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Posted By Dorrit, Coen, Sophie, Marlies & Leonie

We continued our tour and drove to the city of Porto. As an introduction to the city of the port wines, we started in the evening with a bottle of port with our neighbour on the campsite. The next day we took the bus into the citycenter. For us Porto was a real surprise. What a beautiful city with its colorful houses, medieval relics and baroque churches rolling down from the hill like a waterfall into the river. In a winter sport-like cable cabin we drove up to the Ponte de Dom Luis. While crossing this bridge over the 60 meters high top deck, we had a splendid view over Porto, the river Douro and the typical old port boats.

Next morning we again visited the city center of Porto, leaving the dogs at the camper van, howling like wolves. In Morocco they started this howling when the prayers came out of the minaret speakers. They continue this behaviour everytime we leave the camper van.
After a walk through the beautiful city, we embarked on an old port wine boat for a trip along Porto's six bridges.
As Marlies starts standing up now she was leaned against the boats window, pressing her nose against the glass to look out over the water...
In the evening when the kids were sleeping we were outside having a mint tea. As only a warm evening breeze and our little campinglight filled the darkness between the trees we agreed on how fast time goes by...Carpe Diem

Posted By Dorrit, Coen, Sophie, Marlies & Leonie

As our trip was mainly being planned based on childrens' needs, the day started with a visit to Sobreiro. A local sculptor has created a miniature park with several windmills, imitations of traditional shops and surreal collections of all kinds of stuff. Picknicking Portugese families had spread out food enough to feed a whole army devision.
The same day we visited Obidos with its gorgeous historic centre. All along Obidos' main streets, chocolate was the main theme. Little shops sold tasty chocolate cups full of ginja, a local cherry liquor. 

The next day it was raining in the morning so after a cosy breakfast all together inside the van, we started with a visit to the magnificient 12th century monastry de Santa Maria de Alcobaca. Sophie enjoyed running around the ensemble of courtyards, kitchens and former monks living quarters. 
 In the Park National Pinhal de Leira, first planted 700 years ago to cover the Portugese demand for wood needed to build discovery boats, we found a very nice campsite in the shady forest with a 5 minutes walk to the beach. It was just perfect, so we decided to stay and relax for a few days. Sophie had a Dutch playmate, there was a mouth watering "Pastelaria" (Portugese pastery) and Marlies found out that pine apples do not taste good.

After a few days of rest it was time for some action.  Coimbra was on the program. Before visiting the city center, the theme park "Portugal dos Pequenitos" was a real highlight. This park consisted of doll's house versions of Portugal's most famous monuments. Sophie and Marlies clambered into, over and through the small buildings and houses. We of course taking many many pictures. Fortunately we could cool down in the campsite's swimming pool. 
Next morning we visited Coimbra, the medieval capital and site of Portugals oldest and greatest university. Today this university remains Portugals most prestigious and one of the most traditional so all around the city we saw the students dressed in black robes and capes, some helping tourists, some as street musicians. In the evening we had a fine bbq.
In the park-like forest of Mata Nacional do Bucaco, that harbours over 700 plant species, we had a hot chocolate picknick before strolling along ponds with swans, fountains and exotic trees. Of course we had to visit the fairy-tale Palace Do Bucaco. 

Later that day we drove to Aveiro, again a nice campsite just behind the dunes. After a visit to the beach we had pancakes for dinner. One cannot say we don't do a good job as parents having parental leave ;-)
Aveiro itself lays behind a coastal lagoon and because of a small network of canals, its high-prowned boats, and the amount of low bridges it is called the Venice of Portgal.  As we were sailing the canals in one of these boats, we met an Indian tourist group. One of the Indian women happened to be a colleague of our friend Gustavo, the veterinarian in Panjim in India whom we met during our travels in India. We could immediately write down a letter she would handover to him. The world is small, of all the more than one billion Indians...

