Tuesday, October 12, 2010

France,Spain & Portugal


12th August to the 13th October. 2010

While staying in Germany to do the rest of our admin work and selling the “winter home” we were fortunate enough to find a gem of a camp site, price wise and friendly wise. We stayed at Camping Leleveld, the owners going out of their way to help us with all we needed. A big thank you to them. After all our goodbyes, Nicole and Frank had a super braai for us with gifts of special T-shirts with our trip from Africa to Germany printed on them. Marina & Stefan were there and also gave us Brandy and good red wine to remember them. We spent two days with Rosie, (Uwe had left for S.A.) and we had two special dinners with her, and friends and of course Eva who always made time for us in her busy social life, and hopefully will be returning to S,A, in November 2011 with Uwe and Rosie for us to reciprocate all the hospitality we had in Germany and France. To be able to fit in goodbyes with Achim, Lena and Gordon we managed a breakfast in a little old town, Brueggen, where we had never been before and had a lovely time. All the goodbye’s were all hard and very emotional. Once again all those family and friends who made our 10months in Europe so special. We had decided we loved France and felt we had not enough so that was the way we were to travel south. We must at this point say that up to now everything was planned and what had needed to be visited, we had done most of. (Dawn of course) now we would just go with the flow and how we felt. We had seen lots of major towns, hundreds (according to Wolf) churches (Wolf says too many) and old buildings and actually lots of coast lines but we now would travel as the mood took, time took, and more than that balance it with the weather. We stayed over at a camp site at Dieppe, St Martin en Campagne, which was just about on the sea. A super walk over the hill to a lovely view of the northern France coast. The weather was not really good so the next morning, we had one of those late mornings before getting out seeing the area around us. We visited St Valery en Caux, Varengeville, Ste Marguerite , and a super drive all along the coast to Fe Camp. The city is closed in on the land side to the beach with long Alabaster (Limestone) walls. This is where the line of Alabaster walls start and stretches all the way to Etretat. (About 30km) Fe camp is also the city where the herb liquor, Benedictine is made. (Tom you have to remember those times) The whole coastline is really beautiful and you could spend days just stopping and walking. Sometimes you realize just how much you could do even staying in one place for a month. Even with bad weather the water was beautifully clear and so calm. But it was time to move south, leaving our campsite we went back down the coast line hoping to be able to have a long stop at Etretat. Here these walls of limestone reach unbelievable heights. The beach is completely pebbled and the North side is called “Falaise d’Amont and the south Falaise d’Avale. Both having the meaning of these huge mountains of limestone rocks. One side with a massive hole in the stone and is called “Manneporte” and is 90mt high. Also in Etretat there is a church, Notredam, built in 1100. Unfortunately due to the fact that they allow no parking for trailers, caravans or Motor homes in the city and where there was parking, it seemed the every tourist had decided on the same day as us. So with the parking problem we were unable to spend as much time as we would have liked. Not that this stopped Wolf driving into an area with a no go to car and trailer, stopping the traffic, causing a traffic jam and telling me to get out and take photos.!!!! After this we travelled south via Le Havre and over the famous bridge. This crosses the channel. As we had done some of this route before we headed for the direct highway route and down south, lower than we had been with the family, to a town called Isigny s Mer, on the border of Normandy and Brittany and on a small channel called Passe d’Isigny. We stayed at Le Fanal camp site. This is in the area of Calvados (something I got a liking for but not Wolf) It’s also the area of the Marais region. This brings me back many years, Marais being my first married name which was of coarse in SA very Afrikaans. Chandy decided that as her Afrikaans was not very good it was because she was of French decent. Somewhere in her studies she had learnt of the Marais region in France. Here we spent lots of time taking photos to take home to Chandy and having lots of laughs. Brittany seems to be thrust out into the Atlantic. France’s westernmost region and called Finistere, meaning “lands end” but its Breton name, Penn ar Bed, translates as ‘head of the world’. It’s long considered itself as a separate nation from the rest of France, with its own history and customs. Throw in some scenic coastline, windswept islands and the eeriest stone circles this side of Stonehenge and you have a really fascinating area. Carnac comprises of the world’s largest concentration of megalithic sites. There are more than 3000 of these upright stones scattered across the countryside. It was also here that we remembered what it was like to camp in rain for days, the heavens opened and it just never stopped. The next day we braved the rain and visited Utah Beach, where the monuments of the Normandy invasion were, and then to St Martin and to Ste Mere-Eglise, where a paratrooper during the invasions got stuck on a church tower for hours and today there is a puppet of a man in a parachute hanging in the same place. From there to St Vaast-la- Houge on the coast and then to Barfleu in the north and then going west onto Cherbourgh. Here is a large harbor and a lovely Basilica. The harbor was used for bringing in the allies and material for the Normandy invasion. From there we went to Cap de Hague, which is where the English Channel meets the Atlantic Ocean , then going south down the west coast to Cap de Carteret and back to the campsite. A really wet but interesting day. Not as much time out of the car as we would have liked. Next day took us to St Lo, a little city which was 80% destroyed in the Normandy Invasion and therefore a lot of the town is now quite modern. Very different from most of the towns and villages we had visited in France. Just outside town at a place called Marigny, a military cemetery. Originally this was a section of war graves where American soldiers