fact, despite forecasts to the contrary this afternoon ended up just as hot as previous days.

As soon as we returned I set about doing our hand washing. In the absence of hand basins here I did all that was required using hot water from the vehicle and detergent in one bucket for washing, and two buckets for rinsing, and all the rinsing was done under the tap at the dump station. So bemused passersby have now discovered another use for a dump station.

This afternoon was spent sat outside under a tree reading. I have to say I was most pleased to see that the gardener came this morning and cut all the grass. How thoughtful.

So a quiet day, and tomorrow it's chores followed by a walk along the footbridge across the river. After that, who knows.

SUNDAY 21-4-24

Another fairly peaceful night. Even the local noisy dog either had a lie-in this morning or is banned from barking on a Sunday.

We enjoyed a nice hot shower before getting ready to hit the road. Fortunately there are two dump stations at Guimaraes, which is just as well because some campers are just so slow in doing what needs to be done. We were lucky enough to be parked with a good view of the facilities and as soon as the queue had gone we made our move. It wasn't long before we were on the road.

Today's cunning plan was to head for Amarante, but having taken a closer look at the two options we decided to skip it. The favoured parking area had a steep ramp going down to it from the main road, and that ramp was also the way out. Little wonder Google Maps didn't show any motorhomes parked down there at the time the aerial pictures were taken. The second option was a campsite across the river which had poor reviews. The Chef said that she'd rather not stay than go to a grotty campsite. So the next planned destination was Villa Real. The main reason for going there was to visit the Mateus Palace  (N41.297235° W7.712138°). Remember the distinctively shaped bottles of Mateus Rose wine with a posh place on the label back in the 70's? - well that is it, and since we weren't a million miles from it I thought it might be nice to take a look, but they shut Mondays and it looks as if you have to book tickets in advance, so we binned that idea as well. Onward and upward to the third destination - Pesa da Regua. Most of the journey was done on toll roads which made life easier, though they do make the access and egress roads at junctions really tight. If you're joining or leaving a motorway and you see a speed restriction of 40kph (25mph) obey it, if not, and you're driving one of these things, you could flip it over.

We have a designated parking bay, all concrete with drainage grills within the space, plus electricity, and all for three Euros a night. Honestly, what amazing value. We're going to stay for three nights to chill, get some hand washing and housework done. From here we'll look to follow the River Douro (more on that another day I'm sure) to Porto, where we have a very promising option for parking, but we do need to have our fingers crossed for a space.

This afternoon, whilst sat in our chairs on the grassy area in front of us our Dutch next door neighbours were blessed with the one thing marginally less irritating than the bloody Mormons knocking on your door - an uninvited visit from two passing middle-aged Canadians. Jesus they were so gobby, so bad that in the end we had to give up on trying to read our books as we found ourselves often reading the bit again because we couldn't concentrate. I said to The Chef "I hope they don't pick on us next", and thankfully they didn't, if they had they'd have been on their way very quickly. I find that as I've grown older I've become quite intolerant of tossers. In my career in the NHS Ambulance Service I was paid to be nice, understanding and tolerant of such people - but now I don't have to be. It's so refreshing.

By late afternoon my darling Chef told me that there was reason to believe that the water we took on back at Guimaraes could be contaminated, which wouldn't have surprised me given the sloppy attitude some campers have regarding different taps for different jobs. So straight away I drained the whole water system down (those drainage grills on our space came in very handy) then flushed the tanks and pipes through with a propriety cleanser I carry for just such occasions. I'll keep the fresh water tank only half full so that I can monitor the situation  over the coming days.

So tomorrow morning we'll be going for a nice leisurely walk and in the afternoon we'll be doing some hand washing and housework before relaxing under the shade of trees just a stone's throw from our parking space.

The Chef did tell me some days ago that the temperature was due to tumble in the coming days, and tomorrow may well be the start of it. That will be most welcomed. We've been enduring temperatures in the mid to upper twenties in the afternoon, which makes it hard work for getting around and doing things.

SATURDAY 20-4-24

Part of yesterday evening  was spent watching the final episode of The Apprentice on BBC iPlayer. I really do feel this once entertaining show should be put out to grass. The candidates seem to get more self opinionated and stupid every year.

