European Camping Culture, We Eat 200 Snails

Trip Start Sep 29, 2007
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Trip End Dec 20, 2010


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Where I stayed
Vale Paraiso Caravan Park

Flag of Portugal  , Estremadura,
Saturday, August 23, 2008

The town of Oliveier Do Hospital is so slow that when we went to pick up our laundry that was supposed to be completed by 10:00am, it was still dripping wet and we had a bus to catch. We had to put the wet laundry in the bee bag and drag it to the bus station. We caught a bus to the beach town of Nazare a couple of hours drive West on the Atlantic coast of Portugal where the European beach holiday culture was in full swing. We dumped our wet bee bag laundry in a dryer and went for as walk to find the tourist information office in order to check out the surfing town of Peniche further down the coast where we hear some of the best surf breaks in Europe are and that means travellers in surfy vans they may want to sell at end of season. Plus, we were looking forward to an isolated quieter beach situation.

Nazare resembled a busy Surfers Paradise style but somehow slightly classier, just. The sand was filled with families, umbrellas, stripey shade tents and Europeans dressed in designer beach etire complete with flowing shirts, sun tan oil and aviator sunglasses. There was a kids train driving around, a plane flying overhead dragging some advertising letters behind and even a stationary excercise bike class going on beach side with bad techno music blaring. There is a Copacabana pavement rip off happening and shops selling tacky souvenirs and bikinis, shell ornaments, churro donuts and ice cream. There is a  bull fight happening tonight and the circus is in town. It is all happening but we were not. NOTE- This next bit is best read whilst listening to ice-cream truck music. We caught a taxi to the campsite out of town that has every possible ammenity including a  karaoke night and a pork fat chef cooking on a poolside BBQ. There is a hard core European Summer holiday camping with the kids in the caravan park palava going on and we are smack bang in the middle of it. Joy to that! Winnebago anyone? We set our tent up in the howling wind, threw as many rocks as we could muster up onto the fly and tried to work out a way to accquire a van. If only we spoke Portugese.

Next day we had most of our washing done and tied to the clothesline due to lack of pegs and clearer heads on what the next step is to be. An orange hippie dress brought from India and purchased by us has turned some of our washing into a slightly sickening shade of mustard-y-orange and we now look like ill Hare Krishnas on a hexagon shaped tent tour minus the tambourines. With Nadineīs new Cyndi Lauper punk haircut with green hair extensions and my outlandish threads we just donīt fit the mould of the Vale Paraiso European caravan park and i think we have to get out of here soon. We have both agreed that there is too many rules and boundaries in Europe and the streets seem quite empty and boring after the hustle and bustle of South America. We were trying to call home to Australia today (Sunday) but the internet guy had a hangover and refused to open up shop and now it is too late. We did a few Hare Krishna lyrics in our newly dyed clothes and some pixie dancing outside his little mobile home to see if he would wake up but not happening. Everything is so  s......l.......o.......w  in Portugal. Breakfast today was egg meringues (sugar) that we accquired somewhere and they were eaten sheltered inside the tent because it is a cloudy day, Portugalīs only cloudy day of the entire Summer. We watched the end of the Beijing Olympics on a communal tv then we hit the caravan park kiosk to buy some peach iced tea, Portugese coffee and another tin of octopus legs (polvo em caldeirada). Next we settled into some interesting people watching amid the fascinating world of European caravan park action.

We have come to a good conclusion and that is that all things happen for a reason as we knew before and always for our good intentions in the end. With no word coming from Rosa and Charlie the ladies with Lola the perfect Mercedes van we can guess that they are either out of contact in the hills, on the psytrance party circuit still with no battery in the mobile phone or surfing in the north of Spain. We have decided that it is not such a bad thing that they are not ready to sell to us because we have decided to stick with our original plan and take the hippie trail down into Morocco and across to Greece, Egypt, Turkey and maybe Israel. We are going to lighten our packs up considerably by going down to bare basics so we are much more mobile and able to go anywhere without the weight on our backs. Then..... India. Plans could change again after another tin of octopus. We did a photo shoot around the park highlighting its many attributes.

