Back in the 70s and 8os I seem to remember Portugal having a reputation for being expensive, but one of our early tenting expeditions in the 90s was to this small, sunny, friendly country tacked on to the side of Spain.
By the time we got round to our Portugal trip we’d upgraded from my ancient Volvo hatchback to ‘Mick’, Husband’s beloved Peugeot Estate, a heroic vehicle that took us thousands of miles and accommodated tons of equipment. We’d also swapped the aged, leaking frame tent inherited from my parents for a [admittedly borrowed] ‘pyramid’ tent, which was beautiful and roomy, but involved someone [ie me] crawling underneath the skirt of the tent to hold the central pole up while Husband secured the guy ropes. In hot weather this could be a sweaty task.
We still needed to make overnight stops in hotels and since a road trip to Portugal involves passing through Spain we had no option of a ‘Formule 1’ as we did in France, so we had to find somewhere en route, which we did, and perfectly acceptable I believe it was.
We cut off the corner of Spain and entered into the north of Portugal and to the coast. The west coast is green and less built up than the popular Algarve, which accommodates large numbers of package tourists every year. Husband was into body-boarding and was keen to try the waves in this area, which are great for surfing. We stopped at the small seaside town of Vila Praia de Ancora, where a large, wooded site gave access to the beach across a railway line and found a corner to begin setting up the pyramid tent.
It is customary on a site for those already installed to show an interest in new arrivals. On this occasion we were ‘helped’ by a Portuguese gentleman nearby, who was keen to advise where our entrance should face etc., whereupon we determined the entrance should face away from our neighbours.
The little town was [and still is-we’ve been back since] delightful, boasting beautiful sandy beaches and characterful streets with restaurants and bars [then, at any rate]. We got our first experience of Portuguese hospitality and cuisine, eating in a modest town restaurant, characteristic of so many in the area, with simple but delicious food and wine sourced from the local district. And as tradition dictates, our menus were accompanied by tasty nibbles-a lovely touch.
Our site was a short walk from the town and also close to a handy Intermarche supermarket. We also discovered that the railway behind our site could give us easy access to Porto, further south down the coast, which meant we would not have to up poles and move from this perfect spot. We’d need to drive to Viano do Costelo, a short way south, and park there to get a train. Wonderful! What could possibly go wrong? …
Tented Travels Portugal continues in the New Year 2021. Anecdotage’s next post will be my travel review of the year-a little different this year. In the meantime, I’d like to wish all regular readers, followers and visitors a safe, healthy and happy Christmas, wherever you are. And thank you for visiting!