Some of the best village ramparts in France
We set off to explore Almeida after a late breakfast. Quite chilly this morning at 1c which we felt was porridge weather! Still that set us up for a good walk around the C17 star shaped fortifications of this small town. This town is much smaller than Elvas and the fortfications are much smaller and a little less complex. In the main they date from 1640s and so are about the same age as the older fort (Sante Luzia) in Elvas. Our walk around the inner walls with a diversion across the town was just on 2.5miles – there is an outer ring too but we decided that the views etc would be quite similar! The town itself was very small and very quiet, one or two bars, no shops that we saw and a large modern hotel which seemed just as quiet!
Back at Bertie for lunch we decided to concentrate on jobs and using all this lovely free electricity. That meant we could use the laptop as much as we liked and I took the opportunity to add some recent images to the “slider” images at the top of the pages on the blog.
In the evening we were delighted to see a flock of sheep being brought past the side of the aire – on their way to be milked I think. Clearly they knew where they were going and were quite happy to go there. There was no obvious dog controlling them just the shepherd keeping an eye on them at the back. We have seen this pattern of herding before with goats and sheep – the animals do their own thing and the shepherd/goatherd is there to keep an eye on them.
We were disappointed to find that our lovely free aire was not so perfect as the water tap refused to give us any water!! We had been relying on being able to fill our tanks this morning and the guage said we had less than a quarter of a tank. That is just about enough for the day as long as there is water tonight. In future we will always check that water taps work!
The leaflets we picked up at the tourist office in Almeida suggested that the village of Castelo Rodrigo would be worth a visit on our way today and so that was our coffee stop. This tiny village is surrounded by walls and huddles around the base of a ruined castle on the top of a hill that commands the surrounding countryside for many miles. We parked Bertie below the castle walls and after coffee we went off to explore. Quite a climb up to the village but great views. Time is short so we concentrate on the castle. We paid our €1 each and picked up an English leaflet which gave us the basic history. The castle and walls date from C13 but it seems this village chose the wrong side (ie Spain) and was sacked and burned by Portuguese forces in 1640 and never really recovered from that! Still it is a wonderful spot and another time we will explore all the village has to offer and walk around their walls too.
After a stop at the new town at the bottom of the hill for a supermarket and some cheap(ish) diesel we were back on our way to the River Douro for lunch. This section of the route was initially across the plateau and we saw much of the same rocky boulder landscape that we had remarked on our way to Almeida. We had to drop down over 1,500ft to get down to the level of the River Douro and that happened quite sharply with some stunning views. We found a Miradouro (view point) at the top of the main descent and that had stunning views (below).
We parked on a parking area in Barca de Alva beside the Douro bridge and beside the river quay with magnificent views across the Douro where we watched comorants swimming and diving. We understand that in the season this wharf is used by cruise ships that cruise the Douro from Oporto.
The road on from Barca de Alva was a more minor road and wound steeply up the other side – climbing over 1500ft in a few kilometers.
Over the top we found the landscape had changed. The boulders were gone and so was the plateau. Now we are in amongst rolling hills almost all of which were terraced for olives, almonds and vines. Some of these terraces were on really steep slopes and it is hard to see how the trees were accessed and especially how they were harvested. As we had noticed in Spain the almond trees were mainly mixed in amongst the olive trees. There were a few groves of almond trees all together but on the whole they were dotted amongst the much more numerous olives. At lower levels there were also a few oranges and at higher levels there were plantations of eucalyptus.
It was lovely to be on minor roads with virtually no traffic. We also find that as we go through the small towns and villages we seem to attract quite a bit of attention and not a few people smile and wave. I guess elderly motorhomes from Scotland do not often pass through here – actually very few vehicles seem to pass through here at all. We encountered our first mule and cart of the trip this afternoon – he was plodding along entering a small town and driver heard us coming and stopped to let us pass.
We arrived at Torre de Moncorvo and soon found the signs to the Motorhome Park. As is so often the case this is part of the town’s sports complex being between the swimming pool and the football stadium! Just out of town and on a small ridge there are great views over the town. The best bit is the water is on and we can refill our depleted tank! Showers tonight!