Gibralter, Portugal & Spain
After our return crossing from Tangier Med to Algeciras we spent a day in Gibralter. Sue had last visited here in the 1960's, I had never been before. We wandered the streets and viewed the sites, had lunch in an English pub (quite a treat after 2 months of Moroccan food) and climbed the Rock.
From Algeciras we drove to Tarifo, once known for its abnormally high suicide rate, a result supposedly of the unremitting winds that blow across the town. Those same winds have now turned it into Europe's prime windsurfing and kitesurfing spot and a prosperous and crowded tourist resort. At Punta de Tarifa, the southernmost point of the Iberian Peninsula we saw where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean.
The next day we crossed the bridge between Spain and Portugal and visited Castro Marim, staying overnight on the aire.
Over the next few days we visited Tavira with its roman bridge, Olhao, Albufeira, Ferragudo and Alvor before ending up in Lagos. Herwe we saw the slave market, statue of Henry the Navigator, churches of Santa Antonio and Santa Maria, some delightful tiled houses and the Bandeira Fort.
West of Lagos the road passes through the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano. We drove through Burgau and stopped at the tiny little Chapel of Nossa Senhora de Guadalupe before reaching Cape St Vincent, the most southwesterly point of mainland Europe. Nearby Sagres was home to Henry the Navigator, most appropriate as this point was then considered to be the end of the world. Henry established a School of Navigation in Sagres, gathering together the greatest astronomers, cartographers and adventurers of the time. Here you can see a very fine wind rose, used to measure the direction of the wind, and some magnificent old maps.
A detour inland to Evora was well worthwhile. With its Moorish alleys,sixteenth-century palaces and mansions, Roman temple and aqueduct and the somewhat bizarre Chapel of Bones in the Sao Francisco Church it was an absolute delight. We then visited the megalithic site at Almendres before heading to Lisbon.
We parked overnight at the ferry terminal at Seixal and took the ferry into Lisbon. We spent two hectic days taking in the sights, the fine buildings and statues, the convent ruins, cathedral and basilica, the trams, steep treets and elevators, the Castelo de S Jorge, the monuments to the Discoveries and the first air trip to South America, the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos and the Tomb of Vasco da Gama.
We visited the wild and rugged headland of Cabo da Roca, the most westerly point of mainland Europe, before heading for Sintra.
Sintra was the summer residence of the kings of Portugal and, before them, the Moorish lords of Lisbon. Lord Byron visited in 1809 and it was here that he started his epic travel poem "Childe Harold". We visited the palaces of Monserrate and Pena and the Castello de Los Moros.
Leaving the Atlantic coast behind we headed inland and visited Obidos, the abbey at Batalha, the pilgrimage centre at Fatima, the Convento de Cristo at Tomar and Monsanto. The small medieval city of Obidos, completely enclosed by its walls, is known as "The Wedding City" and was the traditional bridal gift of the kings of Portugal to their Queens. The ancient village of Monsanto is sited high on a hill, its houses huddled between giant granite outcrops.
The impressive fortified town of Almeida close to the border with Spain played a key role in the Peninsular War and was besieged by Napoleon in 1810. We spent two days here, parking overnight in the free aire within the ramparts. We walked the three kilometre 12 sided star stronghold, wandered the streets and viewed the museum, barracks, convent and King's Riding Ring.
Heading north we stopped to explore the fortified medieval village of Castelo Rodrigo before reaching our final destination in Portugal, the fortified town of Valenca do Minho.
Back in Spain we headed to the Atlantic Coast and visited Cape Finisterre and the old port of Cudillero. At Cangas de Oris we saw the impressive Roman bridge and the pretty little St. Maria Church. We drove through the pilgrimage centre of Santiago de Compostela but there was nowhere to park. We would have stayed the night on the nearby campsite and come in to visit the next day but unfortunately time was pressing and we had a ferry to catch. We would then be spending a couple of months back home before continuing our journey north.