We had the luxury of a nice hot shower this morning before setting off in to town to visit the castle. Following our much-scribbled-on map we didn't take too long to get there. The notice outside showing admission times and prices told us entry for old gits was two Euros each, but on approaching the ticket kiosk, were told it was free. Now that's a price we like. However once in to the small courtyard just round the corner it became obvious why it was free - there were barriers and tape preventing us from going any further. I guess something has either fallen off or about to fall off, or they've got the builders in. What a waste of our time.

Further back down the park on Sacred Hill was the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza ,which was mostly built in the 15th century, and so we paid the princely sum of two Euros fifty each for a tour around the rooms. I was pleased to see that they allowed photography provided no flash was used. That's because the bright light from flashguns can ruin the colour pigments in paintings etc.

A lot of the rooms were a bit samey, but at least it was nice and cool in there because outside the temperature was starting to climb again.

Next it was a gentle walk around town again before making our way back for lunch which we enjoyed under the shade of a tree on the grassy area opposite our car park. We spent the whole afternoon over there. I'm currently reading 'Jet Man', the story of Frank Whittle, the genius who invented the jet engine. It's quite a depressing read really because if it hadn't been for the old school tie network and dismissive incompetent civil servants and politicians, we could have had jet fighters ten years sooner, and the Hurricane and Spitfire planes would probably have never been needed.

So all in all, a quiet day. Tomorrow we'll be treating ourselves to another lovely shower before topping up our tank, dumping, and leaving town heading for Amarante. I'll need to go on Google Maps this evening just to refresh my memory regarding our parking options.

FRIDAY  19-4-24

It was another nice, peaceful night, once everybody had cleared the car park all we heard was the hooting of the local owl.

This morning had to be another strip wash as we needed to conserve our water. I had expected that the car park in which we'd spent the past two nights would have full dump station facilities but it had none, and had never had any. I used to give the publisher of their Camperstop book feedback on inaccuracies as well as potential new locations but then got ungrateful smart-arse replies, so now I tell them nothing. They're Dutch you see, and other than cheese with holes in, tulips and daffodils, they're good for nothing.

We were away in reasonable time heading for our next stop. It was only about half an hour away but required an awful lot of concentration. I can't say I'm mad about driving in Portugal, never mind it has to be done.

So by mid morning we arrived here in Guimaraes (N41.271642° W8.072255°). We like most campers opted to park on the large dusty car park opposite the allocated Camperstop which has, thankfully, the promised dump station. This now means we'll be able to have nice hot showers for the next couple of mornings.

So a little about Guimaraes:

The History of Guimarães is associated with the foundation and identity of the Portuguese nationality. Guimarães, as well as other settlements, precedes the foundation of Portugal and because of its role in the foundation of the country it is known as the "cradle of the Portuguese nationality". In 1128, major political and military events that would lead to the independence and the birth of a new nation took place in Guimarães. For this reason, in one of the old towers of the city's old wall it is written "Aqui nasceu Portugal" (Portugal was born here).

During the reign of king Denis, as the town was expanding, it was partially surrounded by a defensive wall. Meanwhile, mendicant orders settled in Guimarães and helped to mould the shape of the emerging city. Later, during the reign of John I, the wall was torn down and the two parts of the city (uptown and downtown) were finally united and the city began to expand outside its old walls.

The construction of St Peter’s Basilica began in 1737, and became a minor basilica in 1751, with formal completion of the work between 1883 and 1884.

The fact that Guimarães was founded on the lands of a female convent had a great influence on the region's cuisine, especially its confectionery, such as the "Tortas de Guimarães"(Guimarães' tarts, a half moon flakey pastry wrongfully named a tart) and, mainly, the "Toucinho do céu" (normally, but incorrectly, translated as bacon from heaven, a moist yellow-coloured pudding-cake). Besides what is usual in Minho, such as "vinho verde" , "Papas de sarrabulho" (a pig meat and blood porridge), "Rojões" (stewed pig meat served with potatoes and entrail sausage), etc., the so-called "Bôla de carne" (Meat cakes) is also made here, consisting of a type of bread (shaped like a pizza) served with toucinho (bacon), sardines or other toppings

It's been another hot day, and rather than sit around getting hotter we thought we'd go for a look around and try and find the Tourist Information Office for a map of the town. First we looked around the old part of town where we came across evidence of the old stone tanks they used many moons ago in the manufacture of leather. Then across the road to find the Tourist Office. We had to ask a local bobby in the end because the signage was not helpful.