who fell in this region near Marigny in 1945/46 were buried. The American dead were relocated to the graveyards of St Laurent-sur-Mer in 1957. The reburial services of the German War Graves were relocated from numerous small graveyards to this military graveyard in 1958. There was a register which listed the names of the men buried there and we were quite interested to find one Gutmann and one Schertel, but the Christian names were not ones we recognized. We then visited Carentan a little port town with a really old city, a lovely old church and cobbled street. We had a lunch of their famous “Crepes” (made with buckwheat flour) and of course French red wine to go with. What a choice!!!! More rain the next day, just shopped and had lunch at a lovely little restaurant on the sea at Grandcamp Maisy. We packed up next day, wet tent but lovely sun for the first time in 4 days and travelled down to the west coast and settled at Cancale, at a super campsite, Camping Le Bois, Pastel. This was a centre point between St Malo and Le Mont Michel which were the areas we wanted to see. We visited lots of the areas around us and one of the days which will always be remembered, we ended up at a ”Factory of Sea Food” You pick up your choice from the trays of fish on ice, take it along to a Chef who weighs cleans and cooks your meal. You have to see the photos of where you sit to eat. Looks just like a fish factory and smells like one too. But fresher fish not possible. Reminded us a lot of the first time we visited the West Coast and had fish cooked in ovens on the beach. Really different. Next day took us to visit St Malo, a pretty port, with one of the most beautiful colored sea. The sea is so briny blue (green for me) and was a key harbour during the 17th and 18th centuries. St Malo was named after Welsh monk Mac Low, who around the 6th century established his bishopric here, a stone throws away from the rock where the walled city now stands. It’s now a busy cross Channel, ferry port which goes to Portsmouth, and to some of the Channel Islands. The old city is completely walled. Thanks to the seafarers and merchant ship owners, who commissioned vessels to Eastern Indies, China, Africa and the Americas, the City enjoyed prosperity in the 17th and 18th centuries. In 1944 the battles devastated the town and destroyed the walled city. But from those preserved and restored ruins, St Malo rose again, thanks to a careful and conscious reconstruction design. The inner Courtyard of the town houses Chateaubriand’s birth place. (Picture Posted) The house of Poets and Writers built in the early 17th century were designed by naval architects and built with recycled ship materials. Although the walls and castle were spared by the 1944 destruction, three quarters of the city had to be rebuilt, the same front walls rebuilt exactly as they were under the auspices of the French Directorate. We saw the St Vincent Cathedral which began in the 12th century and although partly destroyed very carefully restored. It has the most outstanding stained glass windows. The old city is just a wonderful walkways of little streets and old houses, all restored. After our visit to St Malo we went onto little towns of St Briac, St Quay Portrieux, a fish harbor and had a super lunch, and then into Paimpol and the Ile de Brehat, a very lovely and rocky beach with the most beautiful clear green waters. We sat on rocks way above the sea with unbelievable views of the water. Leaving the next day we drove down via Rennies and Nantes and La Rochell and onto an Ile De Re over a bridge of a couple of kilometers. (Picture posted) The island is 85 sq km. It’s an island with quite a history. In 1625 in the reign of Louis XIII Protestants seized the island. Two years later the Catholic Cardinal de Richelieu decided to besiege Lar Rochelle, the last stronghold in which the Huguenots were entrenched. Many battles were between the French and the English, and very few won by the French so this victory is mentioned quite a bit in the history of the island. On this small island there were 650 ha vines planted in the south of the island and today produce between 35 to 40 hectoliters of wine that is about 2 million bottles per year. A particular grape variety is grown for a fine Cognac production. It is said to have 7 different types of soils, a very fertile land and has a sunny climate very favorable to vineyards. We camped at one of the furtherest points at the top of the island, at St Clement des Baleines on a camp site Le Cote Salvage, and had a camp site about 100 mts from a lovely beach. Spent a few days on the beach and also visiting the closest points of interest especially the fish shop, for oysters and more oysters. Also the home of fine salt productions. The old little quaint villages and front water cafes. Lots of walking and just enjoying the island. We only left island because the sun left the island!!!! On our way out, stopped for our daily purchase of Oysters. We then again down the coast line via Bordeaux, picked up some famous Bordeaux red wine (Uwe we did listen to you) and then further south to Biscarrosa Beach, to Pilat Plage ( Plage means beach) across from Cap Ferret to a camp site on the dunes, called Le Petit Nice, at Pyla Sur Mer. A favorite for Parasailing and super walks but high up and down over the dunes.(Picture Posted) On Sunday the 5th my best friend from White River, Maureen died, so this little place will be ever in my mind. I could take myself to the beach and look over the sea and remember all the good times. Maureen loved the sea, and I could just see her in every wave. A really, really hard time for both of us. Later it all became a reason for us to go home earlier than planned. We left two days later driving south via Bayonne, stopping to buy Bayonne Ham, again another recommendation from Uwe and really good. Our mileage in France 3000km and 15days. Then into Spain at San Sebastian to Bilboa and then to Laredo. Another two days of rain and the wind that was unbelievable. We sat in the pub and watched our tent nearly blow away into the Gulf of Biscay. But super anyway and again lots of walks, churches, and our first Paella and Sangria. The town is like Durbs by the sea but wind, wind and wind. Campsite was called Playa Del Regaton. After leaving here we drove along the coast line via Gijon, and to Ribadeo and found a campsite on a little hill overlooking the beach, called Played De Reinante. What a super find, the