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Michael_London 31 May 2009 17:21

My Reports on Portugal and Spain during April and May 2009
My Reports on Portugal and Spain during April and May 2009

Note: All campsite prices are based on one person, a tent plus a motorbike. Any hostel prices are for one person in a standard dorm (6 to 8 bed). Some of the prices are out of season prices, so will be higher if you visit during June to August, and possible September in some campsite.

SANTANDER (Spain) - Arrived by Ferry in Santander on 15th April ‘09. Stayed with family so cannot really comment on Santander accommodation, but the Somo area is a nice area (beaches and less built up than Santander), on the other side of bay to where ferry arrives plus there are some campsites near by.

MAHIDE - My next stop was a campsite near Mahide, near Portuguese boarder NW of Zamora. Campsite was nice although very remote and not cheap at 16euros but it was a very pleasant couple.

PORTO (Portugal) - Following day I left there to enter and cross Portugal to Porto. I stayed in the Poets Hostel, which I thought was very pleasant and not too pricey at 20euros per night, including free internet access. Porto was a very busy town, with lots of cars but is worth a visit to see the few sights and the general cityscape is impressive with the river and bridges. It is very hilly though, so be prepared for some aching calves!

NAZARE - From here I headed south to Nazare, which is on the coast. I staying in a good campsite which was a couple of kilometres north of town. It was less than 10euros per night (out of season price), which included free WIFI all over the site. Around Nazare there are many great sites, OBIDOS is a walled town which is very pleasant for a walk around, PENICHE is also worth a walk around, the fort was interesting, especially the museum as the top floor was left as it had been when it was a prison for political prisoners who upset Salazar the dictator! Also worth visiting was FATIMA, just for the sheer scale of the place, plus ALMOURAL (spelling?), which is a castle in the middle of the river. You take a little boat out to it, just very pretty setting. Also TOMAR.

CASCAIS - After this I headed down to Cascais, which is on the coast west of Lisbon. I really like Cascais, very relaxed area. Main attraction in this area is SINTRA, which is a great place, especially Pena Palace, the Cork Convent, Montserrat (spelling?) Palace plus the Moors Castle. The coast road from Cascais to near Sintra is a great riding road, although can be a bit busy. Campsite I stayed in was good, it was 4km NW of Cascais, not far from the coast.

I went to LISBON but personally was not impressed. This was in part due to the fact I was approached by five people within the first twenty minutes of my arrival all trying to sell me drugs. Not sure if this says something about my appearance? The castle is nothing special IMO, not if you’ve been to Sintra.

EVORA - After Lisbon I headed to Evora, which is well worth a visit although IMO half a day is more than enough time there. Impressive Roman remains. After this I headed to PORTO COVO, which is on the coast. The town was a bit of a mess, lots of buildings half finished but the little area near the sea with restaurants was nicely done. Campsite, only one in town, was ok although they charge a higher price if you only stay one night, plus it was packed with caravans so was a bit like staying in a car park, but was fine for one night.

Then it was off to SAGRES, the SW tip of Portugal. The fort was worth a little walk around, for the views and the general ambiance. After this I was off to ALBUFEIRA, and I stayed in a campsite a few kilometres north of town. The campsite was ok, the reception guy was not very friendly and I think it was about 15euros per night, which I thought quite expensive although in the high season I am sure the pool and restaurant area is probably more appealing. Personally I was not impressed with Albufeira town, it is basically just a holiday resort town not worth visiting unless you are in need of an English breakfast or want to relax amongst many English tourists.

SEVILLE, Spain - After Albufeira I crossed the boarder into Spain and stopped off in Sevilla. Stayed in the campsite in Dos Hermanas, a few k’s south of town, which was ok, although it would have been better to be a bit closer to town. Seville is a great town, although it was festival week when I was there, so that would probably of skewed my experience. The Alcazar is worth a visit although the Cathedral is the main attraction, plus the Giralda (spelling?) tower. One warning is it is VERY hot in the summer, definitely a place best visited outside the summer months if possible. Seville is the hottest place in Europe, over 50 centigrade in the summer is not un-common.

EL CHURRO - From Seville I headed to El Churro, which is about 30 miles (an hours ride due to roads) east of Ronda. Stayed at Finca la Campana, which was 8euros per night to camp, as opposed to over 14euros to stay at the campsite in El Churro. El Churro town is not worth visiting for itself, its more for the surrounding, very popular with rock climbers, plus walking and general outdoor pursuits. I stayed there mainly as it was close to most of the places I wanted to visit although I soon realised it would probably have been better to stay in Ronda, as the roads are so small and bendy that it took ages to get anywhere. Park El Torcal is a must visit for me, even if you can only stop for five minutes, the view from the top at the car park is well worth it.

ALMERIA - next stop was Almeria in the SW of Spain. Was a relatively easy ride here from Malaga area although the coast road is not really very exciting, some good patches but a lot of traffic. I really liked Almeria, the Alcazar (fort) was really interesting, with great views plus the city felt truly Spanish, not a tourist resort. The campsite was clean and quite good although I did not get a very friendly welcome from the Scottish guy who runs the place but he warmed up after a while! By the sound of it he seems to be getting quite a lot of pressure from the wife to paint everything! Oh dear!

