21st March 2017. Castelo de Monsaraz, Portugal.

Our destination for today was Castelo de Monsaraz which I’d happened across while I was looking at the French app Park4Night.  It looked very interesting.

Before we left the dam  I took some photos of some very pretty birds and of the little dog with the overbite who had been so quiet yesterday but had decided to bark non-stop this morning.  He was obviously very excited about something.   His barking went on and on and I was amazed that his owners allowed him to do that.  As we opened up the blinds to start our day I discovered that he didn’t belong to the man I’d seen him with the previous day, he was actually a wild dog (it’s probably not a sensible thing to make a fuss of a wild dog so that explains the mystery of why the man was looking at me so strangely yesterday)and the man also appeared to have had enough of the noise and I saw him bend down and pick up a couple of stones which he then threw in the dog’s general direction.  The dog must be used to this behaviour because he scarpered over to the vans on the other side of the car park and stopped barking.  He seemed like a cute (if rather noisy) little dog, who just wanted some attention, when he saw a dog and its owner out for their morning walk he suddenly went quiet then rushed over with his tail wagging madly, full of joy to have play.  The two dogs had a good old game and then the owner took his dog back to his van.  The little dog was sitting outside a van as we left.

The journey there was brilliant, the countryside was beautiful and on the way we saw cows with big white horns, partridges run across the road and a bit further into the journey two otters also rushed across the road, on each occasion by the time I got my camera out and tried to photograph them they were just a blur.  The fields and hedgerow were covered with abundant wild flowers, we saw lots of very small yellow lupins and some small blue ones along with yellow daisies a few red poppies dotted around.  As we got closer to our destination we noticed lots of shrubs with large white flowers in the fields and up the banks.

Unfortunately as we neared the castle, which we could see perched up on a hill, it started raining.  We didn’t give it much thought and carried on towards our destination.  At the bottom of the steep driveway we noticed a large motorhome come round the roundabout and go over and park in the car park on the level we were at.  I suggested to Darren that there might be a reason for that and maybe we should follow suit for the time being but he was keen to go up to the top which we started to do.

I have never been so terrified in all my life!  Steep hills, cobbles, water and a heavy motorhome DO NOT mix well.  As we got up the first slope we came to a right hand bend at the beginning of the second slope which had a big camber and remembering yesterday’s runaway wheel fiasco Darren tried to swing the van wide to miss it trying hard not to hit the castle wall in the process, however the van didn’t like that and the engine cut out making the van slip backwards a bit.  When he started the engine again the tyres couldn’t get a grip and they just kept spinning.  This happened a few times and in the meantime Darren had to try to manoeuvre the van backwards on to the lower slope (the wall of which was only about 600 mm high) whilst trying to gain traction.  I was shaking with fear by the time we eventually got to the top, I’m very proud of him for keeping his cool.

The view from the top was absolutely stunning.   Funnily enough there weren’t that many other vans up there at that point so we had a choice of places to park.

We went off in search of a coffee and food to calm me down but as we got into the town it was so beautiful that it took my mind off food so we wandered round and had a look in the castle (I gave myself some additional grey hairs going up to the battlements which meant walking up stone steps that ran up the side of the battlement wall, they were perfectly safe but I’m scared of heights and there was no hand rail!  Nevertheless my shaking legs got me to the top where there was a far reaching  view out over the countryside)

We had a good old scramble around the castle and then carried on our search for food.  Luckily for us it started raining which sent us scurrying into a tiny restaurant called Gazpacho.  The restaurant was only big enough to hold 3 tables but luckily for us 2 tables were available.  It was a fortuitous choice of restaurant.  The food was absolutely gorgeous, I had the BEST gazpacho soup I have had and that’s saying something considering all the soup has been wonderful, Darren had chicken pie which was stuffed full of pieces of chicken.  The bread was very nice too.  I was very sad when I had the last mouthful of soup knowing I would never taste that again.

After lunch we wandered back to the van where we started talking to a bloke from Stoke who was travelling with his little dog Roxy Russell.  We spent ages chatting with him and throwing the ball for Roxy, there was one disconcerting moment when Darren kicked the ball, it hit an almond tree and bounced over the castle wall!  For one dreadful moment I thought Roxy was going to follow it but she wasn’t that stupid and although her owner told Darren not to worry about the lost ball because they had others in the van Darren wandered off to find it and came back 15 minutes later having retrieved the ball.  That seems like a good game, it’s starting to look like I won’t need another dog after all, I may have to buy a tennis ball and see if Darren retrieves that if I threw it for him!

Back at the van we sat and chilled out, the excitement of the last two days had been a tad too much, all that adrenaline had tired us out.

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