people were so friendly and told us immediately, noise on Friday, Music and dancing from 11pm till 3 am. We said no problem we will join them. At 11.30pm and no noise yet we thought we had the wrong day or time, but no, at about midnight, starts the band, music, dancing and lots of drinking. Unfortunately no brandy, Wolf ends up drinking Spanish Dark Rum and Coke. Well needless to say we don’t have to explain how he felt the next day. Got to bed at 3.30 and slept most of the next day. The beach is called Cathedral’s Beach whose traditional name is Holy Water Beach. It is a natural monument modelled by the sea. Twice a day during the low tides, allow you to go deep into its ways and rocks, always in constant change with the tides. The shaping of this monument took place thousands of years ago. Within this general scenery, Holy Water beach becomes a really unique place. The quality of the rocks and the layout and orientation of its strata make it weak because of the regular large waves of the sea. This weakness is visible in the shape of the cliff itself, which is in a constant backward movement. This shows a landscape characterized by the toughest rocks, arranged in a striking succession of columns, arcades, mazes and “eyes” (as they are called) of significant height and depth. Meanwhile, along the beach, the remains of what was originally the cliff come into sight with the aspect of stone pans full of crystalline waters. The extent of the slabs and black flagstones, the light filtered through the spaces of the wet rocks, the contrasts with the white sand all justify the traditional names of Holy Water Beach and Cathedral’s Beach. Here you need to see the pictures to tell the story. The area from our Camp Site to the town of Ribadeo follows a route along the beaches of rocks and small villages from the late 14th and early 15th century and has many different sights, historic ports, Old buildings, and beautiful rocky beaches. One such place is Rinlo, a traditional sailing village on a narrow sheltered part of the coast and was famous for the quality of seafood especially lobsters. Here the first cetaria for the intensive growing of lobsters and spider crabs. The cetaria’s are complex installations because they must be put up in specific coastal places, both open and protected. Ribedeo is a city with many forts, an old palace, convents and lovely churches and chapels. (more for Dawn) Sunday we packed up feeling a bit better after our Friday party and followed our route down south to Santiago Compenstella. Here we had to camp near the city, with at least a chance of being able to catch a bus into the city, parking in these cities always difficult. Santiago, the “City of the Apostle” which is, along with Rome and Jerusalem, Santiago, one of the three most important centers of Christianity. It is a city of enormous wealth. Its stones, carved out by the joint actual of man and nature over the centuries, becomes art to move us with the spirituality with which it is imbued for. Santiago de Compostela is a city built around the tomb of the Apostle Saint James. The beauty and splendid artistic heritage is enhanced even further by the constant of the Galician scenery. The city stands on a hill with a height of 400metres and is 30kilometres from the sea. The origins of the city go back to the year 813 when the discovery of the tomb of Saint James was made. According to legend, the hermit Paio saw strange lights in the form of stars over the hill of Libredo, an old Roman fortress. This unusual sighting was reported to Bishop Theudemirus who discovered on the site a funeral monument containing the bodies of the Apostle and two of his disciples. It seems that in the year 44 AD, after preaching in Spain, James was martyred and his head cut off in Palestine by the Jews. His followers decided to place his mortal remains on a ship and head for Galicia. It was buried on the site on which the city now stands. Again it is an old city of many different places to see. Always having to choose, (Wolf definitely would not look at everything.) First choice was the cathedral where the remains of St James was kept (a story to follow) and The church of San Martin Pinario, one of the finest examples of Baroque. The entrance is an unusual descent of a flight of steps. The church has a ground plan of a Latin cross. The interior is richly-ornamentented with a high altarpiece by various artists. The organs, choir stalls, sacristy and various chapels all of baroque art make this an unbelievable sight. The ceilings just unbelievable. Other sights we saw were, the Convent of Santa Clara, and the church of St Miguel dos Agros and lots of the little streets walking through the old city. It is a city very similar to Du Brovnik in Croatia, where you need more than a guide book to understand and visit the right things. Now for the story of the Cathedral. I knew from my Europe book that you had to queue for visiting the place where St James’s casket was but that’s all I knew. We arrive at the main Plaza, 10am in the morning and see this queue to the main doors. Asking the guards, is this the queue for the cathedral, yes, yes is the answer, after 1 and half hours we get into the cathedral only to find it is only one of the many entrances, the special part is that it is the one to the “Crypt of the Glory Portal” and was built for the veneration and worship of the St, a statue of whom presides over the entrance. Entering through here is what is considered the most precious jewel of Romanesque art. The Portico de la Gloria, a magnificent sculptural work of a famous maestro, Mateo. It consists of three archways corresponding to the nave and aisles of the cathedral. You only get to go through one, the central arch which is divided by the mullion, and made up by two columns supported by a single base. In the middle of these is the statue of James, here by tradition you carry out two rituals. One to place your hand on the feet and make a wish and the second those who wish to increase their intelligence, who should give their heads a bang three times against the statue of the “Santo dos Croques” traditionally said to be representation of the maestro Mateo. Now this is the way we went, (not the head banging though) super for the visit to the statue but you find after this you go down into the crypt for a few of the casket of remains of St James, you find yourself outside the cathedral and to gain entry to see the next part, and the