We left Edinburgh on the 5th of May 2008. We said goodbye to our families and the landscape and cool air of Scotland that we had always known as home and crossed the border from Scotland into England. How long it will be until we cross that border again in our VW I don’t know. All there is now is Anthony, I, our VW Syncro and our dreams of travel.
We drove down through England to Dover where we got a ferry at 2am in the morning with a very decent price of £75. We found a caravan stop beside the beach in Dunquerke and rested our eyes for the next few hours. I was woken up early that morning due to the heat and felt at last that we were now abroad! We drove to La Harve where we slept at the top of a cliff edge that circles the town and watched the sunset.
On day three we had a long drive to Bordeaux where we not so much enjoyed but experienced our first night sleeping in a truck stop at the side of the motorway. A friend of ours once said that she wanted to write a book about toilets around the world. Well if she had then I would have told her to start there as I am sure that they cannot get much worse than that in central Europe!
The following few days were a blur of driving, reading, sleeping and eating whilst we drove down through France to Spain. We spent around £100 on toll roads in France alone so we were eager to get moving.
On the 11th of May we stopped at the most lovely town at the top of Spain called Ribasella. I would imagine a few months on from now that the café’s that stretch the promenade would be full of tourists but just now at least the town was quite, slow running and peaceful. Locals drinking in cliques, older gentlemen casting over the promenade and children playing in the courtyards.
On the 12th of May we left the sweet town and drove further along the coast. We were stopped twice for documentation by the Spanish Police and then waved on. We weren’t expecting this to start happening until we started to head further east.
We did a long drive around the top western side of Spain into Portugal and headed to a Nature Reserve Park called Serra da Peneda that runs the North-Eastern border between Portugal and Spain. The park was full of rolling mountains to climb in our VW and the van coped well despite the countless dirt tracks and very steep roads (well if you can call them that) that the Sat-Nav took us on unnecessarily. The campsite that we stayed in Lamas de Moaro was pretty much empty due to the time of year so the next morning the owner sat down with us, took out his maps of the region and told us where to go for nice walks, the sights to see and what not to miss in the region. He told us of the regions history and how the people and farmers lived there. Like many places in the world farmers move their cattle from the highlands to the lowlands depending on the season but in this area the farmers ‘move their wife’s and families’ as well so each family has two houses. The rain was heavy whilst we were there – the same all year round due to the high altitude but the landscape was very green and charming. We did a short hike up to a Church at the top of a mountain. You could see valley’s that ran for miles. Not the nicest day for a walk like that but pleasant and a spectacle to see all the same. We then went on to see some of nature’s wild art. A turtle and an eagle that were each one piece of stone that hadn’t been carved by man. The resemblance was amazing and we were glad we had hiked to see them. We ate lunch in a small town and then we drove the VW on a very rough dirt track to see another Church. The VW even went into four wheel drive for a short time when we got stuck in a small ditch but didn’t struggle on the tracks too bad. We had been told that the Church that we were now visiting was very spiritual and mystical and having felt the stillness of the wind and tranquillity there I can see why. I was told to throw a stone into a hole in the rock face there and that the myth went that if you managed to get the stone in with your left hand then you will be married within 3 months. I did manage it however I don’t hear wedding bells just yet!
We left the hills the next morning and were glad to have some tarmac and motorway on our way to a place called Braga. This is said to be the most religious town in Portugal with all of its Cathedrals. The town was a song of church bells as we drove through and stopped for lunch.
After our stop off for lunch in Braga we headed south to Porto. We stopped just south of Porto beside the beach in a town called Valadares for the night.