Week 15 & 16 - On the road again

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Week 15

Having got clearance from the doctor to travel we set about booking a ferry. The several caravan/travel forums I subscribe to all indicate that us Brits are (1) staying at home until after Brexit and European response to UK travellers is known and are (2) staying at home this winter because of the low value of the pound against the euro.

This view seemed very strange when we tried to book a ferry all were so full than none had other than bog standard “basic" cabins available except on the “Brittany Ferries économie” sailing on 27th November. The Brittany Ferries économie is a no-frills brand offering a simple cheaper choice for travel to France and Spain. The ships, Baie de Seine and Etretat, have smaller public areas, limited dining options and more basic facilities than other cruise ferries. It was the only sailing we found with other than a basic cabin not like the commodore cabin we usually book but better than the broom cupboard standard cabin on any of the ferries.

Sunday morning, full of enthusiasm we hitched up and toddled off to Dibles Park Caravan Site near Portsmouth ready to board the MF Baie de Seine early Tuesday morning. Monday dawned bright and sunny, it was to be an easy day with little to do but a little last minute shopping. It was a good day, a pleasant day until we received an email from Brittany Ferries.

Cancelled. Our sailing has been cancelled😱.

The skipper, who obviously has the very last word on the matter, had decided that the forecast for Tuesday/Wednesday was not one that he wanted to sail into. A phone call to Brittany Ferries and we were re-booked on the Wednesday/Thursday crossing, unfortunately there were no commodore cabins available. The one we had booked on the Tuesday crossing was the last one available for a good number of weeks, so we had to accept a standard outside cabin, that meant we got a £65.00 cabin refund and a £15.00 fuel allowance as the original passage was to Santander while the new was to Bilbao and, the original booking was “économie” over £50 less than the new booking which, of course, we were not expected to pay.

We did question the lady who amended our booking as the forecast for Wednesday/Thursday was worse than that for Tuesday/Wednesday but she explained that the latter crossing was on the MF Cap Finistére (our thoughts on this ferry can be read HERE) a much larger and more sea kindly vessel. Perhaps the skipper is also more macho?

As the wind speed was expected to be gusting to 74kph or force 7 at the time we should be travelling to Portsmouth Ferry Port we got up early and arrived before the wind had got vicious but not before the Brittany Ferries computer system crashed causing loading mayhem and an hour delay in our departure.

Despite the bad weather and the small cabin we had quite a good passage although the weather had forced the skipper to reduce speed so we were one and a half hours late arriving which, coupled with the hour and a half disembarking time, put paid to arriving at any campsite before darkness fell. To cap it all a half hour after leaving the port the heavens opened and the rain in Spain fell mainly on us.

We were thoroughly miserable when we arrived at our overnight stop, Camping Fuentes Blancas and had added cold to the misery by the time we had set up camp.

The following morning we had planned to leave early. What a pity we had forgotten to move our clocks forward an hour to Spanish time - Dooh!! Still, although it was (for us) a long day at 391 km (243 ml) it was practically all motorway so despite the late start we were at Camping Monfrague and set up well before darkness fell.

Our fourth travel day running and, hopefully, the last for a week or so, an easier day with just 235 km (146 ml). For this particular journey the sat-nav usually takes us all the way (278 km 172 ml) on motorways but this time decided to offer a shortcut on rural roads between Cáceres and Badajoz which, if you are ever going that way, you can read about, along with the earlier parts of the journey HERE.

We have arrived at Camping Alentejo, one of our Portuguese favourites, where we plan to stay for a week or so eating, drinking and doing little else.

Week 16 

We have indeed spent this week doing very little (I can’t say the same for Sue) but I have enjoyed relaxing and worrying about nothing but when and what to have for the next meal.

The only happening of note was meeting two other couples who spend winter away from UK. The first, Di and John are travelling to the Algarve to meet up with friends at Camping Touriscampo.

Camping Turiscampo, an ACSI site, is a favourite site of Brits on the western end of the Algarve. We have never stayed there but have been told by many travellers that it is a superb site with first class facilities and a great restaurant. We had been told friends Ann and John were spending the winter there and so tried to book one of our favourite sites just five kilometres to its west. Quinta Manjericao is as close to a UK Caravan Club CL as it’s possible to get, just electrickery and water plus black and grey disposal points add to this stunning views from each of the six large pitches. What more could you want?

The only answer to that is a more sympathetic local authority as when we phoned owner Gary we found that said local authority had closed them down. We don’t know what crime they had committed but they will remain closed for three years after which they can apparently appeal.

The obvious option for us then was Turiscampo, which we booked into for fourteen days from early January (only the second time ever we have pre-booked outside UK) and had to pay the full bill when booking, the first time we have pay in advance since buying our first caravan in 1983, but at €19.00 per night it is a more than one would expect to pay in Portugal but is a standard ACSI rate in the rest of Europe and very cheap in the UK.

Sadly when we contacted Ann and John they have left Turiscampo and moved further east to Camping Ria Formosa near Tavaira.

The other couple, Trisha and Paul, we met at Camping Alentejo care going to Camping Ria Formosa for Christmas which happens to be where John and Ann have moved to. Golly gosh, complicated or what??

© S W Ghost 2018