It’s been quite a week since we left the campsite at Vila Chã in Portugal last Thursday, so much so that it feels much longer than a week, maybe because we’ve only had one-night stop-overs and we have covered so much ground. It will be nice to stop for a few days again somewhere soon.
Our first stop was at the great and free aire at Costa de Lavos, right by the seafront, very spacious and even providing toilets and outdoor showers (nice in warmer weather, I should imagine) plus the usual fresh water and emptying facilities. It was a very dramatic day out at sea and we loved our walk on the beach and the pier with the waves crashing against the rocks at the end of it. It was a lot of fun trying to capture the moment on camera and I think our perseverance paid off once more, as both of us managed a few good shots of the mighty power of this ocean.
After a quiet night at Costa de Lavos, on Friday morning we set off for Fátima and got there before 11 am, only to find that the motorhome aire close to the Santuario itself was completely full, as was indeed the huge car park, due to it being the Immaculate Conception bank holiday, so we had to drive a bit further through town until we found an almost empty car park by Fátima’s market. Luckily, it was only a short walk to the Santuario and, as we were arriving, the bells rang for 11 o’clock with the famous 13th May tune dedicated to the apparition of the Virgin Mary in the Cova da Iria to 3 shepherd children, Lucía, Jacinta and Francisco in 1917. I must admit I loved the bells ringing that tune and it made me feel a bit special, almost like a sign, for we used to sing that song in primary school in La Coruña every year to celebrate that day with a special assembly to carry flowers to the Virgin Mary. I felt it was a welcome especially for me!
Once inside the chapel in the Santuario, it was very quiet and I was surprised to find the statue of Our Lady of Fátima was so small and simple and that there was no access to it to lay flowers or light a candle (which I wanted to do), but you could do that at the resting place of the 3 shepherd children.
But if I was surprised at this simplicity, I was simply astonished when we went out to the front of the Santuario and found thousands of people singing a hymn and a few priests, one conducting the huge congregation, holding an outdoor mass, even in the rain. I confess I felt a lump in my throat and felt touched and overwhelmed by the sheer amount of people who had gathered there in homage to Our Lady of Fátima. I was not prepared for that and it had me rooted to the spot. Unfortunately, Adonis couldn’t face the crowd and stayed outside the confines of the Santuario and, as I was afraid to lose him, I went back to join him and we both decided that if we stayed until the end of the ceremony, we would never get out of town and, as we had nowhere to park for the night, we thought it might be wise to leave before the celebration was over and caused mayhem on the road.
I’ve got to admit that I felt disappointed and sad that I couldn’t spend the rest of the day and night in the very place I was named after, but at least I have accomplished something I have been wanting to do ever since I can remember: an item on my bucket list even before these were invented! I thought of my Mum, who chose my name after this special place, and I said thank you for my life and the good things in it and a little prayer for my family and all those I love, to keep them healthy and safe and that I was sorry I couldn’t stay any longer, but my promise was fulfilled. The selfish part of me wished it hadn’t been quite so crowded so that we could have had a good look at the site, but on the other hand, I was happy and proud that it is so popular and that it moves so many people to come here from far and wide, just like we did.
So, with a very heavy heart on my part, we continued our journey looking for a place where to stay for the night and tried our luck at Soure, about 50 km north of Fátima on the road to Coimbra and were pleasantly surprised at the lovely aires by the new park and felt relieved after the frustration of the morning. It was still raining on and off, but we still enjoyed a walk through the park and town, which we found a wonderful contrast of old glory-days, dilapidated and new buildings: quite amazing!
On Saturday morning, we headed north again, as Adonis has to return to the UK for his hospital check-up in January and he felt it would be better for me and Beano to be near his parents in Portiragnes, so that’s where we are hoping to spend the New Year. We stopped at a private aire at Gafanha da Boa Hora, south of Aveiro, by a gorgeous beach and sheltered by big sand dunes. This is a spot popular with surfers and there is a surf school by the aire. The aire itself costs €7.50 a night, plus €2 for electricity, but the location is worth it and it includes access to the shower block by water park. Again, we enjoyed long walks on the beach and the board walk, a standard feature on this coastal area of Portugal, and were lucky enough to witness a most stunning sunset.
We hit the road again on Sunday morning and I have to mention how heartbreaking it is to see all the burn out forests of pine and eucalyptus on either side of the motorway to the north and south of Aveiro. I found it painful to look out of the window and I can’t even begin to imagine how utterly terrifying it must have been for the people who live and work nearby. What a terrible tragedy!
Our next stop was Vila Nova de Cerveira, on the border with Spain and south side of the river Minho, after trying the aire at Lordelo, east of Porto, and found it unsuitable. It was a long drive in foul windy and wet weather conditions, which only deteriorated as the day went on. This was courtesy of Storm Ana and we caught it full on, the van rocking and shaking like a cradle and I was worried it might suffer some damage but, luckily, we survived the rest of the day and night without a scratch, ourselves and the van! Our lovely Hymer stood 80-mile an hour winds and ferocious rain, as well as the thunder and lightening the following morning. Beano’s walks had to be quick affairs as a consequence, as the storm raged for hours and only stopped at some point during the night, making sleep difficult.
Relieved to have survived with no damage whatsoever, we crossed back into Spain yesterday morning and, after a quick shop at Gadis in Tui, we stopped at the gorgeous aire in Boiro, on the Ría de Arousa in As Rías Baixas. This is a very pretty spot by a beach with palm trees and a park in the woods with a bird sanctuary, where we admired a very large group of herons (I counted over 20), egrets and other sea birds, quite unusual to see them in such large numbers. We even found a ‘book nest’ or book swapping station in the woods!
The weather had improved enormously and it was sunny and warm, so we made up for the previous day going for long walks to enjoy this picturesque haven.
And today, we are making our final stop in Galicia at Barreiros, on the mouth of the river Masma, right opposite Foz, and forming part of the Camino Natural de la Ruta del Cantábrico (Cantabria Natural Route), an area protected for its rich ecosystem, flora and fauna. This is another beautiful and peaceful spot and a great way to end our stay in Galicia.