After many weeks and at least two attempts to leave, only to return we finally dragged ourselves away from Mikki’s Place to Stay. This quirky Algarve campsite had been an unplanned but welcome refuge during the worrying and turbulent times of the second wave of the Covid-19 crisis. We definitely count ourselves amongst the lucky ones especially with the time we had on our hands when reading the devastating human cost around the world. In our tiny bubble it took us a while to realise our well researched and mapped out touring plan had ended and to accept the need to stay put and make the best of where we were, was our new normal.
Someone once said “Happiness is the art of making a bouquet of the flowers within reach”, spending 80+ nights at Mikki’s wasn’t always a bunch of roses but on the whole I’m sure we will look back upon the time there with mainly fond memories.
Negatives – smoking inside the bar & restaurant, having to put the toilet paper in a bin (always a joy), night-time dogs barking, people not wearing masks and still unbelievably…. Covid deniers!
Positives – friendships we made with fellow motorhomers, the big blue skies, mainly sunny weather, daily walking with a friendly group, trips out to see long, beautiful beaches and rocky coastline, availability of Heinz baked beans…
Our first Christmas in relative warmth and sun was a strange affair. Like many many others who weren’t able to be with their families because of Covod-19. We made the best of it with some cheap Chinese lights to brighten up the van and joined friends to share a joint Christmas meal.
Our shared Xmas lunch with 5 couples all contributing part of the lunch turned out great. Helped along with a bit of alcohol, the food was followed by an absolutely hilarious time watching the contortions on everyone face as they tried to slide an after-eight mint from their forehead into their mouths. Side splitingly priceless memories.
We saw some pretty unusual sight during our various cycling expeditions around the the hills away from the beach action. This collection was part of a strange roadside menagerie randomly assembled by the roadside, a few kms inland from Praia-de-Luz.
The weather wasn’t always sun and blue skies. Wash day sometimes brought it’s challenges as in: –
Aliens Stole My Underpants
To understand the ways
of alien beings is hard,
And I’ve never worked it out
Why they landed in my backyard.
And I’ve always wondered why
on their journey from the stars,
these aliens stole my underpants
and took them back to Mars.
They came on a Monday night
when the weekend wash had been done,
pegged out on the line
to be dried in the morning sun.
Mrs Driver from next door
was a witness at the scene
when aliens snatched my underpants –
I’m glad that they were clean!
It seems they were quite choosey
as nothing else was taken.
Do aliens wear underpants
or were they just mistaken
The situation in Portugal seemed like it was getting progressively worse from a Covid point of view with cases rising and hospitals running out of beds. For the last 82 day that we’d holed up in the Algarve we felt very, very fortunate. In the early days there were no tourists, some bars and restaurants were open, it was 19-20 degrees with big blue skies. We could think of worse places to be especially as we made a several good friends and we could cautiously socialise.
On the 20thJanuary – We left Mikki’s, fingers crossed we’d get across into Spain unchallenged as the Spanish border (EU border posts are largely long gone) was supposedly closed. We also expected problems getting into the local municipality of our campsite but in the end had no issues.
Compared to the restrictions in Portugal, arriving in Andalusia felt like going back two months as there were quite a few bars and restaurants open on the sea front. Within this local area we also had freedom to walk / cycle (provided you wore a mask) anywhere within our new temporary home in Rincón de la Victoria. We had to be back home for the area’s 10pm curfew, but that aside if felt quite relaxed.
25thJanuary – Our plan at that time was to head slowly up the south coast of Spain enjoying as much of the good weather whilst we could. After five days we moved on a very windy day to overnight at a harbour at Almerimar. I would use this place again another time, as it’s very handy if you’re travelling up or down the A7.
The next day another 240 kms took us to El Berro, in the Sierra Espuña national park near Murcia, this time with a different set of restrictions meaning all bars and restaurants were closed. We had the campsite there more or less to ourselves and chilled for a few days although we did complete a mega 2500ft climb ride (why?) up a local hill.
29th January – After 3 days our next hop was to Peñiscola, somewhere we’d been during better times but to a different campsite at El Edén. The campsite was quite busy with 30-40 mainly German vans appearing content to sit it out for the winter, in contrast to Peñiscola itself which was like a ghost town.
Since leaving the UK in late September we’d been keeping up-to-date with Covid developments around Europe. So, when we heard the French were planning to require a PCR test the following day for anyone entering (including by road), we decided it was time for us to up-sticks and head for the French border.
30thJanuary – Knowing the French curfew started at 6pm and with 400kms to cover, we knew we had to get a move on. Looking at the night-time wind forecast for Argelès-sur-Mer it was now forecast for 115kms/hour! So we changed plans and chose an aire just across the border at Le Boulou, arriving at 5pm thus avoiding the £200 cost of two PCR tests. Phew, when we made it we felt very relieved.
31st January – The next day we indulged in a proper French baguettes and decent yummy French cakes. Deciding to stick to the minor roads (we had seen the gendarmes at a road block near the border) we made our way north stopping off en-route for a short walk to see Les Orgues d’Ille-sur-Tet (closed due to Covid), before an overnight stop at the familiar (to us) Pass d’ Etapes aire at Castelnaudry.
1st February The ever-changing regulation landscape suggested the UK government were thinking of bringing in a requirement for travellers returning to the UK from one of 30ish countries of which Portugal was one to stay in a hotel for 10 nights. It seemed this would apply to us so we said “Come on lets just get home”.
Apart from a short section around Toulouse the A20 motorway is a toll free route to Tours. It’s a long 570 kms so we set off in the rain, before daybreak and arrived at an aire south of Tours just before the French night curfew. This then left an easy route the next day to get to Neufchatel on Bray where we’d booked online to have our PCR tests before entering the UK.
2nd February – After making good progress we arrived around lunchtime and rewarded ourselves with more French patisserie. We also changed the time of the tests to bring them forward to 3pm. We were impressed by the ease and efficiency of the Neufchatel en Bray clinic. Although having swabs were stuck up our noses and relieved of €135 is not the best experience. We were slightly sceptical when they told us we’d have the results later that day (not the 24-48 hours we had feared).
However armed with this information it prompted a further change of plan and resulted in us leaving Neufchatel en Bray to spend the night behind the sand dunes at Stella Plage instead. True to the clinic’s word we picked up the negative test results from their website around 10pm and so were all systems go for Calais.
3rd February – The tunnel was as usual very straightforward but quiet. The French customs asked for our Passenger Locator Forms and negative test results. (although we accidentally showed them Lesley results twice but they didn’t notice)! British immigration asked for the same (we’d found my test results by then) a quick whizz though the tunnel and we were home free. Well free to spend the next 10 days locked in the house completing our quarantine.
So here endeth another chapter in our travels. It wasn’t the trip we had planned but in the end we felt really lucky to spend the winter somewhere safe (ish) warm and sunny. Arriving home was a bit of a shock weather wise but we enjoyed spring in the lakes and spending time sorting out the garden and planning our next adventure in Margo the motorhome.
Toodle Pip, until next time
Thanks for reading D&L