main part you join another queue which looked as long as the first. There was no chance I was been given the chance of seeing inside again. One look at Wolf’s face was enough for that. Ok, to reach the compromise I get to buy a good instruction book and photos to see and understand the rest. I must admit I could spend a week in the city to see and understand it all. But when you have a partner, where “enough is enough” you have to compromise. But a city any Christian should visit. Picture Posted. Tuesday took us down the coast to just outside Vigo a little beach town called Playa Bayona, campsite Bayona Plage. I wanted to be in church for 11am, the time of Maureen’s funeral. Coincidence, we find a church and there was a mass that day at 11am as it was the feast of “Triumph of the Cross” So I got to spend an hour at mass, the same time as Mass was in White River for Maureen. I got to say goodbye in my own little world in a lovely small Spanish church saying my own goodbyes. “A Friend Never Forgotten” From this area we did some homework with a Spanish Shipping company to ensure that we could compare our prices with the German shippers to our journey home. At this point I also started worrying about home, friends and family, I know this was because of Maureen but I also know we had been away from home almost 18months and everyone we had met on our travels had these feelings on their trips, but we decided to open our options, home via West Coast, via East coast starting at Kenya and then finally a thought about going straight to Cape town. (Our decision comes later) We had met some super Portuguese people who had given us advice as to travel in Portugal. It’s always nice to get is from a local perspective and not only a touristic view. On this advice we crossed into Portugal at the Tui Border into Valenco. At this point we had covered 1122 km and spent 10 days in the North of Spain We went directly inland to Geres-Terras de Boura. This is a mountainous area, complete with forests, lakes and nature. Crossed by the Calvado and Hornern rivers and with the Peneda-Geres National Park as background scenery here, the environment is a way of life and completely different from the coastline. We stayed at Campismo De Cerdeira. Quite rustic and in the middle of the forest. By now the tourist sites much emptier and also better rates for camping and food which does make our budget even out from the previous weeks. From here we visited the Ria Calda area, one of the towns, S.Bento da Porta Aberta. Bento means Benedict in English and now of course our Pope is Benedict so the town has a sort of famous feel to it. Also a town where many people have been healed. In the local Shop/Museam are the crutches, corsets and other items which people had been using/wearing and after being cured and had discarded them. For a little of the history, the centennial temple is known for the unmatchable devotion of thousands of pilgrims that every year arrive from all around. A place where stopping obligatory, here one sees and feels the beliefs of a people on their daily and nightly vigils. A tradition tied to March 21st and July 11th but especially from August 10th to the 15th where religious and profane give hands during one of the municipalities largest festivities. To cope with the hundreds and thousands of pilgrims, a new church has been built aside from the one which has been used over the years. (Picture Posted) The surrounding park is a giant amphitheatre of nature, where the purest of natural resources remain intact. As well as a variety of fauna and flora it is home to wild horses, boars, wolves and badgers and a few others. We did see the horses but not having the choice of riding around at night we had to believe in the rest of the animals around. . Our first of many “Prado de Dia” this means plate of the day, it usually includes a main course, soup, wine of the house and a sweet and coffee and costs between 4 and 7 euro. This meant we could eat and drink at lunch time at what was really good value. We decided to give the normal next stop, Porto a miss because this is where the car should be shipped out mid October and we would to the area on our return. We took the highway south and back to the coast. Stopping just north of Nazare (Nazareth in English) and stayed, at a campsite called Vale Paraiso Camping. From here we visited a town called Sitio, quite a little religious town on a big square all selling religious artifacts, the church really lovely, and it’s all on a high hill overlooking the town of Nazare. The little town is a warren of narrow cobbled lanes running down to a wide cliff-backed beach. It is the most picturesque coastal resort. The town centre is full of seafood restaurants, bars and local women in traditional dress. Went to the local beautiful church, had a lovely walk and then had a super Portuguese seafood lunch. During lunch, we heard not only English voices but with SA accents. Lovely just to chat with a common denominator. They were from Jhb but have a home in Portugal and spend the SA winter time here. (Pic ture posted) The next day we took a drive to Martinho De Porto, via Foz da Arelho to Obidos,(Picture Posted) a little walled in village but a real difference; it was given as a gift from Dom Dinis to his wife Dona Isabel as a wedding gift. What a present!!!! . and onto Peniche, super beach resort and then to Caldas de Rainha. Had lunch for Euro12 including our wine!! Could holiday in Portugal more often. Our camp site was really good and combined with the sun managed a few afternoons at the pool and managed to work on keeping our “sun Tan” Travelled south to Sesimbra via the inland route over Lisbon (We thought Lisbon our stop over for the route back up) We camped on a hill overlooking the sea, Campsite called Forte Do Cavalo. For the next few days did lots of walking and visiting the churches, buildings, etc. and enjoying the Portuguese food and wine. Leaving the south we went back up via Lisbon to Alenquer and from here visited Sintra, and picked up our new Carnet papers from Bernadette who had so kindly brought them from SA for us. Sintra: Lord Byron called this hilltop town a ‘glorius Eden; and it must be wonderful in the evening, a magical view of castles and lights. Unfortunately we never got to see it at night. Sintra was the traditional summer retreat of Portugal’s kings. Today it is a fairytale setting of stunning palaces and manors surrounded by rolling green countryside. Again