The thing about Tourist Information Offices, is that they are staffed by very helpful people who can't help themselves, and having opened up the map for you to look at, and they all do it, proceed to biro rings round all sorts of things of interest and lines joining up places. They think it's helpful, but it isn't because invariably one of their doodles covers a word or something which you would have liked to have read.

Off we went for more wandering around. They have a castle here which we'll look around tomorrow morning before returning to wilt under the shade of a tree on the green space opposite the car park. It's where we spend a chunk of this afternoon, and it worked well. Just having grass under our feet was quite therapeutic.

We do now seem to have shaken off the sight of pilgrims making their way to Santiago de Compostela in the top left of Spain. The last time we saw any was in Vila Nova de Cerveira where, thankfully we survived eating the 'frozen' sausage after the fridge failed. There were a few shops in town that were selling bottles of Mead, though I can't imagine many pilgrims load their backpacks up with a few bottles to take back for friends and family.

The Chef Is sitting outside enjoying the cooler temperatures we have now. Once she becomes inspired she'll come back indoors to create a Thai Green Curry. It will have to be washed down with either one small can of cold beer, because there's no room in the fridge for more, or a good glug of Spanish red wine.

Decisions, decisions.

THURSDAY 18-4-24

We've yet to adjust to the sudden rise in temperatures since leaving the UK, but I think we're slowly getting back in to the routine of life on the road. This has been our fifth day without a campsite or electric hook-up, though we have been assisted by some very helpful dump stations along the way.

I climb out of bed first to put the boiler on, and at the moment we're having a bit of central heating on as well as the hot water. The mornings are still a bit cool, but as the morning progresses the temperature rises to about the mid-twenties.

After scrubbing up and breakfast we had just a short walk to visit Bom Jesus do Monte. We weren't crazy enough to attempt to climb all of the steps to the top and instead took the funicular. Three Euros each for a return ticket was money well spent.

We had a look around the church at the top and peered in to the numerous small chapels, each depicting a time in the life of Jesus in life-size sculptures. Before we knew it we were done and thinking about making our way back home for an early lunch before attempting to get in to Braga town on the bus. Thankfully, come the time it proved to be quite straightforward. The buses run every thirty minutes, and the bus stop is right outside the entrance to the funicular.

It was pretty warm by the time we arrived there and the bus dropped us not too far from the Tourist Information Office where we armed ourselves with a map and little booklet giving information of various points of interest.

The only thing we thought might be interesting was the Sé, the oldest cathedral in Portugal. Building it was begun in the 11th century.  It was two Euros each for the privilege of taking a look. Places like that I tend to find a bit dark and dingy, but at least it was cool in there. Next it was a bit of a wander around including a look at the large indoor market, though most stalls were packing away by the time we got there.

The highlight of the visit was finding probably the only little supermarket in town and with the aid of Google Translate on the phone, made sure it was two large cartons of fresh cows milk we were picking up. Then it was off across the road to pick up the return bus. It's just as well the lady in the Tourist Office marked it on the map because it was nowhere near the stop we were dropped off at.

Back home it was good to have a sit down. The Chef is sat outside enjoying a bit of sunshine whilst I quickly type this up.

Tomorrow we're off to Guimaraes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Let's just hope we can get a parking space. Motorhoming has certainly become  more popular now. I understand lots of people bought one during the pandemic as a way of having some sort of reasonably safe holiday. We're still early season and already it's getting a bit difficult. Who knows how bad things will be  by the time we reach the Algarve.


