Thursday 9th May
Thursday morning dawned disappointingly as forecast. The sky was full of low dark clouds and there was a wet mist rolling in as Alf and I took our morning constitutional. The mist turned to drizzle, and the drizzle turned to rain. It was a good day to spend driving and today we were going to take the opportunity to take a long drive up the coast.
As you may have gathered, we have no particular plans for our expedition. The big plan, such as it was, when we left the UK was to arrive in Santander, check the forecast and if good, turn right for A Coruña and then down to Lisbon, if not, drive south for Lisbon and then up to A Coruña. Lisbon was a key waypoint because Andy had a plan to take Lesley to see the delights of the beautiful city. Wendy and I had spent a couple of days there a few years ago and Andy went last year for James’ stag-do. Lesley had never been, and Andy was not sure if he remembered it!
Last night we had a map chat meeting to put some more flesh on those very bare bones and the upshot was that A & L have decided to leave Lisbon for a dedicated ‘city break’ sometime in the future, so instead we are going to make our way northward to Porto so that we can make the most of an anticipated weather window to tour the Douro valley.
We headed for the town of São Martinho do Porto which is halfway between the better-known surfing towns of Peniche and Nazaire. This is ‘big wave’ country; the place where surfers from all over the world come to try and ride record breaking waves.
Our campsite was very hilly and our wheels span on the wet roads so that we stopped at our pitch with accompanied by the fragrance of burning rubber. But my levels of excitement were high as Wendy had come back from booking us in with the coordinates for a set of dinosaur footprints. Not too far from the campsite (out the back gate, to which we had been given a key) on the way to the nearest beach the hill dropped down to the sea. Here landslides had exposed the underlying limestone stratum which contained the marks of the great beasts.
My enthusiasm to find these tracks was not widely shared, so I left the others on the path and clambered down alone. After a bit of scrabbling around, there they were! Some were filled in with moss but there were a couple more visible. I felt as if I had made a major paleontological discovery.
Back up on top of the hill, my chums were less impressed, and cold and wet, so there was only one thing to do – let’s find a bar! We walked down the path following the coast hoping it would lead us into São Martinho. It did eventually, after taking us past some extraordinary examples of the coast’s lack of stability.
São Martinho will look lovely in the sunshine, or even when it has stopped raining. It is on the shore of a cove, the result of a concordant coast line like Lulworth Cove in the UK. The sea has broken through a band of resistant rock and then fanned out to create a scallop shaped bay behind the rock wall. It looks very pretty and on this rough Atlantic coast the cove is a haven for holiday makers who want to swim, sail, windsurf or canoe away from the breakers outside. Today it was a haven only for us. Everywhere was shut!
We did manage to find the only place open, a wine bar where they were happy to provide us with a restorative glass and some olives and pâté, alright it wasn’t tapas, but it was the best we could do.
Back at the vans, over a spirit raising meal of pork fillets in a mushroom sauce we decided to move on in the morning. The forecast was not much better, and we were not enthralled with the campsite which was a little old and not as handy for the beach (there is a ruddy great hill in the way!) or the town as advertised.
By the way, have you solved the riddle of the taking of the photo taken in Evora yet?