we had to choose what to see, (much too much for Wolf G) Our choice was Quinta da Regaleira. We spent about 4 hours just walking about in and out, we never saw the whole building and gardens, and Wolf estimates maybe 70%. You could visit this area and do one castle a day and there are about 4. It is a world heritage site and as an early 20th century neo-Manueline extravaganza is an unbelievable site. I will start with the description of the garden: It is an image of the Cosmos and reveled through a succession of magic and mysterious places. The quest for paradise is found in coexistence with a mundus inferus- such as Dante’s inferno – through which the candidate for initiation is led by Ariadne’s thread. Various scenes from the initiate’s journey appear along the way of the vera peregrinatio mundi through a symbolic garden where we can feel the Harmony of the Spheres and examine the perspective of an ascetic conscience by analogy to the metaphysical quest for the Being that is found in the great Epics. In these realms abound references to the worlds of mythology to Olympus, Virgil, Dante, Milton and Camoes, and to the mission of the Templars as continued by the Order of Christ, to great mystics and miraculous magicians, and to the enigmas of the alchemical Ars Magna. This symphony in Stone - crafted by the builders of the Temples, steeped in the true spirit of Tradition – reveals the poetic and prophetic dimension of a Lusitanian Philosophical Mansion. Ok, now after a description like that, how do I describe the gardens, I won’t, I’ll just leave it to the imagination, (I don’t have one like that) and wait for some of the pictures. Now the buildings: The main “BUILDING!! HOUSE!! Whatever, is of three stories high and two going down into the basements. 1st floor was for the private family bedrooms, study and nursery, 2nd Floor, There is the Octagonal turret and other than this and the study the second floor is all bedrooms and storerooms. 3rd Floor A neo-mediaeval tower at the northern corner of the house containing a private study for the owner with a connecting stairway to a laboratory and the roof terraces. The lower two floors were dedicated to kitchens, larders and scullery, also an ironing room, boiler, dormitory and refectory. Now for the ground floor: The magnificent decorations of these rooms of this floor were inspired by the maueline, renaissance and baroque periods. 1. Renaissance Hall, Former drawing room, decorated in Italian Renaissance style. There are Iconographic references to Carvalho Monteiro and his wife Perpetua Augusta. 2. Stairway and Hall, a spacious area for circulation formerly occupied by an impressive stairway carved from the wood of chestnut trees. 3. Porch. Quixotic decoration, carved in Coimbra limestone, suggests the age of Portuguese discoveries and epitomizes the idea of a journey. 4, Hunting Room, the dining room is overwhelmed by the massive fireplace that supports a statue of a woodsman. The mantelpiece depicts hunting scenes that are exceptionally well carved. The theme of the “cycle of life” is evident throughout the room: from the Venetian mosaic floor to the carvings of the ceiling. Now by trying to explain the “Castle or main House” you can try and imagine the rest. We were really overwhelmed with it all. In the grounds there was, their own little chapel, Terrace of the Gods, the Labyrinthic Grotto, the Cave of the Orient ( an entrance to a tunnel to get to various parts of the grounds), the Tennis Court!!!!!, The Regaleira tower, Lake 1 Waterfall, and etc, etc and etc. a definite for anyone visiting Portugal. (Pictures posted) The area where we stayed was a super wine area and quite nice campsite overlooking the hills of vines. Campsite called Alenquer camping. Then left northwards, still staying inland to Tomar. Here staying at Camping Rotondo. This site needs a special mention, one of those camp sites and owners which we will never forget. Gejs and Carlos and the missing Linda (wife of Gejs who was visiting her family in Scotland) What a wonderful hospitality. Super bar, each evening our coffee, with Port for Dawn and 1920 for Wolf. Brought all the Mozambique memories for us. Our reason for this area, 1. Fatima, and 2. Tomar Fatima: For me one of my highlights of Europe, there were only 3 on my list and due to visa problems, the first two were not realized so I made sure this one would be the best and for me and it was. Fatima was a place where on 13th May, 1917 three children were pasturing their little flock in the Cova da Iria, parish of Fatima and town of Vila Nova de Ourem. They were called Lucia aged 10, Francisco aged 8 and Jacinta aged 7. They had prayed their Rosary as was their custom and amusing themselves when they saw a brilliant light and thinking it to be lightning they decided to go home. But as they were down the slope they saw on the top of a holmoak, (where the chapel of Apparitions now stands) a Lady more brilliant than the sun and from her hands hung a white rosary. The Lady told the three little shepherds that it was necessary to pray much and invited them to return to the place during the five consecutive months on the 13th day at the same hour. This the children did and so on the 13th day of June, July, September and October the Lady appeared to them again. On the 19th of August the apparition took place at Valinhos about 500 metres from Aljustrel, because on the 13th the children had been carried off by the local Administrator to Vila Nova de Ourem. The last apparition on October 13th with about 70,000 people present the Lady said to them that she was the “Lady of the Rosary” and that a chapel was to be built there in her honour. After the apparition all present witnessed the miracle promised to the three children in July and September: the sun, resembling a silver disc, could be gazed at without difficulty and whirling on itself like a wheel of fire, it seemed about to fall upon the earth. Afterwards Lucia now a Religious Sister of Saint Dorothy, Our Lady appeared to her again in Spain on 10 December 1925 and 15 February 1926 in the convent of Pontevedra and again on the night of 13/14 June, 1929 in the Convent of Tuy always requesting the devotion to the five first Saturdays, (to pray the Rosary and to meditate on the mysteries of the Rosary. Since 1917 pilgrims have not ceased to come in thousands upon thousands from all parts of the world, at first only on the 13th of the months of the apparitions but