With Christmas fading into the distance... the frosty mornings haven't! So what better way to spend a morning than grabbing the girls and heading out to enjoy Rockingham Forest with the one member of the 'LifeinourVan' family who doesn't always get on our trips (Tizzy our 3yr old Golden Labrador)....
Good news to start the New Year... As our newest Slovenia Article gets published in this month's MMM Magazine
So with Christmas festivities fading slowly into a haze of wrapping paper and half eaten mince pies.... we've left both excited girls scrabbling around over their new pressies to takea peek into our inbox... to find the good news that our most recent travel article has been published in January's edition.... In all honesty, we can't recommend Slovenia enough....
Having sped through the Northern Coast of Spain, before enjoying some wonderful chances to see French Christmas Markets in full flow (Bordeaux & Angers)... we've put the pedal down and made it back in time for Christmas in the UK.... just!!
Having loved seeing Angers by night, as we explored it's superb Christmas Market. A bright clear morning brough a great opportunity to get out and see what else we could explore in a morning before heading north towards a ferry back to the UK... and a family Christmas with the grandparents! Having loved exploring France this year, we've been amazed by the variety across their Chateaus & Castles - including Carcassonne, Azay Le Rideau, Chateau des Enigmes & Villandry... In fact articles like these were almost certainly the reason why we were so luck to get awarded 'Complete France' Magazine's Award for a place in the 'Top 6 Most Inspiring Travel Blogs about France'...
As we've hit the month of December, daily life in our motorhome has been taken over by non-stop Christmas Carols, daily opening of Advent Calendars and regular discussions on where best to buy Christmas presents when on a European Roadtrip (421 days today and counting!!!). Having loved seeing the Portuguese prepare for Christmas and 'Pai Natal's' arrival at Obidos.... where better to buy your Christmas presents than at a French Christmas Market!!
For those that may have followed our adventures in France, you'll know we always try to fit in as much as possible into every visit.. so with both girls full of energy to explore new places, we simply couldn't wait to add Bordeaux to our 'Taste of France' page... Ever since we were unbelievably lucky enough to get a place in Complete France's 'Top 6 Inspiring Blogs about France' we've tried hard to do this beautful country justice.... so if you're interested in seeing details of our 28 day circumnavigation of France , then read more here. But for those who want to find out what we learnt in Bordeaux, then let's go!!
If you've missed yesterday's article 'Learn 5 Things You Didn't Know about Bordeaux across the day' then you might want to read it first. Discover our first experience of this stunning city in the South West of France. Famed as much for its wine as it's architectureal beauty, it also houses one of the best public transport systems across Europe... perfect for searching the city for fun facts and experiences...
It's been a hectic dash eastwards as we head across the North of Spain for a chance to see Bordeaux before we return home for Christmas... although we've spent almost a decade visiting the Gironde each summer, we've never seen Bordeaux! So we're desperate to put that right now especially as the Christmas Markets are in full flow... both here in Bordeaux and further up the coast in Nantes and Angers.
Ever since we departed France back in early November from Lourdes, we've completed parts of the famous route of the pilgrims, the Camino de Santiago . Even stepping out to tread some of the pilgrims steps ourselves across the Pyrennes towards Spain, but then our travels took us south towards Valencia and then up through the beautiful country of Portugal... so it's been a brilliant experience to finally arrive at the inspiring Santiago de Compostela.
As any 'world schooler' or 'road schooling family' knows... you sometimes have to seize a moment and take the opportunity to make learning fun... so where better than the beach at Orbitur's Rio Alto campsite on a crisp, sunny morning in December! And a chance to discover some of the Science work we learnt in Da Vinci's museum in Florence, the Science Museum in Munich, Germany and more recently in Portugal's Science Centre in Lagos
Since we've now travelled the length and breadth of Portugal... we've arrived at the northern most part of Portugal...after a fantastic stay in Porto!! In fact you can actually see across to Spain from the window of our motorhome where I sit and type this today!! Looking out past that pretty fishing boat in the above picture!! What an amazing view to get from yet another quality Orbitur campsite (Caminha)
A city that bustles with intent either day or night, Porto can rightfully declare itself to be one of the leading cities in Europe. Existing before even Roman times, it played a crucial role in the European 'Age of Discovery' & has recently held the honour of being a European Capital of Culture (2001). It's prominent defensive position clearly influenced the early Iberian Peninsula settlers whilst the current cosmopolitan city uses the hillside location to even great effect... perhaps best viewed from the roof terrace of the 'Taylor's Port Cellars' on the south side of the River Douro...
But we learnt so much more than just that..! So here's our '5 Family Friendly Things About Porto You Have To Experience' for you to enjoy...
