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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Quarteria & Vilamoura, PT – May 16-18, 2012

Those of you paying close attention to the Tweets and posts, might be wondering why this posting isn’t titled, “Boondocking on a Portugese Beach.”  We had every intention of spending two nights out in a parking lot adjacent to a gorgeous beach, but I chickened out.  For one thing, there is a high level of unemployment in Portugal and I didn’t feel the need to parade Salt & Pepper by the folks who just might be camping in the lot because they have no choice.  Plus, after spending a day at the beach and returning home to a nice, long shower, I realized I didn’t want to give that up; and boondocking requires a certain, shall we say, restraint in the personal hygiene area.  So I apologized to SP for being a wimp and I suggested we head down the coast in hopes of fulfilling our beach needs with a caravan park close to a dog-friendly shore.

Even with that exciting goal, it was terribly difficult to leave the wonderful service and comforts of Touriscampo in Luz, but this really wouldn’t be much of an Aventura log if we stayed in one spot for the rest of our lives. So we checked the tire pressure, packed, hitched up Salt and headed east along the southern coast to Quarteria.

This will not surprise many of you:  SP and I find it hard to engage people in conversations.  Both being naturally shy and independent, our discomfort at reaching out undoubtedly leads to us missing out on some good advice.  Not last week though!    We engaged our British neighbor one evening at Touriscampo, asking if he had any experience down in Olhao, which was to be our next destination.  He had, and mentioned that it was a nice town and caravan park, but if you like beaches, you have to take a ferry across to an island.   Since beach going was our goal for the next few days, the addition of the ferry did not sound appealing.  Nothing says Headache quite like the combination of Dogs, Cooler, Backpacks, Umbrellas, Chairs and Ferry.  Thankfully our neighbor then mentioned Quarteria; a great spot for its miles of beaches but the caravan park (with a pause here as he searched for the right words), “Didn’t have as nice an ambiance as Touriscampo.”  Hmmm.  We should have asked him for further information but, to paraphrase Renee in Jerry Maguire, he had us at Beaches.  We were off to Quarteria—even if we stayed only one night.

It was a short drive, but a hot day and having not towed Salt for a while we were ready for it to be over when we pulled into the Orbitur site.   This was our second attempt at an Obitur site and, much like the first one, the appearance from the front is rather more like a low-security prison than a caravan park.  If it wasn’t for being hot and tired, we would have kept on going.  But we drove around, found an awful pitch, parked, unhitched and walked to the beach.  The beach, indeed, is miles long with soft inviting waves—I could hardly wait to get in the water.  I tested the temperature and, as promised, it was much warmer than the Atlantic coast.

With the beach being so lovely, we decided to stay additional days despite the lackluster park.  Back at the park, we completed a foot survey and opted to upgrade to a deluxe pitch (an additional €2/day) so as to have water and a dump area close at hand (they are both shared between two pitches.)  We hitched back up and moved Salt on down to the weed infested, not-nearly level, dirt pitch and poured a strong sundowner.

We enjoyed the beach as much as we could (one day proved too windy to sustain a relaxing experience) and swimming in the water was a delight.  But don’t come here for the town atmosphere:  It is quite awful.  Thankfully, after striking up a conversation with two Irish travelers at lunch (see how much better we are getting?) we learned of Vilamoura, an upscale touristy town just a mile or so west.  So we spent an afternoon there, me taking advantage of the nice boutiques and buying a new bathing suit then, while enjoying a beer and gazing at the marina, discussed how that opulent lifestyle no longer seemed to be our style. 

Except of course, for the bathing suit.