Wednesday, 4 December 2013

The first week in Ourique

Gorgeous view from Bailey at Serro da Bica
photo by Dave Greene
which rhymes so well I couldn't resist! We're staying at yet another brilliant Dutch-owned campsite, this one is called Serro da Bica and our hosts are Herman and Albertje. Again, we've pretty much got the place to ourselves - one other Dutch couple and a German man being our only neighbours - although Herman said that it's usually busier here at this time of year. Apparently tourist numbers are lower generally compared to previous years. Must be that recession still biting. Facilities here are a cut above the norm - there's even underfloor heating in the shower room for a couple of hours every morning. We also have a bar/library room where we all have the option to meet up of an evening. You'd like this, Dad! Herman rings a bell at 5pm, when he's got the wood-burning stove roaring away, which is our cue to trot over there for a hour or so of beer or port and olives. Last night was special because Albertje had baked delicious Sinterklass biscuits which are little spiced cookies to celebrate the 5th of December.

Banks of the river Mira,
photo by Dave Greene
Walking is the primary daytime activity here and there is a variety of maps to choose from in the bar, plus we also tried going off-piste - which nearly ended badly meeting a large dog in a farmyard! The first afternoon we explored a little of the gorgeous river Mira whose banks mark the edge of Serro da Bica. On the first full day, I packed a picnic lunch including a loaf of handmade fresh brown bread that is delivered daily. It's so tasty butter isn't needed with it. We set off on a 13km walk which doesn't sound too taxing except that the first half was mostly rock scrambling and following narrow wild boar tracks along the river bank in lieu of 'proper' footpaths. Great fun and the river here is beautiful. Rocks and autumn coloured trees, crystal clear water and red earth. Unfortunately most of the birds have gone south for winter but we saw azure magpies, red legged pheasants and evidence of an eagle owl.

Saturday night saw us going out to dinner for the first time since we've been away. Herman and Albertje drove us all to Café Restaurante O Novo Coimbra, a few minutes away. They had already got us salivating with much talk of the 'mirandesa' - a beef dish of the red cow which is served on vertical skewers with chestnuts and fried potatoes. Dave had this and was very impressed. I had javali, which is wild boar, in a very tasty stroganoff. I had not tried boar before. We're going back there on Friday and I think I shall have mirandesa then though - unless something else new catches my eye!

Do you remember my saying in a previous post that one of the problems we might face on such a long trip is only having British gas bottles which aren't compatible with those in ANY other country? Well to try and prevent this being an issue for as long as possible, we brought a camping gaz bottle that was still part-full from our last trip. It's done pretty well coping with most of the cooking outside in the awning until yesterday evening when it ran out. Replacing it was going to be expensive - 36 euros we think - so we have taken the advice of our Dutch neighbours at Evoramonte and have instead splashed out the princely sum of 17 euros on an electric hob. We generally have to pay a set amount for the electric hookup, regardless of how much energy is actually used so ... ! We are now the proud owners of a Clatronic EKP 3405 Hotplate which has just cooked an excellent Chicken Tikka Masala (recipe to follow) and fits neatly on the worktop in Bailey so no more chilly awning cookery!

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