Having seen so many cities during the past 412 days on the road across Europe, you'd think we'd be getting bored of seeing historical monuments, bustling cities or hopping on public transport.... but you'd be wrong! Especially when cities like Porto come along!!! Vibrant, Engaging & Unique are the first words that spring to mind, make no mistake, this city is growing in popularity.... Yes it has a little of so many of the cities we've visited across our European Roadtrip.. a little touch of Naples in the narrowness of the streets, similar to Bergen for the warmth of the people & an abundant history & location like Dubrovnik.... but we'd place it even higher than these cities!! Perhaps as high as our current favourite in Copenhagen... High praise but why does Porto feature so highly? Let's find out our reasons why we love Porto...
Having woken early to get the best of the sunlight in this fantastic campsite, we ventured out to explore the wooded site with the girls... this Orbitur Vagueira campsite is neatly tucked inbetween one of the many estuaries/deltas that have created this interesting and varied region... It houses some fantastic sanitary facilities ,excellent campsite-wide wifi (a great positive when road schooling across Europe and maintaining a website!) & a good quality, decent sized pitch... The site's wooded glades give a brilliant amount of shade in the summer, but also offer a peaceful, natural environment... we're fans!! So with the girls fully 'schooled' in the Roman History of the UK, basic French grammar and a little maths! we headed out to explore what the region had to offer between Costa Nova & Aveiro
Although we've absolutely loved every second of our time in Central Portugal, easily finding things to add to our newly created 'Portugal Mini Guide'... we still can't decide whether we prefered Tomar to Batalha.. or Nazaré to Obidos...but time waits for no man, so we've pushed on northwards to find out what awaits in the 'Norte' of Portugal... along the famous Oceanic Atlantico route
Opting for a morning of homeschooling... everyone was ready to get out and find something exciting to both entertain and educate ... so we'd heard that Obidos in Central Portugal (some 85km north of Lisbon) had a fantastic series of Christmas acitvities for children throughout the month of December.. so heading out to try and ensure we took in dusk on top of this walled city, we headed for the fantastic aire that sits underneath the aquaduct commissioned by Queen Caterina of Austria (King João III's wife) in exchange for fertile lands beneath the castle..
Having enjoyed our first day/night at Natur Park (ValeParaiso) we've decided to halt the horses and stay an extra day... maybe it was the lure of the campsite's facilities and a chance to expend some energy in the many sports facilities (sadly no pool but this aerial pic makes us want to return next summer!) or maybe it was the extraordinary amount of places to visit within 30-60mins ...
We've headed north to enjoy some of the truly amazing sights of the Estremadura & Ribatejo regions of Portugal! This region sits below the Douro valley to the North and above Lisbon to the South... From as far east at Ortiga to the western-most tips of Europe at Peniche. So having seen the delights of Evora and Porto Covo in the Alentejo, what would we find here?
There were certainly some glum faces as we left the fantastic campsite at Turiscampo on the Algarve... certainly deserving of it's title as one of the Leading Camping sites in Europe! As Turiscampo proved to be a fantastic place to enjoy the many special places that we discovered across the breath of the Algarve... but sadly the time has come to move on as part of our 'European Roadtrip'
We've now travelled with our kids, full time, around Europe for over a year. So as the beach loving people that we are in LifeinourVan we decided to make a beach guide to help your family fully explore the Western Algarve's best beaches. In fact we've been so impressed with Portugal's Beaches... we might just have to rewrite our article '5 Family Friendly Coastlines from across Europe'
It's hard not to overstimate just how stunningly beautiful this stretch of the coastline really is... from Sagres to Lagos you're hit by one highlight after another.... ochre cliffs that hold grottos/secluded caves only accessible by boat or glorius wide expanses of sand that seem to stretch beyond the horizon they are that long! This region to the south of Alentejo (an area famed for its wonderful cuisine) is a well kept secret as most people flock to the warmer waters near the packed tourist resort of the South of the Algarve... but Portugal's magic is never more abundant than in places like Ponta de Piedade... where better for a family road schooling there way across Europe to find opportuntiies to see subjects like Geography in Action!!! Coastal processes caused by erosion and deposition were everywhere as the children leapt into action with their new found friends, the Banks children!
If you only had one week to explore Southern Portugal, you'd be hard pushed to fit it all in... There's Faro and the magnificent Parque Natural da Ria Formosa. So perhaps a day of roman floor mosiacs, moorish oil lamps and the views of the Sé from the cathedral's bell tower..followed by a cruise of the nature reserve on the lagoon?
Or you could consider heading out like we did towards the Sagres peninsula, a short drive on the N125 from Lagos. Visiting the imposing fort, stand over the pebble wind compass and be amazed at the isolated headland with it's rocky crags and crashing waves.. Windblown doesnt do it justice! but I guess if you arrive on the 31st November you can't expect to enjoy the summer warmth of the waters off the Martinhal beach..
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