Well, it wasn't a bad night's sleep, and all for free. The mood was darker when we woke up and I went to turn the gas boiler on. We got the dreaded red warning light of a system failure. We've been there before, and it's not a good feeling. I checked the usual things and then spotted that the fridge was not working either. Fortunately after switching to the second LPG tank all worked well. That's what comes of not filling up before leaving the UK. We had plenty of gas onboard, it just wasn't in the tank we wanted. The problem is the contents gauges are naff, and haven't worked properly since we had the big problem down in Spain when we overfilled the tanks. Never mind, after a lovely hot shower and all the usual chores done we hit the road heading for Viano do Castelo. Journeys around here take a lot longer as the Portuguese speed limits are silly-low.

First stop was the Aldi store on the edge of town where The Chef bought some bits she needed although didn't buy any fresh milk as they only sold the ghastly sterilised stuff. So that's now top of the next shopping list. We do carry some powdered milk as a standby but hope not to have to resort to it.

Then it was off to try and park the vehicle. There were three options. One was a campsite which, according to Google Maps is temporarily closed, a car parking area near the town and a Camperstop on the other side of the water, reached by a road bridge. Needless to say the parking area near town was a non starter, it was now controlled by a barrier and looked to be reserved for tourist coaches. So it was over the water to the Camperstop - which was full. There would have been one space left wide enough for us to back in, but the four panel van conversion campers had selfishly spread themselves out, meaning the rest of the campers had very little space between each other. If we'd backed in to the one remaining space we wouldn't have been able to open our habitation door. So we parked a bit further away and had lunch. There was a bus stop up the road, but they're not in to posting bus timetables in these here parts and we could have stood at the stop for ages before one came along, and then we'd have to get back again. It just wasn't worth the hassle, besides that we felt, having parked across about four car parking bays we'd incur the wrath of local fishermen etc who turned up later.

So back on the road we went heading for Barcelos, having decided to ignore a stop at Ponte de Lima because the large car park I'd identified doesn't allow motorhome parking and the Camperstop, I checked on Goggle Maps Street View looked as if it was no such thing.

On the way here we filled up with LPG, so now we have plenty of everything - except fresh cow's milk. Can me old-fashioned, but I'd rather have cow's milk than milk taken from any animal that can stand on four legs.

We eventually arrived at our car park/Camperstop here at sunny Braga (N41.553087° W8.380982°). We pulled up next to a Brit campervan, the sort of vehicle that owners pay up to £70,000 for only to sleep in a tent on the roof of a little van. Still each to their own. She was a gobby northerner and so we were pleased when they hit the road having treated themselves to a salmon sandwich before setting off.

We'll be here for a couple of nights because I think there's quite a lot to see here tomorrow, plus we'll get back in to the routine of setting off in the mornings to bag an available space at our next destination.


TUESDAY 16-4-24

Sadly the fridge became too unsafe to use last night, as we could smell gas when firing it up, and so we just turned it off.

After a good night's sleep we awoke to the realisation that without a working fridge and freezer box we were in trouble. After a fruitless search on Google for nearby motorhome servicing facilities the only solution seemed to be to find Caminha's Tourist Information Office  if they had one. On opening the door to go walkies we were confronted with the sight of a Portuguese motorhomer having a mobile engineer fix his roof mounted satellite dish. Could we be so lucky? No is the answer. The engineer didn't tackle gas jobs, but thankfully our fellow camper wrote down the name of a motorhome repair business not too far away. Great stuff, all we needed now was an accurate location for them.

After wandering around Caminha for a while we came across their Tourist Information Office, so in we went to be greeted by two very helpful ladies who searched for the business online and gave me the GPS co-ordinates. We were in luck, so back to the car park, with The Chef picking up some fresh bread on the way.

In no time we were on the road heading out of town for hopefully the solution to our problems. After twenty or thirty minutes we arrived at , (N41.977477 W8.676832) not a fancy place, but a place that gets things done. They were most helpful, and could take a look at the problem at 14:00, after their lunchtime break. So The Chef and I backed out of their establishment and parked on the wasteland outside, which is where we dined for lunch before driving in after they'd had a nice lunch and lie down.

The young man who we spoke with originally and who, thankfully spoke good English undertook the work for us. He bought out bits of parts which were frankly completely shot. There was one gizmo that he could give CPR to until we got home, but I told him to just go ahead and replace it.