MORTELLA (spelling) - in the hills west of Murcia. Was recommended in Rough Guide and although the campsite was nice was not impressed with the town really. Caravaca de la Cruz just south was interesting, Castle and Cathedral although probably not worth the diversion IMO.
MURCIA - liked this town, Cathedral worth a visit and just a nice place to visit. Stopped here on the way through, so cannot comment on accommodation.

ELCHE - famous for its palm trees. IMO not worth stopping for but each to their own.

ALICANTE - stayed in campsite a few k’s north of town, Camping El Campello. Campsite was reasonably good, with a 20 minute walk to El Campello by the beach which had plenty of bars and restaurants. The castle in Alicante is very impressive, well worth a visit although it’s a hard walk up there, so I rode my bike up, there is a lift you can take, from near the beach not sure who much it costs. Other than that not much to see in town, nice place to relax though, plenty of nice cafes in town, plus the beach with the hordes of British holiday makers. If you want to avoid them its chilled in town, away from the beach.

GANDESA - a hill topped castle inland from Benidorm. The castle was not very impressive, but the views are impressive, plus it’s a good way to avoid the toll road to Valencia. From here you can carry on heading inland then take the main road north to Valencia.

VALENCIA - I thought this was a great town with lots to see. I stayed in a hostel, Red Nest Hostel. Was 17euros per night, good price, plus was reasonably centrally located and could see bike parked in street from my hostel window. The Cathedral and tower are impressive, as are the parks which occupy the former river bed, plus La Lonja and general ambiance of the city. The modern museums, near Aquarium, SE of the city, cannot remember their names are impressive to look at. I did not go inside so cannot comment on exhibits.

SAGUNT - fort town. Well worth a visit, the sprawling fort complex is in ruins in parts but I thought it had a great feel to it, sort of how I imagine a bombed city would look.

VINAROS - stayed at campsite a few k’s north of town. Nothing worth seeing here really, just stopped here on the way north.

MORELLA - NW of Vinaros, it is an impressive castle surrounded by walls and a town. Well worth a visit IMO, although it is a hard slog to the top.

LA FRESNEDA, noth of Morella, SW of Alcaniz- a rural little town with a smart campsite just south of the town. It was quite expensive, over 17euros per night, but it is a nice situation and bathrooms were top notch, plus they provide a good folder with great things to see in the local area, like and impressive waterfall and other walks and sights. Valdorobles (spelling) was a nice town to visit.

TARRAGONA - the campsite I stayed at was not good, IMO. It was a few k’s along the coast, was recommended in Rough Guide. It was second campsite you pass on coast. The campsite has a railway line running right by it, which is quite busy and noisy plus when I was there the gardeners started chain-sawing near my tent at 8am! On top of this they first said it was 18euros per night, but he negotiated down to 15euros per night, which was a bit more sensible. The town itself is good, and the Roman sights are very interesting, well worth a stop if you are passing through on your way to Barcelona, although half a day may not be quite enough time to do it justice.

BARCELONA - stayed in the BCN Hostel, which was 23euros per week night plus 25euros for weekends, incl breakfast plus free WIFI. Was a reasonable hostel, about 20minutes walk from Las Ramblas. Barcelona is a crazy town, on par with London. So many people, it felt like more than London. All the tourist attractions are rammed plus every other person I spoke to had been robbed in the street which put me on edge the whole time so I never really relaxed and as a result never really enjoyed myself. Sagrada Familiar is amazing - no where else would you see Priests wearing hardhats being given a tour to scruffy builders! It is a strange mix of building site and church, or as they prefer “temple”. Montserrat was good, climbing to the peak was hard work, although I felt worth it.

I don’t want to be too negative about Barcelona, it is well worth visiting but it can be really busy and as I said keep all your valuables close and don’t put anything down for a second! I think I was approached by a pickpocket team, although I did not hang around to find out. Most of the time the method is distraction or snatch techniques, so I am told. I was approached from the side by a woman (on Las Ramblas) who patted me heavily on the arm (and started talking to me) whilst her female friend also walked toward my side but was moving behind me. I just moved away as quick as I could saying no. Maybe they just thought I was a sex god! Apparently the tapping you heavily on the arm is a distraction, as they do this their colleague will try and pickpocket you, or go through your bag. By hitting you (or patting) on the arm it desensitises you to any other feelings you may normally get when someone is touching your pockets, if you understand me.

FIGUERES - the town is pleasant enough, and the Dali Museum is well worth visiting IMO. Cadaques is a nice chilled town, and Dalis house in the next bay is really worth visiting although you have to book in advance and your time in the house is limited, so it can feel a little rushed but personally I found it really intriguing. Lots of campsites along coast near Roses which is overdeveloped, plus one near Cadaques. Road to Cadaques is a great motorcycle road, after Roses. I camped at Camping Castel Mar, which was 1.5km from main road (good to keep road noise down at night) from Figueers to Roses (C260) and about 10km outside Figueres, . It was a quiet campsite and was pleasant enough, was 12.50 euros per night, which may be cheap or expensive compared to other sites in area, not sure.

GIRONA - well worth a visit. You can walk along the city walls, which was good fun plus the cathedral is impressive and it’s a nice chilled city.

Any questions let me know.

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