When we were asked last year to “save the date” for our god-daughter’s wedding we decided that this, along with a camping trip through Portugal would be our mid-season break, rather than our usual trip home.
We had arranged for our great friends, Rick and Debbie, to base their 50′ super (well, “amazing”) yacht in Vilamoura marina for 3 nights over the wedding weekend, and they in turn had invited us to head out along the Algarve coast with them after the wedding to give us a flavour of what we are to experience next year.
And so the Berlingo, complete with tent and our basic camping kit were put into action again. We had intended to visit 2 different places on the way to the Vilamoura (Algarve) wedding and two on the way back, but we found one stunning area in each direction and so extended our stays at each. Here is a brief resume of our fabulous 2 and a bit week trip, incorporating a fabulous wedding:
We had once very briefly visited Evora on the Alentejo plain and wanted to go back there.
The reviews of the Evora camp site were poor and so we headed to that at Evora Monte, around 30 minutes from Evora itself.
The campsite was, indeed, superb, with immaculately clean facilities and a lovely swimming pool – not to mention a secluded location among the cork oaks that (along with vineyards and olive groves) are plentiful in the area.
We had intended just 2 nights here but ended up staying for 4.
The castle at nearby Evora Monte was visible from the site. We visited this ancient monument and walked around the village on a quiet day for tourists – but got the impression that this was probably not much quieter than normal! From the rooftop of the castle the vast Alentejo plain stretched out before us. The plain is baked under the summer sun with temperatures routinely well into the 30’s and other than cork and olive trees and irrigated vineyards the countryside was parched.
Inside the castle and in an art gallery and a gift shop within the castle walls was an exhibition of limited edition prints of artwork by Nelson Mandela.
This image was the view from his cell on Robin island. Alongside was a commentary for each piece. His sketches were simple but well drawn and the commentary took us back beyond images of a smiling, friendly old gentleman to the black and white tv stories of violence and hatred in our youth.
On another day we visited the border towns of Badajoz (on the Spanish side) and Elvas (Portuguese).
Here Val is seen standing on the amazingly well preserved battlements surrounding the old fort at Badajoz.
In Elvas preparations were underway for what promised to be a sizeable medieval festival – with stalls and events planned not only here in the main square but also in adjacent streets.
In both towns the fortifications were extensive and well preserved. There is so much history in Northern Spain and Portugal that we just don’t understand why it is not throng with foreign tourists!
We visited the “Adega” of one well known and one less known but well renowned winemakers for a tasting and brought away more wine for the cellar!
There were vast numbers of cork oaks around here – some with orange trunks, having only recently had their 10 yearly bark stripping!
In a nearby town were several cork processing factories – the one in the photo older and smaller than some.
The town had obviously been an affluent place in the past, but the fine old bull ring that sat at its heart was slowly crumbling, and just a few old gents sat chatting in the bars around the central square. It was a fascinating place!
On our last day here we visited Evora. We remembered the main square well from our last visit, which must have been 20 years ago!
This is a lovely town, again with much history, and we could have enjoyed another day or three around here – but time was pressing and we had a wedding to go to!
So we packed up our now dusty tent and headed down to meet Rick and Debs in Vilamoura marina. Their yacht, Farr Horizon, doesn’t look so big in the photograph, but she is 50′ long, and our guest cabin with ensuite shower room was just enormous (by our standards – but you could just about walk around the bed, and that is the second smallest of three cabins on board!!)
We were booked into the marina for 3 nights over the wedding weekend. On the Friday of our arrival we spent the afternoon and evening with Rick and Debs, catching up on the season’s activities (we had seen them over winter) before spending Saturday and Sunday at the wedding.
On the day of the wedding itself we spent the morning pressing clothes and getting ready.
We were collected by coaches from a nearby hotel where most of the guests were staying.
Now Kathryn and Ben have a lot of good friends, but we had been surprised to learn that around 125 guests were due to attend the wedding!
And that included Kathryn’s grandmother, Jean, my mother’s neighbour, seen here just after the moving ceremony, looking sprightly as ever, and justifiably proud of a very happy and very lovely young couple.
The wedding venue was a huge private villa near Vilamoura.
For two days and nights the drinks flowed (each day we only had one glass of wine but never managed to get to the bottom of it) and we were treated to 3 live music acts and a disco. On Sunday the theme for the after wedding party was “white”, followed religiously by all.
We were the first in the huge pool quite early on, but did not join the “merry” revelers later in the evening when they congregated in the pool to the ongoing live music.
Everyone present had a great time, old and young alike, and for the newly married couple and their families and friends this will stay long in the memory.
Thanks for inviting us!