When the job was done and we were presented with the bill I saw that the gizmo was priced at a mere ninety-seven Euros. I swear, if I ever win the Euromillions I'm going in to motorhome and caravan spares. The total bill was €149.00. To top it all they wanted payment by cash as online banking for them had proved to be a problem technically because they were so close to the Spanish border. Anyway, after emptying our pockets we came up with the cash, and I was happy to also give the young man a decent tip because he/they had saved our bacon. We could now complete the rest of the trip safe in the knowledge that the fridge would give us no further problems (did I really just say that?).

Being low on fresh water whilst making our way to our second planned destination we spotted a large car park with motorhomes on it, so a quick 'U' turn at the next roundabout followed by a right turn at the next, bought us to an ideal overnight parking area complete with a dump station. Oh joy. We weren't sure where we had arrived at, but have since found out it is Vila Nova de Cerveira.

It wasn't long before we were wandering around the town, with two added bonuses. Firstly The Chef  managed to get the battery in her watch replaced. This watch I might add, was purchased in a Wal-Mart store in Canada over ten years ago. It was something like eight pounds to buy. She wears it daily. It's had a few watch straps and batteries in that time, rather like Trigger's broom in 'Only Fools & Horses'.

On the way round I managed to buy a cheap stiff broom with a squeegee attached. We hit a number of kamikaze bugs on the way here resulting in the windscreen and grill being peppered with dried bugs.

On our return I filled the fresh water tank ready for our well deserved long hot shower in the morning. We can afford ourselves that luxury because we're right near the dump station where we can get rid of everything we wish and replenish the tank before we leave.

This evening's fine dining experience has been sausage, bacon and egg. The theory being that if the frozen meat has suffered as a consequence of the fridge being turned off for some number of hours, we'll find out if it's safe to eat come tomorrow morning. And if it's not......................then we're very close to a dump station.

Do you like her thinking?

MONDAY 15-4-24

My word, we slept well last night. Our Polish HGV neighbour was as quiet as we were, so hopefully he had a good  night as well.

Our first call was to pick up some wine from my favourite Bodegas (swell, in all truth, the only one I know). It was only a short hop down the motorway before we arrived at Bodegas Santa Rufina (N41.830448° W4.609563°) . I loaded six, five-litre boxes of red table wine for a mere sixty-six Euros. That should keep me in grapes, one of my five-a-day, throughout the trip.

Next it was the Carrefour supermarket on the edge of Valladolid. On my Travelscript for the journey I had highlighted the supermarket's GPS location in green, meaning it is a large supermarket also selling fuel. Oh dear. Whilst The Chef popped in for the bits she needed I checked out the forecourt. It was another of the wretched layouts which Carrefour do. They design the access and egress to the pumps in such a way that it prevents vehicles our size from using them. By that I mean they have a narrow single-file access road with high kerbs and at the exit, just the same, but with an impossibly tight left or right hand turn. So sod them - we'll spent our money elsewhere.

Today was the second day 'at the office' and we needed to cover a heap of miles to reach our destination. Fearing 'She' in the satnav would send us on dreadful roads through the mountains to reach our destination in Portugal, I fed 'Her' GPS co-ordinates along the route I wanted to take, which was A62south/A6 west/A52west/A55south. Basically we were skirting along the border between Portugal and Spain.

The roads were pretty reasonable most of the way. There were a number of areas where the roads surface was a bit denture-loosening, but to be fair most of those areas were high in the mountains, but no matter, all along our route were road maintenance crews either digging deep and repairing long stretches of the surface, or there were smaller crews carrying out smaller repairs. What do we get back home? A man who must work at night because nobody sees him, going around with a tin of spray paint identifying small areas requiring repair. Then of course those areas have to be measured, probably accurately identified by GPS co-ordinates, so that said small areas can be listed and put out to competitive tender, won no doubt by somebody known to the County Council and who like them, walks around with a trouser leg rolled up and gives a funny handshake.

After a number of hours 'in the office' we arrived at our parking area for the night in Caminha, a place which at first sight has only one redeeming's in Portugal. We've arrived!

We'll spend the night here (N41.875285° W8.840411°) and then have a look around town in the morning before moving on to our next stop which has a dump station, meaning we can get rid of all our waste and take on some fresh water, meaning we can have a lovely hot shower whilst there.