now more and more on any day all year round. For me it was an experience I will never forget. The whole “piazza” and the Chapel of Apparitions, this is the very heart of the Sanctuary. It was the first constructed in the Cova da Iria, at the place of the Apparitions. The exact spot is marked by a marble pillar on which the Statue of our Lady is placed; the Lady of Sorrows Chapel, this is where hundreds and hundreds of candles are burnt every day for prayers for the sick: The Basilica, built between 1928 and completed and consecrated on 7 October, 1953. It has 15 alters dedicated to the 15 mysteries of the Rosary. The painting above the high altar depicts the Message of Our Lady to the little shepherds, prepared by the Angel of Portugal. Scenes of the apparitions are represented in stained glass as well as invocations from the Litany of Our Lady. In the four corners of the Basilica interior are placed the statues of the great apostles of the Rosary and the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, St Anthony Claret, St Dominic of Gusman, St John Eudes and St Stephen, King of Hungary. The Tombs of Fransisco and Jacinta are in the Basilica. The monumental organ mounted in 1952 has about 12 thousand pipes. and lastly the new church, The Most Holy Trinity Church” which was built because of the need for a larger covered area as the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima, consecrated in 1953 could not accommodate all the pilgrims, especially on Sundays and on special celebrations. The idea started in 1973 and it was only in the year 1996 that the final plans were elaborated for its construction. Construction began in Feb 2004 and the corner stone laid on the 6th June, 2004 and only on the 12th October was the church consecrated. Our visit to the area started in the morning, first visiting the Chapel of Apparitions, and the Lady of Sorrows Chapel and then the Basilica we found out there was to be an English mass at 3pm. We then visited the little town around, had lunch and then went back for mass. For me again something I will not forget. (Picture posted) 2. Tomar: A charming town straddling a river, Tamar has the notoriety of being home to the Knights Templar. The castle was a hill high above the city. It consisted of 3 floors. It’s one of the masterpieces of Portuguese Architecture. The whole area is about 45 hectares. 5 hectares is the castle. It was made up of hundreds of rooms where novices of the templar’s were housed and trained. The master of the Templar order was Gualdim Pais and with Alfonso Henriques who was the first Portuguese King decided on the place and how it was to be built. In the middle of the castle is a beautiful church with a centre piece of indescribable beauty. The original name of the church from the templar’s was called Charola. Unfortunately our information sheet was all in German and the direct translations from German to English was just too much for my translator, (Wolf) I will have to do some internet search for the correct wording. But the areas, from the rooms, kitchens, places of prayer and areas where food was prepared for the poor. The graveyard area. Again this castle took us about 3 hours to see it all. Our camp site was so comfortable and “geselig” that we extended our original stay of 2days, to 3 and eventually to 5 days, and if it was not for the weather turning a little, the fact we had to get to Vigo for the transport details, we would probably still be there. Thank you Carlos and Gejs for a memorable and wonderful stay. Thank you for the home made Olive Oil. It will be used in SA and every meal prepared from it will be a reminder of our time with you both. From Tomar we moved north back to the coast and to the harbor town of Porto. We found ourselves a good positioned camp site at Orbiture Madalena, Villa Nova De Gaia about 10km outside of the city of Porto. Again an easy bus trip to the city. We chose to do the tourist thing and took a combined bus/boat/Port wine tasting tour all in one. Always a treat for Wolf, especially that all the port tasting and lunch with wine was not a problem for driving. Porto is at the mouth of the Rio Douro River, (comes all the way from Spain) the hilly city of Porto presents a jumble of styles, eras and attitudes. The narrow medieval alleyways, extravagant baroque churches, prim little squares and wide boulevards. Porto’s old world river frontage district is a World Heritage site. Across the water twinkle the neon sights of the Vila Nova de Gaia, the headquarters of the major port manufacturers (Port meaning alcohol Port, just in case you think it might have something to do with Ships instead) The city clings to the north bank of the Douro River and spanned by five bridges across from Vila Nova de Gaia. The picturesque Ribeira district lies along the waterfront in the shadow of the great Ponte de Dom Luis I bridge. By doing the bus trip, really the lazy way and the way Wolf would like to see every city; we had earphones to tell us of all the sights, places and history. Unfortunately, I got a lot on video but not in my mind, it all went too fast. But a very happy husband. From there we had a super lunch, and then the boat trip along both water fronts and down to see all five bridges. From there we went back and did a very interesting Port Wine tour, tasting included. As we were still a bit mystified by normal ports, LBP (late bottled) and then the vintages, we took ourselves off to a little shop in the village and had a free lesson on Port and what was good, bad and not necessary and then even give a tasting of what we wanted. What a lovely day, I must admit I am hooked and don’t know how to finish an evening without my daily dose of Port. We then went back to the camp site to have the worst rain in weeks and our tent was drenched. With needing to pack up the next day, we decided to take one of the camp site tents, and try and dry ourselves out for the trip up North. This was really a good idea and from there we traveled to the northern border of Portugal to a super campsite at Orbiture Caminha, From here we went onto Vigo and sorted out trip car and trailer leaving on Wednesday 13 October and us onto Valencia and visiting Wolfgang Maasfeller and then onto Mallorca for 8 days. After this we fly via Johannesburg to Cape Town. Just to catch up here, after much deliberation we decided to ship the car from Vigo in Spain, direct to Cape Town. Our total km for Portugal 2052 Km and 28 days.

