Sunday, May 12, 2013

Cliffs & Castles

Lovely Beach
 Linda wanted to see cliffs, and Regis wanted castles. Pete didn't really care, and although I'd rather be laying on the Armona beach, I was designated driver. We had a car rented and the girls wanted to cover some Portuguese countryside.

On Day one, we headed north west towards the cliffs at Segres. It was our first day with the car, and we didn't get underway until almost 1:00, so we were not sure how far we would get. This was however, Linda's day, and she was determined to see some of the spectacular cliffs along the coast. Segres is the little point sticking out into the Atlantic on the corner of Portugal, and guide books suggest that it is spectacular, but it was a long way.

Linda & Pete on the Beach
We were told that the A22, Portugal's new 'Autobahn' style highway would get us there quickly, but the tolls were universally hated by everyone. This, everyone complained was Portugal's solution to it's economic problems; increase the tolls on the roads. The public's response was simple; they were refusing to use the toll highways. Instead we were advised to stick to the old road, the N125 which paralleled the A22, but ran through all the little towns, and provided lovely scenery. We quickly discovered that the government is doing everything in it's means to get you onto the A22. The don't list the N125 on signs, or direct you only to the A22 to get to a town. Now if I had rented something interesting like an Audi, or a BMW, I might have tried the A22 just to open it up, but I had a diesel Ford focus station wagon – a nice car, but no sports model. We finally got it figured out and managed, after a couple of wrong turns, to stay on the local roads.

Spectacular Beach
After a couple of stops at possible sites for cliffs, we arrived at Praia da Rocha. There is a beach here surrounded by cliffs. You climb down steep steps to find a beautiful sand beach completely enclosed by cliffs. Very spectacular, even without the male sunbathers in thongs and topless female who seemed pleased that her male partner thoughtfully covered her with his hands to protect her from those thoughtless Canadian tourists invading their beach (I'm sure that must have been what he was doing . . . . . ?)

Linda declared that this was enough for her and since the day was getting on, we decided to head home. She had seen her cliffs and was satisfied for the time being.

Guarding the Castle
For day two, we headed in the opposite direction, taking the same local road, but this time east towards Spain to seek out some castles for Regis. We had come this way on the train, but it is completely different on the road, so although we went through places we had seen before, the experience was completely new. Once we got to the river separating Portugal from Spain, we followed it north to Castro Marim, where we found a nice castle for Regis. Like many of the Historic sites in Europe, they do not completely restore them to like new, they just fix them up and hope they are 'sort-of” safe. I do not think that these castle walls were originally made from recycled bricks, paving stones and roof tiles. No matter, Regis was happy, it was castle enough for her.
Tourists on the Castle - Spain in Background

We stopped for lunch at a little town that we felt sorry for. Linda had read about Alcoutim, a town on the river overlooking Spain that is dying because all it's young folk are leaving for work, leaving only retired people. It really was a lovely little town, with another castle looking across the river at a much more spectacular Spanish castle on a higher hill, completely restored and finished in gleaming white. We really did not see many young citizens, but the older ones entertained us with a spirited discussion (or argument) at the 'snack bar' Pete chose for lunch.
LUNCH - Golden Bream

The drive home was amazing. We cut across the Algarve's hills, where the cork industry is centred and drove on the twistiest road I have ever been on. It was an old road with little stone markers showing the way, and was literally one 'S' bend followed by another for close to 40 Km. Again, I regretted driving the Rent-a-car, and was longing to be on a motorcycle. This was a road designed for motorcycles – it would have been a blast, carving those tight turns. We saw almost no cars coming the other way, but at the end, a group of four Japanese sport bikes snarled past going the other direction, and I wished I was joining them.

We did get to see a real cork tree and even took home a bit of cork off a tree by a river park. But oh I wish I was able to do it on a motorcycle . . . . . .

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