An early night again tonight.

Oh, did I mention the fridge is playing up again when powered by gas? We'll have to try and get it serviced somewhere along the way as we rely on it being able to work on gas whilst we're parked up.

SUNDAY 14-4-24

Well, we're here, in sunny Spain. The ferry sailed on time from Portsmouth at 2355 on Friday. I was hoping that we'd be able to board in good time and get settled in our cabin long before we sailed, but I'd forgotten about the army of all-important cleaners who needed to get all the cabins and public spaces  cleaned before we public could be let on to get it all dirty again.

We boarded about 23:30 which made it a long day, especially as it had taken us four and a half hours to get to Portsmouth Harbour rather than the usual three and a half, thanks mainly to the Highways Agency and their cones and speed restrictions. Never mind, we were in bed before the ship sailed.

Having spent something like six-hundred and thirty pounds on the crossing for ourselves, the vehicle and an outside cabin (I don't know why, there's nothing to see except water), we didn't feel disposed to give Brittany Ferries the pleasure of taking, probably, another hundred pounds off us for food and drink, and so, like many people we bought our own up to the cabin, as well as a small travel kettle.

Many moons ago The Chef fancied going on a cruise. I didn't really fancy it because whist I was serving in the Royal Navy they paid me to cruise, and the thought of then having to pay somebody else for the privilege, didn't fill me with warm thoughts.

I remembered that every time I'd crossed the Bay of Biscay it had been really choppy with the ship bouncing up and down in the rough seas. I came up with a cunning plan......................I'd suggest to The Chef that we could go on a mini cruise. P&O at the time were offering a Portsmouth to Bilbao and return including a cabin cheap as chips. I think they were just trying fill their capacity out of season. And so it was, except that I was caught out - the Bay of Biscay was like a mill pond. We had a lovely smooth crossing and The Chef was keener than ever. We have since been on a cruise, but that's another story.

Fortunately the sea was quite calm this time and we enjoyed a smooth crossing with The Chef and I just generally chilling, watching a bit of TV and reading in what turned out to be our own private reading room away from the madding crowds.

We went to bed last night aware that Iran had launched drones and missiles against Israel, so it looks as if things will be hotting up over there.

We had a bit of a restless night, fearful that we'd oversleep this morning as the ship docked at 07:00, and we knew we'd be driving ashore not long afterwards. Not having bought an alarm clock, or a phone to the cabin, whenever one of us woke up during the night we'd check the time. Eventually  we were woken with a nice piece of gentle music which gradually got louder. It was the sort of alarm call our hard working firemen hear if a member of the public is thoughtless enough to dial '999' during their hours of paid sleep.

I staggered in to the bathroom after The Chef. I had to shave under the shower as they'd purposely designed the hand basins so that the plug can't close completely.

It was whilst standing under the shower that I thought to myself 'My feet feel nice and warm', only to look down to see I was still wearing my carpet slippers. I'd forgotten to change to my flip-flops. Oh well, they were only a pair of Shoe Zone specials, but they're the only pair I have with me. They ended their days in the cabin rubbish bin.

Soon we were squeezing back in to the vehicle. Necessary because although it's a new ship they got the deck width a bit wrong where we were parked and everybody was struggling to get in and out, made more difficult by those who didn't fold their mirrors in.

Away we went, lucky not to be pulled in to the Customs sheds for a search, as we had a well stocked fridge and freezer box. We were heading to a parking area in the city of Palencia for a look round and a bed for the night. Now the benefit of driving over here on a Sunday is that Sunday's are still very much a family day, and the roads are much quieter, assisted by the Sunday banning of HGV's from the road.

The drawback to that is that many places feel a Sunday is a great day to shut lots of roads and roundabouts, cause chaos and hold half marathons for those sad individuals who would rather wear their skeletal system out rather than have a lie-in followed by a full English fry-up. So that was that. Having toured around Palencia trying to get to the road we wanted, we gave up in disgust.

We're now parked behind a small garage on a piece of land used by HGV's to park up for the night, which is what we'll be doing.

We're only a few miles from where we'll be picking up some boxes of wine before heading off for Portugal.

What could possibly go wrong?