Follow up with blog to Valencia, Spain and Mallorca for 8 days and then HOME

Monday, August 16, 2010


14 July – 12 August, 2010
This was not a country on our list to do. Both of us had visited France before and neither of us really impressed enough to do a revisit. The reason for us choosing is as a destination in our travel was our friends, UWE AND ROSIE who were going on their annual holiday to Normandy and spoke so well of the region we decided that we would like to see an area where they had spent their annual holiday for the past 10 years. With the dates coinciding with our return from Scotland we spent two weeks with Uwe and Rosie in the heart of the Normandy, taking Jim (our grandchild) with and then encouraging Nicole and Frank to join us for a further two weeks on the coast, this giving us a month altogether. We never expected what we got,


We were introduced to life in Normandy by being able to be part of a family. Like all visits to a country it was lovely to be staying within a local community. Uwe and Rosie rent a home, outside of a small village called St Pierre-s-Dives. It is part of a family Bed and Breakfast establishment and the home belonging to Aneke Duhamel. Many years back she and her husband owned a hotel which had 40 beds. It was lovely to be able to chat to her with that common denominator! They sold the hotel and bought a very old, old Farm House with a lovely view. The view is what sold it, lots of love and tender care, and many heartaches and lots of money they transformed this old derelict farmhouse to a lovely warm home with 5 bedrooms (all en suite) and two additional separate apartments. One of these is where Uwe and Rosie spend their annual July holiday. They have just become her extended family and by the time we left we felt very close to this wonderful French lady. We saw all the photos of what they bought and the changes made. We also were introduced to their super neighbors, also “an Anike” and her husband who had recently inherited an old house (150years old) complete with the old furniture, books, linen, etc etc. It looked like a museum. (Complete with spider webs and dust.) The lady who had bequeathed it to her, was 90years old and had no children and left it because of being assisted in her later years with sorting her finances and banking etc by Aneke (what compensation!!!!) For at least an hour after visiting, I was completely speechless. (Yes all you know me; I was really speechless, not many times in my life as this ever happened.)
Our location was 40km from the beach, and most days we managed a visit to the beach added to that a visit to all the local and even further away places of interest. We were blessed with a super “Free French” guide. We saw the best places with all the “need to knows”
All the drives in and around the area and on the way to the beach are through little towns with lots of “French Chateau’s” and lots of 13th – 18th century buildings, wooden-framed Norman style houses. The area is also famous for the training of horses, so lots of lovely green farms with horses and foals, sheep, cows etc. Narrow, windy roads lined with trees and lovely old buildings. All the little towns have at least one old church, and lots little cobbled streets with a lot of arty shops, art galeries and museums. Each evening returning to our “Utopia” for wonderful French food. Always, snacks and “Aperitifs” then a starter, could be Jacques Mussels, different seafood aperitifs or even some cold meats, sometimes just a break would have been good, but No, No, that’s not how the French do it. Then follows the main course, most days, fresh fish or seafood, more than once really good beef or ribs of sorts. Then break time and the cheese, cheese and cheese served with Baguettes and after this follow a pudding, e.g. Crème Brule etc and then coffee. Of course it is always accompanied by good white or red French wine. Sometimes both. Liquors, especially Calvados, and Ricard in plentiful supply.
While on our travels here we visited the towns of:
1. Deauville,- The place to be for your holiday if you are a Parisian returning from your holiday You had to have visited Deauville; Gold drips off the ladies, they could drown if they swam from the weight. Just to sit on the street Café’s and watch is an experience all on its own.
