Ponte da Barca turned out to be a very good overnight stop. Sophie tells me that the name derives from the boats that ferried pilgrims across the river, thereby bridging the river.
In recognition of the town’s origins we too decided to “push the boat out” and hunt down a Portuguese restaurant, as you’ll have seen in yesterday’s photos. As Jersey’s Portuguese population runs a close second in numbers when compared to locally born folk, we’re familiar with their cuisine, so our mouths were watering in anticipation. In truth, the menus here turned out to be as unfamiliar to us as in Spain, and so giant hunks of beef on skewers were sadly not an option tonight.
Anyway, with the help of TripAdvisor we located a top rated place, which by coincidence was the closest one to our motorhome. The first review taught me a couple of key facts about Portuguese eating, which were very helpful indeed. 1) If they serve you lots of nice little snacky bits while you’re waiting, and that includes bread and butter, they’re not free, and if you consume them then they will appear on your bill. 2) Unlike in Spain, but just like France, tipping is not expected, and if you add anything to the total it goes to the house and not the staff. Europeans would generally leave a couple of Euros on the table for the waiter.
We chose to eat in a little side room with big windows overlooking a small weir and bridge, and for the first time we can remember we had clear sight of our motorhome from our table. In fact, for someone always so intent on not ordering the wrong thing, I was surprised that Sophie spent so much menu-reading time trying to take selfies with the motorhome in the background.
We thought our Spanish language skills were poor, but in comparison to our virtual total lack of even the most basic words in Portuguese, we felt almost fluent in Spanish. The waiters were very helpful and the menu had an English translation, which was handy. Pricing was straightforward, with the most expensive starter being €3, and the same with desserts. Mains worked out at about £10. These are good prices when compared with Jersey, and we enjoyed our meal.
We ordered a decent half bottle of wine for the price of a glass of wine in Jersey. We could easily have had a full bottle of something a little cheaper also for the price of a glass back home.
Sophie had also told me that coffee ordering can be very complex in Portugal – not sure where all this information is suddenly coming from. I was convinced that I’d ordered a large white coffee but what I was served was an espresso with a dash of milk. As it happened it was excellent, but probably not ideal so close to bedtime.
Earlier in the evening, before going out for a walk and then dinner, a French motorhome turned up near us and they had two little darlings who were playing football between our vans. As our French language skills are a little better than our Spanish and Portuguese, I politely asked them to play closer to their own motorhome, which they duly did. We then walked off and never saw or heard them again. Result.
After a quiet morning, followed by expertly crafted mushroom soup à la Sophie, served with crusty Portuguese bread from Lidl, we headed off, but only after I’d filled my 15 litre collapsible water container (affectionately called my “bladder”) from the nearby fountain.
We haven’t gone very far today, just some 30k down the road to the popular medieval-bridged town of Ponte de Lima. It was nonetheless an interesting rural drive as we saw lemon trees heavy with fruit, unusually shaped hay bales, and the usual range of ancient buildings (some might unfairly use the word “decrepit”), and allotments bursting with greenness.
Ponte de Lima has a massive carpark and the motorhomes line the water’s edge, which is good news. On arrival we were accosted by an old bloke in a fluorescent yellow jacket (must be official then). We smiled then drove on, ignoring him, but he was determined to collar us. Didn’t understand a word and could only assume that the two fingers he was waving at us meant he wanted €2, so I didn’t take offence. He pointed out exactly where he wanted us to park, so we smiled politely again and drove on and found somewhere else to park.
We were just commenting that this place must be heaving in the Summer. Today’s Saturday, so there’s a fair buzz about the place. Just looking forward to all the cars going home before too long, then, if the rain holds off, we might go for a wander. As the car park is so big, the motorhomes are pretty well spaced out, but if we get one that invades our personal space, then we’ll just find another spot.
Progress so far: