Portugal, the land of expensive diesel

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We’re here N41.68335 W8.83298

Weather – cloudy and too cold for a man with no hair.

I ran to Portugal today. I’ve been desperate to tell someone (apart from Ju who’s bored of hearing it). OK, it took me about 6 minutes, hardly an international marathon.

I think there’s something peculiar to the British about country borders. They seem important to me, and I remember the days of European border crossings inciting a little fear in my young mind. Not any more; you’re lucky to notice a sign, although a disused official building at the Portuguese end of the bridge pointed to a less open past.

Later on Ju and I walked Charlie over the bridge to Valenca and up into the ramparts surrounding the old town. Good defenses they must have been; they had the 3 of us walking in circles trying to make our way around them.

I’d already been up there while running, and was keen to impress Ju with my on-the-ground knowledge: “it’s a bank holiday for Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, everything shut”. Of course we immediately came upon a whole raft of open shops and restaurants, mostly selling bedding? Charlie proved a hit with the locals and we managed a few obrigada’s while smiling at the Portuguese nippers stroking him.

The shopkeepers seemed to have a talent for making nativity scenes out of anything. I loved the minimalist ones; a few bits of wood or a few towels. Genius.

Heading back to the van, we decided it was time to brave another country and headed off, passing a packed Spanish garage selling diesel for €1.30/l. We had half a tank and keen to push on I pusuaded Ju to wait until Portugal, despite having seen an empty Valenca garage flogging no diesel for €1. 40/l. Oops. We’ve seen nothing less than €1. 35/l since; seems some things cost more in Portugal than Spain.
Another surprise: the Portuguese roads are soooo slow. 50kph seems the norm on the A roads we’re using to avoid the crazy toll system. I even got stuck behind someone today. Really! Dave is usually the rolling roadblock but not today.

We’ve made it as far as Viana de Castelo; a big port town. We have a quiet spot overlooking the port, next to a wide sandy surfing bay. Our evening scout revealed hundreds of crab shells on the beach, so I’m off crabbing as soon as the rain stops. The guidebooks basically say there’s not much to see north of Porto, so we may get a move on south this week, and find somewhere warmer for my cold head.

Cheers, Jay

P.S. The insurance guys paid out quickly, so we can afford that expensive diesel. Also, for those interested, Ju worked out Dave’s mpg and it hovers around 30, even in the mountains. Not bad for an 18 year old 3.1 tonne fella.

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