We ended up spending four weeks at Mikki’s Place. It was not the plan to park up and stay put for so long but we began to see the appeal of just sitting out the winter in a quirky, tranquil corner many degrees warmer than back home. We were at pitch number 3 and our Swiss neighbour at number 1 had been there on and off for years rather than months – he had developed quite a bunker. Luc at number 4 divided his year between home and Mikki’s. He explained all about the three restaurants in the village and how you could have the menu del dia for between six and nine euros including wine. He pedalled off everyday for lunch and had more or less given up cooking to save money. Prices for most things in Portugal are very good.
One of the first things Neil spotted in the reception/bar/restaurant was the chalk board with the menu for Tuesdays – piri piri chicken, ten euros including dessert. So that was dinner decided.
It was chef’s choice on Thursdays, pizza on Fridays, and fish and chips (but not as we know them!) on Sunday. Mostly we cooked for ourselves though. The dining was communal at long tables with service by the Swiss guy, subsidising his rent, and a young Dutch man who had come to recover from stress overload a couple of years back and stayed on as general site assistant. There seem to be a lot of people here who come for a short period and don’t quite manage to leave.
This did not apply to pitch number 2 to start with. The first party to appear was a group of three women who arrived with three smallish dogs and proceeded to find and adopt another local stray. A lot of people do this in Portugal apparently. Then it all turned rather sad. There was consternation and alarm next morning – one of their original dogs had taken ill overnight and then died. A dog belonging to another couple became ill at the same time and was rushed to the vet. There was a poisoner at work who was loading chorizo with some sort of poison and leaving it for dogs to find when out walking. Next day there were police all over the site and the surrounding lanes were searched. They took it very seriously and we heard that the culprit was found and charged a few days later – a local man who disliked dogs:-( Sadly the second dog had also died. Understandably the women next door fled the site.
Our next neighbour was Hanneke who travels alone with her little rescue dog ZsaZsa and was in the market for another pooch as ZsaZsa was very old, rather deaf and rather blind:-( She was a sweet and undemanding little dog who did not like to be on her own, so I babysat once or twice. Hanneke cosseted her but was also pretty unsentimental – she had packed a shovel in the van in case the worst came to the worst while they were away:-(
We Met Louisa, who also travels alone, and was motorhoming for the first time ever in a new-to-her van. She was on a steep learning curve. We talked quite a bit about basic motorhome dos and don’ts and discovered Louisa was very keen to get to grips with mobile internet but did not know where to start. Neil explained it all and we drove up to the nearest mall in Louisa’s van (Shelley) to get the kit. It’s a complicated little set of slip roads to get into the car park and Louisa took a cavalier attitude to the low entrance. We ducked and braced for the crunch but none came. Apparently the missing top box had been a casualty against an earlier low bridge! Anyway – mifi up and running Louisa was delighted and wanted to buy us a seafood lunch as a thank you. An unlooked-for but very welcome treat. We went back to Armaçao de Pêra, the nearest seaside village, and found the seafront restaurant open. It was a memorable meal. We shared fresh sardines, prawns, sea bass with salad and soft garlicky potatoes. In fact everything was wonderfully garlicky!
We were introduced to Sangria made the proper way – rather more subtle that just red wine and lemonade. We needed a second pitcher to fully appreciate it and this became my drink of choice from that point on. A lengthy walk on the beach was needed before going back.
The weather had become warmer and sunny but with an intermittent cool breeze. I took a dip when the temperature hit 20° (briefly). And we spent many an afternoon lazing in the sun behind a windbreak on our patch of Astro turf. An odd idea but it works really well for both comfort and avoidance of dirt in the van. Might try it in the back garden at home! Some patches had white lines on and you could see that the turf must have been recycled from a football pitch – so ecologically useful as well.
We had a couple more days out with Louisa who had various appointments in the harbour town of Portimão and invited us along for a look round. We wandered the narrow lanes
and Neil inspected the al fresco art exhibition along the harbour side.
We came back via Ferrugado – the lovely little fishing village the other side of the river with an informal moho park beside the inlet.
Next time we went over to Alvor, the other side of Portimão to examine the reclamation of the precious salt marsh and dune environment.
and for another harbour-side lunch. Complete with Portuguese Water Dog. These are fishermen’s working dogs who leap into the water to save people, herd fish and retrieve fishing gear on command. And they are friendly, soft and furry. But Neil still does not want one:-(
We kept deciding to move on but could not quite see why so kept extending our stay. The site was relaxed and eccentric with plenty to look at and just enjoy being in amongst.
Once or twice we got to the bar early enough to get the fireside seats and played Triominoes (think Dominoes but with three sides).
The ebikes really came into their own: a five minute ride into Pêra for the small shop, post office and pharmacy; a terrific ten minute whizz down the slope on the main road and effortlessly up the other side to the big Aldi and the Chinese everything shop. ZsaZsa came along for the ride!
Then Neil caught a cough from Luc so we needed to wait until he felt better. Then I caught it so, lackaday, we needed to wait again. Eventually Hanneke needed to make a move to a dog sanctuary to find another pooch to adopt (in addition to ZsaZsa!), then Louisa had to go for a van repair appointment. Our little social group was breaking up. We realised we had to get a move on if we wanted to look at a few more Algarve sites and spend some time at Los Pinos on the Spanish Mediterranean coast – a wonderful site we had come across last year – and take in some culture on the way. We were commitment-free until mid-March when we had an appointment in France with a car needing an MOT in the UK (it’s complicated).