In for Christmas, Alvor, Portugal’s Algarve

Zagan the motorhome’s settled in for Christmas, parked on the haphazard sand-mud aire on the outskirts of Alvor, on the western edge of Portugal’s sun-hugged Algarve (N37.124914, W8.594254). It’s €4.50 a night stay here, plus €2.50 if you want the wanton decadence of electrical hook-up! The aire’s a short walk from the town, its small but active fishing port, a rather spiffing beach and about 1000 bars and restaurants. We’re settled in alongside Jules and Phil for a few days, are booked in for an evening meal at a restaurant outside town on Christmas day and, I have to say, I’m feeling pretty good about the world. This will be our 3rd Xmas on the road, the first being beneath pines on a campsite north of Lisbon (much beers drunk), and the second on an aire with a smokin’ Mount Etna in the background (much wines drunk). Both were wonderful, while both were made a little sad by the distance between us and our families.

Weirdly, for a man with no job and not much to do with the 40 hours freed up as a result, I’m in a hurry! We’re off out on a Chicken Piri Piri hunt, and I’ve only got 50 minutes to write this post, and have already used half of that sorting through photos. I’d better get a move on. Thinking about it, I’m wasting time just writing this stuff about not having much time, argghhhhh!!!

We nipped across the south of Portugal in a day to get here, squeezing through villages and bouncing along some of the country’s neglected roads in an effort to avoid the tolls. I read some while ago roads down here are a wee bit unsafe due to the partially sober tourists arriving at the airport to pick up a LHD car and drive it badly on the wrong side of the road. Not much evidence of that at the moment, although one local fella pulling out of a junction to my left and using the hard shoulder/mud as a sliproad did put the monkeys up me. That incident, which was punctuated with a bit of horn blowing and arm-waving, reminded me we’re in Portugal now. Akin with Italy, my feeling is the laws of the road are seen more as guidelines, and I need to adjust my driving as a result. All good practice for Morocco!

€1 for a bag, or €5 for 3 bags?
€1 for a bag, or €5 for 3 bags?

The aire here in Alvor’s been set up to accommodate a steady flood of motorhomes of all shapes and sizes. It has a good reputation, until the wind blows or the rain falls, then the sandstorm/mudbath conditions from the unsealed surface seem to generate some rather irate reviews. Bully for us, it’s dry and no rain’s forecast. No pitches are marked out, you just bagsie your space, and deploy whatever equipment you have at your disposal to expand and delimit your temporary domain.

The air flows with languages. German, French and English dominate, although everyone seems to be having a good go at speaking everyone else’s tongue. The atmosphere is jovial, and folk’s pet pooches wander about making friends or making trouble. There are motorhomes here ranging in spec from ‘Rock Star’ through to ‘Made It’ all the way down to us. I’d guess this muddy area of land is playing host to a few million quid’s worth of wandering wagon, and we’re paying almost nothing to stay. It’s win-win though, since the town gains an additional income from folks staying here for weeks or months, and those folks need feeding, hair cutting, clothing and, from time to time, being watered with the odd drink.

The town feels a mix of tourist and traditional. We’ve had an amble about the cobbled streets, lined with white-washed houses, restaurants, shops, banks, bars, churches, car hire shops and estate agents. Weathered, bent locals sit quietly clutching bags on benches while tourists peer at menus printed in 4 languages. Outside the town a small port sits at the end of an estuary which leads out to the Atlantic. Wetlands, protected by elevated board walks play host to un-identified bods (as my Dad calls them, birds to you and me). Further out towards the sea fishermen stand chatting alongside poles lodged into the enormous rocks which protect the estuary entrance. We ran past the lot this morning.

Right, 5 minutes left, best get some photos uploaded and then we’re off! Paul and Sylvia, if you’re reading this, sorry we’ve not been over for a chat, somehow, incredibly, we’ve been busy for a once. We’ll come over and bother you in the next day or two if you’ll have us.