2. Bayeux, Famous for a tapestry which recounts the conquest of England from a Norman perspective. Fifty eight scenes fill the central canvas, while religious allegories and depictions of everyday 11th century life fill the borders. The final showdown at the Battle of Hastings is depicted in graphic fashion, complete with severed limbs and decapitated heads in the last 52nd scene. It evens includes one scene with Hailey’s Comet blazing across the sky in 1066. It is believed that the 68.3 mt long tapestry was commissioned by the Bishop Odo of Bayeux who was William the Conqueror’s half brother, for the opening of the Bayeux Cathedral in 1077. The viewing of the tapestry is done with translations in most languages by way of a radio. Added to this was the wonderful Norman Gothic Cathedral, Notre Dame which dates from the 11th to the 13th Century. Close by at Arromanche, a small seaside town is part of the D-Day landings. Code Named “Operation Overlord” was the largest military operation in history. Early on 6th June 1944, Allied troops stormed ashore along the 80km of beaches north of Bayeux. The beaches now known as Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. The most brutal fight taking place on Omaha Beach. To make it possible to unload cargo without having to capture one of the heavily defended ports, the Allies established two prefabricated breakwaters, one of which can still be viewed at low tide in this seaside town. It is a wonderful and historical super trip down the coast visiting it all and going back into history. Amazing what you learn at school and bored to tears with, you see and enjoy at this later time.
3. LISEAUX- Famous mainly from the Saint Theresa. (She was born in 1873, entered the convent at the age of 15 and died in 1897 at the young age of 24 of Tuberculoses. Because of her memoirs published after her death and translated into more than 60 languages, she quickly became known and venerated throughout the whole world. In “Story of a Soul” Theresa explains her “little way” to holiness, not by sacrifices but by the monotony of little acts offered to God through love. In 1925, she was declared a Saint and two years later was proclaimed Patroness of the Missions. She is also the Secondary Patroness of France. Adding to this lovely city there is a Basilica, a church, one of the greatest of the 20th Century. Its construction began in 1929 and was only consecrated in 1954. Its walls and those of the crypt are covered with mosaics which reflect Saint Therese’s message based on love and trust in the Good God’s infinite love. Situated in the part of the church beneath the dome is the reliquary containing the bones from Saint Therese’s right arm. There is a Cathedral of Saint Pierre, from the 12th & 13th century. Also in the city is Therese’s family residence from 1877. The Carmel chapel contains the tomb of St Theresa. She is represented there lying on her deathbed wearing the habit of the Carmelite order. A Museum of Art and History. The St Germain De Livet Caster also from the 15th and 16th Century.
4. HONFLEUR – Is an old harbor town, the harbor filled with lots of yachts and fancy boats. To enter or exit the small harbor, the road-bridge must be lifted, giving access to the boats but of course stopping the traffic. Seeing the amount of traffic on the road, quite something while the boats have the right of way and the traffic comes to a halt. Around the old port, there are lots of little shops, restaurants, street cafes, museums and art shops. 500 years ago the explorers started from this port. Today it is a very big fish harbor, with Fish and Seafood available from the markets in abundance. The street which you enter into the town is amazing, an avenue of trees and flowers on all sides.
For me, other highlights of our first two weeks, was being taken by Aneke,(a fellow catholic), to the local churches, one of which was an open air mass, one gospel evening done by Caribbean Singers who were part of a supporting group to visiting musicals. Another evening Rosi and I went with her to a “Festival Musique” an evening of music on “Flute et deux harpes) (Harps) this was held in a local old church and the acoustics just unbelievable. I have to mention again, our super evenings of food, laughter and friendship. Other days just being able to drive through the little villages to local old churches, buildings, and Chateaux’s and being able to understand some of the old history, Having Uwe’s knowledge and French translations just made the journeys so special and never was there anything we queried he could not answer. His energy with Jim was fantastic, the beach and swimming so much easier. Both Rosie and Uwe will make super Grandparents “one day” (Come on Eva, Gramps and Gran are really ready for this)
After two weeks, we said goodbye to friends and moved to the beach in a seaside town called Blondville. The location was tremendous, right on the beach. The hang-up was the time of year, it was full all the time and the ablutions not too wonderful. But just having the family for the last part of our trip before going south and heading home was wonderful. Again we took great pleasure in the food and being able to share our travels around Normandy with Nicole, Frank and Lisa. The weather was not as nice or as kind to us as the first two weeks but we managed to do a few days on the beach and lots of visits to the local sights. One which we did not do with Uwe was Mont Michel which is an Abby on a rocky island connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway. Unfortunately we chose one of those rainy cloudy days, one where the beach was out, but I think all of the 100,000 other tourists did too, it turned out a nightmare when we approached St Michel, Mud, slush, hundreds of cars and seriously all the tourists in France in the height of their tourist season, we took a back turn, found ourselves a lovely French restaurant and enjoyed the food and company. Wolf and I are definitely going back down the coast of France on our way to Spain and Portugal so we will do this sighting then, which will be at the end of the season and hopefully a lot easier. More about the Mont St-Michel in the following blog. We left France in lovely sunny weather, and made our way back to Germany to sell our winter home, shop, etc, before going south for our trip back to Africa. France coast, Northern Spain and Portugal will follow before we put our feet back on AFRICA soil.