Mono Loco accquired a new tail because i re-stuffed it with some old Hemp fabric and he is good as new. Plus, the ipod is now fixed and Miffy is sewn up too. Repairs and maintenance time. The camping park is getting strange. There is a man in his brown and beige stripey dressing gown and Crocs who dyes his facial hair a different colour everyday then runs around like a werewolf at night making noises in the trees. Freaky! There is also a Japanese boy here who sleeps on the sand in the cold instead of putting his tent up. What does he do all day? Not sure but we think he watches his washing dry. We had one excursion to the supermercado and i put some photos onto the blog. We have sorted our packs so we can post the excess home and i am busy researching Morocco so we know the deal. There is a party called Song Of Tingma on near Marrakesh for Earthdance that we hope to make it to then tail it to Ibiza off Spain for September closing parties and DJ Tiesto..

Whoops! We just realised that the freaky werewolf guy lives in a tent and performs at the Universal Portugese Circus everynight, hence, the clown make-up and dying of the beard. I have decided to join him in the circus as a clown so i can sneak over the border to Morocco in a painted carnie caravan. yippiieee!!! Maybe itīs time to get out of Europe and back to the crazy country fun.

Next day:
The plot thickens. We met the werewolf guy in the brown dressing gown and pink crocs in person and it turns out he is one of those living statues who seem to be in every country. His character is a 16th century, Portugese poet and he performs down at the boardwalk for wealthy European holiday makers in the hope that they will drop a few Euros in his hat. A living statue is a street performer who paints his whole body including clothing and stands still pretending to be a statue then surprises people by moving when they come near. Nice guy but unfortunately not a carnival person but a son of a carnie. For a moment we consider painting ourselves up as psychedelic hippie statues and heading to the boardwalk flipping peace signs and blowing kisses robot style to passers by. Mr statue tells us that you can see Africa from the south of Spain and this makes us even more excited to get to Morocco.

We got it all together and with no word on our Merc van forthcoming we were back to our walking feet and hit the road down to Nazare for the afternoon. This meant that we could negotiate a cheap price with one of the local ladies dressed in the traditional clothing for a room in her private home close to the beach. The ladies hold signs up that say Allugre se vende which we think means room for rent. The room was cheap but the catch was that we had to go through a whole ceremony in front of the giant, kitschy, bleeding -jesus- nailed- to -a- crucifix decoration attached to the wall above the door to our room before we could enter. The room was comfortable and lockable though.

The best thing about Portugal is its peaches and stone fruits that are in season and the beaches, except the beaches are so full of people who crowd them. The bee bag has now gone because we have posted our precious shopping home. I am 9 kilos lighter and Nadine is 6 kilos lighter. I got lost on the way to the post office because locals pointed me in 4 different directions. We celebrated the loss of bee bag by feasting on approximately 200 Escargot snails in a little sidewalk cafe called Casa O Santa de Anibal that also sold white clams, shrimp, conches and black clams still squirting Atlantic Ocean water. The snails were smaller than we imagined which explains why there were so many on our plate. The snails had little mouths and tiny antennas and we didnt really feel comfortable about eating them but were glad we tried them. The slippery little suckers were marinated in oil and coriander and were tasty buggers. Bon Appetite!

After this we checked out the gloriously tacky souvenir stores on the boardwalk and concluded that the worst souvenir on offer was the religious themed shell lamps sitting beside bad teatowels and plastic grocery shopping bag holders. We chose to purchase a short, gingham apron with Portugal written on the band and chickens to decorate the front. So very kitsch. We got Mono Loco a shell pendant onto which a woman that we met from Amsterdam wrote his name and our email address on in case we ever lose him. We had the strange experience of wandering along the beach covered in fog so thick you couldnt see one metre in front of you. One minute there was sunshine, the next, complete fog and most people left the sand. We watched a wonderful sunset and saw fish drying on racks on the beach. The friendly fact for today is that the seagulls in Portugal are three times as big as those in Australia.Nadine had a Sagres beer and i had a dark Cuban rum, my first in a very long time. The other good Portugese beer is called Super Bock. Mono Loco now has his own camera that has a viewfinder filled with European images.  We are not so much into the food in Portugal, lots of people eat hotdogs and pastries. Nazare has one fantastic store where a crazy haired artist woman has a studio from which she produces gorgeous sculptures made from driftwood and other found, organic materials. We bought a CD by Mariza Fado who is a fantastic Portugese singer. We are heading down the coast tomorrow.
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