Cheers, Jay


  1. Merry Christmas guys, great to hear you’re in better spirits Jay – just in time to enjoy some festive tipples! My wife Sarah and I are off on our own motorhome adventure in a few days – it’s my last day at work today! I’m leaving my job of 10 years and we’ve got the Eurotunnel booked for 6th Jan – heading south asap! As Sarah has mentioned before on a previous post, you guys have really inspired us and reading your blog has been incredibly helpful in our preparations. We’re aiming for three years exploring Europe’s nooks and crannies, very much hope you run into you one day.
    All the best, Andy

    • Congratulations Andrew, I imagine you’re a bit nervous and excited! Good timing too, spend Xmas and New Year at home then head south sounds good. We enjoyed a brief foray into the Alps last year, finally facing down our fear of mixing motorhome and snow. This time around we may see some snow in the Atlas Mountains but we’re hoping for more sunshine. Yep, I’m feeling more positive and am pondering the idea of some more digital nomad work, something I’m passionate about which I can dedicate time and thought to. Cheers, have a great final (for now) few days in the UK, Jay

      • Cheers Jay – spot on, although now my last day is over and the big leave day approaches I’m getting less nervous and more excited. Still lots to do though, so a busy Xmas ahead! Sarah is also planning some digital nomad work, and maybe even doing some calling at universities in Scandinavia this summer (she works in publishing) to keep us ticking over while I contemplate how I might pull my finger out and make us some cash on the road! Merry Christmas, Andy and Sarah

  2. Hi to you both, last Xmas we spent 4days parked up on the dirt road next to o luis restaurant on sea front are the police allowing campers to stay this the east of the beach the sandstone cliffs was a great place to roam with our dog,cheers Steve

    • Hi Steve, not sure about that particular spot, but some folks are staying a night or two in the free parking next to the aire here and we’ve seen no sign of the police. Charlie’s enjoying the beach and the board walks, although as ever he’d prefer to be eating! Cheers, Jay

  3. Merry Christmas Julie, Jason and Charlie. You are welcome to join us for a chin wag and drinks in the naughty corner, but we won’t be offended if you don’t get time before you move on. Enjoy your Christmas meal.
    Paul, Sylvia and Charlie.

  4. Merry Xmas Jay & July’s.

    It sounds like Jay’s spirits are improving from the tone of recent posts which is great to hear. We’ve just returned to wet and windy Wales from our 6 month’s mini Euro tour (France, Luxomburg, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Spain, Portugal, Andorra ). Weather’s miserable and my feelings are mutual in that I don’t really want to be here but would much rather be in the relative warmth of southern Spain. However needs must and we’ve decided that as we enjoy the freedom and adventure of touring and visiting new places and are going to continue we need to get our home here in Wales rented out and bringing in some income. There is also the problem of MH Insurance to sort, as our present insurer only covers us for 6 month’s out of the UK each policy year! Just managed to get back home with 2 days to spare. Now looking for an insurer with no time limits outside UK.

    LOving reading the blog even whilst we travel so keep up the good works.

    Hope the three of you have a great Christmas.

    Graham Sue and Bailey dog

  5. Hi J and J,
    May we take this opportunity to wish you a Very Happy Christmas and a 2017 that brings you everything that you wish for.
    We are further along the Algarve at Camping Albufeira, bit of a reunion for us as we have been here for the last three years. Standing by for an intake of gargantuan portions of things solid and liquid as provided by the resteraunt on-site, looking forward to it now. Enjoy your day and stay.

  6. Hi guys Hope you have had a fab Christmas. We have had our first Christmas in a motorhome this year thanks in huge part to reading your blog. Since May when we stumbled into a motorhome dealer with a far off idea of doing something in 10 years time and he mentioned your blog, seven months on we have given up two jobs sold one house purchased one motorhome and secured two new (summer only jobs) and after 4 months on the road and two months of France and Spain we have not regretted a moment of it and even have our own blog. I don’t think we would have had the courage to take that leap without your insight and I know we have inspired others to do the same and suggested they check your blog out to help them see if it’s doable.Cheers guys will continue to follow your adventures and have a great New Year. Gideon and Angie

  7. We just wanted to wish you three a Happy New Year when it arrives. Hope it brings peace and wonderful fulfilment for you.
    All the best.
    Ian & Janette xx

  8. Oh so happy to see you so close to me! Alvor is a nice stop, thinking to get there too, but in the meanwhile still in Alentejo coast! Wishing you all the best and magical year 2017!

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