Posted By Dorrit, Coen, Sophie, Marlies & Leonie

In Vila Nova de Milfontes, located in the middle of a Parque Natural, we went to the light house beach. The spot where the river met the sea, was only a few hundred meters away. After driving a large stretch in direction Lissabon we reached Setubal. Portugal is densely populated but we drove a large part along the pine tree-brushed coastline of national park da Arrabida, covering the 35 km long Serra da Arrabida mountain ridge.
The next morning we did manage to go to one of these golden beaches for the girls to play before driving to Lissabon.
As soon as we arrived at the comfortable and shady campsite, we took a bus to Belem, west of town. Here we first visited the beautiful Hieronymites monastry. In pastelaria Belem where Sophie could watch the pastries being baked, we treated ourselves with these local pastries called Pastel the Natas. The grilled sardines and other nice food items in the uncountable outdoor restaurants made up for the fact that it was really hot in Lissabon.
The next day we visited the center of Lissabon. We hopped aboard the classic rattling tram 28, in which we spent 45 minutes with nice views, through narrow old streets and with really steep climbs. The afternoon we cooled down in the campsite&s swimming pool. As some of our neighbours were on parental leave as well, Sophie and Marlies could play with children from their age. For us parents there were nice warm and late evenings for exchanging children- and travel tips and experiences.
The following days we left the camper van on the campsite and went to the Oceanario, Europe's second largest aquarium with 8000 sea animals on the area of the Expo 1998. We also went to the Musea Nacional de Coches. In the frescoed halls of the former royal riding stable, a collection of 17 to 19th-century Cinderella type royal coaches and carriages were for Sophie something to enjoy.
We left Lissabon exchanging adresses and saying goodbye to our fellow parental leave families and we headed towards the beautiful town of Sintra.
Situated between mountains, dense forest and thick with glittering palaces, exotic gardens and with the Unesco-listed Sintra-Vila, this city had everything to spend a few days. We started with a visit to the amazing Palacio Nacional de Pena. Rising up on a high wooded peak, this fantasy castle is Portugals Neuschwanstein. Uncountable courtyards, onion domes and towers in pink and lemon. Also the original but kitschy interior, where the queen of Portugal has lived until 1908 and left most of her luxury furniture, made Sophie running around with an open mouth. To digest all these fairytale impressions we drove to the wild, remote, windswept Cabo da Roca, Europes westernmost point.
We found a nice wild camping spot to spend the night with a view on the lighthouse and the Atlantic ocean. What a panorama wake-up view when we opened our door the next morning!

After breakfast we returned to Sintra to have a nice Indian lunch and to give the kids and ourselves another shot of extravaganza. Visiting the Quinta da Regaleira was like a surreal journey through a huge garden with grottoes, lakes, a castle, towers, fountains and underground tunnels and galleries, lit by fairy lights. It is unbelievable how much there is to see and to do in Portugal. And on top of that, there is beach, beach and beach. Dorrit contantly supplies us with the best and most suitable sites and points of interest so you should be able to read more in the next update.

Posted By Dorrit, Coen, Sophie, Marlies & Leonie

it has been a few days since the last update but we have hardly had internet access. The last days we spent wild camping on a paradise-like spot at the deserted western part of the Algarve. Parked between rodondendrons and directly above a white sandy beach with cristal clear water, we spent our days with the girls playing on the beach, walking along the high and scenic rocky coast and bbq-ing. 

Sofar, Portugal is very relaxed, clean and quiet. We are not being looked at anymore but I do miss the ability to have a chat with the locals since I don't speak the language like in Spain or Morocco. Sophie started her visit to Europe by exchanging her Morrocan kaftan for her Spanish Flamenco dress but sometimes she seems to miss the amount of attention she got in Morocco.  But there will be a lot to explore in Portugal. 
We spent our first night just across the border in the fortified town of Castro de Marim, where we came across two new large roundabouts without any side exits... 
Next morning we visited the laid back town of Tavira and because Indian Goa used to be a Portuguese colony there were Indian restaurants everywhere. Hurrah!
In the coastal village Fuzeta we spent two nights. We found a nice parking place in the harbour near the beach and when woke up in the morning, the weekly market was build up here. 
Via Quarteira, where we actually spent an afternoon on the beach, we passed on to Silves to visit the castle, which had great views over the surrounding countryside, and we walked through the towns winding sleepy backstreets on a hillside. 
The next day in Lagos we chartered a small boat for the four of us to visit the grottos beneath the Ponta da Piedade, a dramatic wedge of headland with worn out colored  sandstone cliffs and towers created by nature.

At the moment we are in Sagres, the most southwest point of Europe. The kids play in a inflatable swimming pool, Dorrit is doing some washing and the dogs lie under the car to escape from the sun.
Since a few days, Marlies seriously starts crawling, so we have to look for more beach in order to expand her territory. Sophie agreed to this. Dorrit and myself don't have anything against it either...

Posted By Dorrit, Coen, Sophie, Marlies & Leonie

on our way to Tanger, where we would take the ferry  back to Spain, we wanted to spent one day in the village Asilah. Because there was no campsite, for the night we parked in the local harbour. It turned out to be a non- stop audience of basket- and cookies sellers and men selling corals, hats and other stuff. Moroccan families passed to have a look at the parked european "motorhomes" and behind our car dromedares were waiting for customers. But to our surprise it was a quiet night.
The next day we visited Asilah, a  beautiful fortified city of Portuguese origen with white and blue houses and a variety of shops and market stalls.
As we arrived in Tanger the same day, we took a taxi into town. We wanted to get one last taste of the real Morocco so we went to the medina and walked through the souqs and bought some last souvenirs. 
Next morning, we went to the harbour in order to check in for embarkment. Some drug addicted boys of maximum 11 or 12 years old begged and stared out of their empty and hollow eyes and did not even seem to notice the food we gave them. The guards chased them away by throwing stones at them as if they were dogs. 

This is how we left Morocco. All in all it was a very unique and impressive experience for us. After 1 month, we are also looking forward to the somewhat easier, cleaner and more relaxed way of camping in Europe. Sophie is looking forward to the beach.
We entered Spain in the pouring rain so after a fast visit to Sevilla (same campsite, same tapas restaurant ;-) we quickly headed for Portugal. 




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